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Video: How to model a guitar amp using a parametric EQ and a Saturator

You can build good models of almost any guitar amp setup using nothing but a parametric EQ and a saturator plug-in. Here’s a video that shows how to do it:

In the video we are using our own Parametric EQ plugin and our soon-to-be-released saturator plugin. But you can do the same thing with any EQ and any saturator.

Link to blue Mangoo parametric EQ: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/parametric-equalizer/id1403326201

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Comments

  • It was really interesting.
    Thanks @Blue_Mangoo .
    Flo

  • Nice video to teach the concepts and support "tone cruise" experiments.
    I own the right tools now to get started ASAP... The @Blue_Mangoo EQ and
    some saturation apps bCut it's looks like I'll be getting another one soon :smiley:

    I think I'll see if I can make something that's close to the sound of the Joyo American and
    AC Amp Sim pedals. Getting the fuzziness out is really a key and finding some pure Tube-y
    distortion/saturation. I never would have thought of using EQ's before and after. That's the real power of AUv3 is using an Effect more than once in a total chain of effects.

    I'll also throw an IR "Cabinet" effect in which really gives a guitar sound some 3D space.
    Can you guys make us an IR Reverb AUv3 Effect at some point? "Rooms!" is great but I suspect you might bring some special magic to this use case for sonic quality. Just point uses towards "OwnHammer"... the free 200 msec demo files are proof of the concept and any of the $10 500 msec "cabinet/speaker emulation" products will cost the buyer a weekend auditioning speaker and mic and mic placement combinations. They all (frankly) sound good and some sound better... Y-M-M-V.

  • @McD said:
    Nice video to teach the concepts and support "tone cruise" experiments.
    I own the right tools now to get started ASAP... The @Blue_Mangoo EQ and
    some saturation apps bCut it's looks like I'll be getting another one soon :smiley:

    I think I'll see if I can make something that's close to the sound of the Joyo American and
    AC Amp Sim pedals. Getting the fuzziness out is really a key and finding some pure Tube-y
    distortion/saturation. I never would have thought of using EQ's before and after. That's the real power of AUv3 is using an Effect more than once in a total chain of effects.

    I'll also throw an IR "Cabinet" effect in which really gives a guitar sound some 3D space.
    Can you guys make us an IR Reverb AUv3 Effect at some point? "Rooms!" is great but I suspect you might bring some special magic to this use case for sonic quality. Just point uses towards "OwnHammer"... the free 200 msec demo files are proof of the concept and any of the $10 500 msec "cabinet/speaker emulation" products will cost the buyer a weekend auditioning speaker and mic and mic placement combinations. They all (frankly) sound good and some sound better... Y-M-M-V.

    Thanks for the OwnHammer tip. The main reason we haven’t done a convolution app is that I don’t know where to buy licenses to resell a good collection of impulse responses. Knowing where to point users for free ones is helpful.

    I haven’t put this parametric EQ method head to head against good IRs yet but from what I hear so far, I feel like there would be some benefit to steering the guitarist community towards using EQ + Delay + Reverb to model the cabs instead of using IRs. The reason is that switching cab IRs till you get your tone is like shooting in the dark. All the cab IRs do for you is EQ the signal and smear it around In the time domain a bit. If we learned to do those things with EQ and delay then we could get exactly the sound we want.

    I am messing around with different options in our own saturation plugin and the more I play around the more I feel like it doesn’t even matter that much whether the saturator is “tube like” or not. Most of the things you change in a saturator design are ultimately nothing more than a change in which frequencies get distorted the most. I find that every time I change something in the saturator the sound is totally different and I have to go and update my EQ settings. But once I get the set, it’s back to the same sound as before. So the changes in the saturator are mostly just a waste of time; I could have left it alone and just used the EQ to get the sound I want. The only really important thing I can say about saturation is that it should be done in a way that doesn’t alias audibly because once you get aliasing noise in the signal path you can’t filter it back out. Other than that, you can take pretty much any Soft clipping saturator and EQ it to sound like any other.

  • @flo26 said:
    It was really interesting.
    Thanks @Blue_Mangoo .
    Flo

    :wink:

  • Wow. When is the Saturator coming out??

  • @mjcouche said:
    Wow. When is the Saturator coming out??

    Pretty soon I think. The only think holding it back is my debate with myself about how many features it should have. On the one hand I want it to sound good and be useful on its own without other effects. But unless I put some kind of cabinet simulation and spatialisation simulation in it, it could end up sounding too dry. I don’t want to rely on customers to do those effects by themselves using reverb and delay because not everyone knows how to set that up properly.

