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IK MULTIMEDIA AmpliTube 2.01 (Mac/Win)

October 1, 2006
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FIG. 1: IK Multimedia AmpliTube 2 bears almost no resemblance to its predecessor.

IK Multimedia AmpliTube received much praise as one of the first guitar-amplifier and -effects plug-ins. But it began showing its age as new guitarcentric simulators from companies such as Native Instruments, Waves, Nomad Factory, and iZotope hit the market. With AmpliTube 2.01, IK Multimedia has jumped back into the fray with a vengeance (see Fig. 1).

AmpliTube 2 is brand-new guitar-amp simulation software, with only a few models carried over from the original AmpliTube. It ships in all the common plug-in formats and is compatible with all major audio-editing software. IK Multimedia says a forthcoming standalone version of AmpliTube 2 will work with the previously announced Stomp I/O USB controller.

According to IK Multimedia, the company's new Dynamic Saturation Modeling (DSM) technology considerably improves the playability and musicality of the amplifier simulations. DSM models nonlinear analog circuits by continuously reshaping AmpliTube 2's analog-circuit simulation. The company says that results in a more articulate and musical response than traditional modeling methods. So how does AmpliTube 2 stack up?

Plugging In

The redesigned user interface is attractive, functional, and easy to navigate. The preset management and signal path options are at the top of the editor and an I/O Interface bar is at the bottom, leaving the majority of the control panel for editing the modules. You can use a drop-down menu to select a module or use arrow buttons to scroll through the modules.

The I/O Interface bar has input- and output-level knobs for optimizing signal levels, a window that displays a small tuner when the tuner module is activated, and a noise gate. My guitar, a custom Koll Tornado, is pretty silent, but I found the noise gate excellent for eliminating the inevitable noise in higher-gain simulations.

AmpliTube 2 houses two complete guitar rigs consisting of stompbox, amplifier, cabinet, and rack-effects modules. Those can be arrayed either in two separate paths to be played simultaneously or in one huge setup with double the number of modules.

A classic rackmount digital tuner heads up the signal path. A small display in the I/O bar shows when the tuner is active. The tuner is very sensitive to fluctuations in the pitch of the string, and it changed values so quickly that I found it difficult to follow and hard to use.

Signal Path to Glory

The individual modules are quite flexible. The stompbox modules have 6 slots, each of which can house any of 21 effects. The rack-effects modules have 4 slots, each of which can house any of 11 effects. In the amp modules, you can select different preamp, amp-EQ, and power-amp simulations, and that's far more powerful than just selecting a complete simulation of an existing hardware amp.

In the cabinet modules, you can select from 16 modeled cabinets and 6 modeled microphones. Although I appreciate AmpliTube 2's flexibility, I would have liked a few more options. For example, you can't place rack effects between the amp simulation and cabinet simulation. That's something I routinely do live, and other guitar-amp software does allow that kind of routing.

Each module has its own volume and pan controls. The tuner and the stompboxes have individual on/off switches. The amp, cabinet, and rack-effects modules can be bypassed or muted. Being able to bypass, mute, or turn off modules allows you, for example, to use just the stompboxes or to use just the cabinet modules as a speaker simulator for a hardware amplifier. I often use the direct out of one of my hardware amplifiers routed through a software speaker simulator for silent recording, and the ability to use AmpliTube 2 as a speaker simulator is very welcome.

AmpliTube 2 allows oversampling for selected modules, which processes the critical DSP stages of those modules at 176.4 kHz or 192 kHz, depending on the audio sequencer's sampling rate. IK Multimedia reasons that processing only critical stages at high sampling rates takes less CPU. Oversampling really does improve the sound and feel of a module, but you need to use oversampling sparingly if your sequencer's audio buffer setting is small. With the Apple Logic Pro 7 buffer set to 64 samples, turning on oversampling for all modules on my dual-processor 2 GHz Power Mac G5 resulted in crackles and pops.

Stomping Ground

AmpliTube 2 includes models of some classic guitar pedals, such as the Fuzz Face, Tube Screamer, Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, and Electro-Harmonix Memory Man, as well as some unique digital LFO and pitch effects (see Fig. 2). I especially like the modeled stompboxes; not only do they sound good, but they also respond to picking dynamics like a real guitar pedal and don't muddy the signal.

