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Metal Guitars Recording Multiple Amps

Brandon Drury —  July 25, 2008

Radial X-Amp Guitar ReampingIt seems that pretty much all the big boys are recording with more than one amp at the same time. Is this the secret to big, metal guitars? Let’s find out.

Using my Radial X-Amp, I’ve ran a line out from my Presonus Firestudio to the Radial X-Amp. That ran into either a Rivera Knucklehead or a Peavey 5150. I tossed my Royer R121 in front of my 1×12 cabinet with a brand new Hellatone 30 (I blew my Celestion G12H30) into my Vintech 1272 into a Distressor EL-8x and into a Mytek AD96. I guess I pulled out all the big guns for this one. (Of course, the Recording Gear Quiz tested just how big these guns really are).

I had some drums I threw together quickly that triggered the Steven Slate Drum samples and I used Quantum Leap XP Hardcore Bass for the bass guitar.

From there it was off to the races playing with the amps.

Previous Multiple Amp Issues
In the past I’ve never been too found of recording more than one amp at the same time. The biggest reason for this is my facility is not set up for it properly. I don’t have that much isolation from my control room and my live room. My guitar fort does help, but I can’t hold two amps. Without being able to hear what is really going on with each individual amp it’s hard to make decisions on what amp should do what. On top of that the extra volume is just gonna push my luck with the neighbors a wee bit further.

I never know if I’m better off setting both amps to sound their best, setting one amp to be thin and the other to be thick, or setting one with too much gain or not enough gain. It is always a tricky mess and I just never know where to start.

When I did try multiple amps, I always had problems getting the amps / mics in phase. Maybe I’m a bit militant about phase but I don’t think it’s possible to go through the Michael Wagener Workshop without becoming robo anal about the phase relationship between multiple sources.

Because setting up such a rig takes quite a bit of time while the guitar player was waiting on me, I decided it was best to keep it simple stupid. Now that I have the freedom to go into hardcore engineer mode with no regard for the performance, I feel like I can be more creative, try more daring ideas, and come out with better tones. Before, the exact opposite was true.

So, there were some hurdles that made it really tough to ever benefit from using multiple amps simultaneously.

Radial X-Amp and Multiple Amps
Now that I have the ability to run the same performance (recorded with DI) back through an amp, I can mic up one amp at a time and record a track with each amp. This is about as close as it gets to recording multiple amps.. I can use the same mic and mic placement so this guarantees that my side of the fence will be in phase. An amp can still be out of phase. In fact, it appears that my 5150 and Rivera Knucklehead have opposite polarity which is easily fixed by pressing the phase/polarity button either on the X-amp or in my recording software.

Does It Work?
So does using multiple amps “simultaneously” really make metal guitar tracks sound huge?

Find out here in the Member’s Only section of Recording Review.

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Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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3 responses to Metal Guitars Recording Multiple Amps

  1. I have found that a 20W handwired Marshall in the signal path adds a lot of midrange chunk in a daisy chain, but that I can otherwise get some decent sounds with fewer-than-a-ridiculous-number of amps in a row. Similarly, a Mesa F-Series in a chain starts humming excessively, possibly because the cascading gain design adds too many stages to the sequence. Otherwise, a Dynawatt Mesa power amp (with H&K pre-amp) early in the chain has no issues, and in fact the Hughes & Kettner adds significant control. In my hands, the best sounds come from combining wildly different amp types in an effort to find something different. Otherwise, a single high-gain should do. My two cents.

  2. Glad to see you are familiar with Radial products. But if this is the case I am also wondering why you are not using their “Phaser” seeing as you are self-proclaimed about being anal when it comes to phase. This is a very simple and effective tool taking the time out of mic placement. And as far as the X-amp goes.. I tried it side by side with a Hughes and Kettner original red box mkII and just did not like the Radial product. Found it incredibly compressed especially when pushing the amp. The H and K had nice clarity with just a little bit of EQ necessary to capture what was coming out of the cab. Anyway… just a suggestion take it or leave it.

  3. Yeah, I didn’t do a whole lot of research before picking up the X-amp, unfortunately. I’ve heard shootouts since purchasing it and have liked other models quite a bit more.

    http://forum.recordingreview.com/f85/four-250-re-amp-boxes-shootout-15512/

    I am also wondering why you are not using their “Phaser” seeing as you are self-proclaimed about being anal when it comes to phase.

    For my workflow, one mic in the right spot has delivered the best results and allowed absolutely perfect phase. Now that I have my console, I may be playing with more mics on the way in. I’ll most likely be stocking up on IBPs unless I can find something just as good cheap.

    Brandon