Applied Acoustic Systems' Strum Electric GS-1 provides a versatile array of electric guitar sounds and delivers tools for authentic performances.
Soon after EM reviewed Applied Acoustics Systems (AAS) Strum Acoustic GS-1 in the March 2009 issue, we learned that an electric version was waiting in the wings. Strum Acoustic sounded utterly convincing in ensemble and rhythm settings, and even upfront as accompaniment or solo when voiced and played like a guitar. The plug-in nimbly reassigned incoming MIDI notes to authentic guitar voicings, provided up-and-down strumming with alternate articulations and could play MIDI files recreating guitar performances. Finally, keyboardists could create solid, authentic-sounding acoustic guitar tracks sans guitar. Unlike some worthy contenders, AAS delivers its sounds using physical modeling rather than as a sample library, which would need to be huge to deliver the same depth and realism.
Strum Electric ($229, MSRP; $379 bundled with Strum Acoustic GS-1) follows a similar path, offering the same set of strumming and damping keys and the ability to perform hammer-on and pull-off techniques. Because electric guitar is very different from acoustic guitar, AAS supplies a distinct set of sound-shaping tools. These range from emulated pickup configurations to amp modeling and effects. The software comes in stand-alone, as well as Audio Units, VST and RTAS plug-in formats.
I STRING THE BODY ELECTRIC
Strum Electric's main page provides overall adjustments for pick, strings, amp, various playing techniques and pickup choices — it doesn't simply translate MIDI input into guitar chords. The remapped notes are assigned to individual strings, and clicking on any string exposes its discrete settings, much like the individual string variations of any electric guitar. You can dial in two types of hard picks, along with a simulation of a soft pick or finger pluck. Pulling back the Edge dial produces a convincing, meat-of-the-thumb attack. Having individual string adjustments makes it possible to simulate a pick in the bass with fingers plucking the other strings.
Other adjustments include several controls to simulate the vibrational modes of each string and the way they interact. You produce buzzing and beating effects with the Coupling parameter, and you have plenty of latitude to create interesting and useful synthetic tones (see Web Clip 1).
A QUICK PICKUP
You select and edit the guitar's pickup type from within the individual string settings. A toggle switch provides a choice of single- or double-coil pickups with parameters for neck and bridge placements (distance from those points, harmonic content and resonance). The controls are quite realistic and offer plenty of tonal variety. Still, I would love to see more complex pickup arrays, such as a three-pickup instrument or a single-coil pickup at the bridge with a humbucker in the neck position.
You could probably get interesting results by choosing a different pickup for each string, but changes made to the pickup parameters affect all strings. It would be nice to be able to change each string's distance relative to neck or bridge to emulate guitars with pickups mounted at an angle. You switch between neck, bridge or both types of pickups on the main page of the instrument, and Strum can learn a MIDI message to switch between pickups in real time (see Web Clip 2).
TAKE A CAB
Strum Electric's guitar amp provides two channels. On the first channel, the drive knob ranges from clean to a nicely overdriven tone, whereas the second channel delivers more aggressive distortion. You get low, high and midrange knobs; a master volume; a dial to adjust spring reverb; and a toggle switch for open or closed-rear cabinet. Open gives a subtle boost to the high end. You can defeat the cabinet to create a direct-injected tone, and you'll find some DI presets in the browser.
Despite my wish list for future expansions, Strum Electric offers keyboardists a versatile array of guitars and the right performance tools. As with its acoustic counterpart, it can work well embedded in a rhythm track or exposed in solos. Its intelligent mapping of guitar chords from keyboards makes it a godsend when a guitar (or guitarist) isn't within reach. By all means, download the demo and the manual and check it out. I highly recommend it.
Overall rating (1 through 5): 4
Applied Acoustic Systems