Described as a massive upgrade on AmpliTube® 2, AmpliTube® 3 offers improved modelling over AmpliTube 2, new models, effects, patches and more.
I've been looking forward to reviewing AmpliTube 3. After the obvious improvements made with AmpliTube Fender, I was hoping that AmpliTube 3 would use the same approach, technology and level of detail.
With more and more guitar rig and amp simulators coming onto an increasingly competitive market place how does AmpliTube 3 measure up? After the success of it's predecessors there is a lot of expectation from the masses...
If you are a considering a purchase for your studio, should it be on your shopping list? If you own a previous version, is it worth upgrading?
Performing The Review
The PC I used for testing was a DELL Precision M6400 laptop core 2 Duo 9800T @2.97GHz with 8Gig RAM running Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, with a MOTU 828 Mk3 sound card and Sonar 8.5 Producer Edition as the host DAW.
I began the review using the stand alone version before progressing onto using it as a VST via Sonar 8.5 Producer edition.
Overview of AmpliTube 3
AmpliTube 3 works as both a plug-in and as a standalone application. It is organised into 5 separate modules: Tuner, Stomp, Amp, Cabinet + Microphones, and Rack effects. It uses IK Multimedia's proprietary Dynamic Saturation Modeling (DSM®) technology for analog modelling and supports up to a 96 kHz sampling rate.
AmpliTube 3 contains models of a lot of gear. In fact it contains all the gear combined from AmpliTube 2, AmpliTube Metal and AmpliTube Hendrix... plus 30 new vintage gear models totalling over 160 pieces of gear in one package! That's 51 individual stomp boxes and effects, 31 amplifier preamp & power sections, 46 speaker cabinet models, 15 high-end stage and studio mics, 17 post amp rack effects, and more... with all the legacy gear re-mastered to the same quality standard as AmpliTube Fender.
AmpliTube 3 also replaces the need for IK Multimedia's X-GEAR , with the ability to add "Powered by AmpliTube" packages like AmpliTube Fender® and Ampeg® SVX.
The first module in the chain is a chromatic tuner. There are no real surprises here. It's easy to use with no real interface changes from previous versions of AmpliTube.
Older amp models are still provided in 3 switchable stages: preamp, EQ and power amp. Switches are provided to enable the use of default EQ, and power amp models.
Newer amps are modeled as 1 block and according to IK Multimedia they are more accurately modeled as full amplifiers and no longer need the ability to switch in and out the different amplifier settings. That said, sometimes you want to create a custom amp, and in this regard it would have been nice to still have had the option. So in gaining the accuracy of modeling with these new amps, they are less flexible. Still, there are plenty of the updated older models that have retained the feature.
Cabinets and Microphones
In creating AmpliTube 3 the cabinet section has been significantly re-worked. 2 two freely movable microphones are now provided per cab, with the ability to change the cabinet the speaker is in. This in itself is an upgrade on the cabinet / microphone simulation used in AmpliTube Fender. Using a true impulse response for the spatial location, convolution gives a very accurate representation of the speaker within that space. In combination with the freedom of 3D microphone placement, you can control the width of the stereo image, allowing for a greater flexibility on tonal and phase variation.
Add into the mix the new rotary speaker simulation using IK's proprietary Volumetric Response Modeling (VRM®) technology. VRM was developed for a realistic rotary speaker during the development of AmpliTube Fender.
It's amazing the variety of sounds you can achieve with the new cabinet and microphone set up. It's a big step up in the usability department, adding another layer of realism to the whole sound.
Stomp and Rack Effects
The effects have also been given the treatment with a new Stomp pedal & Rack FX drag & drop feature allowing for a faster workflow. AmpliTube 3 has a highly flexible series / parallel rig set up with 8 signal path presets, selectable mono / stereo input and true stereo processing on two of the routing options. The fact that it now takes a stereo input means that AmpliTube 3 can easily be used with keyboards, vocals, drums etc with an end to end stereo signal path.
A nice side effect of this is that 2 mono instruments can now be processed at the same time with independent audio settings.
The Stomp module can be used as two independent six pedal stomp setups or as one massive twelve pedal setup. There are two separate rack modules each with 4 stereo rack effects capable of being used independently or together as a chain of 8 rack effects.
There are new stomp/rack effects, and several new "creative" effects to choose from... tempo synced effects, and step slicer, step filter swell pedal, resonator pedal, and tap delay. The new effects add, amongst other things, some great synthy tones to the range of patches available. The Rezo pedal and the Step Slicer were particularly fun to play with.
In addition to the new effects there are upgrades to the older effects too with some extra controls appearing and some changes to the pedal models. For example the noise gate now has a depth control, ultimately making it far more useful.
