Looking to get real about amp modeling? We have direct comparison audio samples.

Guitar amp and effects modeling has been around a few years now and has evolved significantly. It’s high time someone really put these software and hardware packages to the test. How do they sound and feel compared to the real deal? We will also explore some strategies for using them live and in the studio to get maximum bang for your buck. There are quite a few modeling products on the market these days, with varying approaches to the concept. Popular packages such as Native Instruments (NI) Guitar Rig 3, Peavey ReValver, and IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube 2 are software oriented and require the use of a computer. Others, such as Line 6 POD products and modeling amps, like the Peavey Vypyr and VOX Valvtronix series, are self-contained hardware packages. This is not intended to be an exhaustive review of every single product available. Instead, we will focus on a few and see if they can deliver the meat-and-potatoes sounds all of us as players are looking for. Let’s dig in!

What We Really Need
We started with the premise that most guitar players are looking for a few must-have essentials from their rigs. A priority list would include a great clean sound, a semi-distorted crunch rhythm sound and a smooth, sustaining lead guitar sound. Contemporary guitar in most genres requires at least that much variety. There are just a few essential effects that guitarists typically use, such as wah, delay, reverb and chorus. Of course, there is a nearly endless array of cool pedals that provide everything from mild to wild to crazy. We’ll stick to the basic amp sounds here. After all, if the amp model doesn’t sound convincing, no effect pedal will fix the situation.

What to Look For
One of the primary things to look for in an amp or modeling amp is convincing tone. If you’ve been on the scene for years, you’ve probably played through many of the amps that have been popular over the last 40 years, such as Marshall, Fender Twin and Deluxe, Mesa Boogie, VOX AC30, etc. It’s fair to say that the majority of these classic amps use vacuum tubes (also called valves) in their designs rather than solid-state designs using transistors and integrated circuits (IC chips). Tubes are old-school technology from the post World War II era. The thing to know is that tube amps sound unique and definitely affect your tone in many ways. It’s not just something we’ve become accustomed to; it actually does sound better to most people’s ears. Typical words used to describe tube amp tone are: warm, smooth, brown, complex, creamy and dynamic. Let’s look at that last one. Dynamic response in a guitar amp refers to the ability of the amp to respond in a positive way to changes in guitar volume, control settings and picking attack. One of the great things about a tube amp is that you can set it so you have a fairly highgain lead or crunch sound, then “clean up” the sound by backing off on your guitar’s volume control, making the sound much less distorted. Many guitarists love being able to plug directly into their amp, to set the controls and then switch between their lead and rhythm sound just with their guitar volume control. Do modeling products respond dynamically in a similar way? We will see and hear later with audio examples online at premierguitar.com.

Another thing to consider is what your needs are. For instance, if you play out live and need a lot of different sounds within your set, modeling products are convenient and much more portable than a multi-amp rig and 25 effects pedals. Of course, if you have a road crew to do the heavy lifting, then perhaps a gigantic live rig is perfect. For the rest of us, considerations such as size, weight and how quickly we can set up and load out after the gig are important concerns. This author, having played over 4000 live gigs and still counting, can attest to the fact that while it’s fun to set up an elaborate rig before agig, it’s pure torture tearing it all down at 2 AM after playing for four hours.

As guitarists, we’ve been told on occasion by sound techs (and frequently by club owners) to turn down. These folks just don’t understand that we have to turn up to 11 to get “our sound”—and they don’t care either. The modeling amp offers some help in this area, too. Since the sound coming from the modeling product already sounds like it’s coming from an amp, that sound can be taken directly from a line out and sent to the PA. This makes it unnecessary to mic a loud amp onstage, and makes it much easier for your sound tech to get a good mix out front.

The next thing to consider is monitoring your live sound. Since the modeling product is already creating the complete sound of a typical rig, including amp, speaker cabs, microphone and effects, it might be wise to listen to that signal through a full range system such as a keyboard amp. Guitar—through a keyboard amp? No, I am not crazy. If you’re like me, you are constantly adjusting your volume and tone when playing live. You need to know exactly what effect your tone tweaks are having as they go direct to the PA system. Consider that if you play your modeling product through a regular guitar amp and speakers, that amp, and especially the speakers, are coloring the sound a lot.

