This was a fun one to do because all three companies whose software I use have a Mesa Rectifier model of some kind. Amplitube Metal has a triple rec, and I think that Revalver and Guitar Rig both have a dual rec, but I’m really not certain. I’ll try to find that out though, since it bears on the accuracy of the emulation.
Before I offer my thoughts, here are the clips. I’d rather you get a chance to hear them before you hear me talk about them too much. One thing about all of ’em – they’re boosted, because to my ears a recto just doesn’t sound right if it isn’t boosted. Guitar Rig 3 is boosted with its Treble Booster, ReValver MkIII is boosted with the VST Host module and the Simulanalog Boss SD-1 (just because I really wanted that sound, and ReValver lets you host whatever you want), and Amplitube Metal’s is boosted with its Boss Metalzone model (dist at zero, of course). The Guitar Rig 3 clip is the Modern channel, the ReValver MkIII clip is the Vintage channel, and Amplitube Metal, er, I’m not sure, it isn’t a channel switcher (though it does give you another model, Metal Clean T, which is the Triple Rec clean channel). I chose those channels because I like how they sounded on each of them. The goal was not to make them all sound the same, or make any sound better than the other; I spent quite a bit of time with each of them, tweaking it to get the best sound I could for my tastes out of each particular model. For Guitar Rig 3, I’m using its “Matched Cabinet” cab sim with some adjustment of the slider between matched cab A and B. For Amplitube Metal, I’ve got it dual-mic’d through two of the available Metal Lead T cabs. ReValver MkIII only has one Mesa IR that I know about, the “Vintage 4×12” impulse response, so I loaded up a good IR that I have of a Mesa 4×12. So that’s two elements of the signal chain which aren’t a part of the program inherently, but which it gives you the freedom to use. That’s pretty cool. I hope Peavey includes some more Mesa IRs in the future, though, because they’re great cabs and it would be a good supplement to the included collection.
Anyway, here’re the clips, and my thoughts will follow.
Edit: Alternate Mirror if Tindeck is unavailable:
Guitar Rig 3
It’s kind of funny. The “Instant Gratifier” is sort of a signature sound for Native Instruments with Guitar Rig. Guitar Rig 2’s intro patch used the Gratifier. They obviously put a lot of work into it, including doing some special things with the Expert Mode functions that offer some of the flexibility of a real recto (smoothly adjust between tube and diode power supply with its Sag knob, and with another of its “+” controls you can pull off some of the same “bold” or “spongy” parameter adjustment as the real deal). The move to Guitar Rig 3 has been good to the Gratifier, as the Matched Cab sim lets you dial in a good, usable tone quickly – more quickly than I was able to using Guitar Rig 2. The Gratifier responds accurately to boosts of various kinds, and you can get a pretty wide range of tones from it even with just the Matched Cab by using its different channels, adjusting the EQ, etc.; the EQ has a lot of interactivity, so by paying attention to the relationship between the midrange, treble, and presence, you can broadly shape the tone with even relatively minor adjustments.
For all that, though, there is a sort of indistinct quality to the Gratifier model. It isn’t bad, quite a bit better than any of the floor-board units I’ve used in fact, but compared to Amplitube Metal and ReValver MkIII I don’t think it really holds up. It doesn’t have the same dynamic responsiveness of ReValver’s Flathill or gut-wrenching punch of Amplitube Metal’s Metal Lead T. I don’t think it sounds off, but it doesn’t feel as good, and while no boosted recto is going to be super touch-sensitive (let’s face it, it’s an extremely high gain preamp getting hit hard on the front end), the Gratifier is a little bit dead. I also don’t really like its EQ. It is responsive and interactive, but it doesn’t seem quite right. Before you take too much away from the negative tone here, I am not sure that my complaints with GR3’s Gratifier aren’t due to the cabinet sim. Running the Gratifier into the Ultrasonic’s matched cab produces better results, at least in terms of fixing some of the “deadness.” The EQ still seems awkward to adjust compared to the more intuitive Amplitube Metal and ReValver MkIII. All in all, though I register these complaints seriously, I probably wouldn’t notice them as problems if it weren’t for the contrast with the other two programs – if all I had to work with was Guitar Rig 3, I bet I could use this productively. Seeing as I have two models from those other programs, different from each other but both better than this, I doubt I will use the Gratifier at all. The Ultrasonic model is a whole ‘nother story, but that’s also for a whole ‘nother post.
