Using Amp software for practicing

Hi All,

I wanted to start a topic to find out what others are using for getting some of the great sound I hear in the videos posted here.

I’ve been using Amplitube for quite some time and recently bought a Stomp I/O as well. I can never get anywhere near the sound that I hear when others post on youtube and on here. While I’m sure some of it is my sucky playing, I still feel I’m not configuring things correctly or I’m using the wrong software.

I typically practice at night when my wife goes to bed, so I usually play through my PC with headphones so I don’t wake her up. I do have an amp as well but plugging my headphones into the amp gives me a lot of crackling for some reason AND I can feel the vibration of the guitar in the headphones through the wire. At least on my PC my headphones are wireless.

Does anyone have good recommendations for software to try? I don’t mind something free as long as it has the option to purchase better effects, cabs etc… But I also don’t want to spend thousands on it since I just play as a hobby and not a serious musician.

I have a high end PC(core i9 extreme CPU, 64 gigs of ram, 2 TB ssd with high end sound card) so resources are not an issue but Amplitube still tends to lock up on me at times and configuration settings don’t always save which can be a bit frustrating.

I couldn’t find other posts discussing this, but if I missed some please feel free to point me to those.

Thanks,
Ben

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How much are you willing to spend? A lot of free ones sound decent-good into a mix with a bit of EQ help, but if you want a good feeling amp software you will have to spend a bit of money.

I would suggest Mercuriall Spark, Neural DSP Archetype: Nolly, or Helix Native.

Another option would be to buy a small hardware unit like the Atomic Amplifirebox or the Helix Stomp. They have headphones out, they sound/feel great at a relatively affordable price and you can always hook them in your amp if you like them.

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There’s also a massive discount for Overloud THU.

Another thing, that I in fact learned from Bill :slight_smile: :point_down:

But even without spending money, it could just be that the Impulse Responses (IR=cabinet +mic simulation) included with amplitube are crap. If they give you the option of bypassing the cab, try some free impulses from Seacow Cabs (e.g. the studio pack collection) and see if you get better results!

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There is really no need to buy any expensive stuff, I’ve been using free plugins for years and it works great for me.

My approach is to use individual plugins in DAW, there are plenty to choose from.
In general you would need at least some boosters, amplifiers and cab responses with impulse loader.

You will naturally acquire a vast collection of those after some time, and the possibilities will be endless, each combination will give you a slightly different tone. You could literally spend years refining your favourite tones and there would still be much to explore.

I would strongly recommend to you plugins by LePou, TSE and Ignite, these are definitely my favourites.
Ignite’s Emissary receives lots of good reviews, folks say this is on-par or even better than much of paid plugins.

As for “premium” plugins, BIAS FX is on sale I believe.
The word goes that Mercurial and Neural DSP’s Fortin suites are amazing and worth looking into if you can afford them.

It really depends on the genre you want to play though.

If you are running a DAW, using guitar specific channel presets or mastering presets can make an ampsim really shine…i.e. it will ballpark a good compressor and eq setting

Having tried BIAS, and having read several so-so reviews of it (only afterwards, unfortunately), I would recommend against it.

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Thanks everyone. This definitely gives me some options to look into. I will report back as I start experimenting more.

I did just realize that my amp has a USB connection that can be used as a DAW when plugged into my PC. It’s a Marshall Code 50w and has some decent Amp models built-in. But like I had said, when I plug my headphones into it, I get some buzzing and the sound is awful. Without the headphones, it sounds great! I’m going to try plugging it into my PC and see how that goes.

I’m mostly into playing Rock, Metal, Progressive stuff. Big into instrumental guitar stuff like Vai, John 5, The Aristocrats.

@Rot When you say you’ve been using plugins for years, what software do these plugins hook into? Are these Amplitube plugins or something else? I’m not familiar with the plugins you mentioned but I will definitely look at them and give them a try.

@tommo I’m looking into Overloud as well and @BillHoudini I will be checking out the products you mentioned too.

Lots of options now. It may take me a bit to respond with everything I end up trying but I am excited to start trying all these different products out.

I really appreciate the quick feedback and opinions on this.

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Another interesting (and cheap!) alternative is the Mercuriall SS11-X preamp, currently discounted at $20:

It is one of my favourite plugins for practicing as it has really straightforward controls and includes boost pedals and reverb. I don’t like the included cabinets, but it is very easy to use your own IRs with the included loader. You can also disable the cabinet + reverb and add a free power amp plugin (ignite TPA-1) and a free IR loader in the plugin chain (e.g. Ignite NadIR) to get a more tubey sound:

EDIT: these videos are from pros with pro equipment, so no wonder they get great sounds. I can post a couple of audio clips of mine if you want to have an idea of what you get when you are just fiddling at semi-random :slight_smile:

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At first, I tried Guitar Rig. It is basically an easy way to start jamming - it is a complete PC/Mac application with lots of presets.
I did not know what a VST plugins is at the time.
Unfortunately after a while the built in ampsims and presets started to sound artificial to me, also I did not know how to record anything with it in a decent quality, so I switched to other ampsims.

I load them in Reaper, but there are other DAWs too - Sonar, Fruity Loops, Studio One etc.

There are lots of quality tutorials on Youtube explaining how to use it, but generally speaking, you create a new mono track in a DAW of your choice, then load effects to it.
Usually the signal chain mimics real life gear, so normally I would load noise gate, some sort of boost, head simulation, impulse response loader + IRs (those are a digital representations of an actual cabinet and mic), then maybe some EQ with hi and low-pass filters.
After recording I would also probably apply more specific EQ, some reverb, limiter and probably simulation of tape saturation. The process of mixing and mastering is exactly the same as with real gear, Glenn Fricker has some tutorials on his yt channel.

