I’ve long been a big user of IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube series – while I use quite a lot of different amp sims, I definitely return to AmpliTube the most often, and no less a discriminating pair of ears than Steve Vai’s complimented me on the tones I pulled from AmpliTube 2. (Well, the mouth part of Steve Vai said that, not his ears… but I kinda backed myself into a corner with that sentence and the only way to get out again was to write this sentence…). Well now IK Multimedia is launching AmpliTube 3, and it looks like it’s going to be absolutely killer, adding some monster sounds from AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix and Metal, as well as quite a few other additions and improvements. The addition I’m most excited about is the freely movable microphone placement. Awesome!
Take it away, press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IK Multimedia Announces AmpliTube 3,
Meet the New King of Tone
More Gear, More Feel, More Power, More Tone
January 2010, Modena, Italy – IK Multimedia is proud to present AmpliTube 3, a massive upgrade
of the leading guitar and bass tone gear-modeling software. AmpliTube 3 raises the industry standard of sound variety, realism and creative power – with over 160 precisely modeled pieces of vintage and modern gear available in one package, it is the ultimate tone gear collection for players, producers, engineers.
More Gear — Infinite Combinations:
AmpliTube 3 contains over 160 pieces of gear, more than double the amount of other packages,
including models from the most sought-after vintage collections and modern day workhorses. You’ll get 51 individual stompboxes and effects, 31 amplifier, preamp & power sections, 46 speaker cabinet models, 15 high-end stage and studio mics, and 17 post-amp rack effects. Plus, with the new AmpliTube 3 open architecture, you can add more packages as you need them, like AmpliTube Fender™ and Ampeg® SVX.
More Feel — True Dynamic Response:
AmpliTube 3 gear models give you THE most realistic playing feel — not just the tones — but the actual dynamic response of their hardware counterparts. Nothing comes closer to the feel and touch of playing through a real rig than AmpliTube 3. Plus, with IK’s proprietary VRM™ (Volumetric Response Modeling) technology, you can add ultra-accurate rotating speaker effects, free dual mic placements, plus room ambience and response to customize and craft your tone.
More Power — Creative Inspiration:
Face it — the better you sound, the better you play. AmpliTube 3 unleashes more creative power than ever, helping you to easily carve new, truly unique voices for your guitar, bass, keyboard, drum and vocals. Our new creative effects let you create sounds you’ve never heard before, and the new “drag & drop” effects’ configuration feature lets you quickly experiment with effects in the signal chain to get that totally unique sound.
More Tone — Every Sound You Can Imagine:
AmpliTube 3 is the voice for your soul. With the largest collection of ultra-accurately modeled gear, creative effects and flexible routing features, you’ll never run out of sonic possibilities. Every sound you’ve heard before, and even ones you haven’t dreamed of yet…find them here in AmpliTube 3.
More Gear. In fact, twice as much gear!
- Over 160 gear models included (with nearly 100 added models), more than double the amount
of other packages, from the most sought-after vintage collections to modern day workhorses
- 51 Stompbox effects, 31 Amps, 46 Cabinets, 15 Studio Mics and 17 Rack effects
- 30 brand new models for the most complete anthology of gear, ever
- 70 re-worked and superior sounding models from packages like AmpliTube Metal™ and
AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix™
- A new collection of bass gear models makes it also the most complete package for any bass recording or performance needs’ musician or engineer
- Can be directly expanded with packages like AmpliTube Fender™, Ampeg® SVX™ and future packages
- New preset management and keyword system allows you to organize and quickly recall the massive library of included and custom preset tones
More Feel. Nothing even comes close to AmpliTube 3…
- New cabinet module inside now provides double miking per cabinet, with freely movable microphones thanks to IK’s VRM™ (Volumetric Response Modeling) technology, giving you a level of control and sound accuracy never before experienced in software
- New impulse-based reverbs are now used in the entire chain, from spring reverb to room ambience, which ensures the most realistic possible representation of your recording environment
- New rotary speaker module sets the new standard for accurate emulation of these types of cabinets – until now, there had never been such a great sounding rotary cabinet in software
- All models in AmpliTube 3 have been ultra-accurately “remastered” with our new 3rd generation modeling technology (the same found in AmpliTube Fender™), using IK’s exclusive DSM™ technology (Dynamic Saturation Modeling), then painstakingly “A/B” compared with the originals to ensure that the sound you hear from the software is the same sound you hear from the gear
More Power. Unleash more creative power.
- New creative Effects featuring the new StepFilter, StepSLicer, TapDelay, Rezo and Swell stomp
and rack effects that allow you to sculpt your sound and create inspiring rhythmic patterns or
amazing drone and pad-like effects
- New full-stereo path allows you to use the huge collection of analog and digital effects on your
vocal tracks, keyboards and drums
- New Drag & Drop function in the stomp and rack modules now makes experimenting with
effects’ combinations a breeze
- New “MIDI Learn” feature allows you to assign any software control or parameter to an
external controller with a simple click on the parameter’s knob
- New, integrated 4-track recorder/player allows you to capture and layer your ideas quickly and easily right at the moment of inspiration.
Pricing and Availability:
AmpliTube 3 will ship within February 2010 as VST, RTAS and Audio Unit plug-in formats and as standalone software for Mac OSX® and Windows®, and will be available in the following versions and MSRP prices*:
• AmpliTube 3 $349.99/€269.99
• AmpliTube 3 Crossgrade $269.99/€199.99 (available to any IK registered users)
• AmpliTube 3 Upgrade $199.99/€149.99 (available to all previous AmpliTube 2, AmpliTube
Metal, AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix™, AmpliTube Fender™ or Ampeg® SVX™ registered users)
Additionally, AmpliTube 3 will also be available as a complete software + hardware solution for playing and recording in a bundle with the StealthPedal – IK’s innovative, wah-style interface and controller for guitar and bass players:
• AmpliTube 3 + StealthPedal $399.99/€299.99
Preorders are already available in the IK Online Store and in our network of selected dealers and distributors worldwide.
