If you’re reading this, odds are that you are generally enamored
with beautiful and toneful guitars, amps and effects. Many of you
might describe yourselves as purists and “old school” fans of the
classic guitars and amplifier designs created in the last 50 years.
So how, exactly, does this new age of digital guitar amp “
modeling” fit into that world of classic sounds and great tone? Before
you turn the page in search of something a bit more analog, let’s
take a look at what these new applications can bring to your rig.
What is it?
Software that digitally “models” the sound of classic guitar amps
and effects through the use of advanced algorithms is all the rage
these days. By painstakingly measuring the behavior of every part
of the signal chain – from vacuum tubes, preamps, amps, speakers, microphones and effects – engineers have developed some
very convincing software technology for the modern guitarist.
While it would certainly be fun and inspiring to have several different classic tube amps and a pedalboard full of the greatest effects
of all time at every gig, who can really pull that off? Most of the
gear modeled in this software is now prohibitively expensive to
own and requires constant upkeep, too. When you consider the
sheer manpower needed to move it around, it quickly becomes
impractical on several levels. With modeling software, you have a
believable emulation of the real thing.
If we buy into the premise that most of us already have a computer, then it is reasonable to assume that we should find ways
to use that computing horsepower to do something of creative
value. Ampli Tube 2, from IK Multimedia (fig 1) and Guitar Rig
2, from Native Instruments (fig 2), are two well-designed and
highly-evolved applications in the world of guitar amp and effect
modeling. Both existed in previous incarnations and were hailed
as breakthrough products at the time, but Guitar Rig 2 and
Ampli Tude 2 pack in more new features and even better sound
quality. It seems that things just keep getting better for digitally-inclined axe slingers.
What can they do?
There are some similarities between these two applications, so
let’s take a look there first. Both apps feature a “virtual” rack where
you can select amps, speaker cabs, microphones and sound
effects to create your own “preset” sound. Most of the classic
combinations are available – from plexi Marshalls, the ’ 59 Fender
Bassman, and the Vox AC30 to modern classics like Mesa Boogie
– albeit, sometimes with thinly veiled names, such as Brit Tube
30TB or AC Box, Plex, Tweedman, etc.
From muscular blues and boogie to metal and high gain grind to
ambient and spacious, both products feature a vast world of tonal
possibilities. Tone tweakers and gear freaks will feel right at home
in the computer modeling world, with options to select what type
of virtual speaker cabinet is connected (closed back Celestion,
open back Fender, etc.) and even which type of virtual mic you
want in front of your cab, ranging from the old standby Shure
SM57 to high-end tube condensers; you can even choose to aim
the microphone directly at the virtual speaker or off-axis, satisfying
the most compulsive tone hounds. Each of these choices makes