Amplitube Fender Collection 2 Review

March 2, 2017

fendercollection2_main_image_20161121IK Multimedia has a long history in amp modeling. They were pioneers in working with amp makers to offer products that carry the official brand of the amp they’re modeling and the manufacturer’s approval. They had already done products with THD Electronics and Ampeg, but I remember how big of a deal it was at the time back in 2008 that Fender was on board for then-upcoming Amplitube Fender. When it came out in 2009, it sounded great. It was a big step forward in quality and realism for IKMM, and was my go-to for demos for years thanks to how well the models worked with pedals and other gear.

The pinnacle of tone is a moving target. Time marches on. Technology improves. There have been a number of modeling advancements in IK Multimedia’s Amplitube software since 2009, and after buying the MESA/Boogie pack last year and experiencing many of the improvements brought by IK Multimedia’s time and effort, I was excited when I read about a new collaboration between Fender and IK. This time, the two companies have focused their efforts away from effects and other accoutrements and toward bringing out a killer collection of amps and matching cabinets, modeled as accurately as possible using their most recent technological advancements. Has IK Multimedia pushed the envelope even further for 2017 with Amplitube Fender Collection 2? Read on! Read the rest of this entry »


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.


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.


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.


Two new software additions, Breverb and SpringAge – thanks to Overloud for the opportunity to check ’em out.

September 28, 2010

That’s right, two additions from the Overloud product family. As a reviewer who isn’t associated with a huge magazine or anything it can sometimes be difficult to work with manufacturers to procure products for review, but I have to say that Overloud is extremely easy to work with. Nice folks. Anyway, on to the tools!

BREVERB, a pretty comprehensive “rack style” reverb plugin that seems aimed at competing directly with IK Multimedia’s CSR for a quality algorithmic reverb:
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SpringAge, a new and very cool release that emulates three different types of spring reverbs, in addition to a tube preamp and a two-band parametric EQ. The whole package is put together very nicely. I have only worked with it preliminarily, but my first impressions are positive. I love that the EQ’s “Q” factor turns into a shelving EQ at the extremes, that’s a very clever way to add some functionality without adding needless GUI complexity. There’s a lot of parameter control over the springs, too. They market the product as combining the fidelity of convolution reverb with the versatility of algorithmic reverb, and from what I can tell, they are not exaggerating. I will have more to say about the product soon, as I get more of a chance to try it out!

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I feel it’s worth mentioning that Overloud is definitely at the front of the pack for format support, offering 64-bit native versions of their plugins. There are too few companies doing that. As a 64-bit operating system and 64-bit DAW user, I really appreciate the attention to detail in making sure their plugins aren’t just cross-platform, but also fully supportive of modern operating systems. At this point there just doesn’t seem to be any excuse for the industry to be so behind everybody else in their support for 64-bit; after all, 64-bit processors have been the norm for over six years now! At least a few companies are keeping with the times.


Filling some clip requests today. First, Opeth.

March 11, 2010

Here’s one I did on request at the SA Musicians Lounge forum, just trying to get close to Opeth’s high-gain sound from the track Master’s Apprentices.

I could get even closer if I did some studio magic post processing (and, really, it would still be fair since the engineer on their Deliverance album is a legendary metal producer with an enormous bag of tricks), but I wanted this to just be the sound of the software alone and see how close I could get.

If you want to mess around with the patch, be my guest:

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=TIO6HF94

Update:

On second listen, I think the first Master’s Apprentices is a bit too roomy. Got a bit of phase to it that I’m not digging. Try this one instead:

And the new patch:

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=PP8AJV8T