* All prices excluding taxes.
For more information on AmpliTube 3, please visit:
IK goes Insane with 4×1 promo when 3,500 join in
Due to unprecedented user demand, we have decided to extend the current AmpliTube Power Group Promotion and give you up to 4 Powered by AmpliTube products for the insane price of 1 if 3,500 users join the promotion by December 31st!!!
So far over 2,700 users have joined-in by registering one of these:
* StealthPedal Deluxe
* AmpliTube 2
* AmpliTube 2 Crossgrade
* AmpliTube FenderTM
* Ampeg® SVX
* AmpliTube Jimi HendrixTM
* AmpliTube Metal
And has helped each other receive 2 of these absolutely FREE:
* AmpliTube 2 Crossgrade
* Ampeg® SVX
* AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix
* AmpliTube Metal
Now, when 3,500 users join in, everyone will be able to choose an additional title from the above AmpliTube products for FREE or choose one of these cool additional products:
* T-RackS 3 Standard
* SampleTank 2 L
* Miroslav Philharmonik CE
This is 4×1, equivalent to savings of 75%!
Help yourself and thousands of other users to get an incredible deal by joining in and spread the word to your friends!
A little while back I reviewed IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube 2, probably my most frequently-used program apart from Pro Tools. Well now I’ve got my paws on Ampltube Fender, which takes the basic AmpliTube premise and filters it through authorised reproductions of specific Fender amps.
Like AmpliTube 2, AmpliTube Fender’s interface is divided into five separate modules: Tuner, Stomp, Amp Head, Cab and Rack Effects. There are two series/parallel guitar rigs available with multiple routing options. This comes in especially handy when you want to combine a few clean amps, SRV-style. There are 12 amplifiers. 12 Cabinets, 9 Microphones, 9 Stomp Effects, and 7 Rack Effects.
There’s also a phrase trainer which allows you to import an audio track and change the speed while maintaining the pitch, or to change the pitch while maintaining the tempo, and a metronome. I really dig having such educational features built into such an already useful program. But the real good stuff here is the amp model set, so let’s look at those.
The Champion 600 is designed to have a little more gain than the original classic Fender practice amp, and it’s an amp of simple pleasures: One control (a volume knob), one power tube, one speaker. I like cranking this little baby up to meltdown levels and bashing out some Diamond Dogs-era Bowie. It really handles that brash, strummy, open chord aesthetic. It’s also great mixed in relatively low with another amp model to add a little extra something in the midrange.
The ’59 Bassman sounds tough and bright, with just the right punchy bass response and that glorious cutting treble. Plug in a single coil axe, wind the amp volume all the way up and pick with your fingers for some authentic 60s Chicago Blues power, or go easy on the volume for more restrained, subdued clean sounds that work really well with vintage-output humbuckers. Now, since this model doesn’t have an inbuilt reverb control, you could certainly be forgiven for pairing it with the Spring Reverb effect module, either before the preamp or in the effect rack. You might also like to try turning up the ambience control in the cab section. Careful use of this control is one of my secret weapons when using AmpliTube. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.
I really dig the ’65 Twin Reverb model for shimmering clean humbucker tones, and for turning up to the edge of the grunt zone for a tougher vibe. IK Multimedia says this is a good amp for ‘accentuating the character of external stomp boxes, making it an incredibly versatile platform to build on,’ and I couldn’t agree more. I would highly recommend selecting this model to get to know each of AmpliTube Fender’s effects modules before you start adding them to other amps. Now, as a longtime AmpliTube user I like to use X-Gear to combine modules from different AmpliTube versions (I also have AmpliTube 2 and AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix), and I really enjoyed using my Telecaster with the Screamer overdrive pedal from AmpliTube 2 into a pair of virtual ’65 Twin Reverbs from AmpliTube Fender, with some nice tape echo effects to spread everything out a little. Those who have heard Tommy Emmanuel’s excellent but less-known electric work would especially dig the creaminess and breadth of this sound.
The ’57 Deluxe is another one that really comes to life with my Telecaster. Adding a little slap-back delay, I found this model great for snappy country riffage and rockabilly. I also turned up the volume and combined it with a very pushed Bassman model for some cool blues vibe via my old trusty Strat copy. Set up a two-amp rig like the Bassman/Deluxe combo, don’t be shy about the reverb, flip to a neck single coil, and tell me you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of a Texas flood.
Speaking of Texas floods, the ’64 Vibroverb Custom model is based on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s own original Vibroverb as modified by the legendary Cesar Diaz. The amp model has the requisite Volume, Treble and Bass controls as well as a Bright switch, plus an effect section with controls for Reverb plus Speed and Intensity knobs for the vibrato circuit. There’s an on/off switch for turning the vibrato effect on and off, but hey, what’s this back over there next to the bass control? It’s a Mod/Stock switch based on Stevie’s amp. Flip the mod on and you get more gain and midrange grunt – great for kicking a single coil guitar up into the next level. I also had a lot of fun boosting AmpliTube’s guitar input level to really drive this model, somewhat akin to using a clean boost pedal with a valve amp. Try it out! This model – especially in mod mode – is also great for simulating Nuno Bettencourt’s ‘Waiting For The Punchline’ tone, if that’s your bag.
