Re-amping Guitar Tracks In Logic Pro X
In the following guest post, Andy Cherna of Diffusion Audio dives deeply into re-amping guitar tracks in Logic Pro X. Being a guitar player himself, Andy did some re-amping of the guitar track from the jam session Eli Krantzberg wrote about in his Musicianeer article.
Re-amping Guitar Tracks- Making Better Guitar Recordings In Logic Pro X
The phrase “why do something today when one can get someone else to do it tomorrow?” jokingly describes the very essence of lazy however in the practice of recording, it is a fantastic way to greatly enhance the sonic and creative possibilities.
In this article, I will explore the world of re-amping guitar tracks using real tube amplifiers and applying digital speaker emulation to shape and enhance re-recorded tracks. While this example uses a guitar track, everything discussed can be also applied to bass, keyboards and/or just about anything else that makes sound.
What is Re-amping?
Re-amping guitar tracks is a process whereby a recording of a raw track (i.e. in this case an electric guitar recorded into Logic Pro X without amplification or processing) is sent out of the DAW into a tube amplifier with perhaps some signal processing and then re-recorded back into the DAW. This process would appear on the surface to be an inefficient exercise essentially complicating a proven and standard practice of recording the electric guitar by placing a microphone in front of an amplifier and pressing record.
Let’s briefly look at some advantages that justify taking such an approach.
- Using Logic Pro’s internal guitar processing in the interim, we can quickly get down to the creative process of capturing the music and worry about fine tuning the tones later.
- The guitar can be recorded without worrying about isolating the amplifier’s output either late at night, in an apartment/hotel/dorm etc. or without worrying about interference to and from other sound sources; those desired (piano, drums) or undesired (lawnmowers, neighbor’s kids, passing cars etc.)
- The tracks can be easily “transported” to another studio or session at a later time, with more tech savvy and/or a better selection or a specific choice of available amplifiers. In addition, some obstacles in previously mentioned advantage may be no longer an issue.
- Tracks can be shaped using the actual amplifier instead of using EQ and compression during mixdown. It is often a great asset to be able to directly turn up or down the amount of distortion, EQ and effects while having the rest of the mix elements in perspective.
- Re-amping allows one to layer, blend and extend the sonic palette well beyond the options normally available in typical home or project studios.
That Must Be Complicated. What Are the Required Tools for Re-amping Guitar Tracks?
In essence, everything needed for re-amping guitar tracks is available within Logic Pro; multing or splitting tracks, blending and applying different amp modeling settings. In our particular case, I decided to experiment with passing the guitar back out through an analog tube signal path and use an IR based speaker emulation system called Torpedo by Two Notes Audio Engineering to complete the process. To do this, beyond my DAW, I only required the following:
- a Littlelabs Redeye 3D (which in our application, matches the tube guitar amp input to “see” the DAW output as if it were a guitar from an impedance and level perspective)
- a tube guitar amplifier running into a Two Notes Torpedo Live loadbox with the integrated speaker emulator bypassed OR a guitar pre-amplifier with an uncompensated line out, recorded back into Logic Pro.
- the Two Notes Torpedo WallOfSound III guitar speaker emulation plug-in applied to each re-amplified track recorded into Logic Pro. A new product from Two Notes Audio Engineering, the Torpedo Reload (with the included WOSIII plug-in licence), combines all 3 of these functions in a single unit and would have been my preferred choice had a unit been available for this session.
In addition, this entire process of re-amping was silent other than my chosen listening levels from my studio monitors and 100% free of any bleed from other tracks or external disturbance. Perhaps the most time consuming aspect was simply allowing each amp’s tubes the proper warm-up time before tweaking and recording the result.
Why Use Speaker Emulation?
A digital speaker emulator offers many exciting advantages; the ability to quickly select a desired speaker cabinet, having a vast palette of virtual microphones, the option to move the microphone position while listening in the sweet spot mixing position and the ability to recall and repeat a desired combination of all of the above with uncanny realism.
The basis of this process is a database of IR’s (impulse responses), conceptually similar to the reverb IR’s used by Logic Pro’s Space Designer plug-in. These files are created by sampling actual guitar speaker cabinets using strategically placed microphones in a controlled recording environment. Compatible guitar speaker IR’s may be user created using utilities for this purpose, downloaded from 3rd parties (both free and commercial libraries) or included within the specific plug-ins or hardware.
All Roads Lead to Rome
There are many other options available to achieve this goal. I could have used real microphone and mic pre-amps for the re-amping process, a nearly infinite choice of hardware guitar processors (digital or analog), guitar amps, pre-amps, pedals, loadboxes and re-amplification devices or hardware speaker emulators.
As I chose to send a signal back to Logic Pro without speaker emulation applied, I then had choices of a vast library of speaker/mic’ing impulse response files that can be loaded into Logic Pro’s Space Designer, third party IR players such as Nebula, Altiverb etc. or guitar cabinet specific plug-ins such as the Torpedo WOSIII that was used, Re-Cabinet, or Softube Vintage Amp Room amongst others. I could have also just used plug in guitar amp emulators from Logic Pro, Scuffham, IK Multimedia, Native Instruments, Peavey etc.
Everyone has their personal favorite method and I would encourage you to experiment and find the ones that give you the tones you’re looking for.
Let’s Take a Listen!
I got the inspiration for this article from my good friend Eli Krantzberg’s article here. You can hear his mix using Logic Pro’s integrated guitar processing plug-ins:
Being a bit of a real amp snob, I wanted to see whether re-amping techniques would make the mix even better. I confirmed with Eli that the tracks printed in Logic Pro were in fact, just Roger’s raw guitar without any of the plug-in amp emulation. With Eli’s blessing, the raw isolated guitar track, and a rough mix of everything but the guitar, this project was under way.
In my opinion, virtual amplifiers work the best with really clean or really distorted guitar but fall short when more subtle distorted textures are required. Further to this, when modeled amps are layered, one often experiences a nasty hump or build up of frequencies that are really tough to smooth out with EQ. Eli and Roger’s jam really offered a great opportunity to break out the best of my personal amp collection, shine some light on these studio techniques and hopefully, now encourage you to try the same with your recordings.
In a few hours I was able to record 16 different re-amplified guitar tracks which we’ve compressed into a short loop giving you a taste of each of these tones in a mix perspective:
Below, some complete mixes where a composite of 3 or 4 of the re-amplified tracks are blended together into the stereo field. I am also providing a link with details about each of the re-amplified tracks.
Adding some warm tube tones via re-amping can really bring out the best in your Logic Pro X sessions. I encourage you to take a listen to these mixes (preferably using your favorite headphones or studio monitors). I hope that this introduction to re-amping guitar tracks will inspire both creative experimentation and professional refinement in your projects. I welcome all your questions, comments and success stories.