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Preparing your tracks for reamping: A Guide

Discussion in 'F.O.H.' started by Glenn Fricker, Mar 13, 2007.

  1. Glenn Fricker

    Glenn Fricker Very Metal &Very Bad News

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    ULTERIOR MOTIVE ALERT!! I've been getting a lot of requests from forum members to do reamp jobs lately. Believe me, I'm greatful for the work! However, I find myself answering the same questions over & over again, so I figured, "what the hell" & thought I'd type up this handy little guide to tracking your guitars for reamping.

    HOW TO PREP YOUR TRACKS TO BE REAMPED

    What you'll need:

    1) Your guitar
    2) A good acurate tuner. I highly recommend G-TUNE. Peterson licenced this program's technology for their inferior "Strobosoft." This is the original, & totally kicks ass. Get it HERE
    3) Computer & soundcard
    4) Direct Box
    5) Mic preamp

    So what the hell is reamping, anyway?
    This is a question I've been asked many, many times. Simply put: Reamping is where you track a dry signal off of your guitar's pickups alongside of your normal amped/modeled tracks. The dry signals are then exported & sent off to another facility which might have a better selection of amps/preamps/mics & the experience with mic techniques to turn your tracks from "damnit I wish this sounded better" into "I have unleashed the fury of hell!!!"

    So how do I do this?

    Well, there's several ways to route this, all depending on what you want to do.

    USING AN AMP/POD/WONDERBOX:

    You're going to need a direct box. There are many makes & types but they all pretty much do the same thing: They have an input, a "thru" and an XLR output... as well as a ground lift switch. Plug your guitar into the input, plug the XLR output into your cleanest preamp's mic input, & plug the "thru" into your guitar amp/Pod/whateverthefuckitisyouusefortone. Engage your ground lift switch to reduce noise. ENGAGE PHANTOM POWER ON YOUR PREAMP IF YOU'RE USING AN ACTIVE DIRECT BOX!! Set up your DAW so you're recording the dry sound of the pickups from your mic preamp & a second track for your amp.
    MAKE SURE TO RECORD AT 24 BIT Now, dry tracks might look a little weird. All spiky & shit, & sort of wimpy. Resist the urge to put a limiter on the track or compress it. Just don't do it. If your Soundcard has a limiter, TURN THAT FUCKER OFF We're trying to capture the essence of the playing... the signal that a guitar amp gets. This is not meant to be pleasing to the ears. (it won't be) Try setting your preamp's gain so that the absolute loudest part of the guitar's signal is peaking at about -3 to -4dB below the zero mark on your record meter. You're recording at 24 bit, so you have plenty of room before noise sets in. Don't try to get the level to zero, it'll cause you grief with overs. A dry guitar is very,very dynamic & unpredictable. -3 to -4 will work great.

    USING SOFTWARE EMULATION/SOUNDCARD DIRECT INPUT
    This is pretty much a no brainer. You can use a direct box, or if your soundcard has an instrument level input, you can use that! Plug in, set up your daw for live monitoring, & set up your favourite amp sim. Just make sure that the signal is recorded PRE-FX: Meaning that the raw guitar is recorded before it's processed by the amp sim.
    If your amp modelling software is a CPU hog, there are ways to get around it: First, set your DAW up in "live" mode. Then you can set up a buss with the amp sim plugged into it. Then set up an AUX send from you dry guitar's channel to the bus, & send that ouput to another recording input, thereby recording the dry, unafeccted signal, & the output of the amp sim. This makes life easier for playing multiple tracks! You can also use this method to record thru a POD via it's USB I/O section.

    TIPS:
    Re-tune after every take. This goes double if you're quad tracking.
    Make sure your guitar is set up correctly. If you don't know how to intonate, take it to a local tech & have him do it. Just make sure to mention what you're tuned to, these guys can be rather dumb when it comes to metal. I don't know how many client's guitars I've had to re-intonate because they're tuned down 4 steps & the tech set it up for standard tuning.
    Make sure all your volume pots, jacks & electronics are in good working order. That includes making sure the ground wire inside is actually connected. (true story. Client showed up with his ground undone & couldn't figure out why he was getting noise every time he touched his guitar.)
    To export: Make sure you export at 24 bit, to a MONO wav file. NOT stereo, mono. It's pretty much self-explanitory why, but you'd be surprised.....
    That, & make sure your tracks all line up together properly.... especially if you're quad tracking your rhythms. One quick & easy test to check would be to export your dry tracks, then re-import them into your daw under a new project name, pan them out & hit play. You'll be able to tell very quickly if you've exported something wrong. If things are out of sync because you screwed up the export, imagine what they're going to sound like when you get them back from reamping!


    ABOUT DIRECT BOXES

    These come in 2 varieties: Passive & Active. If you're using a cable run under 20 feet, you can go passive. Anything longer, go active. Myself, I use the Radial Tech J48 Active direct box. It runs off the phantom power of my mic preamp. It's a little more expensive than some other boxes, but it's built like a tank & will probably last my lifetime. A great box. I highly recommend this unit.... especially if you're playing active pickups.
    Here's a link. RADIAL J48 ACTIVE DIRECT BOX
    [​IMG]
    One caveat: If you're playing passive pickups, you might want to look at the next direct box...

    *AMENDMENT*
    Mutant was very kind in pointing this box out... If you're running passive pickups, this is the box to buy. It's the same price as the J48, but has a much higher input impedance which will better preserve the tone of your passives:
    Evidently, the input impedance of a direct box can play a critical factor in tone: Mutant explains it far better than I ever could further down in this post.....
    [​IMG]
    Countryman Type 85 LINK
    The only caveat with this box might be if you're running actives like an EMG... It might not be able to handle the loudest passages of your playing.... I.E. it might 'splat out' on the strongest transients.

