TSE X50 and Recabinet 4 are two of the best software amp simulators on the market for rock and heavy metal guitars.
It’s amazing how close they sound to the real thing when properly configured and mixed. If you don’t believe amp sims can sound as good as the real thing, I suggest listening to some of the videos on Chris Tranmer’s YouTube channel. There are even some direct head-to-head comparison videos between the TSE X50 and Recabinet amp sims.
Those videos were a big reason I decided to go the amp sim route myself, instead of having to buy an expensive new amp and microphones to record with (the crappy Line 6 practice amp I use certainly isn’t going to cut it).
I agonized for a week which one to purchase. They both offer fully working demos to test, and at the time I was having a hard time distinguishing much difference in sound between the two. But that was back before TSE updated the X50 to the new and improved 2.4 version.
While trying to decide between the two, I just happened to notice that Recabinet was running a 40% off sale, so I ended up pulling the trigger on Recabinet 4 instead of TSE X50 (Recabinet costs $100 normally and TSE X50 is 70 euros, which is about $77). I reasoned the extra amps that Recabinet comes with made it a better value, even though I really only cared about the Peavey 5105 sim.
In retrospect, I think I made the wrong decision. Don’t get me wrong, Recabinet 4 is a really nice amp sim, but I think that TSE X50 noticeably jumped ahead with the 2.4 update. The developer of Recabinet has been promising a major update to a new 4.1 version for several months now, so it could jump back into contention, but it remains to be seen what the update will actually provide.
The biggest problem I have with Recabinet is the massive amount of CPU it uses. In fact I just did a test with my current project and I can run TSE X50 on four separate tracks with less overall CPU usage than one Recabinet track. That’s a huge difference!
My laptop can’t even handle running two instances of Recabinet along with drums and bass without problems. Granted my laptop should never be used for any kind of music production (it only has a dual-core Celeron processor), but it works surprisingly well for up to eight tracks with most plugins. Heck, with 4 instances of the X50 running guitars along with tracks for drums and bass, plus EQ and compressor plugins, it only hits 40% CPU usage max. But with just drums and one Recabinet it will hit 45%.
So if CPU usage is a big factor for you when it comes to amp sims, I’d definitely go with the TSE X50 plugin.
But sound is the most important factor, right? That’s what I can’t get past.
I wanted to get some lead guitar tracks recorded for the project I’m working on, and since I can’t run Recabinet twice (you can run multiple guitars through it to save CPU, but lead doesn’t sound very good with the same settings as rhythm) I decided to use the new 2.4 X50 demo just to have something to hear play rhythm guitar while playing lead.
All I did was add the TSE 808 pedal and load an Impulse Response into TSE X50 without changing any default settings and it sounded way more alive and the tone was way better than the custom settings I’ve been messing with for days to try and get the right sound with Recabinet 4 using the exact same IR and pedal.
Then once I got the first take of the lead track recorded, I was shocked by how much better it and the rhythm guitars sounded through TSE X50 than Recabinet. Maybe I could get Recabinet to sound as good if I kept messing with different settings and EQ waves, but I hate messing with settings; I just want to play and have it sound good.
I’m still holding out hope for Recabinet. The 4.1 update is supposed to be a major one and it could change everything. But as it stands at this moment, I sure wish I would’ve bought the X50 plugin instead.
I’ll post a follow up to this comparison after Recabinet gets updated. I want to give Recabinet a fair shake with the new version before throwing down almost $80 for another amp sim that does the same thing.