I’ve been called a snob. Apparently some members of RecordingReview think I should be a little more tolerant of crappy guitar sounds.. Call me what you will. I’ve been a guitar tone junky for many years. I know what excites me and life is too short to recording music that doesn’t. Up to this point, I’ve heard very few recordings that utilized direct recording of electric guitars that didn’t sound fake, plastic, boring, unacceptable, or funny crap.
Well, this week TDM2684 thought it would be funny to cost me hours and hours of writing in my upcoming home recording book when he informed me about “impulses”. I’m familiar with impulses for reverbs and even in the modeling of plugins found in the Focusrite Liquid Mix. However, I must admit that I don’t read the Guitar section of the New York Times anymore. Now that I’ve heard enough guitar impulses, it appears I’ll be setting noggin to revise mode yet again. (NEVER write a book!)
I was amazed to see that guitar impulses provide dramatic improvement in the sound of direct electric guitars. I’m not really up on how they work, but I have to say that the technology has taken a quantum leap with this impulse business. The lifeless, sterile sound is gone. The fizzy sound is gone. Not bad!
How Good Are These Impulses?
I always took pride in my ability to immediately recognize direct guitars when evaluating mixes on Recording Reviews. I’ve been stumped a few times over the years, but it’s usually a big deal when I am. I always end up asking the person what they used to record these guitars.
The new impulses show none of the obvious signs of direct guitar. I won’t be able to boast, “I don’t like the direct guitars” anymore in blind tests. This is a big deal!
The mixes I’ve heard that used direct guitar and impulses weren’t perfect. They sounded like good electric guitar tracks. Of course, good electric guitar tracks are…..well, Good! However, they are not great guitars. Of course, this brings up the question: How many GREAT sounding guitar tracks do we hear? Not many! The average beginner micing up a typical amp at home does not come up with tones like I’ve heard with the impulses. So for the guy using EZ Drummer for drums, who doesn’t own the amp of the century (1969 50 watt Marshall Plexi) or his version of the amp of the century, the impulses are a nice alternative.
It needs to be said that I come from the rock guitar side of the fence. In pop music, electric guitars typically don’t require the same locomotive power that rock guitars do. In pop music, I’d say that the guitar impulses are ready for the big time.
Direct Guitar Impulses Vs The Real Thing
So are direct guitar impulses going to replace the real thing for electric guitar recording in rock music? The answer to that depends. For the guy just trying to record some cool tunes in his basement and doesn’t feel like it’s cheating to use drum samples or direct guitar, I think creative and tonal possibilities have improved immensely. The ability to plugin and immediately make music without any regard for audio engineering is worth quite a bit.
For the guy that hasn’t pissed years of his adult life away honing his audio engineering chops, these impulses get you up to “good” sounding guitars instantly without losing your hair, wallet, or wives.
So here comes the real question. Am I going to switch to electric guitar impulses? (My hair and wallet are already gone!) I thought about this morning. I pondered life without my Rivera Knucklehead or my piece of junk wedge monitor with a G12H30 Celestion. Then I listened to a mix I had done yesterday. My real electric guitars (which happen to be among the best I’ve recorded) still sound bigger and meaner than the impulses (at least the impulses I’ve heard so far).
Then again, I often have to work REALLY hard to get the electric guitar tones happening. Sometimes I screw it up. I may screw up the next session. It wouldn’t be the 12th time! So it seems to me that these direct guitar with impulses may be a new possibility for me….I’m just not quite ready. Are you?