The ’65 Deluxe Reverb sounds a bit brighter and growlier than most of the other models in this batch. Edge up the input gain for some cool buzzy garage tones, and throw on a fuzz pedal model for good measure. I especially liked this one for shimmery indie tones, and in combination with the ’64 Vibroverb. Set one for more ambience than the other, play some choppy R&B chords, and you could lose a whole afternoon to the wall of sound that ensues.
The Vibro-King Custom is home to some browner classic rock tones, especially with the aid of a ‘FAT’ switch. It seems especially at home with humbuckers, but there’s something about its midrange that makes it great for clean-toned lead work as well. Crank up the reverb and some tape delay, reach for that whammy bar and you’re in Shadows territory.
Perhaps one of my favourite Fenders is the Super Sonic. I remember the first time I played through one – I was working at World of Music in Brighton East here in Melbourne, and the Fender rep told us about this killer new amp designed by Richie Flieger. If you don’t know that name, you damn-well should – Richie did some great work with Marshall and is known all-round as an amp guru. So a few weeks later when a Super Sonic head and cabinet arrived in the store, I excitedly hooked it up, dutifully opened the manual to the suggested settings, took a Fender John Mayer Stratocaster down from the wall, and proceeded to have my head blown away by the awesome toneliness. (Incidentally, if you get the chance, try out the Super Sonic combo too – it has an extra gain stage compared to the head version, and sounds even better – the AmpliTube model appears to be based on the combo, judging by the gainier tone and the picture of the combo version on the IK Multimedia website).
The Super Sonic has a clean channel designed to mimic the Fender Bassman and Vibrolux amps, as well as a high gain channel with two separate gain controls to really fine-tune the character and amount of distortion and saturation. Since AmpliTube Fender already captures some pretty awesome Bassman and Vibrolux sounds, the software model here focuses on the high gain channel. It’s quite uncanny how IK Multimedia has managed to reproduce all the things I love about the Super Sonic – thick growling top end, smooth round midrange, and a loose but not messy low end. Just like the real thing, the model is great for medium gain lead tones which clean up nicely with clever use of the guitar’s volume control, and some flat-out killer dirtied-up clean tones are lurking at the lower end of the gain range. Nobody should buy a Super Sonic to seek a death metal tone, and the model here is no different, but if you’re into the brighter, grittier end of the high gain spectrum there’s a lot to love about both the actual amp and the AmpliTube model.
Here’s a little blues clip with the Super Sonic model:
One of the amp models is something I haven’t yet tried in the real world – the MH-500 MetalHead. Good lord… if the real thing’s anything like the model, look out. This model in some ways represents the opposite of the Super Sonic’s tonal stamp: cutting treble, tight punchy bass, and solid midrange which can, of course, be scooped right out for the classic solid state death tone beloved of metal monsters everywhere, myself included. After a bit of tweaking, I started to notice some shared characteristics between this model and James Hetfield’s tone on Metallica’s ‘…And Justice For All’ album. The effect was enhanced with some craftily applied compression and by calling up a pair of MetalHeads panned left and right with slightly different EQ and gain settings, to simulate studio double tracking. How does it sound? Check it out for yourself here:
The lead sound that you’ll hear a little way in is also a pair of MetalHead models, once again panned left and right, this time with different delay and stationary wah settings on each. For the lead tone I was going for a Kirk Hammett ‘Ride The Lightning’ kind of sound. Oh and there’s no bass on this one, cos you can’t hear the bass on Justice… Hehe.
The Bassman 300 bass amp is extremely interactive and very addictive. Imagine two channels – clean and distortion – which can be used singularly or blended seamlessly. You can also independently compress the high and low end, engage a graphic EQ, bump up the lows and highs with separate switches, and, I dunno, pilot the International Space Station remotely. I have a 5-string Ibanez TR bass that I’ve never been overly happy with, but through the Bassman 300 it took on a great punchy fundamental tone with a heavily compressed Channel 1 (clean) in combination with a very musical graininess from Channel 2 (gain). The scoopable EQ and the fine-tuning abilities of the compressor make it good choice for slap and pop styles and it’s a killer model for blues, rock and metal.
The TBP-1 is an amp I’m quite familiar with via its sister amp, the TB-1200 head. Like the actual amp and preamp, this is a great all-round model, with a cool Tube Overdrive section and a tube-voiced Vintage Tube Tone channel. The AmpliTube model mimics the ‘cut only’ passive tone stack in the Vintage Tube Tone section, so this is a great one to enhance the quality of a great-sounding bass, rather than mask the shortfalls of a bad one. The Tube Overdrive section includes only Gain, Volume and Blend controls (for setting the ratio of Vintage and Overdrive channels), but further tone shaping is available with a smart semi-parametric EQ section. There’s also a Room Balance control which shifts the EQ to fine-tune the tone of the cabinet – a stage-friendly feature built into the actual amp to make it easier to hear on stage while sending an un-Room-Balanced signal to the house engineer. In AmpliTube Fender it becomes a handy tone shaping tool for its own sake.
But what of the pedals? AmpliTube Fender has some cool effects.
Fender Blender is a recreation of the classic fuzz/octave effect. It has a decidedly Billy Corgan-esque sound, especially when you use it for leads, and its particular splendour is best experienced with a very clean amp model like the ’65 Twin. It’s no surprise that Corgan himself is a well-known Fender Blender user, as is Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. The range of tones is huge, from subtle to freaking sick, and I had a lot of fun using a Radial ProRMP reamp to use AmpliTube Fender’s Fender Blender model with my Marshall DSL50 head.
