Fender Comparison Part 1: Twins and Bassmen, Oh My!
As usual, first, the clips.
Fender Bassman Clips – These clips start with a clean patch, and then after I finish playing some clean stuff, I switch to an overdrivable patch. Finally, I kick in my Vox&Joe Satriani Satchurator pedal to see how the overdrivable patch responds to being really slammed.
Amplitube 2 Fender Bassman alternate link
Amplitube Jimi Hendrix
Amplitube Jimi Hendrix Fender Bassman alternate link
Guitar Rig 3
Guitar Rig 3 Fender Bassman alternate link
ReValver MkIII Fender Bassman alternate link
Now featuring Waves GTR Solo!
Waves GTR Solo Fender Bassman
Fender Twin Clips – The Fender clean.
Guitar Rig 3
Guitar Rig 3 Fender Bassman alternate link
Amplitube 2 Fender Twin alternate link
First, the models of Fender Twins.
Guitar Rig 3 has a remarkably good sounding Fender Twin model. It has the right shimmer to its tone, responds well to playing dynamics, and has effective and realistic EQ. I had no trouble configuring its cabinet to sound good. The “Matched Cab” sounds good on its own if you’re in a hurry, but I’ve found that it can be rewarding to go beyond that and work with its standard cabinet simulation module so you can tweak what mics you’re using and how they’re positioned. Their Twin has a built-in reverb which is basically a built-in version of their great “Spring Reverb” module. Of course it is defeatable if you don’t want it there (and there are reasons to go with the external reverb if you have a complicated effects pathway or something), but I used it at its default adjustments because I found it to be well-tuned to the amp. As far as cabinet simulation goes, I decided that I would go with a dual mic setup to capture more of the “bloom” around the notes than a single mic would, but it’s really a matter of personal preference. As with most clean tones, it’s not very hard to get a good mic’d sound – distortion, with its compression, limited bandwidth, and effects on the speaker is much more difficult to mic in the virtual world as in the real world. This is one of my favorite Guitar Rig 3 models so far, and I think it would fit right into a mix.
Amplitube 2‘s Twin has an effortlessness to it that I appreciated. I started by just loading one of the amp-only presets, and I found that it already sounded good, which is usually a good sign. To my ears, it is a little bit “fuller” sounding than Guitar Rig 3’s Twin, though I don’t think that GR3s is worse. They’re both quality emulations. One area in which the Amplitube 2 Twin is superior is in its spring reverb, which is built into the amp before the power section (like all other Amplitube product amps which feature spring reverb) just like the real deal. GR3’s Spring Reverb module is extremely handy, I would even say comfortably that I prefer it to Amplitube 2’s Rack Unit “Digital Reverb,” but it is clear that Amplitube 2’s (and all the other Amplitube software) built-in spring reverb is exquisitely modeled off of the original. The trade-off is this: Guitar Rig 3’s spring reverb module can be used anywhere in the signal chain, while Amplitube products’ spring reverb is relegated solely to the amp’s own signal path, before the power amp. But it surely is the more natural sounding of the two, and it sounds and responds as would the amp’s original reverb. But you can’t pick it out of the amp and put it after the cab if you decided you didn’t want the “reverb into overdriving power amp” wall of sound. But man, when that “gets huge when you dig into the strings” screaming reverb crush is what you’re after, this is the only program that really gives it to you.
