Many moons ago I remember spend hours upon hours playing with my 1971 Marshall® Super Lead 100w and 2 4×12″ Celestion TM Cabinets striving to recreate the sounds of the great Jimi Hendrix. While the rig was fantastic for gigging (with the exception of the weight and bulk of the gear) you could say it wasn’t such a hit with my neighbors while I practiced. Input and output volume radically changed the sound of the amp. To get the right sound took time and the settings for each song, or set of songs, had to be memorized.
Over the last few years software has stepped into the breach with digital amp models created to approximate that old valve sound, with limited success. Models lacked the ability to create the full range of sounds you could generate with the real amp. Amp modelers, both hardware and software, had to trade off the versatility of each model, striking a balance between the clean warm valve sound and the overdriven sound, greatly limiting the sounds they could create and the overall accuracy of the term "Amp Model".
With the introduction of AmpliTube 2 IK Multimedia provided an answer to the problem in the shape of their Dynamic Saturation Modeling (DSMTM ) technology which models the individual analog circuits involved in each amp stage.
AmpliTube(R) Jimi Hendrix TM is based on the AmpliTube 2 engine. As a package it promised far more than amp models, including cabinets, some rare classic effects, different microphones, and the ultimate in time savers - Hendrix presets. Performing the review I wanted to see just how it stacked up (forgive me), how versatile both the configuration and sound were and ultimately answer the question.. would I use it for more than just fun?
Performing The Review
I decided to try the stand alone version first, focusing on the sound and usability aspects of the review, moving onto running it as a VST plug in allowing me to focus on one aspect of functionality at a time.
I decided to approach my review without first reading the manual. My experience has taught me that by far the majority of users approach software this way, only turning to the manual when they hit a stumbling block. It relies on a fairly intuitive interface to be reasonably successful, so I jumped right in and noted the questions that occurred to me as a I browsed for later reference in the user manual.
CD or download, Digital ID, authorization code, software serial number (on registration card in the boxed product or within an email if you download), installation does go through a number of convoluted steps but the installation wizard guides you through the process pretty clearly.
I installed on Windows XP operating system. The installation itself was very straightforward and I experienced no problems and completed installation without having to refer to the installation manual.
Input / Output Interface
Located at the bottom of the AmpliTube window, here you can adjust your input gain, and perform basic signal conditioning using a noise gate (took me a while to find based on browsing the application before using the help system). This section also contains a selected parameter display for adjusting individual controls on selected stomp boxes or rack effects, and a preferences section.
There are 5 different sound modules:
- Stomp Boxes
- Rack Effects
A full list is provided at the end of the review.
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.
The preset manager allows you to load complete sound set ups covering the full Hendrix studio discography plus a variety of other common set ups and sounds. You can also create, save and load your own set ups.
Ideal for playing the original track at a reduced speed for learning a riff or entire song. You can set loop points and adjust the tempo and pitch variation.
Getting A Particular Sound
Armed with the trusty "Hey Joe" as a starting point my initial goal after connecting up my guitar was to see how easy it was to get that particular sound set up. I found the preset manager pretty quickly however my initial attempt was a bit confusing. Initially I was a bit daunted by the standard menu tree that popped up when I clicked "Preset Folder". It was the only thing that said "preset" on the screen. A bit lost I closed that and clicked about. It took some minutes to find the interface based preset menus which was a mildly frustrating start.
My instant reaction on playing was "Hey, that's pretty damn good!". Very evocative and convincing. No Fuss. I liked that.
I spent the next while navigating the presets, trying all the parts for all the songs, spending most of my time on my favorite tracks. Understandable, the sound truly is impressive. The ability to load each up with such ease somehow seemed like cheating but a most welcome cheat at that.
I didn't have a midi wah-wah pedal to hand (or foot as the case may be) so I resorted to the auto-wah feature for tracks involving the wah-wah pedal and then to using an external wah-wah. The former provided less than spectacular results and the latter firmly place the tonal sweep at the beginning of the signal chain which was less than satisfactory. So I deferred the evaluation of these patches until I recorded in my chosen DAW.
I loaded the Hendrix CD tracks into the SpeedTrainer and played along for a more direct comparison with the tracks. There were discrepancies in the sound but considering variables outside the simulation such as the guitar used and its settings, the performer, the environment and the CD mixing/mastering it was hardly surprising. All in they were close enough to the sounds on original tracks.
After the Hendrix discography I also had a browse through a number of other typical amp set-ups provided by IK Multimedia. In general it was very easy to hear a use for these "out-the-box" presets.
