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.


Amplitube Fender Collection 2!

February 6, 2017

Oh, this is cool! I remember having the opportunity back in the day to try Amplitube Fender before nearly anyone else had outside of the company. I was blown away at the time – it was a really good product, and in my mind started IKMM down their best avenues in terms of their modeling and how much realism and utility they could achieve in their software.

Now they’re bringing out a new generation of Fender amps for 2017 in the Amplitube Fender Collection 2. http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/fender2/

I let my ears make their own judgments, but I tells ya, my aesthetic preferences are 100% down with this kinda thing. Check out the GUI for the ’53 Bassman model:

fender2_amp_53_bassman_w

Very slick! Twin looking great too:

345_fender2_amp_57_custom_twin

Of course I’m with yall in being most concerned about the tone – but who doesn’t like something easy on the eyes?

Amplitube Fender began the era of IKMM models reaching that next level. They’ve introduced a new modeling technology called “Dynamic Interaction Modeling,” which seems to be aimed at capturing the interactions between electrical components in the circuit as a whole to replicate genuine behavior as accurately as possible. I have not yet tried it but reading others’ impressions so far this just may be something special.

Hoping to get to demo this for the blog soon!


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: http://forums.peavey.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=16845

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.


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:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
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!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

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.


Rig Kontrol 3 as an easy-to-use general MIDI controller for anything

May 29, 2010

In the process of preparing a review for Native Instruments Guitar Rig 4: Kontrol Edition, I put the controller through the paces pretty heavily. It’s had a fair bit of improvement via software since its launch as the original Rig Kontrol 3. Now, instead of just controlling Guitar Rig software, it interfaces with any DAW or standalone app that can accept MIDI thanks to Native’s Controller Editor program. Below I’ve included a brief walkthrough of how to get it to work with Amplitube 3 via REAPER’s Automation. The images are larger than the blog will natively display, but making them smaller obscures the text substantially! So, please click on the image and use your browser’s “view image” function to see the image without any cropping or oddness.

The first thing you need to do is to open up the Controller Editor so that Rig Kontrol 3 switches into “con” mode on its red LED display. That just makes it capable of sending MIDI control data via USB along with audio. From there, here’s what you need to do to have it actually control a value in Amplitube 3 in REAPER.

Step 1:
In Reaper, you enable it as an input device, like so:

Step 2:
In Amplitube 3, you need to assign the thing you want to control to a DAW Automation slot. Click on the “Auto” button down at the bottom there. From there, browse to the thing you want to be controlled as Parameter 1 (Amplitube 3 allows a DAW limited parameters to control, so choose what you need control over pretty carefully if you’ve got a complex signal chain). In this case, though I loaded an Overscream, I set it to control the bypass on a Distortion. Which is just a goof on my part because I’m tired. What it does is makes it so that a Distortion loaded in Stomp module section 1 will be assigned to AT3’s DAW Parameter 1. Make sure to hit “Ok” afterward; it’s sort of like “apply,” and if you don’t hit it, it won’t save the changes you’ve made.

Step 3:
From there, it’s just a matter of going into REAPER’s automation menu for the track (the button labeled “env” by default, right after “io”). From there, set the mode to at least “Touch” or greater so that it will have an effect on the parameter (otherwise it won’t). A second ago we set Parameter 1 to control the Bypass on a Distortion in Stomp Module 1. So, make sure to Arm parameter 1 so that it can receive control input. Then, click the “Learn” button, and hit the switch you want to control the bypass. Now, when you have the “Distortion” pedal in the first Stomp Box section of AT3, that button will control the bypass.

The principle is the same for anything. The easiest things to assign are on/off switches, but you can set a switch to do any number of things, including switch between two different parameter values if, for example, you wanted to have a chorus with two modulation speeds or depths (or both) in a song with the ability to switch between them, or if you wanted to be able to switch between your preamp gain set lower or higher.

Again, it works with any MIDI capable software, sending the MIDI control data over USB alongside audio if you prefer to use it as your audio interface. StealthPedal didn’t used to have any competition in this regard, but now it does, and the Rig Kontrol 3 is a very respectable competitor indeed, with a multitude of included switches and the expression pedal. For Windows users, it’s also nice that its drivers allow for it to be used as a general audio device – for a budget studio, having one audio device that can handle all of your needs might tip the balance in its favor. Of course Mac users with Core Audio see no difference either way since they have audio output built-in without the nightmare of drivers we Windows folks have to put up with 🙂