Anyone using Cantabile to replace electric guitar FX?

I’ve been setting Cantabile up to replace rack FX in my amps series FX loop and loving it. First, the DSP code quality available in VST (even free stuff) is really good compared to quality rack FX. Second, the processing power available on PC is generous, I’m using an HP Revolve 810 G3 which is a 13" laptop convertible to tablet…perfect for this application. Third, Cantabile allows what were complex footswitching schemes to be simplified to a single stomp. And of course no real limit to the number of complex switches that can be created.

This is working really well for FX that need to be clean, even with crunchy and driven amp tones. Obviously there are certain effects that need to remain as analog boxes in order to achieve the desired sounds, but I’m surprised just how much I can take into Cantabile.

1 Like

I’ve been totally digital for quite some time. I play guitar thru amp sims and vst fx. My amps and pedals have been under dusty covers untouched. Keyboard controllers into vsts…no more digital workstations. Vocals thru vst processors. Cantabile made all this happen. Enjoy your trip!


For amps I’m doing the real thing but using load box with line out going to IRs. So the cab is just a stand for the head, lol. The amp sims have gotten better for sure but IMO they still can’t touch a real one going into a load box. But once the signal gets into Cantabile world, the VST opportunities are way beyond anything available in rack both in scope and quality.

I won’t go into the endless discussions about “real” VS “amp sim”. There are enough of those on the net already. I say whatever makes you happy is what you should stay with…just play.

For me, I don’t have to carry a heavy-ass guitar, or bass amp, or a truck load of fx pedals and guitars to a gig anymore, cluttering up the stage. I’ve mentioned in many threads here about Cantabile leading me to very creative things on stage.

Examples: In Ear monitors, the ability to immediately switch from a Fender to a Marshall with a footswitch, immediately activate (or switch) hundreds of pedals, vst rack gear, famous modeled studio racks, change my guitar pickups and Mod my amps, or make my Strat sound like a Les Paul or an Acoustic Martin or a 12-string Rickenbacker.

I have gear in my laptop I’ve never been able to buy, or even try out. And, it has been my experience, watching many guitarists using amp sims in the studio, including myself, and sounding great. As far as on stage, I’ve pre-dialed my tones in Cantabile, and know those sounds will be there when I need them. The amp response is very close, if not dead on, and enables me to relax, and enjoy my playing. Quite frankly, the audience will not know it’s an amp sim, and I’ve had several great local guitarists compliment my tones.

I think I own every amp sim made in the last 5 years. Some are crap…some are amazing. Some are better at modeling specific amps than others. For that reason, I don’t stick to just one. I use the ones I know suits my purpose. Again…happy person here. :+1:

I could also go on about my keyboards, but that is for another thread I will probably hijack. :smirk:




Hey, I have an open mind…can you share which amp sims you like? I definitely have not tried them all, but the ones I did try were not that great imo. But I’m all for not lugging stuff if possible.

Also, do you have particular FX you really like for this purpose? I’ve found a few I really like that were a bit surprising… Pecheneg Tremolo is really great. Their auto swell is nice too if you like that sort of thing. I’m really liking Melda’s Filter for auto-wah sounds. The pedal wahs are decent as well though this is one thing I’ll probably keep in hardware. RS-Met has a great delay that is very configurable as to how the taps work as well as feedback shape, tone etc. Their brick-wall limiter is nice too imo. The real “shocker” for me was how much I’m liking the mda Leslie for this. It’s pure Doppler with no cab sim, which for me is ideal since for guitar I prefer the Doppler sound thru a guitar cab or sim as opposed to a true Leslie or sim. has Triggergate which can be used a sequenced tremolo or gate similar to an Empress Tremolo pedal, only way more configurable. Playing with Valhalla Space Modulator to use for flange/chorus but not 100% on that one yet for this purpose. Of course their reverbs are all nice. Also liking Waves OVox for certain things. Some of the Audio Obsession stuff can provide some interesting drive sounds (not the guitar distortion pedal sims but their saturators) . And of course Cantabile makes all of these options possible. Using OwnHammer for IRs. I’m looking for something to cover what an ElectroHarmonix Pitchfork does (only without all of the latency, lol) any ideas?

