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I am investigating the usage of the impulse response technique (IR) for the purpose of recording electric guitar in studio, since I do not like the tone of my existing cabinet that much. It is good enough for practise but not so much for recording.

First, I tried to load IR files using an IR loader VST in Reaper. This works in principle, however, I have not found IR files for the particular speaker cabinets in which I am interested. They are made by Engl.

Hence, I am now drawn towards a hardware solution, provided by said manufacturer. They offer an IR loader pedal, the Engl Cabloader. There are 2 ways of using it:

  • the Caploader is integrated in the amp's effect loop along with optional other pedals (with a cabinet or loadbox connected to the amp),
  • without an amp, the guitar signal would be running through optional pedals, then into the Cabloader

In both cases the signal runs from the Caploader via XLR to the audio interface.

Is it a good idea to use either of these two pedal setups for recording, meaning will it sound similar to miking-up the real cabinets yourself? What are the drawbacks of recording with impulse response?

Alternative suggestions are welcome too.

Limitations: Studio space is very limited. One alternative is replacing my cabinet with another, but I can't have more than one here at the moment. Also, there is no space at all for a 4 speaker cabinet. The small space is the primary reason why I would like to use IR instead of real cabinets.

  • Often micing up a speaker involves a mic very close to one cone. Maybe it woudn't matter whether there's 4 speakers or one? – Tim Jul 13 at 14:45
  • I've heard from some engineers that they put the mic close to the speaker and they're using 4 speaker cabs, trying each speaker one by one and choosing one that sounds best for the purpose. So it seems, there are some variations. – Matt Jul 13 at 15:00
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If you're tempted to go 'virtual' I wouldn't throw any money at it until you've at least tried Guitar Rig. There's a demo & also a free Player version

I've done entire commercial albums with it.

It's not the only one available - there are lots.
I found this list of 15 Best Amp Simulators Of 2020 (Most Realistic Amp Sims)
I've used a few in that list. I own Amplitube & Line 6 Pod Farm . I prefer Guitar Rig, but that's simply a personal preference.

Give some of those demos a try, see if you find your perfect match.

None of them require you to go through any amp or mic setup at all, just straight into your USB interface. That can put some people off, sure. When I use virtual amps I work close enough to my studio monitors that I can push them into real feedback if I crank it up, which really helps if you're playing rock.

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    Thank you, I can try some of those amp sims soon. This could be indeed an alternative for me. – Matt Jul 13 at 19:21
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Eventually, I had the chance to test the Engl Cabloader against my former setup and against several amp/cab simulators.

The Cabloader has not disappointed me - quite the contrary. It delivered the expected sound(s) and is indeed a major improvement to my former setup. The Cabloader provides not only knobs to select the power amp (incl. "off") and the cabinet, it also has knobs to select the microphone and influence the distance to the cabinet and the distance to the center point of the speaker cone. I chose the SM57 both for the Cabloader and a real SM57 to record my physical cabinet. Other parameters were set equally and I disabled the power amp simulation (both the real setup and Cabloader get the same amp signal). This way I got a fair comparison. I totally love what I heard from the Cabloader. I tried every cabinet variant, that was offered, and found them all great. Long story short: my goal to improve my current setup has been easily reached.

So for my new setup I use the Cabloader after all my effect pedals. The Cabloader has a Thru output that can be used to route the input signal back into the effect loop. I still have to use my real cabinet to load the amp (I don't have a loadbox), but I find it useful anyway, as it's good for monitoring. I feed the Cabloader's signal via XLR into my audio interface. Everything works as expected, no problems.

Before that, I tried the virtual amp/cab simulators, as suggested by @Tetsujin. I like Guitar Rig and it will be probably useful for a number of projects in the future, if I need a different sound. I used it as VST plugin in Reaper. Guitar Rig is easy to understand and use. I have also tried other simulators but won't name them because at least one of them (but I don't know which one) has sold my data to spammers. I was careful and only used one of my old e-mail addresses that I don't care much about. Anyway, the day after I downloaded a bunch of those demo or free amp simulators I got a ton of spam mails and this continues to this day. There are definitely some black sheep amongst VST providers.

However Guitar Rig was fine, just not delivered the sound which I wanted for now. I didn't try out every variation as this would have cost me way too much time. I am sure you can get closer to what I desire, but I had to draw a line somewhere. I spend 3 hours trying out those simulators. The Cabloader can be set up within a couple of minutes. Since time is of great value to me, the Cabloader is definitely worth its money.

This may all be a bit subjective, but maybe somebody else can profit from my experience somehow.

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