A typical situation where this becomes an issue is with chunky muted rhythm sounds. You probably spent some time at home dialing in a great preset on your modeling product that sounded awesome. Then you get in a live setting and play that sound through a guitar amp. The speakers in a guitar amp typically don’t have a lot of bass or high frequency response, so in order to rock it all the way to the back row, you crank the low end on your amp to get your sound. The problem is that you were already getting your sound and sending it to the sound tech, and now your onstage amp sound is nothing like what you are sending to the PA. It would be much better to monitor your rig through an amp that sounds more like the PA system, such as a keyboard amp.

In big-time situations, you could even just monitor your guitar sound through your PA system floor monitors or in-ear monitors. Many touring pros are doing that these days. The point is that it’s critical to have your onstage sound and the sound through the PA system match.

There are some who have taken a different approach that is also valid. They like the idea of a modeling amp and effects but still want to play it through a traditional amp to warm up the sound. This can work great, but it is probably a good idea to mic that amp and send that signal to the PA rather than taking the signal directly from your modeling product.

Hit next for audio comparisons between the originals and models of vintage Fender, high-gain Marshall, Mesa Boogie and more...

The Proof is in the Playing
The online examples are designed to test the basic tone and dynamic response of modeling products versus traditional guitar amps. We will use Guitar Rig 3, AmpliTube 2 and ReValver software for our demonstration. This will give you some useful input that will help you decide if modeling is the way to go for you. The same Strat was used for every example, an aqua blue Strat Plus from the early ‘90s, with Lace Sensor pickups and nickel strings. It has a maple neck, a Wilkinson nut, and I’ve used it for thousands of hours of gigs and sessions. All examples were recorded with Pro Tools, with no EQ or effects of any kind.

1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb
This is a very popular amp for clean sounds in particular, a classic amp from the ‘60s. One would expect a warm and sparkly clean sound from this amp, and it delivered. We dialed in a Deluxe-type of sound on NI Guitar Rig 3, and were able to get a fairly close match. One goal was to see if it took endless tweaking, or if we could get in the ballpark right away. The Twang Reverb amp model was fairly similar, and I just adjusted EQ, reverb and volume to taste. (Fender Amp courtesy of Tony Rufo.)
Listen to the comparison.

Marshall 100-Watt Half-Stack
We dialed in a huge rock tone on the Marshall, and played a heavy riff in drop-D tuning. We got a big, chunky sound. Both Guitar Rig 3 and AmpliTube 2 programs feature Marshall Hi-Gain models. Once again, it was easy to come close. Of interest, the basic Marshall emulation on the AmpliTube 2 software had less gain, but sometimes that helps make the sound less muddy and more defined. You can always add a distortion pedal model to get more saturation and sustain. (Marshall TSL courtesy of Dan Ackerman.)
Listen to the comparison.

Fender Deluxe with Classic Jazz Tone
Next up was a clean jazzy tone through the Deluxe, and were able to get a very similar sound out of Guitar Rig 3. It was the same Fender type of model, but with treble rolled way back and gain around 3. The modeled sound was actually a bit fuller and less distorted. The Deluxe Reverb amp itself was a little harder to keep clean at a useable volume.
Listen to the comparison.

Fender Deluxe Dimed
Next we cranked the Deluxe and tried to simulate that sound with Peavey ReValver software, and again got very close. It was possible with ReValver to get more gain than the actual amp, which might be very convenient in some situations.
Listen to the comparison.

Clean and Dirty Deluxe
With the Deluxe still cranked, we set the guitar volume at half. I played a rhythm riff and then turned the guitar all the way up for some single-note riffs. We got a similar sound with the model in AmpliTube 2. We also noticed that there was more gain available on the real amp than the model. The difference between the half volume and full volume on the amp model was quite a bit less. I preferred the real amp in this regard.
Listen to the comparison.

Mesa Boogie Mark II B
Here’s one more example where the model fell a little short. After dialing in a very “sustainey” sound, I was able to coax some feedback as I stood in front of the amp. We found a similar sound in Guitar Rig 3 but could not get the feedback to happen, even with the studio monitors cranked. Nothing beats the sound of an amp cranked in a live room. It’s fun and inspiring when you can interact physically with the amp, which is nearly impossible with modeling software.
Listen to the comparison.

