Guitar Modeller Shootout

I was looking around my audio plugins folder on my computer the other day and realised that I have a lot of guitar modeller plugins that I have collected over the years. It’s been a while since I have done any sort of shootout between them to compare, so I thought I would use this Easter long weekend to tackle this mini project.

I want to concentrate on clean Fender-y sounds this time, and what better way to test out the Strat build I just completed a couple of months ago. I just finished doing more setup work on this guitar and am enjoying playing it again.

The Guitar

It is a Lake Placid Blue Strat, with a baked maple neck. It has a set of BareKnuckle “Irish Tour” pickups in it, and I used the middle position for this experiment.

Guitar was plugged straight into my PC via an Apogee Element 46 audio interface, then routed to Logic X.


The Method

What I did was to record a short dry track into Logic X on my iMac, then copy and paste that dry track onto different channels where I set up different modellers. This way there would be NO bias towards a certain track due to my different playing styles over time. The same dry track would ensure that the input signal was consistent across all modellers.

On each modeller, to ensure some kind of consistency, I also set all knobs to ‘5’ on the amp face. I turned off any Boost or Bright switches to ensure as raw a tone as possible. I also tried to use the same 2x12 cab where possible, with a ‘57 Condenser mic placed at the 2 inches from centre and 2 inches away.

I also used a delay pedal as the only pedal in the chain for most of the modellers - set at around 250ms delay with minimal feedback and mix. Some modellers didn’t support effects pedals in the amp signal chain, so in those cases I used a separate pedal plugin by the same manufacturer to get the delay pedal in the chain (e.g. Bias and Logic)

The Modellers

Here are the 5 modellers I used, with a screenshot showing the settings that I set each amp, cab and delay pedal at.

Logic X

Yep, I admit that one of the tracks here is using the plain old in built amp modeller from Logic, mainly because I wanted to see how it compared against the other more ‘serious’ modelling plugins.


Amplitube 4

This is probably the modeller I have been using the longest - since Amplitube 2 days!


Slate TH-U

This is the newest modeller the I only got this week, and which prompted me to do this shootout.



Probably my favourite modeller which I use the most. This is usually my go-to solution for recording guitars these days.


Bias 2

I admit that I bought this modeller last year sometime, but just haven’t got around to using it much at all.


The Results

Here is my SoundCloud link to the sound samples for each modeller.

I may refrain from stating which modeller is which sound sample for now (No, they are NOT in the order of the modellers I listed above!). I will wait to see which ones people prefer in ‘blind’ mode first, then reveal all in a couple of weeks! <evil laugh>


The modellers in the sound clip were in this order:

  1. Amplitube 4

  2. S-Gear 2

  3. Bias 2

  4. Slate TH-U

  5. Logic X

Back to recording again

Last month I had a major reorganisation in my home office/studio.  I moved my MacBook Pro to the downstair office and swapped my Windows PC to my upstairs alcove studio.  I had always used my MacBook as my primary recording platform, but the upstair studio was becoming too hot and noisy and we had just installed a brand new air conditioner in the downstairs office that I wanted to take advantage of.

Over on the left for work, over on the right for play!

Over on the left for work, over on the right for play!

So this is the first recording in the new space, and I like to say that it was MUCH more enjoyable in the cool and (relative) quiet compared to the old space.  Still need to do some work on reducing reflections etc., but overall, I think it is positive.

I still need to bring my KRK studio monitors and set them up downstairs, so at the moment I am doing all mixing and mastering using my Sennheiser HD 25-SPII headphones, which is not ideal, but all I have to work with at the moment.

My fancy stereo ribbon mic still hasn't been used in anger yet - not at least until I get a 4 channel audio interface, so I used my trusty Rode NT1-A mic blended with the internal AP5 pickup in my venerable old Maton guitar.

This piece is called 'Dandelion' and is by Masaaki Kishibe.  I've actually been playing it for a couple of years now, and it turns out to be my wife's favourite of all the instrumental pieces I play.  It is a fairly simple song, but to capture that lilting feel is a bit tricky.  I don't think I have mastered it yet, but will keep working on it.  It doesn't help that I haven't played fingerstyle guitar for so long that my fingers are still not as nimble as I would like.

