Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Best Free Guitar Amp Sims 2017 2/3: LePou / Poulin (with video sample)

CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/3: Ignite Amps

Hello everyone and welcome to the second part of our free amp sims shootout!
Today we are talking about one of the most prolific plugin producers in the scene: the canadian Alain Poulin!
He has produced several plugins, starting with the first, classic one Solo C (which I have not included in the comparison because there is no 64 bit version), developing his coding towards both replicas of existing heads and the creation of completely new ones.

Today his plugins are used by millions of home producers worldwide, because they are free, lightweight, sound good and have a very nice interface.

In this comparison we are using the same criteria as in the Ignite one

in all the samples we have used all Ignite Plugins (except obviously for the amp sim): TSB1 - Tyrant Screamer, the Power Amp Simulator TPA-1 (yes usually all amp simulators have also a power amp section modeler but this one really adds a lot of weight to the sound, I suggest you all to add it to your chain), and the NadIr impulse loader as a speaker simulator.

Basically the Ignite chain is the same one used also for the comparisons of the other producers, the only thing that I have swapped is the amp simulator, all the rest is identical, and the general rules I have used in recording these samples have been:

- no post production of any kind: no eq, no comp, only a limiter in the master bus.
- all the amp simulators have been left as flat as possible (often I have left them totally untouched, and all in the overdrive channel), I have made just some small adjustment in the controls to even out the volume and let it sit a little better in the mix.

After listening to this comparison my key takeaways are the following:

Hybrit: this Marshall simulation is surprisingly versatile and gainy, I had to lower the master a bit to match the others, but if you it even to 3/4 makes it absolutely usable also in thrash metal, it has a lot of attack and tight response.

Le456: this is modeled after an Engl Powerball/Fireball, and you can hear that it has nailed the loud midrangey character of the head, I see it very usable in a classic/power metal record, where the real one is the queen of the most famous albums.

Lecto: this head is clearly based on a mesa Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, but it has something unique; while the texture of the sound and the gain structure are clearly modeled after the original one, this head adds an extremely musical midrange, that makes it one of the amp sims that sits better in a mix, ever. This is a must have.

LeGion: this is an original one, meaming that is not modeled after any other head in particular. It is created to have a lot of gain and to not need a booster, but somehow it sounds a bit thinner and with less body that it should. I can see it used in Djent or other genres with extremely low tunings, where the thicker strings can make up with the general thinness of the amp sim and find a very clear and tight sounding sweet spot.

LeXtac: modeled after a Bogner Extasy, is not very suited for metal, it is round, warm, but muddy in the low mids and I see it very good in classic rock or pop, where gain is lower and the thickness of each strum sound be wider.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/3: Ignite Amps


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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Best Free Guitar Amp Sims 2017 1/3: Ignite Amps (with video sample)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today is a special day, because we are presenting an article with a shootout of the best guitar amp sims with video samples, divided by author.
We know that there are many others out there but we chose the three top producers, because they had enough simulators to compare and because many others does not have a 64 bit version (which are the only ones I have used).

Let's start with the italian pride: Ignite Amps.

These guys make both hardware and software products: they let you use freely the vst version of their amps and pedals, and if you want they can also manufacture a real version of their softwares, like the beautiful Emissary head letting you customize it according to your taste.

In the video we actually use almost their entire plugin lineup:

in all the samples we have used their od TSB1 - Tyrant Screamer, the Power Amp Simulator TPA-1 (yes usually all amp simulators have also a power amp section modeler but this one really adds a lot of weight to the sound, I suggest you all to add it to your chain), and the NadIr impulse loader as a speaker simulator.

Basically the Ignite chain is the same one used also for the comparisons of the other producers, the only thing that I have swapped is the amp simulator, all the rest is identical, and the general rules I have used in recording these samples have been:

- no post production of any kind: no eq, no comp, only a limiter in the master bus.
- all the amp simulators have been left as flat as possible (often I have left them totally untouched, and all in the overdrive channel), I have made just some small adjustment in the controls to even out the volume and let it sit a little better in the mix.

By a quick listen to the samples you can really tell the different shades of the three simulators:

- The Anvil is aggressive and very versatile, it is based on the amp with the same name by Andy Zeugs and features three independent channels (a clean that is Fender style, a crunch that is modeled after a Plexi and a lead channel based on an Engl).

