Guitar DI Gain into Amp Sim, Clip Gain, Pre-Gain

I’m grabbing electric guitar DI recordings from a Neve RNDI and using DIGICHECK signal monitor with RME I’m capturing anywhere from -21dbfs to -8dbfs, depending on how hard I hit.

When this DI feeds an amp sim, there are 3 ways to boost it:

clip gain
pre-gain in channel settings eq tab
the input of the vst plug in

What are the PRIMARY differences between clip gain and pre-gain? I would consider those two boosts different than the INPUT GAIN of the actual plugin, because if increasing either of those, then ALL plugins would see the same signal coming in, making comparisons between different amp sims as similar as possible.

What are the majority of you doing? I’d love to know what DI signal levels you are grabbing. Do you err on the side of going lower, or do you try to really max out the DI capture volume to get it as high as possible, knowing you can turn down the output of the plugin for your headroom?

Should I potentially go for a hotter DI from the onset and really push the signal as close to 0 as possible?

Sounds a good level. I get a maximum of -6dbfs and most consider that a good input level. I’m not sure why you think you need to boost it for an amp sim, unless you’re well below this level you’re in the right area. Different sims do require different levels but they’re generally in the -18 to -12 range from memory.

If the amp sim has n input gain I i usually use this. If not I put a gain plugin before the sim.

No! Really not necessary and if you clip you’ll regret it.

Hi. I say this mainly because one of my favorite amp sims has a “learn” function for the input. You press learn, bash about for 5 seconds and the plugin will auto set the input. When it does that, it increases the input pretty substantially, +8db or +11db. When i set the input gain of the plugin back down I notice some missing “meat”. I can accomplish this added beef and meat to the tone by increasing clip gain or pre-gain OR the input of the amp sim.

This leads me to believe that my DI capture, though very clean, is maybe a tad low, and this VST amp sim needs to see more signal to really make the amp sim shine (a peavey 5150).

Interesting… a useful feature to have in an amp sim.
I know I have to change levels slightly when I swap guitars but as I said I usually use the input stage of the amp sim for this. The most important thing is realising that signal level is critical (as you have) and having a solution (again, as you have).
Both amp sims must have a lower target input level than yours.

I wouldn’t worry about where you’re doing the change though, the important thing is that you (and your amp sim) know there is a level that you need to be at to get the best tones. I know it’s the same with mine, just that mine appear to be lower. If you’re getting a clean signal in and getting the results you want i’d be happy. FWIW I used to worried about my signal level and spent money on a more expensive DI but it just brought the noise level up as well as the signal so really wasn’t worth it.

What is your amp sim? I mainly use Helix Native and/or Bias FX.

It is the TSE x50 v2 which is a 5150 and an engl e530 amp sim, the best high gain sim I have found and very simple to use, no extra goofy stuff. You can try the demo for free, it is just a very very good high gain sim, period. Also very reasonable price at just 69USD. Check it out, it’s lovely in all regards. (no, i don’t work for them).

I also tried a demo of the OVERLOUD TH-U which is also incredible if not TOO MUCH, can bring about analysis paralysis with the vast amount of crap you can actually do in there. I prefer to just get the tone and go. Having 100,000,000 options leads to more tinkering about which can be good for some, I suppose. If you want a trillion settings and options, that overloud TH-U is hard to beat.

With that OVERLOUD TH-U, it does not have an input “learn” like the TSE X50 does but rather an input meter that comes up and it tells you to raise your guitar input volume until you hover in the green area of the meter. So, when demoing that as an insert through some already captured DI tracks , I had to use clip gain in Cubase to raise my DI level by nearly +11dB or +12dB (which is A LOT) to get it where it needed to be in the green area.

I know the #1 rule of all with digital is DO NOT CLIP ON THE WAY IN, period. I can easily, in multiple places, raise the level of that DI signal after I have tracked it. 2 places before it hits the sim (clip gain or pre-gain), and then inside of the sim itself with its input level. So I think the balance there is getting a really fat signal into the sim, which is probably as close to 0dB as can be and then use the plugins output to set the track itself to be very near to -18dbFS for all of the headroom needed later on. This raising of the DI signal level after it has been recorded only covers the mixing stage. If the sim does not have this cool input learn function like the TSE does, my current DI level feeding it, is not hot enough. It CAN be after it is recorded, but not when playing through in real time.

The Neve RNDI is fixed, there are no levels to set on it. My RME takes the RNDI DI signal into MIC/ANALOG 1. I leave this input at unity gain in the RME panel but I can engage a +10dB boost on this and doing so will drastically raise my DI levels. They are much hotter and will only clip if I hit my strings REALLY REALLY HARD, but… it can still clip because often times I do indeed hit my strings REALLY hard. (Drop C, .060 gauge, hot Duncan pickups, etc).

It took me a long time to break myself of this mental habit of wanting to slam every track, every input, every bus, every output and get as close to 0 as possible. This is/was HORRIBLE behaviour. I’m still trying to sort out the DI rules…

Thanks, may have a look at that. I do remember looking at the Overloud before but deciding against it for some reason.

I mainly use the Helix Native software as I also have a Helix Hardware unit so I can get the same sounds from each.
Also it does seem to act like an amp so I only change the same things I would on an amp.
Same for for Bias FX (but Bias Amp is a rabbit hole of options to tweak every detail of every valve!)