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How to Maximize Dynamic Range on Clean Sound

stub

Member
There's a style of dynamic rhythmic strumming that not only has soft, medium, and loud, strumming, but also includes super-accented hits (that might compete with accents from the drums). Though not practical for recordings, it's really nice for some live situations. I've found that some amp modelers do well with soft, medium and loud, but there's a kind of hard limiting going on that prevents that extra level of accent.

The only tube amp I've ever owned is a Blues, Jr, which does this VERY well. Another effective option is an analog amp sim pedal, the Joyo American (a clone of a Tech 21 Blonde) which also does this well. Oddly enough, a few budget Zoom multi-effects do it quite well with their Fender amp sims (e.g., MS-100BT, G3n). I've had no luck with digitech, line6, or boss to get this behavior.

I've only had my FM3 for a few days, and only have gone through presets which don't really explore this type of sound.

If I want to create a super-clean preset with nice full range (and "sparkle"), which amp & cab would you recommend? Also, what kinds of settings can I change to eliminate compression/limiting and get more dynamics?
 

Will Chen

Inspired
Can you post a clip with an example of what you are going for? Not sure I completely understand. A great many clean amp presets within the FM3 have a compressor engaged which is going to provide less dynamics, if that's what you're getting at, but really pretty much all the clean amps in the FM3 transmit dynamic picking changes well. There's actually a model of the Blues Jr in the FM3, so I'd probably start there if that's the sound you're going for.

EDIT: Also, I've had the Blonde pedal and the Joyo Clean Glass which was a shrunk down copy and I'm not sure I'd call either of those pedals super dynamic, though very easy to distort a unit downstream if the gain staging is set up to do so.
 

stub

Member
It's a good idea. I'll put together a little audio example soon. In the meantime, I need to build some presets from scratch and get my feet wet with the FM3.

I get the impression that people refer to "dynamic picking" as a way of describing some transition between clean and a little dirt. That's a useful description, but not really what I'm referring to. I'm actually referring to plain old amplitude dynamics (i.e., LACK of compression).
 

Greg Ferguson

Fractal Fanatic
Any number of amps on the FM3/FM9/FX3 can do that, not just ones that are typically known as clean amps, and wandering through the factory presets will help you find them. Searching the Factory Presets list will help too, especially for the word "clean", then looking at the preset. We can recommend pretty much any amp in the modeler if it's set up right.

In the analog world, a "clean" amp is one that has the reserve power to handle a transient without draining the capacitors. That implies a robust power-supply. Fractal only models those things, so how you set up the AMP block will control the cleanliness of the overall sound, and that's why many "heavy rock" and "metal" amps can turn around and create great cleans; They're still very high-fidelity, and they have big power-supplies to handle the lows cleanly, without getting flabby in real life. Set up the model to be clean and run it into a power-amp and cabinet or a good FRFR and it'll be solid and clean.

A Blues Jr. isn't a real good example of what a well designed amplifier can do, as far as flexibility and sound; They're made to maximize profit and provide reasonable utility, but people recognize they could have been better, hence the number of hacks and tweaks that can be done to improve their sound. Listen to the factory models, which are based on accurate models of classic amps, from clean to dirty, and turn up the volume to be able to hear the nuances, and play through them. The Blues Jr. is modeled because it's popular, and after having several of them over the years and having tweaked and hacked them, I can say that the model is accurate, and that many of the other modeled amps give me a much more satisfying feel and sound. The goal of having a Fractal modeler is to create your ideal sound, so mixing and matching amps and cabinets or even diving in and changing sections of the amps, can result in a much better fit for you.

