Check out the specs sidebar to the left for an accounting of the number of models included in Guitar Rig — everything starts with the amplifier. Four are included; Plexi, Twang Reverb, Gratifier, and, new in v1.2, AC Box — the amps these models are based on are pretty obvious, and Native Instruments has done a good job recreating the sounds and features of the originals. The attention to detail is wonderful, and there are even extended parameters:
- Power supply at 50 or 60Hz
- Variac for increasing or decreasing virtual AC voltage
- Sag, which simulates what happens to a power supply when you hit the amp hard
- Response, which changes how much power is stored in the virtual power supply capacitors
- Bias, which adjusts the virtual tubes’ grid bias
If you really want to tweak, you can dig way into these parameters and totally configure the sound and feel of the model.
A wide range of cabinets are included, from 1x12 open backs to several types of 4x12 boxes; plus you can control the size of the virtual cabinet, so your 4x12 can be tiny or huge. You can choose what type of mic is used on the cabinet, where it’s positioned, and how far away it is. Up to eight cabinets/mics can be used on one preset; each can be individually panned and EQed.
A variety of effects models are provided, from choruses to distortions to delays to wahs; you can split the signal at any point for parallel effects processing or for stereo effects.
Guitar Rig includes a variety of other features, such as built-in recorders (one before the modeling chain for the dry signal, the other after for the processed signal) that can either record and play your guitar licks, or load and play drum loops, a tuner (which can operate in strobe or “cent” modes), and a metronome with tap tempo.
There are powerful patch management and search/organization tools provided, which make it really easy to find the preset you want.
Taken just as software, Guitar Rig is a powerful tool. But add in the included Rig Kontrol foot controller, and the software can suddenly be used much more effectively by a guitar player to create a real performance. Rig Kontrol has four footswitches and a foot pedal, plus it has inputs and level controls for routing your guitar’s output into a soundcard or audio interface. The footswitches can be used for incrementing presets, turning effects on and off, and switching other parameters. The expression pedal can be assigned to control volume, to work a wah effect, or a variety of other parameters. You can calibrate the “throw” of the pedal to work exactly how you want.
Using Guitar Rig is a breeze, whether you are running it standalone or as a plug-in within your favorite DAW software. You can either call up presets, or create your own sounds, which is as difficult as dragging and dropping the components you want into the preset. Within minutes I was putting together a bank of useful sounds tailored to exactly the tones I like to use for various types of music: rock, metal, country, jazz, you name it. Whether you’re trying to duplicate an existing tone, or to create something that can’t exist in nature — or that would be extremely difficult to create in the real world, such as monstrous cabinets and combinations of cabinets, parallel processed signals with multiple splits, amplifiers processing amplifiers, and effects processing speaker cabinets. The number of possible combinations of amps/cabinets/processing are staggering; if you’re a tweaker, get ready to put in lots of fun-filled hours in search of the ultimate tone.
But it all comes down to the sound and feel, and Guitar Rig has both in spades. I didn’t feel as if I was playing through a computer; rather, I plugged in my guitar and created great tones that I could put together quickly and really play. The whole process is easy and transparent — and fun. And did I mention that Guitar Rig sounds great?
And, of course, Guitar Rig isn’t limited to just processing guitars; I had great results using it on keyboards, drums — you can run any signal you want through it. It’s especially useful for adding distortion — either subtle or not so subtle to drums, vocals, or whatever.
THE LONG & SHORT OF IT
Guitar Rig has what it takes. Whether I was creating new sounds, dialing in the ultimate tone, or simply jamming through the multitudinous presets, I had a blast with this product. The sounds are right, the feel is right — assuming your computer is powerful enough to deliver low latency — and Rig Kontrol lets your feet get in on the action.
There’s really only one problem: There are so many sonic combinations and so much flexibility that if you’re even mildly interested in creating new sounds, you’ll find yourself spending hours experimenting — I did.
I’m not giving up my Marshall, Boogie, or other tube amps, nor have I stopped lusting after a stellar AC30 to add to my collection; there’s still something visceral about playing a real amp loaded with glowing glass bottles through a thumping cabinet. But I expect that Guitar Rig will be my go-to tool for many of my electric guitar recording tasks. It’s just so easy and fast to dial up a great sound, and in a mix, I can’t imagine anyone could tell whether you had used Guitar Rig or the “real thing.”
Guitar Rig has definitely earned its place in my guitar recording toolbox. If you’re looking for a computer-based guitar amp/effects modeler, you owe it to yourself to give it a serious look. I think you’re going to be surprised just how real these models can sound and feel. Guitar Rig rocks? Why, yes it does.