If you’ve gone through a bit of research while searching for a new stompbox to be placed on the pedalboard, or maybe reading some recording/mixing stuff, you might have heard about the terms “wet” and “dry” referred to them in some way.
Despite the names, those two terms doesn’t refer to any bad incident with water (or at least, I hope not, unless you’ve read about some very unlucky guitarist), but rather on the signal that comes to your amp before being actually amplified by the speakers: in this article we’ll see the definition and what they actually mean!
WHAT DOES DRY MEAN?
This word referred to a guitar indicates a totally raw and unprocessed sound (or, better, an unprocessed signal that causes, well, an unprocessed sound), and therefore is not modified by effects and other devices that alter the guitar’s signal.
You can usually hear it in 2 situations:
- Guitar pedals: some models (usually delays and time-based effects like reverbs and echoes, but not limited to them) have a setting that let you adjust the “dryness” of it, letting you basically decide how much effect to add to your sound (totally dry means no effect added at all, totally wet means 100% of the pedal’s effect added);
- Recording/mixing: a signal that comes totally unaltered (the same thing that we said for pedals but this time applied to recording areas).
WHAT DOES WET MEAN?
You’ve probably already figured it out, but this term refers to the amount of effect added to your “normal and standard” signal and sound.
Usually you don’t always have a total wet sound (as going to 100% with every single pedal you have can be, well, problematic in some cases) but rather an amount of wetness that you adjust using the knobs usually labeled with one of those 2 terms, both of them or also with the “Level” labeled ones, that simply let you decide how much effect to add and can therefore be seen as the same as a wetness control.
WHAT IS A WET/DRY SETUP
Some pedals have an Input but two separated outputs: these are made for the so-called wet/dry setups.
Let’s say that you want to add more depth and clarity to your sound: with this you can send to the amp and the speakers both an unprocessed signal (that will be very clear but without any processing) and a processed one (where you’ll have the effects sounds), giving you way more depth to your sound and a lot more possibilities to customize your own sound.
For this you’ll need two amps though, one receiving the raw signal and the other receiving the one with the sound’s changes made by your pedalboard and all the effect processors you have in your signal chain.
IS THIS THE SAME AS A STEREO SETTING?
This can seem to be quite similar to a stereo setting, but the difference is that here one signal is totally without the effects and only the other one has the sound changes of your pedalboard; in a stereo setting, instead, you have two signals (that are different) but each one can have its own amount and type of applied guitar effects, giving more layers to your modulations and/or time based pedals such as delays and reverbs.
Splitting your guitar’s signal in two different routes can give you a lot of possibilities if you want to experiment, both in the playing than in the recording/mixing area, and if you have two amps and a bunch of double-output stompboxes you can discover totally new soundscapes, thanks to the combination of the clarity of the dry signal with the modulation and processing of the wet one.
In the end, you’ll only have to tinker with your rig, but after all isn’t this one of the most exciting parts of playing an electric guitar?