Live guitar with Cantabile Solo - any hints?

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I am using Cantabile for some time as a “guitar rack” to host the VST amp simulators, effects and so on, and so on. So far I’ve been playing and composing at home (headphones), also did some headphone-rehearsals + 2-3 regular rehearsals with my laptop plugged into an amp (fx loop return).

Thinking about the real live performance, I am considering playing gigs with no amp at all, using only my Cantabile-equipped laptop with a portable audio interface, plugging the interface output directly to the mixing console, just like that:

guitar -> interface -> laptop w/Cantabile -> interface -> mixer line input -> stage (speakers, monitors)

My question is if anyone has some experience with live guitar performance using such a setup and what sound processing would you recommend for the best, “natural” live sound in the no-amp configuration: Should I use some cabinet simulation, compressors, saturation maybe? - I don’t need the information on the specific plugins, I mean mostly the essentials I definitely need to have in the plugin chain and their order maybe - I am more live player than studio engineer…

Genre/sound (if it may help somehow): post-punk, coldwave, no heavy distortion, mostly clean sound, a little bit of overdrive sometimes, a lot of reverbs, delays and space…

All help and suggestions appreciated :slight_smile:



Hi Adam,

I like the S-Gear vst plugin from Scuffham, it has the amps, cabs, tuner and effects covered in 1 plugin. That and I run at 128 samples for low latency turnaround time on my Audio interface. The latency is the key for me to feel natural playing it but I really recommend it for the tone. Your signal chain is fine.



Thank you, Dave. I’ll definitely take a look at it! However, as I already have some VST plugins that I love and I’ve shaped the sound that I like, I am also looking for some general tips what should I use to sound properly (not like some plastic crap :slight_smile: ) when playing live, plugged into mixer’s line-in. I don’t have much knowledge about the “final” sound engineering, compressors, equalizers and so on, therefore any suggestions would be appreciated. But I’ll check the S-Gear for sure.


Hi Adam,

Your signal chain is fine and is how I route as well, some dedicated guitarists have their own physical cabinet/amp combo geared for vst guitar plugins but I get great tone from the direct to PA way. Best of luck with your setup. You are on the right track.



If you know that you’ll always have access to a reasonable monitoring system, then there is no ‘sound’ advantage to bringing in extra amps. You’re providing a fully produced sound from the computer.
As to how that ‘feels’ compared to having an amp behind you is very subjective affair. That doesn’t impact your sound at all, but it may have some bearing on how secure you feel.
Many guitarists using laptops carry a powered PA monitor and feed the PA from the back of that.
These are GREAT but expensive. There are far less expensive alternatives.–qsc-k10.2-2000w-10-inch-powered-speaker?mrkgcl=28&mrkgadid=258115523&rkg_id=h-1e592239360cb918232f72cb1f7647c5_t-1522773413&campaigntype=paidsearch&campaign=Live%2520Sound%2520%26%2520Lighting-PA%2520Systems%2520%26%2520Speakers&adgroup=QSC-PA%2520Speakers&keyword=qsc%2520k10&placement=google&adpos=1t1&creative=261548461179&device=c&matchtype=e&network=g&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIiLPMgcWe2gIVwYuzCh0-JAdpEAAYASAAEgKNWfD_BwE


I play all my guitar completely through Cantabile; no amps involved anymore.

Some pointers for getting started:

  • Definitely lose the amp - fiddling with amp sims combined with real amps is mostly unsatisfactory. Better find a powered full-range speaker and play your amp sim through that - and of course use the cabinet simulation in your amp sim.
  • If you can get used to it, put your FR speaker IN FRONT OF YOU. Yes, for a traditional guitarist who has been socialized blasting sound into the backs of his knees, this takes some getting used to, but remember: your knees don’t have ears! Far better to have a good full-range wedge in front of you actually directing the sound at your ears - and sound person (plus your fellow band members) will thank you for it.
  • Personally, I’ve moved to full in-ear monitoring - and a fully virtual set-up is perfect for that.
  • regarding the processing inside Cantabile, you should be OK with just the usual suspects (S-Gear, Amplitube, Guitar Rig, TH3, Helix Native, etc.). I love S-Gear; to me, it’s the most organic-sounding sim in the bunch, but it doesn’t have any drive stompboxes to put before the amp, so you may want to chain some third-party stomp VSTs in front of it within Cantabile. Good free stuff is the Distorque and the TSE range. Also very nice is the Mercuriall Greed Smasher.
  • If you want to play with lots of reverb and delay, try keeping reverbs and delays separate from your amp sims. This way, when you switch your amp presets, the reverb tails can ring out naturally.




Ade, Torsten, thanks a million for all your tips, much appreciated!

I’m thinking about the in-ear monitoring, definitely.

And I see +1 for S-Gear, I think I should give it a try :slight_smile:


When I am performing with 2 of my bands, we are all using in-ears and there are no amps. PA is the only source of sound. With my other bands, I use a powered monitor as an amp for keys and guitar. I read on one of the amp sim developer sites that they recommend DO NOT send amp sim audio to any tube amp. It causes a terrible, unusable sound. I found the same on a solid state as well. I have several, pristine guitar amps I love using at home, but in today’s world, I have all the amps I want on my laptop. I am very attached to BIAS amp sim, but it is a CPU hog. I tried Helix Native, but not really impressed, even though it probably uses less CPU than any of the others. I found with BIAS, it is very easy to dial in a sound very quickly. I am going back to S-Gear, which seems to dial in sound easily, and uses very little resource. I have quite a large collection of amp sims…Amplitube, Guitar Rig, TH3, Revalver, Blue Cat Destructor, Amplifikation, Amp Vision, GTR, Studio Devil, Vintage Amp Room, and more. There are several free ones on the market that do very well if want to experiment. It all boils down to individual taste, as anyone that claims to be a guitar picker can, and will tell you. I am just thrilled I have one less amp to lug around.


