Can tube sound be replicated via plugins?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by roughsleeper, Mar 30, 2013.
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  1. gregorio
    Not an easy problem to solve without causing some people to become upset. The vast majority of commercial material will be very near full scale, so applying any EQ boost is very likely to cause clipping. The only solution is to create headroom by lowering the level of the track before any EQ boost but then many would be surprised/annoyed that applying an EQ boost would actually cause a reduction in the level of the track.

  2. pinnahertz
    They could have built in the level shift so it was there all the time, EQ or not, and hidden it that way to provide for some EQ headroom without overall gain change. As I said, I don't care much because the built-in iTunes EQ choices are pretty worthless anyway.
  3. Strangelove424
    As I delve deeper into Foobar, I am discovering that it is capable of using VST plugins (limited to VST1 or VST2, 32bit) with use of the VST 2.4 adapter plugin available here:

    With this adapter, tube amp simulators for DAWs can be used in a consumer listening environment, with the ability to adjust values on the fly, and no rendering required. I have not messed around with any VST tube plugins in Foobar yet personally, as my primary goal was finding a parametric EQ, but I plan to experiment further with this soon, and will report of any success.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2017
  4. Strangelove424
    Well, I’ve managed to install a couple different free VST tube plugins into Foobar using VST 2.4. I’m sure many more tube plugins can be found, especially if one is willing to pay, but even the free plugins I found work well to simulate tube sound.

    The process is pretty simple. Once you have installed VST 2.4, install each of the plugins using their exe installer. They will install the 32bit VSTs as a dll file into a folder of your choosing or into C:/ProgramFiles/vstplugins. Go into that folder, find the dll file, then install that dll file into Foobar as a component through the "VST Components" menu that becomes available after installing VST 2.4.

    Video instructions can be found here. This guy installs EQ plugins here, but it's the same process for every VST:

    The first tube plugin I found, VOS slickEQ, made by Tokyo Dawn, features EQ controls and an output stage “meant to offer subtle and interesting textures, rather than obvious distortion”. There are a number of presets, and a wide range of options between all the controls. This plugin is very subtle, but that’s the ultimate goal, to simulate the subtle differences an audiophile tube amp imparts to the sound. I found it very effective. You could spend hundreds on swapping tubes and not come up with the sound you can find here in 5 minutes for free.


    The second plugin, SGA1566, made by Shattered Glass, is an actual digital simulation of a tube pre-amp, with some alterations made to run in stereo. This plugin showed a lot of potential, and is capable of creating some very authentic sounding tube distortion, but it is a CPU intensive plugin and can’t always run in real time due to lag. Running the plugin in high cpu mode, which follows the circuit simulation more accurately, is impossible. Even in “low” mode, I encountered certain songs that were simply too demanding for the plugin, causing dropouts in audio as the CPU became overburdened. It's still a pretty neat plugin, so I'll leave the link:


    Will I use these regularly? Probably not. But without delving too far into tube or saturation plugins, I found a couple free ones that do a fairly good job of creating tube distortion, in a far more cost effective way than buying a tube amp. You can also alter that sound signature more easily than swapping tubes. Perhaps one day tube rolling will be replaced with plugin rolling, but I doubt it. I get that people who enjoy their analogue circuits and glowing tubes will probably not appreciate a simulation of such things in the land of 1s and 0s. But it's an option for anybody interested. I'm sure there's a lot more variety and quality out there in the plugin market than just the two I installed, but I'll leave that for others to explore. Let me know if you find anything interesting out there!
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2017
    bigshot likes this.
  5. WoodyLuvr
    @Strangelove424 has asked me to share my experience with the TAL-Tube saturation DSP VST plug-in from Togu Audio Line. It is an unsupported but free plug-in that seems to work really well with Foobar2k. I currently only using the "Gentle Tube Amp" or "Add Excitement" presets. My wife prefers a the "Drum Tube" for some Pop/Rock tracks but generally prefers the "Gentle Tube Amp" for most of our tunes. I do need to compare it to Slick EQ and SGA 1566 plug-ins mentioed above however I must admit I am actually fairly unfamiliar with most plugin controls and really don't know what I am doing when start adjusting 'dem knobs! :)

    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
    Strangelove424 likes this.
  6. bigshot
    interesting stuff! Thanks guys!
  7. WoodyLuvr
    I would sincerely appreciate anyone's insight/experience/knowledge on exactly how the TAL-tube is working... specifically what each of those four (4) controls are doing and why so I can better tune it myself as I believe I may prefer a setting in-between the "Gentle Tube Amp" and "Add Excitement" presets.
  8. bigshot
    Isn't "add excitement" the same as "more cowbell"?
    WoodyLuvr likes this.
  9. WoodyLuvr
    I would love some more cowbell!
  10. Strangelove424
    Many of these plugins are directly simulating tube amp circuitry. The SGA 1566 for example, even though it cannot run in real time, is an actual digital simulation of a tube pre amp schematic. Since all tube amps work on similar circuit designs (input->gain->output) the controls are similar between many saturation plugins. The knobs imitate the tubes on a guitar tube amp, which themselves control the major elements of the circuit. You have input tube, output tube, and drive control. The ratio of output over input will decide how much 'amplification' and thus how much distortion you will achieve. The drive stage can be considered a gain stage. Wet/dry is a tone control (frequency based) but it might also effect reverb (time based) on certain amps. I am not an expert with tube amp circuitry, so it's probably a good idea to look up tube amp circuit explanations for a deeper understanding.
    WoodyLuvr likes this.
  11. WoodyLuvr
    Thank you that was helpful.

    Regarding your post on the Crossfeed Thread:

    Yes, I would have to agree that there is sometimes some unwanted distortion on certain tracks with TAL-tube... I will give TDR VOS SlickEQ a try as it may be more in line with what I am seeking. This is a VST plugin that can be used from within Foobar2k correct?

    EDIT: Nevermind, I had completely missed the Windows (no installer VST option) :)

    Which mode have you been using on SlickEQ? Soviet, German, American and why?
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
  12. WoodyLuvr
    From Crossfeed Thread:
    Yeah, maybe I should consider only using reply gain on the twenty or so classical ambient tracks that I have that are super quiet (that was the main reason for my implementing reply gain in the first place).
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
  13. bigshot
    Mastering levels only work on individual albums. If you random shuffle songs, level balancers are very useful.
  14. WoodyLuvr
    Apologies, I am not quite understanding your advice/suggestion sir. Should I remove the reply gain on all tracks and then use a level balancer (which plugin/component would you recommend for this)?
  15. Strangelove424
    Honestly, my refusal to use replay gain is one of my more curmudgeonly traits, and certainly not any kind of example to follow. If you have something that works for the music you listen to, I'd stick to it. Many music producers/engineers recommend replay gain. There's no downside to it (unless you're a curmudgeon).
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