Rig Kontrol 3 as an easy-to-use general MIDI controller for anything

May 29, 2010

In the process of preparing a review for Native Instruments Guitar Rig 4: Kontrol Edition, I put the controller through the paces pretty heavily. It’s had a fair bit of improvement via software since its launch as the original Rig Kontrol 3. Now, instead of just controlling Guitar Rig software, it interfaces with any DAW or standalone app that can accept MIDI thanks to Native’s Controller Editor program. Below I’ve included a brief walkthrough of how to get it to work with Amplitube 3 via REAPER’s Automation. The images are larger than the blog will natively display, but making them smaller obscures the text substantially! So, please click on the image and use your browser’s “view image” function to see the image without any cropping or oddness.

The first thing you need to do is to open up the Controller Editor so that Rig Kontrol 3 switches into “con” mode on its red LED display. That just makes it capable of sending MIDI control data via USB along with audio. From there, here’s what you need to do to have it actually control a value in Amplitube 3 in REAPER.

Step 1:
In Reaper, you enable it as an input device, like so:

Step 2:
In Amplitube 3, you need to assign the thing you want to control to a DAW Automation slot. Click on the “Auto” button down at the bottom there. From there, browse to the thing you want to be controlled as Parameter 1 (Amplitube 3 allows a DAW limited parameters to control, so choose what you need control over pretty carefully if you’ve got a complex signal chain). In this case, though I loaded an Overscream, I set it to control the bypass on a Distortion. Which is just a goof on my part because I’m tired. What it does is makes it so that a Distortion loaded in Stomp module section 1 will be assigned to AT3’s DAW Parameter 1. Make sure to hit “Ok” afterward; it’s sort of like “apply,” and if you don’t hit it, it won’t save the changes you’ve made.

Step 3:
From there, it’s just a matter of going into REAPER’s automation menu for the track (the button labeled “env” by default, right after “io”). From there, set the mode to at least “Touch” or greater so that it will have an effect on the parameter (otherwise it won’t). A second ago we set Parameter 1 to control the Bypass on a Distortion in Stomp Module 1. So, make sure to Arm parameter 1 so that it can receive control input. Then, click the “Learn” button, and hit the switch you want to control the bypass. Now, when you have the “Distortion” pedal in the first Stomp Box section of AT3, that button will control the bypass.

The principle is the same for anything. The easiest things to assign are on/off switches, but you can set a switch to do any number of things, including switch between two different parameter values if, for example, you wanted to have a chorus with two modulation speeds or depths (or both) in a song with the ability to switch between them, or if you wanted to be able to switch between your preamp gain set lower or higher.

Again, it works with any MIDI capable software, sending the MIDI control data over USB alongside audio if you prefer to use it as your audio interface. StealthPedal didn’t used to have any competition in this regard, but now it does, and the Rig Kontrol 3 is a very respectable competitor indeed, with a multitude of included switches and the expression pedal. For Windows users, it’s also nice that its drivers allow for it to be used as a general audio device – for a budget studio, having one audio device that can handle all of your needs might tip the balance in its favor. Of course Mac users with Core Audio see no difference either way since they have audio output built-in without the nightmare of drivers we Windows folks have to put up with ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

Back In Action! A Tri-Fold Update

March 23, 2009

Three items of interest to my readers!

Item One: I’ve been working with Overloud TH1 1.1 lately, gearing up for the review of the software I’ll be doing for Frugal in the next issue. It’s very, very interesting. Some of the coolest and most intuitive routing I’ve ever used. I had the chance to do a quickie “collaboration” with Harmony Central forum user Zygoat, who got an AxeFX unit not too long ago and has been posting clips. I asked him if I could jam over one and he said sure, so I fired up TH1 and recorded some lead to the great sounding clip he had up. He did the bass and all rhythm guitar, and the drums too. I just recorded the lead track. A synthesis of AxeFX and software, haha. Don’t tell Cliff, he’s remarked on occasion that everything that isn’t AxeFX is just a toy (I think you can imagine my response to that gem!).

The fact that I had to make the guitar fit in an already mixed track posed some interesting challenges. I broke out a few plugins to make everything fit together. I wanted to place the guitar in a certain way in the mix, both in terms of its “sound” and also in the stereo field. I’ll write a run-through of the process here, explaining what I did and why.

To get the amp tone, I used Overloud TH1’s “SLR” amp mod slider function which lets you adjust continuously between two amplifiers’ properties, not just a fader but it actually alters the internals to make a hybrid of the two amps. This is a hybrid of the “Overloud Custom” on PlexiBright channel, and their Soldano SLO amp model, about 55/45 in favor of the Overloud Custom PlexiBright. I’m not using a whole lot of gain, because I wanted my playing to come through… Read the rest of this entry »

A Totally Free Signal Chain:

March 15, 2009

Well, first off this is a PC-only signal path, so my apologies to my readers who prefer Macs. I’ll try to hunt down some quality freeware for Macs, but it does seem like the PC enjoys a real advantage here. Sorry guys, I love Macs too but I’ve been a PC user for so long I didn’t feel like changing when I built my latest computer! (Plus, you can’t really buildย  Mac, at least not totally legally as I understand it).

Anyway, that said, I wanted to put together a total amp modeling and effects signal chain that would give you professional-quality results without spending any money (which might be helpful for you folks who bought Amplitube Fender recently, I know everyone around here is feeling this economic pinch…) For this clip I used:

1. GVST Effects Gtune, Ggate, Gduckdly for my tuner, noise gate, and ducking delay. Love their effects, killer stuff.

2. Aradaz’ fantastic OUR Cabinet Sim, blending Alu’s Mesa 4×12 and Noa’s Soldano 4×12

3. Bootsy’s awesome Epicverb, the best free reverb plugin I’ve ever used. I like it better than many IR-based reverbs because of its tweakability and versatile algorithms, easy to dial in the perfect reverb for a track.

