ReValver MkIII (finally) has a bug-fix update, but the question remains about MkIII.V: Free or Pay?

October 17, 2010

Before I get into a bit of a rant, which I did post over at the Peavey ReValver forums, here’s a link to the update for MkIII:

The following is something I posted on the Peavey ReValver MkIII forums in response to the developer’s statement, quoted as follows

Michael Ljunggren

Post subject: Re: Any “soft” release date for 3.5?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 11, 2010 8:31 amOk, here’s a date:
We currently plan to release Mk 3.5 last of October, or first of November. This can change, of course, but there is no reason for it unless we decide to add more stuff to it. Period.

“Release” means we send the CD to the printer. If you want to buy it from the shelves it will take some time; to buy it online you should be able to do it right away.

Will it be free? Most likely will it be a free update if you bought Mk III recently. What do I mean recently? Not decided. Don’t know. But if you had Mk III for a year or two, it won’t be a free update. (Probably some upgrade fee, but again, I have no numbers on that.)

I review software and as such I’d normally try to stay out of stuff like this, but I feel pretty strongly about this issue so I’m going to break the chain of positivity on the blog here and strongly disagree with the above statement. Alright, it’s great that ReValver is finally getting fixes for some nasty bugs that it’s had since launch (two and a half years ago). I’m sure the people still using it really appreciate that. I notice that the stat tracking shows that the Windows version has been downloaded 2831 times, while the Mac version has been downloaded 50. That makes sense, given that the Mac version was pretty much unusable until now (assuming it works well now – I’m not a Mac user so I can’t experiment and comment knowledgeably). Better late than never, as far as support goes, I guess. But… But.

I personally think selling ReValver MkIII.V to people who’ve had it for up to two years now would be kind of a slap in the face to those existing licensees. Sell them ReValver MkIV when it’s ready, alright, that’s fair, but don’t wait to provide necessary support two years after the launch of the product and then immediately afterward come out and say “alright, guys, buy our new upgrade! It includes some improvements to the engine and also has a few extra models!” It’s just… it seems wrong.

Especially given that competitors have released patches that add free additional functionality. Headlining that was Overloud with their TH1 1.1 patch, right after Winter NAMM 2009: tons of new effects, dirts, some new amps, new routing functionality, just a highly robust patch that responded to community concerns in a real way. Then came Amplitube Fender’s update a month or so later to include user requested effects both before and after the amps. Then Guitar Rig 4 came out, and had an update patch which added in some amps and effects. I’m probably forgetting some, those are the ones that stick with me from the other big commercial guys.

In the two years since ReValver MkIII was released, competition has toughened considerably, and some of them are very, very generous to users. The software pie isn’t very big to begin with, and if you want to stay in the game you need to take care of your users. That ought to be plain as day.

IKMM and Overloud in particular have been extremely good about support, with IKMM rolling several previous products into one and re-modeling the amps to bring them up to modern modeling spec; Overloud has been very progressive in addressing bugs and implementing feature requests, including great 64-bit support, changing licensing structures based on user feedback. They’ve also recently stated that they’ll be releasing an update to TH1 that includes something from their new SpringAge plugin to give guitarists a built-in spring reverb option. And Native Instruments has also been great with 64-bit support as well. I don’t like that they’re moving more and more in a “buy Komplete to get all the features” direction, but at least they’ve done a good job of taking care of the existing product.

At this point, competitively speaking, ReValver MkIII.V seems like it just plain should be provided to current license holders, as a reward for just sticking it out this long despite some pretty nasty bugs. Especially since note that it also improves the tube modeling behavior, a competitive update that would make ReValver near the top of the class with its competitors again. What was, at the time of release, an exceptionally powerful engine has, in the meantime, met its match with competitors’ new products. More than met its match in some cases. I’m sure the developer is on top of things, he’s a smart guy and he’s great with DSP. So I believe you when you say ReValver MkIII.V will have better sounding tube behavior. I just can’t see very many people happy about the idea of paying for what is, compared to the competition, basically patch material.

