In this post, I’ll show you how to reamp DI guitar tracks from your DAW with the ARTcessories Dual RDB interface. If you haven’t tried re-amping your DIs yet, you’ll find a great way to see how your DIs can sound running through varied analog gear. If you’re looking for a different guitar sound, or a way to augment your mix with different gear, re-amping is a great solution.
Before we continue, please realize that much of this content is generalized because each DAW, re-amp box and recording chain is different. What works for me with settings, levels and gear will be inherently different for you in your studio. In this post, I cover what re-amping is and generally how to accomplish it.
17 February 2021 – Written by Michael R. Myers #mykmyrs
Tags: #reamp #reampbox #diy #guitar #pedal #amplifier #speakercabinet #cabinet #balancedsignal #unbalancedsignal #TRS #TS #daw
Skill Level: Advanced
If you’re new to reamping, the reamp box converts a balanced, line-level signal into an unbalanced, instrument-level (think dry guitar) signal. For home recording, you can record a dry guitar signal into your DAW of choice so that you have a clean, unaltered source for a guitar track. Using this dry track, you can play it through your DAW, have the audio signal leave your USB audio interface and flow into the reamp box. From the reamp box, the signal flows into an amplifier input, just as if you plugged a guitar directly into the amplifier. You amplifier is then hooked into a speaker cabinet which you mic and then record back into your DAW. With me so far?
A major benefit of reamping is you can do multiple auditions of a guitar track with different amps and cabinets, recording them into tracks in your DAW, allowing you to compare and choose the perfect sound for your mix.
Have a look here at the Wiki article covering the re-amp concept for a lengthier read.
What You’ll Need to Get Started
- A personal computer – I use a 2011 iMac running High Sierra
- A digital audio workstation (DAW) – I use Tracktion Waveform 11 Pro
- A USB audio interface – I use the Behringer UMC202 HD
- A reamp box – I use the ARTcessories Dual RDB interface
- Analog gear, such as amplifiers and speaker cabinets
- Microphones, such as SM 57s or condensor mics
- A TRS to TRS 1/4″ cable -OR- a 1/4″ TRS to XLR female
- A TS to TS 1/4″ cable (regular mono guitar cable)
Overall Recording Strategy (Before Re-Amping)
Before we can get started with re-amping, we need to record some dry guitar tracks, also called DI tracks, into the computer’s DAW. Once recorded, the clean DIs can be re-used whenever we want to re-amp them into different amps, cabinets or other analog hardware.
To capture DIs, I use a passive DI box that is connected to my analog mixer via XLR. I pan the channel 100% Left so that on the mixer’s output, the DI is always on the left channel of the signal pair. I always record DIs with the processed signal (that one is panned 100% Right in the signal pair). In my DAW, I use two tracks – one is for the DI only and one is for the processed signal only. So for each track, I have the unaltered DI source and the output source.
So at this point, get to it and record your DI tracks in your DAW. Make sure your input levels are gain-staged correctly and they are not clipping or otherwise distorted. You need quality DI tracks to reamp DI guitar tracks from your DAW to produce quality re-amped tracks.
About Configuring the Re-Amp Signal Chain
After you have some decent guitar DI tracks recorded in your DAW, we can set up the signal chain that sends the DAW output through the USB audio interface to the re-amp box and out to the external amp/cabinet. Typically a microphone would be used to capture the amp and cabinet output back into the USB audio interface to the DAW.
A point to remember here is that the DAW’s output of the DI track will be sent to the USB audio interface for playback. In order to re-amp, the DI tracks need to be converted from the audio interface’s line-level back into instrument-level signals. The re-amp box takes those line-level signals and converts them back to instrument-level so that the signal can be fed into analog gear properly. Without using a re-amp box, the signal sounds horrible and is not able to be used to feed into amps properly.
Depending on your amplifier situation, you may use an actual amplifier or a virtual amp to reamp DI guitar tracks from your DAW. I typically send the re-amped signal to an iRig HD 2 that is connected to my iPad Air 2. My amp is a software solution running on the iPad and the audio is sent out of the iRig interface via an instrument cable that I connect to my analog mixer with another passive DI Box. Using this setup, I do not need a real amplifier, speaker cabinet or microphone to re-create the signal-it goes directly into my mixer and USB audio interface.
Steps to Reamp DI Guitar Tracks From Your DAW
- Record your clean guitar DI track(s) in your DAW. Make sure they are gain-staged so that they are not too low or clipping.
- Unplug your left side output cable on the USB audio interface and insert the TRS to TRS (balanced) cable.
- Connect the TRS cable to your re-amp box’s input. If you have a gain knob on the re-amp box, you may need to adjust its application to ensure the signal entering the re-amp box is not too low or clipping.
- Insert a mono guitar cable (TS to TS) into the output of the re-amp box and into the amplifier’s guitar input jack. If you want to use an overdrive, tube screamer or distortion pedal, run the re-amp box output to the pedals first, then connect the pedal output to the amp guitar input.
- In your DAW, press play to audition the DI track. If you’ve done things correctly, you will now hear the DI audio coming through your amplifier.
- You may need to tweak levels at this point in the playback of the DI, the gain knob on the re-amp box, and so forth. I’ve found this part of the process can take the longest to get matched up.
- When you’re content with the re-amped audio, record it to a new track in your DAW with a microphone or another audio interface.
- When finished re-amping, disconnect the TRS cable from the back of the audio interface and re-connect your normal output cable.
If things went well, you were able to feed a DI guitar track from your DAW into a re-amp box and use a different amplifier/speaker cabinet to get a new sound out of the DI. Or, if you have several amps available, you can see which one works best in the mix by recording them all and comparing or combining them. If you’re like me, you also have amp sims on IOS devices that can be leveraged on the cheap to get you close to name-brand gear for pennies on the dollar.
If you would like to add to this content to help other folks, please contact me and let me know what you have in mind.