REVIEW: AVID Eleven Rack

AVID’s Eleven amp modelling software is well prized for its ability to emulate the response of real-world amps. Eleven Rack is an ingenious piece of gear which builds on the strengths of its software ancestor: part recording interface, part guitar preamp, part mic preamp, part effects unit, part amp sim – and perhaps most exciting of all, it’s capable of transporting your recorded tones directly to the stage.

Eleven’s amp models are based on such classics as the Bassman, Tweed Deluxe, Dual Reverb, AC30 Top Boost, Black Face Twin Reverb, 1959 Plexi, JCM800 2203, Mark IIC+, SLO100, Dual Rectifier, and two of AVID’s own modes: Custom Vintage Crunch and Custom Modern Overdrive. There are various matching speaker cabinets, microphone models including SM57, MD 409 and 421, U67 and U87; C 414 EB and 121 Ribbon. The speaker and mic models are convolution-based, and were designed with the help of legendary producer/engineer John Cuniberti, inventor of the Reamp and Joe Satriani’s right-hand man in the studio.

Eleven Rack also bares Cuniberti’s influence in its reamping capabilities. It records a clean, unprocessed signal as well as your processed one, so you can feed that sound out toEleven Rack later for further processing. This is great for if you’re happy with a sound as you’re recording it but are aware that maybe later the mix might call for something different that can’t be achieved with simple EQ changes. For example, did you record a part with modelled amp distortion but you later realise it calls for a clean amp setting with a fuzz pedal on top? Well then, just call up the clean track, reamp it through Eleven Rack, and there you go! You can also use the reamping capability to layer different tones, then spread them out in the stereo spectrum during mixdown.

Part of the beauty of the Eleven Rack system is that it also acts as a standalone amp modeller, so those sounds you worked so hard on in the studio can come with you to the stage. You can even put your own physical pedals or rack units into the effects loop, and move the loop around within each patch, then can use MIDI controller and expression pedals to keep your sounds at your feet.

Perhaps most important of all for the majority of users, Eleven Rack includes a high-impedance guitar input (in addition to a mic input with phantom power and gain control) soEleven Rack (or any other amp sims you run in your DAW while using Eleven Rack as your interface) will react with your guitar just like a real guitar amp would. The influence of this simple little addition really hit home when I plugged in my Mbox 2 Pro and created an identical patch in Eleven SE. The Eleven Rack version just ‘felt’ right, whereas the Mbox version felt slightly overblown – too loud and over-reactive. It’s the kind of thing you might not notice if you’ve only ever used interfaces without impedance matching, but once you do, you’ll have a hard time going back.

One of my main tests for any amp sim is to see how it handles the classic JCM800-plus-Tube-Screamer setup. I plugged my new Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster Reissue in, dialled in the relevant models and let it rip. There was just the right amount of sweet JCM800 roar and TS smoothness, but above and beyond that I could hear something else happening, especially when I cranked the amp model volume up. At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Was I crazy? Then I realised what I was hearing:Eleven is so advanced that it even mimics the resonance of the speaker cabinet itself, so when you push the master volume past a certain level, you get the same ghost notes and cabinet noise you’d get with a real amp. You can use this to your advantage for ultra-realism. You can use a slider control to dial in any amount of this sag, from nothing to utter overkill.

By the way, the Custom Modern Overdrive model is pretty phenomenal. After about 5 minutes of experimentation I was able to nail the Richie Kotzen Strat tone I’ve been after for a couple of years. It’s a very hard sound for digital technology to even approximate yet Eleven slams it out of the park.

Part amp sim, part effects unit, part recording interface, Eleven has carved out a unique niche for itself while simultaneously stomping over all sorts of units that offer just one of its many aspects. Although a few more effect variations would be nice, the realism afforded by Eleven Rack really has to be heard and, more importantly felt, to be believed.


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