The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

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guitarzan
KVRian
1149 posts since 3 Sep, 2005 from Outer Bongolia

Post Tue Sep 03, 2019 2:19 pm

Peter - IK Multimedia wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 1:17 pm
… IK is made up of mostly musicians and not bean counters. Along with many of us having vast knowledge in certain areas of music (mine would be audio engineering and composition, my dual major at Berklee beyond being a more than passable guitarist among other musical skills) and noticing that your claims don't match what we do and you were posting so many times about it that it was time to finally clear that up.

And it's "corporate" just FYI.
I don't know, pretty much like I was saying. Sounds good as far as it goes, but a real tweed goes much further. Plus, I don't see any headphones in that video, so if that's the sound of the monitors being miced then you've added a real power amp and real speakers moving air in a real room to the mix (mic, mic pre... ), even if they are full range it still adds to the sound (run a POD or anything through an amplified full range speaker and mic it with an omni or pzm so you don't add phase weirdness — sounds huge and real. Still don't feel right). Even then the sound has a lot of spikey bright peaks poking through and the sag doesn't sound very prominent to me (it's the feel under the fingers that counts, but I can usually tell by listening at this point) , plus the examples stop well short of heavy power amp overdrive where the truly bizarre wave shaping kicks in — to be fair, that would usually require a huge clean boost into the front of the amp. Most sims just go squarewave fuzz at that point, with random digital nasties for added awfulness. Can't really be sure from the video I guess, but I didn't care for the first Fender package.

Plus, I don't recall ever mentioning IK.

If you want me to go away — either don't reply to my posts, or try something like "we are always striving to improve amp modeling and consider all suggestions...[add latest marketing buzz phrases]", that kind of B.S.

Don't have a cow, Anderton. I was just going to post and split for another several years but you just can't let anything go. Fine. Amp sims are devinely inspired, perfect in every way and should never be changed.

reggie1979
KVRian
1389 posts since 26 Nov, 2018

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 03, 2019 2:31 pm

Ok, my post was general. It wasn't directed at anyone, just calm down. It's ALL GOOD.

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Anderton
KVR Expert
101 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 03, 2019 3:13 pm

guitarzan wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 2:19 pm
Don't have a cow, Anderton. I was just going to post and split for another several years but you just can't let anything go. Fine. Amp sims are devinely inspired, perfect in every way and should never be changed.
26 posts is the perfect example of not letting things go. Stop posting the same thing over and over again, and I won't feel the need to tell you to please stop posting the same thing over and over again.

I never said amp sims are perfect in every way and should never be changed, so don't imply that I did. I said 26 posts on a personal agenda topic are enough, and suggested you start a separate thread. My suggestion remains. Besides, if your agenda is truly to get amp sim developers onboard, a separate thread would be a much better place for a sustained discussion on a single topic.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

mmann
KVRer
28 posts since 22 Nov, 2015

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 03, 2019 3:41 pm

I think we should cut "guitarzan" some slack!

I have a 93 year old mother who keeps repeating things over and over; she can't help herself. So "guitarzan" should be treated like my mother; listened to once and ignored the other dozens of times he repeats.

reggie1979
KVRian
1389 posts since 26 Nov, 2018

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 03, 2019 4:06 pm

So, how about those amp sims, eh?

guitarzan
KVRian
1149 posts since 3 Sep, 2005 from Outer Bongolia

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 03, 2019 4:30 pm

Anderton wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 3:13 pm
guitarzan wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 2:19 pm
Don't have a cow, Anderton. I was just going to post and split for another several years but you just can't let anything go. Fine. Amp sims are devinely inspired, perfect in every way and should never be changed.
26 posts is the perfect example of not letting things go. Stop posting the same thing over and over again, and I won't feel the need to tell you to please stop posting the same thing over and over again.