    The other issue is that it’s heavy on the CPU (25% in AUM on my 2017 iPad). I could probably find a way to cut that down but who knows how long it will take? And it sounds fantastic right now so I’m reluctant to mess with it.

  • Definitely wouldn’t mind the cabinet sim (or IR loader).

    I think it sounds great!

    @Blue_Mangoo said:

    @mjcouche said:
    Wow. When is the Saturator coming out??

    Pretty soon I think. The only think holding it back is my debate with myself about how many features it should have. On the one hand I want it to sound good and be useful on its own without other effects. But unless I put some kind of cabinet simulation and spatialisation simulation in it, it could end up sounding too dry. I don’t want to rely on customers to do those effects by themselves using reverb and delay because not everyone knows how to set that up properly.

    The other issue is that it’s heavy on the CPU (25% in AUM on my 2017 iPad). I could probably find a way to cut that down but who knows how long it will take? And it sounds fantastic right now so I’m reluctant to mess with it.

  • @mjcouche said:
    Definitely wouldn’t mind the cabinet sim (or IR loader).

    I think it sounds great!

    @Blue_Mangoo said:

    @mjcouche said:
    Wow. When is the Saturator coming out??

    Pretty soon I think. The only think holding it back is my debate with myself about how many features it should have. On the one hand I want it to sound good and be useful on its own without other effects. But unless I put some kind of cabinet simulation and spatialisation simulation in it, it could end up sounding too dry. I don’t want to rely on customers to do those effects by themselves using reverb and delay because not everyone knows how to set that up properly.

    The other issue is that it’s heavy on the CPU (25% in AUM on my 2017 iPad). I could probably find a way to cut that down but who knows how long it will take? And it sounds fantastic right now so I’m reluctant to mess with it.

    This app definitely won’t have a built in IR loader. I want to model the whole amp and cab using only EQ, saturation, and delay components like I was doing in the video above.

    My personal iOS guitar rig depends on the EOS reverb plugin by audiodamage as a component of the cabinet simulation. So I need to build my own replacement for that plugin before we are ready to release the saturator. If our reverb unit from the iFretless apps does the trick then it’s a relatively simple matter of plugging that code in and finishing up a few more amp models. If not, then I’ll take more time to figure out a better way to simulate the reverberation in and around the cabinet.

  • edited November 1

    I use Blue Mangoo Parametric EQ on all my tracks in AUM. So easily to use and light on resources. Only wish is more curves options for individual frequencies.

  • @auxmux said:
    I use Blue Mangoo Parametric EQ on all my tracks in AUM. So easily to use and light on resources. Only wish is more curves options for individual frequencies.

    We added more options yesterday. What shapes are missing for you?

  • @Blue_Mangoo Cool, didn't check out yet. Will report back.

  • edited November 1

    @auxmux said:
    @Blue_Mangoo Cool, didn't check out yet. Will report back.

    We added the following:

    1. Bell filters now adjust both the bell gain and the skirt gain separately
    2. Added 6db lowpass and highpass filters (pull the q slider all the way to the bottom to get those shapes)
    3. Shelf filters now have adjustable slope.
    4. Added double tap gesture to reset filters back to default.
  • @Blue_Mangoo said:
    Thanks for the OwnHammer tip. The main reason we haven’t done a convolution app is that I don’t know where to buy licenses to resell a good collection of impulse responses. Knowing where to point users for free ones is helpful.

    Maybe you could contact that site to see if he/they would allow you to ship a demo set of IR's. There are also a couple other IR vendors with some demo files. You might find other benefis in IR effects than just EQs but if NOT then keep sharing your "mathematical" approach to the realities of these studio approaches to audio manipulations.

    there would be some benefit to steering the guitarist community towards using EQ + Delay + Reverb to model the cabs instead of using IRs.

    There are at least 2 great guitarists here that can give you feedback on your proposed approach.

    it doesn’t even matter that much whether the saturator is “tube like” or not.

    I have a preference for the tube distortion of the classic guitar amps like Fender, Vox and
    the boutique Dumble. So, tube like may mean something specific mathematically but the user will use it to describe the results. If you get there we should hear the benefit so please
    share some more details and ship that saturator to allow us to share AUM projects that have the right presets and knobs settings.

  • @Blue_Mangoo said:

    I haven’t put this parametric EQ method head to head against good IRs yet but from what I hear so far, I feel like there would be some benefit to steering the guitarist community towards using EQ + Delay + Reverb to model the cabs instead of using IRs.

    That was a common approach about 15 years ago... with variable results.

    The reason is that switching cab IRs till you get your tone is like shooting in the dark. All the cab IRs do for you is EQ the signal and smear it around In the time domain a bit. If we learned to do those things with EQ and delay then we could get exactly the sound we want.