- The NRR-1 is but modeled on a Soldano X88R base (the base also for a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier), but with some modification requested by the (former) Fleshgod Apocalypse guitarist Cristiano Trionfera: it's slightly darker than the Anvil (and still today, even if it can't be heard in the video, I think it has one of the best clean channels around), and unlike the Anvil, the Rhythm channel has also a boost function.

- The Emissary is much more mid-oriented: there is a lot going on in the high mids area and the eq allows you to control and fine tune low and high mids; with some tweaking this could be one of the most screaming amp sims you can find (in facts it is also used extensively in the extreme metal scene, also live!). This is probably one of the most tube-sounding amp sims around, and also in this one the clean channel is beautiful and warm.

What do you think? Which one do you prefer?



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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The best DAW (digital audio workstations) 2017 2/2


Reaper - 60$ for the discounted license, 229$ for the commercial one (both gives you right to two major updates): this low price-no frills daw has actually a huge and very active fanbase, because it's powerful, it has amazing plugins bundled and it incorporates all the features of the flagship competitors costing only a fraction of them. It supports a huge amount of themes and language packs, and basically the only thing that prevents it from being much more expensive is the fact that it doesn't comes with vst instruments bundled.

Avid Pro Tools - The undisputed market leader by decades, Pro Tools has switched from a one off payment to a subscription service (from 24.95$ a month), and it offers, besides its powerful digital audio workstation that is the most common standard all over the world, also a cloud based service for the artists to collaborate and an enormous amount of top quality plugins. There is also a free version, with several limitations.

Magix Samplitude Music Studio - Ranging from 99 to 599$, this workstation is very rich in content (also the basic version), it has many plugins and virtual instruments, supports vst3 and it is the latest installment of a long Magix tradition in music software (that has started with Magix Music maker, which is today free to download). Magix also produces Sequoia, which is a software that costs 2975€ and that is strictly aimed to professional mixing and mastering engineers and broadcasters, since it incorporates a very complete set of metering tools studied to be used also in radio/tv environments.

Acoustica Mixcraft - Ranging from 89 to 179$, Mixcraft is a low price Digital Audio Workstation very complete and full of virtual instruments, Midi Scoring, Video Editing and it supports an app that can be downloaded for free on Apple or Android devices to control the workstation via touch screen.

Ardour - One of the most beloved and feature rich pieces of software ever created for Linux has now taken the leap and became cross platform, so now it can run on Windows and Mac too. The software is paid by subscription plans that starts from as little as 1$ a month, making it the cheapest paid daw on the market, but don't let the price fool you: it is very rich in features and it has a very strong community that follows and improves the code continuously.

Motu Digital Performer - Arrived to the ninth installment, DP is an extremely reliable software that for long time has been a market standard, before sliding a bit in the background due to the new, strong competitors in the market. For 399$ you get a very complete daw, capable of doing virtually everything once you get acquainted with the particular interface.

Happy birthday Guitar Nerding Blog!


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Friday, December 1, 2017

The best DAW (digital audio workstations) 2017 1/2

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Now that Christmas is approaching (and to celebrate also the sixth anniversary of Guitar Nerding Blog), we decided one to created an updated version of an article we have made two years ago about the best Digital Audio Workstations in the market, adding new entries (also freeware), and removing some product that in the meantime went missing in action (e.g. Cakewalk Sonar).
In no particular order, enjoy our list!

Audacity - The most famous freeware Daw is slowly evolving, arriving to the version 2.2.0, which supports a dark theme, midi playback, vst plugins (but not yet vst instruments), and a wide range of audio editing instruments. If you want to edit simple projects or just play live vst guitar simulators this could be enough for you.

Presonus Studio One - ranging from 98 to 396 euro, this Daw is my actual weapon of choice, for its stability, intuitive drag and drop interface, speed and good selection of native plugins. Today it has arrived to the version 3.5, but though each installment it has introduced exclusive features that have been implemented in the other workstations (e.g. Cubase) only several years later. It has also a free version, with some limitation.

Bitwig Studio - sold at a price of 299 euro, this daw is quite new but it has achieved a good reputation, especially through EDM musicians, due to its modular design and its array of synths. Among the perks of this workstation there is a strong community that collaborates on projects and a seamless hardware - software integration.

Steinberg Cubase - one of the most common professional standards of today, it has renewed radically its interface incorporating all the best features introduced by the competitors.
Ranging from 99€ to 549€, Cubase 9.5 is the latest version of a decades long legacy of powerful and reliable software.

