Get details on GearBox Plug-in's Silver and Gold bundles
For guitarists and anyone else who records guitar, the selection of gear-modeling software is greater than ever. Tones that for decades were available only to players with an extensive collection of stompboxes, amps, and speaker cabinets are now as accessible as loading a preset from a pop-up menu. Line 6 has long been a master in the field of modeling such hardware, and one of the latest products to take advantage of the company's experience is GearBox Plug-In.
FIG. 1: The Gold and Silver bundles both come with a combination dongle and instrument interface called the TonePort DI.
Plug It In
GearBox Plug-In is based on the standalone application GearBox (Mac/Win), which has served as a software front end for Line 6's TonePort USB guitar interfaces since 2005. GearBox Plug-In is available in two bundles, Silver and Gold, which differ in the number of modeling algorithms they include (for more information, see the online bonus material at www.emusician.com).
In Line 6 parlance, a configuration of models and their settings is called a tone. Line 6 derived most of GearBox Plug-In's models and tones from the PODxt and Bass PODxt. The Gold bundle furnishes every model Line 6 makes; they're designed for guitar, bass, vocals, and general studio use.
GearBox Plug-In supports AU on the Mac, VST in Windows, and RTAS on both platforms (on the Mac, though, Steinberg Cubase users are out of luck). Because it works like any other effects plug-in, you can completely change your tone after you've recorded a track. You can't do that with the standalone GearBox (which is included with GearBox Plug-In), nor can you do that with a hardware processor without routing a send and return loop from your audio interface. You can also use different instances on different tracks for a variety of tones you can change at will. Another advantage is that plug-ins recall the settings you used for each track. You can save any tones you edit in the standalone GearBox, of course, but the plug-in saves you the step of having to load them manually when you open a sequencer file. You can also use sequencer automation to control plug-in parameters — something you can't do with a standalone program.
GearBox Plug-In supports Mac OS X running on PowerPC and Intel processors, and Vista support is available to Windows users. I installed the software on my dual-processor 2.3 GHz Power Mac G5 with 4 GB of RAM and Mac OS X 10.4.10 and used it with MOTU Digital Performer 5.12 and Digidesign Pro Tools LE 7.3.
GearBox Plug-In comes with its own low-latency audio interface, the TonePort DI (see Fig. 1). The TonePort also serves as a copy-protection device that must be plugged into your computer's USB port for the software to work. The front panel offers only the basics — a ¼-inch input, a volume knob, and a button to engage a pad for instruments with active pickups. The rear gives you four ¼-inch jacks — one balanced DI (direct injection) out, two monitor outs, and one headphone out — and a USB port, which powers the device. And because it's such a small but essential unit, a slot on the back panel lets you connect a security cable.
If you'd rather use your own audio interface entirely and forgo the DI, you can do that as long as you leave the DI connected for use as a dongle. If you already own one of Line 6's TonePort or GuitarPort interfaces or a PODxt or Bass PODxt, you can download the plug-in from Line 6's Web site for $199.99. It comes with the same collection of models as the Silver bundle, minus the DI, and represents a pretty substantial savings. If you've previously purchased any Model Packs for your hardware, they are automatically added to the plug-in's collection of models.
FIG. 2: GearBox Plug-In Gold gives you every modeled amp, cabinet, preamp, and effects processor that Line 6 makes. You can use it to process not just guitar and bass, but any audio track.
GearBox Plug-In is a slightly scaled-down version of the GearBox application (see Fig. 2). Its straightforward layout displays amplifier controls and a virtual effects pedalboard, along with knobs to control input and output levels and VU meters that track the plug-in's outputs. When you click on a stompbox, its controls appear in the effects control panel. You can select from hundreds of amp, cabinet, and effects models and save any modifications you make as new user tones. My biggest complaint about GearBox Plug-In is that you select models and tones using hierarchical pop-up menus — always a cumbersome technique with any software. You have no means to quickly jump to a selected preset or step through a series of presets, either manually or with Program Changes.
