Amplitube 4 Fender Champs comparison

February 16, 2017

IK Multimedia (hereafter IKMM) has a history with Fender that at this point has produced a plethora of digital models of classic and modern Fender gear. When I first got the chance to try Amplitube Fender (2009) (shout out to my former editor Will Chen at FrugalGuitarist!) something that really knocked me out was how accurate I felt its Champ 600 model was – I happened to have a Champ 600 as a practice amp at the time, and it was really close in sound and feel! But anyone who has played it knows it isn’t exactly the same as the classic Fender Champ sound. It’s enjoyable, responsive and barks when you crank it, but it’s not the classic sweet, worn-in sound.

Fender did reissue the ’57 Champ once and IK Multimedia modeled it through their officially certified model process – it represents a point somewhere between the Champ 600 and the Custom ’57 Champ in terms of modeling sophistication, having come out in the Amplitube 3.5 era. You can get it now from the Custom Shop or in the Amplitube Max bundle, as well as its matching 1×8 cabinet.

To get an idea of how things have progressed since 2009, I figured y’all might enjoy some comparison clips. I recorded one DI track and ran it through each Champ model in Amplitube, with the volume cranked. No post-effects were used. I used the same mic models and the same mic model positioning on each, with each Champ’s matching cabinet model. Of course the Amplitube 4 cab sim is considerably more flexible now than it was in the Amplitube 2/ X-Gear product era, so it is possible that a different tone could come from the all-original setup, but I’m not going to track down my old installation files to cook up a throwback installation just to see. Hands down, the new method of cab sim and user interface for it are big improvements.

Below are the clips – you’ll definitely hear differences in the models! I think IKMM’s technological evolution is pretty well on display.

champ-600
Champion 600 Model & Cab

reissue-57-champ
’57 Champ RI Model

57-custom-champ
’57 Custom Champ Model – Input 1

My Thoughts

The Champ 600 sounds just like I remembered it sounding – which is still pretty much how the real Champ 600 sounds too. Great model quality for the time period – I felt then and still do that Amplitube Fender in 2009 pushed IKMM to a new level of quality. However – and this shouldn’t really come across in the clip, coming from one DI track – the feel is less responsive to your playing dynamics than the ’57 Custom Champ especially. Years of technological advances will do that to a model of the past… But if you like the sharper, barky drive tone of the Champion 600, this model still does the job really well.

I never had a chance to really dig into the ’57 Champ RI model prior to this comparison. Getting to know it has been fun – it has a lot of character, and the matching 8″ cab is well done and sounds good with other amp models within Amplitube 4. Very responsive, with a smoother drive character than the Champion 600 but more grit than the ’57 Custom. They put this model out around the same time as the ’65 Princeton Reverb model, which is also great – I think IKMM represents Fender very well here.

Now to center stage! The ’57 Custom Champ is easily the smoothest, with a really classic driven tone that sends my mind back to some of the artists who famously loved Champs to record with. It’s sweet, it’s darker, no peaky character to the highs at all, with rich lows that roll gently into distortion as you play harder. You can really hear the notes sort of fuzzing out at the edges but it never shrieks at you. It doesn’t push as high gain as the other two, but its sonic character is sweeter overall and it feels just fantastic to play. Rich harmonics, never piercing highs – yet you can still make out the pick attack for single notes and how it glides across the strings in chords. Nice.

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Amplitube Fender Collection 2 “’65 Super Reverb” demo w/ my old strat!

February 10, 2017

Got it installed, taking it through the paces! The dynamic range of these models is really impressive. Reminds me that players in the ’60s weren’t exactly having to go to extremes to get any kind of dirt, just certain kinds. These models, like their Tweed namesakes, can boogie! (uh, no infringement intended, MESA/Boogie is its own pack, worth getting if you ask me – I digress)

I’m really taken with the sound of this model. It feels great to play, excellent range of gain on the amp, sounds great with pedals or good pedal emulations. I had to get my old Mexican-made Fender Stratocaster that I bought back in 2005 out, because the whole pack sounds lovely with single-coil style pickups. I use a Lace Blue in the neck, Lace Red in the middle, and a JB Jr. mini-humbucker in the bridge. Always was a fan of superstrat tone, but I love the bite the Strat bridge pickup arrangement gives – the JB Jr. is ceramic while the full-size is alnico, and it’s actually a little hotter than the full humbucker in the bargain.

