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This is an essential step. As we are doing Rock music, we are necessarily going to use guitars. And it'd better sound good and heavy and impressive. If guitare comes second, it's not Rock anymore, so you must take very good care of it. But in a home studio, it is not easy to have access to good hardware that will take our guitar sounds to the next level. Real guitar amps are expensive, take space and are very noisy but fortunately, virtual amps have made enormous progress and anyone can now get gear simulations of all kinds.

Amp simulators attempt to reproduce the sound of real guitar and bass amps. Some will recreate one precise model, some will offer access to different models and brands. You can easily find reproductions of the most famous brands from one simulator to the next, but their quality and fidelity to the original can vary much from one sim to the other. You can find both free and retail simulators.

Amp sims of course are only necessary if you don't use a real guitar amp. A good amp sim will allow you to play and record with very limited noise and give excellent results. Frankly, it becomes very difficult to distinguish between a good amp sim and a real amp. Simulators have a bit less dynamics, grain and warmth, but within a good mix, the difference is subtle and if you set the right parameters, most people won't hear any difference. Another advantage in favor of simulators: it doesn't take any physical space and you can have many different models at your disposal without spending a fortune. On the other hand, when it comes to live play, nothing is worth a good old guitar amplifier... But here, we're talking about recording in a home studio.

Caution: I put forward amplifier head simulators, to which you need to add speaker cabinet simulators to build up a complete guitar amplifier. As you can hear, it sounds rather aggressive without a cabinet. According to the cabinet, the microphone and its positionning, you can get very different sounds. It's up to you to find the desired setting. Don't hesitate to use several cabs and several mikes for a single guitar as it allows for a fuller sound.

NB: all the plugins presented here are for PC with Windows. If a Mac version exists, I'll mention it and give you the download link from the official website.

Real and virtual audio chains
How to use amplifier simulators in a D.A.W.?
Demos settings

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Real audio chain
real audio chain

Guitar => Amp head => Cab => Recorded with a microphone => Audio interface => D.A.W.

Virtual audio chain

virtual audio chain
virtual audio chain
Guitar => Audio interface => D.A.W., in which you have an amp head simulator (here: Poulin LE456), followed by an impulse loader (here: Poulin LeCab 2) in which you load an impulse that simulates the desired cabinet.
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How to use these plugins:

As each D.A.W. is different, I cannot give you the exact procedure but only a general method. Caution: as a Windows PC user, the files I present are for Windows, and so are the explanations below.

     1 - Download the plugin file you are interested in.

     2 - Unzip the plugin and copy the files it contains in the VST folder of your D.A.W.. I advise you to create a folder for each plugin.
For instance, if you download the TSE X50 zip file, copy its content within the folder "C:\...\VST\TSE - X50".
In order to sort things better, I usually create this type of sub-folders "C:\...\VST\Amp simulators\TSE Plugins\X50", so everything is sorted by type of plugins and by brand.

     3 - If your D.A.W. doesn't automatically do it when starting, use its plugin search/analyse function. You may have to close and restart your D.A.W. to recognize the newly installed plugins. Check in the D.A.W.'s options that it knows where to look for. It is usually possible to set one or several paths that will target the folder(s) containing your plugins.

     4 - Once the new plugin is recognized by your D.A.W., place it on the track or the bus you want. Some plugins only work if they are placed on stereo tracks or buses.

     5 - Place an amplifier simulator first.

     6 - Then, place a cabinet simulator, also known as an impulse loader, like LeCab 2 from Poulin, or NadIR, for example.

     7 - In the cab simulator, load the impulse of your choice. Impulses, whether they are free or commercial ones, are small-sized wav audio files that you will place wherever you want on your hard drive. They don't need to be located in your VST folder. So load the impulse of your choice, for example a Marshall cabinet impulse.

     8 - If everything goes well, you now have an amplifier simulator and a cabinet simulator, very much like a real amplifier.

     9 - Click on the "monitoring" button of your guitar track, the very one that allows you to hear yourself playing. You can now enjoy the sound of your virtual guitar/bass amplifier.

     10 - Change the settings in the amp simulator windows, set the volume, the bass, mid and trebble, etc. Change the settings as well in the cab simulator if needed (high and low pass, panning...)

     11 - Pay attention to the latency. Set it low enough so that there is no delay between the moment you play your guitar and the moment you hear the sound coming out of your headset or monitors. Latency only needs to be very low when you play or record (in order to avoid a sound delay). Once the recording is over, when it is time for mixing, you can raise the latency again, in order to get more processing power. The lower the latency, the more the computer processor will be in use. That can be problematic with big musical projects, if your computer is not powerful enough to process things in real time.

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01/12/2020, 23h06

So the chain goes:

DAW > Audio Interface Out > Amp > Speaker > Mic > DAW

This is correct based on my understanding from what I've read, and the few videos I've watch on creating IRs. My question, then, is when I plug into the Amp I've seen people say plug your Interface out into the FX return, but you say the guitar cable jack. What is the purpose in doing one or the other?

Side questions:

What channel should my amp be on? I'm assuming the clean channel.

What should my Amp settings be (EQ, Gain, Channel Volume, Presence, Master Volume)? I can't find a clear answer anywhere.

