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Checked Your Sim Preferences Lately?

August 5, 2014
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THE PREFERENCES IN MANY programs generally default to basic settings that work, so we don’t think about them much. But if you poke around “under the hood,” you may find some gems.

For amp sims, preferences often relate to CPU power. Choosing low quality resolution while recording allows for lower latency; during mix-down, when a little extra latency doesn’t matter, increase the quality by oversampling (e.g., if you’re recording at 44.1kHz, the amp sim runs at 88.2kHz). This isn’t about an extended high-frequency response to drive your dog insane, but instead reduces the risk of aliasing with high-gain distortion settings. The result is a cleaner, smoother sound.

Most preferences are located in menus, but sometimes they’re “hidden in plain sight.” For Guitar Rig, there’s a virtually unreadable HI button to the left of the NI logo. Click this for better sound and about twice the CPU consumption. Waves G|T|R also has an HD button toward the upper right corner of its amp plug-ins (Fig. 1).

With Peavey’s ReValver, click on the upper right’s gear symbol to access a menu with a startup quality mode. It defaults to real-time 32-bit calculations, but for mixdown, choose 64-bit processing and 4X oversampling— the quality difference (and CPU hit) is considerable.

IK’s AmpliTube has multiple options for tailoring CPU consumption. There are three “shortcut” front panel buttons in the upper right for Hi, Mid, and Eco quality. However, open preferences and you can specify oversampling individually for the preamp, amp, and stompboxes, as well as select a high-resolution mode and cabinet resolution. You can also choose a CPU-hungry spring reverb or room ambience algorithm, or more efficient digitally synthesized versions (which actually sound pretty cool—you might like them better). Again, throttle down for recording, kick it up when mixing.

There’s often more to preferences than just CPU consumption. With Guitar Rig, you can show the legacy Cabinets & Mics module that was replaced by the Control Room but has some unique features of its own, as well as load components and presets in stereo (this defaults to off; I much prefer defaulting to stereo). You also can change the window height—very helpful if you’re running the program live on a laptop. AmpliTube 3 has a check box for Cabinet Global Bypass that takes the cabinet out of all presets, which is great if you’re using AmpliTube like an effects processor that feeds into a physical cabinet.

Overloud’s TH2 has the option for linear or rotational knob control, bar or dot tuner mode, and auto mute when the tuner is turned on (a benefit for live performance). Like many other music programs (including Scuffham’s S-Gear), preferences is also where you set MIDI assignments.

If you click the More button in Studio Devil’s Amp Modeler Pro, a tuner shows up along with three-LED input/output level monitors (signal present, good, and too much). And when I clicked the little Softube logo on the Vintage Amp Room, there was an option to check for updates—and there were several, so it was worth the click.

The point is there’s often more to amp sims that meets the eye, so click around and see what goodies may lie behind a preferences menu or cryptic front-panel button.

Craig Anderton has played on or produced more than 20 major label releases, mastered hundreds of tracks, and written dozens of books. Check out some of his latest music at youtube.com/thecraiganderton.

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