So, I've been messing around in Reaper trying to find a nice tone for some of my raw recordings. I've been mainly going off recommendations from YT videos in terms of impulses/amp sims/pedals to use, but haven't taken the time to test and explore other ones myself. My question is, what has the greatest impact on the tone/quality of the recording? Should I be looking for a good amp sim? Or should I mess around with different impulses? Will spending more time on the EQ make all the difference?

Additionally, should I spend money on some retail amp sims (Guitar Rig, POD Farm etc.)? Or will free amp sims suffice? (I'm not looking for pro quality. Just something easy on the ears for some covers I'm making).
Last edited by JJ1994 at Dec 17, 2015,
I'd say technique would be first.

You can get decent results with freeware sims, quite a few tweaks are required. Same with the commercial amp sims and hardware processors.

Personally, I find hardware easier to tweak as it is more tactile. Learning some songs for a cover band, I got out my Boss GT-10 and have to say it is rather easy to dial in "Led Zep", "AC/DC", etc. tones (at least in the ballpark) through the processor than on the PC.
As diabolical said, technique first.

But yeah, when using amp sims, proper EQ is a must. Different Impulses will give you a totally different tone, and you have to mess around a bit to find the perfect one.

I would stay away from Guitar Rig. Amplitube can be nice provided you bypass the cabs and use decent IRs. Just my opinion though, I don't really like Amplitube's cab simulation.

Another retail amp sim I've tried was Bias, and I was not impressed.

Can't give you anymore feedback on retail amp sims, but I've heard good stuff about Softube's amp sims.

Now about free amp sims, you can get very nice results with Lepou's plugins. They are free and very good. They would be a nice starting point. Be sure to use IRs though.

Check this: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1522593
+1 for everything said so far. I do all my recording by DI. Amplitube 3 and AcmeBarGig Headcase are my goto amp sims. EQ plays a big part, but primarily Technique. Depending on the sound you want to get, the amp sims I mentioned are worth every penny. Everything from a clean sound to heavy metal guitar is achievable with these, and they come with a multitude of plugins, especially Amplitube. I did 95% of all the guitar parts including bass(with a bass plugin for guitar) on this song using Amplitube:


The other 5%(about 16 bars worth) was done by another guitarist using an amp and pedals. I've used POD Farm, and it doesn't do it for me. The EQ plugins in Amplitude do a real nice job, along with other plugins that you'll want to play around with. Headcase is just a monster of an amp sim if you want a high gain sound.
Again, Agreed on all the above.

Case in point to technique is most important, Meshuggah recorded Koloss using the Amp Sim built into Cubase, which is nowhere close to being a WorldBeater.

After technique, you want to make sure you are capturing pristine source material. As they saying goes, 'You can polish a turd, but in the end it's a shiny turd'.
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