The art of reamping can be applied to many situations in the modern studio. Reamping can be applied effectively to any audio track even though it is commonly associated with guitars. The Wikipedia entry on reamping even goes so far as to suggest any processing of sound with outboard gear can be considered reamping. This article is not about an argument or refining the definition of reamping. This topic has been on the mind of many POD X3 owners since Line 6 made the somewhat controversial decision to eliminate native driver support for reamping (something that was included on their POD XT series of processors). With this in mind, I sat down one evening and did some reamping experiments the old fashioned way using my POD X3 Live. Here are the results and how to set it up.
This article only covers reamping with the POD X3 though many techniques will apply to other Line 6 gear as well as other amplifiers with appropriate feature sets. If you are looking for an easy way to reamp your POD XT series processor then you should check out this Line 6 KB doc by line6jean.
For my experiment I wanted to try reamping a crunchy rhythm guitar track, a lead guitar line, and a male vocal. If you are going to record vocals or guitar there is a standard set of things you need whether or not you plan to reamp. This article is written with the assumption you are set up to record basic tracks. Therefore I’m not going to go into detail about the guitar, the cable you need to connect it to your POD, a microphone for vocals, a DAW set up on your computer, etc. The only thing I want to go into detail on is the reamping equipment needed which is not needed for the regular recording. Without further ado, here is the complete inventory of equipment I used for this reamping experiment.
Figure 1: X3 reamp cable
Yes, that is a standard 1/4″ to 1/4″ patch cable. It’s about twenty inches long and I made it myself. This is the only additional piece of equipment you will need to do reamping with your POD X3. You don’t need to make your own cable and you could even use a regular guitar cable. The main point to note is the shorter your cable the less chance you have of picking up extra noise during this process. More on that later.
Record your dry track for reamping
The whole point of this type of reamping is to be able to process your signal at a later time as though this were the first time it were being processed. To accomplish this we want to capture the raw guitar signal or vocal track to be played back through the X3. Ever plugged your guitar directly into a mixer or listened to a vocal mic with no effects through a very clean preamp? Those very unflattering sounds are what we want to record. Lucky for us, POD X3 makes this easy.
I set up two tracks in my DAW. Track 1 is labeled Live Crunch X3 with an input source of POD X3 ASIO outs 3-4. Track 2 is labeled Live Crunch Dry with an input source of POD X3 ASIO out 7. Live Crunch X3 will record a stereo signal of amp 1 on my X3 while track 2 will record the raw sound of my guitar right before it feeds amp 1. I hit record and layed down this chugging metal riff.
- Live Crunch Dry (sound sample) – This is my dry guitar track. It sounds very plain but the important thing is it is exactly what your X3 hears and turns into the next clip.
- Live Crunch X3 (sound sample) – This is the processed guitar track. The sound is what you expect a guitar track to sound like. I am recording a processed track so I have a point of reference in my mix without having to set up the reamping every time.
Following the same pattern, I set up another two track as Live Lead X3 and Live Lead Dry with the inputs configured just like the crunch samples above. The following samples of a short, single note melody will be great for our reamping tests.
For reamping vocals it is a little less complicated. You don’t strictly need your POD X3 to get the source material here. Set up a track called Live Vox Dry where you can record a vocal track. If you are using your POD X3 as soundcard (as we did for the guitar tracks) you can run your mic into it and record ASIO out 7. You could also send the mic through your mixer and record into your regular home studio soundcard. Your goal is to have a dry vocal track, by any means possible. You don’t want to hear me sing, so I grabbed this vocal snippet from my recording archives.
- Live Vox Dry (sound sample)
Set up POD X3 for reamping
The patch you use for reamping in your POD X3 needs to be created in a very specific way. We are going to be running one of the main outs back into the input, so care needs to be taken to prevent a feedback loop.
- Input – Press the INPUTS button on your POD X3 and set both amps to use GUITAR as the input source.
- Output – Press the OUTPUTS button on your POD X3 and set the pan controls for both amps to hard right.
I want to caution you about feedback. It is very easy to set this up incorrectly and produce instant squealing feedback. Keep your monitors/headphones turned down and if you hear the slightest hint of feedback when plugging in the cable, pull it back out immediately. You are now ready to connect your special POD X3 reamp cable (see Figure 1). Plug one end of the cable into the left 1/4″ output of your POD X3. Plug the other end of the cable into the guitar input (be wary of feedback). If all was set up correctly you will now have your reamp cable set to go.
Set reamping playback levels
Our next task is to get the input signal back to POD X3 at the same volume that our guitar originally was at coming into the unit. The reamping cable is coming out the left output of our POD X3 so pan the Live Dry track all the way to the left and solo it. Set up a new track in your DAW named Reamp Dry with POD X3 ASIO out 7 as input. Arm the new track for recording and start playback (not record). You should see the meters bouncing away while you play. We want to get the Live Dry and Reamp Dry tracks to have the same meter reading. You adjust this with the Master Volume knob directly on your POD X3. If the Reamp Dry track is peaking lower than Live Dry then you need to turn master volume up. If it is peaking higher then you need to turn master volume down. Don’t worry about being exact. Strive to get reasonably close. I decided within 0.2dB was close enough (see Figure 2).
|Figure 2: Setting the playback level for the dry reamp track.Adjust your POD X3 Master Volume until the Reamp Dry track plays back at the same volume as the Live Dry track. Live Dry is panned hard left and Reamp Dry is armed for recording.|
Now we are ready to do a test run of the dry signal. Record a short segment of audio. If I zoom in and compare the original dry guitar signal and the newly reamped dry guitar signal we can see they look the same (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: The live dry signal is on top and the
reamped dry signal is on the bottom.
The only reason I am going to this trouble is to convince myself (and you, the reader) that reamping this way is reasonably and realistically close enough to the original live recording to make this a viable reamping solution. Here is an overlayed comparison of the original dry track and the reamped dry track (see Figure 4).
Figure 4: The reamped dry signal overlayed on
the live dry signal. The very few black pixels you see
are the only differences in the waves. These are very
few and are caused by my 0.2dB difference in level
more than from the extra few digital/analog
conversions we are now doing.
Diagrams and pictures are great for talking about audio but the sound is really all that counts. Here are the original audio samples along with new samples of the reamped dry tracks. Listen and compare them and see what differences you can detect in audio quality, frequency response, timbre, or anything else you can think to compare.
- Live Crunch Dry (sound sample)
- Reamped Crunch Dry (sound sample)
- Live Lead Dry (sound sample)
- Reamped Lead Dry (sound sample)
- Live Vox Dry (sound sample)
- Reamped Vox Dry (sound sample)
This concludes the setup portion of the reamping experiment. For many of you, this will be enough to get on your feet and roll with it. For anyone who wants a bit more info on recording reamped tracks or wants to hear my reamping results and conclusions, please continue reading the Reamping Results page.