Using Amp Modelers and Chained Effects - Part 2

Using Amp Modelers and Chained Effects - Part 2 Brought to you by: guitar.com

Just Press Play Logo Gif 64678This article will not use any analog routing just digital routing. As mentioned in the previous article, before we get into routing, etc., I've got to say a word on using/chaining digital gear. Let's say you are using a digital effect in front or after the amp modeler. Digital gear causes a delay. If routing analog, add approximately another 2 milliseconds of delay. Add another digital unit in the path and youll have more delay. The delay will surely be noticeable at that point. The key is to route digitally whenever possible! This will cut the delay down big time!!!! By the time this article comes out, the odds are good that most all of the manufacturers will have digital ports!!!

 

 

So we are dealing with digital routing. There are a few different formats you might run across, such as AES/EBU, S/PDIF and Lightpipe (these can mean both the digital format and the type of cable/connector needed for your gear.)

What if the amp modeler does not use the same digital connector format as the mixer or recorder input? If you do not have a digital connector adapter unit, and if you have another piece of digital gear that will accept the digital format connector from the amp modeler, and if it has at least two digital output jacks of different formats, and one format will work for the mixer or digital recorder input, great. In this case, simply bypass the gear you are using for the digital adapter. There may be a digital through mode and if so, activate it. If you don't have a hard digital bypass, the extra delay in the chain should be around 3 samples and not a big deal in unwanted delay land.

 

Sample and Bit Rates

In this era, most amp modelers utilize 16-bit (maybe even 20- or 24-bit) and a sample rate of 48 kHz (or possibly as high as 96 kHz). Most mixers of the era (for sure hard disk recorders) offer some or all of the following rates such as 16-bit, 20-bit, or 24-bit, and sample rates of 44.1 kHz, 48kHz, 96kHz or 192kHz. The good news is most are friendly, offering a conversion mode if needed. In that case, simply check your amp modeler manual and dial in the bit rate and sample rate conversion on the digital mixer and or digital recorder.

Digital Levels

I seem to remember that there is not a digital level standard. I vaguely recall I have used digital gear that peaked out at zero (digital meter) 15 dB over what would be seen as zero dB in analog land. I think that most digital gear now is 18 dB over what would be seen as zero dB in analog land. This would be apparent when routing from one digital unit to another simply by looking at the meters of each unit. If they do not match, its always best to not clip a digital signal. So when routing from one to another, if the digital levels are not the same, the odds are good level controls are on the devices, so simply adjust them.

Routing

Keep in mind that in past articles, we have been using an 8-track recorder and a mixer with at least 12 inputs to make it logical for a typical small home studio. I explained to simply adapt per your set up. In this case, the odds are good you are using a hard disk recorder system or, if you're using a stand-alone digital mixer and a digital hard disk recorder, the mixer inputs and track possibilities could easily be 32 tracks or more. Let's use the same layout we have been using to keep a logical flow among articles and, once again, simply adapt to your set up.

If you're using an analog mixer and a digital recorder, in this case, to eliminate analog to digital converter delay into the recorder, its best to route directly (digital path) into the digital recorder. The above sample and bit rates apply regarding conversion information (if needed).

The odds are huge that the digital output of the amp modeler will be a stereo signal. If you're not using effects in the amp modeler, you only need mono (one track). Simply put one track in record mode from the stereo digital pair.

Regarding the digital stereo path, in some cases the digital mixer or digital recorder only accepts in even/odd pairs, meaning input mixer module #1 and #2 or recorder track input #1 and #2, then #3 and #4, and so on. If this is the situation routing in stereo, its important to keep that in mind regarding track selection.

Let's route as a stereo path. If you're only using a mono signal, simply adapt noting the information above. We will use the digital mixer to digital recorder path first (possibly one unit if you're using a hard disk recorder system). If you want to bypass the mixer routing into the recorder, skip down to the section titled Digital Recorder Path Only.

For a stand-alone digital mixer routed digitally into a stand-alone digital recorder, or if you're using a computer based mixer/recorder, we will use mixer inputs #9 and #10 and recorder tracks #7 and #8.

