I have an uncle with one glass eye that maniacally points with his middle finger instead of his pointer finger when giving directions or staunchly validating his authority on subjects ranging from government, women, and of course… how tough he had it when he was younger. I think everyone has this “uncle” in one form or another. It’s sort of like the universe’s way of making us painfully aware that we’re all only a few recessive traits away from being informally sequestered to a landlocked part of a country where we live out our character arc as a beet farmer while hoarding rifles and flashlight batteries in preparation for the “end times”. Looking back, he was probably right about living in tougher times. Consider this… Every person born from this moment forward will never know what it’s like to not have the internet. Another direct result of technological advancement will be the ability to carry all of the necessary music gear needed to record professional tracks or perform a quality sounding gig under the same arm that carries your guitar. (Quick note, my uncle had an airplane pilot’s license…. Go figure).
Escorting us confidently into that reality, weighing in at a fit 13 megabytes, sporting 18 virtual guitar cabinets, 2 bass cabinets, 8 virtual microphones, 2 internal British inspired console channels, and the ability to mix and match all of the above with 100% phase coherency is Recabinet from Kazrog LLC. Recabinet is a guitar speaker cabinet simulation plugin focused on accurately replicating the versatility and dynamics of classic and modern cabinets with a user-friendly and sleek looking user interface.
Installing Recabinet was a breeze. Available are the 32 bit, 64 bit, RTAS, AU, and VST installation applications. Afterwards, I was prompted to receive my license key from the registration area of the Recabinet website. Launching my DAW (Sonar X1), I pulled up Recabinet and clicked the “Import Keyfile” button. I was registered in seconds, restarted my DAW, and was off and running.
I imported several amplification simulation VSTs including Native Instrument’s Guitar Rig, Alien Connection’s ReValver, Overloud’s TH2, Kuassa’s Amplifikation One, and a free amp VST from The Serena Experiment called TSE X50. I disengaged the native speaker simulation in each platform and was often able to attain far superior versatility and authentic cabinet sounds through Recabinet with minimal tweaking.The simple but attractive graphic interface and expressive sound quality made the interaction very intuitive.After exploring a few presets I found myself diving right into sound shaping.
To achieve ideal tones, I approached the blending of the two cabinets in Recabinet by muting one cabinet and dialing in the amp sim with a single cabinet. After finding a desirable match, I would unmute the second cabinet and find a complimentary tone to the first tone I had achieved. I found this technique gave more of a “mix ready” listening experience. After dialing in the first cabinet tone, it was almost as easy as scrolling through the cabinet selection to find the sonic dynamics to compliment the first tone. The microphone sims each had a very unique presence in shaping the tone and required experimentation when applicating distance and angle to the cabinet. After that it was very simple shaping of the high and low pass filter section and volume blend to achieve sounds that were mix ready.
Recabinet is of course, first and foremost a speaker cabinet simulator. So whether your chain consists of an actual physical guitar amplifier, a preamp, effects unit, or an amp sim, be sure that your signal chain is configured appropriately before or after Recabinet. The Recabinet manual suggests the best signal path as Guitar /Bass –> preamp –>Recabinet –> Effects. The manual also states that if you’re using an actual tube head, it’s important to utilize a dummy load box to prevent amplifier damage. A dummy load is a piece of equipment used in place of a speaker designed to safely dissipate the entire power of the amplifier. From there it’s essentially using your line level output or FX send of your tube amp to your computer interface where you can route the signal to Recabinet through your DAW.
The GUI almost grabs your cursor and leads you to the the most appropriate parameters that you’re searching for. To the very top center is the Load / Save functions for preset management. To the immediate right is the dynamics knob that controls the presence of cabinet nuances that react to the preset and the attack and style of the player. To my ears, this control seemed to add a bit more saturation and grit when dialed higher. More subtle cleaner tones were achieved with less dynamics. To the very right is the master volume output.
For seasoned tone purists or vintage collectors, the graphic depictions of the cabinets will fully insinuate the sounds that they create. That is to say that the green cabinet sounds like the 1970’s Marshall 4 x 12 you would imagine, and the orange colored robust build of the Tangerine cabinet will have the low end thump and broad warmth of an Orange 4 x 12. It was so much fun to dial up a tone on an amp sim and just cycle through the cabinets to hear the familiar sonic dynamics put into accurate graphic perspective. Not only did the cabinets look and sound good enough for me to lose track of time, but I had to admire attention to graphic detail when noticing that the cabinets were tastefully placed with a backdrop of hip, yet not overly ostentatious purple convoluted foam and parquet flooring. Nice touch! Of the 18 guitar cabinets, the four that stood out to my ear as being versatile and inspiring were as follows:
|1960 – Based on a Marshall 1960AV 4x12||Tangerine –Based on the Orange 2 x 12|
|Oversize – Based on a Mesa Standard 4×12||Damien – Based on a Marshall 1936 2x 12|
As mentioned previously, there are 8 virtual microphones simulating modern and classic microphones commonly considered to be the best in their class. Represented are simulations of Neumann, Shure, Royer, Audix, Sennheiser, and a flat response microphone from Earthworks. Again, I found each microphone to have a very unique imprint on the sound of each cabinet. This is the one area of Recabinet that requires time, attention to detail, and a bit of experimentation to attain the sound that you’re hearing in your head. After choosing a microphone that sounds close to what you’re after, the next step is to try the distance and position (angle to the cabinet), to see which combination best suits your tone or mix. Try muting one cabinet to get started on dialing in the tone, then periodically unmute the other cabinet to get a sense of how your tone is shaping.
