Guitar Amp Sim Power User Tips

While some people debate endlessly whether amp sims sound just like the “real thing” or not, others are forging ahead and creating new sounds with these new tools. Reality check: If you want the exact sound of a Vox AC30, well, buy a Vox AC30. But if you want a sound that’s based on an AC30 but then goes places conventional hardware can’t, amp sims can do some fun tricks. Like these...


Better Sound. Click on the High Res box (Figure 1) to process the signal at double the sample rate. The improvement in sound quality, especially with distortion and amp models, is obvious enough you won’t mind the extra CPU hit.

Stepped Filter Effects. The AdrenaLinn is one of the coolest effects boxes ever, but it’s not available as a plug-in. However, you can come close with the rig in Figure 2. Start with the parameters as follows, then experiment:

1. Drag the Analog Seq Assign button to the Pro-Filter Cutoff parameter.
2. Set Resolution to 1/16.
3. Set the Seq Length to 16 (the longest possible).
4. Choose the “Rhythm” preset, as this is a good place to start.
5. Set the Slide knob fully counter-clockwise for the most “stepped” sound.
6. The “Targets” drop-down menu lets you set the extent of the effect. You might prefer something a little more conservative than the default, like 20–30%.
7. Move the sliders around to obtain the rhythm you want.

Frequency-Based Stereo. The Crossover Mix module can split a mono signal to a stereo signal based on frequency (e.g., lows toward the left, highs toward the right). In Figure 3, the lows run through the AC Box amp, while the highs go through the Plexi amp.

Use the Pan controls to place the lows and highs in the stereo field, and the Frequency control to set the crossover point. A crossfader adjusts the balance between the two bands. Although the net result isn’t quite the same as sending the bottom three strings to one amp and the top three strings to another amp, processing the guitar’s high and low frequencies separately can create some cool stereo effects.

Multiband Distortion. Yes, it’s a complex setup (Figure 4 shows the block diagram) . . . but three Split modules can split your guitar into four frequency bands, and then you can distort each one individually. The resulting sound, with less intermodulation distortion, is “cleaner” than single-channel distortion.

Figure 5 shows the actual rig; the callout numbers relate back to the split numbers in Figure 4. Split 1 splits the signal to two more splits. Split 2 and Split 3 then send each of the splits from Split 1 through a pair of EQ/Distortion processors. The two pairs are mixed together by their respective Split modules, then Split 1’s Mix module mixes the combined splits.

The EQ settings are crucial to getting realistic multiband distortion sounds. The lowest and highest bands use a shelving response; the two middle bands use a midrange response. (To find a multiband distortion patch template in the Guitar Rig factory patches, search on “Multiband.”)


Using the GearBox with Host Plug-ins. To send your straight signal directly to your host without using the included GearBox sounds, click on the bypass button (Figure 6).

Quick Stepping through Presets. If you click the Tone selector field (Figure 7), you can use the QWERTY keyboard’s up/down arrows to select among the various Preset categories. You can then use the right/left arrow buttons to navigate through the “sideways” menus associated with a particular category (Crunch Guitar, Heavy Guitar, etc.), then use the up/down buttons to choose a particular preset. Hit the keyboard’s Enter key to load the preset.

Once the preset has been loaded, if the Tone field still has focus, you can step through all presets with the up/down arrow keys.

Squeaky Clean Sounds. Just because the preamp models are intended for vocals doesn’t mean they can’t be used with guitar! Figure 8 shows a typical “clean” patch. For guitar, most of the time you’ll need to boost the preamp treble a fair amount, using either the high shelf control, or an upper midrange boost (e.g., around 3.5–5kHz). Throw on some compression, a few early reflections, and a little bit of reverb; you’ll have an excellent rhythm guitar sound that mixes well in the background to “drive” a tune, and also lends itself well to doubling.

Total MIDI Control. You can control a huge number of parameters within the GearBox software via a MIDI control surface. In the GearBox software, go Edit > Preferences, select the MIDI/Control tab, and choose the MIDI port into which you’ll be patching your control surface or MIDI pedal. Then, point your web browser to toneporthelp/TonePort-MIDI.pdf and download the controller reference (for example, you’ll find that controller 13 affects amp model drive — hook up an expression pedal, and you’ll be able to go smoothly from crunchy to nasty).


Mo’ Better Sound. Like Guitar Rig 2, AmpliTube 2 also gives oversampling options. However, there are four possible places where you can enable oversampling (Figure 9). High Resolution and Amp Oversampling are enabled as defaults; with wimpy computers, you can disable these and then during mixdown, increase latency or freeze other instruments to re-enable them. I recommend enabling all options for the highest possible sound quality — click on Save to make these changes permanent.

