IN RECORDING, MASTERING POLISHES YOUR
stereo or surround mix—typically using EQ
and dynamics processors—to optimize the
sound quality. Similarly, recording engineers
often add these processors to recorded amp
sounds in the studio, creating a more “produced”
sound. With amp sims, using EQ and
dynamics after the sim itself can make a huge
difference in the overall sweetness. Let’s look
at getting better sounds through post-sim EQ.
The pickup on this guitar has a peak at
1.39kHz. Cutting gain at that frequency
improves the sound dramatically.
This EQ response takes out the midrange for
a scooped sound.
In addition to cutting frequencies and rolling
off the highs and lows, an upper midrange
boost helps the guitar cut through a mix.
Real amps don’t have a lot of energy above
5kHz because of the physics of cabinets and
speakers, but amp sims don’t have physical
limitations. Even if the sim is designed to
reduce highs, you’ll often find high-frequency
artifacts—particularly if you run the sim at
lower sample rates (such as 44.1kHz). Many
EQs have a lowpass filter function that attenuates
levels above a certain frequency. Set this
for around 5kHz-10kHz, with as steep a rolloff
as possible (12dB/octave is good, and
24dB/octave is better). Vary the frequency until
any high-frequency buzziness goes away.
Similarly, it’s a good idea to trim the very
lowest bass frequencies. Physical cabinets—
particularly open-back cabinets—have a
limited low-frequency response. Besides,
recording engineers often roll off the bass a
bit to give a tighter sound. A quality parametric
EQ will probably have a highpass filter
function. As a guitar’s lowest string is
just below 100Hz, set the frequency for a
sharp low-frequency rolloff around 80Hz or
so to minimize any mud.
Amp sims can do remarkably faithful amp
emulations—warts and all—but the recording
process often smoothes out those warts a bit,
due to miking, mic position, sound traveling
through air, etc. Another consideration: Different
amps sound different with various pickups,
strings, and so on. An amp sim that sounds
great with one guitar might not sound right
with another one.
As a result, I’ve found that certain guitar/
amp sim combinations produce what I call
“annoying frequencies”—resonances that add
a fizzy, peaky, unpleasant sound. Fortunately,
you can get rid of these pretty easily with a
First, turn down your monitors because
there may be some really loud levels as you
search for the annoying frequency (or frequencies).
Now, enable a parametric equalizer stage.
Set a sharp Q (resonance), and boost the gain
to at least 12dB. Sweep the parametric frequency
as you play. There will likely be a frequency
where the sound gets extremely loud
and distorted—more so than any other frequencies.
Zero in on this frequency. Now, use
the parametric gain control to cut gain, thus
reducing the annoying frequency. Similarly,
check for and reduce other annoying frequencies,
When you’re done, between the high/low
frequency trims and the midrange cuts, your
amp sim should sound smoother, creamier,
and more realistic. Now throw a little compression
on the guitar for a hotter sound, and
enjoy your new tone!
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