So the proverbial heavy lifting is finished and it’s time to prepare for a mix. Recabinet provides a high and low pass filter, a low mid and high mid frequency boost, and EQ bypass knob for each cabinet. The high pass filter of course filters out unwanted low end frequencies to prevent rumble and tighten the focus of the low end. The low pass filters out unwanted high pass frequencies to prevent harshness and brittle top end. Since the mid frequencies are essentially where the sound of the guitar lives, the low and high mid frequency controls offer tone shaping to compliment and control the most critical frequencies of the cabinets you choose. You can bypass each frequency control by clicking on the virtual LED under the dial. There is also master volume controls for each cabinet to the bottom right for getting the perfect blend. These controls were very responsive and functional and provided a solid foundation for processing an entire mix.
Having used amplification simulation software since 2008, I chose to compare the cabinet simulations of three most effective amp sim VSTs that I have vetted and use in my home studio. I chose Alien Connection’s Revalver, Native Instrument’s Guitar Rig, and my personal favorite, Overloud’s TH2. Starting with Revalver, for high gain I pulled up the Flat Hill Rectifier amp, the Demon, and the 6505+. For clean sounds I pulled up the Basic 100 and the ACS 45 I pulled up and compared combinations of the Vintage 4x12 cabinet, an assortment from the Phil Fee collection, and some of the matched cabinets in the Peavey collection. I created 3 presets on Recabinet for testing purposes in three different frequency ranges. A full range preset, a mid-range, and a scooped preset. Try as I might with the Revalver cabinets, Recabinet made the Revalver cabinets sound cartoonish, half-hearted, and thin. Recabinet made the amp sims in Revalver sound absolutely organic and inspirational (especially the Demon)!
The task was a little tougher with Guitar Rig 5 and the Control Room Pro tool with 8 different microphones to individually mix on the cabinet. For high gain I used the Rammfire and Van 51 amp sims. For cleans I used the AC Box and Jazz Amp. I was able to gain similar dynamics using the Rammfire cabinet and Modern 4 x 12 in the Control Room Pro when it came to high gain tones in Guitar Rig, but I needed to use post-processing to get the realistic punch and percussive nuances of Recabinet. The clean tones sounded far more well-rounded with Recabinet as every frequency seemed to jump off of the canvas especially when being spotlighted with delay or reverb.
If I had to choose a perfect pairing for Recabinet, it would be Overloud’s TH2. Panning a channel of TH2 hard left and TH2 with Recabinet hard right started keeping me up well into the wee hours experimenting with dozens of tone options. Using a blend of Modern (US), Heavy 51, and Randall Lynch Box amps from TH2 for high gain and the Brunetti Mercury for cleans, Recabinet still had the edge with warmth, fatness, and realism. The TH2 cabinets sounded very rich in comparison and offered subtle differences in mid-range and presence, though they lacked in heft when it came to mix ready tones.
Before wrapping up the review I feel compelled to draw attention to one special aspect of Recabinet. In regards to the audio engineering aspect of Recabinet, specifically in the area of high gain guitar recording, the development team at Kazrog LLC sought advice from one of my favorite guitarists of all time, James Murphy. Mr. Murphy has played with the groundbreaking death metal band Death, as well as legendary bands Testament, Obituary, Lazarus A.D. and Cancer. His 1996 solo album Convergence was a profound influence on how I would write and listen to music. His work with Devin Townsend on that record completely changed me as a musician. Shane from Kazrog LLC had this to say, “James is not only an amazing guitarist, but also a world class producer and mix engineer. He's been very generous with his knowledge, and the reason he's in the credits in the manual is because Recabinet wouldn't have been nearly as good without his influence in furthering my understanding of audio production, particularly with respect to high gain guitar sounds.” So much respect goes out to the team at Kazrog for incorporating the work of such an amazing musician and engineer. His imprint is felt all across metal!!!
The challenge here is summing up the what a huge and multi-faceted impact that 13mb of software can have on not just a mix or live environment , but the inspirational value it has when inserting it into the same channel as your favorite amp sim and having it bring out huge layers of thick colors to work with. It was very stimulating to experiment with all the available amp sims and hear the tangible difference that Recabinet made in the realism of the tone. It’s more than just something that you hear. When you insert Recabinet into the channel, you just start to “understand” your guitar mix much clearer. Not only that, but to have a simple yet rich graphic interface to compliment the impact made it such a fun experience. The team at Kazrog LLC will be adding panning and other new features later this year in a free update.
Download the demo or purchase Recabinet at http://www.recabi.net/.