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Making guitar amp simulators sound their best
Old 18th October 2013
  #1
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dc_r's Avatar
 

Making guitar amp simulators sound their best

I've been doing some research lately and listened to guitar sim demos on various manufacturers websites. Most people sound would that amp sim can never sound or feel like the real thing but the samples I hear are usually very impressive (on IK Multimedia or Native Instruments websites, for instance).

My problem is that I cannot get my guitar tracks to sound as good. I have a nice recording chain and I can get a decent sound but those samples always seem much better. So my question is- do you have any tips or tricks to make the amp sim sound its best. Thanks in advance!
Old 18th October 2013
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
NAJ89's Avatar
 

How are you hitting the "input" of the plug? Backing off the input of any plug changes how it reacts to a signal. I'm not saying it will make it sound more like the demos, but input levels definitely affect the sound.

NAJ
Old 18th October 2013
  #3
Gear Guru
 

I find that presets in these things are usually a bit on the bright side
rolling off the highs makes them sound more natural

I believe this is true of most presets in most things, reverbs and keyboards, for example. Probably on the theory that it is easier to darken up something that is too bright than it is to add highs that are not there.

still nothing beats a real amp in my book
Old 18th October 2013
  #4
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Craig Anderton did a very detailed article of what to do with amp sim setups with your guitar. He explains the "what's not quite right" about ALL sims and more importantly, what to do about it ahead of the sim itself.

I don't have a link, but do a google search. A great article and should be a sticky somewhere. I printed the entire thing as a pdf. I don't use sims very often, but when I do, I check out Craig's steps first.

As an aside, I'm also assuming that your guitar di on your audio card is true 100meghohm itself. If not, that screws up lots of areas right away.
Old 18th October 2013
  #6
Registered User
100 Meg sounds excessive ... 1 Meg is fine. A lot of amps are lower than than. The famous Countryman DI boxes which are the holy grail for many are considered to be a very high z DI at 10 Meg - nice and bright for Country music etc, and not to everyone's taste.

The instrument input on any decent interface should be fine, and no need to add another DI, especially if that DI outputs mic level and has to go through your interface mic preamp anyway ... shortest path is best for clean, low noise tracking of the pickup signal.

In my opinion the single most effective thing for making an amp model sound more realistic is to use a pipeline convolution reverb with an impulse response of a well recorded guitar cab in a good room. Pipeline is the key here - the signal must be 100% wet, you are not layering reverb like you normally would.

The cab and air and mic are where the excessive brightness gets rolled off and where the transients are cushioned. This is the weak link in the chain, so if you replace this with a well recorded impulse you can fool good engineers in the context of a mix.
Old 18th October 2013
  #7
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Yeah. Presets tend to not always sit right within the context of the track. What I tend to do (speaking as a non guitar player) is get the sound as close as possible to how I think it should sound. EQ, compression and verb. Then send it out to a real clean speaker and mic the speaker from at least 10ft away with a ribbon mic. Blend back in to taste and you'd be surprised at how it just snuggles into the track effortlessly.
Old 19th October 2013
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Funny Cat View Post
Yeah. Presets tend to not always sit right within the context of the track. What I tend to do (speaking as a non guitar player) is get the sound as close as possible to how I think it should sound. EQ, compression and verb. Then send it out to a real clean speaker and mic the speaker from at least 10ft away with a ribbon mic. Blend back in to taste and you'd be surprised at how it just snuggles into the track effortlessly.
Sounds like a really useful technique, I like this approach a lot, I'm going to try it, thanks for sharing!

I can also add that on my Fractal Audio Axe FX 2 guitar processing fx I use the attack/dynamics settings at max, it gets very musical attack characteristics that way! I also record the signal with and without its cabs, the cabs in it are a bit tricky, I am careful with how I use them... I am also very selective and careful with how I'm adding distortion to the signal since there are distortions in it that are too harsh/noisy...
Old 22nd October 2013
  #9
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Thanks for all your replies!

I thought that the guitar setup may play an important part and I came across this video on YouTube-

Adjusting Pickup Height Using a Paper Clip - YouTube

Basically, you use a paper clip to visualise how much pull pickups magnet has on the string. Presumably, the stronger the pull the less freely string is able to vibrate.

I've been experimenting with different setups a lot so I decided to give this a go as it sounded like a good idea.

I tried it on a Stratocaster (three single coils) and a 335 (humbuckers). To get to the point where the magnetic pull is visibly lower (where the paper clip does not stick to the string) I had to lower the pickups as low as they would go. On the Strat they are level with the pick guard, on the 335 neck pickup is as low as it will go but I had to raise bridge a bit to balance the volume between the two.

