MXR Smart Gate vs ISP Decimator 2
I have several pedal boards for different projects, all using the same amplifier type most of the time, a V-Series V3112 or V30H. This is an all tube 30W, 2 channel, shared eq., high gain, class A amplifier. Aside from some pedals being noisier than others, my biggest problem is the amplification of external noise that a Class A amp can have depending on the surroundings in addition to the internal noise it produces on the high gain channel.
I play in a Styx tribute band and several cover bands doing many genres but mostly hard rock and modern rock tunes where high gain is needed. So, my gain is not as high as a Triple Rectifier Ch3 and very few songs have a need for percussive accents or multiple quick pauses.
I bought both of these pedals as they both seemed to be what I needed, but I was unsure how the decay would be as I many times roll my volume down to reduce gain and need notes to naturally decay. I also use the clean channel often and need to make sure that it will not choke these off either.
Both pedals certainly do the job they state either in the front or in the effects loop, however there are noticeable differences that made the smart gate the winner for me. This all after having to remove a pedal that was causing some high frequency noise artifacts that made things difficult. Once I found this culprit it gave me a better perspective.
The following comments are based on the pedal being used in the effects loop as this is the only way to quiet down the distortion channel hiss and noise. I used it them with the amp above as well as other very high gain amps that I own.
The Decimator 2
This pedal worked great for killing the high gain noise, but in order for me to find a balance that worked with the clean channel and rolling down my volume on the dirty channel, it did not do what I needed it to on the distortion channel with my guitar volume at max and the amp gain at 8. What the decimator pedal does do well is start and stop quickly. If you are playing heavy stuff with the need to start and stop on a very high gain setting, without worry of a long note decay, then this pedal is the bomb. The other point about this pedal is that it clamps all noise in all frequencies so it is dead quiet as compared to the smart gate...again making it more ideal for a very high gain amp setting.
I own a couple MXR Noise Gate/Line Drivers from the early 80's. I used these pedals for years but they react more like the Decimator hence I found my self in a worst spot when trying to use them with the Styx project where I am constantly on my volume knob versus all out gain 90% of the time. So, here is where the smartgate has features that take the original MXR pedal to the next level. The two different trigger ranges really make a difference. I use the lower setting mostly but found the higher setting worked great for the very high gain amps I own. Bottom line is it makes the trigger point easier to dial in on. The other feature that I found was good...and bad depending on the situation, was the frequency range switch. If you have a noise in a certain range, this switch will omit it or dampen it to an acceptable level. Being able to narrow in on a smaller range really helps the decay sound more natural. I will say however that if it knocked down the noise another 3-6dB it would really help when in the full range mode, but overall it is very acceptable and a good trade if the decay is helped by this. The thing that shines the most is the way it samples and monitors the signal and applies the gate. It makes the decay extremely natural and slowly omits the noise at the same time that the signal dies. Great job on the design engineers part on this.
So, when using this pedal in the front end, the frequency range selector can really help keeping things natural versus the decimator. I found that it did a much better job. Also, I have limited space on my pedal board so I did not want to have one pedal in the front end and one in the effects loop. So, I suppose from what I have read that using two decimator pedals in tandem via the 1/8" cable may make it better suited for my application but that means more real estate and more money. The smartgate seems to accomplish this task in a single pedal with adequate results.
Bottom line...the Smartgate does many things very well, takes up a little less real estate on your pedal board, and can save you money in certain applications. For me it was the clear choice.