Another thing worth noting, as in the rehearsal room I am using from time to time, obviously all guitar stuff is tube :wink: I think, next time I will try the direct input to the mixer instead of the loop return in the tube amp.

Still, I have a nice twin 50 (tube, EL34 powered) power amplifier, covered with dirt in my basement :wink: I was thinking if it will make any sense to use it, but now I think that selling it and purchasing the good in-ear monitor will be more reasonable in my “virtual” situation.


It really works much better that way. It has been a strain for me to convince any band mates to convert. Those that have say they will never go back. Many “purists” still in the world. I embraced technology from the time I was a runt. Others poo poo it, as their hearing bids adieu.


Just one addition here: when you DO need to play through an amp, then make sure that

  • if the amp doesn‘t have an effects loop, then be sure that you set gain and tone controls as clean as possible - you definitely don‘t want any tube overdrive here

  • same if the amp does have an effects loop: make sure in your gain staging that you don‘t create any power amp distortion

  • most important: turn off all speaker simulations / cab sims in your amp plugin - you don‘t want to stack two speakers on top of each other…




+1 S-Gear.
Love that thing.
And when it’s hosted by Cantabile, there’s no end of fun plugins you can place before it -or after it - or in-between it if you want to split the amps and cabs into two instances.


Alright, so - a question re S-Gear. I can see 2 license schemes on their website - machine locked and iLok. And the “machine locked” license has the disclaimer that it may cause compatibility issues on some DAWs. Does it work with Cantabile or do I need the iLok version?


“S-GEAR has used the FlexNet Publisher machine-locked licensing system since the first S-GEAR release in 2011. The system offers convenient licensing that doesn’t require any USB device and is ideal if you want to get up and running with minimum fuss. If you regularly re-build or re-install your computers then we do not recommend a machine-locked license.”

It looks at the computer ID. You should make a backup clone using your choice of archiving software. Drives will fail. That’s not an ‘if’… it’s a ‘when’. If that happens on a gig, you need to be ready to swap out or restore your drive.
I’ve gone for the iLok. Yes, it’s a worry carrying such a thing around but at least I know I don’t have to worry about a reauthorise on a gig. The backup scheme might be just as effective. You could try that and see how it works for you/ I believe you can swap your license to iLok but you can’t go back the other way, IIRC.


If that happens on a gig, I’m “gone” anyway :slight_smile: My machine is relatively new, I am not reinstalling things very often, rather sticking to one config for a long time so I think (of course if I’ll like S-Gear after the trial period) I will give it a try with the machine locked license first. My concern was rather the compatibility with Cantabile but if it’s fine, then… I’m fine with it as well :slight_smile:


Compatibility isn’t going to be an issue.
You don’t need to be ‘gone’ on a gig. If a drive fails, it’s quite possible to hook in an external and boot from that. Highly recommended!


Just to let you know - I’ve tried S-Gear and I love it. Thank you for this tip. Earlier I was experimenting with Amplitube and Guitar Rig, but ended with Cantabile and some custom VST plugins. Now - S-Gear plus Cantabile (as a host, MIDI binding controller plus a host for some VST instruments along with guitar “amp”) seems to be a perfect solution. Tested with earphones and in the rehearsal room - works perfect and I am going to purchase the full version. So - thank you #TeamSGear for your advice :wink:


Just to let you know - after a month and a half of using S-Gear, I can say that this piece of software fits my needs perfectly - from the clean channel with a plenty of delay/reverb up to the heeeaaavyyy riffing (Mesa style). The only additional VST plugin I am currently using after the S-Gear chain, is the BalanceMastering’s Teufelsberg reverb - giving me the huge amount of a very long reverb, I need sometimes (much better than the S-Gear’s one).

Of course hosted/controlled by Cantabile along with some VST synths.

So, thank you very much for your advice, this is exactly what I was looking for.


I am pretty new here but I’ve been using Cantabile strictly for my VST synths using the NI Komplete 25,49, & 61 key controllers.

However, I would really like to play my guitars through Guitar Rig Pro in Cantabile. I have no clue how to connect my guitar into Cantabile and Guitar Rig (which I already verified the plugin itself is 100% working).
I use an M-Audio 192/4 as my AI and primary output.

Can anyone please explain, in Laymans terms how I connect a guitar into cantabile to utilize Guitar Rig?strong text


Basically you plug your guitar into your M-Audio interface. You select an audio input from interface in Cantabile options. I named my audio input “main mic mono”. As you see below, I loaded Guitar Rig into Cantabile. It has the output already directed to main speakers. I directed my “main mic mono” into guitar rig.
This is very basic. Once you get sound, open up GR and make your selections. You should be on your way.

On your interface, plug in guitar, turn guitar volume knob all the way up, play, and set your gain knob on interface below clipping. I play my guitar thru interface, into Cantabile, out thru interface into a powered monitor. I learned the hard way not to play into an amp sim, then into a real guitar amp. It is like running an amp into another amp. Not a good thing. As I said this is a simple explanation, so if you need more help, ask here, and I, or someone else will help you.