The Fruits of Not My Labor: AXP/SoftAmp’s 25R amp sim!

March 20, 2014

I guess I could go into a lengthy explanation as to why I haven’t been able to update this blog in FOREVER, but how about instead I just update the blog? Cool? Cool.

I helped beta test this for the developer and got a link with blessing to share it now that it is done. Windows only, 32-bit or 64-bit included. Let me just get this out of the way. The twist is that you might not expect anyone to model this particular amp. It’s not a JCM 800. It’s not a Soldano. It’s not a Mesa. It’s not a Fender Twin. It’s not an Orange. It’s not… okay, there are a lot of brands, I’mma cut to the chase here.

What’s it a model of?” well it’s a model of the Fender Frontman 25R. Yes, a solid state practice amp. “Seriously? A solid state combo amp? Why in the he-BECAUSE IT’S COOL, try it yourself and see! Click the pic for a link to the page. Fancy! 🙂

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Anyone familiar with AXP’s other plugin stuff probably knows that while this is ostensibly “just” a model of the Fender Frontman 25R, complete with reverb and (two!) speaker sim(s), there’s of course way more to it in practice. The developer always does cool stuff to go beyond the strict boundaries of the model and take advantage of the ease with which you can adjust stuff on the fly in the digital world that would take a lot of time, tools, and effort in the physical world. For more good evidence of that, see the Guv’nor pedal plugin that offers a great emulation of the Marshall Guv’nor pedal (and its 20-years-later followup!) but also has a ton of tweaks to apply to it for more sounds. That rocks. This rocks. The other plugins also rock. Hey, there’s even a tube gain stage plugin, a cool sounding triode for free, people love that don’t they? Grab the tube. As it is digital and a model, it will not burn you as a physical tube would. 100% safety guaranteed (note: I am not responsible if somehow it does in fact burn you, although to the best of my knowledge that’s straight f**king impossible, I can’t account for the possibility that AXP is a graduate of Hogwarts and has created a literally magical model here so better safe than sorry)

BACK TO THE MATTER AT HAND…

In this case, he did a faithful emulation of the Fender Frontman 25R practice amp, and it actually sounds surprisingly good – I know, I scratched my head when I first hear that it was going to be modeling a solid state practice amp too, but it sounds way better than you probably think… 10″ speaker and all, haha. Though that is just one of two options, and in my opinion it sounds better with the 2×12 speaker sim. Still, you’ve got the option, so however you want to run it, your call, obviously. The 10″ speaker sim is more authentic, but you’re about to see why authenticity might not matter so much in this particular case. Oh, this is the good part. We’re getting to the really good part. Drumroll, please.

It gets way more interesting when you catch the part where he added an “AXP Mod” switch that goes nuts and replaces the solid state gain stages with tube emulation gain stages instead, and re-voices the EQ. Boom, from solid state to basically a boutique amp that he invented in the digital realm. Take that, Dumble! Hah!

It’s free as in free beer so nab it, and get the other plugs while you’re there, they rock.I am not sure if I’d have known about AXP/SoftAmp if it hadn’t been for his call for beta testers for this plugin, I guess there’s not a lot of self-promotion going on here, but play this for a few minutes even and you can really tell he spent a lot of time getting this stuff right, the model and its super duper mod both sound cool as heck so somebody’s gotta give props. That person, today, is me.

Enjoy, folks!

P.S. It is GOOD to be BACK! I’ve got a ton of content ready for you, and admittedly some work to do pruning the out-of-date freebie list as well as some other “housekeeping” stuff. But let’s keep it fun, yeah? Rock on!


Devi Ever Bit Demo, and a post extolling the benefits of Loudmax free cross-platform master limiter!