The Final Verdict
I would say that the results were fairly impressive. The amps sounded great, as expected, and the modeling products came very close—perhaps not as punchy or complex as the real thing, especially in a room with it cranked. These sounds are all very useable and sound great recorded, too. It’s also important to remember that these models actually sound better than old amps that are not in good condition. They also don’t break down in the middle of a gig like vintage gear often can.

One additional strategy you might try when recording is to split your guitar signal by sending it to your amp of choice and also through a direct box clean to a separate track. Later, when mixing, you can combine your amp tone with the direct signal through various amp models. You could even copy your clean guitar signal to several tracks and apply a different sound to each for a massive “virtual” multi amp guitar tone!

If you need a wide variety of convincing sounds live and in the studio, ease of use, low stage volume, and portability, modeling amps and software may have a lot to offer you. If, however, you only use one or two sounds, can bring any amp you want to a gig and can turn it up as needed to get your sound, you might not find much value in the technology. Modeling provides a broad palette of sounds that sound very close to the original amps they seek to emulate. They are practical and convenient, and cost much less than buying a truckload of vintage amps and speaker cabs. They may indeed be as close as many get to owning the real thing, making them great tools for the working pro and those just starting out.

ReValver lets you dig in to your amps virtually

Valves rock the world! Well, vacuum tubes, to be more precise. Guitar players and hi-fi fanatics have known for years about the unique warmth that tubes bring to the table, but translating the analog world of tube technology into the digital realm has proven to be tricky business. Through years of trial and error, a handful of companies have managed to break through that analog/digital divide – products like Guitar Rig 3, Amplitube 2 and Digidesign’s Eleven (see page 170 for our review) have won over tech-inclined guitarists with authentic sounds and extreme versatility.

"...ReValver has managed to throw the entire industry a curveball by allowing users to access the inner workings of its amp models"

As you might expect, ReValver gives guitarists a variety of stompboxes, rack effects, amps, speaker cabinets and microphones with which to construct a virtual signal chain. That’s familiar enough, but ReValver has managed to throw the entire industry a curveball by allowing users to access the inner workings of its amp models. Users can now adjust an amp’s parameters at the circuit level – everything from power tubes, tone stacks and output transformer characteristics are open to tweaking, giving you unprecedented control over your sound.

As you drag and drop amps and effects into your virtual rack, you can go “inside” the virtual circuitry. There are eight different types of power tubes to choose from alone, and each change you make has a dramatic impact on your sound. From transformer impedances to resistor values, there’s both a depth and friendliness to this program that you won’t find elsewhere. And while some of it may be Greek, this program is essentially a virtual laboratory, allowing you to learn about the effects of circuitry changes in a consequence-free environment. Swap those EL84s for the brawny tone of 6V6s. Combine the preamp of an AC30 with the power section of a Peavey JSX. This program practically begs you to explore the possibilities, and in the process I discovered some unique combinations that are nearly impossible in the “real” world.

Perhaps the best part about ReValver is that it can teach you to use your ears instead of your eyes. While it’s easy to get hung up on buzzwords or numbers, tweaking the innards of an amp will teach you what actually works and what doesn’t. Truthfully, there is so much variation possible with this program that you can dial in some unusable tones, but once you learn the tech behind “good tone,” you’ll find it easier to dial in the sounds that you want.

Preset Rock
Granted, it can all be a bit overwhelming and some will not want to go that deep. Thankfully, the ReValver presets are excellent; there are 15 amp models to choose from, including many of Peavey’s own amps like the Classic 30, JSX (providing Satriani tone for days), ValveKing, 6505, Triple XXX and more. But it’s not just a Peavey love fest; it also features some of the most sought-after tone machines of all time, including models from Marshall, Vox, Fender, Mesa Boogie and Matchless. There are also a selection of amplifiers that don’t exist outside the program, such as Le Petite and the HomeBrew SE-1.

