On the session: recording guitar with the Apollo Twin mkII

UA Apollo Guitar Amp ModellingAfter a day in the studio with the band the other month laying down the rhythm section with guitar and vocal guide tracks, it was time to head back in for an afternoon of guitar overdubs.

For the first session, I took a Tele and a Duesenberg and plugged into a cracking Orange head. With a studio to myself, I actually had a whale of a time blasting out some riffs in-between takes.

For the afternoon of overdubbing various rhythm and lead guitar parts though, I wanted to be able to quickly and easily switch between a choice of sounds. Not wanting to try to take two guitars, two amps and my pedalboard on the bus though, I thought I’d try something else. I took a couple of guitars, a choice selection of pedals that I could fit in my Pedaltrain Nano Plus bag, my laptop, and my Universal Audio Apollo Twin mkII.

I did not regret that decision.

Recording guitars with the Apollo Twin MkII

The first step was to get set up. The singer had been recording vocals and Rhythm guitar parts all morning, so when I appeared after lunch there was no hanging about for prep, the session was in full swing.

I unpacked the bag, found a free power outlet for my multiway and set up my Apollo and laptop at the end of the desk, right next to where I was sitting so I had nice, convenient hands-on control of everything.

To get started, I didn’t even bother with any pedals, I just plugged straight into that Unison-enabled high-impedance instrument input and fired up the UA Console application. The pedals were there if I needed them, but I thought I’d try without at first to see if I could keep the noise to a minimum.

We located a 1/4″ jack to Bantam adapter cable, connected a line output from the interface to a line input and we were about ready to go, right from the control room, with everything ready to tweak when required. No having to worry about getting the guitar signal into another studio, setting up mics and getting the signal back again.

We started with the track that was currently open and got to work. This was a track that featured some pretty loud, overdriven guitars, so I dropped a Marshall Bluesbreaker model into the Unison slot in the console – there was a click as the Unison-enabled instrument input adjusted its impedance – and started tweaking.

UAD2 Marshall Bluesbreaker Plugin

With the DSP processing taking place in the interface itself and the plugins running in the UA console application, I didn’t even have to fire up the DAW, and latency was imperceptible.

I wasn’t quite happy with the sound I was getting from the default settings, so I opened up the channel strip part of the plugin and started tweaking there; moving to a Shure SM57 got me to about where I wanted, so a bit more tweaking and we were good to go. The sound from this setup was big. Too big for the majority of the song in fact, so we recorded a few accent parts using it and went to look for a more appropriate sound for the rest of the track.

And that’s when I fired up the Chandler Gav19T emulation. And that’s the one that stayed for the rest of the session.

UAD Chandler Gav19T

This is a cracking example of what might be termed a ‘studio amplifier’. If you look at the controls on it, it might look a bit non-standard, but therein lies the flexibility. Between the ‘bias’ control, and the ‘boost’ and ‘tone’ controls in the drive sections, you can get tones that replicate a host of other amps from UK to US and back again.

UAD2 EP34 Echoplex Tape Delay PluginAnd that’s before you even get to the additional speaker type, microphone choice and recording chain settings.

For all four songs we worked on during the session, this was the only amp I used. This particular plugin isn’t one of the Unison-enabled models, but that certainly didn’t stop me finding a whole range of good sounds. For one solo, I used that free Unison slot to drop in the Tube Screamer emulation, which certainly did the trick for that part, a rhythm track benefited from a touch of 1176 compression,and for a slide part adding the EP-34 tape delay plugin thickened things up nicely – all from the comfort of my chair in the control room, with the only re-patching that needed doing between takes being when I changed guitars.

All in all, a smooth session and I think everyone was happy with the range of amp tones and sounds we got out of the UAD2 platform. One more session to do for the backing vocals and that’s that. I have to say, the Apollo Twin mkII with a couple of choice plugins has been a game changer for how I record guitars and I’m really looking forward to hearing how they sound in the finished mix.

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Fynn Callum

producer, guitarist, engineer & dj
From indie guitarist to deep house producer via Northern Soul dj; mix engineer, producer and gear enthusiast. Jaffa Cake aficionado.

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