For years Fender® has had one of the best reputations for guitar amplifiers so I was naturally interested to see how collaboration between Fender® and IK Multimedia® had influenced AmpliTube™ Fender®.
I always enjoyed using a Fender® Twin Reverb™. Nice clear tones. I'd used several of the other early Fender® amp models, though not perhaps the exact year of the ones included in AmpliTube® Fender®, and a couple of the newer ones too. I knew what I expected the real amps to sound like and with Fender being involved I wondered just how close these simulations would be.
I was already impressed with the simulations provided in previous members of the AmpliTube® range but with several Fender® amps being simulated in previous IK Multimedia® products I had to consider how much of a value add AmpliTube® Fender® would be? Was it simply a repackaging of previous amplifiers and effects?
Looking into it, this was no mere collaboration where Fender simply signed off on the overall product. The boys at Fender® have certified the sound at every stage and the same tests that are applied to the real amps were used to test the simulation, comparing the models directly with the original gear to ensure they behaved and sounded like the genuine amp, cabinet or effect. IK Multimedia® and Fender® passed development versions back and forward, investing 2 years in the development of AmpliTube® Fender® before they were all completely satisfied that the simulations were perfect. It promised greatness...
Performing The Review
I decided to keep things simple so I used the stand alone version first. This allowed me to focus on the amp simulations before moving onto running it as a VST plug in.
I started this review fresh from reviewing AmpliTube® Jimi Hendrix™, so I was pretty familiar with the interface already. For my initial impressions of the interface as a new user please read my AmpliTube® Jimi HendrixTM review.
Throughout I used the menu system to change patches. IK Multimedia® do offer the Stomp IO® controller as a separate product to more easily select patches. Not having one to hand (or foot) it was not used as part of this review.
The PC I used ran Windows XP, a EMU 1616M sound card and displayed at 1920 x 1200 resolution.
AmpliTube® Fender® is available as either CD or download, and uses a Digital ID, authorization code, and software serial number (on registration card in the boxed product or within an email if you download) in order to install and authorize the product. An installation wizard guides you through the process and there is an installation and authorization PDF file to help.
I had no problems with the installation itself and was able to be playing pretty quickly.
The Input/Output section can be found at the bottom of the AmpliTube® window. This section contains the controls to adjust your input gain, perform basic signal conditioning using a noise gate, a preferences section and a selected parameter display for adjusting individual controls on selected stomp boxes or rack effects.
Set up was straightforward although as you would expect I had to fine tune the latency to match the capability of my host system which is accessible via the settings menu..
Similar to previous versions of AmpliTube® there are 5 different sound modules:
A full list is provided at the end of the review.
There is a choice of 8 preset signal chains for connecting the modules together with 2 side by side rigs that you can configure as 1 large rig, 2 simultaneous rigs, or something between the two extremes.
Playing With Presets
To start with, the presets provide a good selection of the sounds that define each amp. First impression, there was plenty to choose from, with plenty of preset sounds for each of the 12 amplifiers. The presets also include effects and are in themselves very usable.
Preparing for the review it was easy to be focused on the quality of the simulation of the amps, but getting in about the presets I came to realize that this was also a great set of realistic guitar effects, not just amplifier simulations.
I ambled through the presets, many sounds so distinctive I couldn't help but play a piece evoked by the sound. It was like a stroll through the rock and roll hall of fame. There really is something here for even the most picky guitarist (sorry!) and a broad range of tones that would satisfy any Fender enthusiast.
Creating A Sound
I changed the amplifiers and cabinets, the signal chain, the stomp and rack effects and the microphone selection and position and saved and reloaded my customizations with no problems.
It was in creating my own sounds that I really realized what IK Multimedia had done. The simulations behave just like the real gear, with the exception that they don't take up a great deal of room in your studio. I think I can forgive them for that.
Flexibility is key. You can combine the amps and cabinets any way that you like, and the ability to have dual side by side rigs adds a high degree of flexibility. Effectively this means you can build a custom amp using the pre-amp, power amp and cabinet of your choice.
If I had any criticism, it would have been that I would like to have been able to place effects before or after the amplifier by my own choice. This was a particularly noticeable limitation on the amps that had no built in post-amp reverb where the option to place a reverb post-amp would have been nice.
Using With A DAW
I used Sonar to perform the DAW perspective of AmpliTube® Fender®. As with any IK Multimedia product, plug-ins work with the three main plug-in formats: VST, AU, and RTAS.
So I fired up XGear™ (packaged with AmpliTube® Fender®) and hooked that into Sonar. It's not exactly light on CPU load but the results are fantastic.
It looks great. Like previous products a more integrated help system would have been useful.
Preset titles don't always reveal much about what the preset is, perhaps a mouse over bubble providing a more detailed description of the preset would be nice. Yet again I found the navigation menus such as the preset browsing a bit too sensitive.
Not for the first time I found myself wishing I had a Stomp IO™ controller or similar controller to make the most of AmpliTube®.
AmpliTube® Fender® is based on the AmpliTube 2® engine using Dynamic Saturation Modeling (DSMTM ) technology which is designed to accurately capture every nuance of a tube's behavior inside an amp. IK models and re-creates the individual components of an amp to capture the way all the individual components of an amp interact.
