STS 9 rocks its laptops.
Whether you play modern metal or experimental electronica,
employing a laptop onstage can offer instant access to an endless array of tones and
effects. The processing power of current computers means amp emulations come astoundingly
close to the real thing, and latency has been reduced to a non-issue. In addition,
the quality of amp and effect emulations is now remarkably consistent, so your sonic
weapon of choice comes down to personal preference. Whichever software you choose,
however, here are some tips to make your onstage experience optimal and trouble free.
If possible, use a laptop that has nothing
on it but your emulation software. The
more CPU dedicated to guitar processing
the better, and there’s less chance of other
software crashing your machine.
Kill your Wi-Fi connection and shut down
your email. You don’t want the audience to
hear “You’ve Got Mail ” in the middle of a
tune. Wi-Fi also eats up CPU.
A MIDI footcontroller with at least one expression
pedal is a must for switching programs,
turning effects on and off, and manipulating
wah-wah simulations. Expression pedals can
also be assigned to control parameters such
as delay lengths and feedback, tremolo speed,
and even panning between rigs.
Quality In/Quality Out
Use the best audio interface you can
afford. A high-quality interface will
transmit the true sound of your guitar
into the software, and extract the highest-
quality emulation tones. It will also
keep latency very low.
Bag the Guitar Amp
Amp simulators are designed to sound
ultra-realistic through studio monitors
and full-range P.A. systems. The accuracy
of a Fender simulation will suffer
if run through a Marshall stack or a Vox
AC30. Try going through the P.A. and
monitoring through floor or in-ear monitors.
If you prefer a personal monitoring
system, be sure to use a clean power
amp and full-range speakers, or run your
audio interface directly into powered,
Of course, some players use amp-emulation
software just for the effects, and run
their laptop into an actual guitar amp. Feel
free to shut off the software’s amp and cabinet
emulations, and plug straight into your
Bogner head and 4x12 cab. If you go in the
instrument input, make sure your audio
interface is outputting the kind of signal
an amp likes to see. If you are using largely
modulation and ambient effects, try running
the interface in the amp’s effects loop.
Bring on the DAW
Running your amp emulation software as
a plug-in inside a DAW such as Ableton
Live or Logic opens up another world of
possibilities—including spectral and granular
effects unavailable as guitar pedals,
advanced looping capabilities, and recording
Call For Backup
Today’s laptops tend to be reliable. Still,
the best scenario is to have your software
and patches installed on a second laptop
ready to go. Failing that, keep amp-emulation
hardware by Line 6, Vox, or Tech 21,
and a couple of effects pedals on hand to
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