Likewise, dozens of speaker cabinet emulations await, from single speaker cabs to 4x12 closed back monsters. When you select an amp, a matching speaker cabinet is selected automatically, although you are free to change it or even build your own virtual speaker with the Speaker Construction Set. This cool addition allows you to tweak the type of virtual microphone and its placement, the size of cabinet, the type and number of speakers, the speaker breakup characteristics and so on. If you can’t dial in a good sound with so many choices, you just aren’t trying hard enough.

All of the expected effects are on tap, and they sound quite good. Delays, flangers, choruses, distortions, compressors, noise gates, EQ, vibrato, octavers, reverbs and reverse effects are all available and solid. I particularly enjoyed the rich and creamy flanger and the Greener Distortion – perfect for when you need that classic Tube Screamer sound. You can even have two separate signal paths going at once for a great dual rig setup.

Another great feature is called the VST Module, which allows you to insert any VST plug-in as an effect into your rack, greatly expanding ReValver’s possibilties. Considering the plethora of VST plug-ins out there, this capability gives you yet another way to create the sound you’re looking for. Fortunately, this software works seamlessly with today’s powerful laptops and is both Mac and Windows compatible. I had mine running smoothly through a MacBook Pro with various MAudio audio interfaces.

The only disappointment here is that, unlike some other packages on the market, ReValver does not come with a dedicated foot controller. That said, there is extensive MIDI implementation built into the software,so you can use an aftermarket MIDI controller if you so desire, even though the process of assigning functions can be a bit tedious. If you’re planning on using ReValver in a live setting, you’ll definitely want to invest in a foot controller.

One final thing to mention: Peavey also offers ReValver HP, a “trimmed-down” version of the program. If you don’t need all of the bells and whistles, and want to save $200, you can find more info on the HP version at peavey.com/products/revalver.

The Final Mojo
Peavey’s ReValver gives you the unique chance to sound like the greats, from Brian May to Van Halen, or to do your own thing. The circuit-level control of amp models is a definite breakthrough in the industry; of course, the technology would be useless if the models didn’t sound good. Does it respond and “feel” like a real amp? Does it clean up nicely when you back off your volume knob on your guitar like a good tube amp should? The answer is a resounding yes. With this much great tone at your fingertips, the choice should be easy.

Buy if...
you want to dig into your favorite amps without the electrocution risk
Skip if...
you need a dedicated foot controller

MSRP $299.99 (full version) $99.99 (ReValver HP) - Peavey - peavey.com

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Model Behavior

Make no mistake: The digital age is here to stay. We play with two cutting edge computer programs and lay out what you need to know about modeling. If

Model Behavior

Make no mistake: The digital age is here to stay. We play with two cutting edge computer programs and lay out what you need to know about modeling.

If you’re reading this, odds are that you are generally enamored with beautiful and toneful guitars, amps and effects. Many of you might describe yourselves as purists and “old school” fans of the classic guitars and amplifier designs created in the last 50 years. So how, exactly, does this new age of digital guitar amp “modeling” fit into that world of classic sounds and great tone? Before you turn the page in search of something a bit more analog, let’s take a look at what these new applications can bring to your rig.

What is it?
Software that digitally “models” the sound of classic guitar amps and effects through the use of advanced algorithms is all the rage these days. By painstakingly measuring the behavior of every part of the signal chain – from vacuum tubes, preamps, amps, speakers, microphones and effects – engineers have developed some very convincing software technology for the modern guitarist. While it would certainly be fun and inspiring to have several different classic tube amps and a pedalboard full of the greatest effects of all time at every gig, who can really pull that off? Most of the gear modeled in this software is now prohibitively expensive to own and requires constant upkeep, too. When you consider the sheer manpower needed to move it around, it quickly becomes impractical on several levels. With modeling software, you have a believable emulation of the real thing.

If we buy into the premise that most of us already have a computer, then it is reasonable to assume that we should find ways to use that computing horsepower to do something of creative value. AmpliTube 2, from IK Multimedia (fig 1) and Guitar Rig 2, from Native Instruments (fig 2), are two well-designed and highly-evolved applications in the world of guitar amp and effect modeling. Both existed in previous incarnations and were hailed as breakthrough products at the time, but Guitar Rig 2 and AmpliTude 2 pack in more new features and even better sound quality. It seems that things just keep getting better for digitallyinclined axe slingers.

