Amp sims - Achieving Good Tone


Using an amp in my house is not possible so I have taken to using amp sims. Initially I was pretty skeptical but then I heard this album by an amazing post rock band made using ONLY amp sims . Also many of the Amp sims and VST effects that they used were free.

I am interested in how you use Amp Sims to create good guitar tones. I am particularly interested in non-metal tones (there’s load of tutorials for that stuff on youtube)

I am interested in post-rock, shoegaze and warm indie rock tone.

I use emissary VST, LeCab
I always use Ambience VST (with Drum booth setting) after the cab for a bit of natural room sound
I always roll of the highs a bit in LeCab to get rid of some high fizz
For delay parts, I put DLA AFTER the Cab

For shoegaze I put Bionic Delay after the cab.

I find emissary great for clean guitar and for compressed, distorted, epic post-rock peaks. I just layer loads of this and bury it together in a swirling mess for ‘Explosions in the sky’ kinda peaks.

I actually find the hardest tone to get is warm, slightly overdriven guitars. It’s not perfect but I find ‘Greed Smasher’ the only VST that gives a kinda realistic sound…most others just sound too fizzy. I find the tails too fizzy.

What tricks do you use to get decent tone with a sim?


For me, it’s a lot lot lot of experimentation. As you say, it’s pretty easy to dial in a big distorted tone, but getting the nuance and ‘air’ out of an amp sim is a bit trickier. That said, I don’t think it’s any harder than getting a great clean tone out of a real amp, which I always find to be a lot of work.

If you have distortion pedals you like, try running them into the sim. I’ve had good luck with gain staging real and simulated distortions, especially for non-metal stuff. Gain staging is basically key to getting good sim sounds, and spending a lot of time twisting every gain knob in the entire chain to understand how they all work together really opens up possibilities. Things will often react very differently depending on the input saturation, especially with modeled plugins.

I like compression on the way in (outboard or vst) most of the time, and sometimes after the sim. I’ll sometimes EQ both before and after the amp sim, and very occasionally between the amp sim and cab emulation. The EQ does double duty in taming/cleaning up the DI signal and carving out the frequency space for the guitar in the mix. Post-sim EQ can clean up what’s coming out, but I tend to use pre-sim EQ to control the fizz or harsher highs. It’s easier to cut them out before they’re amplified than after, as you’re cutting out some good harmonic content, too.

Reverb is a huge part of selling clean guitar for me, and solidly placing them in a space or room alongside other things in the mix tends to do a lot for my ears. Even if I’m going to drown them in washy verb later, I still tend to use something like Valhalla Room to get it sounding ‘real’ and then go to town.

I like modulation effects, and I usually demo the in-sim ones alongside external ones when building a ‘sound’. Where they get placed obviously can really effect the signal - I actually do a lot of weird shit like running stacked flangers or convolution plugs before my amp sim to get really trippy sound source stuff, but even on more normal stuff, I’ll try different options as they all seem to react differently depending on what’s coming out.

tl;dr - experiment, try different options for the same effect, and don’t be afraid to have stuff both before and after the amp sim.


Check out line 6’s vst (helix vst or something)
It’s way better than any of the old POD stuff they made before, better than guitar rig too imo.

I will echo @Artificer in that I like using a couple of pedals in front of my amp sim, followed by a typical studio setup, with a preamp and a studio compressor, set low to catch peaks and even out the palm mutes.

I think a big part of any guitar sound is messing with them, trying a bunch of stuff out. Delay and reverb before the amp? In the loop? On a send on a console? All or a combo of all the above?

Also I am really big on some modulation effects before my drive (phaser and rotary or univibe emulations) as opposed to in my effects loop. But I don’t really like chorus in the front, more in the loop for me.

And for the thick wall of sound stuff, just keep layering, and even when things get reall heavy, add some clean layers in there, mixed low, to add some clarity to it all.

