5. VST Effects
Below are some effects that I use on daily basis, depending on the sound I’m after.
ReaEQ (comes with Reaper)
This is probably the single most versatile and useful effect I have installed. 9 out of 10 cases, I have at least one ReaEQ instance in the signal path. It’s a versatile parametric EQ that allows you to create an arbitrary number of bands, each defined by frequency, gain and Q (bandwidth). Used before the amp sim and overdrive pedals, it can shape the sound of the pickups changing the character of the guitar. For example, to get a hot PAF-style pickup to sound somewhat like a single-coil, I’d cut pretty much everything below 200Hz, cut some mids around 1K and slightly boost highs if more clarity needed. Another important place for an EQ is after the amp sim where we can shape the character of the distortion. For tight metal high-gain sounds, V-shaped EQ curve can help scoop out the mids and enhance highs and lows. Another cool feature is that it plots the spectrogram in the background as you play, so you can see exactly how your sound “looks” which can be helpful when deciding how we want to shape it.
Distorque Rangebastard (website)
VST simulation of the famous Dallas Rangemaster treble booster from the 60s. Like the original, it’s got a simple interface with just one knob, but it hides a bunch of parameters under the “tweak” button. They can be used to precisely tailor the sound and get the best out of the pedal. I use this all the time before a plexi amp to get Ritchie Blackmore kind of sound that is open, with lots of dynamics and raw crunch, but without being too compressed. “Input Filtering” knob is very useful to tweak the low end response and cut extra bass, especially wgeb used with humbuckers and “Treble” knob can tame the highs if they become too harsh. Really nice plugin.
Simulates the classic Tubescreamer 808 circuit. Great for boosting already overdriven amps into creamy saturation. Like the original, it will cut some bass and boost mids, so it can be useful to focus the sound for heavy rhythm guitars.
Ignite Amps Tyrant Screamer (website)
Another Tubescreamer-alike pedal, but with more control over the tone. Compared to the TSE808, it has “Sweep” control that can be used to precisely shape the sound and make it tighter and more suitable for down-tuned guitars. It also features a switchable boost. Overall, really cool and useful plugin.
SoftAmp GT (website)
Tech21 makes some iconic pedals and SansAmp GT2 and it’s cousin SansAmp Classic are some of their best ones. They both attempt to simulate some classic amp sounds using op-amps and they provide lots of controls over several aspects of each amp. In my opinion, they do not do terribly great job capturing the character of overdriven tube amps, but they do sound very nice on their own. Op-amps clip the signal very differently than tubes and give some raw character to distortion. SoftAmp GT attempts to simulate SansAmp GT2 with all its features and even brings few enhancements. I think it does an excellent in capturing the character of SansAmp and I use it primarily for Richie Kotzen kind of sound where raw and heavy sound is needed but without too much gain that would kill the dynamics. As far as enhancements go, SoftAmp GT offers selectable clipping modes – normal (harsh op-amp clipping, as the original), triode (simulates vacuum tube triode) and soft (somewhere in between the previous two).
Fuzz is not something I use every day, but every now and then you just have to get it out of your system 🙂 . FuzzPlus3 by Audio Damage gives a wide range of fuzzy tones and sounds great (or awful, depends how you look at things).
ReaDelay (comes with Reaper)
I’m a digital delay fan and like clean-but-not-shrill delay effect on lead guitars. ReaDelay gives me just that. Apart from the usual settings for delay time, feedback and wet/dry mix, it also gives control over the frequency range that we want to echo. That way we can put a low pass at 5KHz or 7 KHz and filter out any higher frequencies that could make the sound shrill. The same can be done with a high pass filter to filter out really low frequencies and avoid the sound to become too muddy after echoes are mixed with dry signal. Another cool control is “Stereo width” that does just that – makes the sound wider.
TAL Reverb 4 (website)
I am not an advanced reverb user but I do like to add a touch of reverb to add life to my guitars. TAL Reverb 4 is simple to use reverb that has enough flexibility for me, but still not too many controls. To my ears it sounds nice.