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Thread: Agreed's Amp Modeling Software Shootout

  1. #1

    Default Agreed's Amp Modeling Software Shootout

    Welcome to my amp modelers review thread. This post is currently under construction, so expect revision as I think of more to add to it. First, I'll explain briefly what's going on here and how to navigate the thread (though it's pretty self-explanatory, really).

    I enjoy reviewing gear, and I am currently very deep into software amp and effects modelers. My current collection is as follows, alphabetically by manufacturer, but I am always looking to add more to the comparative reviews:

    Groove Monkee
    Drum Library Studio Pack
    Drum Library Rock 2: Alternative, Soft

    IK Multimedia
    Amplitube 2
    Amplitube: Jimi Hendrix
    Amplitube: Metal
    Ampeg SVX (powered by Amplitube)

    Kazrog Software
    Recabinet 1.05

    Native Instruments
    Guitar Rig 3
    Rig Kontrol 3 interface

    Overloud
    TH1 1.01

    Peavey Electronics
    ReValver MkIII

    Studio Devil
    Virtual Guitar Amp
    Virtual Bass Amp

    Waves
    GTR Solo

    Feel free to browse the whole thread at your leisure, as there is plenty of discussion and lots of clips of different things throughout, but the second post (right below this one, that is) will be updated every time I post a substantial new review, comparison, or article; or, if there is some particularly interesting discussion. If you only want to read the most in-depth stuff in the thread, the second post's links should help you out.

    I will be doing reviews in two main styles. At the beginning, especially, I will be doing comparison reviews or shoot-outs between the software at my disposal. As the thread progresses, I will start doing more "showcase" reviews where I am able to use the same amount of focused attention and review space to look into one particular aspect, feature, or even a particular model in a given program. Shootouts will be informative and hopefully useful because they give you the opportunity to hear the competing software side-by-side. I promise never to short-change any software. I will spend the same time and use the same care in crafting a patch for every program that I use, so the end result reflects my best effort at getting a particular sound from each program. This is so that none of the programs has the decked stacked unfairly for or against it at the outset - what use would that be to me or to anyone else? Showcases, because of the in-depth and one-at-a-time nature of the format, will feature more clips as I try to demonstrate the range of sounds or functions that a particular thing in a given program can do. In order to keep things fair in that format, I will rotate showcase reviews so that no manufacturer gets to go again before the other ones have gone.

    I don't think that there's any such thing as an objective assessment of tone, but I will still offer my thoughts on the process and product of modeling as I go. I love posting clips because it gives a chance for your ears to let you decide for yourself. We've all read the reviews in certain publications which seem unnaturally glowing, as though every product that comes in the door is just the most incredible thing that they've ever had their hands on. I think if we had the opportunity to use our ears to balance out those reviews, we'd get a much better picture of what's actually going on with the product. To that end, you can choose how much weight you give to what I say or think about these programs as I go, but please know that I am making every effort to make good sounding clips regardless of which software I'm using. Whether or not you put stock in what I say, it's my hope that the clips I post will tell as much of a story and be at least as useful in what you take away from a review.

    Of course I have other commitments in my life which will limit how often I can post these reviews, but generally I intend to get at least one substantial review done per week, and two if I'm able. I have been working faster than that up until now, but with my final semester of college (as an undergraduate, anyway) getting underway soon, I'll necessarily be focusing more of my free time on the things in life which demand the most of my attention: spending time with my wife, doing research for and writing my thesis, and spending time with my family. But I am willing to commit myself now to the promise of at least one review per week.

    Thanks for coming, and please feel free to post any comments, questions, or suggestions you have. I do this because I greatly enjoy it, and part of that enjoyment is interacting with you guys in a fun and productive, give-and-take way. That's why I love doing these reviews in a forum instead of on a blog or for an online publication. I feel like this is the best venue for really getting deep into a product or products and keeping the actual desires of the community in mind. Let me know if there's anything I can do better!
    Last edited by Agreed; 02-09-2009 at 05:12 PM.

  2. #2
    Merry Moderator Man mwc2112's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recently got the whole shebang. Expect reviews, Q&A, etc.!

    Sounds good!!! Definitely a really nice software package.
    Matt

    Gear: Um... yeah... changing that up a bit.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Recently got the whole shebang. Expect reviews, Q&A, etc.!

    You have a PM.
    - Stay calm and rock on!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Recently got the whole shebang. Expect reviews, Q&A, etc.!

    Anyway, finals are over, which means it's time to start running some comparisons. First, since I've been fussing with mostly crunch lately, I decided to get mean again and do a...

    Recto Roundup!

    This was a fun one to do because all three companies whose software I use have a Mesa Rectifier model of some kind. Amplitube Metal has a triple rec, and I think that Revalver and Guitar Rig both have a dual rec, but I'm really not certain. I'll try to find that out though, since it bears on the accuracy of the emulation.