Digital Mixer and Digital Recorder Path

The patch:

1. Plug the guitar into the guitar amp model box.

2. Plug the digital audio port from the guitar amp model box output into one of the following:

2a. If you're using a stand-alone digital mixer routed into a digital recorder or a hard disk recorder with the mixer built in, and if you're using Lightpipe, and if its in an 8 group bundle (typical these days), plug into the input that allows for digital inputs 9 through 16. If the Lightpipe allows for more digital paths, meaning 16 or more, simply adapt as per your set up.

2b. If you're using a stand-alone digital mixer routed into a digital recorder or a hard disk recorder with the mixer built in, and if you're using AES/EBU (XLR connectors), these are typically in stereo pairs so plug into digital inputs #9 and #10. Note this will only require one jack since as mentioned this stuff is in stereo pairs.

2c. If you're using a stand-alone digital mixer routed into a digital recorder, and if you're using S/PDIF (or RCA-type connectors), these are typically in stereo pairs so plug into digital inputs #9 and #10. Note this will only require one jack since this stuff is in stereo pairs.

2d. It is possible that the mixer design could care less about the digital inputs if all are soft meaning they have a label tag of some sort and can simply be assigned to wherever you like. In that case, simply assign to mixer input modules #9 and #10.

3. Assign mixer module #9 to digital recorder track #7 (recorder track #7 routes to the recorder track we are using for the left side of the stereo path). Make sure that mixer soft module #9 is not sent through the monitor chain and is only routed to recorder track #7. In the case of an all in one hard disk mixer recording system, this is a can of worms that will be addressed in the next article.

4. Assign mixer module #10 to recorder track #8 (recorder track #8 routes to the recorder track we are using for the right side of the stereo path). Make sure that mixer soft module #10 is not sent through the monitor chain and is only routed to recorder track #8. In the case of an all in one hard disk mixer recording system, this is a can of worms that will be addressed in the next article.

5. Set recorder tracks #7 and #8 into input mode so we can monitor through the recorder and back through the mixer. In the case of an all in one hard disk mixer recording system, once again, this may be a can of worms regarding monitoring.

6. Pan mixer modules #7 and #8 to full left and full right as to start. There are no rules as usual so pan wherever you like, but its best to start with the full left and right pan positions checking to hear if you want the full stereo image.

7. Bring up mixer modules #7 and #8 (recorder track return) about half way up on their fader throws.

8. Set the amp modeler master output volume control to full up to start. As mentioned, we never want digital levels to go over zero dB on digital meter readouts. If the amp modeler master output volume control is active for the digital output level (it should be), and if by chance the digital signal is hitting the red (going past zero on the digital mixer and or digital recorder), use the amp modeler master output volume to lower the gain if need be. In some rare cases, the amp modeler output level will not affect the digital output level. Hey, its easy to find out by twisting the output volume control when setting levels on the mixer. Keep this in mind for the next step.

9. Bring the studio control room monitor level up to a normal listening level. Ask the guitarist to play the part for the song. While the guitarist is playing, slowly bring up the faders on modules #9 and #10 (amp modeler faders source) to show around 6 dB on recorder track meters #7 and #8.

10. With the guitar volume full up, have the guitarist play and select the modeled sound(s) for the guitar part that will be used for the song. After finding the sound(s), and setting level controls, tone controls, effects, etc., have the guitarist play with all the attack that would be used for the part.

11. If more than one amp modeler sound will be used (changing models/patches while playing), OR if using two separate amp models in a stereo mode, its best that the amp modeler is set to have the same basic output level with each patch. This is easy. Simply have the guitarist set each model patch to a user bank and adjust the output level of each patch in the box to have the same basic output level as others. You get the drift.

OK, the patches are all set to the same basic output level so its time to set the final input level to the mixer.

12. While the guitarist is playing the part as loud as it will be played, adjust faders #9 and #10 to show -4 dB on the recorder track meters (-4 dB is safe in case the guitarist players louder when recording the odds are good that will happen!) If need be, back off on the amp modeler master level output. Always remember that going into the red (past zero) on a digital format meter will definitely clip the A to D converter (analog to digital converter) which is not advisable. Digital distortion sounds terrible!

If you are the guitarist and engineer, and if you'll be playing chords for the guitar part, play all the open strings when adjusting the level with your other hand. If you'll be playing single notes for the part, simply play one string for now, such as the D or G string, and adjust the mixer level with the other hand.

