Plugin help - snap, crackle and pop

I’m currently trying out some bass plugins and don’t know why Neural DSP Parallax and Darkglass sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies. The only thing I can see mentioned in the quick start guide is about lowering the input level on my audio interface but that didn’t help.

My signal chain is:

  • Bass
  • iRig HD2
  • Reaper
  • Darkglass or Parallax
  • Kuassa Cerberus - Classic Jbass preset so fairly vanilla sound

I also downloaded the TSE BOD and that seems to work fine with no snap, crackle and pop. On the TSE BOD, I turned the drive to full and the blend all the way to the left (which I think means I just have the wet signal?).

I started with just the ‘default’ settings in Darkglass and Parallax and also tried some presets as I’m still new to effects and plugins so don’t really understand how to tweak them yet.

Google “gain staging”. Plugins generally work on input levels that mirror the electrical expectations of real gear. This means that they are expecting an input of around -18 to -12dBu in general for normal signals. Amp sims will start overdriving when you go much above that, etc.

When recording, you should also shoot for around -12dBu on the input meter. This is because that is generally the sweet spot for Signal/Noise ratio for a lot of electronic gear. This will sound relatively quiet to you; that’s fine, you can then normalize it later.

You generally want to mix with all the tracks at around -12dBu or so so that all the way through to the output you have plenty of headroom. You can bring that up a bit as needed, often with the master volume. The final mix should peak no higher than -1dBu.

Generally, throughout the effects chain, you should be shooting for -18 to -12 at each plugin input. Some plugins have their own input gain controls, but one easy method is to just use a gain plugin between them.

It’s more complex than this but these are the basics.

@Sully - anything basic to add that I missed?

Thanks @howard. I thought I’d try taking Cerberus out of the mix so I could see what the levels were via the track meter in Reaper. With the gain on the iRig at minimum, the levels in Reaper are showing between -24 and -30 and I’m still getting the crackling. If I drop the input and output level in Darkglass by -10 each, I still get crackling.

Darkglass is worse than Parallax.

I switched to just using TSE BOD and with general playing, the levels are a bit higher, but were staying below -20. Even if I did pretty hard slaps, the meter would go up to 0 but still didn’t get the same crackling.

What I usually do:

  • record at around -12dBu
  • normalize up to -4dBu - this allows easy retakes
  • gain stage down to between -18 to -12dBu at the start and between each plugin

It sounds like you are getting some noise amplified. Does it sound more like noise or clipping?

More like a noise like crackling - kind of like if you were to jiggle a cable around.

I just plugged my guitar in and used with the Archetype: Petrucci demo that I downloaded last night and I’m getting the same thing.

Going to try using my THR10X amp with it set to ‘Flat’ and see what happens.

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It’s interesting you don’t get it in TSE. Do you get it with just Cerberus?

Cerberus by itself seems to be ok.

Archetype: Petrucci with guitar (Seymour Duncan humbuckers) was even worse, it’s picking up something without me even playing.

I’ve gone back to my iRig as the Yamaha was picking up the guitar signal even with no track added in Reaper.

It must be some sort of interference, but it’s worse with some plugins compared to others.

Edit: I just tried using the emulated out on my Blackstar amp and that seems fine even with distorted presets.

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Sounds like noise from the iRig then? Try recording up closer to -12 to -8dBu with it maybe?

I don’t think it’s iRig specific. I figured out what I was doing wrong with the Yamaha THR10X. It’s got two volumes, one for the amp and one for USB. I needed to turn the amp volume off otherwise I’m effectively hearing the actual amp and what’s coming back from Reaper. I’m getting exactly the same thing via the THR.

Here’s a clip I recorded with my phone. As soon as I select the plugin, it goes nuts. My guitar is plugged in, but it’s in the rack.

That’s just weird. You’re also getting reverb on that. Do you have track monitoring disabled in Reaper? I always do as I use my audio interface for direct monitoring.

Track monitoring was on. If I turn it off, the audible noise stops, but the meter is still going crazy. When I record, it’s recording the noise that you can hear on the video.

My son is playing PS5 in the room next door and my other son is on his PC playing games. I’ve asked them both to get off for dinner soon. I’m going to try when they are off their devices to see if it’s them.

Nope wasn’t the kids gaming. This is really annoying as I’m trying to decide if I should get some of Neural DSP stuff on sale. I’m sure I used the Petrucci one ok late yesterday.

@iDuncan this sound like an issue with the audio buffer size. Did you check the settings in the Neural plugin? I usually set the sample rate at 64 samples. Set it too low it can make some nasty noises.

Thanks Paul, I tried the stand alone and it’s set to 128 samples and still happening

Okay so that means the problem is not in the DAW. Pretty sure it has something to do with your AISO driver or digital audio interface. It kinda sounds you are combining two audio devices? I’m guessing iRig is the culprit…

In the screen demo you linked I see your audio device is Steinberg AISO. If you are using iRig as an input device, you have to use it as output device as well. Did you try to connect your headphones to the iris headphones output and hear how that sounds?

This is exactly why I’m not a big fan of iRig (especially on Windows). If it works it works but when shit hits the fan it’s a PITA to setup properly. If you ever decide to upgrade your digital audio interface make sure to look at brands like Focusrite, SSL, Motu, NI, Steinberg, etc.

I’m trying with both my iRig and my Yamaha THR10X amp. I had the THR connected when I did the video. Here’s what it looks like with my iRig. With a clean preset, the noise isn’t too bad, but if I pick one with distortion, it’s terrible.

Okay so I think you should disconnect the THR and see how that sounds. Pretty sure those two audio interfaces are interfering with each other. Try googling on syncing multiple audio devices with AISO.

Edit: Yep the THR has an USB audio interface too. Just unplug it from the USB port to be sure.

Thanks Paul, each time I change, I unplug the other one though.

It also seems to mostly do it with all 3 of the Neural DSP plugins I have trials for (Darkglass, Parallax and Petrucci) - any idea if they do something to the trial so you can’t really use it for recording or anything?

I used the TSE BOD with Ampeg SVTVR Classic and don’t get much noise at all with my bass. I then tried Ignite Emissary with Nad IR on guitar and that was mostly ok as well.