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Guitar/Amp/Modeling Advice Required
Old 20th February 2012
  #1
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Guitar/Amp/Modeling Advice Required

Hi there,

I'm looking for some advice on my guitar setup and potential purchases I should look at.

I've been playing guitar for 15 years or so and about 5 years ago I used to spend a fair bit of time recording bits and pieces of me and the various bands I was in with a very basic setup (which in hindsight probably sounded awful).

However, I've spent the last little while venturing much more into the world of electronic production so it's all been MIDI and VST's and I must admit I'm very much out of touch with what's going on in the guitar world now.

So last night I thought I'd try recording some guitar over a couple of tracks I'd produced which consisted of Kontakt libraries and I was blown away by how horrendously bad it sounded. I tried mic'ing my amp up, which sounded terrible mainly because my mic is crap and my room is small, hard and barely treated. I then tried running through Logics guitar rig stuff which in my opinion also sounded pretty horrible.

The biggest problem was the disparity between the pristine recordings/samples on the Kontakt libraries and the 'DIY home recording' sound of my guitar. So this got me thinking about sorting things out but I'm not sure which direction to go in.

I currently own a US Strat (SSS), an Epi Les Paul with SD APH1's, an Ibanez SA something (HSS) and a wonderful Squier Fat Tele which I picked up for like Β£100 ex-demo and despite being the cheapest guitar I own, I love it.

I've then got a Fender Blues Junior which I love, and a JCM900 100 watt head / 1960A 4x12 which I don't love for home use.

The thing is, all of the above is primarily a collection built around my days of playing live, and I don't really play live at all now, 99.9% of my playing is just in my house, usually at my computer [trying] to record. Which got me thinking, should I sell up most of the stuff I have and go for a simple pairing of 1 guitar + 1 amp that is versatile.

Or, should I look into modelling? I've never tried much in the way of modelling before but I was pretty impressed by what I heard of things like the Pod Pro and Axe FX (despite knowing nothing about them). I kinda feel like I'm never gonna get a decent enough tone/sound through live mic'ing my gear unless I invest serious time/money in treating my room and getting some decent mic's. Even then, I know nothing about how to mic an amp properly. Whereas it seems that by going the modeling route, I get much closer to a decent sound with effectively what is almost a 'plug and play' setup.

So with that said, should I sell a bunch of stuff and go with a versatile guitar/amp combo and learn to record my stuff properly with decent mics and mic techniques? If so, what are some guitars/amps worth looking at.

Or is modelling a viable route, and what should I look into purchasing?

Thanks
Old 20th February 2012
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Amber's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I'm also a longtime guitarist who has had quite a few nice amps in the past from Mesa Mk1, Mk3, JMPs, Peavy etc.

I use all in the box amp sims now and these recordings are used for docs/ads etc.

I wouldn't go back to amps unless I had a really nice space to record them and even then, I'm usually getting ideas down that end up being final cuts so fast that I wouldn't have time messing around with amps/mics. Add to that all the layers etc.

I get a good sound and then just adjust later, duplicate track with same settings, change them slightly, record next layer of guitar etc.

I find strats work well with ITB amp sims. I've found that I need to play a bit harder to get a sound I am happy with. Also if you're using 9s, I'd suggest going up to 10s or higher.

Also, if you have some money to spend, try out TH2 by Overloud. Sounds fantastic for a good price. Especially a lot of the mid/high gain sounds. The cleans are nice also.
Old 20th February 2012
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
jwnc's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I bought a Rivera Silent Sister ISO cab and use 2 dynamic mics in there and it sounds great. I have a Mesa Lonestar, Mini Recto and Germino Club 40 and record loud all the time and its great! If you love amps, check out the Rivera because it was the best money I spent to record at home.

Thanks
Jason
Old 20th February 2012
  #4
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Thanks Amber, really appreciate that.

Ah so software modelling is an option? I don't know why but I assumed I'd be better with a hardware solution.

So which plugins do you use? Do you have any examples of your stuff?

I must admit I'm pleased to hear such an opinion. I used to be a bit of a gear addict and my pedalboard reflects that as much as my guitars/amps have done, but having messed with MIDI and VST's I must admit the concept of just having a guitar, a cable, an interface and my computer is very appealing.

I do love the Strat, but I've never been able to get it to sound like anything other than... a Strat. Any tips on that? It's just a straight US model with the stock single coils. Everything I play on it ends up sounding like Hendrix or Clapton, or John Mayer in sound, not in playing skill I might add. I've always longed for a heavier sound if/when I need it but have never managed it.

