Harsh single coil sounds

Hi guys. Have you any advice on how to tame harsh overdriven sounds on single coil guitars? I listen through headphones, sennheiser hd600, and I’m becoming irritated that I can’t get a decent single coil sound!!

That is odd, have you tried adjusting the impedance? Also, I assume you are using a cab/IR?

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I am using a cab/IR. However what impedance would best suit single coils?

Maybe you can do some troubleshooting basics :

  • start with nothing on the grid, you should have a clean “hi-fi” but still playable guitar sound. If not, try to roll back your tone or check for other issues guitar related.
  • add an amp and a cab, you should aim for an tone setting that doesn’t transform radically the sound of your guitar (do A/B comparisons with your “hi-fi” clean tone by turning off and back on the amp & cab)
  • same for pedals, they shouldn’t change radically the tone of your guitar.

Once you did all that, set your EQs /tone knobs (for brightness or oomph) to taste, at least you’ll be starting from a relatively neutral point.


Most pedals have an input impedance of 1Meg.
I go for 1M as a standard.

The lower the impedance, the less high end in your signal and the more noise from electromagnetic interference around you or from light dimmers on stages.

Oh, and I play teles mostly so single coils…

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The obvious choices are:

  • Dial back treble and/or presence on the amp.
  • Move the microphones away from the centre of the speaker in the speaker block.
  • Add a low pass filter with and EQ block to remove some of the highs.
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could it be a guitar issue? How close are the p’ups to the strings?

Hi I have the exact same issues, I basically cannot use this pedal at all, everything sounds horrible, captures the worst of all. I am getting mine returned and looked at from the distributor, they may find a fault but who knows. NDSP have been pretty bad in trying to help me out, been over a month of trying to go through possible fixes with them.

I think the reality is, this thing may not be able to work with single coil guitars… I just don’t get it…

nothing on the grid is just a DI sound, which is not ‘playable’… I’m not sure what you mean here sorry? thanks :slight_smile:

It works great and sounds amazing with all the guitars I own, active, passive, humbucker, single coil, split coil, etc. It’s been out for a few years now, if it sounded bad with single coils we’d have heard about it before. Either there’s something wrong with your QC or it’s user error :person_shrugging:

While I don’t have the Quadcortex, when I use the plugins, I follow PeterO’s logic. His comments are pure gold, and if you aren’t already following those steps, they will probably solve your issues.

Try setting your Low-Pass filter at about 5100-6300 Hz and your high-pass filter at about 100 Hz. I use frequencies between 250-440 Hz to add or reduce “girth and warmth,” 700-2000 Hz to add or reduce “bite and excitement,” 2100-4000 to add or reduce “Presence”.

I typically reduce 20-120 Hz and 450-690 Hz to make room for the kick, bass guitar and snare. Then, the low pass set at about 5300 Hz kills the “ice pick” and makes more room for the Cymbals.

Overdrive pedals can cause the “ice-pick in the ear” effect if their tone knob isn’t adjusted correctly.

Hope something in this helps you and others.


Just a thought, if these steps don’t solve your issues, please post which guitar and pickups you have. Maybe the tone wiring scheme and specific pickups you guys have could cause some anomalies.

If you are still having issues post your signal path prior to the QC and then the signal path inside the QC and settings you used.

The advice you gave does work to an extent. I use sennheiser hd600 headphones mainly and was wondering if they’re freq range could be an issue I.e I am hearing more frequencies than other headphones I’ve used.

I use a partscaster loaded with the Fishman Fluence Strat set, Sony MDR7506 headphones, 1M impedance, and it sounds like I died and went to guitar heaven.

Hi StewC76, yes, I have read that the Sennheiser HD 600 and HD 650 have a pesky presence peak at 3-5kHz, which by reading about your concerns, sounds like the frequencies causing your issues. Plus, I think they are scooped in the mids. I think this link is the one I read.


Hey, are you adding reverb and delay at all? Small amounts of these effects can really clean up the presence range a lot, just don’t over do them and make your tone so wet that you kill the power and punch.

If you haven’t already, I suggest you try a few things.

  1. Borrow a friends Sony MDR 7506 headphones. They are not true, but most people like them. Hell, I like ‘em. Or try more true headphones like AKG K240M or Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro.
  2. Listen to it through a quality amp/poweramp and a Vader, Marshall, Mesa, Fryette, or Soldano 4x12 or 2x12.
  3. Record it along with a bass and drums, then mix it ant listen to it thru your car stereo.

You are welcome to upload just your guitar riff played through your setup on Sound Cloud and post a link here and I and others will be happy to listen to it and help you further. Please tell us what guitar, pickups and amp and cab type you are using on the Quad Cortex and the settings, so we can really help you. Without this we are just flying blind and I wouldn’t want to misguide you if your rig has an actual defect.


I think it’s the headphones. Bought a pair of Genelec monitors and the harshness has gone.

I was wrong lol. It’s still there. I play, badly, various guitars all with Lollar pickups. An Eastman t64 and a SB57 plus a silver sky se with dirty blondes and a charles guitar wiring harness. Also a maybach tele with Lollar 52t pickups.
All of them sound brash and harsh when overdriven. Cleans are brilliant. Unfortunately I’ve no way of uploading a sound clip.

Soundcloud is free etc.

I’m a bit of a Luddite regarding things like that.

Add a TU-2 or other buffered pedal before. Dont understand why, but this gave me great tones using all sorts of modelleres in the past, even using hi-z 1Meg inputs. Without it, straight to interface, thin and harsh. No pedal chain, straight into interfaces, and several different interfaces over the years.

Even if it makes no technical sense, please dont kill the messenger. It definitely worked for me. Try it out.

Having said this, I play Tele’s, Jazzmasters and Jaguars, and I’m in tone heaven with the QC alone. I’ve yet to put it into my pedalboard