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Sixto

Getting good guitar tone for FREE!

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I've had a lot of guitar players ask me about getting a good recorded guitar tones without spending a ton of money. Well, here are a bunch of plug-ins that have given me some pretty great results.

First of all, to run these plugins, you're going to need a good recording/sequencing program. And if you don't have the cash (even if you DO have the cash) for something like Cubase, Sonar, ProTools (bleh!) or whatever, definitely look into Reaper. It does everything you need it to (vst hosting, recording, midi, etc) and it does it so well. If I hadn't paid so much for Cubase SX, I'd be using Reaper.

Now, for the goodies.

If you're needing a solid rig, perfect for all kinds of music from country to pop, rock, jazz...whatever, check out the Simulanalog Guitar Suite VST plugin set.

Plug-ins included are:

Marshall JCM900 amp sim, both clean and drive channels with reverb. (Clean Demo, Dirty Demo)

Fender Twin amp sim with Tremolo, one of the most sought after clean amps. (Twin Demo)

Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer sim, essentially the most popular overdrive pedal ever. (TubeScreamer Demo)

Boss DS-1 sim, great distortion pedal with lots of character. (DS-1 into JCM900 Demo)

Boss SD-1 sim, fat overdrive pedal similar to the Tube Screamer, but with more drive and low end. (SD-1 into JCM900 Demo)

Dunlop Univibe Chorus/Vibrato pedal sim, probably one of the coolest modulation pedals ever. Great for getting a Jimi Hendrix tone. (UniVibe into JCM900 Demo)

I've already recommended this plug-in set to a few guitar players and they seem really happy with it.

There is also Fretted Synth's FreeAmp software. (Thanks, Flexstyle) While the overdrive/distortion tones aren't too great, the other effects are. They'd be perfect for enhancing Guitar Suite.

Now, if you're looking for something a little heavier, you might want to give the Wagner Sharp Tube Preamp sim a try. This thing is a beast, perfect for heavy metal and hard rock. Reminds me of the original Peavy 5150 amp. Bright, gainy, and very tight.

(Wagner Demo with Rectifier 4x12 Impulse)

Keep in mind, this is only a preamp sim, so you will need either a cabinet simulator or cabinet impulses after the plugin.

Cabinet impulses can be found all over the web and are great for getting extremely realistic guitar tones. To get you started, here are some really nice ones I've been using for a while.

Guitar Cab Impulses

You'll need a plugin for using these impulses, and I reccommend the keFIR VST for this. Great plugin that is easy on your resources.

There are tons more free amp sims out there, but these are the best and most natural sounding in my opinion. Hope this helps some of you guys out there still searching for a good recording tone.

P.S.

Sorry for you Mac guys. Sixto doesn't know Mac.

Edit: AWWWWWYEEEEEEAH Got some more awesome free amp sim plugins for you guys!

http://lepouplugins.blogspot.com/

You'll need speaker impulses with these plugins but man, do they sound awesome!

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Nice, guitar advice from Sixto. Thanks!

I've used the SA suite for a little while now and I absolutely love it. I wish it had stereo output for processing stuff besides guitar, but that's a pointless gripe. I'll try out the other goodies soon.

Do you regularly use any of the plugins you mentioned in your setup?

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Sixto, what are your thoughts on the FreeAmp software from FrettedSynth? I'm not a guitar player at all, but I occasionally use the FreeAmp software (formerly FreeAmp2 and now FreeAmp3 is out) on a friend's guitar or something. I like how it sounds, but I'm not any judge on how it ought to sound.

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Harmony, I've used the Simulanalog plugins on a couple of remixes and I use keFIR everytime I record using an amp head direct without a cabinet. Once in a mix, it sounds just as good as micing a speaker cabinet.

Flexstyle, thanks for reminding me about that. FreeAmp is pretty neat as well. Lots of cool effects to play with, though the overdrive tones aren't so great. I would suggest using Guitar Suite or Wagner for the meat of the tone, then enhancing it with effects from FreeAmp.

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On Mac, use Audio Units. GarageBand and Logic both use Audio Units, effects like VSTs. Some are synths/samplers, some are audio effects. I'd recommend Camel Crusher followed by the standard Guitar Amp effect. Tweaking those two right gives you loads of different sounds.

"Audio Unit". Google is your friend.

Better yet, Logic Express 8 now comes with Guitar Amp Pro, and the whole package is just 200 bucks (means you get lots more than just Guitar Amp Pro). Haven't tried it yet (waiting for a memory upgrade to arrive before installing), but from the looks of things, it's a big step up from the already decent Guitar Amp in GB.

