The Recording guitarist - Re-Amping with DAWs

February 15, 2012

Enabling the monitoring function in (clockwise from top) Cubase, Live, Sonar, Studio One, and Pro Tools.
Re-amping is a technique that lets you change amp sounds after recording. When tape ruled, guitarists played through an amp to get the right vibe, but also sometimes split a dry guitar signal to a tape track. On playback, they’d patch the dry tape track output to an amp set to the desired sound, and then record the miked amp sound to a new track.

Today, when you record into a DAW using an amp sim plug-in, the DAW always records your dry, unprocessed guitar sound. On playback, this dry sound goes through the amp sim, which adds any processing and plays along with your other tracks. So essentially, your DAW is always re-amping.

As you record, you’ll likely want to hear the sim-processed sound, not the dry one. So, the DAW has to send your input signal to the amp sim, which processes the signal and then sends it to the DAW’s output so you can hear it. Monitoring your sound through plug-ins requires enabling the correct monitoring function for your DAW.

• Steinberg Cubase, PreSonus Studio One: Enable a track’s Monitor button.

• Cakewalk Sonar: Enable a track’s Input Echo button.

• Apple Logic: Go Preferences > Audio > Devices > Core Audio and check “Software Monitoring.” Track must be recordenabled.

• Ableton Live: Enable a track’s In button (under the Monitor section).

• Avid Pro Tools: Enable a track’s Record button.

• MOTU Digital Performer: Go Setup > Configure Audio System > Input Monitoring Mode, then check “Monitor Record- Enabled Tracks through Effects.” Track record and monitor must be enabled.

• Acoustica Mixcraft 5: In the Track tab, enable Monitor On.

• Sony Acid Pro: Under Record Input selection, choose “Input Monitor Mode On.”

The disadvantage of always re-amping is that while recording, the amp sim takes a little time to process your signal, so what you hear is delayed by a several milliseconds compared to what you’re playing. Whether this is objectionable depends on your computer’s speed, interface drivers, and other factors. (For tips on how to reduce latency, see the article “Lowering Latency” at If the latency is too much for you, there’s a simple solution if your interface offers a feature called zero-latency monitoring.

Split your guitar output with a Y cable. Feed one split into your audio interface’s Instrument input (a special high impedance input designed for guitar). Send the other split into a guitar processor or stompbox to get a satisfying sound for recording. Then, patch that to any spare interface input. An interface with zerolatency monitoring will include an accessory software mixer application that lets you mix one or more signals at the interface input with the DAW output. So, you can hear your DAW’s tracks combined with your multieffects’ output (which won’t be going through your DAW, so there’s no delay). Record the dry signal, and optionally, the processed one in case you like it too.

Now you can play through effects as you record and not hear any latency as you record your dry guitar sound for reamping through an amp sim during mixdown. Problem solved.

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