Today, IK Multimedia released an update to Amplitube. Ok, so they’ve been doing this for a long time, why is today a big deal? Well, 2 things… first off, the latest version is compatible with ProTools 11. But that’s not what this article is about 🙂 The second thing is that today they added a model of a pedal that I actually own, the Fulltone OCD pedal. Again you ask, why is that interesting. Because, this is the first time I can personally compare the program / model to the real thing, as I have a Fulltone OCD on my pedal board. Long and short of it is that the model is excellent, works like the real thing. VERY impressed.
So, why the blog post, then?
One thing that I’ve seen is that guitar rig modeling has gotten a bad rap over the years. There have been some very crappy pieces of software that have deserved to be ridiculed. In fact, Amplitube was one of them! There have been lots of pieces of software that have sounded hideous. And, probably every one of them is somewhere on a ‘professional’ recording 🙂 Whaaaaa!?! How’s that? Well, the current modeling software can sound darn good, but there are some things that one needs to do to get that good sound.
1. Know what sound you want. This is important. Certain modeling software does certain things. Check the software to see if it has the amp you are looking for. Looking for high gain? or low crunch? Some programs are stronger than others. Can you live with it inside of a DAW? New DAW software has some great plug-ins, but they only work in each particular program.
2. Accept that it’s not going to be the ‘real amp’. This is what hangs most guitarists up. Tubes react a certain way. No matter how much is tried, digital circuits don’t feel the same. Keyboard players have had to deal with this for years. NOTHING sounds or feels like a grand piano, yet every keyboard tries to get there. It’s just a lot easier to carry today’s keyboards than it is to lug a baby grand. Guitarists are headed in the same direction. Turning up amps to 11 has gone the way of the dodo in most places.
3. Know how the real hardware works! This is one of the reasons I wrote this post. The current rig modeling is getting things EXACTLY right. Which means, you have to know how the things that are being modeled really work. Take the OCD pedal that came out today. One thing on the real pedal that I had to learn was that unity gain on the pedal (where the signal out of the pedal isn’t louder with the pedal on than when it it off) on the level knob is as somewhere around 9 o’clock. The convention on pedals is that the 12 o’clock position is unity. Well, the model has it exactly right. Unity on the pedal model is at 9 o’clock. That can definitely negatively affect the sound, and I would not have known that unless I’d used the real thing (or experimented a lot). So understanding what is being modeled, and knowing how to make that sound good definitely helps.
4. Good hardware. This starts with a good guitar, good cables, a good interface, good computer, good software, and good speakers. Skimp on any one of those, and the sound is going to be horrible. I recently changed my Line 6 Toneport UX8 audio interface out for an MBox Pro 3, my M-Audio BX-5 speakers for Mackie 824mk2s, and my PRS guitars out for a Les Paul. (Aside, PRS are still my beloved #1s, but I found an awesome Les Paul that gets some playing time). I’ve switched between several Amp / Rig simulator programs / plug-ins, and I’ve settled on Amplitube currently. These changes have made an enormous difference in the sound. It sounded OK before the changes. Now, my guitar tone at low volumes is great, very much what I am looking for.
5. Guitar cabinet simulations are important. Impulse Response (IR for short) cabinet models go a LONG way to making a modeler sound good. Also, modeling room points help. One trick I use with Amplitube is the room mics on the cabinet. Amplitube has 4 sound points. You can have two mics on the cabinet, plus two ‘room mics’. Mixing the room into the output can really open up the sound, and take away the digital harshness that modelers are known for.
6. Don’t be afraid to throw what anyone else says out the window. The number one rule is that ‘if it sounds good, it is good’. Experimenting with modelers can be very interesting. Find a sound you like? Save the settings, and then it’s easy to get back.
All in all, there’s a lot of great programs out there!