    If you're in the poor house, an ART passive box will do the trick: Like a cheap hooker "pulls a trick" if you will. It's not the greatest, in fact, it's a little on the noisy side. But what do you want for $26 USD? Here's a link:
    ART PASSIVE DIRECT BOX
    [​IMG]


    One interface Gavin & I have been testing is the Hi-Z input on the good ol' Edirol UA 25. We got some very impressive results with this: once he turned the limiter off, that is! For the life of me, I can't find any specs on the input impedance, but it did blow away the ART box. FYI, it was with active pickups.....

    Now there's many different boxes between these & I can't say good or bad about any of them. However, the one box you should avoid like the plauge is the Berhinger DI20 Ultra DI 2-Channel Active direct box.
    [​IMG]
    It's noisy as hell & pretty much useless. Remember, you're amplifying the guitar signal several thousand times when it's reamped. A tiny bit of noise in your direct signal can turn into a major clusterphuk when you crank it thru an amp!



    Afterthoughts:
    This is not a definitive guide to prepping your tracks for reamping. I'm quite sure other forum members have opinions on the subject & I invite them to share. Hell, I'm sure there's stuff I've missed here, so have at it!

    -0z-
     
  2. -Gavin-

    -Gavin- Gavornator

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    :lol: Subtle as fuck!
     
  3. SocialNumb

    SocialNumb Damn Christians!

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  4. Jaymz

    Jaymz Stymphalian Productions

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    Nicely done sir!
     
  5. _RiseInside_

    _RiseInside_ Member

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  6. SymbolicSV

    SymbolicSV Member

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  7. Mike Wead

    Mike Wead New Metal Member

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    Great guide indeed! :)
    The only think that leeps to my mind is in a way obvious:
    When monitoring,use a sound that make even minor flaws audible i.e. not a forgiving sound that'll give you/your engineer weeks of editing.
     
  8. flytrapx

    flytrapx Member

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    Stellar explanations as usual, Oz! Re-amping is definitely up there in the "arcane arts" division of engineering.

    Were you also going to post info on re-amping the tracks through the amp? That would be killer!
     
  9. kaomao

    kaomao Member

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    The one and only Mike Wead that played with Mercyful Fate/King diamond and now with kryptillusion?
    If so remember man I'm a big fan of your playing!
     
  10. LSD-Studio

    LSD-Studio HCAF crusher

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    nothing to add
     
  11. fistula

    fistula Producer/Mixing Engineer

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    oz! thank you man!:kickass:

    +1
     
  12. Mutant

    Mutant I hate that supercow !

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    Me few cents:

    Not always.
    Only if your soundcard does not have an "instrument level input" with high enough input impedance (>1 Megaohm).
    E-mu 1820M has an excellent instrument input/preamp - i'm going to sell my 1212M and buy 1820M as soon as my gear budget allows this purchase.

    It is good enough for active pickups but it does not have a high enough impedance for passives.

    You can read all about this subject and even calculate how much of your precious signal will that Radial DI box steal from you.

    Many professionals agree that the best DI Boxes are made by Countryman.
    (Countryman Type 85: 10 Megaohms vs Radial J48: 220Kohms)
     
  13. fistula

    fistula Producer/Mixing Engineer

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  14. elmuchoescadawg

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    So Oz, when does the book come out?
     
  15. Jaymz

    Jaymz Stymphalian Productions

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    More like the DVD! :) :)
     
  16. Thrasher666

    Thrasher666 Member

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    Nothing about using the Radial X-Amp?
    I just bought one and it's on it way here. This post makes me think I should send it back. What do you think?
    I have a Countryman passive box and a Sansamp Bass DI active, do I even need a X-Amp? I'm using a les paul with passive pickup's at the moment.
     
  17. Mutant

    Mutant I hate that supercow !

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    Oz wrote about preparing for reamping (capturing high quality signal) not about reamping (processing that signal).

    :kickass:

    X-Amp is exactly what you need if you want to send a signal from your soundcard to your amp.
     
  18. Glenn Fricker

    Glenn Fricker Very Metal &Very Bad News

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    If you read all of the article, you'd notice I mentioned a soundcard instrument input under "Using Software Emulation."
    The only caveat is that to use a live amp with the "direct into the soundcard" method is there is no "thru." You'd have to buy a reamp box & use your soundcard's internal mixer to route the signal back out to the amp. It's fine for pure software, tho.

    Never had a problem using the J48 with passives. Even when reamping them. I've also read several reviews on it & they all had great results.
    Come to think of it, I've read some great things about the JDI, which is a passive box with only 10Kohms on the input. Go figure.
    However, there might be something to this, so I'll look into it a bit further. (we're all here to learn something.) BTW, the Countryman is an excellent box!
    Radial also has this, which is VERY high on my wish list:
    [​IMG]

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback everyone! I've got a few edits to make to the orignal post still, so hang in there.

    -0z-
     
  19. Mutant

    Mutant I hate that supercow !

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    I did read all.
    I was thinking about the perfect conditions for monitoring: (guitar > soundcard > reamp box > amp) because imho its better to hear exactly what is being recorded instead of splitting the signal at di box and being surprised later that the sound is not like you wanted (after coming through di box, soundcard preamp, ad & da converters, and finally reamp box it will not sound 100% like after just coming through di box split to the amp).

    IIRC 10Kohms is exactly the impedance of my 1212M line level inputs and it is so so for my EMG707 (i tried and thought instantly "something's wrong here", so i bought a cheap 50$ 1Mohm DI).
     
  20. JeffTD

    JeffTD Senhor Testiculo

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    I'd be sure to consider purchasing the Littlelabs Redeye when you guys get into reamping - combo DI and reamp box, and does both damned well!
     

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