You need to how how to adjust the amp model; This is really important, because Fractal's modelers have a lot more depth that can be adjusted than other modelers or what a regular amp allows. I'd highly recommend reading the Amplifier models list and following those pages to Yek's commentaries to get an idea how the original amps were used and set-up. Read through the AMP block page in the Wiki, and through the AMP block information in the Blocks guide to understand what the parameters do, especially how the Master Volume works, because it's not your grandfather's master volume. Cliff's Tech Notes is also very useful to peruse multiple times.
 

stub

Member
Thanks! This is all really helpful info. I'm not attached to the idea of replicating the Blues, Jr. I just know it did what I needed. But I'd be more than happy to discover better amps for that purpose (and other purposes).

As you say, I need to know how to adjust the amp model. Your links to the wiki amp list, and tech notes look like a great place to start. But it does look like about six months worth of reading.

This is my first post, and I'm impressed with the speed and quality of the help.

@Wolfgangman, I'll try the CA3+ Thanks for the tip.
 

Greg Ferguson

Fractal Fanatic
Wander through the ambient factory presets at the end of their list. Fiddle turning off the blocks that occur after the CAB block and listen to the sound of the amps themselves.
 

stub

Member
Good tip. I'll check those out.

Any quick tips in the amp settings (sag?-- I don't really know what that is, etc.?)
 

Will Chen

Inspired
Thanks! This is all really helpful info. I'm not attached to the idea of replicating the Blues, Jr. I just know it did what I needed. But I'd be more than happy to discover better amps for that purpose (and other purposes).

As you say, I need to know how to adjust the amp model. Your links to the wiki amp list, and tech notes look like a great place to start. But it does look like about six months worth of reading.

This is my first post, and I'm impressed with the speed and quality of the help.

@Wolfgangman, I'll try the CA3+ Thanks for the tip.

You don't have to dig in to the deep controls. Just start with a clean amp, like the JC-120 which is purely clean and will have next to no compression, and an IR. Just use the authentic page and dial things like you would with a real amp. That's the best way to start if you want to start from scratch.
 

Greg Ferguson

Fractal Fanatic
Good tip. I'll check those out.

Any quick tips in the amp settings (sag?-- I don't really know what that is, etc.?)
For now I'd recommend sticking with the parameters on the "Authentic" page, and, if you're after clean tones, don't increase the Master Volume if it's present, instead, maybe reduce it. On a modeler the Master Volume has little to do with the overall volume of the modeler or modeled amp, it's the sponginess and thickness as you increase it.

"Sag" is the result of the power supply not being able to supply enough voltage to the power amp, resulting in it basically "grunting" as it tries to catch up to the demands of the pre-amp's signal. It's a feel in how the amp reacts to the guitar, it's that sponginess I mentioned, a form of compression, and is a major part of the feel of a tube amp that is working really hard, which is the sound of early Fenders and Marshalls that are running at 10. Typically sag is highly desirable for blues and rock, somewhat for country especially for leads, and not much, if at all, for jazz and ambient. Think of the sound of Neil Young's electric guitar; Listen to how his amp sounds and reacts to the bass notes in this video and to the lead notes when he solos…



That's a Fender Tweed exceeding its legal speed limit.

And for fun…
 
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stub

Member
Some of that reading about Sag and B+ (time-constant) is pretty advanced and requires some vocabulary and knowledge that I lack. Nonetheless, I'll brew some coffee and glean what I can.

Next time I have the rig up for an in-depth editing session I will try these suggestions and explore more.
 

Moke

Axe-Master
Vendor
You can even take it out of the real world restraints if you like. Exaggerate it a bit by adding an Envelope controller to something like the 'Input Drive' parameter to give you a bit more when you really dig in. And also attach that same controller to the 'Input Level' of the Reverb and/or Delay blocks to bump it/them up a bit more to really help accent them even more.
 

citytoburn

Member
I recommend turning off the noise gate in the input block. It ruins the dynamics you're talking about, and if you're playing a clean amp you don't need a noise gate anyway, most likely. Then pick any clean amp you want, I like the Fender Brownface amps and the Hiwatt clean channel (Hipower Billiant).
 

marsonic

Inspired
If you want to really exaggerate it, there are upward expanders in the Compressor block. They're called something like FF 2 and FB 2. They work the same way as compressors except that above the threshold, they make the output louder than the input rather than making it quieter. So, if you set either with zero attack times and relatively short releases, they'll exaggerate your transients.

