E08 - Reamping
So recording guitar DIs is great, it saves time on setting up, it gives you tonnes of flexibility on editing, and gives you lots of tonal options with sims. However keeping your DIs in your DAW is a bit of a shame, and Reamping helps get them back into the amps that they were always meant to go to!
This also means you don’t have to settle on your guitar tone before the song has taken shape, giving you the flexibility to try multiple amps in context with the song. The creative options when it comes to reaping are substantial!
Step 1 - Required Gear
So in order to reamp you need a few things. The first is a spare output on your interface, some balanced TRS cables, a Reamp box and some instrument cables.
Step 2 - DAW Routing
As mentioned previously, you will need to use a spare output on your interface to send your DI signal out of your DAW. This can be achieved inside of every DAW but may need some research into your interfaces control software. For my Audient id22 I needed to change a couple of settings, but the process was fairly straight forward.
Step 3 - Interface to Reamp Cabling
From this you’ll need to take a balanced TRS cable and connect it to your Reamp box. The majority of pro-audio connections are balanced, meaning they have a signal, inverted signal and ground carried in the one cable. Guitars use unbalanced cables meaning that your guitar amp will sound off if you feed it the balanced signal so the Reamp box converts this to an unbalanced, high impedance instrument level signal.
Step 4 - Reamp to Amp Cabling
From the instrument out of the reamp box you take a unbalanced instrument cable and connect this to your guitar signal chain, such as pedals, amps etc.
Step 5 - Level Matching
Setting the reamp output level to be the same as the guitar’s output can be tricky, but trying to achieve an exact match isn’t exactly the most important thing in the world. If your reamp box doesn’t have an signal match feature, then your best bet is to connect a guitar that is similar to the one used in the DI to your amp, and check that the gain response is roughly the same between the DI and the guitar. Ultimately your guitar tone will come from the performance and how the amp is dialled in. So being a little out of the ballpark with the output level isn’t the end of the world.
Step 6 - Choose Amp
Next up you have to choose the amp that you feel will suit the part best. This can be quite tricky, but if you’ve been fortunate enough to have sampled a few amps then you should know what to expect from each one. This can help you to achieve the guitar tone in your head more easily.
Step 7 - Choose Cab
With the amp chosen, the next step is to find a cab that you like. Due to my home studio being in a flat, I don’t have the luxury of using a cab, but I am able to use a loadbox to get the signal into my DAW. I achieved this by connecting the speaker out of the amp to the input of the loadbox before switching the amp on, then connecting the loadbox out to my interface through a balanced line input.
This meant I could cycle through guitar cab impulses to find the cab that most closely matched the sound in my head. I do this by leaving the controls on the amp at noon with the exception of gain which I try and have loosely where I want it. By keeping the EQ neutral, you are able to get a more accurate representation of which cab will give you the closest result to what you are looking for.
Step 8 - Dial In Gain
I feel the first step in dialing any amp in is to establish the gain levels. Gain seems to me to influence every other parameter inside of an amp. So if you tweak this first then your tone setting through EQ is made more easy. When it comes to gain, it is also a good idea to have ever so slightly less than sounds best as the stacking up of parts can often eat up space in the mix, and reduced gain will help with note definition.
Step 9 - Dial in EQ
Dialing in the EQ can be quite tricky sometimes, but I have found a technique that seems to work every time! Simply start with the dial low, and bring it up until you hear a sudden jump in tone. This is the sound of that control, be it bass, middle, treble, presence etc hitting it’s sweet spot. This to me is where the amp should sit, and be adjusted slightly around this spot. I say this as the amp will be most responsive here, and to my ear sounds best.
Step 10 - Record Amp and Clean
The next step is to actually record the amp itself into your DAW. This is achieved by record arming the input on your interface that carries the Loadbox out, and pressing record. Simple! When this is done, I make an effort to go and clean up any noise from the take so that I only get the amp, and none of the buzz or artefacts that amps come with.
Step 11 - Use Playlists
Finally, I like to go and commit the cab track to audio, giving me a track of DI, Amp, and Cab giving me ultimate flexibility with my tones. Then these are stored in the playlists of the track should I need access to them later.