N-Track Studio - ranging from 69 to 119$, this daw includes in the price 2 major releases, a totally redesigned GUI, a cloud based system to collaborate with other artists and a subscription based version for Apple and Android devices that lets you have most of the DAW features on your mobile (1.99$ a month). This cross platform integration is, as of today, an exclusive of this workstation.

Mutools Mulab - at the price of 69€, this Daw offers a modular design similar to Bitwig Studio, and it is another newcomer in the field. It features all the basic recording and editing features, but under the surface lies also quite a complete modular structure that lets us adapt the interface with only the tools we need. Seems that this is the trend of today and I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of UI will be adopted by more and more software houses.


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Saturday, November 11, 2017

How recording at high sample rates can end up making your music sound worse

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are goind to add an extra part on our article about Bit Depth an sample rate:
can actually record at higher sample rates damage your final result? Let's find out.

As we have already seen, the sample rate is, put simply, how fast samples are taken.
For sample you can imagine the single photos that put one after the other create a movie; in our case we are talking about audio snapshots.
The cd standard is 16 bit and 44.100hz, although there are also formats today that allows higher standards (but they are not very popular), so for long time the rule of thumb has been "record at 44.100, 24 bit, and then scale down to 16 bit".

With the technology improving and the adc (analog to digital converters, the part of the audio interface that takes the analog signal and turns it into digital signal) getting better and better today many studios record at 48khz, 96khs and so on.
But why do they do it considering that then you will have to scale it down to 44.100hz? Simple, for the same reason you do record at 24bit (or why you take photos in raw with your reflex before editing them): to have as much information as possible, to mix it and then to scale down the final result.

Should you use higher sample rates than 44.100hz or 48.100hz?
It depends on your adc, which means it depends on your audio interface.
The quality of your converters depends on the quality of your audio interface, and if you have an audio interface that costs 100$, even if it allows recording at 96khz chances are that it will introduce a high frequency content (due to the cheap hardware) between a sample and the other, known as ultrasonic content, that on some reproduction device can make the music sound worse (even if you scale it down to 44.100hz). Therefore: on your pc sounds ok, then you play it on another hi fi, and it sounds bad, introducing weird artifacts you didn't notice before.

Other things to consider when mixing at 96khz or more:

1) the file size is CONSIDERABLY bigger, so make sure you have a lot of disk space.

2) some plugin doesn't work at higher sample rates.

As for everything, the trial and error method is fundamental to find out the right setting for our hardware, but the rule of thumb is that the cheaper the audio interface is, the worse it will handle higher sample rates, so in that case if you stick to 44.100hz it will probably sound even better, eventually.

Obviously if you have a top level interface, you will have a certain security that it will work perfectly also at the highest resolutions.

I hope this was helpful!


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Review: Digitech Rp-1000

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to review a big multi effect pedalboard, the flagship of Digitech: the Rp-1000.

This pedalboard is in the market by several years, and it is still one of the most complete solutions around: featuring a second generation sound processor by Digitech (Dna 2), it has a resolution of 24 bit and 44khz and a very extensive array of inputs and outputs making it very suitable both as an audio interface, as a virtual rig and as an integration to a classic amplifier and pedalboard.
The pedalboard lets us stream our music directly in the computer via usb, and it features a send-return system to connect to the amplifier AND a separate, bypassable, effect loop to connect other stompboxes to it placing the effects after the preamp section; finally it has stereo outputs, both 1/4 jack and Xrl, in order to use stereo effects: in terms of flexibility this unit is one of the most complete on the market.

I must admit I have a soft spot with this generation of Digitech: I have been owner of a Rp-350, which is a model with only 3 footswitches, several friends of mine own a Rp-1000 and others the basic model, the Rp-100 and Rp-155: with one of these I have also (several years ago) succesfully recorded a demotape, using it as audio interface for guitars, vocals and bass.
Digitech products have a reputation of being solid, reliable units, with a good quality to price ratio and a good preamp and effect section.

About the effects, without a doubt they are resisting the test of time: the unit is several years on the market, but it still holds without problems against the flagship products of the competitors, while for the preamp section, although it is still very good the clean and the overdrive part, you can start feeling a little of digital rasp in the highest gain part, compared with the latest digital preamps on the market (Kemper, Axe Fx and Line6 Helix), and today guitarists could start missing a bit the possibility of loading custom impulse responses. On the other hand also the high gain tone is very mix-friendly, with a very musical midrange, and the same thing cannot be said for many Line 6 amp simulators, for example.