November 16, 2010

First, this pedal (product page on Devi’s site here) is really, really cool. I could go on for a long time about how cool it is, but I’m going to save a comprehensive writeup for getting off my butt and writing up something for FrugalGuitarist about it, since it is a very affordable pedal compared to the boutique industry in general. Quick blurbs: it has a huge amount of range, I can barely believe it’s a two knob pedal. The Control knob has a MASSIVE impact on what’s going on. There’s a sweet spot for your guitar and setup where it gates at just the right moment and fuzzes up just the right stuff to make it sound really nice and synthy. Before that point, the gate clamps down big time and you barely get any signal through, losing both attack and sustain – a challenging sound to use, but probably useful nonetheless. After that point, it sounds more like a conventional, but very high-gain and full range fuzz, good for lead tones. It also has an incredible amount of volume output, because of an internal structure of cool cascaded boosting stages.

It sounds great DIRECT! How many pedals actually sound awesome direct into a DI or mixer? Not many that I’ve tried, even some which aim to do so. But this pulls it off with aplomb. Very neat pedal, my first Devi Ever pedal. I spoke with her on the phone to discuss getting it and I am really glad I did. Here’s a pic of it, lovely looking thing that recalls the classic Legend of Zelda cartridge from the NES days and gives you a bit of a push mentally toward using it to make old chip-synth sounds with your guitar 🙂

Second, LoudMax (home page for the plugin here) is a great cross-platform, free master limiter VST that enabled me to do something that I had trouble getting my go-to commercial tool to do! First, cross-platform freeware is such a delightful rarity that it deserves comment on that merit alone – but cross-platform suck would still be suck, right, so the fact that this is quite nice indeed makes it a stand-out, easy to use tool that I think more people should be aware of.

In particular, for my usage here, I found this to be really good at treating an exceptionally distorted and processed mix without losing detail in the individual tracks. So, here’s a track combining the really exceptional fuzz pedal run direct, and the really interesting and usable cross-platform free limiter. Hope you like it, it’s outside of my usual idiom but that’s just the way the pedal sounds, it wants you to play it like an instrument and so you kind of do.

This mix is SMASHED. On purpose. The stereo field exists because of the smashing, the panning of the drums, and some stereo effects that do a neat thing. Dynamic range is approximately ~0.1db or so.

Two things, EZdrummer twisted kit with Auraplugs freestortion GE Fuzz on it at a 40/60 mix, and my guitar into a Devi Ever Bit: Legend of Fuzz pedal direct into AT3 (amp and cab bypassed) with some carefully tuned effects and a multi-tap delay (two, in this case) to achieve a pretty precise sound. The limiting is really important to the track, because it has to very substantially control the interaction between the guitar track and its stereo effects and the drum track’s panning. Without it, it wouldn’t sound varied, it’d sound pretty samey – with the limiting smashing things right, the stereo field is much more complex, really turned out better than I could have hoped.

I’m posting the clip here because Loudmax kicked butt for me. I was having trouble getting my go-to limiter, T-Racks 3 Deluxe’s Brickwall Limiter, to do the trick. It was wanting to pump in a way that obscured the drums more than I wanted even in the advanced and saturation modes. I knew that none of my other limiters would really do what I wanted (TBT Pocket Limiter and Tube Limiter are two I use a lot on individual tracks to catch peaks, but I don’t like their behavior on a busy mix). So, I figured I’d try the new-to-me tool out to see how it would perform. I threw Loudmax on it and within about 30 seconds had it sounding exactly like I wanted it to just by adjusting the two sliders for a thorough crushing. Really had a kind of “magic button” effect, it just did exactly what I wanted right away. Very cool.

That said… It won’t replace the T-Racks 3 Brickwall Limiter for most of my stuff because I usually want to preserve dynamics and just prevent any stray peaks, which the T-Racks 3 Limiter does exceptionally well. Even for less dynamic material that I want loud but not too crushed, I like how the Clean and Saturation modes do different but equally impressive things. The TR3 Deluxe Brickwall Limiter just kind of “handles” the limiting all on its own. So this isn’t me saying “ditch commercial software, you’ll only ever need this freeware tool!”

But there’s something really, really cool going on with LoudMax and I definitely intend for it to be part of my tool kit in the future, especially when I am working with heavily distorted and crushed material and trying to achieve a specific sound. I like its behavior at the edge of what’s advisable and beyond. I look forward to playing around with it more to see how it behaves when things are less slammed. I figure if it can handle abuse, it probably does well with “use.”


Four fantastic freeware tools: SonEQ, NastyDLA, LeCto and TSE 808

November 5, 2010

First, Sonimus SonEQ 1.1
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SonEQ v1.1 is a superb, Windows AND Mac compatible preamp and equalization plugin that draws on some “vintage” flavor but with very effective controls and a crisp, modern look. Check it out at Sonimus.com’s Download page! (That page is bilingual, but much of the site is in the developer’s native Spanish, great opportunity to put that 2-year language requirement to use!), There aren’t many cross-platform freebies around, but this continues the tendency for cross-platform freeware to be rather exceptional. Definitely a commercial-quality plugin, I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually the developer does release some commercial software. Try it and believe. You might notice that 1.1 looks pretty different from version 1.0; there were a number of improvements made (in a really short period of time, too, kudos to the developer) and a new GUI was added to highlight some of them. The “Drive” component is great, you should definitely give it a whirl and see what it can add to your track. “Woow” is a sort of psychoacoustic enhancement, gives a little bit extra perceived punch and clarity to the track. In my opinion the Drive section’s “WooW” function offers the same level of enhancement that, say, the BBE Sonic Maximizer is intended to offer, with the bonus that it’s free AND it’s just one small part of one single component in a really nice, robust, cross-platform EQ. Very cool.

Second, VarietyOfSound NastyDLA

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NastyDLA is Windows only as usual for the developer, but it really, really shines. Sorry, Mac guys. Bootsie, with no regard for “saving it” for any upcoming developer challenges – he won last year’s KVR Dev Challenge with FerricTDS – has released what I am finding to be easily the best freeware tape delay simulators, competitive with commercial tape delay simulators for sound quality: NastyDLA! Read the manual before use. I can’t believe it – you’ll probably think I’m dumber for hearing it – but this is actually the first time I’ve consulted one of Bootsie’s manuals, because I had a bit of confusion over how the knobs functioned. I found out that I’ve really been missing out. Bootsie’s straightforward explanations manage to take very abstract signal processing concepts and make them easily accessible to any user, without going on forever or meandering. A manual that could teach some of the big software companies a thing or two. But, hey, now I’m going on – the basic idea behind NastyDLA is to use what he created in FerricTDS (Tape Dynamics Simulator) to make a realistic, great sounding, versatile tape delay plugin. I am personally a huge fan of the way that tape delays sound, and I can comfortably say that he’s managed to capture something here that would fit right in with great tape delay plugins from commercial makers. Not to mention I’m sure he’s got more in store for the plugin, he’s not the kind of developer to rest on his laurels and there have already been a number of additional feature requests (including one from me, crossing my fingers he puts mine in). Another really high quality plugin from one of freeware’s true golden devs.

Third, LePou Plugins LeCto
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From the excellent freeware developer LePou, the LeCto high-gain amp sim is inspired by an American high-gain amp with a similar name. LePou’s credentials in amp modeling are very well established already, so you should know that you can expect extraordinary quality rivaling commercial plugins. It’ll need a cabinet IR after it for best results; LePou previously came up with an excellent freeware cabinet IR loader, LeCab, so nab it if you don’t have a preferred cabinet sim. Right now, all of his plugins are Windows only, BUT! He got a Mac last month, and he has expressed interest in porting many of his plugins to Mac VST or AU. I know there’s a real lack of cross-platform freeware due to the powerful development tools that Windows users have in SynthMaker and SynthEdit (granted, a lot of garbage comes out thanks to them, too – that’s just the nature of widely available toolsets – but the real stars of SM and SE, people like Bootsie and Ken at AcmeBarGig, write everything important in assembly and use SynthMaker for simplifying GUI elements and other such tasks). It would be fantastic if LePou were able to port his body of work over to the Mac side of things. One thing the developer notes, as is common with the amp that is being modeled in LeCto, you can get a really focused, aggressive tone by throwing a Tubescreamer up front to boost and tighten the signal. Enter…

