Using software amplification simulators, or amp sims for short, is becoming increasingly popular. The benefits are many, you can tweak your sound endlessly, switch between different amp sims trying to find the best tone for your song. A drawback is that an amp sim not properly tuned can generate digital artifacts giving away that it’s not a perfectly recorded physical amplifier. Here’s how to get a great guitar tone!
What you need
- A music production application (DAW), such as Reaper, Cubase, Logic or Pro Tools.
- An amp sim plugin in an appropriate format (VST for most DAWs), such as one of LePou’s plugins.
- An speaker cabinet impulse file, such as one of Catharsis impulses.
- An impulse loader plugin, such as LePou’s LeCab2.
- A tubescreamer simulator plugin, such as TS-999.
- Two good dry guitar recordings of the same rhythm parts. The closer they are the better, but you can’t use the same recording twice by just duplicating one take.
The biggest trick in getting a great guitar tone from any digital amplifier software is not to use too much gain. It’s much better to use an overdrive in front to get a tighter sound from the amp than cranking up the gain, since amp sims usually get fizzier and generate artifacts compared to a physical tube amp.
I always double track my rhythm guitars. Two identical takes (or – as similar as I can get them) panned completely left and right. This makes the guitar sound fill out the stereo space, making the sound much bigger and leaving space in the middle for other instruments and guitar leads.
Create two tracks, one for each guitar take. Pan the two tracks completely left and right respectively. Starting with one of the tracks, add the TubeScreamer sim to the FX chain. Make sure it’s set to high quality/high multiple oversampling. Turn gain all the way down to zero and level to max. This way the TS will push the signal without distorting it. Turn the tone to your liking, I usually leave it flat in the middle.
Next, add your amp sim. I’m using Legion, which unlike most other amp sims, isn’t actually based on a real amp (it’s LePou’s own brainchild). It’s tighter than the Lecto and a little less fizzy in the higher registers. I’m using the red channel (high gain) and I’ve rolled down the gain a bit. I could probably go lower still… I’ve set it for high quality and stereo (since I use a single bus for both guitar tracks – but thats the advanced class). I’ve kept most settings pretty default, but I’ve boosted the mids slightly along with presence and contour.
Last I set up the cab impulses. I use Lecab2 for loading impulses. I’ve set up two identical cabs for right and left (again, that’s the master class). Instead of applying high and low passes with EQ I usually use the built in filters in the cab loader, removing anything lower than 70 Hz and anything higher than 11 kHz. Remember, it’s always better to remove bad stuff than trying to boost good stuff.
Lastly, apply EQ and reverb as appropriate. For my example I didn’t use any of either. Here’s my lab tone:
I’m going to tweak it further, probably dial down the gain a bit further.
UPDATE: Here’s a song so you can hear what it sounds like in a mix: