20 January 2013

Home Studio: IK Multimedia Amplitube 3 plugin - first contact

Introduction

Note: this entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around February 2010. I am revisiting it here, with added comments.

Alright!, the "Tone King", as IK Multimedia's guys name it, took a while to be ready but, it was finally released and, I've got it, downloaded to my PC and in testing phase.


Major enhancements?

Respect of Amplitube 2, I think that Amplitube 3 shines specially in two areas:
  • Dynamics of amps and effects models
  • Micking system for cabs and speakers
For sure, there lot of other minor enhancements but, in my opinion, those are the two new things that worth the upgrade from Amplitube 2, hands on.



Cab / Speakers control

This new area of Amplitube 3 is simply awesome.
Not a new idea, indeed; Sweeden company Softube already developed a virtual system of micking amps, in their amp simulation plugins. I always wanted to buy Softube' stuff but, I've found their products expensive enough and, even more taken into account the short list of amp models included in each plugin.

Now, it is posible to apply this new virtual micking system to all your well known amp models, as well as the few new models that came with this new version.
A wonderfull way to suit the sound to your like.
Just swap the mics and the sound changes. Move any mic around and the sound changes.
Typical phase cancellation issues occurs, as in the real world and, this is not necesarely bad, since it can help you to remove unwanted extreme frequencies or even get some weird and freaky effect.
You can select the output level of each mic, as well as its panoramization in the stereo image.
Additionally to this, there are two ambient mics but, for those, you can just change the gap between both, what wides or narrows the stereo ambience.
It also includes 4 convolutive ambience models, to emulate rooms of different sizes.
Those two mics can be mixed together with the cab's mics to taste, helping to make the amp simulator to sound as real as in a recording sesion.

I think IK Multimedia did an awesome work here but, to be perfect, I would like this plugin to have the possibiliy to route each mic to an independent track or bus in your DAW.
In that way, you could process individually each mic, even with different audio processors, depending on the needs.
Currently the micking system gives to you infinite possibilities to sculpt your amp' sound to taste but, that additional control over different tracks in the DAW would give to IK Multimedia the real name of "King of Tone".

Dynamics

One of the things that were very clear in Amplitube 2 amp and effect models was a real lack of dynamics. Models response was very uniform and independent of your picking stregth. Models were sounding overall good but, with a complete lack of sensibility respect of your picking technique.
In this new version, amp models have a very dynamic respnse. To play lightly can put the sound under the tube break-up point and, picking hard you can make the "valve" to explode in harmonics, like in real amps.

Effects are also more sensible and, knobs are really responsive and closer to real world. Now, they make real changes in the pedal effect, while in Amplitube 2 each knob had just 3 positions: right, middle and left.

Amp models

Most of the amp models are those that were already included in following packs: Amplitube 2, Jimi Hendrix and Amplitube Metal. Some of models disapeared but, most of them are there.
As new, some Orange (OR30, if memory doesn't fail), some other version of a Vox AC30 (copper pannel), a Mesa Boggie MKIII, three new bass amplifiers (very nice to escape from Ampeg, from time to time!) and, very few else.
Any other Amplitube's pack that you had installed continues working fine but, this time integrated in Amplitube 3 and, with all those enhancements already discussed above.

X-Gear follows working flawless but, it makes more sense to use the new, clearer and powerfuller interface of Amplitube 3.
I am missing some mythical amps of several makers as:
  • Hiwatt
  • Conford
  • Matchless
  • Bogner
  • Soldano
  • Diezel
  • Dumble
  • Dr. Z
I can fully understand the huge amount of work that is behind modeling each amp, effect, cab, speaker, rack effect that comes included and, that price of boutique amps and effects is really high but, to be the real King of Tone, you need the Kings of Amps, vintage and modern. Period.

Something I don't like about the plugin and drives me crazy with some amp models (very specially, AC30 ones) is that there is no way to select a "pure" amp and tweak its controls. You have several versions of an amp: Clean, Crunch, etc and, for each one, some knobs are available, some don't so, there is no way to work on the whole pannel of your amp, switching the channel and tweaking each knob as in real world.
Even that the different "sides" of an amp do the job, it seems an unnatural way of doing things.

Cabs and speakers

In this version, you can clearly see which cab mounts each amp so, it's very easy to test different cabs and learn which cab better matches which amp, when looking for that tone.
This, together with the micking subsystem, brings to you huge oportunities to catch your tone.

It would be just DA BOMB if, for each cab you could choose the speakers and their configuration (parallel, series, X, etc).
This area was really nicely enhanced and I love the changes!.

Automatization

More or less, equal to Amplitube 2 but, made way easier.
There is a knob named AUTO where you assign each knob or characteristic (bypass, mute, gain, tone, etc.) to some parameter. In other place, you assign a pedal, effect or whatever to such a parameter. Then, you can use the possibilites of automatization inside your DAW, by example, to activate or deactivate some effect during reproduction.
By the way, the most interesting from the point of view of playing would be to have some kind of controller to do it in real time. I think IK Multimedia will release son control pedalboard for Amplitube 3, around June 2010, what would be nice.

Today, it's possible to work with other units but, they are both, audio interfaces and controllers. I don't need audio interfaces, because I've got mine, or superior quality.


Conclusions

For an user that already has all Amplitube 2 packs... worths it the change?.
ABSOLUTELLY YES!.
All the micking subsystem opens a new borad horizont in the ways you can modelate the sound within Amplitube 3. This is the Key Stone of this new version.
Even that most of amps were already available in several Amplitube 2 packs, now all them have a more authentic behavior, more "real", dynamic and responsive and, the micking system makes them more convincent.

For new users, price tag can be a bit too much but, a crossgrade or upgrade still have an attractive price as to move on this. For new users that have to choose between version 3 or old version 2 packs, if they were interested in more than one version 2 pack (what's very probable), it's better to go for version 3.

Amplitube Fender and Amplitube Ampeg AREN'T included in Amplitube 3, because they had already most of the modeling technology that has been used later to re-modelate gear in Amplitube 3.
If you already have those, you can still benefite of the enhancement of the cab and mic subsystems.

In my honest opinion, for the price tag of this new Amplitube version, all the old packs should be included by default, leaving for the future new packs to include those boutique amps that I am always missing in Amplitube plugins.

The micking subsystem would be perfect with an individual routing of each independent mic to a separate track of your DAW.

The possibility to record the clean signal y one single track and, all the automatisms of the pedalboard in a separate track could be of real utility for live playing, as well as for live recordings, with the possibility of giving a final touch later, in the mix.

So, in my opinion an awesome PRINCE but, still not a KING.
Dont' be fooled, this is a GREAT PRODUCT but, once you see all those new possibilites, you start to think that they could probably went some steps further.
IK Multimedia people is doing it REALLY GOOD so, let wait for new enhancements!.

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