I never said amp sims are perfect in every way and should never be changed, so don't imply that I did. I said 26 posts on a personal agenda topic are enough, and suggested you start a separate thread. My suggestion remains. Besides, if your agenda is truly to get amp sim developers onboard, a separate thread would be a much better place for a sustained discussion on a single topic.
My first post was just a simple reply, something like; in my opinion amp modelers don't even try to represent the behavior of a tube amp pushed well past it's specs (true), then you insisted it couldn't be done, then vacillating between couldn't, shouldn't, and already been done. I intended to post just once and split, because, while I try to keep up with what's going on, I don't really expect much new from modeling anymore at this time — still always hoping for the next wave, the new breed. It'll happen.

EDIT: Got a little carried away, sorry man. "Can't be done", especially on this subject, is my biggest hot button.
Last edited by guitarzan on Fri Sep 06, 2019 7:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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audiojunkie
KVRAF
2873 posts since 19 Apr, 2002 from Utah

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:39 pm

Sooooo.......

I’m really loving these reviews! I find them really useful!! Thank you, @Anderton!! I look forward to what’s next! 🙂
C/R, dongles & other intrusive copy protection equals less-control & more-hassle for consumers. Company gone-can’t authorize. Limit to # of auths. Instability-ie PACE. Forced internet auths. THE HONEST ARE HASSLED, NOT THE PIRATES.

mmann
KVRer
28 posts since 22 Nov, 2015

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Thu Sep 05, 2019 3:44 pm

I decided I would write some mini reviews as a follow up to the main reviews of Craig Anderton; just another perspective, which will hopefully entice others to follow suit. I hope Mr. Anderton doesn't mind and I do hope he will continue doing his great reviews!

IK Multimedia AmpliTube 4
The Interface:
Overall it is great, I love the general layout and appreciate the Insert effects capability. I just wish it was resizeable and that the “routing” options had a visual component.

The Amps:
My picks; the Red Pig, MESA/Boogie Collection, both Fender Collections and (my favourite) the Carvin V3M are all standouts.
Not so good: the original amps are generally 'long in the tooth' but that's to be expected. The Dimebag Darrell Jazz Amp 120 CFH is very hard to clean up (the all tube Carvin V3M is much better at clean).

The Effects:
My picks; the Fulltone Collection (with special mention the TERC), Nu-Tron III, Dimebag Darrell Flanger Doubler and the Wah 10.
Not so good: the Slash OctoBlue (it doesn't track anywhere near as good as the actual MXR Blue Box which I used to own) and baffling because the Pitch Shifter tracks great.

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Anderton
KVR Expert
101 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:37 pm

mmann wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 3:44 pm
I decided I would write some mini reviews as a follow up to the main reviews of Craig Anderton; just another perspective, which will hopefully entice others to follow suit. I hope Mr. Anderton doesn't mind and I do hope he will continue doing his great reviews!
Mind?!? Are you kidding?!? This kind of interaction is what I've been hoping for all along (are you Matthew Mann, but any chance?).

Keep 'em coming, and I'll keep 'em coming!

P.S. Agree completely about IK's Red Pig.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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Anderton
KVR Expert
101 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:42 pm

Blue Cat’s Axiom

This is not your average amp sim. It’s a dual-channel (parallel) multieffects based on Blue Cat’s Destructor plug-in, but places it in an effects-laden enviroment. In a nod to their Patchwork plug-in, each channel can also load VST/AU/VST3 plug-ins at the input and output, as well as in effects chains within each path. (Yes, that means I can put a limiter on the guitar to keep peaks under control even before it enters Blue Cat’s world.)

Image

The screen shot above shows the basic Axiom interface.

Of course, with a DAW you can just insert a plug-in before an amp sim, but making plug-ins a part of a preset is a great idea. The only other amp sim I can think of offhand that also loads plug-ins is Peavey’s ReValver 4.

Let’s establish at the outset that Axiom’s target demographic is probably the guitarist who likes sound design. It’s not plug-and-play so much as plug, go into a super-cool rabbit hole, play, and then return with sounds that are very popular in Alpha Centauri’s movie industry. The UI does have “easy” and advanced modes, which helps those whose brains are subject to exploding when presented with too many options, but those who love to tweak can live in “advanced” world.

Image

This shows a preset’s basic mode.

Image

Here’s the same preset, but with the Advanced interface that lets you do just about anything (most of it is legal in most countries).

Destructor, the hear of the plug-in, has four elements. Granted, you might think with a name like Desctructor, this is all about bitcrushing and super-non-linear distortion curves. That’s not necessarily the case; you’re better off thinking of it as a “destructor” of stereotypes.

The first element is a pre-FX section with noise gate and compressor. These are as expected. The second element is the preamp; it’s close to the traditional idea of an “amp sim,” with tone controls and distinctive preamp/amp sounds. The second element is essentially a user interface to create transfer functions, where you can set the level at which distortion occurs, the level at which saturation begins, what happens after saturation begins, and so on. So not only can you control the nature of the distortion, but also, how it responds to dynamics. The third is, for lack of a better term, the “speaker emulator.” You can load impulses, but there are multiple filters for those who like to customize the sound (I’m more into EQ-based cabs than IR-based ones, generally speaking). In a way, Destructor reminds me of iZotope Trash, because it’s more about giving you the tools to create your own mayhem, rather than pre-packaging those same tools into various amp simulations.

As anyone knows who’s read anything I’ve written for the past 30 years, I’m a huge fan of parallel processing...Axiom does not disappoint, with two complete parallel paths. Each has six effects slot before and after the path’s Destructor plug-in. However, there’s yet another parallel “tools” slot that seems more intended for standalone mode. It allows loading virtual instruments, so if you wanted (for example) a REX file player to play drum loops, you can do that.

THE EFFECTS

The amp section isn’t all there is to this. In addition to being able to load VST plug-ins, there are 40 effects, and you can add them pre- or post-Destructor. These include distortion effects, dynamics, filters, pitch/other effects, modulation efects, delay/reverb effects, mid-side encode/decode, and various utilities. These range from really cool to “I’d-rather-use-my Waves-reverb,” but they all have value. However, here’s also the mind-blowingly recursive part: you can load Axiom as a plug-in within Axiom. So far, this has not seemed to cause a disturbance in the time-space continuum, but I’m being careful nonetheless.

Speaking of effects, you have your choice of a “standard” VST folder, and a user one. With Windows, you can use mklink functionality to add more folders; I wouldn’t know how to do this on Mac. Also, I could not find any way to use sidechain functionality.

You can load Waves plug-ins, even though they load through a shell—load the shell, and then a drop-down menu appears with the effects you can load. However, not all shells work; probably not surprisingly, you can’t load DX plug-ins wrapped as VSTs.

PRESETS

Axiom comes with a ton of presets, both meta-presets for the plug-in itself, and plug-ins for the various modules, like the Late Replies delay (one of the best delay plug-ins on this planet, and probably other planets as well).

Image

Is there such a thing as a gourmet delay? If so, this would be the equivalent of boeuf bourguignon, with a Chateau Lafite Rothschild.

Overall, the presets didn’t knock me out as super-useable, but that’s usually the case with any presets, so no demerits to Blue Cat. However, they are like having a teacher who says “Axiom can do this. Next preset. Axiom can do this. Next preset. Axiom can do this...” If you like them “as is,” great. But reverse-engineering them will teach you a lot about Axiom’s possibilities.

MIDI


Image

You can map almost any parameter to any MIDI continuous controller (but not MIDI notes), on any channel.

Axiom has MIDI Learn, you can set any of several control response, and scale the control minimum and maximum ranges—which you can switch to reverse the “sense” of controllers. I also find the MIDI dishwasher and lawn mowing modes very useful. (Okay, I’m kidding about the last two. But if there were MIDI dishwashers, I bet they’d work with Axiom.)

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…

You can skin Axiom, drive instruments while creating sounds, use it in stand-alone mode, choose volume and pan for the two parallel paths, lock particular sections so they don’t change when you change presets, randomize parameters with Late Replies, and even change skins...this is a really, really deep plug-in.

SO...IS IT FOR YOU?

If you’re into guitar sound design and ambiance effects, I don’t think you’ll find a better plug-in anywhere. Period. Download the demo, and within 30 minutes, you’ll buy it. It’s like a sound design laboratory; if you can imagine an effect, you’ll probably be able to do it with what comes with Axiom, and won’t even need to insert any VST/AU plug-ins. But that said...I was pretty happy with what happened when I dropped IK Multimedia’s Quad Imager into a few presets. And the ability to do mid-side processing is totally cool.

If you want a plug-and-play amp sim (“Just give me an effing Marshall, okay?”), this would likely not be your first choice. The presets don’t make it clear which amp sounds are associated with specific presets, and if you want to make some tweaks, the process is less intuitive than it would be with, say, AmpliTube or Guitar Rig.

The bottom line is that Axiom is unique. There is no other amp sim like it. If you’re a tweaker who plugs in your guitar and says “I wonder what would happen if I…,” then you’ll fall in love with Axiom.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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Anderton
KVR Expert
101 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:50 pm

This probably goes without saying, but I welcome any comments (pro or con) from Blue Cat. These are obviously very creative people :), so I'd be interested in any insights regarding the program and its creation. But that's strictly optional...I'm sure they have quite a long to-do list, as do I.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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ariston
KVRAF
3465 posts since 28 Jun, 2009 from Wherever I lay my hat

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Thu Sep 05, 2019 10:56 pm

Thanks for that concise write-up!
Stupidly, I recently bought Destructor (too cheap to shell out for Axiom, doh). I'm not a sound fetishist when it comes to guitar, but I've never been really happy with Guitar Rig, Amplitube (stock amps and metal) and a few others I've tried. Destructor was the first one that I actually enjoyed PLAYING... it sounds stunning and very responsive to my ears, and the tweakability is out of this world. There's even a preset that gets very close to Mike Oldfield's 70s tone. Couple that with some high-quality disto like The Scream, and... mmmmhm.
I'm currently working on several new tracks, and the first thing I did was to replace all the other amp sims with Destructor.

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Blue Cat Audio
KVRAF
3993 posts since 8 Sep, 2004 from Paris (France)

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Sep 06, 2019 1:59 am

Anderton wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:50 pm
This probably goes without saying, but I welcome any comments (pro or con) from Blue Cat. These are obviously very creative people :), so I'd be interested in any insights regarding the program and its creation. But that's strictly optional...I'm sure they have quite a long to-do list, as do I.
Thanks for the review and the invitation! There a lot to talk about, I'll be chiming it asap. :tu:

Here is some reading for you while I am writing a post... These to short articles explain why Axiom and Destructor were created, and give details about some of the design choices:
Blue Cat's Destructor Inception and Design Choices
Blue Cat's Axiom: Yet Another Multi Effects Processor?

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Blue Cat Audio
KVRAF
3993 posts since 8 Sep, 2004 from Paris (France)

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:01 am

ariston wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 10:56 pm
Destructor was the first one that I actually enjoyed PLAYING...
It's one of the key reasons for creating it, so I am very glad that it works for you too! 8)

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
70 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:45 am

Ryan_IK wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:59 am
... The sag can be easily observed with a test tone sent into AmpliTube...
Hear here. From the horses mouth. From the horses mouth II, Scuffham from S-gear:
...In order to test our software amp, we will use an oscilloscope to probe the virtual amp at different points in the circuit. We apply a pure sine wave and check the resulting signal at various stages in the design...
https://soundbytesmag.net/virtual-amps- ... fham-amps/

Which I think is a major gaffe. You should test with bursts. Like some British company does with their Tubes. Harma (Watford valves). From silent and the initial transient attack, the peak, before there's even oscillation and note/tone going on in the string. The explosives, the thums, the TSCHKKS (!).

A test tone or sine wave tells me nothing. The "modeled" tube doesn't go from silent to a high enery peak, but it's a stale stable and uniform sine wave. Nice smooth, and buttery, not scaring the tubes.

Order: scare the heck out of the modelled tubes first, with burts. Burst first. THEN go on with the lame sine wave test tones.

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