I mastered this track using the Slate Virtual Mix Rack plugins - nice, but a bit of a drain on the resources on my 7 year old MacBook.  I am not completely happy with it as I think the final results are still to strident.  I need to reduce some of the high frequency and bring in more bass without making it too boomy or woofy.  It is all a learning process, and I think once I have my KRK monitors set up for mastering work, I can improve on it.


Why I gave up on online forums

"Guitar Troll" by Steve Bolduc

"Guitar Troll" by Steve Bolduc

Earlier this year, I decided to make the difficult decision to turn my back on online guitar and music communities.  I had been participating in various forums for many years, indeed even racking up nearly 10,000 posts at one of them.

I used to enjoy the camaraderie and sharing of knowledge that went with those forums in the early days, but over time things devolved and changed.

I am sure we have all seen it, on various internet communities.  The trolls start to emerge.  Discussions turn into sniping and personal insults.  Everyone seems to become outraged at the tiniest misinterpretation of something.  People judge without knowing.

It all started to get too much.  I initially pushed back at the negativity, and attempted to either defend or explain my point of view - but alas, the waves of constant hostility just began to wear me down.

"Relax" others would tell me.  "It is just the internet.  People do things there that they would never do in real life or to your face.  Just grow a thicker skin and stop being so sensitive."

Well, I was raised to believe that character is defined by what you do when nobody is looking.  I sincerely believe that someone who acts in a hostile or mean fashion behind the anonymity of a screen name has character flaws that I would not find attractive in real life either.

As for the second part about growing a thicker skin, well... as a musician, I believe that my sensitivity is actually an asset towards me creativity.  If I was to lose or suppress that, then I would lose a part of myself that makes music a joy to my soul.

So I have decided to take a sabbatical from online forums for a long while.  Who know, as with most communities, their nature is to evolve and change over time, and perhaps one day, they will organically weed out the energy sucking trolls and begin to celebrate those members that share knowledge and try to advance humankind again.

Then, I will rejoin the fray with gusto.


Modifying My Strat

Now for something a little different - a photo essay about a recent electronics upgrade I did to my Fender USA Stratocaster this week,

Basically, I think someone slammed another guitar into my volume knob at a gig or something, and the knob got jammed tight.  I actually stripped the knurls on the inside of the volume knob trying to turn it, and the knob just fell off.

While looking for replacement pots online, I came across the Emerson 'drop in' kit for quickly converting your Strat to have a Blender pot instead of a second tone pot.  I thought "Why Not?" and spent the AUD$90 odd dollars to grab one off eBay.

My Strat is just a USA Standard one, with Lollar "Dirty Blonde" pickups that I installed a couple of years ago.  It is also wired in the "Eric Johnson" style, with no tone control on the middle pickup.

For those who don't know - the Blender pot essentially allows you to gradually 'blend' in either the neck or the bridge pickup in with the other pickups.  So, YES, you CAN have all three pickups at once if you like, or just the bridge AND neck if you wanted to.

Basically, the second tone pot is the 'blend' pot.  When you have the bridge or bridge+middle pickup selected, it controls how much of the neck pickup is added to the selection.  Conversely, when you have the neck or neck+middle pickup selected, it controls how much bridge pickup is added in.

Seeing as I am a software guy, not hardware, I thought I would get some hired help to install this kit.

Now it was time to look at the plans, and to think about how we would go about the whole installation process...

Once the pickguard was off, it was time to dismantle the components, such as the pots, input jack, and to desolder some of the old pickup wires before re-soldering the new ones on...

This kit lives up to it's namesake.  It is quite literally a 'drop in' replacement for the original pots.  We only needed to desolder the 3 pickup leads, the input jack leads, and the two ground wires attached to the pickup cavity and trem claw.

Once the new kit was in, it was a simple task to resolder those on again.  At times it was a bit stressful handling hot soldering irons around the guitar finish, but we managed to do it.

I DID manage to forget soldering on the ground lead to the trem claw, but that was easily resolved.

Then it was time to put everything back together again.  Remember the stripped Volume knob issue?  I got Spidey to wrap some plumbers tape around the Volume knob shaft so that the stripped knob could grab on tightly.

Job Is DONE !!!

Job Is DONE !!!

While the strings were off, I decided to give the frets a bit of a dressing and polishing...

I wrote a full review of the kit over at