    Before I offer my thoughts, here are the clips. I'd rather you get a chance to hear them before you hear me talk about them too much. One thing about all of 'em - they're boosted, because to my ears a recto just doesn't sound right if it isn't boosted. Guitar Rig 3 is boosted with its Treble Booster, ReValver MkIII is boosted with the VST Host module and the Simulanalog Boss SD-1 (just because I really wanted that sound, and ReValver lets you host whatever you want), and Amplitube Metal's is boosted with its Boss Metalzone model (dist at zero, of course). The Guitar Rig 3 clip is the Modern channel, the ReValver MkIII clip is the Vintage channel, and Amplitube Metal, er, I'm not sure, it isn't a channel switcher (though it does give you another model, Metal Clean T, which is the Triple Rec clean channel). I chose those channels because I like how they sounded on each of them. The goal was not to make them all sound the same, or make any sound better than the other; I spent quite a bit of time with each of them, tweaking it to get the best sound I could for my tastes out of each particular model. For Guitar Rig 3, I'm using its "Matched Cabinet" cab sim with some adjustment of the slider between matched cab A and B. For Amplitube Metal, I've got it dual-mic'd through two of the available Metal Lead T cabs. ReValver MkIII only has one Mesa IR that I know about, the "Vintage 4x12" impulse response, so I loaded up a good IR that I have of a Mesa 4x12. So that's two elements of the signal chain which aren't a part of the program inherently, but which it gives you the freedom to use. That's pretty cool. I hope Peavey includes some more Mesa IRs in the future, though, because they're great cabs and it would be a good supplement to the included collection.

    Anyway, here're the clips, and my thoughts will follow.

    Amplitube Metal - Metal Lead T model


    Guitar Rig 3 - Instant Gratifier model


    ReValver MkIII - Flathill model


    Edit: Alternate Mirror since Tindeck has taken a mighty dump!


    Guitar Rig 3 Instant Gratifier Modern Channel
    Amplitube Metal "Metal Lead T"
    ReValver MkIII Flathill Vintage Channel


    My Thoughts

    Guitar Rig 3
    It's kind of funny. The "Instant Gratifier" is sort of a signature sound for Native Instruments with Guitar Rig. Guitar Rig 2's intro patch used the Gratifier. They obviously put a lot of work into it, including doing some special things with the Expert Mode functions that offer some of the flexibility of a real recto (smoothly adjust between tube and diode power supply with its Sag knob, and with another of its "+" controls you can pull off some of the same "bold" or "spongy" parameter adjustment as the real deal). The move to Guitar Rig 3 has been good to the Gratifier, as the Matched Cab sim lets you dial in a good, usable tone quickly - more quickly than I was able to using Guitar Rig 2. The Gratifier responds accurately to boosts of various kinds, and you can get a pretty wide range of tones from it even with just the Matched Cab by using its different channels, adjusting the EQ, etc.; the EQ has a lot of interactivity, so by paying attention to the relationship between the midrange, treble, and presence, you can broadly shape the tone with even relatively minor adjustments.

    For all that, though, there is a sort of indistinct quality to the Gratifier model. It isn't bad, quite a bit better than any of the floor-board units I've used in fact, but compared to Amplitube Metal and ReValver MkIII I don't think it really holds up. It doesn't have the same dynamic responsiveness of ReValver's Flathill or gut-wrenching punch of Amplitube Metal's Metal Lead T. I don't think it sounds off, but it doesn't feel as good, and while no boosted recto is going to be super touch-sensitive (let's face it, it's an extremely high gain preamp getting hit hard on the front end), the Gratifier is a little bit dead. I also don't really like its EQ. It is responsive and interactive, but it doesn't seem quite right. Before you take too much away from the negative tone here, I am not sure that my complaints with GR3's Gratifier aren't due to the cabinet sim. Running the Gratifier into the Ultrasonic's matched cab produces better results, at least in terms of fixing some of the "deadness." The EQ still seems awkward to adjust compared to the more intuitive Amplitube Metal and ReValver MkIII. All in all, though I register these complaints seriously, I probably wouldn't notice them as problems if it weren't for the contrast with the other two programs - if all I had to work with was Guitar Rig 3, I bet I could use this productively. Seeing as I have two models from those other programs, different from each other but both better than this, I doubt I will use the Gratifier at all. The Ultrasonic model is a whole 'nother story, but that's also for a whole 'nother post.


    ReValver MkIII
    I had originally thought that ReValver MkIII's Recto wasn't really on target. However, I don't think that now. With the external IR loaded into its RIR cabinet sim module, the Flathill model really comes to life. It has a very thick, defined tone, and keeps it together really well even under demanding conditions. I did one tube tweak to get the tone you hear in the clip, and that was just to change the power tube's "character" to "Emphasize Mids 2" instead of "No character." That, by the way, is one of my favorite tweaks for high gain patches in ReValver MkIII; it focuses the sound in just the right way, without seriously attenuating the highs or lows. It changes the power amp overdrive character, adding more grit to the midrange without distorting the treble or bass any further. With a high gain preamp and a big clean power section, you don't really want to add a whole lot of grit or dirt in the power amp, but you do want to get some good sparkle and harmonics cooking. The tube character midrange tweak is a way to get a great responsiveness and add some screaming harmonics without compromising the tightness of the bass or adding any fizz to the treble.