    'Smearing around' does happen in any digital processing, it's not convolution restricted ;)
    I always recorded my P-Bass with nothing but a good DI, never through a virtual amp...
    until Positive Grid released the 2nd update of JamUp (and added Bias).
    A kind of jaw-dropping experience - and compared to those models mentioned above it did in fact sound like a 'real amp in a room' (a bit of AD480 reverb made the illuson perfect).
    And there was no more smearing of bass attacks, stunning.

    IRs also have a non-audio side effect, in particular within the brand oriented guitar scene.
    People like to believe they represent a highly sought (and possibly expensive) piece of gear.
    See the success of the Kemper Profiling Amp...

  • Short example for reference:

    4 sections: ioDock instrument input, external DI (TAB V357, as pictured) into ioDock, 3 and 4 are the same files feed into JamUp (Bassman model with all dials centered, gain at 8)
    I'd take section 2 for a mix anytime, but the 2 virtual amps are fairly close to a recorded amp.
    (they were intended just to show some amp/cabinet coloring and how a virtual amp reacts to different DI designs. The V357 is a sophisticated unit, replaced an Avalon U5)

  • @Blue_Mangoo said:

    @auxmux said:
    @Blue_Mangoo Cool, didn't check out yet. Will report back.

    We added the following:

    1. Bell filters now adjust both the bell gain and the skirt gain separately
    2. Added 6db lowpass and highpass filters (pull the q slider all the way to the bottom to get those shapes)
    3. Shelf filters now have adjustable slope.
    4. Added double tap gesture to reset filters back to default.

    FWIW, the thing that I find most lacking in the iOS amp and distortion simulators is that none that I have found do a good job of adjusting the amount of distortion when a player adjusts their dynamics. The real tube amps and even my Boss Katana can be very responsive so that I can set up the amp so that light picking has only a hint of distortion and heavier picking has noticeably more. And it requires only slight adjustments of my guitars volume knob (true on my strat and my humbucker-equipped Ibanez Artist) to go from a barely distorted sound to a noticeably more distorted sound).

    I find that many of the amp and distortion sounds allow me to dial in a reasonably good-sounding distortion but the amount of distortion doesn't change much with the input dynamics in the way that real amps do.

  • @espiegel123 I agree. Now I use a hardware (analog) amp modeler pedal, and plug the output of that into the audio/interface for recording.

  • Following on from the note above about real amp response from different guitar volumes, in my opinion the best amp sim by far for this kind of realism is Scuffham S-Gear - regrettably not available on iOS but it’s worth checking out to see how this feels to play at the very least.

    Mike Scuffham is a former amp designer for Marshall.

    S-Gear has a free trial and is only $129 (no affiliation - I’m just a huge fan). https://www.scuffhamamps.com

  • @mistercharlie said:
    @espiegel123 I agree. Now I use a hardware (analog) amp modeler pedal, and plug the output of that into the audio/interface for recording.

    What pedal are you using???

  • Great video! Thanks!

  • @qryss said:
    Following on from the note above about real amp response from different guitar volumes, in my opinion the best amp sim by far for this kind of realism is Scuffham S-Gear - regrettably not available on iOS but it’s worth checking out to see how this feels to play at the very least.

    Mike Scuffham is a former amp designer for Marshall.

    S-Gear has a free trial and is only $129 (no affiliation - I’m just a huge fan). https://www.scuffhamamps.com

    Thanks. I’ll check it out.

  • edited November 2

    @espiegel123 said:

    @Blue_Mangoo said:

    @auxmux said:
    @Blue_Mangoo Cool, didn't check out yet. Will report back.

    We added the following:

    1. Bell filters now adjust both the bell gain and the skirt gain separately
    2. Added 6db lowpass and highpass filters (pull the q slider all the way to the bottom to get those shapes)
    3. Shelf filters now have adjustable slope.
    4. Added double tap gesture to reset filters back to default.

    FWIW, the thing that I find most lacking in the iOS amp and distortion simulators is that none that I have found do a good job of adjusting the amount of distortion when a player adjusts their dynamics. The real tube amps and even my Boss Katana can be very responsive so that I can set up the amp so that light picking has only a hint of distortion and heavier picking has noticeably more. And it requires only slight adjustments of my guitars volume knob (true on my strat and my humbucker-equipped Ibanez Artist) to go from a barely distorted sound to a noticeably more distorted sound).

    I find that many of the amp and distortion sounds allow me to dial in a reasonably good-sounding distortion but the amount of distortion doesn't change much with the input dynamics in the way that real amps do.