Cheers jwnc, I'm not familiar with iso cabs, but it looks like a possible solution. I'll look into it!
Old 20th February 2012
  #5
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Amp modelling polarizes people ... especially guitar players, who are fairly polarized to start with.

Fact is: software amp modelling has been used by session guitar players on major album releases for decades now.

There are so many possible sounds you can get with an electric guitar - so many styles and different tastes and aesthetics.

I would be the first to admit that early generation digital guitar amp modeling sucked a lot. It has got better and better. I have the Line6 Pod HD bean and rack, and it's getting to the point where I question why I own my tube amps now.

But it totally depends on the sound you want ...

As a different option, consider what you can do with Tech 21 Sansamp products. These are real analog, so there are no digital FX ... but mostly you can do digital FX with plugins. Also, you should experiment with using a convolution reverb with 100% wet impulse responses of guitar cabs. This gives you the dimension of a speaker in a room with a mic and the whole preamp chain ... with the right cab impulse, it's very difficult to tell this apart from the real thing, because it IS a sample of the real thing being used to process your dry sound ...

Unless you are into recreating a particular vintage sound, you don't really *need* amps anymore, and it's been this way for some time ...

Expect some enraged spleen ventage to follow ...
Old 20th February 2012
  #6
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Nice one Kiwi, thanks for the advice.

I'm totally happy to go digital if I can get the quality I'm looking for. I love my tube amps and for live use I'd be happy to stack up a bunch of gear but that's because I want it to be tactile, loud and easy to tweak on the fly, but in the studio, I don't mind going for a modelling solution.

So you have the Pod Pro and the 'bean'? Is there much in the way of difference between them? The Pod Pro isn't wildly expensive anyway but if the bean is adequate then I may look into that.

Any other software/hardware solutions I should consider if I go this route? I notice AxeFX is a lot more expensive than the Pod but I haven't seen any other possible alternatives.
Old 20th February 2012
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
If you need versatility, low volume, and easy recording, modeling is really hard to beat.
Old 20th February 2012
  #8
Lives for gear
 
ksandvik's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I use SW solutions solely for my studio work, Amplitude + NI Guitar Rig + Logic built-in amps. Works really well. I think I'm somewhat biased to use NI Guitar Rig more than the others.

I rather have a large palette of guitar sounds from the get-go than spending time building a huge wall of amps, cabs and mics. I keep my Marshall and Fender amps for gigging.
Old 20th February 2012 | Show parent
  #9
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by TeeJayEe ➑️
I do love the Strat, but I've never been able to get it to sound like anything other than... a Strat. Any tips on that? It's just a straight US model with the stock single coils. Everything I play on it ends up sounding like Hendrix or Clapton, or John Mayer in sound, not in playing skill I might add. I've always longed for a heavier sound if/when I need it but have never managed it.
IMO, single coils can be as heavy as hum buckers if you want them to be. I would be more concerned about noise from them.

In simplistic terms, a humbucker is duller and hotter than a single coil (because it has two coils that generate more current, but the phase cancellation kills a bit of top end). You can easily recreate this by boosting your pup with something active, and by rolling of some top end *before* you hit the first distortion stage. Distortion adds harmonics, and brings back the top end, so don't be afraid to use quite dull guitar signals if you want a heavy tone. Some people like the dulling effect that a long cable gives. You could use your tone control, although I prefer to use an eq that won't get bumped as I move around.

For really heavy tones you need specific guitar cabs ... I like my Mesa Theil cab with a single EV12L, which can be heavier than a 4x12. There are no end of combinations of pedals and amps that can do really heavy stuff, so don't rule out solid state amps and/or digital. Also, a large part of the sounds you might be comparing against are often multi-amp and/or layered, and the bass guitar can contribute more to the sound that you might suspect. Not to mention subharmonic processing and other tricks used.
Old 20th February 2012
  #10
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
The Pod HD stuff is a major upgrade from the previous X3 and XT models that I have. The earlier Pod Pro wouldn't really be in the same leaque, although useable in it's day. A lot of the hate for Pods dates back to that time ... and some people are just never going to get it. With so many parameters, it's too easy to get bad tones. It takes the sort of patience that a keyboard player tends to have, and guitar players tend to not have. I play both, so obsessive compulsive tweaking comes naturally. I've never tried the AxeFX - i'm sure it's good. But with the growth curve that digital stuff is on, I don't think it's wise to invest too heavily in expensive toys.
Old 21st February 2012
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Guitar Rig 5 and Waves plugs are as good as POD HD. I've owned nearly every modeler out there, currently using an Axe FX II.
Old 21st February 2012
  #12
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
15 years of guitar playing too, hated modeling when it first came out

Today I can advice 2 programs; for clean tones I like amplitube, for shred/heavy distortion vandal amp sim...also there's studio devil thats not bad...

