With the release of our Vintage Amp Room, Bass Amp Room and Metal Amp Room for the Universal Audio UAD-2/Apollo platform, we thought it was a good opportunity to hook up with a couple of our most prominent Amp Room users and hear what their everyday work with the plug-ins looks like. The three interviewees are guitar ace Doug Aldrich, former member of Dio, now a member of Whitesnake, and also the producer of Whitesnake's last album Forevermore. Then we have Bill Reynolds, bass player for folk rockers Band Of Horses, as well as producer of other artists in the same vein of music. And last but not least, Brett Chassen, LA based producer, mostly of hard rock and metal.
I haven't done a mix the last four or five years without the Bass Amp Room. It's in every single mix I do.
We at Softube talked to the three on different occasions, but I'll start off with a few words from motormouth Brett who just couldn't keep it in when we reached him on Skype to talk about the Bass Amp Room:
"Whether or not you have a really good physical bass amp at your disposal, the Bass Amp Room is an amazing tool to have. I really can't see anybody not getting a lot of use for it. It's the first bass amp simulator that really nailed it. Most simulators sound like there's the program material and then the effect sits on top of that. It's almost like a karaoke type of thing where the effect never connects with the sound source. But with the Bass Amp Room it really sounds like the program material is recorded through an actual bass amp."
When I mix something I didn't track I just put the Softube Bass Amp Room on and I'm very happy with that.
So, when do the three gentlemen most often find themselves using the Amp Rooms?
Doug Aldrich: The great thing about amp simulators is that they are right there, ready to go anytime or anywhere. I have a Pro Tools rig in my laptop for recording on the road. It has Softube's Vintage Amp Room installed and it sounds amazing. So cool to be in a hotel somewhere or in the living room in the middle of the night and record a big Marshall stack sound through the plug-in without disturbing anybody.
Brett Chassen: I haven't done a mix the last four or five years without the Bass Amp Room. It's in every single mix I do.
Bill Reynolds: I often use amp sims when I mix live recorded material. I'll take the DI from the live console and use an amp sim to cut down on the bleed from the mic in front of the amp on the stage.
For composing, I use the plug-ins pretty much all the time. Its just the fastest way to get busy.
How do you most often use the amp sim?
Brett: It differs. Sometimes there will be three channels of bass, the DI, a physical amp and the Bass Amp Room. I might go for something a little more distorted with the plug-in and something cleaner with the physical amp, and then sculpt the bass tone that way. When I mix something I didn't track I just put the Softube Bass Amp Room on and I'm very happy with that. It does save me from having to go through re-amping with a physical amplifier.
Doug: For composing, I use the plug-ins pretty much all the time. Its just the fastest way to get busy. On the last Whitesnake record Forevermore I often re-amped the direct sound through a physical amp, but sometimes I would just keep the original sound from Vintage Amp Room. I also recorded traditional old tube amps and then used Vintage Amp Room as a separate overdub part. One of the biggest advantages in recording is that when you record with an amp sim, you can change the sound or switch the plugin to say Metal Amp Room at any time while mixing. If I had recorded a traditional sound and wanted to change it, I would most likely replay the part. I don't mind doing that, but it's nice to have the option to change the sound by using amp simulators.
On a song like Forevermore, we used a combination of real amps for the main rhythm and amp sims for the clean guitars. The amp sims cut through perfectly.
So do you see any pitfalls using amp sims? What are the dos and don'ts?
Bill: I haven't really found any pitfalls yet. Two big advantages are being able to get the bass to sit right with the kick by moving the mic around in the plug-in. I also use the amp sims for re-amping keyboard patches.
Brett: I don't think there are any pitfalls. Pretty much anything goes as long as you're using a sound that goes along with the type of music you're doing. You'd obviously want to get the gain structure right so you drive the amp simulator nicely, but other than that I think you should just spend some time with it and really get to know what the plug-in can do for you. You can really unleash a lot of sonic possibilites and creativity. And the Bass Amp Room is very flexible with its different cabs, its mic positioning and of course the settings of the amp itself. It's still very intuitive and laid out in a simple way—it's not a complicated plug but there's a lot to it!
So can you give any specific examples of released material where you've used Softube's Amp Rooms?
Doug: On Forevermore I started using amp simulators more for convenience and it worked out great. We recorded up at David's house and Reb Beach (Whitesnake's other guitarist) and I used the Amp Rooms a lot. Some times we would keep the original amp sim part because it just worked well in the mix. Reb couldn't believe it. On a song like Forevermore, we used a combination of real amps for the main rhythm and amp sims for the clean guitars. The amp sims cut through perfectly.
Bill: I've used them on the upcoming album with Floating Action, the album is due to come out in the spring.
Brett: As mentioned I use the Bass Amp Room on all my mixes, but I can tell you about the time I used it for recording Lemmy's bass. So it wasn't a mix, it was a tracking situation. Basically with Lemmy, you have one minute to get a good bass tone or he'll walk out the studio. For this recording, he didn't have his stuff sent over so I had to find him a bass tone with the equipment I had. I set him up with a physical amp, he played it and he wasn't happy. He said "Do you hear all that gunk?" I said: "No". He said: "Neither do I. Turn it up". But he still wasn't happy. So quickly, and without telling him what I was doing, I hooked his bass up to a DI, sent it through the Bass Amp Room and distorted the hell out of it. He ab-so-lutely loved it! He went: "That's it"! If he had known it was a piece of software, he would have had a fit. But he was very happy with the tone and it was something I could achieve very, very quickly.