Let's talk guitar VSTs good, bad, ugly

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by heathenhotel, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. heathenhotel

    heathenhotel SS.org Regular

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    What do you guys use? What have you tried? What do you love or hate? Let's get it out there.

    For starters, I run an ART tube preamp out front of my DAW to give the tones a little more feel and warmth. For only like $20-30 used on reverb, everyone should grab one of these or something like it to put out front of the DAW. Also considering getting a hardware tube screamer or boost to do the same.

    THE GOOD:

    Mercuriall U530 - A sim modeling the ENGL E530 preamp. This thing is amazing in every way and it's become my go to. Good for any genre. Built in cab sims chorus and more.

    Mercuriall Spark - It models a selection of Marshall amps so it's odd that I enjoy it so much being that I am not really a Marshall guy. Good for any genre. Built in cab sims tube screamers/boosts, delays, gates etc.

    TSE X50 2.0 - Another bad ass sim that to me kinda blends the 5150, 6505 and EVH amps together in various ways but compares more to the 5150 II than anything else. Good for anything with distortion and the clean tone is serviceable. Built in cab sims, delay, tube screamer, gate etc.

    S-GEAR - This is a collection of amps that is gear more towards blues, country, rock and maybe hard rock but personally I don't feel it has much to offer for high gains at all. It's my go to for clean and crunch tones. Built in cab sims, delays and verbs.

    POULIN / LEPOU FREEWARE: You will not get better freeware and that's a fact. He has ENGL, Soldano, Marshall and other sims that when combined with some decent IRs/cab sims can provide massive tone. This stuff has been around for a while and a lot of even the more expensive software still doesn't touch it.

    Honorable mention would be to the EZMIX guitar packages. They are cheap and really good for fast demos. I use some of their solo/lead settings, clean tones bass settings and other stuff in there. For the price, I like it. I wouldn't use their high gain settings over my other sims but there's some useful stuff in there.

    UNDECIDED:

    The Engl E646 VS - This one is designed by Brainworx and it is modeled after the ENGL Victor Smolski amp. I managed to get some nice crunch tones out of it but high gain wise, I haven't been able to really get anything that wowed me but I haven't given it a fair shake yet. I plan on buying the ENGL E765 shortly, does anyone have any experience with it?

    BAD:

    BIAS: I know there's a lot of Bias fanboys around here and hey, what you like is what you like but in my personal opinion, I think everything they have put out is a bunch of half assed garbage dressed up with cool graphics and options. They pay top dollar to the right names to demo their stuff and to put their names on certain amps or features and then people buy it. What you don't see in the video reviews and tests is that the FX chains are lathered with other high quality plugins which they have to be to get a good tone. My experience with BIAS has been buggy programs, false advertising and rude customer service. It's the no man's sky of guitar software. I can't say anything good about BIAS.

    I will also just lump stuff like Amplitube, Guitar rig and so on because it's all pretty crappy but if you are looking more for jus software to play with and jam along to songs or whatever, get it.

    Thermionik: I feel bad putting this stuff in the bad section because it's not by any means bad. I can just say that I worked my butt off with all the sims, all the cabs and honestly, I just could not dial in anything I would use on a recording. I think the developer tried to model too many amps and it just came out as a bunch of sims that are below average and really don't sound a whole lot like the amps they are modeling. Recabinet, master dither, Kclip and his other stuff is solid but I feel that with his sims, he should focus on 1-2 amps and use his talents to really hit a homerun instead of releasing 5-10 at a time.

    I can't think of any more off the top of my head. The stuff from Ignite amps is cool, their bass amp sim is top shelf but none of their sims really stands out.
     
  2. GuitarBizarre

    GuitarBizarre Listen to physics.

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    Amplitube sounds just fine if you use it for what it's good at, which is mid-gain and clean tones. The Jet City models are fantastic for laying down a beefy riff or two if you're not after that hyper-articulate modern tech/djent tone. The cabinet models are lacking though - not enough diversity and confusing names.

    Guitar Rig isn't as good, but it's also not had an update in FOREVER.

    BIAS, I used for a while and just couldn't get a really good sound out of for high gain.

    It *does* sound fantastic if you're using presets that have been Amp-Matched, but at the end of the day, if you're unable to dial in "the sound" using just what comes in the box, and have to rely on someone profiling a real amp, I just kind of think it's selling half a product, especially when other software does better in that regard.

    I was able to pretty convincingly match an entire Stevie Ray Vaughan Signal chain though, so it deserves credit for that, even if the distortions do sound like ass.
     
  3. oc616

    oc616 Control Deck Wins

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    I've only tried 3 strictly software based sims, so here they are in ranked order for me.

    1) Overloud TH3: I'm currently selling both my Axe FX Ultra and POD HD Pro because this software is just THAT good. It doesn't need all these varying models of high-gain amps because it's sources are that good in their quality to base tones around. I rarely step outside of the Fireball, 5150, Dual Recto and Randall T2 models, but from what I've fiddled around with on cleaner amps they fit the bill.

