Re-amping is neither the latest nor the easiest way to record an instrument but a convenient technique of accessing manifold sound options and as such it’s worth taking into consideration. The proper setup and selection of equipment might appear a little tricky so here’s a suggestion to simplify the whole process.
Certainly it’s also possible to choose from a wider range of amps (depending on what you have) as the basic raw material remains unmodified. A kind of physical modeling for grown ups, if you like.
Reamp® is a brand name, established by recording engineer John Cuniberti in 1994 who sold the patent, trademark and all business assets to Radial Engineering Ltd in 2011 whom nowadays produce the Reamp® JCR™ Studio Reamper.
Above that you can easily track the basic material at reasonable volume in your bedroom without getting in trouble with your neighbours and take the outcome to the studio later on.
Apparently we’re looking at a two-stage operation here. So let’s get down to business.
STEP 1: RECORDING
Instead of plugging your instrument into the amp you’ll connect it with a DI (direct input) Box whose balanced output is connected with your mixing desk or whatever you have chosen to record with. Ideally the DI Box has also a “Link Out” or “Thourgh” jack plug. This one has to be connected to your amplifier which is not essential in this example but plays an important role as a listening device.
You’ll realize that an amp affects your way of playing quite a bit. It’s where the “feeling” is as corny as it reads. Of course there’s nothing wrong with microphoning the amp as well but it’s not a necessity right now.
And that’s about it. Now let your engineer edit the material while you grab a couple of premium amps.
STEP 2: RE-RECORDING
After setting up and microphoning the amps of choice the probably cutted and pre-edited tracks were played back into the Reamp Box / DI Box (we’ll get to this in a bit) using an XLR cable. From there on a jack cable is used to run it through the amps. The microphones captured the signal gets simultaneously recorded.
WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS
It should have become clear that the DI Box is the key element in this procedure. Makes sense to take a closer look…
The term “DI” stands for direct input, direct injection, direct induction or direct interface. Technically speaking such unit is used to connect a high-output impedance, line level, unbalanced output signal to a low-impedance, microphone level, balanced input, usually via an XLR connector and XLR cable.
DIs are available in various manifestations, with different characteristics, features and at a price range from 10,00€ up to more than 800,00€. In case you think about purchasing such a device you wouldn’t want to search at the bottom or the top of the scale. In fact a pick from the solid midfield will work just right.
Keep in mind that it’s certainly not the amount of features that rises the price but the quality of workmanship as well as the selection of the used components.
When it comes to re-recording you’ll have to deal with the issue of the XLR cables’ directivity. While a jack cable has identical tips on both ends the XLR connectors are different. A male end with 3 pins (where the signal “comes out”) and a female end with the according 3 sockets.
If you don’t have special purpose device with a female XLR input at hand there’s a workaround to finish the setup for the re-recording. Get yourself an XLR female – female gender changer, connect it to the male XLR output and simply use it backwards.
Just because it works technically doesn’t mean you’ll get 100% of the result.
A regular passive DI is a step-down transformer with a ratio of usually 12:1 with the purpose of reducing an instruments high volume and impedance down to microphone level. When using it in reverse it will logically flip the transformers ratio and step the signal up by 12x.
The amp that has to handle such boosted signal will not only NOT sound natural as it has a lot to deal with but most likely clip on the input. While handling such clipping can possibly be tweaked away a not natural sounding amp is pretty much what reduces the whole procedure to absurdity as you’re primarily not getting what you’re after in the first place.
Of course it all may vary according to the quality of the transformer as it’s the heart of the DI Box. Better transformers will lead to better results etc. but at the end of the day, and we can’t stress this enough, the conclusion should be:
Outmanoeuvring a regular DI works for re-amping but is not ideal.
John Cunibertis Reamp
Little interview dealing with the L2A Re-amplifier kit and re-amping itself