At a retail price of 399$ (but it can be found online also for less) this is probably the most complete and versatile solution on the market today for less than 500$, it is a swiss army knife good both for studio and live environments.

- Effect switching system offers control over external & internal stompboxes and effects

- Amp/Cabinet Bypass defeats internal amplifiers and cabinets in all presets

- Built-in 20 second phrase looper
- Built-in expression pedal controls the RP1000's Whammy™, wahs, volume, and other parameters

- Switchable Stompbox Loop for effects switcher control of external stompboxes and effects
- Switchable Amp Loop to retain your amp's tone
- 40 Tone and 40 Effects Libraries
- 200 presets (100 factory, 100 user)
- Over 160 effects including stompboxes, choruses, delays, amps and cabinets
- Up to 5 seconds of delay time
- 24-bit 44.1kHz sample rate
- All metal construction
- Heavy-duty metal switches for stompbox response
- Large 10 character LED display for preset name, bank name and tuner
- Independent 1/4" Left and Right Outputs
- Independent XLR Left and Right Outputs with ground lift
- Amp / Mixer switch optimizes 1/4" outputs for amp or direct to mixer connections

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Differences between Class A, B, AB, D power amps

Hello and welcome to this week's article,
today we're going to talk about power amps!
This article is to be intended as a follow up to our Tube vs Solid State power amps article.

Let's start off by saying I'm no engineer, I have made some research (I will put at the end of the article my sources), and the aim of the article is just to put in simple terms the differences, acting as a reference article for the simple musician that is not too expert in electronics.

We all have read in the description of a guitar amplifier (or any power amp in general) the definition "Class A", "Class B", "Class A/B", "Class D" and so on, wondering what it means: it is a code to describe the way the power amp works (yes, there are also other classes, but these are the most relevants in sound amplification).
First let's define what is a preamp and what is a power amp: a preamp is the device that boosts microphone and instrument level signals to line level, a power amp is the one that boosts the line level signal strong enough to drive a speaker.

Class A power amps: these were the first tube power amps ever created, the least efficient in terms of power comsumption to output ratio and the simpliest to build; basically the electricity passes thorugh one or more tubes in serie, which operates continuously. It generates a lot of heat and consumes the tubes much faster than the other circuit types, but it has also some particular property, for example it has no crossover nor switchoff distortion, which are typical of Class B power amps. A famous The tonal characteristics of this kind of power amp are a "bluesy" and particularly "musical" tone.

Class B power amps: in these amps there are two or more power tubes, and this configuration conducts the power half of the time in one tube and half of the time in the other (at a very high speed), prolonging the life of the power tubes but generating a very particular distortion, which is typical of many guitar amplifiers cranked to the max. This distortion is called "crossover distortion" because it is generated by the current that, moving from one tube to another alternatively (or from one transistor to another in solid state amps), for a split second in time it is not drawn by neither of the two, thus generating that noise.
As a general rule, Class B power amps grants more headroom, higher volume, better clarity and sparkle than the Class A ones.

Class AB power amps: these kind of amplifiers are very similar to the Class B ones, but the tubes doesn't stop drawing the current before the other one is on, so there is never a moment in time in which for an instant both of them are off. This reduces the amount of crossover noise, and allows to save at the same time some tube life and power comsumption. This system is often used in high-end home sound systems.

Class D power amps: these ones operates with transistors instead of tubes, and this means that they operate on a better power efficiency (less heat is generated, less electricity is wasted) and they work through a system called "pulse width modulation", which means that the sound is divided in many single pulses (measured in hertz), and the "width" of these pulses generates louder or quieter sounds. The "space" between a pulse and another is noise, which needs to be eliminated from the system with a filter, and all this project requires a significantly more complex amount of engineering compared to the tube circuits aforementioned. Class D power amps  usually are less expensive than their tube counterparts, but they lack some of the tonal characteristics many guitar players are after (although technology is slowly catching up, and it is very likely that in the near future this differences will be completely nullified), on the other hand they are much more reliable, solid and power efficient.

I hope this was helpful!


Cambridge audio Class B and Class AB Amplification

Paul Mc Gowan


Electronic - Class A Amplifiers

Electronic - Amplifier Classes

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