How to Reamp Your Guitar Signal in Your Recording Rig

More on Reamping a Guitar with Producer Warren Huart

Among the hundreds of questions that producer/engineer/mixer Warren Huart receives, among the most frequently asked via his Produce Like A Pro website are how to reamp a guitar, when to do it and why it’s necessary.

“These days I encourage people, even when recording real amplifiers, to also record a DI signal from an electric guitar,” Huart says. And there are two advantages: First, you can use it with virtual amplifier simulations, such as AmpliTube, BIAS and SansAmp. And you can reamp your signal from your DI.

Radial Reamp JCR Studio Reamper

Radial Reamp JCR Studio Reamper

“Printing a DI gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to mixing, especially if you don’t mix your own stuff and you give it to somebody who wants to dramatically change your guitar sounds to fit their vision of how your song should be mixed,” Huart says.

If you want to reamp, you’ll find plenty of reamp boxes on the market, including some that won’t empty your wallet. For the guitarist on a budget, Saturnworks, Switchcraft and Radial offer affordable options. In this tutorial, Warren Huart explains reamping and how to get the best results in the most practical ways.

How Reamp Boxes Work

All reamps take a balanced line-level signal from either a mixer or an interface and make it into an unbalanced instrument-level signal that can be handled by a guitar amp.

“This allows you to send a direct clean signal off of your computer,” Huart says. “That goes through the reamp into your normal guitar chain. You can then use all of your guitar pedals as your front end and put that back into a guitar amp or directly back into your DAW (digital audio workstation).”

For example, his colleague Bob Horn, engineer/producer for Usher, Nelly, Everclear and Timbaland, uses guitar pedals on his mixes and not just for guitars, but for vocals, keyboards, drum loops or anything. “It gives you another palette, a selection of organic analog equipment, that you can use,” Huart says.

Getting Started: I/Os and Cables

Inputs and Output on the Radial Reamp

Inputs and Output on the Radial Reamp

Start by reviewing and understanding the inputs and outputs of your interface and be certain that you have all of the right cables.

“Many interfaces, especially on at the ‘prosumer’ level, are going to have a ¼-inch instrument input,” Huart says. “If your output is a balanced line from an XLR, you’re going to have to get an XLR-balanced cable and make that go to a ¼-inch balanced cable on most of these reamp boxes.” Some reamp boxes do take XLR in, and if that is the case, it will make life easier, however, some more affordable ones have only ¼-inch inputs.

“Make sure that you match your inputs and outputs correctly, and remember that balanced line signals are three pins, not two,” Huart says. “It’s either going to be an XLR cable to an XLR cable, an XLR to a stereo balanced ¼-inch, or a balanced 1/4-inch output to a balanced ¼-inch input. Check your reamp box and obviously your I/Os as to which ones you need.”

Pedals and Amps

If you’re using a guitar amp, and not just the pedals, you’ll obviously need to mic your amp, and that microphone will have to go back into the mic pre on your interface.

“If it’s just going through the guitar pedals, you’ll come out of your pedals, and then go back into the instrument line input on your interface, and you’ll record it back in that way,” Huart says.

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The Importance of Printing

“Some interfaces allow you to run the pedals as a hardware insert, which means you don’t have to record them,” says Huart. “You select the output of your DAW, come out of your interface through the pedals, and then back into an input on your interface.”

For instance, that would be true of Pro Tools hardware inserts, he says.

“You can go out of one, back in on one, run it in real time during a mix, and you don’t have to print it. However, most mixers, myself included, like to print what we do because it makes mix recalls much easier,” Huart says.

When you want to recall a mix at a later date, there’s less setup time because the effects that you created by reamping and running through guitar pedals are printed back in permanently on a mono or stereo track and are available immediately for remixing.

Level Control

“The good quality reamps I’ve used don’t have any real level issues,” says Huart. “The reason for using a reamp box is so you can take a balanced line signal from a mixer or an interface. The output signal is so hot compared with an instrument level, so if the reamp is doing its job properly there shouldn’t be any issues. You should be able to keep it at whatever level you do inside of your DAW and never have an issue driving it too hard — or not hard enough — into a reamp box. That really is the job of the reamp box.”

“I’ve done things without using reamp boxes, where I have literally taken a signal from my hardware insert and sent it to the guitar pedals, but you have to turn your output down dramatically. If you’re not using a reamp box, which I wouldn’t recommend, then you’re going to have to make sure that you send a signal from your DAW at an incredibly low level and that you pad it significantly; otherwise, it will be just a huge amount of volume going into your pedals, and just a bunch of distortion and noise.”

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Phase and Latency

Phase and latency go hand-in-hand, Huart says. “I’ve had two pedals made by the same manufacturer and one of them was repaired over the years and sometimes people wire them in reverse, so the guitar goes in one side and comes out the other side out of phase.”

If you’re running through guitar pedals for reamping, Huart suggests turning the pedals off, printing the signal clean through the pedals, and comparing it to the original signal to see whether the polarity has flipped 180 degrees and is out of phase, and how far back the latency is.

And there will be latency, he adds. “There’s nothing you can do about it because you’re re-digitizing the signal,” Huart says.

To figure out how much the latency is:

  • Print it clean and you’ll be able to compare the waveforms and calculate how many samples back it is.
  • Then write it down and also make sure the phase is correct and that the polarity isn’t flipping somewhere, either because of the pedals or because of a bad cable.

“After you’ve recorded through your pedals, you can nudge it forward the amount of samples you wrote down and you’ll be in phase with your original signal,” Huart says.

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