But don't expect the responce like a real amp and personally I prefer headphones rather than speaker or studio monitors when playing. Headphones simply feel more realistic to me.
Old 21st February 2012
  #13
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
There will always be small amount of latency through anything digital. But there is always a small amount of latency with a real amp due to the speed of sound and the distance between speaker and air. So with headphones the latency is about the same a hearing a real amp in a real room.

I'll give away a couple of my 'secrets' ...

Disable artificial early reflections ... whether it's the default AIR settings in a POD, or the ER's in most reverbs ... they are just a cluster of slap delays, and they sound like **** and they impose a resonant comb filter on your sound which shouldn't be there. Simple to turn it off.

You will need to replace it with some better room sound ... a Bricasti M7 is nice. But convolution reverb - used 100% wet - with a real cab and room is probably the way to go.

A large part of interacting with a real amp in the room is feedback assisted sustain. You probably don't realise just how much this helps - even if you don't do Jimi stunts. The physical vibration in the air keeps your string ringing ... it's all part of the fun.

So my secret for the day is this: split your signal when you DI and drive a little battery amp. They are low volume, but some have heaps of gain and can squeal like a stuck pig ... even better than big amps for feedback. The fact that you are interacting with a little amp keeps the strings sustaining, and this is all captured in the clean DI tone that you will send to your modeller ... You could mic the little amp too to blend with the mix, or perhaps drive a delay or reverb with it ... (no issues with latency if you do that ...)
Old 21st February 2012
  #14
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
It's also worth using a guitar preamp into a line in, then through some impulse responses, such as RedWirez. I believe they even have their own IR management plugin now, if you don't already have a convolution reverb you're comfortable with.
Old 21st February 2012
  #15
Gear Addict
 
kerouac's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
I use Guitar Rig (4) and Logic Amp Designer 95% of the time and I have some pretty nice amps. I find GR4 better at heavy guitars and the more out there effects, while LAD is great at mid-gain and clean sounds.
Old 21st February 2012
  #16
Lives for gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
I have an Axe Ultra and love the thing to death. It is absolutely ideal for anyone looking to lay down pro quality tracks in an environment where cranking up an amp isn't feasible. It's also ideal for people who don't have a ton of time to mess around with mic positions all day. In other words, it's ideal for 99% of people out there.

You'll always have the purists who don't like new stuff. I'd say I have a very discerning ear- I've played the piano (both classically and jazz trained) for 20 years now, been a drummer for 15, and played the guitar around 8- and I've heard some songs written with modelers that blow me away just like songs with real amps do.
Old 21st February 2012
  #17
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Thanks for the further replies guys, much appreciated.

I fired up the project I was messing with the other night and found a mildly embarrassing revelation. I was actually using Guitar Amp Pro rather than Amp Designer and whilst I haven't played with it much yet, it seems Amp Designer is quite a bit better.

I've also looked into the Pod HD (desktop) and the demos sound really great.

I'm just considering a few options now and not sure which may be best, I'm thinking of going for a Pod HD, or alternatively a Tech21 Para Driver with a view to using it with Amp Designer or Guitar Rig... is that a good combo?
Old 21st February 2012
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Slikjmuzik's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
For heavy sounds I still haven't found anything that sounds like my AEA Ribbon mic going into my Burl preamp. For clean tones all the way up to slightly crunchy, I've had quite good luck with grabbing the recording out of my Fender Super Champ. I even get compliments on my clean tones and I never in a million years would have expected so doing it this way.
Old 21st February 2012
  #19
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
The Sansamp stuff is much more quirky than the digital stuff, and it's more difficult to know what is going to work with your gear and what you are going to like. I have a bunch of them because they are so different. I certainly would never consider them as a clean DI - they are relatively noisy, and very colored and have limited headroom. But - for me anyway - what they are all about is *replacing* a tube amp, and tube amps are noisy and colored.

I personally wouldn't choose the Paradriver to use as a DI for a soft amp modeler. Then again - without trying it, I don't know ... it might work really well.

