Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lehle P-Split ll, Radial Reamp PRO-RMP first impressions

Konnichiwa! Hope all of you had a good christmass and got some niiiiiice presents! As for me, i've got myself some toys for guitar :)

Sariola recording sessions are nearer and nearer and since the 2 songs will be mixed  by a famous mixing engineer my goal is to deliver the best quality of recording material possible. I was also always curious about re-amping and signal splitting. Read a lot about it and could not really make a picture about all this stuff, so i decided to check it for myself and share the results with you guys!

I'd like to include a short introduction for those of you who do not know what re-amping and splitting is. Advanced guys may just skip to part 2.

PART I. What is re-amping and what do you need a splitter for?

Imagine that you record an electric guitar with your amp and a microphone or a DI-box. The track that you recorded, especially if it's distorted guitar sound will more or less retain it's original sound. Even when you process it with a compressor or eq it will still have the sound character or color it had while you recorded it. And than imagine that when you're done with the recording and start to mix and add some other instruments and you suddenly discover that this guitar sound is not suitable for your track? The only way to correct this is to record the guitars again, which is pain in da arse. In order to prevent this process repeating you can rather record the dry signal of your electric guitar right in to the box (be it your audio interface or a multi-track recorder, or whatever) and then send it back to the amp and tweak the setting and microphone positions or even change the amp, the cabinet, the microphone until you get your desired sound and. People say however that you can't just re-amp from your interface output due to impedance differences and also noise-floor problems. A so called "re-amping box" is a device that let's you bring your dry recorded guitar signal back to the amp without or with little signal authenticity-loss.
 Of course if you are playing some heavy music it will be very uncomfortable to record just the clean (dry) signal of your guitar. For many people (including me) all the virtual guitar processing systems like NI Guitar Rig, IK Multimedia Amplitube, Peavy Revalver or the others are not that great in the subject of the playing feeling, so you would most likely have to route your guitar signal to 2 ways: You recording device and your amp. To achieve this you need a device that will split your guitar signal in two. This devices are called splitters. A cheaper splitter will bring a lot of noise and coloration to your signal, the bit more expensive one's will do this to a lesser degree. Here's a diagram to explain the process:

PART II. First impressions & some re-amp myth-busting.

This one is not quite for beginners, but rather for advanced users and those who read about re-amping and got even more puzzled. Some say that you shouldn't do re-amping without a re-amp box, for you will smoke your amp. The others say that the output signal of your sound card is too high for the input of the amp. There are also people who are trying to explain it with some impedance mismatching or balanced and unbalanced signal blah blah blah. A decent re-amping box will cost you about 100-200 $/€ so it's not the world.  But the big question is: Do you have to spend that extra money?!

The popular "solutions" are:

  • Use you passive DI-box backwards.
  • Adjust the output level of your interface to the output level of your guitar.
  • Plug the output of your audio-interface in an effect pedal because of balanced/unbalanced signal.
  • Use a noise-gate to avoid hum/noise that will most likely be there since you connect amp and audio-interface (ground loop).

Tested setups:

In order to achieve at least a rough impression of different re-amping ways i tried out following setups. Each of these steps were instantly compared to the same guitar that was recorder plugged into the amp/distortion pedal directly.

1. The classic way.
Dry guitar track through Saffire Pro 40's output => Radial REAMP PRO-RMP (passive re-amping box) => Blackstar HT-DISTX (valve distortion pedal) => Input of the Marshall Valvestate amp.

 Comparison to live guitar: I was to lazy to throw a mic in front of the amp's speaker so i just listened to the sound of the amp from different positions. The sound was of course different due to different reasons like the coloration of the dry track-recording (interface's preamp, interface's output, ad/da). Subjectively, the sound that came out of the amp had a bit less low-end and a bit less high-end, however these frequencies would be to 90% attenuated in the mix, so it's not a big deal. The good thing is, there was not more noise than when actually playing the guitar. So the REAMP PRO-RMP seems to handle it's job very well.  I must mention that i ran my amp at moderate level and it could just come out, that i might get a less perfect signal to noise ratio when i'll do a full-scale recording with an ENGL Savage 120 alltube higain-demon with a 412 Celestion V30 cab at proper level, to let the power tubes kick ass.

2. The unorthodox, blasphemous no-reamping box way.
Dry guitar track through Saffire Pro 40's output => Blackstar HT-DISTX => Marshall Valvestate.

 Comparison to live guitar: The very first thing to strike my ears was the noise that emerged as soon as i connected my patchbay's output to the distortion pedal. The noise was there all the time. At a more then you would like to have not only while recording, but while listening already. It would become less noticeable during wall-like riffing, but get's through in each even smallest pause. The ground loop exists ;) end of story. Considering the amount of time and effort that must be put in to cleaning of the re-amped tracks made this way i'd 10000000 % go and buy a re-amp box or...

...3. No re-amping box, but a splitter instead. 
Dry guitar track through Saffire Pro 40's output => Lehle P-Split II' iso output => Blackstar HT-DISTX => Marshall Valvestate.

What i was thinking here: Since the Lehle P-Split provides galvanic separation, so it will be possible to avoid the ground loop.

 Comparison to live guitar: This is waaaaaaaaaay better then without the Lehle. The sound was still different from the live guitar and different from the Radial's Reamp as well, but it wasn't better or worse. Very usable in my opinion. Can't wait to compare both of these devices in a full scale test.

4. Using you di-box backwards. 
Dry guitar track through Saffire Pro 40's output => output of the Hughes & Kettner Red Box Pro and from it's input to => Blackstar HT-DISTX => Marshall Valvestate.

Here i encountered a major problem. The output of the Red Box, or the output of any other DI even when used as an input still has an male XLR slot. So you will need a female to female xlr cable or a guitar jack to female xlr (like the drum trigger cables). Unfortunately my trigger cables where all in my recording studio and not in my mixing room, so this setup i'll have to run again at the full scale test.


Although i can not call this review an scientific article due to lack of sound samples and pretty sloppy test execution as such, there are statements to be made:

1. You have to deal with ground loops, so when using an interface plugged directly to amp/fx pedal you need some good separation, otherwise a large amount of noise is imminent.

2. Not using a re-amping box will NOT destroy your amplifier, which, as i can recall, was earlier the major argument for buying a re-amping box. It will however, most likely destroy your time and probably the recording as well.

3. A good guitar splitter can act like a re-amping device in a certain way. You should, however, bear in mind that a quality splitter would cost even more than a re-amping box. On the other hand you get quasi 2 devices in one. This statement is to a certain degree (until proven otherwise) applicable to the Lehle P-Split II.

The full-scale test with audio and maybe even video, as well as single product reviews will follow as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading

Stay tuned!

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