Amp-modeling plug-ins have been available to electric guitarists for years. Some include a few presets for bass guitar, but software designed specifically
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Amp-modeling plug-ins have been available to electric guitarists for years. Some include a few presets for bass guitar, but software designed specifically for electric bassists has been nonexistent. IK Multimedia, in collaboration with respected bass-amp manufacturer Ampeg, has corrected that situation by developing Ampeg SVX (Mac/Win, $399). The AU-, RTAS-, and VST-compatible plug-in emulates Ampeg amp heads and speaker cabinets, Ampeg-branded stompboxes, and several popular microphones.

Setting the Stage

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Bass players of the world, rejoice: Ampeg SVX is a plug-in that quite effectively emulates amplifiers, speaker cabinets, stompboxes, and a tuner for bass guitar.

I tested SVX in Apple Logic Pro 7.1, Digidesign Pro Tools 7.1, and Steinberg Cubase SX3. My computer was a dual-processor 2.3 GHz Power Mac G5 with 4 GB of RAM running Mac OS X 10.4.8. My bass was a 1993 Fender Prophecy III played through a PreSonus MP20 preamp, a MOTU 2408mk3 audio interface, and Tannoy PBM 6.5 LM amplified monitors.

Installation and authorization were straightforward, though after I'd authorized the AU version, I had to reenter the serial number when I opened the RTAS and VST versions. SVX's copy protection uses a Syncrosoft USB key.

SVX has four modules — Amp, Cabinet, Stomp, and Tuner — which you select one at a time. At the top of the user interface are menus and buttons for working with modules and presets, and below are meters and level knobs.

Bass Solo

SVX emulates real Ampeg amplification gear: two amp heads, four speaker cabinets, and two combo amps. You can independently select the amps and cabinets of the B-15R and BA-500 combo amps. SVT-CL faithfully duplicates the most recent edition of the classic SVT, the amplifier that launched a thousand grooves. SVT-4 PRO gives you plenty of controls for tailoring your sound, including onboard compression and 9-band EQ. All four SVX amps furnish the same controls and overall tonal character as the original hardware.

The four cabinet emulations model Ampeg's BXT-410H, PB-212H, SVT-410H, and SVT-819E, each with various configurations of 10-, 12-, and 15-inch speakers. Just like the real cabinets, each selection has its own tonal attributes that emphasize bottom, punch, or other qualities.

The Cabinet module gives you a choice of dynamic and condenser mics ranging from the Shure SM57 and Sennheiser MD 421 to the AKG C 414 and Neumann U 87. You can change the mic's position relative to the speaker's center, place it closer or farther from the speaker, and adjust the depth of room ambience. You won't mistake SVX's virtual mics for the originals, but they do offer additional means to vary your bass's tone.

The Stomp module has six slots, each with a menu for selecting from eight stompboxes. The overdrive and octave divider simulate real Ampeg stompboxes, and four others — chorus, delay, compressor, and envelope filter — share their form factor. The bass wah and volume pedal resemble typical footpedals. I'd prefer that the effects directly responded to MIDI Control Changes, but the only way to change their parameters is by using your mouse or sequencer automation. Nonetheless, each stompbox performs well and provides musically useful parameters.

The easy-to-use chromatic Tuner module automatically detects the pitch and displays its note name, value in cents, and deviation from center. A large meter shows the pitch range, with real-time variations indicated in blue; intonation is correct when the center turns a steady orange.

The Lowdown

SVX lets you select individual amps, cabinets, and stompboxes to create and save your own combinations. You can also choose from 78 factory presets divided into two categories. The Amps category supplies variations on each of the four amps, either direct (bypassing the cabinet) or paired with different cabinets and occasional effects (see Web Clip 1). The Styles category divides presets into Fingered, Muted, Pick, Slap, and Synth subcategories. Synth presets aren't actually synthesized, but they are effects-heavy sounds that expand the bass's tonal palette (see Web Clip 2).

Owning SVX is like owning a collection of Ampeg amps and speakers, without the weight and space requirements. It does an outstanding job of emulating the sonic signature of all four amps, and the stompboxes are terrific. What's more, its CPU demands were never excessive. I'm thrilled to have SVX in my plug-in library, and I expect to use it often.

Considering that no two real amps or cabinets sound exactly alike, even if they're identical models, I'm not very concerned with whether the software emulations sound exactly the same as the original hardware. I just want something that makes my bass sound awesome when I'm recording, and SVX certainly fits the bill. For anyone who records bass guitar using a computer, I wholeheartedly recommend Ampeg SVX.

Value (1 through 5): 4
IK Multimedia