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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I watched a very inspirational guide to recording guitars the other day, posted in a thread on SS.org ((here). It got me thinking about how I record. I've been through a fair few methods. I've used a preamp into impulses, used a Palmer speaker sim, used a Pod, a Pod with impulses, Pod Farm, and tried VST amp sims. The best results I've got are most recently, using my preamp into an impulse. Probably not surprising.

This video has left me thinking that I really would like to have a go at recording my setup. I get what I consider to be a very nice sound out of it, so it's always seemed a shame not to be able to use it. The only problem (besides not having a mic or mic preamp) is I live in a fairly old house that's converted into apartments, and I'm on the first floor. This means sound transfer is a real problem. I just can't use my rig at all.

Until I move, I don't think I'll ever be able to record the setup I have unless I give an isolation cab a go. But, as with so many things, there are an awful lot of rumours and opinions out there, and it's hard to find a definitive stance on how suitable they are for home use and what their sound is like.

So, my questions are:
Has anyone got experience with them?
Do they really make it possible to record in your apartment late at night? Can they really work this well (the sound transfer here is incredible, so if it's suitable for most at night, I think I can get away with that during the day)?
Is it possible to get a good non-boxy tone out of them?
Is making your own simple enough to outweigh the cost of buying one?

Quite a few questions, I know. I've been looking for vids on YouTube and reading lots, but only the AxeTrak demo them with the sort of tone I'd be looking to get out of one. And it's difficult to get a handle on how suitable they are for apartments.
 

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I have the Grendel Dead Room iso cab and recorded two albums with it. I'll post more later if you want, but here's a couple points:

--Avoid the Axe Trak. It's garbage.

--All iso cabs are boxy sounding. It's the nature of the beast. You can compensate with EQ and mic positioning, but don't expect to get the same sound as your favorite cab.

--I am going back to the Axe-FX direct, most likely. Careful work with impulses will probably get better results than an iso cab.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The album I heard of yours had a very nice tone, Chris. It was your most recent. Was that done with the Grendel? If not, clips with the Grendel would be much appreciated :)

When you say the boxiness can be compensated for with EQ and mic placement, do you mean it requires a little more tweaking than recording a regular cab would, or you mean an awful lot more, trying to remove all the boxy honk?

So, in your opinion, iso cabs just don'e yield the kind of result that'd lure you aware from impulses and preamps (if that was your set-up)?
 

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Yeah, my last two albums, The Structure Creates Itself and The February Project were both recorded almost entirely with the Grendel, using mostly my Axe-FX as the preamp into one side of a Peavey Classic 50/50 power amp in a complicated loop setup.

Not a little more tweaking, a LOT more tweaking. It seems like there are pretty basic standards for getting a good gain sound out of a 4x12 and an SM57, but throw all that out the window when using an iso cab. First, you have to remember that it's not a 4x12, so boxyness is not the only problem. You have to do a little mid-scooping with the EQ to get closer to the effect of a 4x12. I also find that you have to place the mic closer to the center of the cone in order to eliminate as much boxyness as possible. With my Grendel, I found that the Audix i5 mic worked a lot better than the SM57, since it fattened and smoothed things up and made up for being close to the center. The SM57 was just crazy honk with the Grendel.

I'm not getting rid of the Grendel, but I'm finding that the recent firmware upgrades to the Axe-FX have narrowed the gap. There is still a certain "three-dimensionality" a real cab gives you that impulses don't. Some of it seems to be dynamics and picking nuances that make the real speaker sound "deeper" than an impulse. However, I find that my Grendel sounds somewhat "dull" and muddy compared to the impulses in the Axe-FX. In the end, I have a feeling my next album may feature both.

Oh, and forget about Grendel. The douchebag that built them tended not to delivered paid-for orders (I got lucky), and now he's basically out of business. The Rivera Silent Sister is probably the gold standard of iso cabs now--it supposedly fixes some of the boxiness with a ported design that allows the speaker to move more freely like it would in a regular cabinet. There's also a new Jet City iso cab, but I don't know much about it, since it came out well after I got my Grendel. Avoid the Randall or Demeter iso cabs. They are older designs that supposedly require a lot of modification to work effectively.

Also, don't expect complete silence if you crank the amp. There will be noise, but it should be manageable. My advice is to use a low-powered amp, since you're only powering one speaker. Also, get a Auralex Great GRANMA anti-vibration pad--the iso cab at high volume will vibrate the entire room just like a blasting 4x12. It's weird, since you can feel it more than hear it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Chris, thanks a lot for such thorough info. You sound pretty down on all things iso cab, which is a bit of a bummer. I really liked your tone on The Structure... From what you're saying, it sounds like it was abit of an uphill struggle to get that tone.

Joop Walters uses an isocab of some sort and gets a fantastic tone. His Engl Invader clip (which has been removed from YT) had a godly tone. What I guess I was hoping for was another success story (which your tone is, in my opinion) with a positive tale, singing its praises. I mean, given that I've never mic'd a cab, it kind of sounds like you're saying, 'don't expect to get a good sound out of it without hours upon hours of back and forth, changing mics, experimenting with EQ afterwards, etc.'

Obviously I don't know what your neighbours are like or your apartment/house's situation is. But given that I have a neighbour below me who has complained about volume at 3pm on a Saturday (the music was what I considered a sympathetic volume), do you think an isocab is going to cut it?

I did watch a video on the Silent Sister. Apparently it has something like 30ft of channel for air to flow through, allowing the speaker and mic to react in something less like a vacuum. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available here, and when it is, it'll probably be prohibitively expensive.

Anyhow, thanks very much for all the information and help. More research is needed, but you've given me a very good take on things.
 

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It actually wasn't as much of a struggle to get the tones on my last two albums as I've made it sound like. Once I got the tip about using an i5 mic, it happened pretty quickly. Even when recording a regular cabinet, you have to spend a fair amount of time on mic positioning. The nice thing about an iso cab is that, assuming you leave it in the same place all the time, the mic never moves once you got it positioned.

I'm not unhappy with the tones I got on the last two albums, but there's a level of presence and "immediateness" missing that comes back whenever I go direct to the board with the Axe-FX. Based on my experience, iso cabs inevitably give a slight illusion of being off in the distance. It's not overwhelming with the Grendel, but it's still there. Like I said, I haven't given up on it, but I'm giving the Axe-FX + impulses another chance, when I written off that route completely awhile back.

As for your picky neighbor, you might still have issues. In getting the Grendel, I got the accompanying "Silencer Shield," which is essentially a large wooden box that fits over the Grendel and further attenuates the sound. With the Silencer Shield in place, I can usually play with no problems, but some of the bass frequencies are still a bit problematic, and you absolutely need an anti-vibration pad.

With the Axe-FX, I am able to use its internal power amp sim to generate the sonic effects of a cranked amp and use the external power amp at a very low and clean setting that doesn't generate huge volume. With that, I can get the sound level down to a point where the Grendel is almost entirely inaudible even in the same room. Obviously, traditional amps don't give you that luxury.

I live in the middle floor of a very crappy converted old house with almost no soundproofing, and I was able to make the Axe-FX/Grendel/Silencer Shield combo work well day or night. My late night recording issues have come from my studio monitors, not the Grendel. But cranking a Marshall through the Grendel might be a different matter, and forget about it without the Silencer Shield.
 
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