Updated: Feb 12
Continuing with our quest to test and review the coolest DAW plugins out there, we came across this interesting Re-Guitar plugin by Blue Cat audio during a visit to Winter NAMM 2019. The goal of this plugin is to emulate different tones of electric and acoustic guitars on the guitars you already have available.
Let's face it, if you are a top earning rock star with access to the best studios in the world you might have dozens of guitars available to you during recording. But if you are a mere mortal like us, you might have one or two, the old Gibson SG and another Strat or similar with a few pickup options. Plus that Acoustic that you play to your friends in parties and celebrations.
Enter Re-Guitar, where the idea is to simulate many guitar tones for many different types of electric pickups or acoustic set-ups, all from the instruments you already have available. This can be very handy while recording, as you can get multiple tones out of the instrument you are already comfortable with.
Hassle free installation, pretty much. Many DAW options are offered for download (AU, VST, VST3, AAX) and installation is simple. We used Logic Pro X running on an iMac for the tests, and when it loads for the first time it will ask for the licensing info of the plugin.
It is available as a standalone plugin or as part of their Axiom FX package, which we may cover in a different article as the focus here is Re-guitar only.
A detailed user manual in PDF is provided with the download. The controls will be explained further during the tests, but in a nutshell they are as follows:
Source ("From") pickup selector, where you tell the plugin what pickup from your guitar you're currently using. Pretty straightforward and the options are fairly obvious, Humbucker or two different types of Single-Coil.
Destination ("To") pickup selector, where you tell the plugin what you would like your pickups to sound like. There's a few options: Single-Coil, Humbucker and Acoustic, all with a plethora of sub-options. There are also custom options to build your own Electric or Acoustic pickup sound.
There are specific controls for a hollow body situation in addition to pick up selection.
Brightness and Gain can be adjusted for additional tweaks to the overall sound.
Volume and Tone, pretty much like in a real guitar, are then available for the resulting sound.
Before the plugin is used, there is a simple calibration process explained in detail in the PDF manual, which seems aimed at making sure the simulation gets the most out of your pickup. Essentially you will select the simulation that looks closer to the pickup you are using, and adjust gain and brightness until the plugin in bypass mode or in active mode doesn't make any difference.
Any combination of input and output can be saved as a preset, and there are many factory presets already loaded. So it's probably a good idea to save the set-up used for calibration as a preset for future reference.
For the testing, we've chosen an Ibanez RG8570z with the following HSH set-up:
· neck pickup DiMarzio® Air Norton™ (H) neck pickupPassive/Alnico
· middle pickup DiMarzio® True Velvet™ (S) middle pickupPassive/Alnico
· bridge pickup DiMarzio® The Tone Zone® (H) bridge pickupPassive/Alnico
This way we can test with both Humbuckers and single coil all with the same guitar (so basically all else being equal, apart from the fact that these pickups are in different places under the strings).
The guitar was plugged into the DAW using a Rupert Neve DI and an RME Babyface Pro. On Logic Pro X, we've inserted the Re-Guitar plugin as the first element in the signal chain, as recommended in the plugin's user manual.
We've experimented playing with the various set-ups with the pure tone of the guitar, no additional plugins. We did the calibration of the Single Coil using the Single Hot pickup model option in the plugin, and adjusting brightness until plugin is neutral, which turned out to be minus 28%.
One important point here: if you are selecting your pickups manually following the calibration, the adjustments to gain and brightness done during the calibration process will still be there. But if you load one of their factory presets, they will override these two controls. As in our case only brightness adjustments were needed, we wrote those down from our calibration presets, and then offset that amount of brightness from the presets when loaded.
Update: according to their customer support, there is a way to avoid the override, and that is to click on the small "lock" on top of the Adjust section. That will lock the brightness and gain from the calibration even when factory presets are loaded.
We strummed along simple chords to get a feel for the sound we were looking for. The best results can be heard on the links below. You should hear how significant is the change in tone, all the added body from the Humbucker simulation is there. As this Single Coil is located in between the two Humbuckers (neck and bridge), this tone was only made possible by this re-guitar plugin. We've applied the calibration brightness setting to the factory preset.
We did the adjustment of the Humbucker using the classic bucker pickup model from the simulation and adjusting brightness just a bit down (20%).
With the Humbucker, again used with simple chord strumming, we tried a different alternatives that would be the farthest departure from the original tone. We landed on some interesting results with Strat single coil combinations on bridge and mid, where you can hear some of the body going away, yet the brightness of a Strat showing up. Again, we've applied the calibration brightness setting to the factory preset.
Same concept as before, we wanted a departure from the original tone, something you would not be able to achieve easily. This time we landed on the Acoustic Vintage Dread simulation factory preset to which we've applied the calibration brightness setting. You can hear the resonance of a simulated acoustic body, and the tone shape changing quite a bit from the original dry Humbucker sound.
For the tests we’ve utilised a 2017 iMac with 3.6 GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM and mac OS Mojave, running Logic Pro X 10.4.4.
The CPU load was fairly unnoticeable (around 1% in addition to Logic Pro X itself ), with almost negligible additional RAM consumption even when running multiple instances of the plugin.
The bounced tracks didn’t present any additional artefacts in comparison with the original dry versions without the plugin.
During the testing no crashes or noticeable bugs were observed; the plugin was very responsive and quite smooth to run.
We found this plugin easy to use, obvious even for non tech oriented players, and very versatile. The tone possibilities are basically endless. This could replace hours of work trying to find ideal pickups for a recording or tweaking gain and EQ trying to change the tone of the guitars you have available. This plugin feels like having 50+ years worth of guitar history right at your fingertips.
The calibration is quite an important step and should not be skipped for optimal results. I would imagine lots of players would like to have this live, either via DAW to PA or perhaps in future versions of this that could be loaded into a pedalboard.
We've always wondered when the multi-effects pedalboards and amp modellers will allow third party plugins to be loaded (apart from Impulse Response). This plugin is a perfect candidate for that.
You can find more information about the Blue Cat Re-Guitar, download a trial and purchase from here:
If you want to purchase the gear we're used for these tests, here are some Amazon links for RME Babyface pro, Universal Audio Apollo (alternative), Rupert Neve DI and Ibanez RG8570z: