I finally completed my new hybrid analog/digital guitar recording rig!
I couldn’t be happier … I’ve got a great sound, amazing easiness of use, and a lot of options at my fingertips without resorting to editors, menus or other stuff. So for now, I can say that I’m happy after selling my beloved Fractal Axe Fx.
I recorded a small clip with my new setup, but before we get to that, let me explain the way through, so you can record your own amp at bedroom levels (or silently) and get a great, great tone.
As a recap, with roughly the same amount of money I got from the sale of the Axe FX, I purchased:
- The Friedman Dirty Shirley Mini Tube Head
- The Rivera RockCrusher Recording Attenuator/Reactive Loadbox/Speaker simulator
- A 1×12 USA VHT cab with a custom Eminence P100E speaker.
Here it is:
It’s a fantastic little cab: at 100W, it is plenty efficient and sports great bass, dynamic and quick medium frequency response without being harsh.
The Recording Setup
Other than the 3 components described above (the analog part of the rig), here comes the digital side:
- The Nux Cerberus integrated effects unit
- The Electro Harmonix Mel9 Mellotron emulator
- The TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper
- OwnHammer Impulse Responses
- LeCab IR loader FREE plugin
- Apple Logic Pro X
Here’s the pedalboard
It’s very simple, yet super versatile. More on the pedalboard on a dedicated story in the future!
The Signal Path
The secret to recording a great tube amp at bedroom or even silent levels lays in the path the signal flows through:
- I plug the guitar into the EHX Mel9, which is True Bypass.
- The Mel9 is connected to the Input of the Nux Cerberus.
- The Nux Cerberus has 2 analog overdrives (DIST and DRIVE, see pic above) which have their own output, so I take their dedicated output (the white cable jack) and go to the Input of the amplifier. In this way, the dry signal stays analog.
- As the Cerberus has a dedicated input and output for the effects, section, I connect the FX output of the Cerberus to my Ditto Looper and then straight to the amp’s SEND input on the back.
- I run an additional cable from the amp’s RETURN output back to the Cerberus.
In this way, using the 4 cable method, I run the drives in front of the amp and the effects in the serial loop of the Dirty Shirley.
- Next, I take the 8 ohm speaker output of the Dirty Shirley and connect it to the “Input from Amplifier” of the Rivera RockCrusher.
- For monitoring purposes I connect another speaker cable from the Rivera Output to Speaker 1 to my VHT Cab. This will allow me to monitor my sound while recording from the real cab instead of studio monitors.
The Rock Crusher can attenuate the output level up to less-than-TV level with great fidelity.
- In the picture of the Rivera rear panel you can see a blue/grey jack connected to “unbalanced line out” of the Rivera: that cable goes straight into the soundcard connected to my iMac.
That’s it! That’s all the connections it takes. But we’re missing one last essential part:
An Impulse Response is a file that captures the acoustic properties of an environment, over time.
This acoustic environment can be a concert hall, an acoustic guitar body, and a guitar speaker cabinet when mic’d up.
The best (in my opinion) Impulse Responses on the market as of writing are OwnHammer libraries, from which you can get thousands of different combinations of vintage and modern guitar speakers, cabinets and microphones.
Try the Studio Mix collection. It’s a great compilation of some of the best sounding guitar cabinets out there, captured with some great classic microphones and mixed by producers for ready-to-go instant great sound.
Once you’ve got your IRs ready (there are a lot of FREE ones if you search the Internet for them) you need a plug in to load them up in your DAW.
I recommend the Free LePou LeCab. It’s lightweight, comprehensive and easy to use.
When you insert this plugin (as an insert!) on your guitar track and load a IR wave file, you instantly hear your guitar sound as if it would come from a real guitar cab. Play with the “Delay” setting in LeCab to get a full 3D sound!
This is the clip I recorded with the set up described above.
I used my Gibson Memphis VOS ES-330 Reissue and my Music Mand St.Vincent for the lead parts.
The strings you can hear are made with the Gibson into the EHX Mel9 on.
The Gain is ALWAYS at 2, for both the verse and the chorus. You can clearly hear how dynamic the Friedman is, because I am able to pass from clean to crunch just by switching pickups and pushing with my right hand.
All the FX (Reverb, Delay and Tremolo) come from the NUX Cerberus.
Enjoy the track, and as always I’m happy to hear your feedback!