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Wow, I'm glad I found this thread. I've been needing a better guitar sound because my amp just...well, sucks. I'm gonna try a few of those out and then come back to tell you what I think. :D

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Yeah... sorry about you Mac guys. I don't use Mac and haven't in a loooong time, so I have no idea what kind of stuff is out there for you guys.

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I don't generally record much guitar, not quite skilled enough to make it sound tight enough, but I could put together a list of AUs I find useful... And, once my memory upgrade arrives, install that and LE8 and try out Guitar Amp Pro. We'll see if I get around to it.

Wow, my last post sounds like an infomersial.

Better yet, Logic Express 8 now comes with Guitar Amp Pro, and the whole package is just 200 bucks (means you get lots more than just Guitar Amp Pro).

Buy now and you also get, for free, a bottle of carwax. But that's not all, you get this amazing set of frying pans for no cost whatsoever! And that's not the end of it, you get a multi-device remote control (batteries not included)...

*ahem*

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I just tried out the Wagner > keFIR > impulse combo, and great jebus this is the greatest thing to happen to my guitar since I bought it. I’m in utter awe at how realistic these sound. I guess I should say “good” instead of “realistic” because I’m not experienced enough to really compare these tones to any of the actual setups. Which brings me to my questions sixto (or anyone).

I’m coming from a strictly self-taught acoustic guitar background and as a result I know jack-squat about guitar amplification. I only have a general but vague idea of what a “header”, “preamp” or a “cabinet” are and how they come together to create the final tone. So, clicking through this extensive list of impulses is fun, and I can pick off a few things that I do know in the descriptions (SM57 = mic, off-axis = mic placement) but I’d like to be more systematic about it.

  1. How do different factors affect the sound?
    • Does off-axis typically give a warmer sound?
    • Larger cabinet sizes are better for what?
    • What’s “tweed”?
    • Why do people typically choose Mesa vs Marshall or _____ vs ______?
    • Etc

[*]I gather that a preamp feeds into the cabinet (or cabinet sim here), but what if I want a clean sound? Traditionally, do I take the preamp out of the loop, or do I just turn down the drive of the preamp?

[*]Why would the mix of keFIR be anything except 100% (full output)?

[*]What impact do the eq/tone settings on the guitar itself have? Should I just set them to neutral and mess with the eq on the preamp? Does it matter?

[*]Sixto, you made an awesome demo with a Rectifier impulse, but didn’t include it in the impulses you gave out. What gives? :grin:

Thanks!

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howcome when I play with ultra high gain, I can hear noise in the background even if I unplug the sound card cables from the guitar, the same amount of noise is still there.

Is this referred to as the signal to noise ratio of a sound card?

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How do different factors affect the sound?

  • Does off-axis typically give a warmer sound?
  • Larger cabinet sizes are better for what?
  • What’s “tweed”?
  • Why do people typically choose Mesa vs Marshall or _____ vs ______?
  • Etc

Mic'ing the cabinet with an off-axis setup does help shave off some of the high frequencies and gives a somewhat thicker sound.

A larger cabinet with more/larger speakers produces a heavier, fuller sound than a smaller cabinet with a single speaker. Typical blues/clean sounds come from combo amps, usually one or two 10-12" speakers, while rock/metal sounds come from amp stacks, which is an amp head and 4x12" speaker cabinets.

Tweed is a term used when talking about vintage gear that was often covered in tweed. When talking about amps, it usually refers to vintage Fender amps used in blues and country.

Amps come in lots of flavors. Even amps that are very similar have lots of differences. For example, a Mesa Rectifier is an amp that is capable of a ridiculous amount of gain and has a very heavy, percussive tone with tons of low end. A Marshall JCM2000 is also capable of very high gain, but the tone it produces is very different. It's much brighter and has more bite with a very tight low end. Neither is better than the other. They just cater to different tastes.

I gather that a preamp feeds into the cabinet (or cabinet sim here), but what if I want a clean sound? Traditionally, do I take the preamp out of the loop, or do I just turn down the drive of the preamp?

In a guitar amp, tube or otherwise, the preamp feeds into the power amp which powers the speakers. For a clean sound, you'd turn down the gain/drive on the preamp, not take the preamp out, as the point of the preamp is to color the tone of your guitar.

Why would the mix of keFIR be anything except 100% (full output)?

For special effects, you might want to use some of the dry signal. Provides a harsher, very abrasive tone.

What impact do the eq/tone settings on the guitar itself have? Should I just set them to neutral and mess with the eq on the preamp? Does it matter?

I almost always have the tone controls on my guitars set at 10. Experiment, though, and see what works for you. Rolling back on the tone knobs produces a very woman-like tone (think Eric Clapton) and is useful when using very bright pickups, such as a single coil pickup in the bridge position.

