Tips / FAQ

Bypassing & Signal Chains

One thing I have wanted to write about for a while has to do with a mistake I found myself making early on with amp sims years ago and today it’s a mistake that still likely happens a lot.

I am talking about bypassing parts of plugins and what it can do to your signal chain. This mistake is an easy one to make and a difficult one to troubleshoot if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Signal chains are something anyone using plugins needs to understand fully in order to get the best tones from your plugins. What order your plugins are in makes a massive difference in the sound.

First, you have to look at the signal chain inside your amp sim. What components come before others and how all of them work together. Then you need to have a look at the other plugins you have in your signal chain. If you are using a full-suite type sim with pre and post effects, you really want to be sure of how it all connects.

EXAMPLE #1 – The most common mistake I hear about with this is when people add their own impulse/cabinet to an amp sim without bypassing the internal cabinet section. It’s easy to do accidentally when you are starting with amp sims. I had a guy email me a month ago saying “I bought a bunch of impulses and I downloaded Nadir but everything sounds really bad”. I asked him if it was a hollow sounding noise or almost a reverb and he sai yes.

The solution here is to bypass the internal cabinet section ANY time you add your own loader. If you don’t, essentially what is happening is the sound is going through a cabinet and then another cabinet right after which creates a hollow sound to the tone or perhaps a bit of a reverb.

EXAMPLE #2 – Say you are using a full suite like Amplitube or BiasFX. You have reverb and delay in the post effects section but then you want to bypass the cabinets for your own loader. If you do this while leaving the post effects on, all of the sudden those post effects that were set to be AFTER the internal loader are now in between your amp and cabinet which will cause some less than desirable tones. Why though?

The solution for our first example is an easy one. With any full or multi suite that includes and allows post-effects, if you bypass the internal cabinet / impulses, you really should also bypass any post-effects in the chain and then simply use other plugins for the job and insert them in the proper order after your loader. Even having the effects before the amp sim would be better and if the suite has the right features, some effects can be switched to PRE (before the amp) or POST (after the cabinet)

EXAMPLE #3 – Some amp sims have built in EQ and those can also screw up your signal chain if you bypass anything in the plugin or add your own EQ in the chain, things could sound weird if the internal EQ is still active. Again, this is a post effect that ends up out of place if you bypass the cabinet section / loader. The EQ will now be located in between your amp sim and loader which is not the place it’s supposed to be.

EXAMPLE #4 – Say your suite has pre-effects like boost pedals and so on. If you decide to use your own separate pedal plugins before the amp sim, you need to watch the signal chain. If you have a boost active in the suite, you wouldn’t put a delay pedal before the suite and if you put a boost before the suite, you need to watch the pedals you have active in the suite. There’s a lots of resources out there that note what types of effects go in what order and those hold true with software. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with where various pedals fit, it will eliminate a lot of headaches.

Basically, just be careful with your signal chains and if something sounds weird, start with the first component and move to the last to find out where the issue is. There’s plenty of ways for plugins to work together in a chain but there are also a lot of ways to create havoc and frustration in your tone and recording process. Here’s a basic idea: (there are many others)

Guitar>Gate>Compressor>OD/Boost>Modulation>Delay>Reverb>Amp>Cab

There are plenty more examples but I just wanted to share a few. If you are ever really stuck with such a situation, email us or message us on our facebook page and we will try our best to help!