Fourth, Onqel’s TSE 808
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TSE 808 is a plugin that isn’t super new, having been released in late September,  but which I haven’t commented on yet. Apologies, readers, especially because I believe to be decisively the best Tubescreamer emulation made so far. Download it here: Onqel’s TSE 808. It took awhile, but BTE Audio’s TubeScreamerSecret no longer holds the throne for most authentic TubeScreamer. This thing ROCKS. If you need a boost to go in front of an amp model, you need this plugin. Who knows what the future holds, but for now, this is the business! Again, Windows only, sorry Mac guys. At least you’ve got Core audio while we’re fooling around with troublesome ASIO, that’s some consolation, right?


Wampler and… LePou??!

September 17, 2010

Oh, wow, one of my very favorite freeware software programmers, a gent who goes by the handle LePou and who has, for free, made some of the best sounding amp modeler plugins out there (in addition to a really cool dual IR loader with features specifically aimed at cabinet simulation) apparently has been working with Brian and the product is a digital emulation of the Cranked AC. It’s free, I tried it, it sounds awesome. I don’t have a Cranked AC to A/B it with, but it definitely has the same kind of “amp in a box” character that the Black ’65 and the Plexidrive (the two most comparable in the range of their gain that I actually own) do.

Here’s a pic of the plugin’s GUI, note that it has options for how much oversampling it does (from 2x to 8x), as well as mono or stereo operation. This shot was from the previously, and erroneously uploaded Alpha version, the final version is now up 🙂


In the midst of NAMM 2009 (Today is IKMM day, big news coming I’m sure!), Overloud releases… SLEGO! For free!

January 14, 2010

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What is it? Well, Slego is apparently a stand-alone app from Overloud featuring 32 presets from TH1, except they don’t cost you any money at all to use. Enjoy, folks, TH1 has some great tones in it and I’m sure they picked some cream of the crop presets to show off what it can do. For free! If you want to use them for recording, you’ll have to use something like Rewire to route the audio to your DAW of choice, but hooking up and jamming should be a simple affair.

Download your very own Slego here

I’ll update later today with any cool stuff coming out of NAMM and my thoughts on it. IK has a big one in store, pay attention to the press – something very cool already leaked, but today’s the big day.


Native Instruments wishes everyone a happy holiday with free stuff.

December 17, 2009

And isn’t that the spirit of the holidays? Wait… Well, anyway, free stuff is cool!

Image and video hosting by TinyPicWe all know free is a pretty good price, and here’s what the press release has to say, including where to get the presents:

Native Instruments Releases Free HOLIDAY
SELECTION 2009 Instrument

Native Instruments today released HOLIDAY SELECTION 2009, a freely downloadable instrument that
combines selected sounds from the versatile range of KORE- and KONTAKT-Powered instruments. Covering a wide sonic spectrum from sampled acoustic instruments to futuristic soundscapes and radical polyeffects,
HOLIDAY SELECTION 2009 provides diverse and musically useful sound material for all kinds of genres, for use with KORE 2 and with the free KORE PLAYER.

HOLIDAY SELECTION 2009 includes 45 KoreSounds with eight morphable Sound Variations each, resulting in 360 individual sounds. Concise parameter assignments allow for immediate, intuitive sound tweaking in KORE 2 and KORE PLAYER. Full musical metadata for all presets also lets HOLIDAY SELECTION 2009 integrate seamlessly with
any individual collection of KORE-Powered instruments. HOLIDAY SELECTION 2009 is available as a free download on the NI website at www.native-instruments.com/holidayselection2009.info.


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.