    I'm really taking advantage of the modularity of ReValver MkIII in that clip, using not only an external cabinet sim (one of Guitarhacks' IRs, by the way) but also an external dirt pedal. The Simulanalog VST suite is a great tool for the studio and I highly recommend it to everyone. ReValver MkIII has amazing amp models, and a few good effects, too, but it's definitely a "first gen" kind of product (I know, I know, it's "Mark III," but this is its first major release) with plenty of room to grow in terms of its range of effects. Since I was using the emphasize mids 2 tweak in the power section, I really didn't want to use a Tubescreamer up front because it could get a little honky, so I used ReValver's VST Host Module to load up the Simulanalog Boss SD-1, which is a very well modeled overdrive, and gave the amp the kick I wanted to. I chose the vintage channel because it has a different overall tonality and distortion character than the Modern channel, much moreso (and more accurately) than the channel difference between them in Guitar Rig 3's Gratifier model. I think the resulting tone is really good. It is focused, dynamic, powerful, and of course heavy as ****. This has definitely taught me not to judge an amp's tone in the software by the IRs available (though most of the amps are well matched with a variety of IRs; all of the Peavey amp models have more than a dozen, sometimes more than two dozen different IRs of their specific cabinet). It's a shame that Peavey wasn't able to include a wider variety of other manufacturers' cabinets in IR form or a wider effects compliment with this release of ReValver, but hopefully they'll be able to in the future... and in the meantime they've thoughtfully provided us with the means to use whatever tools we have at our disposal, without the headache of having to load multiple instances and bypass individual components to get a VST at just the right place in the signal chain.

    Since this is ReValver, you have a great deal of flexibility in establishing your own tonal preferences. I feel confident that I could make this Recto sound like anything. A good place to start shaping the sound for your own ears is, as mentioned earlier, in the power section, since that's basically the amp's window to the world (to stretch a visual metaphor into sound, and beyond recognition). Changing the character of the power section results in very broad changes with only minor adjustments. If you want to really get interesting, swap the power tubes from 6L6s to KT88s or even EL34s and hear how big of a difference the change makes. But there's more to ReValver's adjustment options than just the power tubes. Try a brighter or hotter tube in V1 and V2 for a "natural" treble boosted tone; beef up the transformer for a harder-edged sound that doesn't give under any circumstances. And feel free to use whatever IRs strike your fancy. I really liked how some of the "British collection" (Marshall cab) IRs sounded with this Mesa, and I use the "Vintage 4x12" (the one Mesa cab in the bunch) as my go-to 6505+ cab. Peavey encourages experimentation and exploration with the way they've built their program, and the resulting flexibility is a huge draw in my opinion. If you like this Recto tone, you know how I got it; but if you want to do something different, you have more access to the digital-physical guts of the modeling process than any other program on the market provides.

    Amplitube Metal

    This program's Triple Rectifier model (or, as it is called, Metal Lead T) is mean! It makes me think that the ReValver MkIII Flathill is a Dual Rectifier model (trying to get confirmation from Peavey on that), because they both have an extremely authentic high gain tone, but they both sound different. Amplitube Metal's is very up-front, with a great deal of authority and punch. It has an excellent grinding quality to its midrange, an extremely powerful low end without getting farty or boomy, and a surprising amount of finesse in the treble frequencies. I found out some very interesting information while doing this comparison. I called the folks at IK in Florida, and quizzed them up and down about the software. Of course they couldn't share everything, but they did tell me something that isn't widely known and hasn't been publicized in the past. I had once thought that ReValver MkIII is the only software of the three that I use to implement convolution in its cabinet simulation. It turns out that Amplitube Metal (and every other Amplitube product) also uses a different method of convolution in their modeling. ReValver MkIII is a total cabinet-mic impulse response, while Amplitube Metal (etc.) obviously use individual IRs for their cabinets and mic sims, otherwise you couldn't use a different mic for the same cabinet. Different technological approaches to the same need, both very interesting; with ReValver's way, you can get a host of different IRs of a specific cabinet from different angles, different mics, etc., all of which will have the exact "snapshot" frequency response of the sonic moment. With Amplitube's method, you can tweak one cabinet with a variety of different mics to fine tune the sound. I don't think either method is better - they are both good approaches. A total IR sound that is good will match well with a number of amps; the modular IR approach lets you tweak the same IR to work with different situations, too. I mention this only because it is a very interesting fact that I, for one, didn't know about the Amplitube products. I think they ought to advertise it more actively, since other programs are now starting to really emphasize their IR modeling (for example, of course ReValver MkIII with its included 150+ IRs, but also Fractal Audio's AxeFX unit which uses IRs for its modeling).

    Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I love how Amplitube Metal's Triple Rec responds very differently to different boosts. I settled on using a Metalzone for this clip because with the dirt rolled back all the way, what you get is a slightly gritty boost with a lot of volume output and very effective pre-distortion tone shaping thanks to the parametric midrange control. I also got good results using Amplitube Metal's Boss SD-1 model (and good on them to include one, it's one of my favorite boosting pedals). I ended up making about five patches of the Metal Lead T model thanks to the various cabinet sim options available, and that's just using the three included "Metal Lead T" cabinets. I really like the mic models available; with two cabinets in parallel, and multiple mic placement options and mics, you can get a huge variety of tones off of the same patch. One great use of that flexibility is to put together a darker patch for rhythm, and a more focused patch for lead.

    The tonality after all is said and done is very forward and hot. Turning up the mains lets you really feel the chunk with every chord, and there is no loss of articulation when playing fast, even though the amp is (as its real-world counterpart) relatively dark. I like the tonal balance achieved by paying attention to the interplay of the Treble and Presence controls. Needless to say, unless you're going for an exceptionally dark sound, be careful with the bass - there's a lot on tap, as you should expect from a Triple Rec. As you can hear from the clips, the tone differs from ReValver MkIII's Recto. The ReValver MkIII one is a little bit more compressed, and a little bit tighter around the very edges (I am speaking here only of the frequency, not of the responsiveness to your playing - they are both capable of being either very tight or very loose, depending on how you dial them in and if you're boosting them or not - and with what). My wife, whose amp-naive ears I treasure for their honesty, described the ReValver MkIII one as sounding perhaps a bit more processed than the Amplitube Metal one. I don't think that's too far off. The Amplitube Metal model is blistering, raw and heavy, while the ReValver one might be a little more refined and tighter, but it also loses a little bit of edginess in trade. I imagine preferences will be split. They are both much better than Guitar Rig 3's Instant Gratifier model, in my opinion.
    Last edited by Agreed; 01-15-2009 at 07:20 PM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Recently got the whole shebang. Expect reviews, Q&A, etc.!

    I liked GR3 and Rmk3 best. The AT2 model sounds a little too fizzy.

    Thanks for doing this for us!
    - Stay calm and rock on!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Recently got the whole shebang. Expect reviews, Q&A, etc.!

    I'm going to add Amplitube 2's Dual Rec model to the comparison, and I might also add in the other channels available with Guitar Rig 3 and ReValver MkIII. Oh, and the "Metal Clean T" triple rec clean channel with Amplitube Metal.

    The Triple Rec is a fizzy amp, though, in real life. I thought about using a parametric EQ in the rack section to tame it a bit, but honestly, that sounds so much like a real triple rectifier that I decided I'd leave it like it is. I think ReValver MkIII models the Dual Rec, because it's inherently less fizzy and tighter. Triple Rec is a beastly beast of an amp, definitely not for everyone, and so is the model, I guess

    I'll get back to your PM as soon as possible, man, I've just been super busy and I'm getting my internet an hour at a time in the library. Quick question, is it alright if I crosspost this into the non-IK High End Software MFX forum?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Recently got the whole shebang. Expect reviews, Q&A, etc.!

    Go ahead and post a note that links to this thread. That should work.
    - Stay calm and rock on!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Recently got the whole shebang. Expect reviews, Q&A, etc.!

    Recto Roundup, Part II: The Cleans

    On all of these, I've configured the EQ identically. Mids, Bass, Presence at 6ish, Treble at 7-8. Each is using its own built-in delay (ReValver MkIII, Re-Lay 4; Amplitube Metal, Digital Delay; Guitar Rig, Deluxe Memory Man model), set for 352ms, and each is using a built-in reverb and chorus as well. I tried to configure them for the same effects profile to get a better comparison, so the differences you'll hear are differences in the modeling itself, not in what's going on in the track.

    First, Amplitube Metal's Triple Rec clean channel:


    Guitar Rig 3's Dual Rec clean channel:


    ReValver MkIII

    Edit: Alternate mirror since Tindeck has gone Hindenburg!