I love the Tech 21 Character pedals, because they are optimised to sound like the amps they are based on. I don't think the Classic nails them as well, because the dip switches only change a few parameters. I prefer these to all the others i've tried or own, but it's an expensive option because there are a few to choose from. I like the SVT, Fender, Vox and Marshall ones the most.

I would consider using these as a DI (committing to the sound) and then adding convolution of a good cab impulse. A soft amp modeler may not be required - maybe just eq.

There is no substitute for trying these things yourself.

I'm a big fan of the Pod HD ... that's a much safer option because there is so much variety, you should be able to find something in there that you like.

But there is an analog quality that Sansamp gives that I find is more tube-like on the clean sounds in particular.
Old 21st February 2012
  #20
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Ah I see, thanks.

I will see if I can check out the Sansamp in person, hopefully next to Pod HD too.

The thing that attracts me to the software side is the flexibility of recording dry and changing things up later. So with software in mind, what's the best 'way in' to my DAW.

Right now, I'm going straight into a MOTU 8PRE, but I'm not sure if that's how I should be doing it.
Old 21st February 2012
  #21
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Line6 pretty much invented guitar amp modeling with Amp Farm software for protools way back in the past. Then they moved into hardware, but they've always had the software as well.

But the current problem is that the Pod HD is so much better than the previous stuff, and as far as I know they don't have a software version of this yet. So although I like the software concept, I haven't bothered yet.

I haven't tried any of the latest software modelers - I bought the harware Pods for my live rig, and I still have my tube amps and analog pedals for the studio. I like to use the Pod with a real cab, which is why i've said all along that the Line6 cab modeling and AIR is weak and needs to be replaced with either the real thing, or a good cab impulse in a convolution reverb. (Although you can fake a small room ambiance with the reverb algorithmns provided, much better than the AIR which should be turned off).
Old 21st February 2012
  #22
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Cleanest shortest path into your DAW ... if your interface has a hi-z input I would just use that. You can mess around with DI boxes designed for guitar, but most of them output at mic level and you will need a preamp and A/D converter. This can end up more colored than you need - not necessarily bad. If your interface is going to be your A/D converter, it may as well be used as the DI as well, because the signal is going to have to pass through there anyway. The less circuitry in the path the better.
Old 22nd February 2012
  #23
Gear Nut
 
petmar's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
What could be a 2:nd option if you use software amp's is that you can reamp it later if you like. In a location that will allow for loud amp's. I work this way and will do so more and more beacuse of recording at home.
Old 22nd February 2012
  #24
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
The axe-fx is an incredible piece of gear, but unfortunately it is very expensive and the newest ones are on backorder. One of my favorite aspects of the axe-fx is that my "studio sound" is the same as my live sound because I simply take my axe-fx and plug it into a PA when I play out, and do guitar clinics, etc...
Old 22nd February 2012
  #25
Here for the gear
 
simesf's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Just to chime in, Kiwi says a lot of good things and makes a lot of sense. As well as Amplitube and Guitar Rig (group buy and part of NI Komplete) I have the Pod HD bean and the sansamp Vox, Marshall and Fender boxes. I'd recommend either way.

I like the fact that you can mess with a dry signal with the software sims but, maybe due to the limitations of my computer setup I find the latency to be offputting when I record. I lose some of the feel of what I'm doing but I agree that the end results can be very good. Maybe the ideal way (or the way that will get you lost in a sea of choices and decisions) would be to record via a hardware sim and run a dry signal at the same time to another track and mess with that as well. You'll always have the dry signal then and in 50 years time when there are no more tube amps because software is perfect your grandkids can remix through Amplitube 234 and try to nailthat golden vintage sound of a Pod mark 1 farting it's way through Smoke on the Water.

The Pod gives you the kind of sound you'll hear on a record (and you frequently do hear a Pod of some sort on many a record.) Maybe that's why some guitarists say it's not the same as a real amp, because a real amp will have various fx and eq applied to it before you get to hear the finished song. Other guitarists will give you a different reason why they don't like it. Maybe another reason is simply that you hear what it sounds like from studio monitors at ear level rather than (eg) a 12 speaker on the floor which will affect your perception. But you're after a recorded sound and there are hundreds of good & authentic sounds you can get out of them. Some have said that the lack of Impluse response on the Pod is a downer. But if you want to spend the money you can alway disable the cabs inside the Pod and add get something like Recabinet 3 which is - guess what? - a series of impulse responses of various speaker cabs and it's regarded very highly.