There’s a volume pedal with a selectable minimum range, which is very handy but would be even moreso with some kind of MIDI control like IK’s StealthPedal. Likewise the Wah and Fuzz Wah pedals. The former has is switchable from ‘Cryin’ to ‘Clyde McCoy’ modes and has minimum and maximum frequency controls to really dial in your tone (especially cool for fixed-wah sounds in Clyde McCoy mode), while the latter has a selectable fuzz effect which is satisfyingly dirty and authentic. I really dig using this fuzz sound by itself with single coils for some serious ‘old tone.’
The Fender Phaser is a recreation of this pedalboard-oppressing megapedal (seriously, have you seen one in person? The damn things are huge), and you can fine-tune the frequency and set the phaser sweep to follow the tempo of the music if you choose. Its stroberriffic pulse is hypnotic too, in the best, most psychedelic way. I especially like combining this model with a delay model.
The Tremolo circuit is based on Fender amp tremolo, so you can look at it as a way of adding awesome Fender tremolo to any amp you like (especially handy if you use X-Gear).
The ’63 Reverb is based on those cool old tube-driven external reverb units – you know the ones that look like a tweed shoe box and go for big money on eBay? Here you get controls for Mixer, Tone and Dwell, great for those Hank Marvin moments. Try it with some of the blackface models at around medium volume for some great indie tone.
The Fender Tape Echo model is based on the tape echo simulation from the Fender Cyber-Twin amp, yet another Fender amp that I’ve been lucky to spend a lot of time with – seriously, all we really need’s a G-Dec sim and that’s pretty much my entire Fender experience wrapped up in a single program! There’s a huge range of control here and while I’d love to have a stereo option, it’s certainly more than able to handle all your mono delay needs from the warmest straightforward repeat to the warbliest modulated stretchy tape sounds. Try it in a chain with the ’63 Reverb model placed after it.
Finally there’s a Compressor based on that within the Cyber-Twin. It has four levels – Low, Medium, High and Even Higher – and is good for either subtle dynamic processing or the kind of ultra-pinched compression that works extra well for single coil country playing.
Most of the cabinets and mic choices in the Cab section are pretty self-explanatory: each amp has a matching cabinet that you can use as intended or substitute for any other cabinet. It’s great fun seeing what would happen if you ran the MH-500 through a tiny Champion 600 speaker, for instance. And there’s a wide range of mics: Condenser 87, Condenser 84, Condenser 414, Dynamic 57, Dynamic 421, Dynamic 441, Ribbon 160, Velo-8 and MD1-b, which are all useful in different situations (especially when combining multiple amps). But wait, what’s this? A Fender Vibratone rotating speaker? You can combine this beauty with any other speaker cabinet in the arsenal for authentic Doppler tones. Being a Mike Keneally geek I set up a Super Sonic tone that reminded me of his sound on the track ‘Own’ from the ‘Sluggo!’ album, called up the Vibratone model, and vibed out on the wobbly goodness.
By the way, speaking of the Cab section and as hinted a little way back, make sure to explore the Ambience control, which appears to increase the simulated distance between the virtual mic and virtual speaker. This adds some great stereo spread to the sound, as well as lending a further layer of complexity to the reverbs in the Stomp, Amp and Rack sections.
There’s a suite of seven rack effects, some of which are shared with the Stomp section: Tape Echo, Compressor and ’63 Reverb, albeit with a different layout. Others are Pitch Shift (particularly great for grainy, dirty effects in combination with the Fender Bender as well as subtle pitch widenings on cleaner tones), Sine Flange which I liked using with a clean sound for a Metallica ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ sound, Triangle Chorus which adds some Satriani-esque bounce to high gain tones and some bright shimmer to clean ones, and Fender Wah, an auto-wah which shares a feature set with the wah in the Stomp section, but here it has a different feel, especially on bass.
So is there anything I’d do differently in AmpliTube Fender? Well, like I said, I’d love a stereo delay – while I’m glad I can achieve this by using the delay module from AmpliTube 2 in X-Gear, I’d love to be able to do so with the exact feature set of the Tape Echo module in AmpliTube Fender. And I’d especially love some kind of intelligent software which models various famous Fender pickups for even more accurate classic Fender tone. But apart from that, I couldn’t be happier with AmpliTube Fender. I don’t particularly feel the need to zap out the midrange in the mix like I do with AmpliTube 2, because the Ampltube Fender models sit well enough as it is.
AmpliTube Fender may not be for everyone – while the Metalhead and Super Sonic models are great, they offer very niche tones which may not be for every metal player. But for those players who really love the Fender tone – and there are a lot of them – this is as close as you’re likely to get to the real thing without spending all day in a music store and earning the ire of the staff for your 12th straight rendition of ‘Couldn’t Stand The Weather.’ The fact that Fender have given their official stamp of approval is proof enough that IK Multimedia has delivered a killer reproduction of those classic tones.
Way back in 2007 I reviewed IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix program for Mixdown Magazine. This plugin exactingly models all sorts of gadgets and amps used by Jimi during his illustrious career, and includes carefully tweaked presets designed to emulate specific tones across his entire discography. I enjoyed the program’s interface and sound quality enough to take the plunge and spring for AmpliTube 2, which features the same basic operation but with its own set of amp, effect and cabinet models. So I’ve lived with the program for quite a while now and used it for everything from simply jamming in the living room, to songwriting, to completed recordings.
AmpliTube 2’s interface is divided into five separate modules: Tuner, Stomp, Amp Head, Miked Cabinet, and Rack Effects. There are two series/parallel guitar rigs available with all sorts of routing options, so you can have a single amp through two cabinets, two complete amps through different cabinets, and a whole stack of other possibilities including two amps and cabs through separate effects racks; two amps and cabs through a single effect rack, or one ‘virtual pedalboard’ feeding two totally different setups. There are 14 Preamps and EQs, 7 Power Amps, 16 Cabinets, 6 Microphones, 21 Stomp Effects, and 11 Rack Effects.