What can they do?
There are some similarities between these two applications, so let’s take a look there first. Both apps feature a “virtual” rack where you can select amps, speaker cabs, microphones and sound effects to create your own “preset” sound. Most of the classic combinations are available – from plexi Marshalls, the ’59 Fender Bassman, and the Vox AC30 to modern classics like Mesa Boogie – albeit, sometimes with thinly veiled names, such as Brit Tube 30TB or AC Box, Plex, Tweedman, etc.

From muscular blues and boogie to metal and high gain grind to ambient and spacious, both products feature a vast world of tonal possibilities. Tone tweakers and gear freaks will feel right at home in the computer modeling world, with options to select what type of virtual speaker cabinet is connected (closed back Celestion, open back Fender, etc.) and even which type of virtual mic you want in front of your cab, ranging from the old standby Shure SM57 to high-end tube condensers; you can even choose to aim the microphone directly at the virtual speaker or off-axis, satisfying the most compulsive tone hounds. Each of these choices makes for a fairly dramatic change in tone and the flexibility allows you to dial in the exact sound you’re looking for.

As intimidating as the world of computerized guitar can be to the uninitiated, the best course of action with both of these applications is to simply dive right in. Why not try a Marshall type of amp with an 8” open back cabinet? Wouldn’t it be cool to try a Fender Twin Reverb through a 4x12 closed back cabinet? Experimentation is fun and yields lots of great sounding combinations. When you add all of the virtual stomp box and rack effects, such as wah, chorus, flanger, delay, distortion and reverb – plus a few wild and crazy effects in each program – you have serious tone-shaping power.

If you just want to plug and play, both applications serve up an extensive list of preset tones in a broad range of older and modern styles that make it a cinch to get started. One could easily spend a week just auditioning the presets. Each new preset inspired me in a different direction; from pumping out solid rhythm guitar to Chicago blues to modern high-gain leads. It was very entertaining to spend some time with each preset and I would highly recommend it if you want to get a firm handle on all of the sound possibilities available. Banks and presets in various styles make it simple to see what each application can do. Even to an experienced set of ears, most of these sounds are extremely convincing. The models are expansive, dynamically responsive like a tube amp should be (more on that a bit later) and just plain fun to use on stage or in the studio. Guitar Rig 2 includes a “Rig Kontrol” footpedal that makes using it in a live setting easy. Not to be outdone, IK Multimedia has a foot controller for AmpliTube 2 coming soon called Stomp I/O. When using these applications in a studio setting, they can also function as plug-ins within recording applications such as Pro Tools, Digital Performer and Logic. Consider how convenient it is to dial in any sound you can imagine, at any volume and hour of the day or night – and even having the flexibility to change sounds after the fact. This is sheer sonic bliss and would have seemed like some kind of virtual voodoo just a few short years ago!

Model Behavior

How does it work?
Those of you new to computer audio may need a little explanation at this point, in order to get your guitar signal into the computer and application. Generally speaking, you’ll need an audio interface that has a high-gain instrument input on it. These come in several varieties, usually USB, FireWire or USB 2.0. Each company approaches this differently – the Guitar Rig 2 Rig Kontrol footpedal also happens to be a USB 2.0 audio interface and is quite convenient. After installing the software, simply plug the footpedal into your computer via a USB 2.0 port (make sure you have this type of port before buying), plug your guitar into the foot controller and commence rocking.

With AmpliTube 2, you can use any audio interface you like, and there are quite a few interface options under $100, such as the M-Audio Fast Track or JamLab, or IK’s own Stealth Plug. In this scenario, you’ll need to make sure your computer “sees” your interface for audio input and that the application itself also sees it for audio input. This should all be handled during the interface’s installation phase.

After getting your interface set up, if you are using either application in stand-alone mode, you will be ready to plug and play. If you are using either application as a plug-in with Pro Tools or another recording program, you will need to create a track in that application for your guitar and then “insert” the modeling software on that track. You’ll want to reference the recording application’s manual if you’re unsure of how this works. It can be a little confusing to get it all configured correctly, but it is definitely worth the patience required. Once you get it working, the settings are retained for future use.