    2) LePou: I struggled to get this working, and the amount of plugins I had to stick around it (Tube Screamer, noisegates and various EQs as well as IRs) really hit my CPU for nothing particularly special. We are talking 2 years ago, and a lot of people on this forum swear by it.

    3) BIAS: Awful interface, massive impact on CPU, poor source sounds, lots of fiddling needed to get what you're after and even then do a poor job of achieving it. This product gets pushed a lot by popular artists and YouTubers and I can only assume that comes with a sack of money. Avoid.
     
  4. GuitarBizarre

    GuitarBizarre Listen to physics.

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    I'm not really convinced by your idea of the LePou stuff.

    Yeah, you have to use other stuff in line with it. They're only Amp Sims, not cabinet sims or multiFX. You really shouldn't have to use much though. Noise Gate, Tubescreamer, Lepou Amp, and Recabinet.

    If you're using Legion, get rid of the tubescreamer because the amp was designed not to need one.

    CPU wise I've found very little problem with it's usage.
     
  5. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    LePou is the only free amp sim I have ever got to sound decent. Everything else I've tried has either sounded really bad or not worked at all.

    I have iRig for android, and it's totally useless. What a waste of money. There are no decent modern high gain models, and using something vintage high gain with a tube screamer means you give up the slot that does a noise suppressor, which is direly needed in that situation.

    I've also downloaded the MT power kit, and it's pretty darn good.

    I'm trying to find something symphonic that meets my needs. A lot of plugins sound very MIDI-plastic, or else don't really have good setting adjustments...

    I've gotten some use out of Ampire, the plugin that comes with Studio One. It took a very small amount of tweaking to get it sounding big, and once I got a few presets, it's been my go-to.
     
  6. schwiz

    schwiz Lefty

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    I like BIAS, TSE and Amplitube and have gotten a decent hi gain tone out of all of them. I don't think I've ever used the stock IR's on any of the 3 though. I always revert back to my GuitarHack IR's. mixIR (64-bit) is pretty awesome for blending multiple IR's.
     
  7. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I've tried a small handful of guitar amp VSTs, mostly free, with a bunch of different impulses, a couple of different DIs in front, and honestly hated all of them most of the time. The only time I've been able to make serious use of a plugin like that was one of the LePou plugins blended over a real amp that was lacking some of that high end fizzyness that amp sims are good at.

    I'll fully admit that maybe it's a matter of how things get dialed in, or maybe it's my brain playing tricks on me, or some kind of weird bias, but I just don't get along with modeled tones. Even hearing stuff on releases or youtube or whatever else, the only modeled tone I can think of that I've heard and said "yeah, I'd rock that" was a Kemper. PODs to my ears just sound bad. AxeFX seems like it *can* sound good on a recording, but needs some engineering magic done to get it there.

    But at the same time I'm not that picky, which sort of contradicts what I just said. :lol: I think a lot of "bad tones" can be made to work really well in the right context. A lot of tones are "not for me", but work well for certain songs or production styles.
     
  8. KingAenarion

    KingAenarion Resident Studio Nerd

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    I've honestly broken it down to the tools I use and what they're used for, and what best suits that.

    For tracking I'll either track through a rough AxeFX preset, or use BIAS, not because of tone quality, but because of speed in dialing in what I call a "workable" tone.

    A workable tone is something that lets me hear the chords and notes are in tune, and lets me hear the quality of the playing. I find Bias is great for this actually, because if it sounds good in bias, it sounds much better down the line. I'm tending to use the AxeFX more these days for that, but particularly on recordings where I DON'T know the guitarist (and especially non-gearslut guitarists), I find Bias is useful in that regard, because the on screen visual interface allows them to get that sense of what I'm doing, and I can hear all the fault in their playing.

    It also means once I reamp it I'm usually happy it's going to sound great.

    Then for reamping I'll use the real thing and the AxeFX/Helix for my final tones. It just depends on the intended final product and budget.
     
  9. Metropolis

    Metropolis SS.org Regular

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    Overloud TH3

    - Good amp modeling and effects
    - Low on cpu
    - Easy to use, flexible signal chain
    - Really versatile
    - One of the best feeling plugins out there

    But... the full version is a bit pricy. And it's not perfect either. Still really nice :agreed: It's the ampsim no one never talks about. Must be the company's low profile marketing strategy.
     
  10. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    I'm a dyed-in-the-wool tube snob, and if given the choice would almost always mic up my Roadster - I've invested enough in the amp, in mics, in practice using those mics, and in time figuring out how to get sounds I like out of that rig that it's silly not to, since I like how it sounds and feels.

    But, if I WERE to do any VST amp sim stuff, the LePou stuff really impressed me. I only downloaded it because it was free and because a buddy in the UK had asked me to track some bluesier stuff for him to reamp to get him some stuff outside of metal to add to his portfolio, and I was caught off guard just how good it was. The Ecstasy model reminded me all over again how much I love the sound of that amp, and I was able to get a surprisingly decent version of my normal lead sound using the Lecto model. I'd absolutely use it to demo if I needed to record something late at night, and in a pinch it's good enough to use on a record, IMO.
     