You can actually exaggerate that even further if you follow it with another compressor block set to be a normal compressor (e.g., FF 1 or FB 1) set super slow (their attack should be a little slower than the release you set in the upward expander), you'll get a huge exaggerated transient followed by it clamping down on the sustain.

You could essentially do the same thing using the envelope follower to increase the level of the amp (not the input gain, the output level).

Set the levels so you don't clip the DAC and run it into a loud enough speaker, and you'll have all the transients you need, assuming you play appropriately for it.

Though that's probably also true for any of those tecniques alone.

If you don't want to jump through those hoops...gain low, speaker loud. Pick almost any amp.
 

Greg Ferguson

Fractal Fanatic
I recommend turning off the noise gate in the input block. It ruins the dynamics you're talking about, and if you're playing a clean amp you don't need a noise gate anyway, most likely. Then pick any clean amp you want, I like the Fender Brownface amps and the Hiwatt clean channel (Hipower Billiant).
I'm an old fart. <"Hello old fart" they say in response.>

"Back in my day"… we din't have no "noise gates". We dealt with the noise two ways… if we were playing a noisy guitar, such as a single coil, we'd move the pickup selector in-between positions, to those non-existent "2" and "4" positions, because the toggle switch only had three positions, or we'd turn the volume knob down, and we did it until it was second nature. And we liked it, because we din't have no electronics cutting into the response of our pickups.

Yeah, we LIKED noise, to a point.

NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!
 

stub

Member
I wound't be using a noise gate on a clean tone, so thanks for the tip to make sure it is off.

I was reading about the upward compressor, and it looks like it boosts signals below threshold (as opposed to raising signals above the threshold). It's possible the downward expander might also be interesting. The other option of using the input envelope follower is also quite promising.

I'm hoping if I can eliminate or reduce compression that might appear in the amp/cab sections I won't need any special tricks.

It did occur to me that the Joyo American and Zoom effects probably lack any kind of sag simulation so they don't squish.

Thanks for the recommendations about clean amps to try. It's a fun "problem" to have-- a dazzlingly massive selection of amps and cabs.
 

marsonic

Inspired
I was reading about the upward compressor, and it looks like it boosts signals below threshold (as opposed to raising signals above the threshold). It's possible the downward expander might also be interesting. The other option of using the input envelope follower is also quite promising.
Am I wrong about that? I might be...I thought that's what I remembered the blocks guide said.

The slow normal compressor will still exaggerate transients.
 

stub

Member
My goal isn't so much about bringing out transients. It's about relative levels. In short, for this specific sound: if I really bang the strings hard, I don't want it to get limited/squished.

With the ideas presented in this thread, I should have plenty to work with. I'll report back.
 

citytoburn

Member
I'm an old fart. <"Hello old fart" they say in response.>

"Back in my day"… we din't have no "noise gates". We dealt with the noise two ways… if we were playing a noisy guitar, such as a single coil, we'd move the pickup selector in-between positions, to those non-existent "2" and "4" positions, because the toggle switch only had three positions, or we'd turn the volume knob down, and we did it until it was second nature. And we liked it, because we din't have no electronics cutting into the response of our pickups.

Yeah, we LIKED noise, to a point.

NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!
In a perfect world the gate would have zero influence on tone, single coils would sound like single coils without hum, full dynamic range of single coils would be unimpeded by any other part of the equipment, but it's all a balancing act between what's most important to you. Personally I have the default noise gate settings on for most of my patches, and the only ones where I take it out are a few that are completely clean where I want to use my guitar volume knob to full potential. It really ruins my experience tryin to play clean on a strat if I go to turn the volume knob down and accidentally find a notch where it starts to crackle because of the gate.
 
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