Live Sound – Man In The Box

Welcome to the first Blackaddr Audio blog post!

This post complements our first article. Software rigs let you do things that are impossible with conventional gear. An example is what I call Creative Dynamics. This means using MIDI to create the sound of multiple musicians (or tracks) from a single performer. The dynamics between the tracks give the feel of an ensemble.

To give you a solid idea of what can be achieved, I put together a short video showcasing the basic parts of how my band covers Man In The Box by Alice in Chains. If you’ve read about me, you’ll know the band is a 3-piece, but as the bassist I also provide a lot of the rhythm guitar when these two instruments are playing the same riff. This method is based around splitting the dry bass signal and sending it to an octave up pedal in order to generate a guitar tone. The octave-up could be done in software but in this one instance I still prefer a hardware unit.

Man In The Box is known for having challenging vocal parts, and my bands singer prefers to limit his guitar work to a few lead fills here to concentrate on the vocal performance. This leaves it entirely up to me as the bass player to provide all the rhythm guitars!

The intent here is to showcase how software VSTs can be used for Live performance, so absolutely no audio post-processing is performed on the track you hear. To simulate a live performance, the drummer (a backing track) and my audio interface are sent to a PA mixer, and the mix is recorded off the board, just like at a show.

Since I’m by myself in the studio today, for completeness the lead guitar was recorded as an overdub. However just to drive the point home I played the lead on my bass, again using only VST software to produce the lead guitar tone.

There is quite a bit of modelling going on here and I’m still able to achieve low-latency on an ageing laptop (Intel Core2Duo).

If you’ve got good ears, try listening with headphones. Can you pick out each instrument in the rhythm section?

  • primary bass guitar (panned center)
  • primary distorted rhythm gutar (center with some stereo delay separation)
  • low frequency guitar wah (panned hard left)
  • high frequency guitar wah (panned hard right)

Let’s talk a bit about the digital modelling.

All effects and amp modelling comes from Amplitube. Brainspawn Forte is used as a VST host to permit multiple instances of Amplitube. This allows audio routing not possible with Amplitube alone.


A EHX nanoPOG is used to generate the dry guitar signal. An audio interface, MIDI foot controller and expression pedal are the only other hardware needed.


COMP & GR-EQ – Compressor and 7-band equalizer. By using an EQ between two compressors, you can indirectly control which frequencies get how much compression.

ORANGE AD200 & OBD 115 – modelled bass amp and 15” cab. Amplitube permits dual mic’ing a cab, which is great for capturing a wider range of tone.

HARM+5th – takes the guitar root note and generates power cords (5ths).

ADT – a process of creating one more more delayed versions of the input signal. If the delay changes randomly over time, it better simulates the sound of multiple musicians.

JETCITY JCA100H & METAL T2 – my preferred amp/cab combo for this song.

WAH & AUTO WAH – Amplitube’s basic wah has a great tone with either manual or auto control.

PITCH-12 – Pitchproof, a free VST plugin does a decent job of dropping a guitar to bass. I actually like the sound of this better than using the real bass signal.

DIG DELAY – a basic delay modelled as a rack unit in Amplitube. I like the sound of the bass wah dragging the beat a bit.

That’s is itfor the first post. Many more to come!

What are your thoughts on software modelling? Let me know in the comments below.

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17 thoughts on “Live Sound – Man In The Box

  1. At this time it seems like WordPress is the top blogging platform available right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

  2. Very good blog you have here but I was curious about if you knew
    of any message boards that cover the same topics discussed here?
    I’d really love to be a part of group where I
    can get feed-back from other experienced people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

    1. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find forums dedicated to DSP audio processing for performance use. There’s lots of web-sites dedicated to audio recording, but much of it doesn’t apply in a live environment. At the moment, I’d say join the forums for products Amplitube and Bias FX, etc. They’ve got strong communities that will let you get more involved with like minded people.

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    So that’s why this post is great. Thanks!

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  8. I stumbled across your site via Tindie and the effects processor kit and I am so glad I did. Exactly the sorts of things I would like to do with a DAW interface in a live setting so thanks for sharing how you built a reliable setup. I am most curious what MIDI controllers and expression pedals you are using or have used. My setup will be Linux based for starters driving a power amp and speakers. For a bass setup with better low end handling you could build a software based crossover to route those frequencies to a specific out, or do similarly with a minidsp unit. Thanks for sharing. Really cool stuff to pull off Man In The Box with minimal resources to get a nice full sound.

    1. For MIDI controllers I tend to use my own custom design. I’ve been using a microMIDI MK I for about 5 years now. I’m currently building a new custom controller with touchscreen! For expression pedals I always stick with the M-audio EX-P. It’s very inexpensive, and if upgrade it’s better than most other stuff on the market. You can see an article I wrote about repair/modding this pedal here:

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