I’ve reviewed quite a few of IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube family of products on I Heart Guitar – AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix, AmpliTube 2 and AmpliTube Fender. On top of that I use IK’s T-Racks mastering plugin quite extensively. So I was stoked when the opportunity cropped up to review the latest incarnation of AmpliTube.
A lot of what makes AmpliTube so great is still here: The ability to mix and match power amps, preamps, tone stacks and speaker cabinets; the wide range of stomp and rack effects; the killer high gain sounds and highly detailed clean and edge-of-breakup tones. But as with each new incarnation since AmpliTube 1, you get more of everything: 51 individual stompboxes and effects; 31 amps, 46 speaker cabinets; 15 mics and 17 post-amp rack effects. According to the manual there are pedals based on the EHX Big Muff Pi, Boss’s DS-1, Super Feedbacker & Distortion; Metal Zone; Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer; Marshall Guv’Nor; ProCo Rat; Ibanez WH-10 wah; Roger Mayer Classic Fuzz; Mosrite Fuzzrite; DigiTech Whammy and many many more. New amps include models based on Vox AC30 Copper Panel; Orange OR-120; Peavey 5150; Randall Warhead; Marshall JMP100; Acoustic 360 bass preamp; Gallien-Krueger MB150; Trace Elliot AH250; Supro late 50s combo; Mesa/Boogie MKIII and more.
AmpliTube 3 also takes the place of IK Multimedia’s X-Gear software, in that it will detect any other AmpliTube versions on your system and allow you to combine, say, the preamp and tone stack from the authorised THD amp model from AmpliTube 2 with the power amp from a Fender Super Sonic from AmpliTube Fender, and a new rotary speaker cabinet model from AmpliTube 3. You can also drag and drop stomp and rack effects to switch their order, an essential feature that was missing from previous AmpliTube products.
When used as a stand-alone program, AmpliTube 3 features a four-track recorder for getting your ideas down (you can even record a part once then tweak the amp and effects later). Within 20 minutes of booting up the program for the first time I’d used this feature to lay down a new song idea that I wouldn’t have come up with if not for the cool tone I was pulling! AmpliTube 3 also features a new preset browser that lets you categorise and recall settings according to factors as broad as musical genre right down to minute details like the type of pickup the setting’s designed for. Another great addition is the selectable ‘hi-mid-eco’ sound quality. Use eco to minimise the drain on your CPU when you’re tracking, then crank up the latency and switch to hi quality for mixdown.
Perhaps the most interesting addition to AmpliTube 3 though is the new cabinet/mic interface. Now you can move the virtual mic around the virtual room, and even throw a second mic on the cabinet, and fine-tune the relationship between the two. You can even set select various room sizes. Neat! You can even increase or decrease the stereo spread of the separate room mics.
So how does it sound? Killer! The detail in the amp models is far greater than AmpliTube 2, and the ability to mess around with near infinite combinations across your different AmpliTube products means you can find all sorts of previously impossible sounds lurking within your computer. The cabinet and mic modelling in particular adds an even greater level of flexibility and realism. I found that the high resolution mode was so astonishingly clear that it almost felt ‘too real’ at first – I wasn’t used to hearing such minute detail from an amp sim. Switching back to mid resolution brought the sound more in line to what I was used to from AmpliTube 2, but really, with such high-detail sound available from the high mode, there’s really no reason other than CPU power to restrict yourself to the lower modes.
AmpliTube 3 is yet another great leap forward for IK’s pioneering amp sim work. There are other sims that do similar things to certain aspects of what AmpliTube 3 can do, but for pure tone and ease of use, and for having all these elements under one program, it’s a pretty spectacular achievement.