An impulse loader is an essential part of bass and guitar software setups. It’s required if you’d like to use your own impulse responses. A loader enables amp sim users to really go all out in search of the best tones. With so many incredible impulse response developers out there today, any tone is possible.
Not sure what impulse responses (IRs) are? No problem, head over to our intro to impulses. An impulse loader is a plugin required to load impulse responses. Think of it like the player for your IR files basically. They are easy to use but make sure you research the basics. Know your mics / mic positions and how they apply to the styles you play most. Learn how to blend those positions and mics in hardware form as much of that knowledge translates to the impulse response world.
Most plugins have built in cabinet sections but not always a loader to load in your own files. Typically in my travels, using an impulse loader separate from the amp sim usually provides a higher level of quality and more functionality as well as an infinite amount of tones. Many developers are working hard to make their cabinet sections more effective but having a nice loader and impulse selection is still very handy for a ton of reasons.
Using your own loader involves bypassing the loader / cabinet section of the amp sim or amp sim suite that you are using. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve helped someone troubleshoot the old “why does my amp sim sounds weird” question where the problem was using a loader without bypassing the internal cab.
When doing so, please remember to keep your signal chain in mind because if there is a post-FX section, bypassing the amp sim’s internal cabinet section to use your own will now have the post-FX out of the standard order. Sound complicated? I agree but it really isn’t so let us help you unlock the full power of your amp sims and if you run into trouble, we are here to help.
Here’s a nice list of both paid and FREE impulse response loaders and mixers currently available on the market. I would personally advise finding just one loader to use all the time rather than using several. Try out a bunch and find one that has the workflow and features you like best. My personal favorites are STL Ignite Libra, STL Ignite NadIR 2.0 and Redwirez MixIR3.
Please see our impulse response intro and our impulse review section in the menu to find yourself the best cabs / impulses on the market for your needs, style, budget, genre and more. Trust us, we have tried it all!
Originally designed by TSE Audio, the Impulsive loader is very similar to the FIRE loader that exists only inside the legendary TSE X50 2.0 plugin. This was my loader of choice for quite some time and it has all the features one could need in a loader. The GUI looks great and operates with ease.
3 Sigma Audio sell impulsive with a small but strong selection of impulse responses that are quite effective at nailing down solid tones inside a short amount of time. 3SA includes 212 and 412 packs for guitar and an 810 for bass with the purchase of Impulsive. I have never struggled for even a second with Impulsive, it’s always able to bring the best of whatever impulses I throw into it.
There are a number of options and features provided to ensure users can load and process or shape any two files they like in a number of ways. Really the only downside to Impulsive is that it can only load two files. While that may not be a problem for most, with other products setting that bar higher, this one does take a bit of a shot to the ribs.
It might not be free but it’s more than worth the very low asking price. While at the 3SA website be sure to check out their incredible selection.
Pulse is a FREEWARE loader that was designed by Ignite Amps and as a result, it’s quite similar to the first version of Ignite’s popular Nadir loader. I hadn’t used Pulse in a good while so I gave myself bit of a refresher on it.
It’s a great loader for free without question but being that it’s basically a rebranded Nadir 1.0, I feel users are better off downloading the free and newer Nadir 2.0 instead. That said, I know many players that have Pulse as their main impulse loader despite the newer version and more in depth products coming out. Some people just stick with what they know and for the moment, the market has passed Pulse by but it remains in the game.
Pulse is absolutely worth downloading if even to see if it can provide the right GUI and workflow for someone searching for a comfy and easy loader. With loaders, it’s not always about the features, it can be about workflow and ease of use. It’s bare bones but it works great!
Redwirez is a name that has been in the game for a very long time but some newer users may not know the power behind the legendary BIGBOX because the company was somewhat inactive for a while. Well, Redwirez is back with a new remastered bigbox and a drastically updated MixIR plugin. This company has made some of the best and most detailed IR packs all-time so the return has me very excited.
The new and improved MixIR3 can load any regular impulse response file from any developer including the newly remastered Redwirez packs. The main new feature involves the brand new Redwirez modules that have that 3D and hands-on feel that many crave. The modules come along with the IR packs so when you buy the new BIGBOX IRs, you get the modules with them. Users can load up to 64 files and there’s a number of great onboard processing tools to further shape the cabs and help them fit into a mix.
I absolutely love the new MixIR3 and the module format. I normally don’t care for the whole 3D cab thing because I know that they are usually made with files tied together with processing but the way it’s done here is a bit more fixed in place to avoid needing to tie the files together. Users get access to the best in positions while learning in the process. MixIR3 also provides the ability to create your own impulse responses from the files you have blended / mixed.
I highly recommend this impulse response loader to anyone and the new Redwirez remastered library / modules sound really great.
