FIG. 1: Waves GTR3 includes the new Tool Rack in both standalone and plug-in formats. It incorporates all of GTR3''s amps and effects in a single tabbed interface.
Competition in the field of guitar amplifier software has heated up considerably. Far from resting on its laurels, Waves has updated Guitar Tool Rack (GTR) to GTR3, adding an abundance of new software models and options. I reviewed Waves GTR 2.0 in the December 2006 issue (available online at emusician.com). In this review, I will focus on the changes made to it since then.
GTR3 is available in two different software versions. The GTR3 Complete System comes with the GTR3 software and the Waves/PRS Guitar Interface (WPGI), developed in collaboration with Paul Reed Smith Guitars. The GTR3 Software-Only Edition has only the software. In addition, the GTR Studio Guitar Interface package ($90) contains only the hardware interface. The hardware interface remains unchanged from previous versions (for details, see the online bonus material).
GTR3 supplies a bundle of plug-ins that support RTAS and VST in Windows and Mac OS X, as well as AU on the Mac. Unlike previous versions, the program also includes a standalone application. For guitarists who want to use GTR3 without having to instantiate it within a host, this is an extremely welcome addition. Both the plug-in bundle and the standalone software offer the Tool Rack plug-in, which has slots for two guitar amplifier simulations, slots for six stompboxes, and a tuner (see Fig. 1).
Previous versions of GTR supplied separate plug-ins for amplifier models and stompbox simulations, and GTR3 offers more than ever. One plug-in features an amplifier or dual amplifiers; three others give you two, four, or six stompbox slots; and another furnishes the aforementioned Tool Rack. I'm glad that the Tool Rack plug-in lets me create an entire GTR guitar setup in one interface. It conserves slots in my sequencer's channel strip and allows me to see my entire guitar signal chain at once. I find myself using the Tool Rack plug-in most often.
GTR3 features an updated graphical user interface for its plug-ins. The effects pedals, though still based on original Waves effects rather than models of hardware effects, have been given vintage stompbox graphics. Each effect has its own plug-in menu for presets and A/B settings comparisons.
FIG. 2: Waves GTR3 features a new head-and-cabinet-style interface containing all the controls for the amp models.
The amplifier models no longer all share the same virtual-radio-style graphic. Instead, the four virtual amp heads share a control panel and have different-colored grille cloths (see Fig. 2).
All of the amp heads feature five tone knobs, an on/off toggle switch, and a pop-up menu for choosing an amp model. To the right of the amp controls are the cabinet and mic selection pop-up menus and bypass switch.
The new Tool Rack plug-in has tabs for amp simulations, stompboxes, the tuner, and a preset matrix. The Stomp tab features the virtual pedalboard for effects. As with previous versions, you can insert any stompbox in any slot. GTR3, however, provides a slot for the amp models, allowing you to route selected effects before the amplifier and others after it.
The Stomp tab also lets you view the cable routings and select from parallel, split, or cascading cabling between slots (see Fig. 3). You can also directly adjust the input and output level for each stompbox in this view. I find View mode especially useful for making sure that I keep my levels reasonable between effects in a full pedalboard.
The Amp tab consists of two amplifier interfaces. The GUI for Tool Rack's amplifiers is different from that of the amp-only plug-ins. In Tool Rack, the amplifiers each have knobs to adjust the air (depth between mic and cabinet), delay, volume, and pan, as well as a switch to change the phase polarity. This setup allows you to blend the two amps and cabinets in various creative ways.
Tool Rack contains a tab for the tuner, which is excellent — my favorite tuner in any guitar-rig simulation package. A tuner may not be exciting, but many tuners are too fast or jittery to be of much use, especially if you're trying to tune quickly between songs. The GTR3 tuner offers advanced features such as a pop-up menu for selecting modes and alternate tunings, and the ability to adjust the reference tuning or toggle specific notes on or off. But its key feature is just how well it lets you quickly tune your guitar.
Of all the GTR3 plug-ins, I use Tool Rack the most. The standalone and plug-in versions of Tool Rack are identical, and presets created in one version are available in the other. You can save presets for each individual amp or stomp effect, so you can save your settings from the Tool Rack plug-in for each element separately and then use those settings in the other GTR3 plug-ins as well.
The bread and butter of any guitar-processing software is its guitar amplifier simulations. GTR3 increases the number to 19 models. The amplifiers modeled include Fender, Marshall, Mesa/Boogie, and Vox models, along with some unusual amps such as a 1968 Gibson Skylark, a 1966 Ampeg Gemini II, a Kotch combo, and numerous unspecified boutique and custom amps from Paul Reed Smith's private collection. There is also one Waves original simulation, Inferno, which, as its name implies, is a rather over-the-top high-gain model.
FIG. 3: With View mode selected in Tool Rack''s Stomp tab, you can see the current cable routing and select from three different routings for the effects, both before and after the amplifier.
The amps modeled from more familiar brands all sound very good and true to the character of the originals. The Clean, Punchy, Edgy, and Crush simulations in particular sound very much like their hardware counterparts (see Web Clip 1).
The emulations of unique amps from PRS's private stock, such as the Warm, Scream, and Scorch models, also sound very realistic and dynamic. They retain their amplike qualities as you manipulate the signal using your guitar's volume knob and other performance techniques. Some of the higher-gain models have a nasally, notch-equalized sound and an overly compressed feel, but perhaps those are also qualities of the original custom amplifiers.
GTR3 is the first version of GTR to offer bass amplifier emulations, with six amplifiers and one DI box/preamp combination. The bass models cover many classic amps from Ampeg, Sadowsky, Hartke, and Mesa/Boogie. The bass amps all sound good; the Ampeg models have the punch and edge of their hardware counterparts, and the Hartke model has the articulation of the amp it models. These are a great addition to GTR3.
Let It Rip
In the past couple of months, I've played my Koll Tornado, Gretsch Duo Jet, and Carvin 12-string electric-acoustic through both the standalone and plug-in versions of Waves GTR3. With GTR3 running in Apple Logic Pro 8, I have also processed all kinds of prerecorded tracks, from guitar to vocals to drums, with excellent results. The new GUI is easy to navigate, and I can quickly dial up the sounds I want. The amps have a realistic, dynamic feel when I'm playing live, and they sound great on both live and recorded tracks.
Waves GTR3 doesn't have as many hardware simulations as competing software such as Line 6 Gearbox Plug-In Gold, nor does Tool Rack offer the unlimited routing flexibility of Native Instruments Guitar Rig 3. And though Waves effects can achieve excellent, lush sounds (see Web Clip 2), I would love to see emulations of classic '60s stompboxes included as well. Nevertheless, GTR3 is an excellent update to an already solid guitar effects suite. Users of GTR 2.0 will love this update, and anyone in the market for a guitar software bundle should definitely check out Waves GTR3.
When Orren Merton isn't writing and editing music-technology books for Course Technology, he simulates being a guitarist for Ember After (www.emberafter.com).
guitar amp- and effects-modeling software
Complete System $375 Software-Only Edition $290
PROS: New standalone version. New Tool Rack plug-in. Excellent tuner. Great-sounding amp models.
CONS: Routing options not unlimited. Lacks emulations of classic stompboxes.
FEATURES 1 2 3 4 5 EASE OF USE 1 2 3 4 5 QUALITY OF SOUNDS 1 2 3 4 5 VALUE 1 2 3 4 5