Where to start…

My initial goto would be Positive Grid Bias 2. Very easy to dial in a tone quickly. It is weird the way they do things…there is an Fx2 and an Amp2. There are fx in Amp, and amps in Fx. I just went for the complete package.
Here is a basic rundown on the app, but this guy sux at tones:

This is a little better represented even though he is a metal head:

BUT…there are many others. S-Gear is very basic but sounds great. Amplitube 4 is very good, lots of gear within. Blue Cat has really stepped up the competition. TH-U is another plug I use a lot. I am not a big fan of Line 6 Helix Native plug, but it has an almost 0 cpu usage and plenty of fx. This is just a few. There are cheaper ones, and free ones that are nice.

FX are built into many of these plugs. But for outside the box FX, there are thousands available. Some that I use:

Eventide-the H910 Dual Harmonizer and the Factory 3000.
Softube plugs are great
Soundtoys are great
Valhalla plugs are amazing
Goodhertz Love these guys. Check out their Trem Control:

There are thousands of FX plugs and amp sims available, free and $$$. So I am just touching the surface here. As far as the Pitchfork, pretty sure there is something similar in the Bias FX. I would have to get to my rig to make sure, but haven’t been able to get to it in the last week. I will get back to you on it though.

Thanks for your input, I’ll try some of those sims and see what I think. As for the built in FXs, unless they do stuff well beyond what the modeled pedals do, I’ll likely stick with the “obscurium” I managed to dig up that offer things that are critical for me that I’ve not been able to find elsewhere. Bazillions of choices out there so my filters for spending the time to audition VSTs are pretty strict. But since its been a while since I tried amp sims I’ll give them another go.

Would also be interested in hearing more about your Rick 12 string sim. I’ve seen several things on the net people seem to like, some more convincing than others. It’s not a high priority for me since I have a Dano 12 that is at least passable when I need something 12, but lol, even with the head start that its a 12 string, nothing I know of is going to make it sound like a Rick…

To add to Corky’s info, which is spot-on as always… I’m a guitarist who got into electronic wind instruments and VSTi sax many years ago, using a laptop and samples. That eventually led me to go all digital on guitar too. I use S-gear a lot, but you might want to look at TH-U from Overloud… it’s the most realistic feeling sim I’ve tried. You can also mix and match… on some patches I use EFX and pedals from THU going into S gear, or whatever. I also got into Midi Guitar (from Jam Origin) recently. It woudl be far too comlicated to even think about all this onstage without Cantabile. The creative options are incredible. I’ll never go back to lugging an amp. That said, there’s nothing like playing my amazing 1960 Guild 11w amp in the crunch zone. Then again, that amp only gives me 2 tones… beautiful breakup and screaming tube goodness. And I can come pretty darn close to that plus many more tones in my C3 rig.

I use an FCB 1010 pedalboard, and while I have programmed it so there’s one footswitch with bright orange tape for “Next Song State”, I also have previous state, next song, previous song, expression pedals for wah, volume, All Notes Off, or whatever you want.

There are two things I’ve found that often help to get better tone from amp sims: put a clean boost pedal like a Lehle Sunday Driver or a Fulltone Full Drive 2 just before you interface. You can also try Softube Saturation Knob plugin (free) in C3, routed right after guitar but before the sim or efx… and sometimes I like Nick Crowes Tube Driver. The idea is to drive it just a little and get a more “tube-like” tone.

And the second is post-sim EQ. Adding a touch of low end sometimes gives that “punch in the gut” feel from an amp, or allows you to carve out your tone even better, and with a good EQ you can get it perfect without any mud.

You’ve probably already read about or used an FRFR monitor, but if not, if you’re used to your amp behind you onstage, you can get an FRFR. I used the Yamaha DXR10 when I was in a band that had old school stage monitoring, but I’m all IEMs now.

Last, at some point latency will become an obsession. Well, at least it did for me, when using my Scarlett 2i4 for many years (running around 11-14ms RTL). I just got a new rack pc and the new Presonus Quantum 2626. I haven’t measured it yet but from the moment I plugged in I could feel the difference… the latency has to be down around 6 or even less. I highly recommend it.

