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Multiamping Guitars: Getting the Sound Now or Later

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This post focuses on capturing multiple guitar sounds, including unamplified, during tracking for more tonal flexibility during the mix.

A unique guitar tone is one of those things that people are always willing to great lengths to achieve. Some of the most coveted tones have actually been blends of multiple amplifiers, certainly of multiple microphones. So what are some ways to get the best of both worlds?

A Dual Output Amplifier

While I love tubes, I’m not ashamed of admitting that I like the flexibility offered by digital modeling amps. In fact, I’ve used Line6 products dating back to the AmpFarm days. For quite a few years now Line6 has been producing guitar products like the Vetta series that allow the player to run multiple amplifiers at the same time. Products like this are a quick and easy way to record multiple amplifiers at the same time. As a guitarist, I love being able to dial in one amp for the thick, resonant lows and another amp for bold mids and glass-like highs.

Splitting the Signal

While using an amp that produces two tones is an easy way to accomplish multiamping, it won’t be of much use to the guitarist who has a favorite vintage amp that he or she just has to use. In this situation, splitting the guitar’s signal for routing to multiple amplifiers is probably the best idea. Simply splitting the signal passively will result in loading of the tone, producing a thinner sound and lower overall level. Products like Radial’s JD7 or JX2 use op-ampless amplification to compensate for loading. The JD7 splits the signal seven ways whereas the JX2 splits the signal two ways. Want to run a Fender Blackface and a Marshall JMP-100? You got it. The advantage of this technique is that you get to use honest-to-god tube amps with actual microphones in real acoustic spaces.

Recording with a DI and Re-Amping

Another way to get your multiamping jollies is to record the guitar without an amp – just using a DI such as the Radial JDI allows the unadulterated tone of the guitar itself to be captured, allowing the track to be either manipulated with a plugin or by outputting the DAW’s output into an amplifier and miking that. The benefit of this technique is that you don’t actually have to commit to a tone. Lots of guitarists feel weird about playing through studio monitors or through a DAW, so it may be smart to have an actual amp in the room. In fact, the DI technique can be paired with either of the previously mentioned techniques to give the ultimate in flexibility: great guitar tones on tape and the raw guitar tone for re-amping later. Certainly the JD7 gives enough splits to allow one to be tracked directly into the audio interface.

Multiple Cabs

Yet another way to get many different tones from the same guitar is to use multiple guitar cabs. A small 8″ 25w speaker sounds quite different from a Marshall 4×12 with 75 watt speakers. Often you can run multiple, drastically different speakers from the same amp as long as the impedance is matched and is appropriate for the amp. Try matches that are somewhat unconventional and you’ll probably find some surprising results.

One of the reasons that multiamping guitars is so popular is that it’s so fun! While multiamping can be a big time-sucker, the results of a carefully crafted guitar tone can be worth its weight in gold (records).