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’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?

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.

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!

TH1 1.1 Clips

May 16, 2009

The DI and controller for all of these is the IK Multimedia StealthPedal. Part of reviewing the StealthPedal involved me actually testing it with a bunch of non-Amplitube software, so I figured I’d tie this in to demonstrate that it sounds good and controls anything you want it to, and quite effectively at that.

1. Bassman model, clean, with 9-0 Phaser and Plate reverb (controlling the phaser’s mix with StealthPedal)

2. RAT pedal (a real standout) into a Marshall/Fender hybrid amp (SLR slider) with some D-Delay and Plate Reverb

3. High-gain Overloud Custom/SLO hybrid (SLR slider)

4. Mu-Comp compressor into AC30 model with the Varifire turned up to give it more sizzle, Hall reverb

5. Rock Wah (activated and controlled with StealthPedal) into Diode250 overdrive into JCM900 model, cranked, with some Dimension Chorus, Tape Delay, and Hall reverb

Hope y’all dig it. I recommend reading my TH1 1.1 review, linked two posts back, if any of the terminology above is unfamiliar (e.g. “what the heck is a varifire?”)

FrugalGuitarist exclusive – IK Multimedia Stealthpedal!

May 16, 2009

IK Multimedia, the company responsible for the Amplitube family of amp modeling and effects products and many virtual studio tools, is not new to audio interfaces for instruments. They have released the impressive StompIO unit in the past, a fully-featured DI and control combination which integrates seamlessly with their X-Gear combined powered-by-Amplitube operating environment, as well as StealthPlug, an affordable entryway for guitarists seeking a simple, effective guitar to USB converter. Coming at a price point between those two offerings, StealthPedal, their newest interface, is sure to turn some heads for its remarkable features that are currently unmatched in the industry…

Read the full review at FrugalGuitarist!

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 build  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 😉

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!