It’s important to note that, depending on where you live, you may or may not be able to try either of these applications out before you buy them, because stores rarely have them installed on a computer and accessible for demos. Most stores will not return opened software, make sure your computer can handle the processing needs of the program/interface – you can find this on the side of the box, under “Minimum Requirements.”

Model Behavior Model Behavior

How do they sound?
I began by trying to replicate some of the classic meat and potatoes rhythm and lead sounds that have been popular within the last 50 years. Starting with AmpliTube 2, I went looking for a Vox AC30 clean rhythm tone. After auditioning some presets I found one that was built on an AC30 type of amp model that sounded good to me. Others were more distorted or ultra clean. I tweaked the amount of distortion, adding just a little to achieve that “jangly” AC30 sound (fig 3). Most players consider this a “clean” tone, but it usually has some distortion. I was very happy with the result and saved it as “ac30Jangle A2”. Afterwards, I fired up Guitar Rig 2 and went searching for a similar sound. I found a great sounding AC30 (fig 4) and just tweaked various parameters to taste. The resulting clip, called “ac30Jangle G2”, was a little less ballsy– a softer version of a similar sound.

Model Behavior

One strategy you could experiment with would be to mix and match tube types within a single amp model. Why not find a sound based on a Fender amp that uses 6L6 power tubes but then change the amp model power tubes to EL84s, as used on an AC30. The resulting sound, impossible to create with real amps, might be exactly the sound you are looking for.

Many guitarists are drawn to classic Fender amp tones, like the renowned 1959 Bassman, the Twin Reverb and others. If you’re talkin’ Fender, you’re talkin’ bright, twangy rhythms with plenty of sparkle and muscular lead tones. I found just what I needed from both applications. There were tons of variations on this classic sound, such as Deluxe Reverb, Fender Twin and the above mentioned Fender Bassman so it was difficult choosing a model. The ’59 Bassman, in particular, is a very popular amp, made famous by Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan and countless others. I created clips called “TremTwang A2” and “TremTwang G2” to illustrate the results (figs 5-6) of these classic Fender tones. Both programs also have nice models of the spring reverb found on these classic amps – I was able to go all the way from subtle, to a Dick Daleinspired surf tsunami!

Next on the list of tones to test was the revered Marshall sound. This sound, like most others, is the result of the amplifier and the speaker cabinet working together to arrive at the crunch we’ve known and loved since the ‘60s. Whether it is a plexi stack or a JCM 800, part of the tone recipe has long been a closed back 4x12 speaker cabinet, often with Celestion brand speakers. Since this type of sound is so widely used, there were tons of great presets right out of the box in both applications. I must say that the plethora of presets were well named and gave great indication of the sound of each. Sometimes they hint at the type of amp such as Plex, JCM 800, JCM 900 and sometimes the name reflects the type of effect featured, such as chorus or rotary speaker. I finally found a fat, muscular setting in each program that sounded awesome to my ears – the presets are called “MarshaLaw G2” and “MarshaLaw A2” (figs 7-8). One thing to consider is that when auditioning presets, you will often find something that sounds about right, but when you put it in the context of a song you are recording, it might need some adjustment. It’s very common to have a big guitar rhythm sound that is “too big” when heard in the track with everything else. Both programs give you many ways to sculpt your sound with EQ, compression and effects.

Model Behavior
Model Behavior

Something worth mentioning is that both programs produced a warm, focused and dynamically responsive sound. I was able to adjust my tone by simply adjusting the volume knob on my guitar – setting it full on for a great lead tone and then cleaning up for chunky rhythm playing by rolling it down. Many tube fanatics look for this dynamic capability in an amp, and it’s a thing of beautiful simplicity to have these applications replicate that – no footpedals to dance on or to get to from across the stage. Both Guitar Rig 2 and AmpliTube 2 have impressive dynamic response, to such a degree that it brought a smile to my face.

In the midst of testing all of these amp and cab variations, I happened upon a preset with an auto wah sound in Guitar Rig 2. It was warm, sustained and would be great for a unique lead solo. Both applications had something similar, but not quite the same. The G2 wah preset followed the rhythm of the way I played each note and the A2 version applied a wah that fluctuated at a predetermined tempo. With that tempo locked to your track, the sound is cool and “in sync.” Both are very useable sounds. Check out AutoWah G2 and A2 (figs 9-10) and decide which you prefer. For the modern rocker, I went in search of a solid-state metal/nu metal amp sound – the type of high gain rhythm sound with a tight, focused bottom-end that works well with drop tunings and often has a “scooped” midrange. The tight bottom and well defined sound is great for strumming of power chords. The resulting SSCrunch clips are different but both are very useable (figs 11-12). Another very popular sound with the metal crowd is the so-called “dual rectifier” sound made popular by amps from Mesa Boogie. These are ultra high-gain sounds with more mids than the above-mentioned solid-state crunch sounds, and are dripping with attitude. Check out the DualRecto clips (figs 13-14) and you’ll see what I mean. Just for fun, I took my DualRecto preset from AmpliTube 2 and produced a variation called “DualRecto Rotary.” It took all of 10 seconds to add the Leslie rotary effect to this preset and the sound was fantastic.

Model Behavior When all is said and done, both programs serve up a huge dose of great amp and effects tones. How do these applications differ? I observed that Guitar Rig 2 had a longer list of effects, some classic and quite unique called Modifiers. The Modifiers can con trol various parameters in real time, yielding sounds that change dramatically over time. An example would be a tremolo that starts fast and then slows down, or delays that create an arpeggio. The Modifier effect can follow the tempo of the internal metronome or it can follow the master tempo of a song you are creating in an application such as Pro Tools. The results can be quite wild. There are also two included audio file players and a fun-to-use Looping tool. Simply load a rhythm track into an audio file player and jam along with it – it sure beats practicing to the lonely click of a metronome. If you are into experimenting endlessly with unusual sounds, Guitar Rig 2 may be the way to go. That certainly does not diminish the amount of classic sounds available and the included footpedal also makes it very useable in a live setting. It did make me a bit nervous to have my MacBook Pro onstage if truth be told, but no one knocked it over and all was fine. AmpliTube 2 provides what I would describe as very warm and organic sounds that are extremely convincing and very useable in the modern studio and on stage with the forthcoming Stomp I/O footpedal. I was always able to quickly find presets that hit the nail on the head and it felt just like playing through a real amp. AmpliTube 2 also includes an audio file player called Speed Trainer, which makes it a snap to listen to a piece of music you are trying to learn, slow it down without changing pitch and figure out that elusive riff. I did find myself yearning for the forthcoming footpedal so I could use it to rock out live.

Both programs are an absolute blast, and are truly incredible in their depth and realism. I’ve only been able to scratch the surface here, as there are far too many sounds to describe with both AmpliTube 2 and Guitar Rig 2. With the arrival of such incredible modeling software, today’s guitarist has powerful tone tools at his/her fingertips. Even the most stubborn tube amp fanatics should give these applications a listen. The sounds are inspiring and versatile! Why not fire up your PC or Mac with either and get rockin; for many of us, it’s the only way we will ever have access to hundreds of great classic and modern amp and effects combinations.

MODELING, iLife Style?
Model Behavior Readers with recent Apple computers (2004 and later) have likely experienced the included free application called GarageBand, a full-blown recording studio environment. Included in the Apple iLife suite, this stand alone application features quite a few amp and effect simulations, ranging from twangy Fender amps to high gain lead guitar tones. You can even add effects like reverb, delay, distortion, EQ, chorus, flanger and more to your sound and save it for future use. I’ve personally used these sounds to create a CD called The Garage Album (thegaragealbum.com) and several of the sounds are quite useable. With a little tweaking to allow for different types of guitars and playing styles, these sounds are fun and convenient. You also get keyboard sounds, loops in many styles, and effects presets that can be applied to vocal, guitar, bass and synth sounds. Make no mistake, the amp/fx models in dedicated programs such as Guitar Rig 2 and Amplitube 2 are much more in-depth and useable than those found in GarageBand, but if you’re on a Mac and looking for a quick change of pace, you might consider this.