Now for the Fender Bassman models:
Amplitube 2 is a little disappointing with its Bassman. I think it hits the main points of the Bassman’s overall tonality – it isn’t that it doesn’t sound like a Bassman, or even that it doesn’t feel like a Bassman. For the most part it does. But it is a little bit “dampened” for lack of a better word. It’s sort of like compared to the other programs there’s a blanket on it, though, which I think comes primarily from an uncharacteristically fettered 4×10 Bassman cabinet simulation. While AT2 as a whole certainly does not suffer from cabinet sim problems, I have to say that the Bassman cabinet could have been better done. It lacks the brilliance and punch of a real 4×10 Bassman cab when used with a guitar, which influences one to try to recover some of the same by upping the treble and presence and using bright mics; a process which introduces some problems of its own. I also noticed quite quickly that this Bassman falls into the category of a “hard to overdrive” Bassman model. ReValver’s Bassman, Waves GTR Solo’s Bassman, and Amplitube 2’s are all like this – in their natural condition, they’re tough to OD. That’s just a peculiarity that likely has to do with the vintage of the amp being modeled as much as anything else, and each program offers ways to overdrive the amp without messing around with its tone (think clean input gain boosts as opposed to overdrive). All that said, I do think this could be used productively if Amplitube 2 were your only software – the amp itself has a good tonality, but you’ll need to think about running a parametric EQ after the cabinets to achieve some additional control over the highs if you’re aiming for more gloss up top.
But all is not lost for IK Multimedia, because Amplitube: Jimi Hendrix‘s Bassman model is a whole different animal. HERE is the shimmer and sizzle I was looking for, here you can see the relationship between the Bassman and early Marshall amps! The amp itself has a wider tonal range, both in terms of the timbre of the sound and in the level of overdrive you can achieve without any tricks. As far as the tone of the amp goes, remembering of course that this program’s matching cabinet is a classic Fender 2×15 cab rather than the conventional 4×10 Bassman cab, I was immediately pleased to hear its lovely roundness in the low end and midrange but also great treble definition. It sounds like a Bassman should sound! It also overdrives like a Bassman ought to when you really crank it up and give it room not just to breathe, but to roar. The 100W 6L6 power section (compared to Amplitube 2’s Bassman which has a 50W 6L6 power section) is killer, and shows off what I consider to be one of the real accomplishments in the Amplitube 2 and above IK Multimedia plugins – the ability to dynamically, transparently respond to your input just as the real deal would, easily and smoothly going from the cleanest clean to pretty wooly overdrive tones just based on your picking intensity. This model nearly seems alive when you play it, which should be a feeling familiar to those who have had the pleasure of playing a real vintage Bassman with a good tube complement into a responsive speaker cabinet. Mic’ing the 2×15″ cabinet is easy with Amplitube: Jimi Hendrix’s included vintage mics; I especially like how the Ribbon Mic and the Condenser 12 work together to give a very full sound with great detail from the lows to the highs.
ReValver MkIII‘s Bassman is also quite detailed (and also features a correct, 100W 6L6 power section); Peavey has included among its IR collection a very good 4×10 Bassman cabinet IR, so the equation changes a bit from the 2×15’s lower midrange focus and slightly relaxed high end. The sound is a little bit “tighter” and brighter, but I don’t think either is necessarily superior or inferior – just as real Bassman amps can sound fantastic into either of the two cabinet types, I think the results here are fantastic as well. It would, I think, be a matter of personal preference as to whether you prefer the warmer, rounder 2×15 tone of Amplitube: Jimi Hendrix’s cab, or the brighter, more focused tone of ReValver MkIII’s 4×10. I didn’t change anything in its Tweak GUI (a feature that I wish I could take with me into other programs) for the clean clip, as I felt it had precisely the tonality I was looking for right out of the gate. Glassy is the word to describe it, along with words like “responsive,” “focused,” and “chiming.” I mentioned earlier that this is one of the “hard to overdrive Bassmans,” so for the overdrive clip I opened up the Tweak GUI and upped the Nominal Input voltage from 1.000V to 1.800V or so, which had the immediate effect of turning the amp from a restrained saint to a salacious screamer. I recommend that trick any time you want to get more or less overdrive out of an amp model – it doesn’t alter the fundamental tone in the slightest, it just changes how much voltage the amp “sees” on its input, effectively boosting or attenuating your signal in a way that is utterly transparent to the circuit. It is a handy feature for sure, as this amp is a beast when overdriving! But it still cleans up wonderfully if you play softer. Awesome.