If you haven’t yet, check out impulse responses of real cabs in your amp sim setup, makes a difference imo.
Overall imo the biggest change in tone you can achieve is changing cabs and the way the mic is placed. So if those are options in what you are using try that out!


Oh, my bloody valentine used reverse reverb before fuzz and drive, so I guess anything goes in that genre!


Good stuff. Do you have any examples of the distorted tone that you get.

Here are examples of stuff I’ve made with only amp sims. Keen to hear your examples. Particularly warm lightly overdriven stuff.

Heavy Shoegaze Stuff

Postrock with Glitchy Flourishes


Seems like you got it figured out, judging from those tracks!

Edit: where do you get your artwork done? The one with the radar dish is amazing!


Guitar Rig / Helix / Something similar should basically do the trick. Even with my shitty guitar I can always find a ‘close enough’ sound that gets the job done. If you’re an insane tone nerd though, I suggest going to a studio to make your recordings because you’re bound to drive yourself insane with the replicated sounds available to you for cheap

I’d post examples but that’s basically spam


Guitar Rig is where it is at for heavy guitars or for shoegaze/post rock sounds for me.

I have a bunch of pedals and rack gear and a fender BassMan but my space is WAY too small to be able to open it up and get some good tones out of it.

I tend to compress and eq in the way into Guitar Rig, especially for chorusy 80’sish clean tones, as well as skipping Guitar Rig’s verbs in lieu of some verb plugs I prefer (even Ableton’s stock verb)

This is all guitar rig - from a few years ago so I’d wager to say that it was Guitar Rig4

This is well into oldschool Slowdive territory - Guitar Rig as well


Get a reactive load box!


Oh, man. I absolutely LOVE this album and I know I’ll be using certain sections from that record as references when I’m reamping/mixing what I’m working on right now. I had no idea, so I did some searching and found that Gearslutz thread where the producer is talking about the recording process. There’s a lot of good info there, along with screenshots and pre-production demos, so I still need to go over all that. But one thing that jumped out immediately, which I thought was pretty funny: yes, they used a bunch of free amp sims in the box, but on the way in they had… a collection of very nice guitars, going into $4K pre-amp, going into $4K A/D converters. I know I can’t attribute the tones just to that - it was killer players, recording killer tunes, and the album would’ve been a bomb without any of that. But still kind of funny to have $10K worth of gear on the front end and then some free amp sims in the box.

Things that make you go ‘hmmm’.


I’m not getting anything anytime soon. Buying freeze.

Guitar Rig is great for now. :wink:


I need to get on that train!


Cheers. I photoshopped all the artwork. The artwork with the satellite dish is a bunch of old science textbook illustrations photoshopped together with some other elements that I added.


I too need to learn this valuable skill. My latest GAS attacks have been pretty deadly. Oof!

As I think I’ve mentioned previously on this board, I’m pretty much in the midst of really figuring all this shit out for myself proper. I ditched amps in favor of sims many many years ago and was fairly happy with them for practicing, jamming, and demo’ing shit out. But now that I’m actually working on my first guitar-heavy releases and starting to be all analytical and picky about this, I’m kind of struggling getting the results I want. In particular, when it comes to clean tones.

I’m sort of in this same post-rock/electronica kind of space. And my cleans sound very thin and ice-picky to me. Like the tracks that Chase just posted is a pretty good example of I’m talking about. I don’t know if it’s because I’m hyper sensitive to it, since it’s my focus and been giving me so much grief. But the cleans in both of those tracks sound very sharp to me. All the other guitar tones sound pretty nice. But the clean cleans are like tiny needles stabbing me in the ears.

I’ve made some progress on that front recently. These things probably only apply to my own stupidity, but the picking up on and rectifying these things has certainly made improvements to the tones I’m getting. From the years of playing thrashy metal, I got used to resting my palm very close to the bridge. It’s great for the chuggs, but not so much when you are trying to get fuller cleans. So just forcing myself to pay attention to where I’m picking and moving my hand closer to the neck improved the tones I’m getting. I also never paid much attention to the volume and tone knobs on my guitars, just diming that shit and never touching it. But experimenting with them now and seeing the difference in rolling down the volume, which doesn’t just change the loudness, but seems to affect the tonal characteristic as well, and then compensating for the loss of volume and frequencies downstream (pedals or virtual amps’ eq), I made another leap in the right direction.