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About plugging into the FX return or the guitar jack, I don’t know. Actually, the amps I’ve used myself to make IRs don’t have any FX return, so I didn’t have a choice and had to plug into the guitar jack. I guess there’s no harm trying both (not at the same time!) and comparing if you have that possibility. Chances are there’s not much of a difference, but again, I may be wrong as I have not tried this myself.
About the choice of a channel, and the settings: the channel doesn’t actually matter. You’re not capturing the amp sound, but the speaker sound.
From what I’ve experienced, the EQ and Presence should be neutral, the gain/saturation should not be engaged (or set to a level where no distorsion can be heard). As for the volume, set it to a level that’s high enough for your microphone to be able to pick up a good signal (no need to record higher than -6 dB, by the way, give your signal a bit of headroom).
But you should also be careful not to set it too loud to protect your own ears. It doesn’t need to be pushed too high. I think a level high enough to cover your own conversational voice should be enough. I tried various volume levels, and it did not affect the results notably. I did not get better results with very high levels than with normal, humanely bearable levels. Don’t set it too low, though, because it’s better if your speaker does move some air.

Experiment, try different amp settings and see whether that changes the results.


10/20/2019, 17h06

Hey, I downloaded the plug-in and extracted it. Then put it in the plugin folder but it is not working. C:|Program Files|Common Files|Avid|Audio|Plug-Ins. Would this be the right steps? Please let me know thanks!

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As you explained it to me by e-mail, you were using Pro Tools First, which doesn't support third party plugins. The solution is then to either upgrade to a paid version of Pro Tools, or use another free DAW, such as Cakewalk by Bandlab (Windows only), or use Reaper, which is not free, but can be used freely without constraints. These DAWs do support third party plugins.


08/26/2019, 11h06

Tout d'abord bravo pour ce site.
Je suis débutant et rencontre quelques soucis.
J'ai un PC Windows 10 (64 bits, 8 Go de RAM) avec carte son intégrée en 5.1, driver realteck, et quand je lance un programme de simu type Amplitube 4, il y a un son horrible qui sort, est-ce normal ? Y a-t-il un moyen d'y remédier ?
J'ai essayé également avec Bandlab comme séquenceur mais je ne sais pas comment intégrer le cab et le simulateur.
Merci d'avance

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Bonjour Dam40,
Le son horrible qui sort avec un logiciel de simulation n’est pas « normal », mais c’est peut-être dû au fait que vous utilisez la carte son intégrée de votre ordinateur. Ce type de carte n’est pas du tout adapté pour enregistrer et mixer de la musique.
Pour enregistrer de la guitare par exemple, il faut passer par la prise Jack de la guitare et les cartes son intégrées ne possèdent pas ce type de fiche. D’autre part, les drivers des cartes intégrées ne possèdent pas non plus l’impédance électrique compatible pour avoir un niveau de son correct en provenance de l’instrument, et d’autre part, même quand ça marche, elles induisent une latence, c’est-à-dire un délai entre le moment où l’on joue sur la guitare et le moment où le son est entendu sur l’ordinateur.

Pour remédier à ce problème, il faut acquérir une interface audio, un type de carte audio qui se présente sous la forme d’un boîtier externe connecté à l’ordinateur par la prise USB (le plus souvent, même s’il existe d’autres types de connexions). Ces interfaces sont fournies avec un driver spécifique qui permet de gérer le son grâce au protocole ASIO. Ce protocole est standard et permet d’obtenir de faibles latences pour pouvoir jouer de la guitare et entendre le son, avec ou sans effets, sans délai gênant.


08/16/2019, 04h18

Bonjour !

J'ai testé la quasi-totalité des simulateurs présents ici pour une raison : impossible d'ouvrir un fichier DLL !
Mon PC me demande d'associer l'ouverture des DLL à un logiciel mais je n'ai rien de spécial qui va avec...

J'ai eu ce souci, j'avais formaté mon PC vu que je ne l'avais pas fait depuis des années (1,65 To de données à re-télécharger)
Et là encore le même souci, je teste donc sur 6 PC différents et tous ont ce souci... Je suppose donc qu'il faut un logiciel spécial mais rien n'est mentionné, tu pourrais m'aider ? Merci d'avance !

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Bonjour Blastrax,
Tous les simulateurs d’ampli gratuits sous forme de fichiers DLL sont des « plugins », et non pas des logiciels autonomes.
Je l’explique ici.

Ces fichiers de plugins ne s’installent pas, il faut simplement les recopier dans un répertoire du disque dur. À noter aussi que les simulateurs d’ampli gratuits ne simulent que la tête d’un ampli. Pour avoir également une simulation du haut-parleur, un autre plugin qu’on appelle « chargeur d’impulsions », dans laquelle on charge des « réponses impulsionnelles », ou IR (impulse responses, en anglais). Les IR sont des petits fichiers audio qui reproduisent le son d’un vrai haut-parleur. On peut trouver des IR reproduisant le son des amplis Fender, Vox, Marshall, Orange, Mesa Boogie, etc. Il en existe des gratuites et des payantes.


06/02/2019, 18h49

Merci pour le tutoriel sur la création d'impulsion , j'ai capturé les signatures de mes cab Markbass traveler 121h 2x12 et le vieux combo Fender rockpro 1000 en 1x12 ,c'est tout à fait le son que je voulais. Je suis bluffé par la qualité , par rapport à ce que j'ai pu télécharger sur le web...! j'ai plus besoin de casser mes oreilles à volume fort pour faire des prises.

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