Creating a better D.I. tone for amp&cab sims

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by alessandroarzilli, Oct 12, 2018.

  1. alessandroarzilli

    alessandroarzilli SS.org Regular

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    Hello everybody!
    I'm trying to make my guitar's tone better, but I'm really stuck in the mud now. :)
    My goal is to achieve a tone similar to Necrophagist's on the Epitaph album for the lead parts and similar to the great Ola Englund in this video at 01:46.
    I'm using a Jackson JS22-7 equipped with a bridge Seymour Duncan Invader SH-8b pickup recording straight into an M-Audio M-Track 2 straight into Cubase.
    I've been using many many different amp&cab simulators throughout the years, but neither never really got that "wall of sound" tone that we all have in mind, nor went closer to it.
    Lately, I'm trying both Ignite Amp's Emissary (waiting for V2 to arrive) and Fortin's Nameless, but there's always something missing in my final mix/mastering, the guitars' sound always seems dry, unexpressed.
    What do you think could be the problem? Starting from scratch, what should I do step by step to get something better?
    I've heard somewhere, can't find it now unofrtunately, Ola saying that he plugged his guitars directly into an Apogee / U.A. interface and got great D.I. signals because those devices have a preamp built inside them, so the D.I. signal is much better than a standard external soundacard like mine. Should I buy for example an Apogee One?

    Thanks for reading all this.

    Here are some old examples of my tones, so far (last is the newest).

    Heavy Metal / Hard Rock (Quiet Rebels - Cut Me Softly)


    Death Metal (Hybrid Practice - Pain)


    Djent Metal (DarKarma - Fallen Resistance)


    Thrash Metal (Violent Ordeal - Cat In The Night)


    Black Metal (Malevolent Promulgation - Unleash Your Demons)
     
  2. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    Were all these recorded the same way? You said the last one was the newest, but to my ears, it's the lowest quality compared to all the others.
     
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  3. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    Hmm, well your tone sounds nothing at all like the Ola example. It does sound ballpark close to the Necrophagist example at least. Theirs has much more presence and high end sizzle compared to yours. Maybe you're just low-pass filtering too aggressively. Personally, I don't bother using low-pass filters. I quite like the high end which helps your guitars to be hear and gives them some "air", making them sound less dry.

    I really doubt it's the DI affecting things that much. The Apogee does have nice preamps, but it won't result in a radical change of tone.

    My top three guesses:
    1. Impulse response selection
    2. Mastering and post-EQ (as above - I suspect you're killing high frequencies)
    3. Your playing technique (you aren't Ola, so won't sound like him)

    And all the other things - new strings on the guitar, having it set up well, tweaking the pickup height etc.
     
  4. newamerikangospel

    newamerikangospel Tonight.......you

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    It could be gain staging at DI level. You may try to increase the gain on your preamp. My $200 audio input had decent enough DIs as is.
     
  5. tender_insanity

    tender_insanity SS.org Regular

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    I've been thinking about this too. After I saw that latest dual recto vs 13 sims and tried the same settings as in the video. I mean the guy has gain maxed with TH3 for example and it sounds nice. When I use pre gain on audio interface where I always keep it, maxed gain is really muffled.

    Then again I am pleased with my own patches with whatever I use as an amp sim I use an m audio m track eight.
     
  6. alessandroarzilli

    alessandroarzilli SS.org Regular

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    Yes, all of them were recorded just by plugging my guitar into an M-Track II external soundcard. There were of course some different kind of equalizations and compressions between all the different songs.

    I'm thinking of buying a classic Behringer DI100 Active Ultra-DI Pro, which would be phantom powered by my M-Track II, so my guitar signal would be OK anyway.
    I usually tend to let my recoreded guitar sound to stay between 50 and 15.000 Hz, adding HP and LP filter at these frequencies with a Q similar to not more than 24dB/octave.
    Which impulse response would you recommend me? Any chance to understand how to setup pickup heights?

    Would you recommend me buying a cheap external DI box then? I was thinking of a Behringer DI100, because the M-Track II preamp is really inconsistent.

    What do you mean gain maxed with TH3?

    Thanks for answerring me, guys!
     
  7. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    Your HP and LP filtering sounds fine.

    Maybe you can upload a DI here (or dropbox, google drive etc), and we can run it through our own setups and see whether it's your DI or your amp sim/cab impulse.

    I just listened to the Ola clip again, and I think that ballpark sound should be pretty achievable with the Fortin Nameless plugin. Don't use the Grind pedal. Set the gain, turn the presence down. Use the M160 microphone off axis a bit. And pick really hard like Ola.
     
  8. tender_insanity

    tender_insanity SS.org Regular

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    His sound on the video had the Dual Recto Ch3 gain full. I wouldn't do it for it's way too much and I prefer with almost all high gain amp sims to lower the gain at about 4-5/10 and boost it.
     