As for actual plugins, if you’re into metal you might want to try what I use:

Boosts:

  • TSE 808
  • TSE R47 (ProCo Rat’s simulation)
  • Ignite Amps TS999
  • Ignite Amps TSB-1 Tyrant Screamer
  • Mercurial Tubes Creamer

Amps:

  • TSE X50 (Peavey 5150 emulation, used to be my absolute favourite)
  • LePou LeGion
  • LePou HyBrit (a blend of Marshalls, recently I find myself using mostly this one)
  • LePou LeCto (Mesa Boogie emulation
  • LePou Le456 (Engl Powerball if I am not mistaken)
  • Ignite Amps Anvil
  • Ignite Amps NRR-1
  • Ignite Amps Emissary (king of kings it seems, it is absolutely amazing)

As for IRs, you can use any loader such as LePou LeCab or NadIR (LeCab allows you to load up to 6 IRs at the same time, but NadIR seems to handle blending them better).
You will get great IRs from:

  • Guitarhacks
  • Ownhammer
  • Redwirez
  • and many, many others.

Essentially the above stuff will allow you to get MUCH better tone than ANY cheap bedroom amp, it is much more convenient and versatile and basically it is recording ready setup.
There is one hardware requirement though - besides a decent PC (4 cores is enough, I presume your PC is up to date - mine is antique already but handles recording just fine) you will find that an interface is a very handy tool - you could plug your guitar straight into line in of your sound card, but an interface will help with latency and signal quality issues. Any cheap USB interface with Hi-Z/instrumental input will do, for example Focusrite or Behringer.
But if you just want to jam then you can plug into your soundcard for the time being, just make sure to download and install VST4All drivers.

I know it sounds complicated, but it isn’t really.
You can check out this tutorial:

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Thanks for the videos and the tips on this. I definitely would be interested in hearing how your audio sounds using these. Then I can see how awful I sound in comparison. :wink:

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Bias FX 2 is great. I think it has a bad reputation from the first version. I have Bias FX, TH-U, and S-Gear. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but I’ve been getting the best tones out of Bias. These days, I’m going for dirty strat tones, but it’s great for metal, too.

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I am thinking of trying this, and I assume it is easy for those familiar with the software:

I will (hopefully!) put sheet music in my DAW (Logic X) and then, measure-by-measure, program my DAW about how to configure my “amp/effects” (Axe-FX 3). So, when playing (to the click-track), I can’t touch anything, and it should sound good. So this would be the “live” solution, but note that one should also record a dry track. (Indeed, my “rig” is supposedly my Axe-FX 3 + laptop, except for the not really using the DAW part, sigh… I always leave it on configured as a fake “Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier.”)

I don’t know how to do this, but it’s super-obvious and must be an expert practice for recording: After getting the dry recording, correct it for time and pitch, and then generate (say?) five wet recordings (different “amps,” etc.) and then comp them all together, slicing out the best parts, or possibly mixing several of them. This generation would presumably be easy to automate, particularly for software systems. (Or perhaps do 3 takes and generate 5 wet versions and then select from the 15 best… the combinations go up rapidly of course so I’m sure there is a practical limit.)

To give you an example of what I mean: Let’s say there is a part in the music that has lots of tapping. Over here one might want lots of compression and then gain so it sounds right, and then one might want to turn the compression off, etc.

And if time was no object: I’d make parallel dry recordings of each individual pickup (that might be up to five concurrent channels for an HSH guitar with coil taps), and then process them all, creating five times the wet tracks… I was always surprised that HH guitars didn’t have a stereo output, it just seemed dumb to do the switching on the guitar.

So, in summary, I think that there is NOT a single tone any more, there is just an appropriate sound for a moment in the music. And what is really shocking (for me) is to listen to what an isolated guitar sounds like that is pulled out of a mix: It is often so thin! That, perhaps more than anything, made me realize that “tone” only makes sense in the context of a particular piece of music (particularly as one needs space around the bass, singer, etc.). Anyway, as I said, I have yet to do this, hopefully some time this year.

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Here, that’s how it sounds for me (beware of volume changes) - I basically jammed with several ampsims, so you will hear some riffs, then pause, some riffs with different chain, pause etc. Example of lead tone by the end (had to split the original recording, file was too large).
Sorry for sloppy playing, I was partying all night and just woke up like an hour ago (it’s 3PM here) and I am in desperate need of some breakfast. Anyways, here you go:

test1.mp3 (6.0 MB)
test2.mp3 (7.8 MB)

Guitars are just single tracked, I threw in some chorus and delay for leads.

Now, the order of ampsims is as follows:

  1. Ignite Emissary
  2. LePou HyBrit
  3. TSE X50
  4. Ignite NRR-1
  5. Ignite Emissary - lead

Of course tone could still be better - I was saving on PC resources, so had to cut simulation quality slightly, and there is still lots of room for improvement in general tone.
My goal was to showcase how it sounds in general, just jamming in bedroom.

@ kgk

There are several reasons to it: one is that the guitar is just a midrange instrument, two (sorta the same actually) is that it needs to make room for other instruments in the band.
Three, your example is sort of an antique already, nowadays in metal and rock you double/quad track guitars and so you have a massive wall of sound, but yes, you are correct - tone should be judged in the context.
That’s why all newbie kiddos be dialing 10 bass 0 mid 10 treble and imagine they are James Hetfield or something.

Neural DSP is the way to go. Best modeling available. Big sale ends soon :wink:

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Yup, one of the best paid VST ampsims, I wanted it so desperately too - shame I am absolutely broke and need to deal with free ones :upside_down_face: