Has anyone ever used a computer or laptop with amp sims for live sound?

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by Xenogen, Jun 8, 2019.

  1. Xenogen

    Xenogen SS.org Regular

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    Curious as to how you would go about this. I'm thinking of making a video on how to build your own effects unit with a laptop or desktop components, a sound card and free amp sim VSTs with Impulses in a VST Host (like LePou's Plugins, Ignite Amps or TSE Plugins)

    Even going a step further, I'm thinking of using something like a cheap laptop or a Dell Optiplex and a soundcard with instrument inputs and outputs.

    Perhaps it could be used with a multi in/out mixer like a Presonus Studio One 16R, and each input could be routed to separate instances of Guitar Rig or Amplitube.



    Has anyone ever tried anything like this?
     
  2. ascl

    ascl SS.org Regular

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    I'd be nervous about doing this, it seems like the kind of thing that could go wrong in the middle of a set very easily. I assume you would run Windows? I'd be stripping out everything that isn't essential from it, disable windows updates and every non-critical service, at least during the gig... and "cheap laptop" doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in the quality of the hardware.

    YMMV of course, it would most likely work most of the time very well, and I am sure there are people that do it successfully (or maybe I just know too much about computers to trust them very much? haha. Mission critical stuff is run on server grade hardware for a reason, not on a cheap laptop).
     
  3. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    It's been over a decade, but I've tried the whole "computer as a rig" thing.

    I used NI Guitar Rig and Amplitude running on an old Dell Inspiron 17", SSD and 8GB RAM (top specs back then). The stock Rig Kontrol that came with Guitar Rig worked well as both an interface and control surface.

    I'd run it through the PA or if I needed to provide an amp, a Crate Power Block into a 4x12.

    The goal was to have a super small, easy to setup, flexible rig, and it was. Everything fit into a large messenger bag, cables included.

    Some downsides:
    - You're at the mercy of a computer. Back then it was a little nerve wracking (never had a problem though), but I'm sure it would be better today given how far computers have come.
    - Heat was a major concern. It ran hot the whole time, didn't help with how warm and humid venues can get.
    - Noise. I had to use multiple ground isolation and power regulation devices, and even then it was sometimes "humming", especially if it needed to be plugged in.
    - On the fly adjustment was difficult at times. At the time I couldn't find a control surface that was convenient enough to use for "amp controls".
    - It's fragile. Even with solid state drives, laptops aren't meant to endure heavy stage use.

    Unless you have a laptop to use for this particular purpose already, I don't see the advantage now that great all-in-one modelers are so cheap.
     
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  4. ATRguitar91

    ATRguitar91 SS.org Regular

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    This is where I end up on this. Seems like a lot of effort when you could just buy an HX Stomp or GE200.

    If you already have a laptop and small interface there's no barrier to entry so it's worth a try. I personally wouldn't want to rely on a computer for my live sound considering how easy it is to make a portable rig these days.

    IIRC, doesn't a company already make some hardware that allows you to run VSTs in a pedal format?
     
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  5. HeHasTheJazzHands

    HeHasTheJazzHands greg rulz ok

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    I'm keeping in mind your other bulletpoints, but some companies do make rugged laptops meant to be carried around on the road. Like the Dell Rugged Extreme series or Panasonic Toughbook. Only problem is that they don't seem cheap, so at that price you could get a Line 6 Helix or 2nd hand Axe FX II so it kinda kills the purpose, unless you're dead-set on using VSTs. :lol:
     
  6. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    I use Toughbooks at work, they're meant more as terminals/workstations than as high powered processing units. They're also like $3k for rather basic specs, and can get HOT if a separate ventilation/cooling setup isn't worked out.
     
  7. Xenogen

    Xenogen SS.org Regular

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    Now that's what i'm talking about! Hardware to run VSTs would be great.

    I stumbled across this a few days ago, which inspired the idea.

    Looks pretty funky!
     
  8. Xenogen

    Xenogen SS.org Regular

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    That's cool to know that you ran an old Inspiron with Amplitube, and even with a controller too. That's a really cool idea!

    I would totally trust a laptop now, rather than back before 2010. Practically anything that runs with an i7 is more than powerful enough and software has come a long long way since the days of Cubase 5 and constant crashes. Windows 10 is stable enough for me. Never crashed, ever unless I was doing something stupid like overclocking my GPU.

    I already have a Line 6 Helix, but I like toying with ideas like this and I'm a huge fan of some free VSTs out there like the Ignite Amps Emissary (I actually think it's better than any of the amp sims on the Helix).

    You could practically make yourself a Helix with a laptop, soundcard and a VST host running Helix Native and it'd be cool like to find out how cheaply I could DIY it for hahaha.
     
  9. Xenogen

    Xenogen SS.org Regular

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    When I played live with Construct, we had a standard AMD A10 laptop running Cubase with backing tracks and NI massive for some automated ambient drone sounds during talk breaks.

    I learned the hard way after 3 or 4 embarrassing shows that putting the gear rack on top of the bass speaker was causing the audio interface to disconnect from the laptop mid set and we'd have to play without the click track for the rest of the song. I went through an SSD upgrade, a power conditioner, and professional USB audio cables before I figured that out.

    Moral of the story: Do NOT put your gear on top of a thundering bass amp.

    So yea, it was kind of a cheap laptop, but it worked perfectly for every single show after then. Computers can be reliable if you know what you're doing.

    Put it this way, DJ's would go back to using turntables or CDs if they knew that their laptops were gonna crash.
     
  10. Valdra

    Valdra SS.org Regular

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    There for a while I ran my main rig from a Lenovo ThinkPad (with an SSD) through a Native Instruments Guitar Rig Kontrol 3, into a dedicated power amp, into a 2x12 cab and I rather enjoyed it.

    I have ran it a bunch of different ways with a bunch of different equipment. I have pretty much always used Cockos Reaper as my VST host just because that is what I know and am accustomed to.

    I first started out with a Presonus Firestudio Project going into a Rocktron Velocity Bass 300 (the old 90s 2U version of the velocity) into my 2x12 for practicing in my room. Eventually I came into possession of a 90s Carvin T100 with 6L6s and I would go back and forth between that and the Velocity. Both are great in their own rights, Rocktron was definetely muuuuch louder in my experience. I could dime the Carvin and not feel overwhelmed but the Rocktron never goes past like 11 o clock. The Firestudio is great ( I still use it on my main PC ) and I usually get about 1.7ms latency in, and 3.4ms latency out according to Reaper which helps with the "feel" I find. The Rig Kontrol 3 I tend to get more around 5ms/6ms or and that doesn't feel different to me at least. I have also tried a Scarlette 2i2 and did it worked fine but was always a bit more latent and I didn't think it sounded as good.

    As for VSTs I find that my favorite free amp sims are probably the Mercuriall JCM 800 Hot Preamp. It always felt like it reacted better and had more dynamics than most plugins I've tried. Cleans up real nice when you pick light and goes balls to the wall when you pick heavy. Tend to throw a ReEQ after it with the "stock - basic 11 band Marshall" preset with some tweaks around the 1-2k and it has some real nice bite and cut. Occasionally through in some free FX VSTs like Space360 for reverb or NastyDLA for delay.

    The LePou stuff sounds good but didn't really give me the "feel" I was looking for.

    As far as paid amps go I used Mercuriall U530, TH3 Overloud's Rectifier amp, and TSE X50 and thought the reacted best to worst in the order I listed them. All were pretty great though. I also tried Amplitube and Guitar Rig 4 and didn't much like them (Guitar Rig had great effects, though) and also had the opportunity to try Helix Native which was great, but rather expensive for my blood.

    I don't have this rig set up anymore as I got a powered Kemper which is much more convenient in every way haha. But at the time when I didn't have a lot of gear laying around it definitely provided me hours of fun just tweaking and adding effects and EQs and what not on the fly in an extremely easy fashion. Could see it as a very functional rig for someone who was planning on running backing tracks or some such thing live, or maybe someone like me who was just broke ;)

    I imagine you could get away with making a pretty cheap rig if you bought a used Intel i5 ThinkPad with an SSD on Ebay, got a used Presonus Audiobox for around $50 and maybe something like a Crate Powerblock like Max said. Imagine that all would run you around $300-400.



    TL;DR I did it and I liked it lol
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019
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  11. MetalHex

    MetalHex SS.org Regular

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    Wait...so you can make your own backing tracks, put them on this things, then trigger them with a midi foot controller as needed?
     
  12. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    They cost about as much as an AxeFx, have a steep learning curve, make live editing tricky, and from what I've seen online have mediocre support. Doesn't help that few people use them for guitar stuff outside particular studio setups.

    It's a cool idea, but unless you're absolutely devoted to a very particular VST, and don't mind paying out the teeth to use it, they'll do what you're looking for.

    For what it's worth, I've messed around with a display Pro 2 model some years back and that immediately killed any interest I had with them.
     
  13. Xenogen

    Xenogen SS.org Regular

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    Really interesting to read about your experience with running a live VST rig. Thanks for the insight!

    I guess a Thinkpad would make tweaking a lot easier if it had touchscreen functionality.

    I'll also have to give Mercurial a try. I'm interested to see what other flavors different VSTs can bring.

    Kempers are absolutely brilliant. Some of the bands I've played with have used one and the tones are really phenomenal.

    It really is much easier to just prerender your backing tracks and play them through a laptop with a DAW or on your phone (Click Track Left, Backing Track Right). You can add MIDI automation with a laptop for patch changing on a Helix/Axe/Kemper too, which I doubt the Receptor can do.
     
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  14. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Cof cof... https://www.facebook.com/pg/moddevices/about/?ref=page_internal

    Do note that I do not use nor am affiliated with the brand. I just follow them with Facebbok and thought to share them with you.

    Regarding @Xenogen quest with the lap top, I've done a similar test this year at the band's rehearsal. I took my 2012 Asus laptop (16GB of ram, i7, 5500rpms internal hardrive, win10) and Focusrite 18i8 2nd gen audio interface hooked to the rental studio's mixer. I've used the Amplitube stand alone plugin (which accepts MIDI messages from my MIDI pedalboard). My drummer said the tone was just fine (compared to my Triaxis + G-Force + 2:fifty rack) and the rehearsal went smoothly. My lap top is my work station, I'll do AutoCAD, Photoshop, Illustrator, 3D Studio Max renders, Premier video mixing and whatever I'll need (web surfing also). The computer worked just fine. It also had the ability to record whatever was needed and add DAW functionality to a rental by the hour studio use without having to pay extra money.

    If i'd had to take this rig to a live performance, I'd bet in a more robust computer (newer, I mean). It also helps to turn off all external connections (wifi, bluetoth, whatever), energy saving options and whatever else you might have loaded at startup. Knowing computer management is kind of important, so you can kill all unnecessary software. Coolers USB fans could be useful to keep the computer's temperature controlled.

    I'd say that if you have most of the tools already, go for it.

    You should also look at Keith McMillen USB controllers... https://www.keithmcmillen.com/products/softstep/
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
  15. Xenogen

    Xenogen SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for the insight. The MOD Duo looks very cool indeed. USB and MIDI functionality in a simple box. I love it.
    I hope they somehow add the ability to load up your own custom VST plugins. That would be a game changer for sure.
     
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  16. trem licking

    trem licking SS.org Regular

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    you could do this very cheaply, with pretty old hardware too. depending on how simple you are running this rig, you could buy old core2duo computers for pennies and make identical mirrors for backups in case a laptop goes down. you could do all this for far cheaper than a modeler, be able to change/upgrade as software changes and if your modeler goes down with no backup... how you gonna fix that? that's one thing i don't like about these expensive modelers, you have to send them in to get them fixed when they break and i cant imagine its cheap.
     
  17. Xenogen

    Xenogen SS.org Regular

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    Are we in agreement that a cheap computer might be just as good as an expensive piece of dedicated hardware? :lol:

    Seriously though, check these mini LCD screens for Raspberry Pi. - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Elecrow-Mo...refinements=p_36:428445031&s=computers&sr=1-3

    Pop one of these on the front with some MIDI controllers, a decent audio interface and set windows to automatically run a VST Host on startup. Also an SSD for boot time reasons...

    Full fledged guitar amp modeller right there.
     
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  18. Spinedriver

    Spinedriver SS.org Regular

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    According to the video, back in 2010, Stephen Carpenter was running Guitar Rig through a laptop. Granted, it looks like he also had a Marshall JMP-1 and power amp but the laptop is definitely there.

     
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  19. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    Running oddball rigs gets exponentially easier when you're a famous musician with a full road crew and personal tech. :lol:
     
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  20. trem licking

    trem licking SS.org Regular

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    the dude from the faceless uses/used a laptop with vst for his live sound as well. would only take a few practices to iron out any weirdness. if you had backups and a solid plan, i think it'd work well
     

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