    Amplitube Metal Clean Triple Rec
    ReValver MkIII Clean Dual Rec
    Guitar Rig 3 Clean Dual Rec

    My Thoughts:

    First, I'd like to say that Native Instruments' Guitar Rig 3's excellent effects really shine here. I have said before that I think that Guitar Rig 3 has generally superb effects, but this is the first chance I've had to try to demonstrate that. The delay that I'm using is their model of the EHX Deluxe Memory Man modulated analog delay, dialed in here to have a subtle chorus on repeats that gives the slightest, warm slur to the delayed signal. The chorus I'm using is their "Chorus/Flanger," which sound fantastic as well. The clean channel of Guitar Rig 3's Dual Rec model is about like the clean channel should be on a real dual rec. Quite a bit of headroom, but it'll start overdriving if you crank up the master and preamp gain and/or really dig in to your strings. The cabinet sim which I found a little bit restricting on the high-gain tone had no difficulties rendering the clean. It perhaps doesn't have the treble sheen of ReValver MkIII's clean channel, but it's far from dead, and the great effects make it a real contender if you're going for a warm clean suitable for a number of musical styles. I've always thought that the Mesa clean sound is a very worthwhile tone of its own, and Guitar Rig 3's model renders it fairly effortlessly. If I had one quibble with the clean channel on their model, it would be that it can become slightly congested around thick chords or quick chord changes, but it is not bothersome and probably has a lot to do with the pickups and guitar in use (in this case, a mahogany-bodied Explorer-style guitar with a high-output rail humbucker).

    The other four-channel dual-rec model comes from Peavey's ReValver MkIII. I initially found its clean channel to be very hot, even considering the guitar and pickups used for the comparison. It wanted to overdrive even with the preamp gain at 3 and the master before noon. Thankfully, ReValver MkIII offers the user unprecedented access to the virtual schematic, and by making a few quick tube character changes in the preamp section I was able to get much more headroom for the clean channel. Taking the time to do so is immediately rewarding, as the clean on the Flathill model is great, very full but very glassy as well. It handles big chords very well, with plenty of definition and separation between the individual strings' notes. The delay, chorus, and reverb in ReValver are useful effects with a great deal of adjustment range. I like that this modeler gives you a great deal of control over every effect, offering some unique parameters to tweak which can result in new effects tones from familiar types of effects. The "Re-Lay 4" 4-tap delay module gives you precise control over the nature and length of the delay, and the controls on the chorus offer similar precision. I used one of the included "Hall" reverb impulse responses in ReValver's convolution reverb module, and the resulting sound is both organic and authentic. Every aspect of this patch is "quick," which is to say that no matter what I'm doing on the fretboard, everything follows the notes evenly and with authority, from the effects to the amp model itself.

    The last model in this comparison, the "Metal Clean T" from IK Multimedia's Amplitube Metal is a bit different; while the others model dual rectifiers throughout, this one models a Triple Rec clean channel. The difference is immediate: plentiful headroom and complete authority. While the others (including ReValver, after the tube tweaks) can be overdriven by really working the strings, this one's clean is unrelenting. It sounds like you've got 150W of power behind everything you play. The difference doesn't make this better or worse - they are different amps. The others, because they have less headroom by design, begin to generate little touches of overdrive or harmonic distortion at certain dynamic points, while Amplitube Metal's Triple Rec remains unperturbed. The difference is subtle, mind you, but there. Amplitube Metal's Triple Rec sounds huge at all times, very natural and quite precise. Its effects are good, too; the chorus module offers a number of waveform adjustments and high-precision parameter controls which let you dial in exactly the chorus tone you want, and the digital delay rack effect also has a variety of delay types available and a very intuitive filter setting to get a more or less "analog" sound. The digital reverb is a bit more generic than the others, but it has all the parameters you need to get a range of reverberations. Together, the effects sound excellent - there was obviously attention paid to how well they work with each other.


    Conclusion

    That wraps up the Recto Roundup. I've enjoyed doing this review, because it's given me a chance to dig that much deeper into the programs I love to use. I was very impressed with both ReValver MkIII's Dual Rec and Amplitube Metal's Triple Rec models. The Amplitube 2 Dual Rec is quite authentic as well, and it responds surprisingly similar to ReValver MkIII's "Vintage" channel - I guess that's just a sign that both companies are on top of their game when it comes to modeling authentically. I was less excited about Guitar Rig 3's high-gain Recto tones - they work, and would probably sound fine with some post production - but its cleans were fantastic, and as usual its effects were top notch. All of the programs did really good Mesa cleans, which was a pleasant surprise, and individual differences there might just come down to personal preference. Of course, all three of these programs have demo versions, so if you're curious as to how any of them would sound in your own studio, it's pretty easy to check them out.

    As a bonus, here are all the patches I used in the Recto Roundup (parts 1 and 2), including an Amplitube 2 "Modern Tube Lead" (Dual Rec) patch which I dialed in to sound a lot like the Amplitube Metal Triple Rec patch I used for its clip. I've included instructions to import the patches into whatever program you're using. Expect to tweak some parameters (input level, noise gate sensitivity, etc.) for your own setup, of course.

    http://www.sendspace.com/file/3pkmcc

    I still don't know what I'll do next - I'd like some input on that from you guys!

