Making the jump to amp sims can be a fun but frustrating experience. If you have been working with hardware for a very long time, amp sims and related software components might make you feel a tad out of the loop and many have given up or dismissed because of the learning curve. We want to help guide you through the process gradually.
There are a some things that you need to get started and we narrowed down a few. Please also head over to www.ehomerecording.com to check out their guides on what you need to get going.
#1. An interface
First thing you need is an interface. All most people require is a simple two input interface and even then, you may find yourself rarely using the second channel if you are using it for guitar and bass predominantly. Many companies make affordable, good quality ways to get tracking but as a recommendation, Presonus has always been great to me and their gear is affordable.
(NOTE: It’s best that you get an interface rated for 1mohm because otherwise you won’t have a proper input level. Your gear can’t do what it does without a proper signal. These may cost a bit more but the 1mohm rating really is essential.)
#2. DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
If you are going to play with amp sims, while some products have standalone versions that just work from the desktop, most of them require that you have a DAW or digital audio workstation. This is a program designed to capture the audio. Our favourite suggestion is Reaper by Cockos because it’s very high quality and beyond cheap. There’s a ton of DAW programs out there and many resources to help you pick the right one for you. Picking the right one for your needs is essential because once you get used to a DAW it can be hard to switch.
#3. Studio monitors
To hear anything, you need speakers right? Studio monitors are speakers that are specifically designed for recording. Many people start with an entry level set and outgrow them quickly so our suggestion here is to get a solid middle end set. You can’t mix good sounding music on bad speakers and even just learning to mix requires that you hear the full spectrum of what you are mixing. Additionally, ensure that the monitors are set up with precise and proper placement or they won’t sound right. Check HERE for more info on set-ups.
Do research on the best monitors for your needs and budget but we strongly advise investing in a decent set from the beginning. The best plugins won’t sound like the best plugins on bad monitors. Don’t be that guy on YouTube with a $5000+ guitar and $300 monitors. Priorities = sound quality.
Don’t go crazy and get a million plugins first day out, you will only end up confusing yourself. Get a small selection and take your time learning how things work and fit together. Get a few amp sims, pedals, impulses and whatever you feel looks like fun. Start playing around while keeping your signal chain in mind. Learn the basics of your DAW like how to add FX to a track and then you can start building your signal chain. Your signal chain is very important if all of your plugins are to do their job.
To get started, let’s keep it simple with two easy, great sounding and FREE plugins. Both these are easy to set up, easy to use and they both sound great too. Tonelib GFX is a free full-amp suite with everything onboard and the STL/Ignite Emissary bundle is two plugins that work together. Research how to use an impulse loader on YouTube, many people explain very well.
LINK #1 – Audiority L12X
LINK #2 – Emissary Bundle
LINK #3 – (Bass Players) – Ignite SHB-1
Take the time to learn the basics of EQ, compression, saturation and other basic recording / mixing techniques, it will make your life a lot easier. Take the time to really learn what every knob and switch on every plugin does and how it affects the sound. The more time you spend learning, the faster you will improve. Never rush anything! We recommend URM Academy, Audio-Issues and Hardcore Music Studio for great free and paid resources on how to improve every part of your home recording game!
This is about as simple as we can make the introduction to amp sims and more but we also have several Quick Guides on our page specifically designed to help users get comfortable quick. Please also see our guide to impulse responses before getting started.