IK Multimedia's DSM technology really begins to shine here. The amps responded realistically to the nuance of my playing. When I played with a delicate touch I got that nice clean tone, more aggressive playing brought out a realistic overdriven amp sound.
The authenticity of the resulting sound is impressive. I contacted IK Multimedia® to ask about the detail level they try to achieve in creating these models. Every single model was made in direct comparison with the original amp. They analyzed the amps unique circuit topology for accuracy at every possible setting, but most importantly they also tuned each model by ear in side-by-side tests with the real gear. They do the same for every cab and mic. The diligence in getting it right demonstrates their no compromise attitude. For example, with AmpliTube® Jimi Hendrix™ they spent thousands tracking down the original NOS speakers to model instead of the current re-issues.
This attention to detail definitely shows. Within AmpliTube® Fender® there are also a few technical improvements like using convolution to re-create the spring reverb circuits, and the new VRM™ rotary speaker modeling developed exclusively for AmpliTube® Fender®.
IK Multimedia® has been developing their modeling technology for more than 10 years. With
each "Powered by AmpliTube" title, they have improved their process, creating better and better
results each time.
The gear included in AmpliTube® Fender® covers not only classic amps but also some of their newer amplifier models too. There are nice features hidden in there like the Vibroverb® Custom amp. It comes with a "Mod" switch that allows you to switch in the circuitry to include a modification by Cesar Diaz to Stevie Ray Vaughan's original Vibroverb®.
Not overlooking the cabinets, the quality of these simulations is very, very good. I was particularly impressed with the Fender® Vibratone 1x10. It uses a Leslie Model 16 speaker with a slow/fast motor switch and a mono/stereo switch for the rotary action all resulting in a very realistic sound. Additionally on this model IK have included the ability to include an auxiliary cabinet selectable from any of the models to help beef up the mid-frequency sound of the 10" speaker on the Vibratone by splitting of the high and low frequencies to the auxiliary cabinet. Nice touch.
The effects models are impressive too with a good selection of Fender® effects on show. I loved the tape echo and the wah rack effect with it's switchable Clyde/Crybaby mode, but the Fender® '63 Reverb steals the show with some impressively realistic tones.
Ideal for learning a song the speed trainer allows you to load a song and reduce the speed to learn a riff or the entire song. To make things even easier you can set loop points and adjust the tempo and pitch variation.
The Speed Trainer can be used when AmpliTube® is in stand-alone mode and it can import any WAV, AIFF, MP3, or WMA audio file.
The manual documentation was good with clear, concise explanations and useful diagrams. The lack of general interactive help was, like previous versions of AmpliTube®, a bit of a disappointment. In the grand scheme of things though this is a very small fly in the ointment.
With so many great and classic amplifiers to play with this isn't one of those bits of gear that you get where you quickly outgrow the features. Not only that but the quality will keep you using it and I can easily see it becoming an indispensable part of a home studio set up, and see regular use in professional studios.
This isn't a simple repackaging of previously released models. It sets the standard for others to follow, if they can.
Value add? If you're looking to get a new bit of studio kit to drool over, look no further.
Rating: 9 / 10.
Find out more at www.ikmultimedia.com.
6 Stomp Effect models:
- Fender® Blender™
- Fender® Phaser
- Fender® Fuzz Wah
- Fender® '63 Reverb
- Fender® Tape Echo
- Fender® Volume
12 Amp models:
- '59 Bassman® LTD
- '65 Twin Reverb®
- '57 Deluxe®
- '65 Deluxe Reverb®
- '64 Vibroverb® Custom
- Vibro-King® Custom
- Champion® 600
- MH-500 Metalhead®
- Pro Junior®
- Bassman® 300
- TBP-1 Bass Preamp
12 Speaker emulations:
- '59 Bassman® 4x10" Open Back
- '65 Twin Reverb® 2x12" Open Back
- '57 Deluxe® 1x12" Open Back
- '65 Deluxe Reverb® 1x12" Open Back
- '64 Vibroverb® 1x15" Open Back
- Super-Sonic® 1x12" Open Back
- Vibro-King® 3x10" Open Back
- Pro Junior® 1x10" Open Back
- Champion® 600 1x6" Open Back
- MH-412SL 4x12" Closed Back
- Vibratone 1x10" Rotary Speaker
- 810 PRO 8x10" Front Ported
9 Microphone models:
- Condenser 87, based on Neumann® U87
- Condenser 84, based on Neumann® KM84
- Condenser 414, based on AKG® C414
- Dynamic 57, based on Shure® SM57
- Dynamic 421, based on Sennheiser® MD421
- Dynamic 441, based on Sennheiser® MD441
- Ribbon 160, based on Beyerdynamic® M160
- Groove Tubes® MD1b-FET,
- Groove Tubes® VELO-8
6 Rack Effects modeled after Cyber-Twin® SE:
- Fender® Pitch Shift
- Fender® Tape Echo
- Fender® Sine Flange
- Fender® Triangle Chorus
- Fender® Wah
- Fender® Compressor
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