    Edit: KP, do you mind renaming this thread to "Agreed's Amp Modeling Software Shootout" or something like that?
    Last edited by Agreed; 01-15-2009 at 07:24 PM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Recently got the whole shebang. Expect reviews, Q&A, etc.!

    Voices of Vox

    First, of course,

    The clips!

    Vox AC30TB Clean, with a brief Satch pedal improv outro to demonstrate how the clean amp takes pedals

    Amplitube 2


    Guitar Rig 3


    ReValver MkIII


    I debated whether or not to run the pedal on this clean track at all, since it's supposed to be a clean demo, but in the end I thought it would be useful to demonstrate how the amps respond to pedal input. To me, an amp's responsiveness to dynamic, real input is just as important as how it behaves with its own modeled pedals and effects. I am a huge fan of dirt pedals, wahs, etc., as I've mentioned before, and if the amp modelers can't make use of my collection the way that a real amp could, in my opinion something is wrong with the modeler.

    Treble Boosted Dirty Vox, in the form of a short 16-bar blues jam!

    Amplitube 2


    Guitar Rig 3


    ReValver MkIII


    ReValver MkIII and Guitar Rig 3 both have actual Treble Boosters built in, and both seem to be based on the Rangemaster. Amplitube 2, I improvised a treble booster with its Overdriver pedal (tone at 3/4, level maxed, dirt set to minimum) and two of its EQ pedals afterwards for more tone shaping and another 15dB or so of boost.

    Edit: Alternate links since Tindeck failed a saving throw!


    ReValver MkIII Vox Clean w/ Satch pedal outro
    ReValver MkIII Treble Boosted AC30TB
    ReValver MkIII Vox "at the edge of overdrive" clip, by request
    Guitar Rig 3 Vox Clean w/ Satch pedal outro
    Guitar Rig 3 Treble Boosted AC30TB
    Amplitube 2 Vox Clean w/ Satch pedal outro
    Amplitube 2 Treble Boosted Vox AC30TB

    And now featuring Waves GTR Solo's Vox as well!

    Waves GTR Solo Vox Clean w/ Satch pedal outro
    Waves GTR Treble Boosted Vox AC30TB


    My Thoughts

    Peavey's ReValver MkIII AC30 model has a very glassy clean tone. There is only one included impulse response explicitly for the AC30, but it is one of the best IRs in ReValver MkIII in my opinion and with minor tweaks to the Treble and Bass controls on the "RIR Speaker Convolution" module you can get just about any AC30TB tone you'd like, clean or dirty. ReValver MkIII gives you individual control over all three of the preamp channels (Normal, Brilliant, and Tremolo), and the controls respond and interact realistically. One of the best ways to broadly change the tone and responsiveness of the amp model is to simply adjust the balance of channels. For the clean clip, I used almost solely the Brilliant channel with just a hint of Normal, which gave me a brilliant and chiming foundation to further tweak with EQ. I didn't feel the need to do any "Tweak GUI" changes to this model for its clean tone (or, for that matter, for its dirty tone) - this model seems to be just right as it is, to my ears. Of course you can edit anything in the amp if you so desire, so if you've always wanted an AC30TB clean tone but with a more "American" midrange character, you're a few tube swaps and maybe a tone stack away from that. But if you're going for an authentic, bright, responsive Vox tone, you're probably not going to need to change anything at all.

    The response of the model to my Satriani Satchurator distortion is very natural and fluid, with the tightness and focus that I have come to think of as one of the strongest characteristics of ReValver MkIII. One thing I noticed about this amp model is that it seems to want to overdrive more easily than I would expect compared to the real thing, though not at all offensively and certainly not even close to the extent that the Recto Clean channel did in the last review. In this case, all I had to do was roll back off the gain a little bit on the Brilliant channel and it cleaned right up. This could have to do with the particular vintage of the amp they modeled, or any number of factors - I can't say for sure. What is certain is that this Vox AC30TB model is a very good sounding amp model that will certainly get a lot of use in my recordings.

    Its dirty tone is really authentic to my ears, and pulls off the "treble boosted Vox" tone quite well. I'm feeding it a pretty fat input signal from a pair of humbuckers, and it's still very bright and glassy but with a great deal of grit and grain as well. I love how articulate the model is when the heat gets going - though I'm playing a lot of notes really quickly and some big chords, it never gets muddy or mushy. For the dirty clip, I've got ReValver MkIII's Treble Booster cranked up into the amp, with the Normal and Brilliant channels both maxed and a little bit of the Tremolo channel added in for extra grit and girth (it's considerably darker than the other two and overdrives pretty easily; it only has tremolo going when you turn the speed and depth dials up). I think this amp is just really well modeled all around, and it's really a pleasure to play.