I’m getting the statement about improved tube behavior from a thread at GuitarAmpModeling, where mba64 says:

mba64 wrote:
I think it will be, havent been confirmed of this yet,It is peaveys call, all I can say is that some of the internal tube engine has gone 64bit so no fizzy sound no more.
And the new amps sounds and look great ,Diezel,Orange,Masterpiece,Sensation etc.

So. It’s Peavey’s call. If Peavey insists that users pay for MkIII.V, I guess some will buy it. Die-hards will stick by the product just because. Of course, knowing that MkIV is on the horizon might reduce the likelihood of that among others, and anyone who is familiar with the support history of the product is going to be a little wary of this evident double-dipping.

And, you know, the user base isn’t exactly thriving, judging by the update downloads. To make this product competitive again and to reinvigorate the lagging interest, I think it’s kind of incumbent on Peavey to make the right call and provide MkIII.V as a patch. More features than that have been included in patches by competitors who have consistently stayed on top of bug fixes, feature requests, and additional support. I can understand wanting to make more money, but it’s pretty egregious to specifically target longer-term supporters for having to pay for it, as they’re the ones who have suffered the longest from Peavey’s dumbfounding lack of support for what was at the time of the acquisition an extraordinarily cool product. The kind of additions and improvements that could make it more than ordinary again shouldn’t be withheld from the longest supporters.

Just my 2 cents.

A quick clip of the Digitech Grunge pedal

October 10, 2010

This is a quick clip I recorded of the Digitech Grunge. The much-maligned pedal actually sounds nice in my opinion! I have the gain too high here, it’s a bit over-compressed. It has a lot of treble available, maybe into a darker setup that could be useful but in this case I overcompensated and had the treble set a bit low. It gets pretty shrill if you turn it up too far, the potentiometer is quite sensitive. I’ll edge it up a touch for the next clip… Carefully.

Obviously just a quickie to try to demonstrate that, holy crap, Digitech isn’t awful?!!? It looks like I will finally have the full lineup of these guys pretty soon. Right now I’ve got plugged in, in order, the Bad Monkey, Screamin’ Blues, Hot Head, and Grunge. Death Metal is in the works. I want to note that the chain of pedals does NOT have a noticeable noise floor, either to my ear or to my DAW’s input. So despite the fact that they are all buffered pedals, the buffers are good and aren’t mucking up the sound. Also, they seem to be capable of operating at high signal levels without issue, which is good for anyone who wants to do sound design stuff with inexpensive pedals since you’ll encounter some approaching-line-level signals sometimes with synth racks and such.

To reiterate, these pedals do. not. suck. I will try to prove that with clips. They are definitely not “holy-grail-of-tone” pedals, but they are pretty substantially underrated in my opinion (even if some of them are essentially copies of another major manufacturer’s design – BOSS, basically – with a different EQ setup).

Wampler Black ’65 Demo

October 8, 2010

In an effort to A.) make use of some recording gear I have lying around, B.) introduce everyone to my bizarro accent that I got from moving around all over as a kid and living in the south, and C.) cut down on the MASSIVE FRIGGIN’ WALL OF TEXT I usually have to write to explain my clips, I decided to actually record a demo where I talk about what I’m doing in the clip. Hooray.

Also, kill me, I said “throaty” to describe a sound. I hate tone words, what have I done? 😦

Catalinbread’s DLS is often described as a pedal to get your baseline sound. Run other stuff into it to get heavier tones, etc., but it’s there to provide the fundamental sound shaping in a Marshall direction. I think the Black ’65 works really well like that, too, except instead of Marshall, it’s Fender.

This demo doesn’t even get into the range of the pedal, it’s just one particular usage of it that I really, really like. There are a ton more sounds. When I write a full review I’m going to have to record at least two extra clips to try to show what it can do.

Feedback is appreciated on this different kind of demo I’m doing here – you like it better than just typin’ a bunch, with the clip being nothing but playing? Or does talking about the product help (but keeping it focused to relevant details, I’m not trying to go all Gearwire here)?

Quick update – I recorded a second demo on request from a dude at TGP who wanted to know how it might sound into a Vox AC15/AC30.