I had originally thought that ReValver MkIII’s Recto wasn’t really on target. However, I don’t think that now. With the external IR loaded into its RIR cabinet sim module, the Flathill model really comes to life. It has a very thick, defined tone, and keeps it together really well even under demanding conditions. I did one tube tweak to get the tone you hear in the clip, and that was just to change the power tube’s “character” to “Emphasize Mids 2” instead of “No character.” That, by the way, is one of my favorite tweaks for high gain patches in ReValver MkIII; it focuses the sound in just the right way, without seriously attenuating the highs or lows. It changes the power amp overdrive character, adding more grit to the midrange without distorting the treble or bass any further. With a high gain preamp and a big clean power section, you don’t really want to add a whole lot of grit or dirt in the power amp, but you do want to get some good sparkle and harmonics cooking. The tube character midrange tweak is a way to get a great responsiveness and add some screaming harmonics without compromising the tightness of the bass or adding any fizz to the treble.
I’m really taking advantage of the modularity of ReValver MkIII in that clip, using not only an external cabinet sim (one of Guitarhacks’ IRs, by the way) but also an external dirt pedal. The Simulanalog VST suite is a great tool for the studio and I highly recommend it to everyone. ReValver MkIII has amazing amp models, and a few good effects, too, but it’s definitely a “first gen” kind of product (I know, I know, it’s “Mark III,” but this is its first major release) with plenty of room to grow in terms of its range of effects. Since I was using the emphasize mids 2 tweak in the power section, I really didn’t want to use a Tubescreamer up front because it could get a little honky, so I used ReValver’s VST Host Module to load up the Simulanalog Boss SD-1, which is a very well modeled overdrive, and gave the amp the kick I wanted to. I chose the vintage channel because it has a different overall tonality and distortion character than the Modern channel, much moreso (and more accurately) than the channel difference between them in Guitar Rig 3’s Gratifier model. I think the resulting tone is really good. It is focused, dynamic, powerful, and of course heavy as hell. This has definitely taught me not to judge an amp’s tone in the software by the IRs available (though most of the amps are well matched with a variety of IRs; all of the Peavey amp models have more than a dozen, sometimes more than two dozen different IRs of their specific cabinet). It’s a shame that Peavey wasn’t able to include a wider variety of other manufacturers’ cabinets in IR form or a wider effects compliment with this release of ReValver, but hopefully they’ll be able to in the future… and in the meantime they’ve thoughtfully provided us with the means to use whatever tools we have at our disposal, without the headache of having to load multiple instances and bypass individual components to get a VST at just the right place in the signal chain.
Since this is ReValver, you have a great deal of flexibility in establishing your own tonal preferences. I feel confident that I could make this Recto sound like anything. A good place to start shaping the sound for your own ears is, as mentioned earlier, in the power section, since that’s basically the amp’s window to the world (to stretch a visual metaphor into sound, and beyond recognition). Changing the character of the power section results in very broad changes with only minor adjustments. If you want to really get interesting, swap the power tubes from 6L6s to KT88s or even EL34s and hear how big of a difference the change makes. But there’s more to ReValver’s adjustment options than just the power tubes. Try a brighter or hotter tube in V1 and V2 for a “natural” treble boosted tone; beef up the transformer for a harder-edged sound that doesn’t give under any circumstances. And feel free to use whatever IRs strike your fancy. I really liked how some of the “British collection” (Marshall cab) IRs sounded with this Mesa, and I use the “Vintage 4×12” (the one Mesa cab in the bunch) as my go-to 6505+ cab. Peavey encourages experimentation and exploration with the way they’ve built their program, and the resulting flexibility is a huge draw in my opinion. If you like this Recto tone, you know how I got it; but if you want to do something different, you have more access to the digital-physical guts of the modeling process than any other program on the market provides.