1 Like

Hi Tom,

Thanks for your reply and input! I was going to ask about what people are using for I/O… In fact latency was one of the main reasons I’ve avoided going digital all of these years. That said, I bought a Behringer 204HD to use as a “proof of concept” piece since I read where their driver is actually pretty solid. Well solid performance wise anyway, the UI could not be worse.

Sonically it’s a bit of a mixed bag though. For listening to a commercial mix of a favorite band its pretty nasty sounding compared to my studio DACs. Its difficult to describe its sound, its not an EQ issue, they measure and sound flat as a pancake. And despite silly low distortion numbers it still sound pretty smeared to me when listening to a mix thru its output going into a dedicated headphone amp and reference cans.

But on the other hand running it at 120 samples and 96KHz works great making the latency negligible. Since roughly 1 foot away from sound source = 1 millisecond the 204HD latency is equivalent to standing right next to an ear level stack (i.e. sub 2ms). And on the plus side, for guitar I really don’t notice it’s nastiness; In fact A/Bing it with a cable thru a guitar amp it sounds as transparent as my Empress ParaEQ pedal set flat, which is a high bar. LOL, since I paid $75 brand new, I guess I’ll keep it…

Its funny how this has evolved. It started as putting together a rig to use Waves OVox on live vocals for the family vocalist. And me being the guitarist/techie, I just got sucked right in when I saw all the possibilities Cantabile opened up…

twaw said " I used the Yamaha DXR10 when I was in a band that had old school stage monitoring, but I’m all IEMs now."

LOL, I’m so old the last time I did gigs of any significance was when IEM was a new thing. I still have one of the old Shures with the foam earpiece… The foam made them have so much sonic leakage they were almost worthless. Not quite, but almost!

I’m a huge fan of Helix Native. I use it for tracking in the studio, but I use an actual Helix Floor live (it’s also the sound card and mixer for my keyboard rig), but I have a hot-standby computer running my full keyboard rig as well as Helix Native and an older Focusrite sound card as a backup rig. It works great, and I can directly transfer any edits I make from my Floor patches to the vst.

D/L’d the TH-U demo after listening to Jon’s (Sonic Drive Studios) YouTube review. The guy is very talented and does a great job of revealing how he gets his sounds. Will give it a whirl and hopefully it puts a smile on my face. LOL, I spent considerable $ on NI back in the Guitar Rig 3,4,5 days hoping they’d get it right…but they never did imo. But maybe I pull v5 out of the archives and try some of the amps with my shiny new OwnHammer IR library and see how that goes. I also liked some aspects of Positive Grid Bias 2 based on various YouTubes and may give it a demo as well.

The Goodhertz Tremolo looks nice! The GooodHertz has three things over the freebie Pecheneg: swing control, beat multiplier and tube drive. Not sure what the latter is doing in a tremolo since its really an amp function (in the tube world tremolo is nothing more than a photoresistor as far as the signal path is concerned), but it does sound good in the demo clip! The Pecheneg has a way better UI imo. Definitely bookmarked GoodHertz site, looks like some cool stuff.

You can also try LatencyMon to truly see what your latency is. And yes, I’ve read good things about the 204D’s latency, but hadn’t heard about A/D issues. Then again, it’s pretty inexpensive.

Since you’re in the “looking mode” you might want to give the S-Gear demo a try also. It’s less expensive than most, simpler with few efx, but IMHO he was the first to get it right. Adding a touch of low end gain around 120-150Hz I was able to get it to sound as good as THU. And you can load IRs. For cleans and vintage tones it’s quite nice. But THU is better to my ears and hands; I’m only on SGear since I’d built and mixed all my tones with it a few years ago and don’t relish the idea of doing that all over again. But I’m slowly replacing some tones with THU and making new ones.

Here’s a tip (if you don’t already know): Unless you plan on using a sim in standalone mode, don’t bother making presets in the sim… or at least make just a few primary tones. Put the sim in it’s own rack, and in C3 just save each tone/preset as a rack state. And if you can, build as many of your tone rack states first. Then when you’re building songs, it’s very fast to just select a tone from the rack state dropdown… don’t have to open the sim and search.

