Combining Physical and Virtual Amps

February 1, 2010

0.00gp0210_Gear_ElecGtr2NO LAW SAYS THAT YOU HAVE TO USE ONLY virtual amps or physical amps—you can get some great sounds by mixing and matching the two technologies. We mentioned this briefly in the first column, but now we’ll dig a little deeper. 

With Native Instruments’ GuitarRig, note that the amp is in play,but the cabinet is bypassed (theenable button, circled in red forclarity, is off). This lets you feeda clean power amp to preservethe virtual amp’s sound, and then drive a cab.

 Amp and effects simulators as pedalboards.You love the sound of your amp, but dragging around all those effects, power supplies, and cables is a hassle. So, use your laptop’s sim software only for its effects, bypass the virtual amp/cabinet, and feed your trusty amplifier from your laptop’s audio interface. You can also use a foot controller with your “virtual pedalboard.” General-purpose MIDI controllers can do the job, but you’re probably better off choosing one specifically designed for your software (e.g., Rig Kontrol for Guitar Rig, Stomp I/O for IK’s AmpliTube, Ground Control for Waves GTR, etc.). Caution, though: Check your levels. Your amp wants to see a guitar level signal, so you may need to dial back the audio output from your laptop. Or not—maybe you can get a cool overdrive effect by overloading your amp’s input stage. Experiment!





0.00gp0210_Gear_ElecGtr3Using a real cabinet.Some guitarists love the concept of amp sims, but want to feel an actual speaker pushing air rather than going direct into a mixer or P.A. In this application you’ll bypass the virtual cabinet simulation, and you’ll need a physical power amp to drive the speaker(s). If you’re using a standard guitar amp, you may be able to go into an effects loop return and bypass the preamp stage completely. However, odds are the amp will still influence the sound, which may or may not be a good thing. It might be better to choose a simple, accurate power amp, like the kind used to drive non-powered speakers. This will reproduce the characteristics of whatever amp you’ve chosen in your amp sim as faithfully as possible.

Waves’ GTR Solo has individual bypassswitches (circled in red for clarity) for theamp section and cabinet.




0.00gp0210_Gear_ElecGtr1Using your amp’s preamp.Similarly, if you like the sound of your amp’s preamp but want the flexibility of using your sim’s amp and cabinet, you can take a post-preamp effects send, feed it into your computer’s audio interface, and run the signal through your sim’s amp and cabinet. If you want to use effects, they can be inserted between the effects send and the audio interface input.

Double your pleasure.Yet another option is to split your guitar into two paths, then drive both a guitar amp and an amp sim setup. For example, I often use a Peavey Windsor amp with its “power soak” and emulated out features to reinforce amp sims. Not only can this type of setup give wonderful stereo effects, you can also create a richer, more complex sound.

Line 6’s POD Farm is setup in stand-alone modeas a “virtual pedalboard.”There’s no amp or cabinet;the laptop’s audiointerface feeds a physical guitar amp.

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