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.

Champion 600 Model & Cab

’57 Champ RI Model

’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.

Got a review copy of Amplitube 3! I think they’ve knocked this one out of the park…

February 25, 2010

Got a copy of this in for review today. I have spent some quality time with it already but I want to spend more before I say too much on it. Initial impressions are very strongly positive. I love some of the new additions; I played for at least half an hour with the new resonance filter. I remember a similar filter used as a sort of sitar simulator in the Korg AX series of multieffects units, but this one is far more advanced than those units could do, and sounds much better. My wife was really enjoying the ambient textured sound that it gave, even though the guitar tone itself was distinctly high gain (using the new Mk. III model, which is great – if you’ve got a pre-release copy and haven’t yet given it a shot, I recommend spending some time with it; like the real deal, you may not get your tone at first, but it rewards learning how to adjust it with great sounds). I could get an almost cello-like sound using its combination of sympathetic resonance and filters.

I’ll be happy to fill any clip requests that people have, though of course Dimitar Nalbantov’s already on the job with some nice Youtube clips, hopefully I can still contribute usefully. I’m no virtuoso like him, but I will be happy to do try to do something cool with the software if you’re wondering about a particular aspect of it. I plan on doing some clips of the new effects and some other things that I worry will be overlooked given the focus a lot of people have on the new and improved amp models and the new, impressive room and cabinet modeling system. There’s plenty of layers of cool stuff in the software 🙂

Let me know what you want to hear and I’ll fill requests!

Hardware into Software, 1: Zoom Tri-Metal pedal into Fender Bassman models

July 25, 2009

Had no time today to revisit the clips, but I did listen to them on my monitors at home; they are somewhat brighter than I had intended but not extremely so. There really are big differences between how the different models and their speaker emulations sound in the different software! The funny thing is that it’s hard to tell before clicking on the Tri-Metal how it’s going to sound into this or that Bassman model. Frankly they all sounded lovely clean, but in different ways; with a high-gain, Recto-ish distortion up front it sure changed a lot, huh? For those interested, my settings on the Tri-Metal were: Treble -4, Midrange boosted in the upper mids, Bass -5, Gain slightly before noon. Yeah, there’s wayyy too much of everything available on the Tri-Metal, it is the definition of over the top, so your best bet with it is to cut rather than boost. It’s got brutal distortion at 1/3 on the gain knob; it’s not playing around!

Still no comments, that makes me sad. Please speak up folks, I crave your participation 😀

Alright, ladies and gentlemen, the long wait is over! This update is my substantial return to this blog, and with it I pledge to provide more interesting content and commentary to suit my readers. I ask that you please help me out by commenting on entries and letting me know what you do and don’t like about my updates, what you think I’m doing well, what I could do better, and any ideas or requests you have for future updates. I’ve got some stuff on the list of things to do, starting with the addition of a new table of contents page to keep track of all of my articles on the blog more sensibly than they are now with the wordpress widgets.

For this update, my signal chain was my Schecter C-1 Classic (my go-to guitar for most of my gear reviewing because of its familiar pickups and sound) into my beloved Zoom TM-01 Tri-Metal distortion pedal, then into an IK Multimedia StealthPedal and on to my DAW. I used the venerable Fender Bassman because nearly all of the software I use has a Bassman model, and it’s a sound that I think everyone has had at least some experience with. There are a number of different revisions of the Bassman amp, and they can differ quite notably in their overall gain, ease of overdriving, and basic tonality; since different software plugins emulate different versions of the amp, don’t be surprised to hear some stand-out differences in the tone. I used only the cabinet simulation native to each software, so what you’re hearing in each case is just what it can do alone. That’s the norm for my work but I want to remind you and let newer readers know that’s the case!

As usual I spent a lot of time tuning each of the plugins to sound its best individually, giving my ears time to rest between tweaking each. I have a great deal of respect for all of the modeling programs that I use, and I think it’s important to try to make them shine on their own, as though each was the only software that I had to work with. Hopefully by doing that I can give you guys something useful even though you might not have access to such a range of programs. My goal in this roundup, and in the ones I will do in the coming days, is to explore how these modelers interact and function with hardware. While probably most guitarists aren’t collectors like me, we do tend to be gear lovers, and one of the important aspects when considering a digital setup is how well it can integrate into our current approach to the guitar. A guitarist making forays into the digital world expects a learning curve, but hopefully the things that have been useful and fun creative tools before getting into amp modeling can retain their utility even when the amp part of the equation is bits and bytes.

As usual the best judge of sound is your ears, so I invite you to listen to the clips and post your thoughts before I post mine tomorrow evening. I play three different sorts of things in the clips, with different emphases on playing style and dynamics; you will probably notice that each of them causes the software to react in a different way, and some of those differences are really interesting. On to the clips!

Amplitube 2

Amplitube Fender

Amplitube Jimi Hendrix

Guitar Rig 3

Pod Farm

ReValver MkIII

Overloud TH1

I hope that this update gives you all something fun and useful to chew on. After this, I won’t be able to use the same model across all of the programs, so the comparisons will have more variables; giving you this one first gives you a baseline for comparison that should keep the rest informative despite the differences I can’t control for in using different amp models! Please post your thoughts and comments, I want to hear what you think before I tell you what I think!

Marshall Madness 1

February 8, 2009

Marshall Madness!

The goal here is to offer a comprehensive, experimentally controlled demonstration of the various programs’ Marshall models. All of them. Of which there are, oh, I don’t know, a lot. In order to obtain as much control over these as possible, as usual I’ve used the same dry track on all of them, and tweaked them by ear against clips of the real amp they’re modeling to try to obtain a realistic and useful sound. Since all of these programs address effects differently and that isn’t part of this review, I decided to use a couple of free VST effects on the Master rather than using individual programs’ effects (which would also seriously disadvantage Studio Devil Virtual Guitar Amp, as it is an amps-only modeler and has no effects). Therefor all of these tracks feature the same delay and reverb, provided by the awesome Classic series of plugins (Classic Delay, Classic Reverb). I was going for “subtle” reinforcement rather than overt wash-of-reverb or megadelay, which should let the amps themselves show what they can do more effectively. So without further ado, here we go, part one…

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Fender Comparison 1

February 8, 2009

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.

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Freebie High Gain Comparison 1

February 8, 2009

There are a wealth of free amp modeling plugins on the net. I’ve worked with nearly all of them at this point, and this review is by no means comprehensive, but here are a few of them. I’ll be posting another review that covers some of the other ones, such as Aradaz’s amps and Nick Crowe’s Wagner plugins, but for now these are the plugins in use:

Voxengo’s Boogex plugin,
BTE Audio’s Juicy77 and Tube Screamer’s Secret,
Simulanalog’s JCM900 and TubeScreamer plugins,
FrettedSynth’s VST FreeAmp 2 SE.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on these clips, as it’s really just an attempt to show you that you can get passably good high gain tone without spending anything if you’re pinched. The next freebie review will cover some of the very high quality plugins available, including those featured on Dimi Nalbantov’s excellent guitar instrumental albums.

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