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I've tried using Guitar Rig with different inputs for a long time (PC in, M-Audio Jamlab and then interface on the Zoom G5) and am always really happy with the clean sounds, but every distortion I try always come out flat and fuzzy. Absolutely no punch at all.

Even the sample configurations (which should sound nice) they provide sound awful, no matter what I try (different amp simulations, mic placement, effect pedals, EQ).

I understand it's absolutely not a replacement for the real deal but I've heard recordings done with Guitar Rig (or other DSPs) that sounded very nice and I've never been able to reproduce that. If a multi-effects pedal can accomplish good distortion sounds, it should follow that a PC can do better.

So what am I missing? Is there a way to get good distortion from a software like Guitar Rig?

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I used to use a Zoom Multi Effects Pedal, and I always found the overdrives to be very fuzzy as you have found. I've since switched to a dedicated Overdrive pedal (Hardwire CM-2) and I find it does the job alot better. I'm not sure if it's a Zoom thing, as I have heard others describe similuar things from Zoom, but as I haven't tried the interface in question, I can't be much more help I'm afraid. –  Folau Aug 15 '13 at 8:12
@Folau Yeah, there's no way to get anything that analog sound from a multi-effects, but at least I can make it sound good enough. My issue with GuitarRig (or Amplitube) is that I can never make it sound anything close to reasonable. –  Gabe Aug 15 '13 at 13:49
@Gabe - just to add a thought here that with recordings there is a lot of post-production and EQ'ing that takes place that might make it impossible to reproduce the sound manually. It might also be your knowledge of Guitar Rig. Perhaps try learning more about the program - only when you know how to use the entire program inside and out can you rule out a lack of knowledge on your part as the problem. –  jjmusicnotes Aug 19 '13 at 15:57
It is possible to produce sounds digitally that match a good analogue setup. But you can't do it in quite the same way, and that's where NI etc. get it completely wrong by packing their plugins with replicas of seperate analogue pedals / amps. The right way is to study the interplay of filtering (begins at the guitar pickups, dependent on the first FX – very important to consider but completely neglected by many!), distortion and convolution effects. Of all plugins I know, iZotope Trash gives the best control over all of this, but you really need to understand the physics to use it right. –  leftaroundabout Aug 20 '13 at 0:25
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1 Answer

Things which sound good "in the mix" often sound bad outside it. Something to always consider when dialing in guitar sounds. Some things to think about.

  • The guitar is a midrange instrument, always make sure that you dont scoop your EQ settings.
  • Always EQ before distortion/gain. Distortion will naturally compress, and will effect the entire signal. You want to focus the breakup in the areas of the signal that make the biggest difference. You want to high/low pass before your gain stages.
  • Use compression
  • Use a noise gate, before the compressor.
  • Try to avoid running the simulation at "maximum" volume settings, or clipping the simulation. You'll get far better results when you can use the entire dynamic range of the simulation.
  • A touch of reverb after the amplifier simulation always helps.
  • Quite often, using a 3rd party Impulse Response tool and some decent cabinet models can make all the difference.
  • If you cant use 3rd party IR's, pay special attention to the Cabinet/Microphone you're using. especially if you're layering guitar parts. It's possible to get unwanted phase cancellation if using similar, but slightly different cabinet + microphone settings.
  • Layer. Lots of Layers. Its pretty rare that you hear a single guitar part on a record these days. usually there's 3-4 layered parts, with different amplifier settings.
  • You probably actually want to use less gain than you think you do :).
  • Check the internet for various downloadable presets!
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