The stomp models include emulations based on classic pedals such as the Arbiter FuzzFace, Ibanez Tube Screamer, MXR Dynacomp, MXR Phase100, Electro Harmonix Memory Man, Boss CE-1 chorus, Fender Opto-Tremolo, plus some very cool pitch shifter, analog octave and harmonizer effects. There’s also wah, volume and filter, controllable by pedal if you have the appropriate outboard gear. Depending on the seris/parallel rig option you select you can use between 6 and 12 stomp models per amp.
The amp models are pretty comprehensive, including digital models based on the Fender SuperReverb, Fender Bassman, Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, Supro, Vox AC30, Marshall JCM800 and JCM900, and an officially licensed and approved THD BiValve. There’s also a bass amp and some IK Multimedia-designed models including Modern High Gain, Solid State Fuzz, Solid State Lead and Solid State Clean. You can mix and match the gain, preamp and power amp sections of each model, so, for instance, you can have a Marshall JCM900 front end, the tone controls of a Vox AC30 and the THD’s single ended Class A power amp. You’re given the same flexibility with the speaker cabinets: there are 16 including 1X6, 1X8, 1X12, 2X12, 4X10 (the last three in open and closed back versions) and several 4X12 models (both vintage and modern), and three bass cabs (vintage 1X15, 4X10 plus tweeter, and 1X12).
Mic options include Condenser 84, Condenser 87, Condenser 414, Dynamic 57, Dynamic 421 and Dynamic 441. There are switches for Off/On Axis as well as Far/Near, and an ambience slider which adds increasing levels of room sound. Finally the comprehensive effects rack includes a very versatile Digital Delay, studio-quality digital chorus and reverbs, an analog chorus simulation, a natural-sounding Tube Compressor, harmonizer, parametric EQ, stereo enhancer, and a rotating speaker simulator. Again you can use between 4 and 8 rack effects on an amp depending on what routing option you choose – for some options you can use 4 for each of two simultaneous models or speaker cabinets.
There’s also a metronome for when you want to practice your John Petrucci licks, and a phrase trainer which lets you import an audio file and slow it down (while maintaining pitch) for easy transcribing – or take a downtuned track and play it back in standard tuning – great for rocking along with those Van Halen and Hendrix tracks that are tuned down a half step. Just tweak the recording back up to standard tuning and off you go. As a dude who uses a lot of floating Floyd Rose-equipped guitars, this is a very very good thing for me. Anyone who’s ever tried to tune a Floyd-toting axe down a half step for an afternoon’s Yngwie noodling will agree.
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN AMP
So after all that, how does AmpliTube 2 sound? Well first you need to mess around with your input level – if you hit the computer with too high a signal you’ll get some audio weirdness which will confuse the program. But once the signal is in AmpliTube you can boost it with an input control which you can use to achieve a flat signal, turn it down to tame some of the heavier models, or use it as a clean boost to get some authentic overdriven growl out of the THD and AC30 models. Once you’ve got your level set, you may be tempted to crank the power amp all the way up to try and get that full overdriven-amp vibe. Don’t. There’s a magic spot somewhere around two thirds of the way up where you get the perfect blend of articulation and punch, and if you just turn up the master volume control from the start you’ll miss out on this very cool sound.
AmpliTube 2 seems most at home with overdriven sounds, such as the THD and Vox AC30 models. I recorded one particular track using the former for the lead part and the latter for the rhythm, and it sounds natural and responsive like a real amp. In fact the lead part is played solely with the fingers, Knopfler-style, a technique which can easily reveal any little deficiencies in an amp sim’s ability to sound like a real valve amp and mic’ed speaker cabinet.
For me the real fun in AmpliTube 2 is the ability to mix and match the various components. I like to ‘virtually’ change the Mesa Dual Rectifier model from 6L6 to EL34 output valves and substitute its EQ section for that from the JCM900, while keeping the gain stage and speaker cabinet the same. This warms up the amp considerably while retaining much of its recognisable character – it’s surprising how much of each model’s sound is reliant on that first module. Another thing I really appreciate in AmpliTube is the microphone interface. Adding a little bit of distance and depth to the AC30 or JCM800 models (the latter at a low gain setting) brings out a distinctive Jimmy Page vibe, moreso than any other amp modelling programs I’ve used. While flipping the On/Off Axis and Near/Far controls does have an effect on the sound, it’s a little bit more subtle and with less control than actually placing a mic off axis or moving it further from or closer to a speaker in the real world, so this is best used as just part of your general tone-tweaking rather than agonizing about exactly where your ‘virtual mic’ is placed.
It’s also almost criminally addictive to combine two amp models, for instance pick any two of the Fender models, add tweak the individual reverb levels to taste and throw in your favourite Stevie Ray Vaughan licks. Or set up the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier and the JCM800 with the Tube Screamer model, then throw on some digital chorus and tube compression for a thick modern FM rock type of rhythm guitar sound. Here’s another tip: mix together the bass amp model with a huge pile of compression, and roll off the treble. At the same time set up the JCM800 model, maybe with a little fuzz or overdrive, but definitely with some gritty preamp distortion grind, and zap out the bass frequencies. Mix the Marshall model down so it’s just low enough to add some growl and roar to your bass track, and it will sit much more comfortably with heavy rhythm guitars. This is especially great for Tool or Billy Sheehan bass sounds.
