For many of us, ever since seeing Mr. Peabody first fire up the WABAC
machine, we’ve dreamed of traveling back in time and seeing things as they
were before historians colored the stories. But while Peabody and his adopted
boy Sherman spent their time revisiting figures like Benjamin Franklin and
Louis Pasteur, odds are that most guitarists would chose to make their time-traveling
adventures a little more musical.
Upon plugging into IK Multimedia’s newest modeling venture,
AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix, it’s apparent that the company’s programming
team had that bespectacled canine and his machine on
retainer. Thanks to the power of modern computing, IK Multimedia
– a perpetually hip company specializing in the merging of analog
and digital – has gone back to the ‘60s and captured the
sounds of social upheaval. Developed in a cooperative effort with
Authentic Hendrix, established to curate Jimi’s
extensive legacy, this app promises to accurately model all of the
classic gear that translated Hendrix’s feelings into sound, including
four amps, nine analog pedals, seven speaker cabinets – including
five microphones – and four rack effects.
And while it’s certainly a tall order replicating gear that has such
a revered place in our collective guitar consciousness, the good
news is that this application pulls it all off in style. Through the
use of an attractive graphical interface, you essentially have all of
Hendrix’s amps, cabinets and pedals at your disposal. The program
is broken down in to easy-to-digest “modules,” meaning you
can jump quickly from your pedalboard to amp to cabinet controls.
Each module has a wealth of options and lots of tonal decisions
to be made, from the major (which kind of preamp to use) to the
seemingly minor (on or off-axis mic’ing?).
Beginning with the AMP module, you have four models available:
the Fender Bassman Jimi used in the studio to record “Voodoo
Child;” the Fender Dual-Showman used on his ’69-’69 tour with
the Experience; a Fender Twin Reverb, which Jimi played from ’65
to ’66; and of course, that archetypal Marshall 1959 JTM100 Super
Lead which is associated with his gainiest guitar pyrotechnics. In
addition to these basic amp models, users can select from four different
power amp models, including the 6L6 stages from each of
the Fender amps and the KT66 stage found in the Marshall, allowing
users to mix preamps and power amps for sounds that just
couldn’t exist without the help of an overclocked computer chip.
When it comes to the STOMP module, all of Jimi’s drool-inducing
pedals are present and accounted for. Users can chose from models
ranging from a sustain-inducing Arbiter Fuzz Face to an extremely
close UniVibe, for a total of nine analog pedals. Add in a noise gate,
spring reverb and four available rack effects (parametric EQ, a rotary
speaker effect, stereo reverb and a tube compression unit), and
you’ve got 15 different, vintage effects to wreak sonic havoc.
In the CAB module, you can spend some time picking out the perfect
cabinet to compliment that perfectly tweaked head. Choose
from models of cabinets ranging from a Sears Silvertone 2x12 to a
stacked 4x12 Marshall. Also in the CAB module are the mic selections,
and golden-eared users can choose between modeled condensers
(AKG C12, Neumann U67 or U87), a dynamic Shure SM57
or a Beyerdynamic M160 ribbon mic. Included are options to mic
on or off-axis, as well as to adjust the position and distance of the
placement, allowing to you catch more or less room ambience.
AmpliTube also allows users to run multiple amp setups, meaning
you can replicate that wall of Marshalls, all in a virtual world.
Because the program uses two separate signal paths, you can
choose from a variety of options, such as running two distinct amp
setups, using one or two cabinets, and creating a massive 12-pedal
board (or two independent six-pedal boards). Frankly, there’s a gleefully
crazy amount of options here.
But perhaps the most surprising part of this program is how good
overall these models sound, and how much the slightest tweaks
affect the sound. The warmth of the amps is stunning, and thanks
to Dynamic Saturation Modeling (DSM) technology (which involves
math I can’t comprehend), they are exceptionally volume-sensitive.
Turning down cleans up your signal, just like plugging right into that
non-virtual Super Lead, and the EQ and presence knobs actually
mean something here. The Fenders are chimey, the Marshall is ballsy
and the Fuzz Face imparts sustain for days, just like the originals. All
of the rotary effects are musical. The mic models and placement
options are quite possibly the biggest surprise, allowing users to dial
in the exact tone they need. This program will most reward those
brave souls who have time to spend experimenting.
Of course, for those that aren’t consummate gear tweakers,
AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix includes a wide array of presets, brilliantly
arranged by both Hendrix’s discography and by sound type. Want to
bust out your own take on the slightly fuzzed wah solo of “Burning
of the Midnight Lamp?” Pick the preset and AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix
will set up your signal chain right where it needs to be. What about
the all-knobs-cranked warble of “The Star Spangled Banner?” Hit
the preset and feel UniVibe-powered patriotism emanate from your
speakers. The presets are convenient when you have a specific
sound in your head or when you just want to dive right in.
And when you’re done modeling, AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix will help you
hone your chops. The standalone version features both a metronome
and a fully-featured SpeedTrainer, which allows you to import a wide
array of audio files, slow them down, change the pitch and learn licks
note for note. Host sequencer BPM synchronization is also supported.
But we really can’t let IK off the hook so easily. If you’re not running
on a sturdy platform, you can experience some dropouts and troublesome
audio issues due to the hardcore number crunching going
on inside your computer’s brain – we were running this version of
AmpliTube on a fairly beefy Mac G5 and had occasional issues
with audio lag when running it as a plug-in in GarageBand. You can
adjust the buffer size used by AmpliTube to reduce the amount of
signal delay, but if you plan on doing serious recording work with
this, you’ll want to get yourself a dedicated sound card.
And while this program can be used both in a standalone mode and as
a plug-in with your favorite recording apps, it should be noted that the
application runs in a set window size; it’s not possible to resize the window
and make it larger or smaller. If you’re running on a large computer
screen and would like to take up more desktop real estate, or simply
find it hard to see the knobs or settings, you can’t make it any bigger.
The Final Mojo
If you’ve been wearing that tie-dye tee emblazoned with Hendrix’s
face since high school and know every lick from The BBC Sessions,
you’re going to want to pick this up immediately. Even if you’re not
much for Jimi’s style, you can still own some damn good models of
classic gear at a mere fraction of the price. There’s very little downside
to this purchase, other than the fact that you might spend the following
weeks playing more guitar and watching less Rocky & Bullwinkle