    IK Multimedia's Amplitube 2 Vox AC30TB is remarkably clean, even indelibly clean. In fact, you can barely get it to overdrive at all on its own. My experience with ReValver MkIII and the real amp leads me to believe that this program is not modeling all of the preamp channels. The EL84 power section responds very realistically to high input levels (as the dirty clip indicates), but without putting a hefty signal boost up front, this amp is very, very clean. Its tone seems to indicate that it is the Brilliant channel, and the resulting clean tone is very lovely. It really shimmers when clean, and the EQ controls are highly interactive, just like the Vintage AC30TB on which this model is based. People tend to record the AC30TB with the channels jumped (the same trick that was used on early Marshalls and other multi-channel amps that operated in parallel rather than being switched between channels), so this model isn't what a lot of people might expect, especially if they were going for a more biting or crunchy driven Vox tone! ReValver MkIII and Guitar Rig 3 both model jumped-channel Vox AC30TBs, they both have individual gain knobs for the channels of the amp, and they both overdrive much more easily than Amplitube 2, so I really think it's just modeling one channel... Still, the single channel (if I am right, and I think I am) does mean that the power amp can be totally cranked to get some lovely, light upper harmonics going on which really sweeten the tone without getting gritty. Whether that's what you're going for might be another question.

    The AC30 2x12 speaker cabinet impulse response cab sim is very good. As is pretty common with a really clean tone, you don't really need more than one mic to capture the satin sheen and warm undertones of the amp model. As you would expect with a (mostly) Class A EL84 power section running hot and being fed a high dynamic range signal from its (single?) preamp, the amp is very, very responsive. It follows the envelope of the input signal very faithfully, with very little compression or saturation in its clean tone. I really like the interplay between the Treble and Hi Cut controls; the balance between them allows you to totally shape the tonality of the amp model's output. Engaging the Satriani Satcurator pedal does some interesting things with the Amplitube 2 AC30TB, showing off its broad frequency response and dynamic headroom. Probably because of the lower inherent input gain of this AC30TB model, the pedal sounds the least compressed into Amplitube 2's AC30, at least to my ears.

    Doing the dirty clip took some creativity. First, Amplitube 2 doesn't have a Treble Booster, and an Overdrive adds way too much grit and color to the signal to get an authentic AC30TB overdriven tone. I decided that I'd have to improvise a treble booster if I was going to see what the model could do when pushed to the limit, so I used the Overdriver pedal with the gain lowered all the way, the tone at 3/4, and the level maxed; I ran its output into two EQs, which further shaped the tone to give it a profile more like a Rangemaster and which also boosted up the gain by another 15db or so. Running that into the AC30TB makes it really come alive! I continue to be impressed by how well the IK Multimedia guys model power amp overdrive. This model's EL84 power section, when really hammered, gives up some lovely, dynamic distortion. I like it! Now, since I've had to approximate what a Treble Booster does with an EQ pedal in front of the amp (and hence I'm adding a lot of "junk" treble frequencies in addition to the upper harmonics that a real treble booster would add) I've used a parametric after the amp to control the fizz and hiss that would otherwise result. Hopefully Amplitube 3 will give us some great new pedals, among them an authentic treble booster. But I think it's remarkable how their AC30TB blooms when you really slam the input!



    Native Instruments' Guitar Rig 3 has a good Vox AC30TB model as well. I don't think that it is modeling the same AC30TB as ReValver MkIII, as it only gives you control over the Normal and Brilliant preamp channels but still offers on-board tremolo with adjustable speed and depth. But, it is definitely more like ReValver MkIII's than Amplitube 2's - it wants to overdrive on its own. The EQ controls are not as interactive as ReValver MkIII's or Amplitube 2's, but they do a pretty good job of shaping the tone. Still, you're probably going to want an EQ of some kind somewhere after the amp if you want more control over the shape of the output. I didn't have much difficulty dialing in a clean that would stay clean under stress. I think it sounds good, quite usable, but not as articulate or refined as ReValver MkIII's, and not as shimmery as Amplitube 2's. Still, you could definitely get away with this in a recording - it's got a very authentically Vox character. I sometimes get disappointed in some of the Guitar Rig 3 amp models because some feel less dynamic than the real amp; however, this time I think they've done a good job of capturing the "aliveness" of the AC30TB. Setting a balance of Normal to Brilliant gives you the expected foundation from which to dial in your tone. The less interactive EQ means that you don't get as much control or width to the tonal changes possible with the other software modelers' offerings, but the hi-cut still cuts the highs, and the treble still boosts your treble. I dialed out a little bit of sag, and dialed in more responsiveness using the Guitar Rig 3 "+" menu on the amp model, which resulted in a more authoritative tone than it had before tweaking. I didn't like the way this amp reacted to the Satriani pedal, but it could be a matter of EQ... Or just a matter of taste. I'll let your ears make that call.