  9. BearOnGuitar

    BearOnGuitar SS.org Regular

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    First of all cheap audio interfaces are total garbage if you want to have good quality recordings for anything and using such a cheap recording solution will work against you regardless of what you do. I know this from first hand experience because I owned an M-Audio Fast Track USB many years ago and I was not able to get any usable DI sound from it at all. I also owned an Mbox 2 Pro from M-Audio back when it got released, which was really nice and I was able to get decent results with it easily, as well as with a variety of other different mid to high-end interfaces.

    There's no reason to purchase a dedicated DI box to use with your existing setup as it will hardly make a difference, or in the case of using a cheap Behringer DI it might even make it sound worse. Since the interface is the problem here, adding more cheap equipment to it will not make it perform any better, since you will still record through the same interface using the same mic preamp, even if you use an external DI box. Of course this is only an educated guess but I don't think it's worth your money or time trying to find out.

    What I suggest to do is upgrading to a better audio interface first, even a 2nd gen Focusrite Scarlett will already be a nice improvement, which are not expensive at all and from what I heard the 2nd gen Scarletts are doing pretty well when using the Hi-Z input for recording guitars directly and are not clipping as early as the 1st gen, and should allow for plenty of headroom. From there if you want you can then always add on a dedicated DI box to further upgrade your tone, like a Countryman or Rupert Neve DI box, which will actually make a positive improvement to your tone and help you to record an accurate DI signal. I generally advise against using cheap DI boxes since these can smear the signal sometimes in weird ways, making the signal sound phasy or just simply weird or off being better off without it going straight into a Hi-Z input on a quality interface. Also when you purchase a DI box be sure you understand how to connect it properly, which is from the DI output into a microphone preamp. I see many people connecting their DI outputs to a line input and then wondering why it sounds strange or why the level is too low, but keeping it improperly connected and moving on to record like that. :ugh:

    One other aspect is that you want to make sure you use good quality cables. In some cases the cables can make quite some difference, in other cases not so much. I believe it has to do how the specific cable loads the specific pickups you're using. Generally you want to use the shortest cable length you can get away with. It doesn't need to be anything crazy expensive, any good quality brand cable will do fine already. Keep in mind that some cables can be directional (indicated by an arrow or marking on the cable), so again make sure to connect them all correctly.

    Then there are a few setup related things you can do to improve your DI tone, such as tweaking the pickup height and finding the sweet spots on both the bass and treble sides on both pickups, making sure the electronics inside your guitar are all working correctly or even upgrading them with better parts if you think that it can improve the tone directly at the source, cleaning your electronics if they are noisy, always using new strings when recording and switching them out when they start to loose their brilliance (depending on how acidic your sweat is usually after approximately 4-8 hours of recording), and having the guitar set-up professionally (if a guitar neck for example has too much relief I find it can sound strange). When recording be sure to move away from other electronic devices, especially computers and monitors, to prevent the pickups from picking up on any interference and keep the monitor levels low to prevent the pickups from picking up the played back audio in the room, which can impact the sound of your pickups. Other than that there's not much else left that you can do to ensure good quality DI recordings really.

    Personally I'm now using an RME Babyface Pro which I think sounds very natural and excellent for the price point, and I'll be upgrading to an RNDI DI shortly which I feel is the best natural sounding DI box currently available.

    When it comes to Necrophagist much of their sound comes from using the EMG 81/85 set in combination with either an ENGL Savage or SE, which is also what I saw them using live in 2005. If you can trust the internet, it appears they were using Vader cabs at the time but I can not confirm this myself. Hope this helps.
     
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  10. alessandroarzilli

    alessandroarzilli SS.org Regular

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    Thank you so much BearOnGuitar, I really apreciate a lot what you wrote answerring me, thanks really a lot.
    So, at the moment I'm trying to tweak my bridge poickup's magnets height as much as I can, to get a better chunky sound.
    I managed to get a Behrinegr UltraDI 100 active DI box, of course I'm going to double check it's connected the right way (being all my guitars equipped with passive pickups, I think I'm going to enable the phantom power on my sound card and connect the two devices using an XLR path cable in the mic input of my M-Track II).
    I'm planning to get a better sound card, but I've read very different reviews on 2nd gen scarlets, some people say they're very good for the price, others say their preamp still is not good enough... I think I'm continueing with my M-Track II for a while, until I'll throw it out of the window due to anxiety problems lol.
     
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  11. BearOnGuitar

    BearOnGuitar SS.org Regular

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    Unfortunately I have never used a Scarlett but some previous Focusrite interfaces and they definitely were decent sounding, especially for the price. Of course going with a more expensive option such as RME, Apogee or even UA interfaces will have even better preamps and conversion, if that's a possibility for you. There are things you can do without spending money to make sure you get a good result, however I can still remember very well the feeling of total despair with trying to get one of these cheap M Audio interfaces to sound usable with recording guitars directly. :D
     
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  12. alessandroarzilli

    alessandroarzilli SS.org Regular

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    ahahah that's the same for me! felt like playing through a microwave oven!
     

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