Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

November 26, 2009

No content today, just wanted to wish my readers a happy Thanksgiving. Readers outside the states, uh, have an excellent regular day 😀

How’s about an update on the state of the software scene!

November 22, 2009

First, Antress has updated his Modern pack to 4.75, and with the update come some real sonic improvements in addition to a new plugin or two. He’s really getting better at what he does, I think he’s getting up there with Bootsie in terms of the quality of his releases. Maybe a little more attention to bug squashing could be in order, but they work for most people without problems and the sound quality and versatility of his pack is really nice. A dev to keep watching, for sure.

KVR had their 2009 Developer Challenge, and while all of the entries are worth checking out, there are two stand-outs that I felt I should mention here. First, from the amazing Bootsie, an analog tape simulator that rocks: FerricTDS. It can be used subtly or overtly, and it’s really just (as usual) a pretty astounding freebie, easily on par with commercial tape sims. The second stand-out in the DC ’09 lineup is HybridReverb, combining IR and algorithmic into one extremely attractive package. It’s not only free, it’s also open source, so free-as-in-freedom software fans take note. As they say it’s not an over-the-top or flashy reverb plugin, but rather an excellent way to exert subtle control over the ambiance of your tracks (provided, of course, you have quality IRs to start with; they have a sizable library of good ones on their main site, but they are not free for commercial usage, unlike the software itself).

A developer of whom I was not aware until today, TerryW, released a plugin on KVR called ReLife, which through some sort of amazing voodoo magic can take over-compressed, squashed material and breathe dynamic transients and separation back into it. As the developer says, don’t expect miracles if there is a lot of distortion from digital clipping, but take it from me, on a lot of material it sounds awfully miraculous. I wish I could post some examples of squashed commercial releases that I’ve processed with it, but as it’s a free plugin perhaps you can do the same yourself. There are a lot of applications for such a plugin in the studio – processing mastered tracks to reinvigorate them with some of the subtleties that loud mastering can eliminate is just one thing you can get from this this simple-to-use plugin. The GUI is just a bypass button and a post-gain control, with an input and output level meter, but the magic under the hood is very impressive.

BlueCatAudio has released a new and improved freeware pack of plugins with very broad cross-platform support, including (beta) RTAS versions, definitely worth checking out! I haven’t got deep in with these at all yet but my initial impressions are positive, this seems like a useful package.

I’ve been helping a gentleman named Efflam dial in some plugins he’s released lately, including the excellent freeware Sansamp G2 emulation, NoAmp, as well as the extremely affordable and quite versatile Fuzz Face simulation, Kung Fuzz. I think he has a good philosophy, keep products simple and make them function as well as possible at achieving their exact goals. His other products include an excellent non-sampled, physical modeling technology Wurlitzer virtual instrument named Blue Reeds which is again quite affordable, as well as a free Pianet-like virtual instrument called Glue Reeds. He’s still busy at work with an upcoming Fender Blender emulation and I’m helping him test something very cool right now which might be of a great deal of interest to musicians, I’ll update when I can.

Gain-heads rejoice, joining LePou’s excellent ENGL preamp sim comes a new, different take on the same idea: TSE X30 testimonials from ENGL lovers over at the Andy Sneap forums suggest that between the two of these plugins, there are a lot of people who won’t be needing their physical preamps any longer at least when it comes to recording. As usual with preamp sims you’ll need to use external cabinet simulation to get a good recorded sound, there are plenty of options available these days.

And work continues on AcmeBarGig’s G-Spot suite, he’s been keeping me updated on its progress and I’ve had several versions which show significant progress toward getting it ready for public usage. I’ll try to get some clips up of the most recent version soon. He’s issued an interesting and perhaps provocative statement over at the GuitarAmpModeling forums inviting commercial software developers to join him in releasing a freeware amp head. Judging from the linked thread, it seems he’s talked with a number of developers who all have great ideas, and he’s trying to get a big community effort going so that some of those great ideas can be realized for the benefit of everyone. I personally wonder how many commercial software makers are going to be willing to get involved, but from what I can tell from that thread it looks like he’s getting some bites, so who knows? Marc Gallo, the man behind StudioDevil, has pledged his support (which isn’t all that surprising, given that he’s had BritishValveCustom out for some time as a freeware product – maybe a new freebie from him will let him flex his muscles some more, he’s a heck of a programmer) and I’m not sure but it looks like Peavey might be interested as well. We’ll see how that goes, I’ll be keeping an eye on things and try to keep you guys updated.