The effects are overall of a high quality, and pretty well as good as any physical pedals you would buy.
Creating your own effects patches is now incredibly easy using the drag and drop interface. This makes reorganizing effects so much easier than AmpliTube 2 and I am sure it will be well received by many users who have no doubt requested this feature.
MIDI and Automation
MIDI routing is pretty straightforward with freely assignable DAW automation and a new "MIDI Learn" feature for compatibility with any MIDI controller. Although not tested as part of this review AmpliTube 3 has direct integration with IK's interfaces/controllers like StompIO, StealthPedal, StealthBoard with no additional set up involved.
There are lots of presets. To say you will be spoiled for choice is a bit of an understatement. From the main menu you can select from amplifier and entire rig presets. For preset lovers there is no doubt that you will be in preset heaven. A massive variety of sounds will keep you happy for hours. The variety in the depth of tone achieved is impressive in itself. Presets are organised and accessed using a new preset browser. The preset browser links to the Preset Xchange on IK Multimedia's website, where you can upload and download presets from all users for use within the application. There's already a pretty good library based on known artists available.
A nice addition is the ability to load high, mid and economy mode. This is ideal when you are on a lower performance PC. Simply set economy mode for recording and then high quality when rendering the track.
There are lots more ways that you can enter and track information related to the preset. Pretty handy when it comes to searching the presets as there are so many new presets to play with.
The Preset XChange, although more integrated than before in that it launches directly from within AmpliTube 3, could be more user friendly. I would have preferred that integration of the Preset Exchange had meant the interface to it was completely within AmpliTube 3, rather than by launching a browser pointed at the Preset XChange on the website.
Global and Single gear presets can be loaded and saved. This allows you to tweak presets, create your own and even copy settings from one patch to another which significantly reduces the time to set up your own presets.
Creating presets is quite addictive. After all there are so many different gear combinations, so many different parameters to play with. It may seem a bit daunting at first but after you get the basics of AmpliTube 3 it's really very easy to use.
Like everything else the speed trainer has been re-worked. In AmpliTube 2 it used to be a simple loop player with speed up, slowdown and loop capability. In AmpliTube 3 it is now a full 4 track player / recorder capable of recording audio so you can record yourself playing, with the capability to independently change pitch and tempo of audio playback. A nice feature is that it uses non-destructive recording, which allows post-effect processing of the recorded audio and in a bid to be CPU friendly you can freeze tracks to keep your CPU usage low.
Expansion / Upgrade Path
If you want to build upon AmpliTube 3 , AmpliTube 3 has a new open architecture allowing you to add on AmpliTube Fender® and Ampeg® SVX for lots more gear models, all accessible within the same environment. Even without purchasing those packages you can always use the Preset XChange to download patches created by IK Multimedia and by other users.
Supported Operating Systems and Formats
AmpliTube 3 supports both Windows and Mac OS X. My system is Windows 7 64-bit and I didn't have any problems installing and setting up AmpliTube 3.
Supported Plug-in formats: Audio Units, VST, RTAS (Mac OS X) - VST, RTAS (Windows)
When AmpliTube 3 was released there were a few small issues. Very quickly IK Multimedia addressed the problems and released AmpliTube 3.0.1.
When I did encounter issues with AmpliTube I found their support staff to be friendly and knowledgeable with queries being answered quickly and in detail.
I would still like to see more in the way of integration of the help documentation. While the PDF is well written I would prefer something more tightly integrated with the actual features, for example contextual help.
At the time of writing this article AmpliTube 3 was priced at $349.99 / €269.99 for a full license, $269.99 / €199.99 for a Crossgrade and $199.99 / €149.99 for an Upgrade.
I'm impressed with the sound quality and the huge range of gear and presets. High quality audio processing, a flexible signal chain and some great items of gear modeled... To those without AmpliTube 3 the cost may seem high but in the real world, if all of this gear were real, it would cost you tens of thousands.
The quality improvement on each of the models is very noticeable. I loved the dual microphone cabinets in 3D space and the ability to load low mid and high quality versions of the presets. The interface changes may not be large but they do make using AmpliTube 3 easier than AmpliTube 2.
With a flexible working environment, and so many models and parameters to choose from, you will be experimenting for hours with what is undoubtedly the best amplifier rig and environment modeler on the market.
IK Multimedia continues to set the benchmark for simulated amp rigs. Really, no one else has yet come so close in providing guitarists all the tools they need within a virtual studio environment. Go get yours...
AmpliTube® 3 is available as either CD or digital download.
For more information visit www.ikmultimedia.com/amplitube
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