One very important point: all of AmpliTube’s amp models respond to changes to the guitar’s volume control in much the same way a real amp would – the valve amps respond like valve amps, and the solid state ones act like real solid state designs. As a chronic control-tweaker this point is particularly important for me when choosing an amp sim.I find that the key to getting the most out of AmpliTube though is to make sure you run it though a quality EQ at the mixing desk. There’s a bit of midrange poke which sounds great when you’re playing by yourself or along with CDs, but in a mix it can be a little too strident. I don’t see this as a particular problem though, as it’s completely reasonable to apply a little EQ attenuation to any recorded source, be it a ranging vintage Marshall stack or a digital simulation of one, to make it sit nicely in the mix. I use the EQ of IK’s T-Racks mastering software to do this and I’m consistently happy with the results.
If your appetite is whet by the Marshall and Mesa/Boogie models and you need more metal power, IK Multimedia offers AmpliTube Metal, which includes models based on the Peavey 5150, Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier, Randall Warhead and Marshall JMP1959 mkII, as well as a whole crate full of virtual pedals based on stompers pitched at the heavier side of the fence. Or if you need more of the vintage tones or just dig the whole Fender vibe there’s AmpliTube Fender, an officially licensed product which includes Fender-approved models of the ’65 Twin Reverb, ’57 Deluxe, ’59 Bassman LTD, ’64 Vibroverb Custom, Super-Sonic, Metalhead and many more, as well as models of Fender effects including the Blender fuzz/distortion, Phaser, Fuzz Wah, ’63 Reverb, the Tape Echo simulation from the Cybe-Twin amp, and a classic Fender volume pedal. Any of these programs also include, for free, X-Gear, a program which allows you to combine all of your AmpliTube programs into one huge amp sim. Want to combine the Fender Super-Sonic’s preamp section with the THD’s power amp from AmpliTube 2, a cab based on the Peavey 5150 and the Maestro FuzzTone-based model from the Jimi Hendrix program? You can do it within X-Gear.
TUBE BE OR NOT TUBE BE
AmpliTube 2 is the perfect option for the all-round guitarist who needs tones raging from the 50s to the present day. The user interface is logical if not downright intuitive, and while the mic positioning options aren’t particularly interactive and exhaustive, they are very musical. I would consider this to be AmpliTube 2’s only real limitation and I sometimes wish you could actually pick up, move and angle the virtual mic with the mouse. Otherwise it’s an extraordinarily useful program which is great as a practice tool, for jamming to your favourite tracks or, with a little careful EQ, as your main guitar tone on a recording.
IK Multimedia AmpliTube 2 Electric Guitar Amplifier and Effects Modeling Plug-in Software Standard
IK Multimedia AmpliTube Metal Studio Software/USB Audio Interface Package Standard
IK Multimedia AmpliTube Hendrix Studio Software/USB Audio Interface Package Standard
IK Multimedia StompIO Amplitube Stage Controller And Audio Interface Standard
IK Multimedia AmpliTube Fender Studio Software/Hardware Bundle Standard
With Alice In Chains in town recently for the Soundwave festival and their own side shows, now seems like as good a time as any to look at the guitar tones of Jerry Cantrell. The band’s defining moment was the 1993 album Dirt, which stripped away the slightly 80s-rock elements of their debut and ratcheted up the dark, foreboding, Sabbath-y elements instead. Cantrell’s tone was huge and warm, and a lot more ‘boutique’ than most of his grunge-era contemporaries.
The Dirt album was recorded with legendary producer Dave Jerden (as was its predecessor Facelift and the acoustic EP Sap), and legend has it that on Dirt, Jerden had Cantrell use a multi-amp rig to fatten up the guitar sound, with each amp chosen for the particular frequencies it emphasised. If you want to copy this approach at home, you don’t need a whole warehouse of amps and a huge studio to record them in (although it helps). You can get somewhere close using multiple amp simulator plugins. I’ve had good Cantrell-like results in Pro Tools by combining Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier and Marshall JCM800 models from IK Multimedia’s Amplitube 2 for the bass and midrange, respectively, and the Bogner Ecstasy model from Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 3 for the high end. Place each plugin on a separate track, dial out the frequencies you don’t need from each amp (for example, you already have a lot of bass from the Mesa, so turn it down on the other two models), and select the same track input for each track. Each part on Dirt was double-tracked, so you might want to do the same in a recording context, or use a stereo doubling effect live if you’re one of the growing number of guitarists who uses a laptop live instead of an amp.
Cantrell uses effects pretty minimally, but along with Kirk Hammett he was one of the main proponents of the wah wah pedal in the 90s. In this era he favoured the Jim Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Crybaby model, which has a bassier and much darker response than other Crybaby wah pedals – especially those available in the early 90s, when Jim Dunlop were still a while away from adding the myriad tone-shaping features available in some of their more high-tech pedals today. One way of getting close to this sound is to simply try to keep away from the upper register of the pedal’s travel, but that might get in the way of your performance. Through a lot of trial and error I’ve found (and verified by comparing this directly with the Jimi Hendrix wah) that you can get quite reasonably close to that sound with a regular Crybaby by simply turning down your guitar’s tone control. This is especially effective on the title track for Dirt, which features a snaky, wah-drenched melody like that would be a little too brittle if a more trebly wah sound was used.
Here’s a neat little idea from IK Multimedia. They’ve combined an audio interface with an expression pedal for control of wah, volume and pitch effects, or any other MIDI-controllable parameter. I use IK’s Amplitube program quite a lot and I’ve often wished I had the ability to control various effects with an expression pedal – like making a phaser speed up, or blending between two amp models.
Here’s the press release.
IK Multimedia Announces StealthPedal
IK Multimedia presents the StealthPedal, the first guitar audio interface/software controller in a compact wah-style pedal, allowing users to record, play and control the included “Powered By AmpliTube” software, or any other MIDI controllable software, with the same feel and ease of use as a traditional guitar pedal.