I tried to keep the talky information concise and get it out of the way at the front more quickly, and, this time, play a bit of the clean tone before the pedal kicks in at every point to keep the sound context present. I also changed the settings on the pedal, because A.) didn’t sound right into a totally different amp setup with the previous settings, and B.) variety is awesome!

What do you think, better than the first one in terms of the actual structure of it or worse? Still just trying to feel out this different demo format, not sure if I’ll stick with it or not. It is nice not to have to type a bunch of stuff that I don’t think people read to explain straightforward things in the clip.

Quick note: I used the GS-201 Roland Space Echo RE-201 sim, and Overloud SpringAge on both of these clips. The amp sounds were provided by Amplitube 3.

Some further (final?) thoughts on SpringAge, and also I got another cheapo Digitech pedal. Score!

October 5, 2010

Alright, so what more can I say about SpringAge before I actually have to condense my thoughts and put them forward in a review? Well, a comment on its versatility as a reverb for more general use, and a couple more comments on how it stacks up to some other commercial verbs I’ve had experience with.

I’ve found a lot of applications for this in situations I would not normally use spring reverb. At the moment I am loving the sound with a couple high gain (analog pedal distortion) sounds. I normally would never want to use spring reverb with high-gain, it just conventionally doesn’t sound “right” to me. But by rolling down the “Boingy” control and using both EQ bands in “shelving” mode to sort of narrow down the frequencies of the reverb, it retains a lot of the nice character of a spring reverb for guitar without being so abrasive on high-gain the transients. The cool thing is that the same patch works really well for transitioning from low to high gain sounds, and with the lower gain stuff, digging in to the strings actually does still give some nice drippy sound. I suppose the compression and distortion of the higher gain sounds helps to sort of suppress the transients in the first place so there’s not as much signal difference to hit it hard with and get that “boing” sound going on in the first place.

For more conventional usage it’s just dead simple and extremely flexible. With the much less compressed cleaner tone, you still get some nice classic spring sound and feel (if you’re a fan of spring reverb, you know what I mean; if not, think of it as somewhat similar to an algorithmic reverb with a particularly interesting pre-delay behavior due to the way that springs that are already providing reverb sound when you feed more, high intensity signal into them).

For direct comparison, it’s definitely more flexible than Softube’s reverb. Softube’s reverb has a very nice sound to it, though. Going from memory I recall it being a stand-out effect. It is a cool, sophisticated, very old-school inspired model that gives you an interesting sound. I don’t think that SpringAge replaces Softube’s Spring Reverb plugin. It’s still got a really cool sound of its own. Someone at KVR described it as “lo-fi,” and I think that’s pretty fair, it does have a very vintage sound to it. Of the two of them, SpringAge is way more flexible, and with judicious usage of the parameters you’ve got control of you can get it to sound pretty close to that more vintage spring tank sound (picking the right reverb model to start with, then adjusting the immediate parameters to taste, then fooling with the preamp and the EQ to tune the sound). So while SpringAge does have the sound qualities and flexibility to get within the Softube reverb’s sound, you can’t really get Softube’s spring reverb to not sound like it does. Still, in its arena, if you are going for that more “lo-fi” classic Accutronics 3-spring tank, the Softube Reverb may sound better. Like many Softube products, it doesn’t reach for a lot of features, it just does one thing, and does it well. Still, that SpringAge can get up in its face pretty well and bring a lot of the same nice sound qualities is a nice compliment for SpringAge, I think.

The other Accutronics simulator, GSi Type4, Ineed to spend more time with to really feel it out on its own. However, I can comment on it compared to SpringAge, having spent some time putting them head to head. Type4 didn’t “wow” me at first the way that SpringAge did, but there is still a lot going on under the hood with it and I think it deserves focused attention to grasp what it brings to the table. GSi is not a joke of a company by ANY means – they are small and their products are affordable, but they are competitive in sound quality. My initial impression, though, is that SpringAge sounds… better, really, than Type4. Type4 has its own sound, but it is more in direct competition, sonically, with SpringAge – it’s got range, it can do vintage or modern sounds thanks to the parameters it focuses on, it’s got control over the highs and the lows. It is good. But…  Anywhere SpringAge and Type4 overlap, sonically, SpringAge sounds better to my ears. There are places Type4 goes that SpringAge doesn’t, but there are places they share, and those shared places are more in SpringAge’s corner. Luckily for GSi there is lots of space where they aren’t overlapping and as such Type4 remains a good, useful tool that isn’t deprecated by the newer and more sophisticated SpringAge, but direct comparisons on “overlapping” sounds do not flatter Type4 over SpringAge.