4. LePou’s Soldano amp modeler, covered in a recent post!

Here’s a screenshot, you can see my signal path and all of the settings I used in this clip. It’s too big to fit on the blog, so click the thumbnail to view it (you might have to click the image again when it loads up so that you can see it full-size).

A note about my settings: while the delay, reverb, and cab sim should all be what I’ve used if you want this tone, I recommend that if you lower the threshold of the GGate noise gate and turn the Overdrive on the Soldano amp simulator up, and adjust the Treble to be higher as well on the amp sim. I am using a physical BBE Orange Squash and BBE Freq Boost in front of my DI which gives a nice boost but raises the noise floor going in. HOWEVER, I tested this plugin without any such external hardware to be sure that a similarly good tone could be had without them before posting it – it can! Just up the gain and treble to compensate for the lack of physical pedals. Another good option would be to use the freeware BTE Audio TubeScreamerSecret plugin in front of the amplifier, which simulates an analog TubeScreamer pedal extremely accurately and would probably let you use the same settings that I’ve used here (with the GGate threshold lowered, of course).

Here’s the clip. As usual, try not to focus too much on my sloppy playing, instead listen to how the stuff sounds ๐Ÿ˜‰

This is, in my experience, similar to the quality you can get from the best professional amp sims. Which means a job very well done by LePou, Aradaz (and those who contributed IRs, Alu, Dimi, Noa for contributing my favorites!), and Bootsy, as well as Graham Yeadon who does the GVST plugins (grab the whole pack for a comprehensive free effects setup). Tone that’s easy on the wallet!

A couple of cool freeware programs over at G.A.M., check ’em out!

March 13, 2009

The big news today as far as I’m concerned is the release of SoloC, a fairly anticipated PC freeware amp simulator vst fully modeling a Soldano. I have to say, it’s absolutely incredible. I’d pay this guy money if it weren’t free.

Now with a direct link to the plugin, thanks to LePou and KVR forums member A3ntar! I’ve updated the link per A3ntar’s request so that it will always point to the most recent version, as well.

Here’s his post on GuitarAmpModeling, you’ll have to register an account to download it but it is SO worth it, and here’s a very quick clip I recorded with it. Signal chain is an explorer with a high-output humbucker in the bridge, into a BBE Main Squeeze/Orange Squash compressor, into a BBE Freq Boost, into StompIO, into the SoloC Soldano plugin. In the DAW’s VST path, I’m using GTune (just a tuner), GGate (configured as a noise gate), the Soldano, and Aradaz OUR Cabinet Sim using one of the user-provided IRs that just happens to be a Soldano 4×12 cab.

Also, development continues on another very promising freebie amp sim from a different maker, Ken aka AcmeBarGig Effects, a multiple gain amp based on his novel approach to 12AX7 emulation which comes with some built-in effects, called Duel Gain – here’s the thread on GAM. The community is helping him locate and squash bugs now, but when he gets it up and running it’s going to be a very impressive modeler, with cab simulation built in as well as built-in stereo reverb and an adjustable noise gate. It already sounds good but as it’s still in the early stages it’s pretty far from bug free. But keep an eye on it, he’s a talented guy and I’m sure he’ll get it lined out soon.

The amp modeling community is one of the coolest software communites I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. A bunch of crazy guys making excellent software for those of us with digital tastes!

I translated an interview with Dimitar Nalbantov, modeling guru

March 3, 2009

There’s a great musician named Dimitar Nalbantov who has put out two albums, now, and gets all his guitar tones from amp modelers (and mostly from free ones, at that.) His web site and forums can be found here, and an interview in a magazine published in Spain was recently put up on the site’s front page. I can “sort of” speak Spanish (haven’t had much practice in the last four years, but before that I studied it for four years) so I decided to take a shot at translating it for an English speaking audience. I’ll be interviewing him (in English) later this month, so check back if you’re interested in more Dimi-related news.

Anyway, make sure to head over to his site and listen to his stuff! You might find yourself going over to CDbaby to buy an album or two, like I did ๐Ÿ™‚ Anywhere I couldn’t really make out what was said and tried to figure out as best as I could from context clues, I’ve made a note. I have tried to transliterate this rather than literally translate it, as a literal โ€œbabelfishโ€-style translation can render (especially technical jargon, of which there is enough to be problematic) nonsensical. Sometimes that has required changing a word or turn of phrase but except where noted I have adhered to the interview as I understand it. It certainly isn’t perfect but hopefully it gets the gist across. Read the rest of this entry »

Freeware Plugins Worth Using

March 2, 2009

This list is based on an idea I had for an “Unofficial ReValver MkIII Expansion Pack” article. But it’ll be at least a week before I can update, mid-terms… So I’ll post this up here to give you guys something to have fun with in the meantime. Though it’s billed as a ReValver MkIII collection, of course it’s also just a great set of freeware plugins that’ll do a lot for your tone. There are more plugins that I’ll put in the final article, and some sound clips, etc., but this is a good start and hopefully it’ll be helpful. I’ve tried for the most part not to cross-post from the Freebie High Gain Comparison 1 article I did awhile back, with the exception of BTE Audio’s stuff because I consider it “must-have” ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, without further ado… Read the rest of this entry »