I have to give some props to IK’s graphic design team – they’ve had great looking GUIs for a while, but this is top notch work all around:

65-super-reverb
And here’s the demo clip. I used the ’65 Reverb model’s built-in reverb on both guitar tracks, and its built-in tremolo on the lead track. No external effects on the guitar tracks, just Amplitube 4 into my DAW’s mixer – did use some light compression from T-Racks “Opto Comp” model when mixing in the drums. Sound to my computer courtesy of an IK Multimedia StompIO, still goin’ strong in 2017 and working at exactly one samplerate! But it sounds the best 🙂

Edit: Had a rendering error, fixed it 🙂

And here’s the drum track if you want to record a short jam:

I had a ton of fun recording this clip, I can’t overstate how responsive and just pretty sounding this model is. Easy to mic using the AT4 upgraded cabinet room interface. Fun to play, not too finicky, great depth in patch creation if you spend the time to learn the software. Most aspects of Amplitube are intuitive if you’ve recorded guitar using real gear before. Mic adjustments are very much like you’d get moving the real deal in front of the amp, and no cable snakes to trip over! I like it!

Comment if there’s a specific amp you’d like to hear next. Stay tuned for more Amplitube content, Fender Collection 2 clips, and more.


Amplitube 4 & Amplitube Orange Power Duo demo

June 16, 2016

Had some personal stuff come up last week, but I kept at it and put a demo clip together this week with some patches to share.

With regard to AT4, well, it’s amazing at what it adds – I really like the new Marshall models. This could easily have been an Amplitube: Marshall pack in terms of quality of the emulations, but I guess you can’t have the logo without the license! Still going to need to use Amplitube: Slash if you want a model with “Marshall” right on the front. For this track I used Amplitube 4’s model of the JMP-1, an emulation of Marshall’s classic high-gain preamp. The real deal gets its clipping from a combination of tubes and diodes as I recall – it has tons of crunch on tap but should still be pretty smooth. The emulation does not disappoint.

One of the available deals is Amplitube 4 + Amplitube Orange, definitely a tempting choice for anyone without them as the Orange pack is by far one of the fullest-featured. It has amps, bass amps, cabs galore, and it all sounds great. The amp sims are really something else here, and were some of the most impressive things I’d played at the time. I really get along with Orange’s take on higher gain, too, just has a great tonal balance for my tastes. All of the guitar amp models included in the package have got some use from me and I definitely recommend checking this out (free to try in the CS, so no good reason not to).

Orange Thunderverb heavy rhythm patch
https://www.dropbox.com/s/9a6os0vsvtoo1qz/Orange%20Thunderverb%20Heavy%20Tight.at4p?dl=0

Amplitube 4 model of Marshall JMP-1 solo patch
https://www.dropbox.com/s/opf6ohg7w8vym4h/%2780s%20JMP%20Lead%20Solo.at4p?dl=0

And while it’s not as long as I had wanted to render out maybe you’ll enjoy the drum track to jam with – going to start doing the drum tracks differently soon, I think, to include a longer jam track for folks visiting the blog.


Software companies have been busy! Preliminary plan for 2016, and a quick AT:MESA/Boogie demo clip

May 10, 2016

Realizing that I haven’t updated most of my software since 2014 lead me to a few pretty neat discoveries. First, I missed a ton of stuff from IK Multimedia while my back was hurt. Here’s a very quick demo clip of just one such thing, from Amplitube MESA/Boogie – the newest Mark IV model. I was going back and comparing the old Mk III model and the new one, and the old one sounds alright… ‘Til you play the newer one! Big difference. Here’s the clip of the Mk IV, just the amp model itself. Bit hurried demo, wanted to get something down for a friend and I wanted to have something to put up from the new amps. Really impressed with where IKMM’s modeling technology has got to these days. Used the Recto cab model that comes with the MESA/Boogie pack, such tasty cabs in this pack. Early judgment is this is worth getting for sure. I did not have to boost this model to get a good, responsive tone, and working with it was very much like working with an actual Mark IV. Folks complained that there’s no Mk V but at least I know what a Mk IV sounds like in person, haha.AT MESA MkIV Demo.png

 

With that quick clip out of the way, here’s some general thoughts on what I’m setting out to do here. Just figuring out what all has changed since I last wrote has been a bit of a task! On the Amplitube front, a lot of new stuff had been added. There are amps going back to 2013 that I’ve played for the first time in the last week. I’m picking and choosing what all to demo but I’ll probably just record what appeals as I’m configuring a bunch of new patches to take advantage of the great new gear.