    There are well-known formulas by which you can take an amp circuit schematic diagram and model every resistor, capacitor, and op amp. But those textbook formulas only work for the linear components, that is everything except for the tubes and diodes and that generate the distortion. So what you get from all that complex circuit modelling math, at the end of the day is nothing more than a very ordinary digital Equalizer.

    What you don’t get from the textbook circuit modelling methods is the one thing that everyone actually wants: the tube sound.

    If you can figure out how to build something in a computer that actually sounds like a tube then you can slap a pair of parametric EQ plugins in, one before the tube and one after, and you get a beautiful model of any amp you want, and I believe it will have the kind of touch sensitivity you are looking for.

    Many software amp modelling software right now spend most of their development time taking apart amps and modelling the circuits piece by piece. But they can build a perfect SPICE model of every amp ever made and it still won’t sound like the real thing until they figure out how to model the tubes.

  • I think AUV3 amp/cab simulation plus reverb is the biggest gaping hole on iOS right now. Yes there was a massive burst of IAA ones a while back but right now they’re pretty thin on the ground. If I was a developer that’s where I’d be planting.

  • @supadom said:
    I think AUV3 amp/cab simulation plus reverb is the biggest gaping hole on iOS right now. Yes there was a massive burst of IAA ones a while back but right now they’re pretty thin on the ground. If I was a developer that’s where I’d be planting.

    Me too :)

  • @supadom said:
    I think AUV3 amp/cab simulation plus reverb is the biggest gaping hole on iOS right now. Yes there was a massive burst of IAA ones a while back but right now they’re pretty thin on the ground. If I was a developer that’s where I’d be planting.

    Yes. With an option for cab sim on and off

  • @Blue_Mangoo : if you haven't checked out a Boss Katana amp in person, do so. They are inexpensive amps but the quality of the modeling far exceeds any of the iOS or desktop amp simulations--even when accounting for the fact that you are listening to something in a room through a speaker -- in terms of the responsive of the distortion to touch.

    Distortion pedals (including the classics) tend not to be so good at this. One typically dials them in to a level of distortion and the variation in distortion level based on input signal is not as responsive as one gets with a nice amp where when set up correctly mine can get a pretty nice variation of distortion amount with touch and a slight adjustment of a guitar's volume knob.

  • @espiegel123 said:
    @Blue_Mangoo : if you haven't checked out a Boss Katana amp in person, do so. They are inexpensive amps but the quality of the modeling far exceeds any of the iOS or desktop amp simulations--even when accounting for the fact that you are listening to something in a room through a speaker -- in terms of the responsive of the distortion to touch.

    Distortion pedals (including the classics) tend not to be so good at this. One typically dials them in to a level of distortion and the variation in distortion level based on input signal is not as responsive as one gets with a nice amp where when set up correctly mine can get a pretty nice variation of distortion amount with touch and a slight adjustment of a guitar's volume knob.

    Thanks for the recommendation. I might be near some music shops that would carry that in January 2020.

    I heard some YouTubers saying that the katana is less realistic than the Line 6 Helix and the Line 6 is beaten by both the Axe FX 2 and the Kemper. I haven’t tried any of them myself but I’m very interested.

    I see YouTube videos showing that the Kemper is so good that pro guitarists can’t distinguish it from a real tube amp head in a blindfold test. If that’s true then Kemper have totally cracked the puzzle.

    I hear similar things about axe FX 2 but it’s hard to put the axe fx head to head against a tube amp in a fair blindfold test because it doesn’t have a built in power amp.

    Despite that, the Line 6 Helix still has my full attention because the user interface is so nice. If the next iteration from Line 6 catches up to fractal audio in sound quality then I will be very tempted to buy one.

    I spent the last eight years playing guitar without an amp to keep myself motivated to work on building my own iOS amp and fx rig. Perhaps I’ll finish it before line 6 builds the holy grail of multi effects rigs and then I won’t be buying anything at all. :)

  • @Blue_Mangoo : It is quite possible that those others are even better than the Katana. But even the Katana is much better than any of the computer simulations and sounds so good that a number of gigging musicians I know bought them as cheap practice amps to save lugging around heavy tube amps -- but then ended up using them for gigs because the quality was so good.

    I will say that the speaker makes a big difference. The built-in cab simulator used by the line out on the Katana is not good.

  • @espiegel123 said:
    @Blue_Mangoo : It is quite possible that those others are even better than the Katana. But even the Katana is much better than any of the computer simulations and sounds so good that a number of gigging musicians I know bought them as cheap practice amps to save lugging around heavy tube amps -- but then ended up using them for gigs because the quality was so good.

    I will say that the speaker makes a big difference. The built-in cab simulator used by the line out on the Katana is not good.

    I’m watching the Anderton’s YouTube video about the katana right now. It sounds really great in the video.

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