Oh, I almost forgot – Native Instruments has made the current beta version of Guitar Rig 4 publicly available, with quite a number of things in it that seem to me to indicate that really this was their vision for Guitar Rig 4 when it shipped but some things took a little longer to finalize. No problem, happens in the software world all the time, that’s what patches are for – and letting the public get in on the beta means that everyone who just wants to have the most current version with the cool added features (a new amp, master effects section, and others) can get it, while folks mainly concerned with stability and who have more patience can hold off ’til it’s finalized. Nice thinking, Native.

That’s all for now, to all my American readers happy Thanksgiving – I will probably be somewhat out of pocket next week as my wife and I will be going to visit family to celebrate the holiday, but I’ll still be watching things and I’ll try to have an update here or there. I’m rushing now to finalize a couple of reviews for Frugal before we head out tomorrow, very well could be a midnight email from yours truly 😉

P.S. – I’ll work on getting these added to the Freeware page ASAP, whether or not I’ve managed to get the format restructuring done. Thanks for your support, constant readers, you don’t know how nice it is to see you all coming around. This blog is a labor of love and it’s all for you guys.

G-Spot – Bass on the clean channel, Guitar on the dirty channel. Clip, as promised!

November 5, 2009

I uploaded the wrong version! I had a few that I was comparing between to see which mix I liked the best and I goofed and uploaded one of the off picks! Sorry, the right version is now linked!

Bass is a Peavey Fury II from the mid ’80s, using Redshift to alter the pickup sound to a beefier tone. The guitar is a Fender Strat with singles, using Redshift to get a very full humbucker sound out of it. Seriously, listen to that track and try and hear a strat somewhere in there – but that’s what it is, a low output single coil equipped guitar.

I configured each channel to my specific tastes with the deep editing of preamp and tone stack to dial in the sound and feel as I wanted it. Man, there’s a lot of tweakability here. I’m not using any feedback enhancer or anything but you can hear it starting to want to feedback, even though most software doesn’t do that in my studio for acoustic reasons.

This is going to be big, I think. Freeware 😀

AcmeBarGig’s next freebie is a monster. G-Spot, a freeware suite unlike any other.

November 5, 2009

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G-Spot (which stands for Guitar-Spot, as opposed to the upcoming B-Spot for bass) is Ken’s crowning achievement in amp modeling, and represents the culmination of everything that AcmeBarGig has done to date. It is a software suite rivaling products by some of the big software makers, with a particular emphasis on flexibility, versatility, and of course (it wouldn’t be AcmeBarGig otherwise) originality. What you see there constitutes the main “window” of the software, but there is SO much that this plugin can do, it’s really hard to believe it’ll be free. I’ve been playing around with it for the last couple of days and I just keep finding more cool stuff. Included in G-Spot are the most recent versions of the technology that’s made ABG’s name so far, all available in one comprehensive suite, with improvements to everything along the way and new ideas implemented as well. Here’s some of the features:

  • Built-In Redshift Pickup Replacer with an upgraded engine: Based on original technology developed by Ken, this allows you to alter your pickup sound to a variety of pickups. It works exactly as it says, and there isn’t any headache involved in using it – it handles the replacement part without any need for you to measure your guitar’s pickups or take readings or anything. You just enable it, select the pickup you want, and it goes from there. I am currently using this feature to record a high-gain, brutal thrash metal drum jam clip with my Fender Strat with single-coils, and it is phenomenal how authentic the aggression and power is with Redshift turning my pickups into some of the meatier humbuckers available. It also works in the other direction, making my humbucker-equipped guitars sound twangier and finer. I really don’t know how in the heck he does it, it just works. And of course it can be turned on and off, because we all have our guitars with their pickups for a reason and you don’t always want a different sound. But when you do, man, it doesn’t get any easier than this.
  • Built-in Drive Amp multi-preamp and Treble Booster: Coming before the amps, these two tools allow you to tailor the input for a variety of different tones. Drive Amp has a number of different colors which all have their own tonal impact, and the differences are not subtle – it’s a lot like having a number of different overdrive and distortion pedals with full drive, level, EQ, and clean/dirty mix controls. Treble Booster does exactly what it says, but allows you to adjust the frequencies affected and the level so that you can dial your pedal sound in exactly. These two modules open up a whole range of different sounds from the amp you’ve configured. Which brings me to the next big feature…
  • Total freedom to make your own virtual amplifiers: While many commercial software suites offer various levels of tweaking to their amps or mix-and-matching of components, G-Spot goes deeper to allow you to adjust everything about your amp’s clean and dirty channels. Internally it incorporates a wide variety of different tube types, which it switches between seamlessly as you adjust the tube settings Max Gain and Bias. On the Clean channel, you have in addition to those three “Character” settings which allow you to further tweak the sound. On the Drive channel channel, there are four tubes to adjust. In addition you can change which frequencies your tone knobs control, and whether the tone stack comes before or after the preamp. Finally you have a visually intuitive band-pass filter made out of sliding minimum and maximum frequencies for the input and output of the clean and dirty channels, which has a great deal of influence on the overall sound. For example, high gain sounds especially benefit from being rather band limited on input, with a sharp cutoff in the midrange – no real bass necessary on the front end, as bass is amplified and distorted much more intensely than other frequencies because of the energy in the waveform, so the low frequency adjustments that happen later in the signal chain “bring in” the bottom end quite profoundly. And did I mention there are a range of visual options for the amps’ components (the various knobs, faceplate, skin), all of which you can change and save as .HED files which can then be shared with others? This is AcmeBarGig’s amp making tool in your hands. It’s deep and very powerful.
  • A built-in IR loader that operates on whole folders at a time: Point it to an IR in a folder, and it will load the entire folder for you to select from either sequentially or in a list. Previously the only software with this sort of functionality was Voxengo Boogex, whose amp sounds are, in my opinion, unfortunately not nearly as fresh as they were when it was released. There are also a number of built-in cabinet IRs made by Alu of the GuitarAmpModeling.com forums, so if you don’t have a big library of cabs you can still have access to a range of sounds.
  • Room Modeling using new technology from ABG: This one I can’t get Ken to say very much about, but it works extremely well. There are many room shapes available and each room has three categories of options which can be adjusted: Room Size, Flooring (with options from Shag Carpet and Hardwood to Lenolium and Dirt) and Wall Coverings (again with more options from Aluminum Siding and Wood Panel to Brick and Glass). Placing the cabinet in the room involves two sliders, at the moment, though the final version might feature a more advanced GUI. Right now there’s a slider from “Near” to “Far” which is basically a slider between just the cabinet sound and just the room sound at each extreme, allowing you to dial in the right amount of the room to suit you, and another slider which adjusts the cabinet position in the room from Left to Right. Plenty of tricks have been used in the past in modeling suites to put a modeling amp’s cab sound in “real space,” but this is the most adjustable to taste and perhaps even the most effective method that I’ve used so far.
  • Built-in Multieffects: While these days having effects in your modeling software is pretty much standard, G-Spot includes a number of them that are pretty fascinating. There are standard things like delay and reverb, but two of the effects actually allow you to draw in your own waveform and use that to control the effect. One is Paiz Chorus, which allows for quite a number of modulation sounds as a result, and the other is The Wonder Girdle (I’ll let Ken explain the name behind that one), a filter which can do, well, damn near anything. Both of them, apart from letting you draw in your own waveform, can also save those waveforms as wavetables in the synth-ubiquitous .tbl format (and that means you can also load any wavetables you find around).
  • A Noise Gate! (okay, maybe after all that other stuff it’s not so impressive, but it’s still handy.)

Ken’s got a G-Spot Tutorial up for anyone curious about the upcoming software, and I am currently working on figuring out how to record a video that will show how to work with it a bit and examine some of its very impressive features. One thing I can say right now, having used this pre-beta version for a few days: this is a new idea in amp modeling. Not just in freeware amp modeling, but in amp modeling in general. Where Ken goes with it, I don’t know, but it is an extremely impressive and capable piece of software that gives you more freedom to make your own signature sound at the very deepest levels of editing than anything I’ve used in the past. And it’s free.

Clips incoming during daylight hours.

ReCabinet Complete 2.0, my favorite guitar cab IR pack, is on sale for $14.99 indefinitely!

November 3, 2009

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Really kind of amazed, it was well worth the full price. Many of the sounds you’ve heard on this blog (when not recording software that has its own built-in cabinet simulation in a demo context) have come from combining the software out there with these great cabs. All of the freeware demo clips that I do (including a few I’m working on for this week) use ReCabinet Complete 2.0. I don’t know why it’s on sale for such a steal, but apparently it has kicked up huge interest in the product and so instead of being just a limited-time offer they’ve turned it into a fully-fledged sale indefinitely.

There are almost 2,000 cabinet IRs in this package, with lots of great cabinet/amp choices, classic mics and multiple positions for each microphone. The Recabinet Modern portion has a mixture of 4×12 and 2×12 cabinets, recorded with both an EL34 and a 6L6 power amp for the unique flavor that each contributes to the sound, making it easier to match up the right cab tone for your real amplifier’s direct out or your amp modeler’s output. Recabinet Vintage is an interesting and very pleasant collection of IRs taken through the clean pathway of classic amps, lending a beautiful coloration that complements amp modelers extremely well.

Check the product home page, they’ve got demos to download that will give you a good idea of how you’ll like the IRs!