Can't get a good tone to save my life!

Hi everyone. Recently bought the Cali. It seems to me like I can spend hours tweaking and not get a good tone, but if I drop the default preset down on any random DI recording from another band it sounds pretty good.

I have a decent computer–overclocked i7 with 64gb of ram. I have a Les Paul Special that I run through a 2nd gen Scarlett 2i2. I’ve tried line input, instrument input, I bought an active DI box, changed my cables, and took my guitar to a luthier all to no avail. At my wit’s end, I bought Seymour Duncan Nazgul/Sentient pickups and had those installed along with fresh 500k pots and new wires. The difference in tone was like 10%.

I have tried more headroom, less headroom, EQing before the amp sim. Literally no matter what I do I’m not getting tones like the ones I hear in Neural DSP demo videos. The only other thing I can think of is that it’s my playing technique but I can’t imagine it would make the tone sound this hissy, muddy, and inarticulate.

It is especially bad for chugging. I have varied how hard I pick as well as how light my right hand palm mutes. If it matters I use 2m Dunlop Flows. (I’ve also varied the tip or side of the pick).

Here is a link to a example of me chugging. DI is just the direct in, Demo is with the default preset, and 12 o clock is the default preset with all knobs at 12 o’clock and the hexdrive turned off.

Any thoughts, suggestions, tips, etc would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Hi @Lemerchand. I think the signal quality is alright.

As you suggested, the playing technique could have some improvement. A tighter picking technique will allow you to use less gain and achieve more definition. For example, I think the muted parts between each chord would sound a lot better if you were playing just one (muted) string.

I’m moving this thread to the General category so other users can chime in with more ideas.

Bro lower the gain, the di signal is a little dirty too
Play tight palm mute, use a noise gate ( not the zuul )

I think they hit the spot in the above posts. High gain is a bitch to handle (unless lead and sustain) but for tight rhythm chugging I would really recomend turning gain kinda to the point when your strumming lets you control the gain. When I am strumming my strings with my pickups (Lundgren m7) very light the gain is ac/dc like but when I dig in it gets pretty nasty in a good way :slight_smile: “less gain - more tone” and of course more control. When you record two tracks (L/R panned 100) and then REALLY important record a whales balls of a bass and throw that in the middle (panned 0) the magic happens. So it is said many times and it is nothing but the truth… “90% of the tone is in your hands” :metal:
… Keep up the good work, you are on the right path and getting there. When you hit those strings with the right controlled aggressiveness … its like a cool beer served in the depths of hell :wink:

FWIW I sold my Kemper for an Axe Fx2 Xl … sold the Axe and bought Parallax and Cali Suite and I am very happy with my purchase!! I’m still learning the little things, but this is what I made from it after owning it for 2 days… Guitars (LR) Cali Suite … Bass © Parallax

The solution I have is none of the ones that they posted above.

You need to shape the DI itself. Pull up an EQ and put it first in the chain. You want to lower an entire 300-600Hz by 3dB. Use the Q of 1 for this. Then you want to boost 8K by a ton. I’d say 12-15dB.

Then put a blue 1176 plugin next in the chain. You want the ratio to be quite hard (12 would do nice) and then you want your attack at 4 and your release all the way at 7. Adjust the input so that the needle only moves between 0 and -6 and adjust the output so that the red light doesn’t come on or that the output doesn’t clip.

Then on the amplifier itself you probably want to use the blue OD2 rather than OD1. You want as little gain as you can get away with and you should use the included boost pedals to help with the tightness anyway.

Gain 1 should be anywhere from a 6 to an 8, but remember you want as little as you can get away with. Gain 2 should be no higher than 2. Make sure you also have the Bright switch either in the middle or on the right.

You also want the poweramp distortion to be very minimal. Turn the amp master almost all the way down and use your Output on the top right hand corner of the plugin to compensate instead. Thump should be in the middle position.

Presence should be anywhere from a 6 to an 8 but push it as high as you can without making it harsh. Low should be around 5 or 6 but no higher. Make sure to click on the PULL SAT below it so that you get a bit more saturation. Treble should be anywhere from a 6 to an 8 but make sure you pull down a bit so you don’t get a clipping distortion. Mids should be cranked all the way.

What I also like to do is use GGD Studio Cabs Zilla for my cab solution instead and between the two plugins I like to shape the amp output a little with an EQ and I also like to throw in this free plugin called Cab Driver which emulates the movement of air in the speakers so you’re less likely to hear harshness in your tone.

EDIT: DANG that is a really dull DI. You might need a new cable, probably a shorter one if you can get away with it. Also try getting new strings.

The issue I find is if I lower the gain at all it sounds like ass. Anything lower than 12 o’clock on Gain 1 and Gain 2 sound like a dull clean tone–almost DI. I don’t seem to be having this problem when I apply the Cali to songs I’m mixing. Here are some examples of some results I get when it isn’t me playing DI.

Gain 1 is preamp gain and Gain 2 is poweramp gain. You don’t need to turn Gain 2 up. You bring Gain 2 really low and then you use your boost pedal and Gain 1 to compensate.

Thanks for the detailed response. As it happens, I’ve been messing with a similar notion–I’ve been running my DI through a EQ and a BlueFace (not a 1176, it’s by Black Rooster Audio) and it definitely helps. But like you said there is something off about the DI. I already have brand new strings on my guitar, and I’ve bought 2 new cables. even a 3ft doesn’t seem to make a difference.

OHHH BOYY a 3ft cable is a really long cable for tracking DI. No wonder you’re not getting the right tone. You need no more than 1.5ft.

Even with a DI box?

Obviously a DI box will make the cable length longer. The longer your total length of your cables, the more of your sweet treble you’ll end up losing.

Dude just listen to this and tell me if this sounds bad to you

I used a cheap behringer interface which cost around 40 bucks.
No di box.
Esp ldt m-50 guitar i think, with year old strings
Fender jack 10 ft long

What I saw on the vid is an Ibanez and a Cort…

I mean, it’s not the worst but it could definitely use some clarity on it. You also have to keep in mind that bass always makes half of what people perceive as “guitar tone” so that also plays a factor as to how good it sounds.

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I want to be clear I am worried about my sound before mixing. I realize the relationship between bass and guitar and kick and I feel fairly confident in mixing, but what I’ve noticed is that my mixes of other bands sound way better than mixes of my own songs so it must have to do with the source recordings–so I’m focusing on getting everything right there.

I can tweak and tweak away and get my tones usable, but I want them to be as good at the source as possible.

In that case you also have to realise that some amps are better for some guitars/styles than others. I had to search and search for an amp solution that actually had the tone that I was targeting for a long time and I found that in the bx_megadual…

The big project I’m working on right now is for a video game. I’m doing sort of a jMetal powermetalish type of deal. Any suggestions amp-wise for something like that?

But beyond that, you agreed my DI sounded dull. I just went with a shorter cable and there was no discernible difference. A spectrogram showed maybe a couple of blips more in the 1k range.

those were just for video i recorded with an esp ltd

And yeah the mix could use some work but overall it sounds decent to me

Also try some free amp sims and see if you get the same problem eg Nalex Ninja @Lemerchand

I have @prashurya.goswami! All of the lepous, the Emmisary, and Black Rooster’s Cypress. I’ve done dozens of IRs too. At this point I’m more worried that its in my hands/cables/interface than anything