Those of you following me at twitter will have spotted the odd remark about me testing Native Instruments Guitar Rig and IK Multimedia’s Amplitude. If you don’t already know, these are virtual guitar amp simulations. Possibly, the two leading products in this particular field of music technology.
Anyway, for years I have been using a POD XT PRo for my guitar sounds. I basically set it up to match as closely as I could the sound I got from my Marsall JMP-1. Time marches on, technology leaps ahead and the urge to de-clutter and try new things takes over.
Native Instruments and IK Multimedia have free versions of their applications. The sales pitch is that you like the free versions so much you buy the full ones. However, the free versions are so good you may not need to . . . . . . depending on your needs.
Amplitude gives you more for free: 3 amps compared to Guitar Rigs 1. The Amplitude amps include a Marshall, Fender and a Bass Amp. No direct names are given for these amps, but that’s what they are if you look in the manual! You also get a tuner, various effects, microphones and one or two speaker cabinets.
Soundwise, though, is where things get interesting. I set both amps up to resemble as near as damn it my Marshall / POD sounds. Amplitude is near identical but subjectively ‘better’ and Guitar Rig is great but not as ‘real’. And that’s the thing: at first, I loved the Guitar Rig sounds – some great presets and effects etc – but as soon as you plug your guitar into Amplitude, you really do feel like you are playing through a living, breathing amplifier.
To me, Guitar Rig sounds too ‘studio’, which in itself is not a bad thing, but it’s not exciting to play. Amplitude, though, is exciting to play – like a real amp. You plug in the guitar and you can’t put it down.
And that to me is the ulitmate test – Amplitude sounds fantastic – I have coaxed some truly magnificent sounds out of it and reproduced in stunning detail my existing sounds – it makes me want to play. Once plugged in as either standalone or as a VST plugin inside in my beloved REAPER, I can’t put it down. Play a few backing tracks through the integral 4 track recorder and you’re in guitar god heaven.
Add to that a fantastic tuner, some useful effects (only a modest amount, but I only use spring reverb anyway!), the afore-mentioned integrated 4 track recorder, the ability to download and add new amps, effects and microphones for not much money and you have a versatile live or recording package. Can’t get enough of it.
And all of this core functionality – which, for me, is everything I need – is free. A few years ago, that would have cost big bucks. So big thanks to both Native Instruments and IK Multimedia for both products.
Ultimately, both amps are marvellous bits of kit. But for me, Amplitude is the one. My new toy. My new ‘muse’.