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 »

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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.


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.


The Fruits of Not My Labor: AXP/SoftAmp’s 25R amp sim!

March 20, 2014

I guess I could go into a lengthy explanation as to why I haven’t been able to update this blog in FOREVER, but how about instead I just update the blog? Cool? Cool.

I helped beta test this for the developer and got a link with blessing to share it now that it is done. Windows only, 32-bit or 64-bit included. Let me just get this out of the way. The twist is that you might not expect anyone to model this particular amp. It’s not a JCM 800. It’s not a Soldano. It’s not a Mesa. It’s not a Fender Twin. It’s not an Orange. It’s not… okay, there are a lot of brands, I’mma cut to the chase here.

What’s it a model of?” well it’s a model of the Fender Frontman 25R. Yes, a solid state practice amp. “Seriously? A solid state combo amp? Why in the he-BECAUSE IT’S COOL, try it yourself and see! Click the pic for a link to the page. Fancy! 🙂

Image

Anyone familiar with AXP’s other plugin stuff probably knows that while this is ostensibly “just” a model of the Fender Frontman 25R, complete with reverb and (two!) speaker sim(s), there’s of course way more to it in practice. The developer always does cool stuff to go beyond the strict boundaries of the model and take advantage of the ease with which you can adjust stuff on the fly in the digital world that would take a lot of time, tools, and effort in the physical world. For more good evidence of that, see the Guv’nor pedal plugin that offers a great emulation of the Marshall Guv’nor pedal (and its 20-years-later followup!) but also has a ton of tweaks to apply to it for more sounds. That rocks. This rocks. The other plugins also rock. Hey, there’s even a tube gain stage plugin, a cool sounding triode for free, people love that don’t they? Grab the tube. As it is digital and a model, it will not burn you as a physical tube would. 100% safety guaranteed (note: I am not responsible if somehow it does in fact burn you, although to the best of my knowledge that’s straight f**king impossible, I can’t account for the possibility that AXP is a graduate of Hogwarts and has created a literally magical model here so better safe than sorry)

BACK TO THE MATTER AT HAND…

In this case, he did a faithful emulation of the Fender Frontman 25R practice amp, and it actually sounds surprisingly good – I know, I scratched my head when I first hear that it was going to be modeling a solid state practice amp too, but it sounds way better than you probably think… 10″ speaker and all, haha. Though that is just one of two options, and in my opinion it sounds better with the 2×12 speaker sim. Still, you’ve got the option, so however you want to run it, your call, obviously. The 10″ speaker sim is more authentic, but you’re about to see why authenticity might not matter so much in this particular case. Oh, this is the good part. We’re getting to the really good part. Drumroll, please.

It gets way more interesting when you catch the part where he added an “AXP Mod” switch that goes nuts and replaces the solid state gain stages with tube emulation gain stages instead, and re-voices the EQ. Boom, from solid state to basically a boutique amp that he invented in the digital realm. Take that, Dumble! Hah!

It’s free as in free beer so nab it, and get the other plugs while you’re there, they rock.I am not sure if I’d have known about AXP/SoftAmp if it hadn’t been for his call for beta testers for this plugin, I guess there’s not a lot of self-promotion going on here, but play this for a few minutes even and you can really tell he spent a lot of time getting this stuff right, the model and its super duper mod both sound cool as heck so somebody’s gotta give props. That person, today, is me.

Enjoy, folks!

P.S. It is GOOD to be BACK! I’ve got a ton of content ready for you, and admittedly some work to do pruning the out-of-date freebie list as well as some other “housekeeping” stuff. But let’s keep it fun, yeah? Rock on!


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.


db Audio Flying Haggis amp sim reduced from $99 to $10!

January 10, 2010

Bit busy today so this will be a fairly brief write-up for now, but I really dig this thing. $10 is a great price. I wouldn’t have bothered with it at $99 but at $10 (or even a bit higher) I think they’ve got a really solid product here. It excels at low gain and crunch tones, and the effects all sound great. With an external boost (my beloved PaulC Tim overdrive) and the OD and Distortion on Haggis dimed out, I’ve got some killer ’80s shred tones out of it. But I think it really wants to do some classic sounds instead. It’s simple, straightforward, flexible enough to get you a range of sounds but not so flexible as to be confusing. I wish there was a cabinet bypass button, but other than that I think it’s great. For $10, a total no-brainer. I recommend it, had a lot of fun playing with it last night, and I’ll try to get some clips up later today or tonight.

Buy it here, and let me know if you like it as much as I do. I mean, ten bucks, that’s a steal 🙂

Let me save you a little bit of trouble though, the purchasing system and the authorization web site are separate things. So if you register your email address and a password at the purchasing web site, it won’t work on the authorization site – you have to register again as a new customer after you enter in your serial number (if you haven’t bought from them before, anyway).  It took me a few minutes to figure that out, maybe this’ll save you those minutes.


AcmeBarGig’s next freebie is a monster. G-Spot, a freeware suite unlike any other.