  11. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    ^ I actually prefer to record multiple takes DI and amp'd with my Mesa, then play with sims on the DI tracks to mix in with the live tracks. To my ears, it makes things sound bigger than just doing one or the other.
     
  12. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    I haven't tried that, but my Apogee lets me track through the unit in real time, capturing a DI track AND a mic'd track at the same time.
     
  13. karjim

    karjim Set the World Afire

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    I've tried every VST I could find since 2008: Guitar Rig, Amplitube, THD, Nick Crow, TSE, Revalver, Line6, and dozen of obscure things. I use LePou Legion and his Marshall sim for about 7 years, it's really a great VST for 6 strings. I combine it with Lecab2 and Redwired Impulses (Mesa Engl Orange Bogner).
    When it comes to modern 7/8 strings tight machines I've never met a better way that Misha's EZ Mix2 settings. As much as I bow to Fredrik's sounds, his patches are just not as good as Misha's. The Koloss thing is just not my thing: buzzy and fizzy.
    BUT and there's a massive BUT
    If you wanna reccord, EVERY VST need a massive tweak, specially with a good Eq like FabFilter to kill the mofo 4K, the excess of low-end, the mud around 250Htz and of course the digital mess in the high mids that every sim have, even Axe Fx and Co
     
  14. lemeker

    lemeker SS.org Slacker

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    If I choose to use vst's for guitar work I use the Le Pou Engl model they have. I like the Lecto. Its a cool sim. However, even in my limited experience, I get better tones from the real deal when I mic my cab.

    I haven't tried anything else simply because I'm too cheap to buy any amp sims like that.
     
  15. Carl Kolchak

    Carl Kolchak SS.org Regular

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    It's funny, some people can get some pretty good high-gain tones from sims. Sadly, I'm not one of them.

    One thing I've found that helps when trying to dial in a high-gain sim tone is to forget using a dedicated high-gain amp sim, and instead use a real distortion pedal into a clean or on-the-verge-of break-up amp sim. This really seems to offset that incredibly annoying scratchiness most high-gain sims have. Actually, the best results I've gotten using sims is with a distortion pedal (preferably a Boss Power Stack) and the Line 6 Pod Farm Flip Top bass amp and V30 4X12/Flip Top 1X15 cab sims. Again, not great sounding by any stretch of the imagination, but serviceable enough.

    To the OP, given the choice, I'd rather spend on a decent preamp pedal and run that into some good IRs rather than keep wasting my time and money auditioning over-priced software that will just end up giving you a severe case of option fatigue.
     
  16. newamerikangospel

    newamerikangospel Tonight.......you

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    Thermionik can be difficult because of cab choices, in my opinion. The impulses aren't meant to make one amp sound good like in a lot of modelers, it's meant to represent a tone from that cab with that mic. The ones you like a mostly one amp sets that already come a little "baked in" tonewise. Not to say it's bad, but Thermionik is where I go if I do a vst only mix, and LePou stuff is vastly useful as well.

    *Disclaimer: I modeled my cobra for Thermionik and have received comped stuff from kazrog.
     
  17. heathenhotel

    heathenhotel SS.org Regular

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    Explain preamp pedal and using IRs with them. I don't really get what you mean. I would love to pick up an ENGL E530 and run it into my computer somehow but I am not sure how something like that would work.
     
  18. steinmetzify

    steinmetzify CHUG & SLUDGE

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    AMT P1>interface>IRs>Reaper>done.

    For the 530 you'd line it out of either of the line outputs or the FX loop send.

    E530 into impulses...this is several years old (meaning there are better IRs out there now) but that's a beefy tone:

     
  19. Descent

    Descent SS.org Regular

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    I find that I do OK as long as I load cabinet IRs.

    Nick Crow sounds great for leads.

    Amplitube 3 Fender and the regular pack that I have work great if I don't use their cabs, but feed IRs.

    So far I use Kalthalen sims that I usually load in Ampire (Studio One's amp + cab simulator) or NadIR.

    I'm probably one of the few that doesn't have much success with LePou. They don't seem to work for me.

    I do pretty well with Guitar Rig 5, even with its built-in cab sims, sometimes I use just that and not their amps, but feed something else. I love their Plexi amp, which is all that I currently have from them (the free version).

    Ampire is good for some low to mid gain sounds, especially with outside IRs.

    I use some tube and tape overdrive sims to cook the front end of most of these and the results are more pleasant.

    The best result I get is still with a real amp and a miked cab. It is a lot easier to dial, record and mix. The downside is that I can't blast my amps when usually inspiration strikes so I reamp.
     
  20. BlueTrident

    BlueTrident SS.org Regular

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    The best tones that I've gotten from BIAS were from Tonecloud. Unfortunately I've only gotten BIAS AMP and not FX so adding my own IRs and getting a tube screamer in front of it maxes out my CPU which sucks
     

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