When NadIR 2.0 came out as part of the STL Tones / Ignite Emissary Bundle, it became my new favorite free impulse loader and my go-to when I’m not in need of Libra’s power. I honestly don’t usually need more than a nice blend between a 57 and a 421 so NadIR 2.0 is normally all that’s required. One way to get more out of the two cab slots in dual loaders like NadIR is to use mixed or blended files. Many developers offer their own in-house file mixes that are essentially 2-3 mics in one so if you use two of those files, you would end up with a bigger and more full sound.
It sports a really nice bunch of features that allow users to customize and blend two impulse responses. Standards like hi/lo pass filters and balance with additional resonance, room reverb and more. For those considering Libra, NadIR 2.0 can really give users a good feel for some of the controls you’ll find with the bigger brother. I enjoy having both.
The quality is truly terrific for any product whether paid or free. Ignite Amps have been putting blood, sweat and tears into freeware for a very long time and their achievements never cease to amaze.
Libra is the undisputed heavyweight champion of impulse response loaders in my personal opinion. The plugin gives the user the ability to load, shape and mix 1-8 or your own impulse response files. Libra does come with a small amount of impulses that are used in the presets to be able to show the plugin’s capabilities but I would suggest using your own assortment to get the whole picture.
The Cartesian mixer will show you as many cabs as you have loaded up and in that window you decide where you want the focal point to be between the cabs. I suggest starting with three files/cabs until familiar with the plugin to keep it simple. To be honest, the most I usually work with in Libra is 4-5 cab files. A good start for me would be a 57, 57 Fredman, 421, another 421, an SM7B and a room mic. That’s five files and then I go to work blending. You decide what kind of fun mixes you’ll make! When the sound is just right, simply hit save and poof! you just made your own mixed / blended file that you can use in any impulse loader you want later on.
If you don’t have much of an impulse response collection, you likely won’t get as much use from Libra. In fact, I would consider Libra to be for more experienced users in general. For those that are interested Libra but don’t have a lot of the experience needed, I suggest getting familiar with impulses with STL / Ignite’s FREE loader called NadIR 2.0. Learning how to shape and blend impulses with Nadir is the perfect step to something like Libra.
The Two Notes Torpedo Wall Of Sound plugin is an impulse response loader designed to work on its own or along with the Two-Notes hardware. Users can either load their own third party libraries or the specially made cab packs designed to only work with WoS. The plugin can be used with any amp sim providing you have bypassed the sim’s cabinet section and preferably the post effects as mentioned above.
The cabinet brand list involved with Wall Of Sound is damn impressive, every brand you could want is there either in licensed or unlicensed form. Many top amp and cabinet builders have products for purchase in the Two Notes store and other impulse developers like Ownhammer are also making the specially designed WoS Packs. The selection you get with the plugin alone is pretty bare bones but it’s pretty easy to get good tones with the basic stuff provided. With more products however, you can blend up to 20 cabs if you wish. When I tried blending more than 2-3, it started to sound muddy and fizzy to me so I stuck with 1-2 cabs.
Those that aren’t fond of overly processed IRs / impulse responses will probably not be too into this plugin however those that prefer the processed sound will probably be in their wonderland. The cab packs can vary in price with the licensed packs being even pricier but overall, I found them to be a bit pricey. I was given the whole library for review luckily (Thank you Two-Notes) but I don’t think I would have invested in many packs for the plugin at that price. The packs can also only be used with Wall of sound which makes the price even more steep. It’s however worth noting that Two Notes offer discounts for multiple items.
The plugin has two views; “simulation” which looks professional and “Arcade” which I did not enjoy at all. I found it looked like one of those pay-to-play phone games. The simulation / professional view is really easy to work with and the workflow is terrific once you get to know your way around. The controls in the simulation GUI are laid out clearly and concisely for any user. I will say however that the simulation GUI could be condensed to eliminate a lot of unused space which would make for an even cleaner workflow.
Wall of sound also has a huge list of extra features to help shape and customize your tone. Some of these extra features are very cool, some are less effective, it really depends on the needs of the user. The power amp emulations are ok if you are using an amp sim that is only a preamp ex: Mercuriall SS-11X / Nalex Crunchman etc but for the most part, I couldn’t get the power amp / tube types sounding convincing. I would recommend a power amp like the free TPA-1 from Ignite Amps instead.
Value wise, it’s pretty cool how Two-Notes works it. You get the WoS plugin free for 30 days with a couple packs to use. After 30 days, if you’d like to keep using it, you will have to buy at least one pack which can vary in price. Not a bad deal if you enjoy the trial period.
Note: other/similar options
ML Sound Lab’s MIKKO plugin and MCabinet from Melda Productions are not impulse response loaders but instead virtual cabinet simulators. They are quite incredible really and we would happily recommend them to any user. Mikko is definitely the better and easier to use of the two but MCab does have it’s definite benefits and use. Check them both out.
Additonally, honorable mentions go to discontinued products like LePou’s LeCab, Kazrog’s very popular Recabinet plugins, MixIR2 and a number of other loaders. These are still more than effective if you already own them.