4 Things People Get Wrong About Impulse Responses

There are only so many things people can get completely wrong about recording and mixing music, but I don’t think we’re seeing the end of that list any time soon.

As much as I love making these products and seeing how they’re impacting the workflows of engineers, there is still plenty of misinformation about what it is they’re intended to do.

It seems like it comes with the territory each time we put something new out. It took months to steer the industry away from the “clipping is bad” mentality. We had to demonstrate that clipping can be done correctly, and how useful it actually is once it’s been done. Even still, there are those that don’t want to take the time to listen, and end up missing out on a great processor because of it.Throughout our various product launches, impulse responses (IRs) have definitely been one of the most constant topics of discussion. They’ve got plenty of great uses in the studio, but if you’ve never used an impulse response in your life, you might not know what you’re looking at.

Up to this point, we’ve done just about everything we can to enable newcomers to the IR game with as much knowledge as we can pass on through first steps, guides & demonstrations.

The only thing we really haven’t done is go into detail around what Impulse Responses won’t do for your recordings.

Impulse Responses Won’t Replace An Amp/Amp Sim

If you haven’t used impulse responses or amp sims, I can see how you might group the two together, but they couldn’t have two more distinct uses.

An amp sim is made to replace a physical guitar rig. From the amplifier and its settings to the effects and post-processing, amp sims have everything you need after the guitar to record right inside your DAW.

So then why do we need IRs?It’s simple – to program the level of detail and accuracy into an amp sim that you get in an IR, you’d need massive processing power and hours upon hours of development. IRs are made to enhance your sessions, giving you more accuracy and control over specific elements of your signal chain that amp sims can’t touch.

But we also understand that for many, these two tools go hand in hand. It’s the reason we began building an IR loader feature into each version of Toneforge.

Speaking of that feature…

Impulse Responses Aren’t Standalone Tools

If you don’t have Toneforge to load your IRs into, you’re going to need something else. Impulse responses, while powerful and accurate, are nothing more than WAV files that need to be loaded and decoded for use on a track.

To do this, you’ll need an IR loader.If you don’t already have one in your amp sim or plugin collection, there are plenty of options out there. Most convolution reverbs will allow you to load your own impulse responses.

If you’re looking for something dedicated for guitar IRs, tools like Two Notes Wall of Sound plugin will give you some added functionality and works wonders when it comes to organizing your IR library and loading them into your DAW.

By building up your studio to support an impulse response-focused workflow, you open a lot of doors that used to be expensive and tedious.

Impulse Responses Make Using Real Amps Easier

I hear a lot of die-hard analog guys that love bashing on digital in favor of doing things the traditional way. Unfortunately for them, being too closed-minded means shutting themselves away from one of the easiest time-savers in the studio: making their own impulse responses.

Even if you’re not interested in amassing hundreds of IRs for a fraction of what the hardware would cost you, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be capturing your own when working with real amps.We’ve gone into detail before on how to make your own impulse responses, but the benefits are clear.

You get a consistent sound when using the IR, whether between takes or between songs/sessions.

You have instant recall over your signal chain at anytime; meaning you can easily record overdub parts at home with the same flavor you had using thousands of dollars of equipment in the studio.

Impulse Responses Aren’t Just Modeled Guitar Cabinets

Have I mentioned yet how much more goes into a good IR than just the speaker?

With our Conquer All bundle of IRs, we recorded a dozen different speaker cabinets and compiled our favorite captures, but it didn’t just stop there.An impulse response is everything AFTER the amplifier leading into your DAW. It’s the cabinet itself. It’s the microphone and it’s placement on the cab. It’s the preamplifier and any other hardware-processing happening before the signal hits your converters.

As you can imagine, some of these IRs start to sound a lot more polished when you start printing that gear on them!

Have you been wondering about Impulse Responses?

If you’re looking to get your feet wet, I’d definitely recommend digging through some of our Conquer All bundles (Volume II has some great variety). Any concerns around using IRs in your workflow can be sent to our support team, or posted in the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum where we’re constantly discussing new tips and techniques.