AF’s Weblog

June 1, 2010

IK Multimedia Amplitube 3 Review

Filed under: Amps, Software — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 11:11 am

IK Multimedia was one of the pioneers in guitar amp simulation software with their famous Amplitube launched in 2002. The Italian company comes back eight years later with the third version of their flagship product. And what’s new you ask?

Amp simulation software manufacturers have been fighting their battle over the last eight years offering more models, new GUIs, new algorithms, and new functionalities. The advantages of amp simulation software are plenty (direct recording, reamping, huge sound possibilities, etc.) and a lot of guitar players and home studio owners already have one of them or are seriously think about getting one. So, what are the advantages of this new Amplitude over its competitors? We’ll try to answer that question in this detailed review…

No Need to Go Out Anymore

Amplitube 3The first good news (specially for lazy people) is that the full software can be downloaded from the IK Multimedia website so you don’t need to go out to start playing with your new toy right away. You’ll have to pay $349.99, which seems a bit expensive compared to similar products available for under $300 (Guitar Rig 4, Revalver). This fact makes Amplitube 3 start out on the wrong foot, but maybe its sound justifies the price difference…

Once you download the product, the installation under Mac and Windows goes very smoothly and the GUI is displayed after only a few seconds. The first step is the software configuration: set up the audio and MIDI interface you want to use and the buffer size, which will have a direct influence on Amplitude’s latency. With a small buffer size (256 samples or less) the latency, i.e. the time gap between the moment the signal goes into your sound card and the moment you actually hear it through your monitor speakers, will be pretty low or even imperceptible. However, your computer will have to stand a very high processing load and some artifacts might appear if it doesn’t have enough CPU power. You’ll have to find the right setting depending on your system. Once the configuration is made, you are ready to concentrate on the GUI…

A Look Through the Window

Amplitube 3The GUI of Amplitude 3 is divided into five sections: the area on the top allows you to directly load presets sorted by amp or style (clean, crunch, extreme, etc.) or to activate the preset browser that provides a short description and indicates the sound character and instrument. Do notice that the preset browser not only monitors the preset names but also their description and sound character. Thus it is very easy to filter all jazz or metal sounds… A nice feature to quickly find presets that might be useful for your particular needs. Of course, you can also save your own presets and delete them later. Also notice the X-Change feature that allows you to share your presets with the rest of the world — you might even find interesting sounds, who knows!

The software works with three quality modes: hi, mid and eco (from most to least demanding in terms of processing power). This will allow you to reduce the system’s load if you use a lot of effects at the same time. The audio quality is slightly reduced with the mid and eco modes, but not dramatically so the software remains useful. To help you make yourself an idea, a preset requiring 25% CPU load in hi mode will require 19% in mid mode and only 11% in eco mode. This can be a big advantage if your system is not very powerful or if you work with several instances of the software simultaneously.

Finally, you can also select here an IK Multimedia StompIO ($900) or StealthPedal ($200) controller — if you are among their lucky owners.

Amplitube 3Right underneath you’ll find the section for signal path selection. You can choose among eight paths going through two pedalboards, two amps, two speaker cabinets, and two effect racks. For example, you can chain two pedalboards in series, route them to an amp head feeding two different speaker cabinets and passing through two effect racks. This system is probably not as intuitive and comprehensive as Guitar Rig where you can drag & drop any module wherever you want, but it will certainly fulfill the needs of most guitar players and it has the advantage of preventing the user from making mistakes (for instance, inserting a fuzz effect at the end of the chain!). Moreover, you can use two fully independent paths to enjoy Amplitude 3 with two guitars. In this case, each instrument has its own pedalboard, amp, speaker cabinet, and effects rack. A very good point!

Simply click one of the elements on the signal path to display it in the main section of the GUI…

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Amplitube 3The third Amplitube version brings some interesting new features along, including new modelings (the list is getting longer!), an integrated 4-track recorder and the possibility to use two pedalboards/amps/speakers/effect racks at the same time. This is good news for users who like to jam with friends because each musician plays his own guitar and his own rig! The large mic and speaker selection multiply the possibilities, even though we regret the lack of convolution technology. The three quality modes available allow the software to match the computer depending on its resources, while the pedalboard drag & drop feature, the preset browser and its tagging system add a lot of comfort.

Nevertheless, we do have to criticize the background noise that is always present as soon as you increase the gain, and also the higher price compared to competitor products (can we expect a price reduction anytime soon Mr. IK?). However, there’s no doubt that Amplitude remains one of the top products out there and it will delight guitar players looking for a comprehensive and powerful software.

Advantages:

  • Plethora of amps and effects
  • Overall quality of the modelings
  • Independent preamp stage, power amp, and EQ
  • Comprehensive and convenient integrated 4-track recorder
  • Simultaneous use of two amps
  • Two mics per speaker cabinet
  • Three quality modes
  • Ability to chain up to twelve stompboxes and eight rack effects
  • Preset browser with tag management

Drawbacks:

  • More expensive than competitors
  • Some poor quality modelings
  • No convolution technology
  • Background noise with high gain settings

To read the full detailed article see: Amplitube 3 Review

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