I have to say that setting pickups this way allowed me to get a much nicer sound from amp simulators. It sounded that much of the harshness and plectrum noise has gone. Perhaps DIs and amp sims require different guitar setup to the setup that would work with an amp? Perhaps you can also try this and let us know what you think!?
Old 22nd October 2013
  #10
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

I rarely use sims these days for anything other than quick scratch parts. But when I used to do keeper tracks with them, I discovered that my cheapo Rolls Bellari tube DI sounded more "real" than my fancier DI's. It sounds kinda small and lo-fi, and helps DI guitars sit in a track nicely. Don't know the model number, but I'll dig it out when I get to work later and post an edit.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #11
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I wrote an article for Recording Magazine ~10 years ago describing my favorite tip to getting amp sims to sound more "realistic", and to this day I still use this approach:

The guitarist needs to be monitoring at a volume level commensurate with the amp sound being modelled.

iow, if your model is a 100 watt Marshall stack with all the knobs dimed, unless the guitarist is standing in front of monitor speakers that are playing back at well over 100dB SPL, it'll never sound like the real thing...because an electric guitar + amplifier is an interactive system. A guitar sounds different when it is being resonated by its own amplified output then when it isn't.

So lose the headphones, and abandon the notion that amp sims allow you to record late at night while the baby's asleep in the next room, and your recordings will sound more realistic.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #12
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
... unless the guitarist is standing in front of monitor speakers that are playing back at well over 100dB SPL, it'll never sound like the real thing...
I dunno... these days I record loud guitars with the head in the control room and the cab in the live room all the time, and it sounds great.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
... because an electric guitar + amplifier is an interactive system. A guitar sounds different when it is being resonated by its own amplified output then when it isn't.
Sim or real, try touching the guitar neck to a cranked monitor. You'll definitely experience interactivity.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #13
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Of course Bob- there is no question that a sim can never sound like the real thing precisely for the reasons you mention. However, recorded guitar part played through small hi-fi speakers doesn't sound like a cranked amp either. So I think we are talking about an emulation of a recorded amp. I remember a shootout some magazine did few years ago where professionals struggled to tell sims from the real amps.

If I had a proper studio I would probably always record real amp but as a hobbyist I think I can get some really good recordings in a small room and low volume levels using only sims.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #14
I recently wrote a brief overview of using amp sims successfully on our forum. Here's a link:
AudioLot Talk! Message Forums • View topic - Using Amp Sims Successfully
Old 22nd October 2013
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
100 Meg sounds excessive ... 1 Meg is fine.
Yeah, I added too many zeros. 1 megohm is ideal.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
The guitarist needs to be monitoring at a volume level commensurate with the amp sound being modelled.

iow, if your model is a 100 watt Marshall stack with all the knobs dimed, unless the guitarist is standing in front of monitor speakers that are playing back at well over 100dB SPL, it'll never sound like the real thing...
I disagree with that. What I've been doing since about 1976 is placing my Marshall 2204 and 412 cabinet out in the studio, crank everything full out to 10, and then string a long guitar cable (even using banana plugs sometimes) up the hall and into the control room where I then play the overdub. Heavy use of noise gating as you can imagine.

The Marshall is on ear-shattering volume in the studio so that the tubes are pushing, but in the control room, I'm monitoring and playing at random levels on the monitors themselves...... which of course, is the reason I'm in the control room in the first place.

The amp develops its sweet spot .... particularly for "Disraeli Gears" type sounds or whatever...... and my ears are saved. I can easily get the feel for playing the parts too.

As to sims, I'm actually still not finding my fav Marshall cranked sound (ringy, singing, not pure distortion) in sims, but I don't attribute that to the volume I'm monitoring at.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #17
Gear Addict
 
Therion's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dc_r View Post
I've been doing some research lately and listened to guitar sim demos on various manufacturers websites. Most people sound would that amp sim can never sound or feel like the real thing but the samples I hear are usually very impressive (on IK Multimedia or Native Instruments websites, for instance).

My problem is that I cannot get my guitar tracks to sound as good. I have a nice recording chain and I can get a decent sound but those samples always seem much better. So my question is- do you have any tips or tricks to make the amp sim sound its best. Thanks in advance!
I have tested kemper. And that is the best thing out there if you want to get amp sim to sound real. I am going to buy one to replace my line6 stuff.

From my experience all the pluginbased amp sims, have bad speaker sims. You can gain allot just using the amp sim and a second ir cab sim plugin.
I use Red Wire Impulse Responses | High quality guitar speaker cabinet IRs for use with convolution plugins
That will improve the sound.

But I have the real deal, so for the final take I mic up my cab and put on the amp I feel is right for the song. But I also use a di to record the amp output so i can play around with redwirez, to get a different blend

Try some demos and try out some of the redwirez in the chain. If you have trash 2 from izotope you can put that inbetween the amp sim and redwirez to controll the distortion better.

But as you can see, it is allot of jumbo and work to get that real world amp sound.
Kemper has naild it 95% and in a mix, thats good enough. So kemper may be your best option if you don't want a real amp.

I my self only use amp sim for live, practise and song writing. On the bass I use sansamp rbi. I rearly use my bass rigg. Bin on the line6 train for 10 years. Be fore that it was digitech. It makes life easy. But for recording, nothing beats the real deal. (Maby kemper)
Old 16th July 2016
  #18
It's an old thread...but you can check out my website
and try my presets
Dimi
Dimi Nalbantov - Guitar Player, Sound Designer
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