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Old 2nd March 2003
Gear Nut
Pricey's Avatar

Simulators - BWA HA HA!

I've tried every comination of direct/DI/multiamping/etcetera, and I've never found a use for the direct sound, no matter how I flitered or processed it.

Even for clean guitar, I always use a cab, miked on edge to get a sparkly sound. The cab adds resonance. The direct sound is pathetically weak in comparison. This also applies to bass guitar.

On occasion, I use a THD powersoak to reduce the level, but I still use a mic and speaker. The THD is very good and only hurts the sound a little. For someone who lives in apartment and can't make noise, a power-braked cab, even at the lowest setting where it starts getting tinny, is still better than any speaker simulator. They all suck badly.

However, convolution reverbs (Altiverb, SIR) have potential. If you feed them a good impulse of a cabinet, they can replicate the RESONANCE as well as the EQ curve. I'm impressed - I didn't think a digital processor could do this. You can even adjust the length of the resonance, to make it tighter or looser.

Once, this Marilyn Manson kinda band requested an "industrial" direct guitar sound and played me an example from a CD. I thought it sounded like puke. Tinny and wimpy. So instead of recording direct, I recorded a GOOD sound with a Marshall and cab, then ran it through the worst distortion plug-in I could find, to add some crackle on the high end.

The Beatles' "Revolution" (single version) has a direct guitar sound, distorted through a tube console. It sounds like they used heavy tape saturation to roll off the treble. It actually sounds cool, but it wouldn't work for any other musical style.

On a related topic, digital amp simulators are COMPLETE garbage. All of them. They can be okay on leads, but not rhythm. I do not believe the reports that "such and such album was recorded with Amp Farm." It just means they used it for a few "ear candy" tracks. It's like the hype when Roland V-Drums first came out - "They can sound like any drum set!" Wrong - they can't even sound like a BAD acoustic set.

An equimpent designer - the guy who designed FATSO, I think - once said that amp simulators would have to use ultra-high sampling rates to sound real. I agree with him. It's also true of software synths - the programmers have finally realized that they need to use upsampling in order for the oscillators to behave correctly.