Summing Up The Biggest Problem With Amp Sims

Amp sims are an integral part of our workflow, and very obviously a huge part of what JST offers as part of our plugin collection. Not all amp sims are made equal though, and there are some major issues with amp sims, especially when it comes to processing power.

Because of all of the features squeezed into each amp sim (amps, pedals, tuners, post-processing, etc) they’ve gained a reputation for being resource hogs. This doesn’t mesh well with large sessions, and unless you’ve got a particularly powerful machine, you’re stuck bouncing and committing to amp tones before you might be ready.

Short of upgrading your computer or reducing your track count, is there a better way to improve the use of amp sims in your sessions?

Reducing Amp Sim Instances

One of the quickest ways to reduce your amp sim footprint on any given session is to reduce the number of plugin instances you’re using. One way to do this is to print your tones and deactivate the plugin, but as we already mentioned, that might be a premature commitment if you’re still early in the tracking stages.

As an alternative option, summing your guitar DIs to a bus and processing them collectively can be effective since you’ll only need a single, stereo instance at that point.

There are obvious concessions being made when taking this approach, not the least of which is the summing approach many amp sims take when loaded on a stereo bus – that is, they usually collapse the input to a mono source, process it, then emulate a stereo output.

On guitars, especially hard-panned ones, this can create muddiness and incredibly frustrating phase issues.

New Amp Sim Improvements

Plugins like Guitar Rig & POD Farm weren’t addressing the issue, and for a while it felt like I was alone with this seemingly obvious concern. Luckily, after talking with some close friends and engineers using amp sims on a regular basis, I realized I wasn’t alone.

Early in the development of Toneforge, we weren’t sure that there would be any way around it, but we knew we wanted to try. After a bit of experimentation, we found a way to maintain the stereo inputs integrity regardless of if the plugin was loaded on a stereo track or bus with multiple incoming guitar signals.

Most importantly, we found a way to do it without sacrificing functionality, features, or increasing the resource requirements for the plugin to run.

See It In Action

The stereo processing aspect isn’t something we’ve ever truly advertised for the Toneforge series, because we’d rather our users focus on the sound first and the technical aspects second. If the plugins sounded like shit, why would anyone buy it?

Couple that with the smaller group of engineers trying to use the plugins in this way, and it would be a waste of space to promote such a subtle feature when there is so much more packed into each and every collection.

If you’re interested in freeing up some processing power in your sessions, Ryan Bruce gives a great overview of how you can bus multiple guitars to a single instance of Toneforge Jason Richardson:

How Are You Saving System Resources?

If you’re running into similar processing issues preventing multiple amp sim instances, how are you getting around it? If you’re suffering from other amp sim limitations (Toneforge or otherwise), what are they?

We’re always trying to improve our plugins and solve common recording & mixing roadblocks, so anything you’re struggling with is something we want to fix.

Let us know over on the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum or shoot us an email. Hopefully we’ll be able to recommend a solution – if not, you might help guide the direction of our next plugin release!