Experiment with EQ settings on your mixer. After EQing to taste, go back to step #12. Make sure to have the guitarist play as loud as will be played for the song. If you are the guitarist and engineer, do yourself a favor and play as loud as you will play for the performance.

EQ and Compression

Per the application, review articles on guitar EQ (Parts 4 through 9) and compression (Parts 10 through 13) for details. After doing so, once again, revisit step #12 regarding the final levels.

Using the Amp Modeler and a Real Guitar Amp

Yes, this is a possibility. In this case, its best to record to separate tracks to control the blend, etc. when mixing. This adds analog routing on the digital mixer for the guitar amp mic.

As mentioned in the last article: In this case, you would be using a stereo amp modeler using a stereo effect and at least one amp. The following states the cross-over concept and with that in mind, there are so many possibilities such as the effect on the model sound fading out when the guitar amp(s) takes over the majority of the sonic space. Maybe you might have another effect on the guitar amp. The possibilities are endless!!!

For more thoughts and suggestions on this setup, see the previous article, Part 31.

Digital Recorder Path Only

In this routing from the amp modeler directly into a digital recorder, we will route to recorder tracks #7 and #8.

The patch:

1. Plug the guitar into the amp modeler.

2. Plug the digital audio port from the amp modeler output into the recorder input.

2a. If you're using Lightpipe, and if its in an 8 group bundle (typical these days), plug into the input that allows for digital inputs 1 through 8. Set the recorder to use recorder inputs #7 and #8.

2b. If you're using AES/EBU (XLR connectors), these are typically in stereo pairs so plug into digital inputs #7 and #8. Note that this will only require one jack since, as mentioned, this stuff is in stereo pairs..

2c. If you're using S/PDIF (RCA-type connectors), these are typically in stereo pairs, so plug into digital inputs #9 and #10. Note that this will only require one jack since this stuff is in stereo pairs.

3. Set recorder tracks #7 and #8 into input mode so we can monitor through the recorder and back through the mixer.

4. Bring mixer modules #7 and #8 (recorder track return) about half way up on their fader throws.

5. Pan mixer modules #7 and #8 to full left and full right to start. There are no rules as usual so pan wherever you like, but it's best to start with the full left and right pan positions checking to hear if you want the full stereo image.

6. As mentioned, we never want digital levels to go over zero on digital meter readouts. In the case of most stand-alone digital recorders, there are no input or output level controls. We will use the amp modeler master output level. In some cases, the amp modeler output level will not affect the digital output level. Hey, its easy to find out by twisting the output volume control when setting levels. If the amp modeler master output volume control is active for the digital output level (it should be), and if by chance the digital signal is hitting the red (going past zero on the digital recorder), use the amp modeler master output volume to lower the gain. In some rare cases, the amp modeler output level will not affect the digital output level. If that is the case, we could use the patch level adjust. More on that as we go along but for now, if the amp modeler master output volume control is active, set it to full up to start.

7. Bring the studio control room monitor level up to a normal listening level. Ask the guitarist to play the part for the song. All level adjustments will be done in the amp modeler. Set the amp modeler output level to show around 6 dB on recorder track meters #7 and #8.

8. With the guitar volume full up, have the guitarist play and select the modeled sound(s) for the guitar part that will be used for the song. After finding the sound(s), and setting level controls, tone controls, effects, etc., have the guitarist play with all the attack that would be used for the part.

9. If more than one modeler sound will be used (changing models/patches while playing), OR if using two separate amp models in a stereo mode, it's best that the amp modeler is set to have the same basic output level for each patch. This is easy. Simply have the guitarist set each model patch to a user bank and adjust the output level of each patch in the box to have the same basic output level as the others. You get the drift. This is also the way to deal with the overall level setting if the master output level control is not active!

OK, the patches are all set to the same basic output level so its time to set the final input level.

10. While the guitarist is playing the part as loud as it will be played, adjust the amp modeler master output to show -4 dB on the recorder track meters (-4 dB is safe in case the guitarist players louder when recording the odds are good that will happen!)

If you are the guitarist and engineer, and if you'll be playing chords for the guitar part, play all the open strings when adjusting the level with your other hand. If you'll be playing single notes for the part, simply play one string for now, such as the D or G string, and adjust the mixer level with the other hand.

Regarding EQ and compression on the mixer, this is not a factor at this point since you are recording direct into the recorder. Deal with such settings for monitoring and when mixing.

 

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