StealthPedal is an affordable USB-powered audio interface that also works as a software floor controller, allowing anyone to record guitar or bass with Mac/PC at the highest possible quality, with 24-bit A/D and D/A conversion and 44.1/48 kHz operation. Two separate inputs are provided for Hi-Z or line level instruments as well as two separate outputs, plus a convenient headphone output.
The built-in expression pedal and switch can be associated with any parameter of “Powered By AmpliTube” software, or any other amp and FX modeling software with MIDI control capabilities. The StealthPedal controls can also be expanded with an additional expression pedal and two extra switches for building a mini-pedalboard rig with preset and single effects control capabilities for full live/recording usage.
Users are not limited to controlling amp-simulator software with StealthPedal, as it can control any effects plug-in, virtual instrument or DAW with MIDI control capabilities.
StealthPedal sports a rugged, classic-wah style, compact enclosure with a volume
knob and three LED indicators that operate as a status display, tuner or level indicator when used with any “Powered by AmpliTube” software. StealthPedal’s circuit design has been derived from IK’s StompIO high-end stage controller, ensuring the highest fidelity in the recording of for your guitar and bass with software configurable input gain level, 109dBA low noise input stage and optimal audio quality throughout.
StealthPedal also comes with a must-have assortment of software including AmpliTube 2 Live guitar and bass amp and fx modeling software, standalone and plug-in, AmpliTube X-GEAR for further expandability with all “Powered by AmpliTube” software and Sonoma Riffworks™ T4 for immediate recording/composing/online sharing with your Mac or PC. The StealthPedal and the included plug-in is also compatible with all popular DAW software supporting ASIO and Core Audio drivers on PC and Mac.
Additionally when used with the “Powered by AmpliTube” software the system can be expanded to nearly 200 gear models including the all-time classic, exclusive sounds of Ampeg®, Jimi Hendrix™ and the just announced Fender® edition.
All of this makes the StealthPedal the most convenient, complete and expandable solution on the market, for playing/recording guitar and bass with the computer.
USB powered audio interface and pedal controller
2 balanced / unbalanced audio inputs (hi-Z or line level)
24 bit A/D and D/A conversion
44.1/48 kHz operation
2 balanced audio outputs
Built-in expression pedal and MIDI foot-switch
Multiple LEDs can operate as Tuner or Level indicators with AmpliTube
External double switch and expression pedal inputs
Classic, rugged metal Wah-style construction
High-quality, low-noise input stage (109dBA /104dB RMS S/N ratio)
Control all “Powered by AmpliTube” software/plug-ins
Control any MIDI controllable software/plug-ins
Includes AmpliTube 2 Live standalone and plug-in, AmpliTube X-GEAR and Sonoma Riffworks™ T4
Compatible with all the most popular DAW software supporting ASIO and Core Audio drivers on PC and Mac.
Endless software expandability with AmpliTube modules
Price & Availability
StealthPedal will have an MSRP of €199.99 / $269.99 (excluding taxes) and will be available for shipping by the end of April 2009.
For more information, visit their web site at www.ikmultimedia.com.
There’s a handful of guitar players who changed the way the instrument is played, and with it the course of music itself. Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen spring rapidly to mind. But for those who seek a deeper path, there’s John McLaughlin. The soft-spoken English jazz fusion pioneer has worked with Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams and Al Di Meola, just to name a handful. After decades of friendship and musical collaboration with pianist Chick Corea, McLaughlin and Corea have formed the Five Peace Band, a jazz rock fusion supergroup who are heading to Australia for a series of shows groundbreaking shows in February.
Scoring this interview was a touch of serendipity: A few months ago I marched into a CD store and marched out with a stack of jazz fusion CDs, and the most played of those since then has been Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ‘Birds of Fire,’ a landmark of the genre released in 1973. I confess my newness to McLaughlin. “Oh you’re a guitar player?” Yeah! “Great! Well Birds of Fire, that was about 35 years ago I think, wasn’t it? Well why not! You have to start somewhere! So you were involved in another kind of music or another style of playing?” I tell him I’ve been into the blues since I was really young, and then I discovered heavy metal, and now I’ve hit 30 and I kinda feel like I need to look elsewhere, expand my horizons beyond pointy guitars, demons, and all that other cool stuff that comes with metal. “Well you’ll never go wrong with the blues, that’s for sure. I started off with piano until the age of 11, but the guitar came into my hands simultaneously being exposed to the Mississippi Delta blues, which itself was a revelation. It marked me for life. Are you into playing jazz now, or jazz fusion?” I’m getting into fusion, yeah. “Well you’ll find that the blues is very much part of that also. You take the blues out of jazz and you don’t have much jazz left, you know what I mean?”
After some mutual geeking-out about the virtues of the blues, I figure I’d better ask about the Five Peace Band coming down to Australia. “Are you aware of Chick Corea’s music? Coming up in January Chick and I will be celebrating our 40th anniversary of friendship and musical collaboration. We actually met on the recording ‘In A Silent Way,’ which is a Miles Davis recording. Chick was in Miles’s group and I’d just arrived in New York, and Miles had me on the date, and that’s where we met. Although I knew Chick’s music already by 1967 when I heard a recording of him with Montego Joe. I was already a fan of Chick. He’s just one of the greatest musicians of our era. Anyway, we’ve collaborated on a lot of different things over the years. It’s a lifetime! We’ve been friends longer than you’ve been alive! But this is the first time we’ve had a group together.”
