I’m sure someone will happily point out that all things are a matter of preference and that I should go with what I like, but I’m just wondering–is anyone else blown away by AmpSimulator?
I’ve had Helix Native for a couple months now and it’s much muddier than I expected. I’ve futzed with it to no end and was becoming convinced that my Scarlett’s input must just be terrible and I’d need to upgrade or get a nice Di box. Started messing with AmpSim and was immediately stoked on the sounds I was getting. Obviously Helix has a lot more functionality and tons of great effects, but in terms of amp sim I just think it’s plain worse than what Stenberg has built in.
It’s hard to call out a favorite but check out those from Neural DSP and STL Tonality, both company makes really good ampsims. Also when I’m just doing demos I tend to use the Toneforge Ben Bruce because it gives a mix ready tone out of the box and I wont have to fiddle around with it, but it lack in some areas hence I wont normally use it for a final production.
Now I just realize you are talking about hardware ampsims as you mention AxeFX, which isn’t available as a plugin, and I’m not using hardware ampsims. If I was looking for that, I would go with a real tubeamp instead. I should also mention that I don’t own the Helix plugin, I just demoed it some time ago and didn’t really like it for high gain tones.
If you can get the sounds you want then why not?
Personally I’ve found some OK sounds in Amp simulator but prefer both Bias FX and Helix. Helix is currently my favourite but one of the things I most love about Helix is being able to take the same sounds out to play live on my hardware Helix.
Many years ago I loved the POD amp sim for the same reason as it was the same sounds as my hardware POD.
Somtimes AmpSim works sometimes not so much. I also like Kazrok True Iron, SoundToys Decapitator and Radiator and All the Kush Omega Amps - not to mention brainworkx RockRack Neve or SSL Pre’s - so really all depends on the rest of the soundscape for me - it is interesting to analyze these signals with a toneGenerator and fft analyzer sometimes these look the same and still sound different - but you can get some ideas about the harmonic content.
If you want to know what you are missing (maybe you don’t) you can demo any or all of these alternates - it WAS expensive for me to find out what I was missing, but now its not missing.
Thanks to another thread, I did find that pulling the host input down to about -18db and boosting the output just a little to compensate made a huge difference for me in Helix Native and I’m warming up to it. Still using AmpSim on a particular track I think it fits well in.
I’ve also fallen deep into the hole of sims that I knew about but never dug into much further than Helix. Damn near impulse bought a Kemper last night, lol, but I think for now I’ll stick mostly with what I’ve got and plan to pick up a Boss TAE so I can finally put my tube amp to good use in this apartment.
My favorites are Neural DSP, Mercuriall and TH3. But I own guitar/bass plugins from various companies (Bias, Ik multimedia NI, Waves, Kuassa, Plugin Alliance, free ones, and so on). All of them are good. IR cabinets are also important to achive a better sound (I like Torpedo wall of sound, but there is a ton of options, free or not).
Input level is really important with Helix (both hardware and Native) - if you look on the input meter on the left-hand side of the blocks, there’s a little grey bar which shows it’s preferred level range (basically, try to ensure you don’t go above -12 when you’re playing as hard as you can).
Helix can be a little bit muddy sounding, especially if you’re using the built-in cabs as opposed to IR’s, but there’s a very simple and effective eq ‘trick’ that’s used by loads of us - it was developed by a guy called Jason Sadites, who has a fantastic Youtube channel where he dials in pretty much every amp, giving really good starting points for you to build your own tones.
So the eq tip uses the hi/lo shelf: Set both the low and hi shelves to about 650Hz, and then boost the hi shelf by a couple of db while cutting the low shelf by a similar amount. Obviously the exact settings (for both the boost/cut and the freq) will depend on the amp / your gtr / personal preference, but it really helps the sound come alive and gets WAY closer to the real amps a lot of the time.
(This only works if you have the latest firmware / version of Native, as prev versions didn’t allow the high shelf to go low enough - there was a workaround using a split crossover and two volume blocks, but thankfully the new shelf eq makes that unnecessary, and frees up a parallel path).
Personally, Helix is my favourite gtr processor - I prefer it over Kemper (which isn’t really designed to be a direct competitor) and Axe fx, which has a lot more tweakability, but tbh half the time it’s just really cumbersome, and I find that I’ve been able to get much closer to the actual real amps being modelled with Helix way more often.