I tend to almost always use actual hardware pedals before going into the DI box and that also helps a lot. I almost always plugging into a compressor pedals (I have a bunch and pick one that seems appropriate for the part). I also use a lot of light Overdrive pedals, mostly with the gain at or near 0. It seems to fatten the sound a bit and helps taming those transients. But I’m starting to realize that the tones that I always thoughts were pretty clean on the records I like are not actually all that clean. They are not obviously overdriven, as you can still clearly hear each individual note. But I’m starting to think they are much dirtier than I initially thought, but the dirt gets lost in the mix and it just smooths out those transients and fattens up the tone.

I recently decided to just get a bunch of amps/cabs/mics and see for myself what I can do with that and how it works for my room, my workflow, and my sound. I just don’t want to wonder any more. Too much reading forums and shit and listening to people’s opinions, when they probably have a different mindset, different expectations, different style and preferences. I’m forcing myself to just tinker more with shit and figure stuff out for myself. I have a nice opportunity coming up where the wife and the kids are going to e out for a bit and I’ll have the house to myself to be as loud as I want. So I’m going to dick around with all this shit and see what I can get. Both micing cabs and using IRs with real amps (via Captor). I sincerely hope I get shit results with micing cabs because it certainly is a pain in the ass and somewhat of a potential workflow killer (for obvious reasons). But on the other hand, I just like the idea of the sound of my room being imprinted into my records. Even if it doesn’t sound so much better sonically, there’s something psychologically satisfying about that. Same reason why I have a ton of field recordings as noise beds for various sections or why I like to layer the sounds of randomly hitting shit with normal drum sounds. Just to have yet another layer of uniqueness. So I’m definitely going to experiment with blending room mics together with close mics. Especially since there are 3 or 4 sort of unique environments where I can put the amp and still reach my interface with cables that are not ridiculously long. So gonna have some fun with the hallways and bathrooms and shit.

But you guys, @Gridsunitsplanes and @chasedobson, seem to be on top of this stuff, since a lot of stuff I’ve heard from both of you sounds pretty good to me. Would love to hear something from both @Artificer and @jbvdb493, as they both seem to know what they are talking about. I’ll be posting some shootouts and demos in due time too. Tips of course are always welcome and it’s fun to geek out on all this shit. But I think like @Artificer said, it’s all about just continuing to experiment with shit. There are plenty of opportunities to tweak shit at so many different points in the recording chain that are pretty obvious targets, that it’s more just about not being lazy and actually trying shit, instead of getting more outside ideas to try shit. Too many ideas and not enough time or willingness seems to be more of the problem, rather than lack of ideas (speaking for myself, but I’m sure it applies to a lot of people).


Cool man.
Spam time I guess but here’s my last little batch of crap from this summer.
We did an album writing month, so no real mixing done at all.
The drums on one of these are total crap too.
Overall the guitar tones on here are real pedals through my amp into torpedo live, mixed with uad sims.

There’s more crap on my sound cloud too.
I think I am the opposite of some here in that I feel like I am pretty happy with my tones, but my music writing is crap.


I really like those guitar sounds!


I really recommend using Emissary for cleans, with a good impulse response in your cab and light reverb after the cab.

I found the cleans way warmer in Emissary than other sims.


Actually, the info about the recording process I found was for ‘…And so we Destroyed Everything’, not for 'Love of Cartography. That record is also pretty good, but neither song writing nor the tones are anywhere near the level of ‘Love of Cartography’. Where did you find the info that it was also done with amp sims? I can’t seem to find anything.



I think you might be right. I selected the wrong sleepmakeswaves album. Sorry about that. I will change in my opening post.