Native Instruments Guitar Rig 3

Guitar Rig 3—a modeling software program of amps, pedals, effects, cabinets, and more—makes recording guitar a lot more interesting, fun, and easy. It can serve as a plug-in for recording, or work standalone for live performance.
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Furthermore, GR3 is available with the Rig Kontrol, a 24-bit/192kHz audio USB 2.0 interface with pedalboard that includes the same converters as NI’s Audio Kontrol interface. There are two 1/4" inputs with line/ instrument switch and gain knob; the 1/4" outputs have a high and low setting. There’s also a headphone out with volume control, MIDI In/Out, and two pedal inputs.

BANKS/ PRESETS

Most players will recognize the look and names of amps, cabinets, and effects. The category menu is great because it is arranged by amp type, signature sounds and style. Some of the presets are designed for certain pickups and positions (SC, HB, SC Bridge, and so on). There are also presets for drums, keys/synth, vocal, and fx.

To give some examples of the 12 amp and 28 cabinet types, “Clean (SC)” uses the White Hot amp for a great, bright single coil tone for funk and blues. The “Clean (SC Neck)” is a lot warmer as it uses a Plex with a matched cabinet. The “Fender Twang” was somewhere in the middle. Warm drive sounds include “Crunch Lite,” “Stevies Rhythm,” and “Texas Crunch.” The “Ultrasonic Crunch” is one of my favorites—single notes had a little bit of bite, while chords were dirty.

The Lead 800 category brings us into the heavy drive, distortion sounds. You really hear the tone of the 4x12 cabinet with the 800 in the Classical Rock bank. For a brighter sound, try the “Foo Monkeys.” The Metal, Modern Rock, and Ultrasonic categories give more aggressive tones. The “Scooped” could use a deeper scooper; “Modern Metal” was more to my liking, with more bass and less highs. “Late 80s Metallic” was another good distortion sound. “Heavy Lead” made notes sing. I really liked the “Modern Lead,” and the “Modern Scoop”(using the “Gratifier”) worked well; but with the gain turned up to 11, “Modern Lead” needed the noise reduction component added to it between the cabinet and effects. The “Matched Cabinet” feature makes it easy to get going with an amp as it’s automatically linked to a suitable cabinet (which of course, you can change). Interestingly, rolling off your guitar volume affects the amps just as it would with a real tube amp.

NEW EFFECTS

Guitar Rig 3 includes 44 effects, including six new ones and five modifiers. In addition to the usual effects (chorus, flanger, phaser, EQ, wah, delay and reverb), the new Tape Echo has spacey delays with added movement and speed. A fine option to a driven amp is the Sledge Hammer, which delivers great tube-like drive sounds. Delay Man provides nice delays with a bit of optional modulation (chorus/vibrato). Real Wah models a high-end wah (which just saved me over $200). Custom EQ is a warm equalizer with a bass/treble filter and a tweakable midrange scoop. Besides the “robotic” type of sound the Ring Modulator delivers, it possesses superb vibrato and tremolo presets.

EDITING

Editing GR3 involves dragging “components” displayed on the left into a virtual rack on the right (Figure 1). You have choices of amps, distortions, modulations (chorus, flanger, tremolo, etc.), EQs, volume (compressor, gates, and more), and reverbs. Under Tools you get a “looper” machine, split (ideal for making parallel effects paths), and two-band crossover. Modifiers include a low frequency oscillator, envelope, two types of sequencer effects, and input level.

If you really want to get into deep editing with a tube amp, you can “unfold” a module to reveal the “expert” controls. Here you can control parameters including (for amps) voltage—power supply, Variac, supply sag, response (bias)—just like modifying an actual amp, but without the solder fumes. On the Fender Twang you can edit the amp’s reverb, which is great because I always felt the reverb was too deep on the “real thing.” Even the effects have expert controls; I love the idea of editing a wah and coming up with a different sound.

I also love the “learn” function, which makes it easy to set levels: Play hard, and the cabinet’s learn button for volume automatically sets the output level to avoid clipping. Nice! The noise reduction and noise gate have learn functions as well.

You can spend hours with the Modifier components. The Input Level component lets you control a parameter by how hard you pick/strum. I set up a chorus and controlled the speed and intensity with the input level. When I strummed softly it was slow, and sped up as I dug in. These types of features can add a more live or random aspect to recording a guitar track.

Effects presets can be saved within the individual component. For example if you come up with a favorite chorus configuration, you can name it and save as a chorus preset, then recall it any time you have the chorus in a “rig.”

PLUG IT IN

One advantage of GR is the true stereo operation. If you set up a sound with the split component, you can pan two separate tones left and right. You could use a basic guitar sound, clean or dirty, with any of the modifiers: Pan the guitar sound left and the modifier part right, then record the track. You can get feedback through your speakers also—you have to place the speaker close to the guitar to initiate the feedback, but it is doable.

“LOOK MA, NO HANDS”

You can automate any parameter in GR through your sequencer. So if you want to automate a filter, delay time, or maybe the split mix panning between two signal chains, let your imagination run wild. Uses of Rig Kontrol for recording are the obvious wah and whammy/pitch pedal. One really cool feature is that you can assign the Rig Kontrol pedal to a parameter in your preset, then use that to record automation to get more of a live feel. Most of the modulation and delay effects can sync to tempo for rhythmic effects.

A LITTLE MORE . . .

A “Hi Quality Mode” button allows for more detailed sounds at the expense of taxing your CPU (and it’s worth the CPU hit); and don’t worry if you have presets from previous versions, as GR3 can import them. Finally, the manual offers many tips on achieving better guitar tones (distortion, EQ tips, and more). There are also other features that are geared towards a non-recording environment.

CONCLUSIONS

GR3 is very guitarist-friendly by being simple on the surface, but gives serious depth for those who want to build and edit their own custom “racks” of sounds. Whether you use one sound or a ton of diverse sounds (or want to come up with new, futuristic sounds no one has heard before), GR 3 could be the ultimate guitar rack without the price tag (or weight!). For the price of a mid-range combo amp, you get 300 presets that not only cover all styles—vintage, classic, and modern—but sound surprisingly close to what’s being modeled.

PRODUCT TYPE: Guitar amp/effects modeling software.
TARGET MARKET: Recording guitarists, particularly those who have acoustics issues with loud amps, as well as live performance.
STRENGTHS: Simple but deep. Quality tones. Easy editing. Versatile sound palette. Helpful manual.
LIMITATIONS: No XLR input. No volume output control on interface.
LIST PRICE: $559 (with Rig Kontrol), $339 software only, $119 software upgrade, $289 interface/floor board.
CONTACT:www.native-instruments.com