Try them all yourself, of course, they all have good demo periods and you can get a sense of it all pretty easily. None of them have technical problems, so it really comes down to subjective impressions of the sound, and how much you value the specific tool set that each offers. You will need an iLok for Softube, though, so take that into consideration.

Next up:

Digitech Bad Monkey

It’s just a really nice overdrive pedal. It’s highly affordable and does a cool trick. It’s somewhat related to the Tubescreamer, but far less so than the Digitech Screamin’ Blues is related to the BOSS BD-2. The neatest thing about the Tubescreamer-like (but not exactly) Bad Monkey is probably the active Bass control. It’s a separate part of the circuit, not a conventional tone stack, and in my opinion shows off the smart engineers behind Digitech’s products. One of the things that makes the Tubescreamer kind of divisive even though it’s a highly usable and popular pedal is the fact that it has a really substantial midrange push and a fairly sharp roll-off in the bass frequencies. The active bass control on this pedal, though, lets you dial the low frequencies in much more than a conventional Tubescreamer. Its actual distortion character – the nature of its clipping – is good, not super exceptional really but good and therefore useful. It has enough gain on tap to work as an overdrive on its own, and it even has the unsophisticated but “workable” Mixer output to save the day if you end up blowing up your amp or something. The fact that it’s a highly affordable pedal is just icing on the cake.

Anyway, I’ll have more to say about it later on. I’m writing the Screamin’ Blues review right now. I think that the more of these that I write about, the more I “get” what Digitech is going for with the product line.

Overloud’s SpringAge is really cool. If you like spring reverb, this does some really neat tricks.

October 3, 2010

If you’ve been a reader for any amount of time, you probably know that I really like software that does “neat tricks,” cool things that help the product stand out from others. I’ve been working with Overloud SpringAge, digging into its possibilities with instruments especially to try to get at what makes it neat/appealing… To find its “neat tricks!”

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I’ve been playing with it more and more today. I am in a little bit of a spot in that I can’t directly compare it to the clearest competition right now. My NFR ran out several months back on Softube’s Spring Reverb (which emulates a warm preamp driving an Accutronics Type 8 spring tank – the three spring model – if I am not mistaken). So even though I feel like Softube’s Spring Reverb and Overloud SpringAge are really the two “high end” spring reverb plugins which would merit direct competition, regrettably I can’t compare them directly right now! Nonetheless, from memory and from my clips of Softube’s Spring Reverb, I feel they’re on equal footing for sound quality. Softube makes great stuff, hard to fault them just on the grounds of the quality of their products. And they KNOW they make pricey plugins, so you can fault them for that if you want but they won’t care 😉 It’s a complement to be competing well with a Softube product for sound quality, no doubt. Plus, while Softube’s Spring Reverb emulates just one one reverb (though with all three springs you can blend in individually and some cool parameters of its own), Overloud SpringAge gives you three types.

Anyway. Overloud SpringAge is a good plugin. In a thread on KVR about the product, there is sort of a weird debate about the merits of spring reverb at all. I think that’s just silly. Someone may or may not like spring reverb, it’s fully subjective, regardless of the fact that a lot of great recordings have been made using it no one is forced to acknowledge its worth! But another clear fact is that 100% of people who don’t like spring reverb will not like a plugin designed to give you the sound of spring reverb. Not a mystery, haha.  So the real question is how it sounds to the people who DO like spring reverb, and I think all the “debate” over whether spring reverb is itself worthwhile is just a red herring there.