    The speaker sim for the AC30 is actually quite good in Guitar Rig 3, better than the other speaker sims which have been around as long (as I've mentioned elsewhere, I find that the added-with-GR3 amp and cab sims are really great, while the others might be good or might not, so I wanted to point out that this is a good one that was not added with GR3). I found it helpful for the dirty clip to dual mic the cabinet to capture more of the body and punch of the tone as well as the cutting treble characteristic of a driven Vox. It responds very naturally to its Treble Booster module into both amp channels cranked. I liked it best this way, and I think it stands up well beside the other programs even though I think they are both more accurate in how they model the EQ and power amp overdrive. The preamps in Guitar Rig 3 are well modeled, and when the amp starts overdriving the crunch is natural and defined. I don't have any real complaints about this amp when things get dirty - it sounds good when you hear it and feels good when you play it. Dialing in the right balance with its speaker sim wasn't difficult - I used its "Tube Condenser Mic" on the center of the cone, and another off-axis at a lower mix just to fill out the body of the tone. Nothing extreme. Of course Guitar Rig 3's excellent effects are put to use here - I'm dialing in a reasonable amount of its great Spring Reverb module to thicken things up a bit.


    Waves GTR Solo's Vox AC30TB is extremely glossy and shimmery. You practically can't dial that out, it's as though there is a studio sheen on the whole thing from the moment you load up the amp. Some will absolutely love that about this program as a time-saving feature with a lot of wow-factor, while others will find that it makes it more difficult to tailor the track to your own needs later in the mix. I have to say, this is a program that demands to be taken seriously - and right now, it's completely free for a full year. This Vox is similar to Guitar Rig 3's Vox in its general tonality and response to your playing (in fact, they seem to be modeling the same vintage of the amplifier - the 1980s era AC30TB-2, which doesn't have interactive EQ controls among other changes to the unit). One peculiarity about this model is that it features not only a Midrange control, but also a Presence - and it lacks a "Tone Cut!" Waves definitely isn't worried about having a fully authentic modeled featureset, but the sound of the amp itself is quite authentic into the included 2x12 cabinet sim with any of the mics included. This program lacks some of the depth of editing that other programs allow, and only has pedal effects which go before the amp, no rack units or other post-effects options, but as a result it is quite straight-forward and there isn't much of a learning curve. Combine that easy-access limited featureset with its immediate "studio gloss" and I can definitely see why some people fall in love with GTR when they first load it up. There is a very "set it and forget it" vibe to this software which, once again, will be a boon to some and a bane to others.

    I found its clean character to sparkle very appropriately, and its overdrive to occur quite naturally and dynamically. You don't get individualized control over the preamps as would be correct for the amp if the only concern were authenticity; instead, you get Waves GTR's typical -12db to +12db "Drive" control. Honestly, though, it functions more or less how the preamp controls would, though I do miss the other programs' ability to dial in a balance of Brilliant to Dirty (excepting Amplitube 2, of course, which I think is only modeling one channel unless my ears are really lying to me). I was pleased to find that this model, like ReValver MkIII, is able to easily achieve the vaunted "at the edge of overdrive" tone where you're sitting right there at the extension of what the amp will do cleanly and any digging into the strings pushes it over the edge. That said, it almost sounds to me like there is some compression going on in the signal uncontrolled by the user, because while the amp responds as you would hope to playing very softly or really hammering the strings, the output level hardly changes at all. Interesting, for sure, and another feature which makes the sound fit smoothly into a mix more or less out of the box (though there is an associated cost - I once heard it referred to as the inability to achieve both unity and perfection). And for now, this is a free program; I have to recommend you check it out for that alone, since its only competition in the "absolutely free" price category doesn't begin to measure up.

    Whew, that concludes the updated review. Here are the patches that I used in this comparison, with instructions in each individual program's folder for those who don't know how to import patches into their program(s) of choice. This file includes my Fender Pt. 1 comparison patches as well, but the space requirement is trivial. You're welcome to ignore the Fender patches if you really, really only want the Vox ones I've included some patches that didn't make it into clips here, including a Guitar Rig 3 patch which gives you a reasonable "At The Edge of Overdrive Tone" and updates to the other patches to make them sound slightly better than in my clips.

    Vox (and Fender) Patches!
    Last edited by Agreed; 01-15-2009 at 07:57 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Agreed's Amp Modeling Software Shootout

    My ears seem to prefer the Amplitube on both.
    I can hear a bit of stereo seperation going on in the clean GR3 sample that is not in the other two and it is making it seem more open sounding when I don't think that is really the case.
    Nice samples!
    Amps: Boogie MkIIC+
    MFX: Tonelab LE

    Guitars: Custom Strat Type Thing, Fender Classic Player 50s Strat, Fender Classic Player Baha Tele, Epiphone '56 Goldtop LP P90s, Danelectro '63 Baritone, Jerry Jones Neptune Short Horn Baritone, Ibanez, Ovation
    Stomps: Too munerous to list. "I'll have one of each, please!"

    Cakewalk Home Studio, Various Plug-ins
    http://www.myspace.com/timmicsak
    www.soundclick.com/soundscape44

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