Stay in Tune, All the Time. AmpliTube 2 offers a “thumbnail” of the tuner that’s always visible toward the bottom of any view (Stomp, Amp, etc.). To take advantage of this, click on the Tuner tab and turn it on (Figure 10). This enables the “thumbnail” tuner toward the bottom, which is ideal for doing a quick tune-up.

The Bonus Practice Machine. In standalone mode, AmpliTube 2’s SpeedTrainer feature (Figure 11) lets you time/pitch stretch audio files, so you can practice along with them, dissect a riff, hear what a song would sound like in a different key, etc.

After going Setup > Audio Settings and telling AmpliTube 2 about the interface you want to use, click on the Open Audio button and browse for a file, or just drag a file in (I was able to successfully open AIF, WAV, MP3, OGG, RM, and WMA files). You’ll also see a mono waveform display (SpeedTrainer averages a stereo signal). Then, click on the Play button.

To loop repeat a section, click A to create a loop start point, and B to create the loop end point. As soon as you click on B, the part starts looping. You can change pitch up or down an octave, and tempo from 50% to 150%. Don’t expect super-high quality, but it’s definitely good enough for practicing.

Clicking on the Clear button doesn’t delete audio, but removes the loop points. To replace the audio, just open a new file or drag one in.

AmpliTube’s Software Patch Cables. AmpliTube 2 has eight routings that allow running modules in various series/parallel combinations (Figure 12). For example, routing 1 runs the two stomp box sections (up to 12 effects!) in series followed by an amp, cabinet, and then two rack effects sections run in series for up to eight rack effects. Routing 2 separates AmpliTube 2 into two independent parallel setups, each with stomp, amp cab, and rack sections.

But also check out the Selected Module Pan and Volume controls toward the screen’s lower right. Pan affects the Cab and Rack modules, whereas Level affects any selected module. As one example of how to use this with routing 2, you could pan the cabs or racks in mono, then use the Level control to vary the balance of the two chains so that one chain dominates over the other. Or, for a wide stereo image, pan Cab A left and Cab B right. As the racks can also pan, you could set, say, Rack A to emphasize the lows and Rack B to emphasize the highs, and pan them oppositely to create a stereo effect based on frequency. Panning delay effects into opposite channels can also create interesting effects.


Yes, Waves Plug-Ins. The GTR software uses effects derived from the well-known Waves line, and can do a lot more than process guitar. EQ covered how to use the GTR effects as a vocal strip (including harmony generation) in the Jan. ’07 issue, but the effects are also great with drums.

Figure 13 shows a stereo Stomp 4 setup for drum effects; note that you may need to trim the level going into the Stomp 4 to prevent overcompression. The Octaver adds a “subharmonic bottom” to the overall sound that when dialed in subtly, adds depth to the sound. The Gate can tighten up decays, while the Reverb adds some tasty ambience.

Deeper Sounds. This setup (Figure 14) also works well with drums, but can add depth to all types of instruments. It’s designed to work as a parallel effect set to processed sound only, so copy the track you want to process, and insert the effect into the copy only. As with the previous effect, you’ll probably want to mix this in the background.

Stomp 2 houses the Pitcher (with Max and Min Pitch set to –12.00, Pitch slider full left, and Mix to 100 for processed sound only) and an EQ to boost the lowest frequency ranges and cut the highest ones. If you experience a delay on the track going through the effect, “nudge” the track (shown in light blue) ahead a bit.

Space Out. GTR comes with four different amp types; the stereo models have panpots (Figure 15) so the two cabinets can sit in different places within the stereo field. However, note that the Mono cabinet is the least CPU-intensive; so if you want to do something like copy a track three times and send it through three different amps panned left, center, and right, consider using three mono cabs, one on each track.

Get Phased. All amps, except for the Mono model, have a phase switch (in Figure 15, Cabinet 2’s phase switch is thrown out of phase). You can get some useful additional sounds by using a stereo amp, throwing one channel out of phase, then converting the track into mono so that various cancellations occur.

Pseudo-Stereo with Creative EQ. To create a pseudo-stereo effect from a mono signal, copy the source track and place a graphic EQ in each track. Pan each track oppositely, and adjust the EQ similarly to Figure 16. The two bass sliders remain unchanged, so that the bass appears centered. However, the remaining four bands are set oppositely: If one channel’s band is down a bit, the counterpart in the other channel is up by an equal amount. This technique gives surprisingly effective stereo imaging: With a mono drum track, you can even hear the toms change in the stereo field if the drummer goes “around the kit.”