Sixto, you made an awesome demo with a Rectifier impulse, but didn’t include it in the impulses you gave out. What gives? :grin:

Ooooh, sorry about that. I must have left out a folder. I'll have to check my files.

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howcome when I play with ultra high gain, I can hear noise in the background even if I unplug the sound card cables from the guitar, the same amount of noise is still there.

Is this referred to as the signal to noise ratio of a sound card?

That's called a noisy amp. That's what high gain amps sound like, I'm afraid. The only way to fix that is with quiet pickups and a noise reduction/suppressor pedal or plug-in.

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well even without guitar plugged in and card cables removed it has same noise profile.

Also when I play a major 3rd on two strings, it sounds terrible, but when I record the bottom of the third then 2nd track a 3rd up on top of it, it sounds good then. What gives?

I will give an audio example if needed.

http://h1.ripway.com/max97230/dist.mp3

Ok I made this preetty fast. Sorry It's not in rhtym but I recorded 3 parts as fast as I could. The first time the upper 3rds are playing on two different strings at the same time. The second time the upper 3rds are played on two strings but on one string per take. And yes I am muting every string I am not playing even on the two string.

ok I figured it out. When I play two notes at once through the same settings, the drive clips it too much. When I play one note at a time then layer them post-distortion, the peaks are not as high so it doesn't get clipped as much.

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well even without guitar plugged in and card cables removed it has same noise profile.

Yeah. Noisy amp. Like I said, that's how high gain amps sound.

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Ooooh, sorry about that. I must have left out a folder. I'll have to check my files.

Nah, you have a bunch of Mesa impulses in the UM Cabs folder. I just didn't know that a Rectifier was a Mesa product.

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Going a tad bit off topic I'm wondering if anyone knows of any half decent free guitar samples (or soundfonts), I need something to run through all these amps!

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I downloaded these, but I have no idea how to use them!

How do I plug the guitar into the computer? I just go right from the 1/8 jack to a 1/4 converter into the sound card IN ?

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Yes, you would go right into your soundcard, although ideally you would have an audio interface/sound card that has 1/4" jacks to begin with.

You then load up the plugins into a host program like FLStudio, Cubase, Sonar, Logic, etc. Exactly how you do this, and exactly how you set an audio track to receive input from your soundcard's input, varies based on your host.

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I was searching getting a better guitar tone and I found this.

I'm using Cakewalk Music Creator 3, and a Tapco Link. USB audio interface for recording. I put the Marshall JCM900 amp sim into the effects rack? I noticed something didn't sound right, the clean guitar sample could be heard in the right speaker, and the amped up guitar could be heard in the left speaker. So I thought changing the track to mono would solve things. Interesting enough this is what happened: http://www.box.net/shared/5umcgekg0g

(Yes I know it is hard to pick-up, but I'm fussy when it comes to sound, I tend to notice these things)

Does anyone have any idea why the clean guitar sample can be heard in this track? It just sounds strange with a distorted guitar and a clean guitar are being played at the same time. Any idea how to eliminate the original guitar sound?

Also here is a sampler of a similar clip(I say similar cause I stuffed up :P) with the way I usually record (Distortion pedal into amp, the amp's line out to the audio interface etc.): http://www.box.net/shared/wuogeea3os

All this stuff is far too confusing for me, so I'm wondering if just recording with my amp and distortion pedal is good enough for quality sound? Or do I have to do something to make it sound better? Maybe it's cause I'm inexperienced with recording knowledge and guitar setup :P.

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All this stuff is far too confusing for me, so I'm wondering if just recording with my amp and distortion pedal is good enough for quality sound? Or do I have to do something to make it sound better? Maybe it's cause I'm inexperienced with recording knowledge and guitar setup :P.

if it sounds good it is fine. If it doesn't sound good it's not fine.

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Alright then, I guess I'll just stick with what I've got and use those neat plugins for effects and a good clean guitar sound, well unless I actually find a way to improve the tone with this stuff to more of my liking.

I guess it doesn't hurt to still experiment with the plugins though ;).

Oh I tried to download the Cab Impulses but I got a 404:

"The requested URL /Guitar_Cabs.rar was not found on this server."

The type of tone I'm really looking for is similar to the Wagner Demo with Rectifier 4x12 Impulse example sixto presented. I guess I'll just look around for these cab impulses.

EDIT: I was browsing around on google and found some Mesa 4x12 cab impulses. I recorded the normal way I do, and I added the KeFIR VST and loaded up the impulse file and then an eq, I was quite happy with the end result, I decided to record one of my favourite end of song melodies: http://www.box.net/shared/3nq6cj6og8 so now I guess I have to focus on learning about this stereo panning stuff and mixing/mastering etc =P.

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