Kazrog LLC's Recabinet is not software in the traditional sense, but rather a library of Impulse Response (usually abbreviated IR) files which, along with some means of loading them, allow you to run any signal into a variety of different cabinets, microphones, and power amp configurations. Some of our readers will already be familiar with IR technology, but for others, here is a fast and loose explanation (so don't put this in your audio engineering term paper and blame us for low marks!):
An Impulse Response is essentially a single, static measurement of an environment's effect on an audio signal of infinite amplitude and infinitely small length (in reality, usually a sound pulse or in some cases sweep). In plainer language, an IR is a measurement of how an ideally very linear acoustic space or reverberation affects a sound that is exposed to it. Impulse responses are especially popular in studio reverberation, as they provide a means by which any sound can be virtually played back through the original acoustic space (but only in the exact spot in which the IR was made to begin with). The static element of impulse responses is the biggest drawback of the technology, because anything with nonlinear behavior will not have that nonlinearity reflected in the measurement. One cannot take an IR of a guitar amplifier overdriving and expect it to behave like a guitar amp when you run sound through it. The important things to remember are that IRs are 1) extremely accurate for the single point at which the measurement is taken, 2) sonically a very, very complex form of equalization that modifies any signal to sound like it had been put through the original space, and 3) necessarily static, so modulations and non-linearities are not captured.
In this case, Kazrog LLC has released a pack of impulse responses of guitar cabinets, micd with different microphones, at different positions, and further with different power amps. Earlier I mentioned that this is a library rather than a plugin of its own. That means that you'll need a plugin IR loader, or “convolution” plugin. Kazrog has examples and links on their web site, including free plugins to make the process as painless to your wallet as possible. An astute reader might be thinking to herself at this point that since IRs are static, but miking a cab is a complex process, getting a good micd tone from an IR might be difficult. That is quite true; depending on the signal source (e.g. your favorite preamp, an amp modeling plugin, or an amplifier's direct-out), any given cabinet IR might sound good or bad. Furthermore, not every amp sounds good with every cabinet, otherwise we could all use a single brand's cabs and be done with it. And anyway, if you're going to have an IR pack, then don't you need to have some way of matching the IRs in use to the kind of preamplifier or amplifier (or model) that you'll be running through it? After all, it might not be very pleasing to use a 4x12 IR taken with an EL34 power amp with the output of an amplifier designed for a 6L6 power amp. The coloration might be pleasant but it also might not. Sometimes subtle things can make or break a tone in the studio, after all.
...[the] versatility is really unmatched in any other guitar-oriented IR pack that I have come across. From classic to modern Marshall cabinets, from Krank to Mesa, from Carvin to Genz Benz and even the Line6 Vetta cab...the sound of the real cabinet is captured very, very well.
Well, Kazrog isn't caught sleeping on any of those points: this IR pack includes eight fully-fledged guitar cabinets, including several different manufacturers' 4x12 cabinets, a couple 2x12s, and even an 8x10 bass cabinet. There's even a bonus cabinet, IRs taken from the Roland MicroCube, which you might find a use for as an effect on occasion (after all, with a mighty 4” speaker, there's gotta be something you can do with it!). Variety of cabinets isn't the whole story, though. There are in total almost 400 IRs in the package, divided up among the various cabinets. Why such a large number? Well, each cabinet is sampled, one microphone at a time, with four different mics in multiple positions commonly used for each cabinet type in the studio...and each position and microphone combo is sampled twice, once with an EL34 power section and once with a 6L6 power section. Of course the nonlinearity of the tubes is not represented in the IRs, but the subtle coloration of the different power sections at that particular output level (which Kazrog informs me is quite high) is in order to capture the optimal level of speaker/cabinet interaction as well as to get the nuanced contribution of cranked output tubes. The resulting versatility is really unmatched in any other guitar-oriented IR pack that I have come across. And some good news for current owners and anyone planning on buying the software...Kazrog has announced a free update planned for Q2 2009 which will change the name to “Recabinet Modern” (alongside the release of a new product, Recabinet Vintage), leaving in all the current cabinets but with added microphone and microphone position options, combined with at least three new cabinets given the full treatment. Customer support doesn't get much better than that.
Variety and versatility are all well and good, but any musician knows that all of the options in the world are empty fluff if the sound isn't there. Does Kazrog's Recabinet 1.0 have the sound? In a word, absolutely. From classic to modern Marshall cabinets, from Krank to Mesa, from Carvin to Genz Benz and even the Line6 Vetta cab (well-respected among metalheads), the sound of the real cabinet is captured very, very well. Most audio engineers working with higher gain guitar tones have come to view multiple micing as a necessary step to getting a good recorded tone, and the IRs of each cabinet are, in my experience, virtually flawless in their ability to work together to achieve an ultra-realistic miced guitar sound without the hassle of micing up a real cabinet and getting enough air moving to make it all gel. There are some phase issues when using one cabinet with another, usually solvable with a simple phase switch but still something to consider if you think you'd ever want to dual-mic a Marshall 2x12 and a Mesa 4x12. Not a problem I'd ever run into outside of testing, since I treat the pack more like a real cabinet and mic it up accordingly.
The impressive thing about a comprehensive, thoughtful and well-executed pack like this is that there are so many uses for it. If you're an AxeFX user, you'll appreciate that Kazrog has made the IRs available in a format that can natively be used with AxeFX alongside the usual pack format. If you run a modeling rig, you'll be blown away by how much added versatility and authenticity you'll get using Recabinet with your favorite modeler or modelers. If you're a home studio guy trying to cut an album without risking a noise violation, running your amplifier's direct-out into the cabinet IRs provided will put high-quality tone in your grasp (something you'll especially appreciate if you've ever tried to use most direct injection boxes with “speaker simulation,” in many cases a cruel joke rather than a truly useful tool). And if you're a studio veteran, you'll love the ease of re-amping a clean DI track without sacrificing the depth and punch of a real cab and all of the various miking options that you'd have with it. That's the most impressive thing about Recabinet, such attention has been paid to making this a useful and unique contribution to the studio.
There is only one flaw, really, and that is a pronounced lack of cabinets that would be useful for mellower guitar tones. After all, while any heavy music producer understands the value of a backline of closed-back cabs in various sizes and speaker configurations, there's little here that would interest someone recording a totally clean album (unless, like me, you prefer the sound of cleans running through a closed-back cabinet; I run my THD Univalve into a closed, oversized 4x12!). But Kazrog is well aware of this, and they've already got a product on the way: Recabinet Vintage, which should fill in all the gaps in the existing product (which, as I mentioned earlier, will become known as Recabinet Modern in Q2 of 2009). Recabinet Vintage will be available to existing Recabinet customers at a discount. Oh, and speaking of price, I forgot to mention the best part about this pack: it costs just $40. That's less than the price of renting any one cabinet for a weekend! And the quality and depth of the package feels like you “have” the cabinets, even though they're ultimately virtual recreations. $40 could get you a few pizzas from your favorite pizza joint, or you could have an added backline of cabinets that would make a top metal studio proud. The choice is yours, but personally? I'd eat a sandwich tonight and enjoy the tones.
Price: $40 Direct
Pros: Unmatched collection of excellent cabinet impulses.
Cons: Selection focused on larger and closed back cabinets