IK Multimedia AmpliTube 3 ($299 street)
What: The next generation of IK’s cross-platform
VST/AU/RTAS/standalone AmpliTube modeling software, with
a ton of emulations: 51 stompboxes/effects, 31
amp/preamp/power sections, 46 cabinet models, 15 virtual
mics with virtually unlimited miking options, and 17 post-amp
“studio” rack effects that help create a “produced” sound.
Two mics being set up on a cabinet, one close and centered, the other further away and on the edge of the speaker.
Why: AmpliTube, introduced in 2002, was the first native amp
sim software; each iteration has given not just more gear to play
with, but a more detailed, organic emulation that continues to
refine the amp sim tone.
Installation: IK has ditched the dongle in favor of a simple
online registration system, as well as a user area that makes it
easy to keep track of authorizations, or ask for more if your hard
drive blows up. But check for updates—IK often does “point”
releases with extra features and bug fixes.
Learning curve: AmpliTube 3 (AT3 for short) is very much
designed for guitarists, down to the graphic look, and is pretty
non-intimidating. IK also makes several hardware interface/controller
products that work with AT3, thus simplifying the learning
curve for an IK-based system.
Best bits: AT3 has added extensive room/mic modeling options
that go far beyond previous versions. You can use two virtual mics
(chosen from 15 different types) and place them pretty
much anywhere in relation to the virtual cabinets, which
themselves can live in five different room types. This may
not seem like as big a deal as new models, but being able
to model not just an amp, but an amp in a room,
contributes much to realism. It’s also possible to change
cabinet size, which is a great effect when creating amp
stacks. But even this takes a back seat to the sound, which
has a certain warmth, and effectively models the Holy Grail of amp sims—the clean-to-breakup transition. The new amp and
effects models reflect the increasing sophistication of IK’s algorithms,
but some of the older elements have gotten a makeover as
well. For example, the reverb looks the same, but is now impulsebased
instead of synthesized, yielding a more accurate sound.
What's more, AT3 includes two virtual pedalboards. You can
connect them in series to create a chain of 12 effects, or in parallel
if you prefer two chains of six effects.
Limitations: AT3’s main issue is trading off ease of use for flexibility.
For example, there are eight routings and while they cover
most (if not all) of what most people need, you can’t, for example,
do parallel processing beyond two signal chains. Also, it’s
not possible to apply various types of modulation to different
processors, although AT3 has added some more “synth-like”
processors such as step filtering.
Bottom line: You can download a demo and decide for yourself
if AT3 makes the kind of sounds you like, but suffice it to say that
if based on past experience you don’t think amp sims can deliver
warm, organic tones, check out AT3—you might be surprised not
only at the capabilities, but the beguiling sound quality.
More from this Guitar Recording Roundup....Roundup: Guitar Recording Mash-Up
Cakewalk V-Studio 20 ($299 street)
Apogee GiO ($395 street)
Line 6 POD Farm 2 (from $49 street)
Gibson Dusk Tiger ($4,128 MSRP)
Lâg Tramontane guitars ($199.99 to $729.99, depending on model)
Zoom G2.1Nu ($200 street)
Traynor DH15H DarkHorse ($520 street)