This program’s Triple Rectifier model (or, as it is called, Metal Lead T) is mean! It makes me think that the ReValver MkIII Flathill is a Dual Rectifier model (trying to get confirmation from Peavey on that), because they both have an extremely authentic high gain tone, but they both sound different. Amplitube Metal’s is very up-front, with a great deal of authority and punch. It has an excellent grinding quality to its midrange, an extremely powerful low end without getting farty or boomy, and a surprising amount of finesse in the treble frequencies. I found out some very interesting information while doing this comparison. I called the folks at IK in Florida, and quizzed them up and down about the software. Of course they couldn’t share everything, but they did tell me something that isn’t widely known and hasn’t been publicized in the past. I had once thought that ReValver MkIII is the only software of the three that I use to implement convolution in its cabinet simulation. It turns out that Amplitube Metal (and every other Amplitube product) also uses a different method of convolution in their modeling. ReValver MkIII is a total cabinet-mic impulse response, while Amplitube Metal (etc.) obviously use individual IRs for their cabinets and mic sims, otherwise you couldn’t use a different mic for the same cabinet. Different technological approaches to the same need, both very interesting; with ReValver’s way, you can get a host of different IRs of a specific cabinet from different angles, different mics, etc., all of which will have the exact “snapshot” frequency response of the sonic moment. With Amplitube’s method, you can tweak one cabinet with a variety of different mics to fine tune the sound. I don’t think either method is better – they are both good approaches. A total IR sound that is good will match well with a number of amps; the modular IR approach lets you tweak the same IR to work with different situations, too. I mention this only because it is a very interesting fact that I, for one, didn’t know about the Amplitube products. I think they ought to advertise it more actively, since other programs are now starting to really emphasize their IR modeling (for example, of course ReValver MkIII with its included 150+ IRs, but also Fractal Audio’s AxeFX unit which uses IRs for its modeling).
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I love how Amplitube Metal’s Triple Rec responds very differently to different boosts. I settled on using a Metalzone for this clip because with the dirt rolled back all the way, what you get is a slightly gritty boost with a lot of volume output and very effective pre-distortion tone shaping thanks to the parametric midrange control. I also got good results using Amplitube Metal’s Boss SD-1 model (and good on them to include one, it’s one of my favorite boosting pedals). I ended up making about five patches of the Metal Lead T model thanks to the various cabinet sim options available, and that’s just using the three included “Metal Lead T” cabinets. I really like the mic models available; with two cabinets in parallel, and multiple mic placement options and mics, you can get a huge variety of tones off of the same patch. One great use of that flexibility is to put together a darker patch for rhythm, and a more focused patch for lead.
The tonality after all is said and done is very forward and hot. Turning up the mains lets you really feel the chunk with every chord, and there is no loss of articulation when playing fast, even though the amp is (as its real-world counterpart) relatively dark. I like the tonal balance achieved by paying attention to the interplay of the Treble and Presence controls. Needless to say, unless you’re going for an exceptionally dark sound, be careful with the bass – there’s a lot on tap, as you should expect from a Triple Rec. As you can hear from the clips, the tone differs from ReValver MkIII’s Recto. The ReValver MkIII one is a little bit more compressed, and a little bit tighter around the very edges (I am speaking here only of the frequency, not of the responsiveness to your playing – they are both capable of being either very tight or very loose, depending on how you dial them in and if you’re boosting them or not – and with what). My wife, whose amp-naive ears I treasure for their honesty, described the ReValver MkIII one as sounding perhaps a bit more processed than the Amplitube Metal one. I don’t think that’s too far off. The Amplitube Metal model is blistering, raw and heavy, while the ReValver one might be a little more refined and tighter, but it also loses a little bit of edginess in trade. I imagine preferences will be split. They are both much better than Guitar Rig 3’s Instant Gratifier model, in my opinion.
Edit: Someone requested a double- or quad-tracked clip, so I made a double-tracked clip of Amplitube 2’s Dual Rec model. Here it is: