Some people assume an amp sim
should be plug-and-play. You insert it in a
track, and—voilà!—perfect guitar sound!
| Studio devil’s Virtual guitar amp ii has a cool reverb, but sometimes a smaller, funkier space—synthesized here with the Sonitus delays bundled with Cakewalk Sonar X1—will deliver the sound you want.|
It’s not always that easy.
We’ve addressed ways to improve tone
in this column, but you must also consider
environment. Sometimes, amp sims
are perceived as sounding lifeless because
the sim is emulating a miked amp. But
when you play guitar, you don’t put your
ear a couple of inches from a cabinet.
Instead, the less-than-perfect acoustics of
rehearsal spaces, auditoriums, and clubs
can become part of your guitar’s sound
and add a three-dimensional sense of
space. So, let’s synthesize some “air” for
your sim. The key is using delays to simulate
the early reflections that bounce off
the walls in your sim’s virtual “room.”
Follow the sim with a stereo delay. Set
one channel to 11ms, and the other to
13ms. Don’t use any feedback, and start
with a wet/dry mix of around 15 to 25
percent wet. Then, follow the first delay
with a second delay—this time, with one
delay channel set to 23ms (this should
be the same channel for which you chose
11ms with the first delay) and the other
delay channel to 17ms. Again, use 0 feedback,
and start with a wet/dry mix around
20 percent wet.
The delay times are all prime numbers,
which means they can be divided only by
themselves. As a result, they don’t reinforce
each other—or give a periodic
a bigger sense of space from
a limited number of delays.
The first delay ’s dry
sound passes through the
second delay to create the
23ms and 17ms delays.
However, the first delay’s
delayed sound also passes
through the second delay,
which produces an additional
delay of 11+23=34ms
and 13+17=30ms. That’s
a total of six virtual reflections.
Because the times are spaced close
together, they’re not really perceived
as individual echoes, but they’re also
sparse enough so they don’t sound like
Experiment with the delay’s wet/dry
mix, which has a huge influence on the
overall sound. Also, look for any “special
features” your delay might have—such
as the option to reduce highs somewhat
on the delayed sound. The delays in the
screen shot can do this, and they also
have a “diffusion” control that spreads
out the echoes a little more.
Finally, this effect is best when applied
subtly. When done right, you’ll have a
more authentic guitar sound, because
you’ll be hearing it in a “room”—even if
it is a virtual one.