Your Guide To Home Studio Recording


Amp Simulator Shootout (featuring Eleven Rack, ReValver, and more)

I’m a huge fan of amp simulators, both hardware and software. What was seen as cool technology but somewhat of a novelty 10 to 12 years ago (such as the original Line 6 POD) has now evolved to the point that it can be nearly indistinguishable from traditional amps recorded with microphones. I thought it would be interesting to make comparison clips of some of the amp simulators I have, as well as promote some of the free and inexpensive ones that I feel are high quality.

I should note that I did these very quickly, so the production quality is not the best. The drums are unmixed and the guitar tones were dialed in quite quickly. I do not feel that I am doing these amp simulators justice, especially since a multitude of tones can be achieved with each one and I only used one tone per simulator. Nonetheless, I think the results are interesting.

For amp simulator suites which feature multiple amp models, I chose to demonstrate a Marshall amp simulation from each one. I decided to go for a somewhat high gain tone, but not anything extreme. Most of the amp simulators I have that are modeling one particular amp are based on high-gain amps, so I pushed these into some what heavier tones.

These were recorded with a Gibson Les Paul Traditional Mahogany Satin into an Xotic EP Booster (which I feel adds pleasing harmonic depth to the gain structure of the signal) into an Avid Eleven Rack. I recorded an amp track from the Eleven Rack to include in the comparison, and I also recorded the unprocessed DI signals simultaneously in order to use them for the software amp simulators. I believe that using third-party impulse responses for cab simulations produces the best tones, so for any amp simulators that have their own cab simulators, I turned them off and used the RedWirez mixIR2 plugin to load impulse responses from OwnHammer’s Bogner 4×12 Celestion Vintage 30 Shure SM57 Public Beta Redux. These impulse responses were made with a 4×12 Bogner cabinet with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers miked with a Shure SM57. The free public beta will only be available shortly, but I highly recommend purchasing OwnHammer’s impulse responses. They sound superb and are fairly priced. Another great impulse loader is also available for free from LePou, called LeCab. The guitars in each clip were tracked twice and each take is panned hard left and right. Both takes have the same amp simulator settings and the same impulse response. I used the same impulse response with all of the amp simulators.

All of the plugins are VST format, and some are supported in other formats, as well.

Gibson Les Paul Traditional Mahogany Satin

My Gibson Les Paul Traditional Mahogany Satin (and my cat)

(Continue Reading)

Using Multiple Samples, Parallel Compression, And Other Tricks To Give Your Drum Mixes More Punch And Depth

There’s nothing like taking a great sounding room, putting a great sounding (and well-tuned) drum kit inside of it, showering it with perfectly spaced high-quality microphones running into expensive preamps, and finding a great drummer to beat the hell out of the skins. But for many of us, that’s just not feasible.

Fortunately, through the power of MIDI, more powerful computers (with bigger hard drives and more RAM), and some very dedicated designers and audio engineers, it’s possible to produce professional drum sounds without even buying a set of drum sticks. Drum samples are not necessarily new, but the availability of complex collections of them and cleverly designed software to trigger them is a newer luxury.

Another great advantage of this kind of software is that it expands your mixing capabilities substantially. With a real recorded kit and no samples at your disposal, if something doesn’t sound right and retracking is not possible, your only option is processing the tracks recorded by each microphone. Sometimes the result you tried to obtain from the processing ends up inflicting undesirable side-effects to the sound. However, using samples greatly expands your tonal options, especially if you think outside the box.

Does the snare sound flat and dull, but compression and EQ techniques are making it sound different rather than better? If your drums were created with purely samples, you can more effectively shape the sound how you want it, since you can achieve perfect isolation and completely circumvent bleed from other drums on your snare track. Additionally, you can also take another snare sample and blend it together with your first snare sample (this is possible with traditionally recorded drum tracks, but is trickier and sometimes doesn’t yield satisfactory results).

I like fairly natural drum sounds, and it may be ironic, but the ability to mix, match, and blend different samples together is a very valuable tool for shaping drum sounds without making them sound artificial. By doing this, you can take the different aspects you like of different drums and use them to complement each other. Of course, a bit of processing is usually necessary to make drums fit properly in a mix, even with samples, but this technique allows you to get away with a lot less of it, and I feel that the results are often better because of it. Another advantage of this technique is that even if you’re not looking for a completely natural sound, you can blend in samples that already have been processed, but with high-quality outboard gear. This can be a great way to add punch to a drum mix in a way that plugin processing might not be able to adequately achieve.

My favorite software for creating drum tracks is Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 2.0. Also available for purchase are multiple expansion sets, featuring more drum samples. I highly recommend all of them, but the stock version still gives you plenty to work with. Superior Drummer is designed to be mixed as if you had really recorded the kit. All of the samples are completely dry (absolutely no EQ, reverb, compression, etc. has been applied to them) and you can adjust the amount of drum bleed present in each microphone. Bleed control is what makes Superior Drummer so flexible. if you’re using Superior Drummer as the basis of a precisely crafted metal mix where everything must occupy a very specific auditory space, you can set the microphones to have no bleed at all. You can even set the overhead microphones to pick up absolutely nothing but cymbals and get everything else from your close microphones and room microphones, if desired. For a clean, pristine mix, this is a godsend. But if you’re recording a more traditional rock song, microphone bleed is an integral part of the drum sound, and you can dial in as much as you need.

Superior Drummer 2.0

Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0

(Continue Reading)