November 5, 2009

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G-Spot (which stands for Guitar-Spot, as opposed to the upcoming B-Spot for bass) is Ken’s crowning achievement in amp modeling, and represents the culmination of everything that AcmeBarGig has done to date. It is a software suite rivaling products by some of the big software makers, with a particular emphasis on flexibility, versatility, and of course (it wouldn’t be AcmeBarGig otherwise) originality. What you see there constitutes the main “window” of the software, but there is SO much that this plugin can do, it’s really hard to believe it’ll be free. I’ve been playing around with it for the last couple of days and I just keep finding more cool stuff. Included in G-Spot are the most recent versions of the technology that’s made ABG’s name so far, all available in one comprehensive suite, with improvements to everything along the way and new ideas implemented as well. Here’s some of the features:

  • Built-In Redshift Pickup Replacer with an upgraded engine: Based on original technology developed by Ken, this allows you to alter your pickup sound to a variety of pickups. It works exactly as it says, and there isn’t any headache involved in using it – it handles the replacement part without any need for you to measure your guitar’s pickups or take readings or anything. You just enable it, select the pickup you want, and it goes from there. I am currently using this feature to record a high-gain, brutal thrash metal drum jam clip with my Fender Strat with single-coils, and it is phenomenal how authentic the aggression and power is with Redshift turning my pickups into some of the meatier humbuckers available. It also works in the other direction, making my humbucker-equipped guitars sound twangier and finer. I really don’t know how in the heck he does it, it just works. And of course it can be turned on and off, because we all have our guitars with their pickups for a reason and you don’t always want a different sound. But when you do, man, it doesn’t get any easier than this.
  • Built-in Drive Amp multi-preamp and Treble Booster: Coming before the amps, these two tools allow you to tailor the input for a variety of different tones. Drive Amp has a number of different colors which all have their own tonal impact, and the differences are not subtle – it’s a lot like having a number of different overdrive and distortion pedals with full drive, level, EQ, and clean/dirty mix controls. Treble Booster does exactly what it says, but allows you to adjust the frequencies affected and the level so that you can dial your pedal sound in exactly. These two modules open up a whole range of different sounds from the amp you’ve configured. Which brings me to the next big feature…
  • Total freedom to make your own virtual amplifiers: While many commercial software suites offer various levels of tweaking to their amps or mix-and-matching of components, G-Spot goes deeper to allow you to adjust everything about your amp’s clean and dirty channels. Internally it incorporates a wide variety of different tube types, which it switches between seamlessly as you adjust the tube settings Max Gain and Bias. On the Clean channel, you have in addition to those three “Character” settings which allow you to further tweak the sound. On the Drive channel channel, there are four tubes to adjust. In addition you can change which frequencies your tone knobs control, and whether the tone stack comes before or after the preamp. Finally you have a visually intuitive band-pass filter made out of sliding minimum and maximum frequencies for the input and output of the clean and dirty channels, which has a great deal of influence on the overall sound. For example, high gain sounds especially benefit from being rather band limited on input, with a sharp cutoff in the midrange – no real bass necessary on the front end, as bass is amplified and distorted much more intensely than other frequencies because of the energy in the waveform, so the low frequency adjustments that happen later in the signal chain “bring in” the bottom end quite profoundly. And did I mention there are a range of visual options for the amps’ components (the various knobs, faceplate, skin), all of which you can change and save as .HED files which can then be shared with others? This is AcmeBarGig’s amp making tool in your hands. It’s deep and very powerful.
  • A built-in IR loader that operates on whole folders at a time: Point it to an IR in a folder, and it will load the entire folder for you to select from either sequentially or in a list. Previously the only software with this sort of functionality was Voxengo Boogex, whose amp sounds are, in my opinion, unfortunately not nearly as fresh as they were when it was released. There are also a number of built-in cabinet IRs made by Alu of the GuitarAmpModeling.com forums, so if you don’t have a big library of cabs you can still have access to a range of sounds.
  • Room Modeling using new technology from ABG: This one I can’t get Ken to say very much about, but it works extremely well. There are many room shapes available and each room has three categories of options which can be adjusted: Room Size, Flooring (with options from Shag Carpet and Hardwood to Lenolium and Dirt) and Wall Coverings (again with more options from Aluminum Siding and Wood Panel to Brick and Glass). Placing the cabinet in the room involves two sliders, at the moment, though the final version might feature a more advanced GUI. Right now there’s a slider from “Near” to “Far” which is basically a slider between just the cabinet sound and just the room sound at each extreme, allowing you to dial in the right amount of the room to suit you, and another slider which adjusts the cabinet position in the room from Left to Right. Plenty of tricks have been used in the past in modeling suites to put a modeling amp’s cab sound in “real space,” but this is the most adjustable to taste and perhaps even the most effective method that I’ve used so far.
  • Built-in Multieffects: While these days having effects in your modeling software is pretty much standard, G-Spot includes a number of them that are pretty fascinating. There are standard things like delay and reverb, but two of the effects actually allow you to draw in your own waveform and use that to control the effect. One is Paiz Chorus, which allows for quite a number of modulation sounds as a result, and the other is The Wonder Girdle (I’ll let Ken explain the name behind that one), a filter which can do, well, damn near anything. Both of them, apart from letting you draw in your own waveform, can also save those waveforms as wavetables in the synth-ubiquitous .tbl format (and that means you can also load any wavetables you find around).
  • A Noise Gate! (okay, maybe after all that other stuff it’s not so impressive, but it’s still handy.)

Ken’s got a G-Spot Tutorial up for anyone curious about the upcoming software, and I am currently working on figuring out how to record a video that will show how to work with it a bit and examine some of its very impressive features. One thing I can say right now, having used this pre-beta version for a few days: this is a new idea in amp modeling. Not just in freeware amp modeling, but in amp modeling in general. Where Ken goes with it, I don’t know, but it is an extremely impressive and capable piece of software that gives you more freedom to make your own signature sound at the very deepest levels of editing than anything I’ve used in the past. And it’s free.

Clips incoming during daylight hours.