Jsut to give another example of C3’s flexibility, for different guitars with different gain/tone, I created a rack called “Pre Amp EQ” with eq and a clean boost that also allows me to reduce gain and drive as needed. I built all my tones for a Schecter C-1 Classic, which is a dark mahogany guitar with 2 HB’s. But when going to a Strat it’s too bright with less gain of course, so I made a few presets to reduce the highs and increase the gain. So as I switch guitars I can use the same tones I’d already built. I think you can do that in the background rack too, but I haven’t tried that since it varies by song.
The options for tweaking are endless!

Great tips here! Here’s an additional one: I keep my guitar sounds dry within the respective guitar rack (I have multiple, S-Gear, TH-U, currently exploring BIAS FX), then add reverb / delay with a separate rev/delay rack with song-specific settings. This way, my basic patches (Clean, chorused, break-up, crunch, heavy crunch, lead) in the guitar rack work in all kinds of songs - I just select the basic patch and sprinkle reverb/room and delay on top.

This is also pretty helpful in keeping reverb/delay tails intact when changing sounds guitar sounds: just have two instances of the reverb/delay rack, e.g. one for rhythm, another for lead. Then use song states to change the send levels to those racks. Now the long reverb/delay tail from the solo doesn’t get cut off when you change the patch in the guitar rack.



1 Like

It will be interesting to see where this lands. As I said, it all started as a project to use Waves OVox for vocals and then when I saw the possibilities of Cantabile for guitar I got sucked right in. That said, I still have a pile of guitars and amps from back in the day, and may start with a hybrid approach. I’m really liking what I’m hearing from real amps into load boxes and IRs. So much so I did a custom design loadbox and should have it completed next week. LOL, my kids and wife made me promise to try to get back into playing (key word being try), so now gearing up to try…and Cantabile is going to be integral to my rig whether just hosting FX and IR or hosting amp sims as well. I’m leaning towards hybrid and will probably always have three guitars available on stage (if there ever is a stage again in my future lol) just because I enjoyed playing different guitars in a set. As a side note, back in the day I bought one of the Japanese mid 1980’s hard tail Strats. Never did do it for me but never did bother to sell it. As part of my “ramp up” I need a Strat even though I normally play(ed) a Paul, Tele and a couple of Gretschs, so decided to try a set of the Fender noiseless pickups in this one. Complete match, it sounds fantastic and is humbucker quiet. Highly recommend for any Strat that is too thin and needs some meat but still needs to sound 100% single coil Strat. It’s great to hear from all you guys that are using the latest in software. Nothing can substitute for the advice of people actually using all of this stuff, so thanks to all!

1 Like

If your machine is able to run at 120 (i guess that’s 128?) samples and 96 kHz, it should also be able to run 64 samples at 48 kHz. Same latency, and far less strain on the CPU (since your plug-ins don’t need to process twice the number of samples).

I personally feel that using 96 kHz live is total overkill (especially for guitar sounds)…



I’ll try it out and see how it goes. I like to keep 96 when recording but you’re right 44 or 48 should be more than fine for electric guitar…

It’s all relative as far as the ADA goes. Probably sounds fine to people who aren’t used to higher spec gear thru a reference system. And for electric guitar where even the clean is mangled compared to what is expected of a full mix, totally fine IMO.

Since I paid for NI Guitar Rig 5 years ago (and gave up on it years ago), I figured I’d D/L the latest version and try it with STL’s NadIR dual IR loader and OwnHammer’s latest IR bundle… I had always suspected that the NI product’s biggest issue was with the cab sims…So turned them off and used OwnHammer and man what a difference. Went from “no way, I’ll even abandon the hundreds spent” to “wow, I can see investigating using this”. I’m guessing its going to fall short of TH-U and BIAS-FX but if it isn’t too short, maybe I finally get my moneys worth, lol. Plus STL put a virtual amp in with the NadIR download and I suppose I need to give it a whirl too since their IR loader is pretty nice. Gotta love Cantabile for allowing these combinations to be tried out and feasibly used if they’re a go.