The Sansamp are a sort of halfway house between valves and digital. Check out some youtube videos by (I think) Burgerman666. They give a great sound. Really good. Try to get the mark 2 versions where you can disable the speaker simulator if you want for more flexibility or to use them as a regular stomp box into an amp. Objecting to them would be like objecting to a tubescreamer or most other stomp boxes since both are 100% analog. They can get noisy and I'm so used to saving presets that I actually find it a pain to have to tweak knobs to get different sounds that I can't save, especially since the knobs are very sensitive to change. I have to add other effects like delay & reverb which I can save with a preset with the Pod. But I still love them since they sound just so damn good and somehow feel more like the interaction you get with a real amp. Maybe that's down to something so subjective as the fact that I'm feding my signal through something I know to be all analog.

I'm pretty sure any one of the simulations mentioned above could bring a smile to your face but there is another option. Check out the Fender Mustang series of amps. I hear very good things about them. You get some very convincing simulations (I've read the Fender amps in particular are great) and you can run it to your soundcard direct or listen to the sounds coming out of the amp itself - you could mic that & see if it gave a sound you prefer. And if you like the sounds for recording you can take the exact same sounds and go out and gig with them with no need to hook up to a PA.

I do go on a bit, don't I?
Old 22nd February 2012
  #26
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
in my opinion the question whether digital is an option for guitar very much depends on your playing style / guitar sound ... if you're into either crystal clean or super- highgain-distorted sounds then the various amp emulations like the pod are quite ok - if on the other hand side you want to control the amount of power-tube saturation (and speaker breakup) by your playing dynamics (meaning going from a clean sound to crunch by playing harder) then you need a good old tube amp, AND guitar speakers.
I haven't heard any digital emulation yet that's capable of providing both an authentic sound and feel for sounds on the verge of breakup.
this is just my opinion, I'm aware there's people who disagree.
I also think that for getting good electric guitar sounds to tape (or disk or whatever) you do NOT need a treated room. so much can be done with close miking the amp that for most sounds the room sound doesn't so much come into play (yes there is exceptions to this). you also don't need a multitude of expensive mics, get one Sennheiser MD 409 and hang it over the speaker grill - there you go, just ask Daniel Lanois. (and btw, with a 409 or it's update, the 906 it's much easier and faster to get a happening guitar sound than with a SM57, which most always requires a lot of shifting around and trying various positions).
if you want to go the direct route I personally still prefer analog boxes like the Award / Session (or Morley) JD-10 Sessionmaster or the Sans Amp classic or rackmount. both of these can be highly recommended.
to my ears there is a difference between distortion in the analog domain and digital emulations of it, just as there is between compression in the analog vs. the digital domain (guess why the majority of professional studios still go the analog way for compression). and both of these (distortion, or overdrive, and compression, rectifier and power tube compression to be exact) are main parameters in shaping the sound of an electric guitar.
I also have to slightly disagree to what has been posted here before about so many pro's using digital amp simulations: to my knowledge the vast majority of relevant (or should I say famous) guitar players use amps and mic them up when it comes to 'classic' guitar sounds.
(now for people who use the electric guitar in a highly creative way for creating soundscapes like Fennesz or Oren Ambarchi , or even Trent Reznour to some degree, this is a different story, but I don't consider these classic guitar sounds (yet))
Old 23rd February 2012
  #27
Lives for gear
 
ChaosCreation's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
ive never had a problem with logics guitar modeling, i find it better than line 6 stuff, maybe its your interface? or sample rate? causing a loss of quality?
Old 23rd February 2012
  #28
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
You should definitely check out the Avid Eleven Rack.
Old 23rd February 2012
  #29
Deleted fece643
Guest
I would definitely check out Scuffham Amps - Home. I owned an Axe-Fx Ultra, really enjoyed it but the constant ability to tweak became overwhelming and distracting for me so I sold it (no regrets). S-Gear to my ears is the best sounding and feeling software based amp sim I have used and it is cheap at $75. Just finished recording tracks for a professional project with it and the results were excellent. However, I also missed having and recording with an amp and bought the microbaby from Emery Sound. Added several pedals and feel I have the best of both worlds. It is awesome. My biggest complaint with amp sims is how taxing they can be on the CPU. Good luck.
Old 23rd February 2012 | Show parent
  #30
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by nst7 ➑️
You should definitely check out the Avid Eleven Rack.
I'm not 100% certain, but I think Avid is going to be dropping support for the Eleven Rack sometime soon, probably with PT11. They are also dropping support for many other 'legacy' Digidesign products. Just something for the OP to consider if he goes the Eleven Rack route.
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