Creating A Sound
I delved into dial twiddling trying out some settings of my own. I wasn't disappointed. I could tell the difference between AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix and a real valve amp, but it is so close, some sounds particularly. A difference you are unlikely to notice in a mix. While I was more impressed with the dynamic changes in the sound than with previous amp simulators I did feel the amps still lacked some of the breadth of harmonics and the feel of the real amplifiers when they were being overdriven. It lacked that "untamed beast" quality.
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.
Using With A DAW
I used Sonar to perform the DAW perspective of AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix. I had no issues launching it from within Sonar. Each parameter of each effect or amp or any part of the interface can be controlled from within the DAW. In this I referred to the manual from the start.
My first port of call was to control the tone of the wah-wah pedal. I loaded the intro set up for Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) then recorded the intro as a raw unprocessed track while monitoring the sound from the amp simulator. After checking the midi assignments I drew in the wah-wah filter position in the controller window for an accompanying midi track. It did as expected sound wise and there were no real issues hooking the two together.
It looks pretty good, and in general it's not too hard to find anything. A more integrated help system would have been nice and perhaps more clearly defined sections gathered under headings such as "Presets" would have made navigation easier. I viewed the application at 1920 x 1200 resolution and I did find navigation menus such as the preset browsing a little awkward, having to repeatedly go back a step or two to pop up the right menu when an errant mouse move took me out with the zone for that menu. For me it was too sensitive.
AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix includes a range of amps typical of the makes and models used by Jimi Hendrix.
I'm most familiar with the Marshall but each amp definitely has a realistic performance characteristic of the amps and cabinets they are modeling. Impressively the models behaved like the real amplifiers across the settings spectrum.
IK Multimedia's DSM technology really does make a difference. The Marshall was accurately responsive to the nuance of my playing. When I played with a delicate touch on the Marshall I got that nice clean tone, more aggressive playing brought out the overdriven amp sound distinctive to Marshalls.
It's a pretty flexible system. You can combine the pre-amps and power amps and cabinets any way that you like, and the ability to have dual signal chains was interesting.
Good range of stomp boxes appropriate to the time. You can easily assign each to a different place in the stomp box signal chain. The stomp boxes were good, although I was disappointed in the wah-wah when set to auto mode. Most were fuzz pedals of one kind or another, but as it is a Hendrix set up that is to be expected.
There is an online Preset XChange where users can swap presets with each other.
It did occur to me that it would have been nice to be able to expand AmpliTube by allowing the user to buy and install individual amp/cab/effects models without having to buy further full collections. XGear does provide the ability to use the amp/cab/effects from multiple AmpliTube packages via one interface.
A pretty straight forward tuner. I tried a few different guitars and had no real problems with the exception of when I used a "noisy" guitar.
The manual documentation was good with clear, concise explanations and useful diagrams. The lack of general interactive help was a bit of a disappointment. I did think some more "Step-by-step" guides would have been useful, perhaps targeted at both the novice player and at those musicians who are not used to using computers.
Concept wise I love the idea of being able to have the set up for the sounds of a particular guitarist. In this AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix delivers far more than I had expected a software simulator to do.
The presets are great, the quality of the sound excellent and the inclusion of tools like the speed trainer and the versatility of set up for creating your own sounds make this an ideal asset to both the home and studio guitarist.
While AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix does not yet completely capture the real amp sound, it is not only very close but it is the most convincing and usable amp simulations I have tried. For what you get for your money, it's a bargain.
I really had fun performing the review. Ultimately the only thing sound wise that let me down was my own playing. Jimi Hendrix fan that I am, I am far from Jimi Hendrix! I know, I know, I was as shocked as you no doubt are.
So would I use it for a serious recording? Yes. Plain and simple.
Rating: 9 / 10.
Find out more at www.ikmultimedia.com.
Fender® Dual Showman®
Fender® Twin Reverb®
Marshall® 1959 JTM100TM Super Lead
Fender® Bassman® 100W 6L6
Fender® Dual Showman® 100W 6L6
Fender® Twin® 100W 6L6
Marshall® 1959 JTM100TM Super Lead
Sears® Silvertone™ 2x12"
Fender® Twin® 2x12" JBL® D120F
Fender® Bassman® 2x15" JBL® D130F
Fender® Dual Bassman® 2x15" JBL® D130F
Marshall® 4x12", 25w CelestionTM
Marshall® 4x12", 75w CelestionTM
Marshall® 4x12", JBL® D120F
Roger Mayer™ Classic Fuzz ®
Arbiter ® Fuzz Face ®
Maestro ® FuzzTone
Roger MayerTM Octavia
Fender® Super Reverb® Amp OptoTremolo
Mosrite™ Fuzzrite ®
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Vox® Wah V846