FIG. 2: AmpliTube 2 features models of classic stompboxes that you can set up in any order.

The rack effects are supposed to sound clean and digital, and for the most part, they sound very good. I much preferred the rack Digital Flanger to the stompbox flanger, for example. The Digital Delays and Reverbs also sounded clean and efficient.

I was never quite able to get my head around the Harmonator, however. IK Multimedia explains that the idea is to set the key for the harmony voices and play monophonic lines. I found that difficult to do without incurring audio glitches.

How Many Valves?

AmpliTube 2, like most other software simulations, covers the four food groups of amp models: Fender, Marshall, Vox, and Mesa Boogie. These amps have been given names like American Tube Vintage, British Tube Lead, British Tube 30TB, and Modern Tube Lead, with graphics that hint at the original amps. AmpliTube 2 also revives some of AmpliTube 1's solid-state amp simulations.

FIG. 3: AmpliTube 2 includes an excellent model of the THD Electronics BiValve.

AmpliTube 2 does include a model of one amp by name: the BiValve single-ended Class A 30W guitar amplifier from THD Electronics (see Fig. 3). For those not familiar with the hardware original, the BiValve sounds excellent. You can swap out the tubes in the real BiValve, replacing them with just about any other tube, and you can emulate that by selecting different AmpliTube 2 power-amp sections. I felt that switching power amps in the AmpliTube BiValve simulation often changed the tone more than changing power tubes in the BiValve itself did, but that's a minor quibble.

Because I have a BiValve in my project studio, I was able to make direct comparisons to the AmpliTube 2 model. I couldn't have been more pleased with the way AmpliTube 2 captured the feel and tone of the BiValve (see Web Clip 1). The dynamic response was very similar to the real thing. However, the AmpliTube 2 simulation didn't quite capture the tone of the maximum output of the BiValve when the amp was run through its high-gain input (called More).

IK Multimedia provides a healthy selection of popular guitar cabinets and microphones. I particularly liked playing my hardware amplifier through the AmpliTube 2 cabinet simulations. The modeled mics offer very useful coloration to the speaker simulations without going overboard.

Tonal Nirvana

Some of the solid-state and original models from AmpliTube 1 are still there in AmpliTube 2. If you liked them before, you'll like them now, but I prefer the newer software simulations. The American Tube Clean emulations have a very clear Fender Reverb twang, and the Tube Vintage accurately captures the warmer twang of a Fender Bassman. I disliked the Vox simulation in AmpliTube 1. AmpliTube 2's Vox AC30TB emulation is a wonderful improvement, responding very much like the AC30TBs I've played through. AmpliTube 2 also models a '50s Supro combo; I've never actually played one, but I did enjoy the sound of the simulation.

I've owned my share of Marshall heads, and I felt AmpliTube 2 accurately captured the high-midrange focus of the modern Marshalls that it modeled — they sound good and respond appropriately to the way you play. I was surprised that it didn't model the famous Marshall 1959 and 1987 (Plexi) amplifiers as well. I thought the Dual Rectifier simulation was quite good at capturing that heavily scooped nu-metal sound without obliterating notes.

IK Multimedia put a lot of care and effort into AmpliTube 2, and it shows. The complete user-interface redesign, the new effects and speaker models, and the new amp models all shine. Anyone thinking about adding a guitar-amplifier and -effects plug-in to their digital audio sequencer should seriously consider AmpliTube 2.


When Orren Merton isn't writing or editing music-technology books for Course Technology, he likes to simulate being a guitar player.

PRODUCT SUMMARY
IKMULTIMEDIA
AmpliTube 2.01

guitar-amp and -effects plug-in
$399

FEATURES 3
EASE OF USE 3
AUDIO QUALITY 4
VALUE 3

RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5

PROS: Great-sounding effects, amp, and cabinet simulations. Effective noise gate. User interface easy to navigate.

CONS: Tuner module too sensitive. Routing possibilities somewhat limited. Harmonator effect fiddly.

MANUFACTURER
IK Multimedia US LLC www.ikmultimedia.com

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