Electronic Guitar The Virtual Rack

We all know the coolness of rack systems—you mix and match your fave components, then patch them together optimally.
Publish date:
Updated on

This screen shot shows the Cubase 5 audio plug-ins that make up the virtual guitar rack.


We all know the coolness of rack systems systems—you mix and match your fave components, then patch them together optimally. Taking a cue from hardware, some amp sim programs (like Native Instruments Guitar Rig 4 and Peavey ReValver) use the rack paradigm for assembling virtual effects, amps, and cabinets into a “virtual rack system.”

But there’s another option. Many DAWs (Cubase, Sonar, Live, etc.) also let you create virtual racks that go under various names (track preset, track template, etc.), but the idea is the same: You create a collection of plug-ins, insert them in a particular order, and tweak the parameters to create your favorite tone as a starting point. Even if you use amp sims, track presets can come in very handy—maybe you’d rather use a different reverb, or a vintage compressor plug-in before the sim.

What’s more, you may not even need an amp sim. Here’s how to create a cool guitar rack in Steinberg’s Cubase 5, using only effects included in the program. You can play through it in real time if your system latency is low enough, or apply it to a dry guitar track while mixing.

Click the Edit button (e) for an audio track to open up the VST Audio Channel Settings window.

Click in the 1st insert field, and navigate to Other > Tuner. This places a chromatic tuner as the first “effect” in the chain.

Click in the 2nd insert field, then go Dynamics > Vintage Compressor. Try these settings: Input 17, Output -14, Attack 8.9, Punch and Auto On.

In the 3rd insert field, go Distortion > SoftClipper (start with Input 6, Mix 55, Output = 0, Second = 100, Third = 57).

Go Distortion > AmpSimulator for the 5th insert (leave the 4th insert empty in case you want to add other pre-amplifier effects, such as Modulation, Octaver, StepFilter, WahWah, etc.). There are 14 amp algorithms (and No Amp) with 10 cab options, as well as No Cab. Try the settings in the screen shot, but above all, experiment!

In the 6th insert, go Spatial + Panner > MonoToStereo. Start with Width 200, Delay 10.0, Color 10, Mono off.

If you’re a fan of delay, go Delay >StereoDelay for the 7th insert; leave insert 8 open in case you want to add an overall effect, like reverb.

Enable the channel EQ, and add a slight upper midrange boost so the guitar “speaks” a little more.

Your rack’s ready to go—but there’s one final step. To save your “virtual rack” as a track preset, right-click in the associated track’s header in the main project window, select “Save Track Preset,” and when the Save Track Preset dialog box appears, name it and save it. Now you can call up your rack any time you want, for any audio track.