Although the application boasts several features that the plug-in lacks, you can run the standalone GearBox app anytime you need to use the tuner, adjust Hum Reducer parameters, or download and learn one of the hundreds of songs available from GuitarPort Online (a free 30-day membership is included). By the way, Hum Reducer is amazingly handy if your pickups are unshielded, as they are on my Fender Stratocaster.
Although the standalone version of GearBox responds to MIDI Control Changes, the plug-in version does not. Fortunately, it does respond to sequencer automation, but that doesn't help much if you want to control the volume or wah-wah pedal effects in real time.
With every model in Line 6's bag of tricks, the Gold bundle furnishes quite a complete collection of virtual gear. Whether your taste in guitar amps leans toward Marshall, Fender, Vox, Hiwatt, Orange, or Line 6, GearBox Plug-In aims to please. Bass amps range from Ampeg and Fender to Eden and Gallien-Krueger. Emulations of guitar and bass cabinets made by all the same manufacturers are in plentiful supply, giving you everything from a single 6-inch to four 15-inch speakers. If you want to simulate a direct connection from your virtual amp head, just select No Cabinet. You can also switch off the amp modeling if you want to use only the effects, or you can use a mic preamp in place of an amp head.
The effects control panel contains ten categories, each devoted to a particular family of effects. Clicking on a slot reveals the controls for the chosen effects category, six of them with a pop-up menu for selecting presets (Gate, Volume, Compressor, and EQ have no presets). The Delay category delivers emulations ranging from an Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man analog delay to a Maestro EP-1 Echoplex tape delay. Mod effects include flangers, choruses, phase-shifters, rotary speakers, and the like. The Stomp category provides fuzz, distortion, ring mod, auto-wah, and quite a few unique effects that defy easy categorization. The Cab/ER category displays an image of a speaker cabinet and a microphone; you can click-and-drag the mic to determine its perceived distance from the cabinet and select from different mics for the guitar and bass cabinets.
Like other Line 6 products, GearBox Plug-In limits your ability to rearrange the order of effects. You can place the volume pedal, modulation, delay, and reverb after the amplifier using their Pre/Post switches, but otherwise it's strictly gate, volume pedal, wah, stomp, modulation, delay, reverb, cabinet/early reflection, compression, and EQ — in that order. Such rigidity does preclude some types of experimentation, but if you are experimentally minded, it's likely you have additional plug-ins that you can insert wherever you need them. Line 6 says that such limitations ensure compatibility with the PODxt's large library of tones and models.
Lest you think GuitarBox Plug-In is only for guitar and bass, many excellent presets are intended for processing vocals and even drums and other instruments. Six models are based on preamps from the likes of API, Neve, and Avalon, and 24 tones are specifically for vocals.
All Plugged In
As a plug-in as well as an application, GearBox now competes directly with similar native software such as IK Multimedia AmpliTube 2, Native Instruments Guitar Rig 3, Waves GTR, and Alien Connections ReValver Mk II. Not surprisingly, each has its strengths and weaknesses. Among GearBox Plug-In's strengths is its huge collection of awesome presets, many of them dead-on simulations of the setups used for particular hit songs. For processing all kinds of tracks — not just guitar and bass — GearBox Plug-In is one of the most versatile and useful multi-effects plug-ins I've ever used. Whether you're already a Line 6 convert, a guitarist who records with a computer, or a recordist who just wants a large repertoire of killer effects, GearBox Plug-In Gold is calling your name.
EM associate editor Geary Yelton has been playing guitar since high school and bass guitar since college. His virtual studio, Rea Road Tracks, is in Charlotte, North Carolina.
GearBox Plug-In Gold 3.10
effects modeling bundle
FEATURES 4 EASE OF USE 4 QUALITY OF SOUNDS 5 VALUE 3
RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Hundreds of awesome sounds. Intuitive GUI. Extreme versatility. Low-latency audio interface. Includes standalone version with excellent additional features.
CONS: Hierarchical menu selection. No real-time control of wah and volume pedals. No Mac VST support. Fixed order of effects.
Get details on GearBox Plug-in's Silver and Gold bundles