But far from being ‘McLaughlin, Corea and friends,’ the Five Peace Band is filled out by some quite respected named. “In the group we have another Miles Davis musician, Kenny Garrett, alto sax,” McLaighlin enthuses. “Great player, wonderful player. Christian McBride, who has gotta be number one or number two on bass today, he’s just outstanding. And we had Vinnie Colaiuta for the first five weeks – we just finished a five week tour of Europe – but I think we’ll be in Australia with Brian Blade, who’s one of the new, great young drummers of our era, so this is going to be very exciting, because Brian and I have never played together. But I’m really looking forward to it. He’s already got a reputation as an amazing player. And Chick and I, of course, we’ve got this connection going back so many years, and so many memories. And not only that, we were both very much, in a way, at the forefront of this fusion movement that happened in the early 70s, because in 1971 I formed Mahavishnu Orchestra, and I think it was just six or seven months later, Chick formed Return To Forever, and these two groups were pivotal in a way, in the fusion movement that began in the early 70s. They were probably the most well-known groups at that time. So we have a lot of music, a lot of history – mutual history, combined history. But strangely enough this is the first time we’ve had a band together. What we’ve done over the years is played many times in duo together, piano and guitar. And this is something that we really love to do, and we will certainly do it at some point during the concert that you’ll see in Australia. We do it every night at some point, we’ll just get together, just the two of us on stage. It’s very special, it’s really something. We have a very strong complicity, in a way. It’s just such a joy with this band. They’re such great musicians and great human beings too.”
I’m very curious about is McLaughlin’s personal approach to improvisation, obviously a huge part of jazz rock fusion. “In improvisation, if you’re thinking, you’re not playing. And if you’re playing, you’re not thinking. In true improvisation you have to learn a lot of things. You have to learn rhythm, melody, harmony, phrases. It’s like learning a language. You learn some words, then you put a couple together and you make a little phrase, then you learn some more words, and then you start improvising, you change the phrase, you add this word. And it’s the same in music. You need to start developing a vocabulary of phrases that correspond to the way you feel. And the other thing that happens in music is that every day is different. We’re changing constantly, and I’m different today than I was yesterday, and I hear a little bit differently. Now, one day to another’s not much, but over six months, you’ll really notice it. This is why I continue to work, because my phrasing that I hear in my imagination, which is behind my musical playing, is also evolving. So I have to work just to keep up to date with my own imagination, if you know what I mean.”
The conversation shifts to amplification. “I’ve been using (IK Multimedia’s) Amplitube 2, but not in the last year,” John says. “I went on tour last year with a new band, an electric band, and I was using a Roland Cube 60, which is a nice little amp, but at the end of last year I started using one of these Mesa Boogie tube preamps – very nice, very nice. I’ve known Mesa Boogie amplifiers since around 1973. They’re great amps, and he made these tube preamps that are really good. With Shakti I was using a laptop, because I was using synth guitar also, and with a laptop it’s great, to have something like Amplitube as a virtual amp that I can use simultaneously with some software synths. But with the electric band I’m not playing any synths, I’m just playing electric guitar, and it’s the same with the Five Peace Band, I’m just playing electric guitar.
The synth input to the laptop was achieved via a Godin guitar. “It’s a really great guitar,” John says. “One of the reasons I went with Godin guitars in the first place is it has a great MIDI pickup. Once you see ‘This Is The Way I Do It,’ you’re going to see a score that moves in sync to all the audio. To do this was quite a tricky problem, and what I found was that the Godin guitar had the best MIDI output pickup available, and it has a great audio sound too. So I recorded MIDI and audio simultaneously, and I was able to construct a score which was then exported, cleaned up and then reimported into the mainframe for video rendering. It had never been done before, so we had no reference. It was a tricky problem, but it actually came out very well.”
Five Peace Band Australian tour dates:
Wed 18/02/09 08:00PM
The Arts Centre, Hamer Hall, Melbourne
Fri 20/02/09 08:00PM
Sydney Opera House, Sydney
Sat 21/02/09 08:00PM
Sydney Opera House, Sydney
I’ve been doing a lot of home recording lately, but with an adorable 2-year-old running around, time and space are scarce, so I’ve been using IK Multimedia’s Amplitube 2 amp simulator into Pro Tools. I’m pretty happy with Amplitube (especially after taming its strange midrange spike using IK’s T-Racks, which seems to reduce the effect much better than using Amplitube’s internal parametric EQ), but there are times when I really wish I could just crank up my Marshall DSL50 and record the demonically loud results.
I’ve Googled a few products that could help me achieve this, but so far the coolest has got to be the AxeTrak 112 by JLH Products, which was released in February. The idea’s pretty simple: there’s a mic’d 6” speaker inside a soundproofed cabinet for silent recording (or for a perfectly isolated amp sound for live performance), as well as an external 12” speaker which you can choose turn on for monitoring. There’s also a version called the AxeTrak 312 with 3 external speakers to give the best of both worlds.
Here’s JLH’s press release.
JLH Products introduces the newest addition to their AxeTrak lineup of isolation / recording cabinets for electric guitar, the “AxeTrak 112″. This cabinet is handmade in the USA the old fashioned way, one unit at a time. The AxeTrak 112 has many features that set it apart from other speaker cabinets and isolation cabinets on the market today. It is loaded with one 12″ Eminence Governor speaker, and also has a self-contained AxeTrak isolation cabinet mounted inside its ivory covered Baltic birch enclosure.
The main feature that sets this cabinet apart from other speaker cabinets and isolation cabinets is the fact that it can operate in either of two modes. If you are playing a gig and you want stage monitoring just push the button on the rear of the cabinet and your sound will be fed to the 12″ speaker in addition to the internal isolation cabinet. This mode will still provide the sound engineer or recording engineer with a direct isolated feed of your mic’d sound. If you press the button again you will be in silent mode. In silent mode the sound is fed only to the internal isolation cabinet and your stage volume will be non-existent. The sound engineer or recording engineer will still have an isolated, direct feed of your mic’d sound.