Question about thickening digital guitars

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by EricWatkins, Jan 1, 2014.

  1. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    Feb 10, 2007
    Decatur Il
    So I am a major VST nerd and I really enjoy the convenience of keeping most things in ITB. I don't have anything but an LA-610 for outboard other than a Tascam DM-4800 which is as warm as.......well, it's not warm. So, I am totally reworking my monitoring end of my studio and adding some OTB analog summing. I am also, after that, planning on beefing up the front end with some more nice pres. I'm thinking API but I'm still thinking. So I have been recording guitars straight into the DAW through a DI and the mixer or straight into the LA-610 and then processing them with Guitar Rig or Amplitube. My results aren't bad but I know they could be a lot better. I mean, sure, I'd like to have the option of more real amps but let's assume that 99% of the time, I will be using either software like Amplitube or a piece of gear like the Line6 Pod. My question is; Would running the direct but software-processed signal back out and through an API or Neve type preamp be worth it? Would it add any of that famous mojo or is it just a waste of time? I don't have any of that gear here to really try myself. Opinions? Thanks :)
  2. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Jul 21, 2009
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    try overdriving your la 610 on the way in to smooth out the distorted guitar sound. it will likely sound horrendous w/ out amplitube, but i've had good luck achieving a more convincing sound by over driving the input section of the pre. just think of it more as a tone knob, and then adjust the output to your normal recording level.
  3. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    Nov 23, 2008
    Rainy Roads WA USA
    I would think the standard method of "doubling" would help you "thicken" you guitar tone along with a little delay. Not just duplicate DAW tracks but actual 2 separate performed audio tracks played as close as possible to each other. Using Guitar Rig or other plugins are pretty hit and miss and a lot of that depends so much with the type of guitar sound you're going for and how well it's sits in the mix.
    Others will undoubtedly say mic an amp in a real room with a couple good mics and add those into the DI track, which is also a standard method in a recording studio. As soon as you use these VST plugin's well then you're at the mercy of those sounds. Panning EQ and reverb have a lot to do with it too. "Thick" to me would be mid heavy or even fat and muddy and not bright so EQ could help define the tone better, but your definition of "thick"may be different.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    While I find Vst's to be very convenient, I've never felt that they successfully mimicked a real amp in a room with a mic... and I always found exactly what you are facing; not only that they don't sound warm or full enough, but that they also lack the natural character that an amp has tonally. It may also be a harmonic distortion thing as well, (or lack thereof), that is formed by a real amp's character.

    You could certainly beef things up if you front-loaded with a pre, but it's still going to processed by an emulation plug, and it's the way that the instrument is treated at that emulation stage by the plug that causes it to sound, well, for lack of a better term, "thin" or, even fake.

    You could always re-amp, but you mentioned that you preferred to keep things ITB, and, well, if you were going to re-amp and have the amp(s) to do that with, you could have just simply recorded through an amp to begin with, anyway.

    As DJ mentioned, you could double track, and then through the use of creative panning and EQ, along with the cautious use of slip/nudge offset, you could get a thicker sound, but I'm not sure it will ever give you the natural tone that a real rig would.

    It's also very relative to what people have come to expect, or, what they are accustomed to - younger cats who have mostly always heard or used plug in emulation probably like it just fine, while people like yourself, (along with most everyone else here on this forum ) whomay have heard what a real Fender Hot Rod or a Marshall JCM800 amp miked up sounds like, have something to compare it to, and accordingly, hear the difference.

    And, I think that it's also relative to the particular song you're working on at the time. Some emulation progs may work just fine for Song A, where no matter what you try, they simply don't for Song B.

    I guess it all comes down to what your ears are telling you Eric, and, convenience vs. quality as well. There's no doubt that the vst's can come in handy for quick changes to a track, or for those late night tracking sessions where you don't want to piss off the neighbors by miking up a cranked-up Marshall ( insert any brand amp here)...

    But, if you are looking for a more natural and more organic electric guitar sound, well, IMO, nothing will ever beat a nice amp and a nice mic.

    IMHO of course....

  5. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Nov 22, 2011
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    I've tried hard to get a vst emulation to get the mojo/organic tone of an actual real amp, good speakers in a good cab, in a good room, with a good mic and good mic placement. I've came close but it mostly comes down to the "feel" when you're actually recording the guitar, to me that makes the biggest difference in my experience, and if It doesn't feel right then it probably isn't right, nor is it going to get the best performance out of the guitarist.
    My plan "B" is always to use a ISO/Cab/Box before I use a VST. You could build one of those for pretty cheap, it would allow you to crank the amp up to get it cookin without driving the neighbors crazy.
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    if you record something and then play it back to anyone i think most of us would be hard pressed to say exactly how it was recorded.

    regardless if you use digital tools or analog tools, what results is entirely subjective. i will strive for what sounds best regardless of what kind of front end i am employing and i've found that what matters most is playing something that is appropriate and is well performed.

    once it's in the box the sound is compromised anyway. unless you are using large format analog the nuances are lost. i wouldn't stress ove all this. just record the thing for f*cks sake and play it the best you can.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

    Feb 21, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
    I could bable an hour saying how I would do it but I don't have your guitar and finger technic. What I can say is the di/preamp used makes a lot of difference..
    I second the tip about 610 overdrive.. surely it may help.
  8. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Mar 6, 2010
    Standing right behind you!
    I use Amplitube all the time and GR occasionally.

    My secret is to "run" two amps in Amplitube. One of them is my main distorted sound, the bulk of it. The other one is set to add in the things the first one doesn't give.

    Say I like the way one amps "chugs" on a palm mute, but don't like it's open-chord sound. The "other" amp will be set to give me clear, ringing open chord sounds.

    There are many possibilities. Sometimes I love the sound of an amp, except for the treble...the other amp then fills in the treble component.

    I've gotten some wonderful and convincing sounds out of Amplitube that way.

    Having all those options under your fingertips doesn't make it easier - you still have to turn the knobs and listen carefully.

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