Apart from IKMM, it looks like the landscape has changed a bit too. Guitar Rig 5 is old but no sign of GR6 to replace it any time soon (well, no rumblings as of yet). Doesn’t look like some of the old software is supported much anymore – when was the last time Waves GTR did something really cool, or StudioDevil was in the news? Hardware from the 2000s is enough of a mixed bag that I am uneasily looking at replacing my StompIO (which only works for conversion and some MIDI, now, having been discontinued in like 2009) – may go with another IK interface, as I’ve had fantastic results out of my StealthPedal and StompIO interfaces over the years.

Future updates will include better context for the clips, by the way. And I’m getting a soundcloud account set up, since Tindeck’s whole thing sort of got lapped between then and now by more successful audio host sites.

Thanks for reading, anyone reading! Looking forward to providing a bunch of new content through the rest of 2016. Amplitube 4 and other Amplitube-family software since 2013 will be mentioned frequently in the immediate future, then I plan to do a thorough review of S-Gear 2.5 – I’d wait for S-Gear 3 but the fact of the matter is this review’s a little behind as it is, so I think I might just review that update separately when it’s released! It’ll be fun to move from the big shop, big software kind of approach IKMM have taken with Amplitube and do the comparatively stark and minimalist software from Scuffham Amps. Can its mighty tone in a small package stand up alongside the leaders of modeling today? Sussing it out should be fun.


The Sword’s “Freya” sound-alike with Amplitube 3

April 9, 2010

Alright, here we go. I left in my little count-in on the left at the beginning, because it might help you understand why it’s a bit sloppy on the doubling – I foolishly decided “feh, who needs a metronome when playing metal?” I didn’t want to take the time to whip up a drum track for it because I lack the midi cables I need for the drum controller I got recently, and I’m sick of piano roll drums. So, sorry for the slop. Also, this was just by ear, and I know for a fact the rhythm has a part I’m not playing because a guitar would actually have to be tuned in C in order to play it, and I kept mine in standard. But, anyway, Freya:

And the two patches involved:

1. For the intro and the solo (I didn’t play the solo, but it’ll work there too): Megaupload link

2. For the rhythm part, Megaupload link

What I did here to avoid retuning my guitar is for the intro I used AT3’s pitch shifter. While -4 would make the root of a guitar tuned to standard become fake C, I wanted more control over the dynamics and playing, so I went with -6. That turned the second fret into fake C, and gave me the ability to do vibrato and more easily mute non-played strings. It also helped accomplish some of the “sloppy” sound that the guitarists intentionally go for as part of their sound.

The rhythm part I played without any pitch shifter, because polyphonic pitch shifting sounds worse and worse the lower you take it. By -4, chords bigger than two notes start to sound a little glitchy. So, rather than do that I just stayed in standard and played what my range allowed, using a couple tricks to help get the low sound without actually being tuned really low. Throw a bass under it and it’d sound like I was tuned in C, I think. I might do that later, but I probably won’t.

As for the sound itself, tricks and such aside, I know that The Sword uses Orange amps with distortion pedals. One of them is a EHX Metal Muff. Well, the Metal Muff is based on the Boss Metalzone – different tone shaping stuff and not totally identical, but really close (close enough to be obviously derived from it) so while I’d probably not choose a Metalzone in the physical world, I figured it’d be my best shot at getting as close to the sound as possible in AT3 alone. I spent a lot of time adjusting the pedal and the amp, going back and forth between them until I had the balance that I wanted. The Orange model in AT3 is killer, it has a great sound on its own and the way the controls work makes them very reactive to one another (in a good way). While it’s said that the band uses pedals into Orange amps set clean, I found the closest approximation of the sound came from getting a little bit of grit going on the amp and then hitting it with the pedal. I used mic choices and positioning rather carefully to hit the right spots in the sound that I wanted, and then applied EQ in the rack section using the parametric EQ. For the intro bit I did a rudimentary lowpass with a second Parametric EQ; for the rhythm I made sure the sound would have balls even though it had a lot less gain by using the Tube Compressor.

I didn’t do anything at all in post. I just normalized the tracks, hand-adjusted the levels to match (the doubling meant that the normalization wasn’t 100% even, and I’m a little persnickety about levels), and rendered it out. No effects or compressors, just AT3 doing its thing.

So, there you go, a clip, two patches, and an explanation of what I did. Questions and feedback are, as always, welcome.