Guitar Rig 3‘s Bassman reminds me a little of Amplitube 2’s Bassman in its “feel.” It feels a little restrained to play, as though you don’t have quite the dynamic range you’d like even though it doesn’t sound noticeably off when you listen back. Feel is such a difficult thing to quantify or speak sensibly about so I’ll leave it at that… The sound is good, I think, and the 4×10 cabinet sim for the Bassman is high quality and easy to mic for good tones as well… Although I confess that in this clip I was using the 2×12 Tweed cabinet (normally matched to the Twin) and making it bigger with the cabinet simulator “Size” parameter, because I really like the 2×15 tone I got with Amplitube Jimi Hendrix’s cabs! It worked out pretty well, too, I think! That’s an impressive feature in Guitar Rig 3, the ability to take a cabinet and just increase everything proportionally for a correspondingly deeper or less-deep tone. Certainly adds some mileage to cab sims that might otherwise be used just with one amp but not sound right with others*. The range of gain and power amp responsiveness of this amplifier is more in line with what I prefer in a Bassman model, offering a smooth path from clean to clipping. I did find that the clean tone seemed to have an odd resonance that I couldn’t pin down, probably related to using the 2×12 cabinet with an increased “Size” – I could probably tame it with one of Guitar Rig 3’s many EQ modules, but after hearing it a few times it kind of grew on me so I kept it in after all. The overdrive tone is very usable, as well. I said earlier that I think Guitar Rig 3 has good Fender models and this is no exception. If perhaps I found the “feel” somewhat blanketed when playing, it certainly doesn’t sound like it when recorded, and in the end that might be what matters (at least to the mix).
Waves GTR Solo‘s Fender Bassman model, much like the Vox AC30TB-2 I reviewed earlier, has a silky gloss on the sound right out of the gate; it also has the same, subtle compression-sounding-thing going on despite being dynamically responsive to your playing. The clean tone is round and full, but chimes like a bell with single coils (it doesn’t even seem to lose its shimmer with humbuckers, which is actually kind of disorienting at first). Again, I’m not sure if it’s something I like or dislike about the program; it almost feels like the program sets out to do some of the production and mixing for you, because even messing around with different mics and off-axis positions the sound remains chimey and present, the only exception being the Ribbon Mic model which tames things considerably. I can’t object to how good it sounds (and it does sound good, with excellent clarity and a sweet, singing quality to the clean that pleases the ear well), and it feels fine to play as well, but I can’t shake the feeling that there is some kind of production techniques homunculus working under the surface to make the sound more exciting and vivid before it ever gets into a mix at all. I worry that it would be difficult to dial this fundamental quality out of the sound if you were so inclined. I compare it a little bit to the BBE Sonic Maximizer; its effect on the sound can be remarkable, but it definitely has an unmistakable “thing” that it does which may or may not fit your preferences. It surely shines, though, and I admit that it still pleases my ear greatly even with these reservations about its ultimate utility. The overdrive tone isn’t quite as great as the clean and has to be accomplished with some workarounds (like using a volume pedal module or two up front set for a gain boost) since the amp on its own is modeling a very clean variety of the Bassman, but it is still a very good tone. I miss the option to dual-mic the amp – here is another aspect where I am looking for tweakability that isn’t there. Still, there’s a heck of a lot to like about this sound, especially the lovely clean tone. And it’s free for a year, which is remarkably competitive on Waves’ part.
*For fairness’ sake, I should note that ReValver MkIII offers a similar feature in its little-used “Speaker Construction Kit” – little used because the default sim is its RIR Cabinet Impulse Response Convolution module. But the feature is there, and shouldn’t be overlooked.
And finally, the patches used in making these clips! They have all the instructions you need to upload them into your program of choice. Ah, these have both the Fender Pt. 1 patches and my Vox patches as well, but I think you can figure out which are which.
Fender Comparison 2 has been postponed until Amplitube Fender becomes available, as indications so far are that it’s going to be something of a game-changer for accurately modeling Fender amps!