I do like spring reverb, especially on instruments, and I  think it sounds very nice indeed. The three different models sound very different, and the parameters that you can adjust allow you to go to a lot of different places sonically from those three starting points. Helping that versatility is the two-band parametric EQ. It’s got a bit of “flavor” to the EQ, it isn’t just a bog standard parametric (not that there’s anything wrong with a good, ordinary parametric EQ). The “Q” value knobs transition from a regular EQ width adjustment to making the EQs a low shelf and a high shelf when set fully to the extreme. I find that to be a very nice touch, useful for broadly dialing in the exact range within which you want the EQ to operate. You can turn the EQ section off entirely if you want and just use the Bright adjustment knob, which adds or reduces high frequencies from the selected model, but there’s a lot of power using them all together.

Add in the warm preamp that can overdrive for a nice sound and I think the whole package is very competitive, even unique. In addition to the more traditional spring reverb plugin controls like spring tension, etc., the “Boingy” adjustment is fantastic. The one thing which spring IRs in particular reeeaaallly bug me about is that there isn’t any way you can control how much “sprong” drippy sound there is affecting your transients. That is one of the things which keeps spring reverb from being useful in more situations, for example with more distorted applications. Being able to dial back the spring transient noise is another nice touch that I appreciate. Really, in general the sound quality is very high. The way that the preamp affects the signal is pleasant, with some harmonic distortion when driven and a little fattening up in some of the lower frequencies at higher settings, but generally subtle. As it ought to be.

About the preamp thing… For comparison, I didn’t like the way that Softube’s Tube Delay has this wild impact on the frequency response of any sound run through it (in fact that’s the one especially profound criticism I’ve ever felt any of the Softube products I tested really deserved – I have said before and I’ll repeat it, Softube makes good stuff). Overloud’s SpringAge doesn’t have nearly the same huge sonic difference with the preamp, it’s just a little bit of extra cool “warming” and some light grit to the sound without anything negative. If anyone has used the Bootsie freeware plugin “FerricTDS” which won the KVR Developer Challenge 2009, you’ll know what I’m talking about. FerricTDS 1.5 is available here. It just has a very cool “the sound you have, but a little nicer” thing going on in the preamp. I don’t feel forced to put SprinAge on a separate effects bus (or make use of REAPER’s wet/dry knob), it works just fine as an insert without drastically altering the sound. In fact I think that just its preamp section might be useful to some people without touching the reverb, it has a very analog character and might be what you’re looking for to fatten up a track, make it a little less pristine.

Somewhat related note: I was trying out GSi Type4 alongside it. Of course there is a big price difference between the inexpensive GSi product and the other, “major company” products, but nonetheless I think it stands up. I share the common tendency to root for an underdog, I guess, but still I think that any comparison is fair in software, and GSi’s effects sound very good to my ears.

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GSi Type4 emulates an Accutronics Type 4 spring reverb tank, which I believe is the same tank that is called “AQTX” in Overloud SpringAge, though it is impossible to be sure since Accutronics makes a lot of different reverb tanks, at least three of which are very common in guitar amps and the only clues SpringAge gives are that it’s “AQTX” and the manual states that it is a “classic” spring reverb and works well with guitar. I own Type4 because I bought it the same day I bought the lovely GSi GS-201 Roland Tape Echo sim. Well, Type4 does sound pretty good! And it has a lot of parameters for adjustment, too.

Even though GSi Type 4 and Overloud SpringAge both have an apparent Accutronics reverb sim, Type4 is a very different sounding spring reverb than any of SpringAge’s models. I don’t think they cover much of the same ground. It’s kind of funny, you know, Accutronics is pretty much the spring reverb maker that has supplied major amp makers, so virtually every guitar spring reverb sound you’re familiar with on albums is an Accutronics spring reverb! GSi Type4 is emulating an Accutronics Type4 tank… Softube’s Spring Reverb has 3 springs, so a Type 8 maybe. I don’t know what the “AQTX” in Spring Age is, but it sounds pretty familiar, I’d guess a Type 4. But I don’t know for sure.

Anyway, it’s not a simple product, though it is straightforward to use. There is surely more to say about this. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them, I will do my best to answer, provide clips, etc. – try me and I’ll do what I can!

One thing I want to note: Overloud, in response to a few things, actually just recently changed their whole demo limitation thing. Very cool for a company to have their finger on the pulse of the community like that. Now it should be a lot easier for people to demo, without intrusive noise killing the nuances you’re listening for in trying to make a purchasing decision.