OK, I've finally bit the bullet and purchased Guitar Rig 3 (as part of a deal when you buy Guitar Rig Session you get a free upgrade)
I've talked a lot of poop about Guitar Rig's amp models, but one thing that kept me interested is it's functionality and great effects. So for $199 (and less when I sell the not needed hardware) I figured "what the hell." So I also thought I'd give it a proper review since I seem to find myself talking about competing products a lot.
First: The amps.
Ultrasonic: Honestly surprised. Not what one would ever call warm or sweet, but for some basic clean and high gain sounds this amp model is pretty damn good. Getting a nice clean tone took some doing though. I always start with everything at 12:00 but I had to crank the bass to 10:00, middle to 12:00 and treble and presence almost all the way up to get a nice bright tone. It's there though. Seemed to talk distortion/fuzz boxes really nicely too. (More on that later but Demon :love:
Gratifier: Not too bad, pretty usable in a mix, but it pales in comparison to Amplitube's Tube Lead or Metal Lead T. The Amplitube sims just seem to have a sweeter sounding more natural high end. More tube crunch, while the Gratifer seemed more fuzzboxy and fizzy. It's clean tone was OK but nothing to write home about.
Lead 800. Pretty horrible sounding at all settings. NI should be ashamed of this one.
Plex. Better than the Lead 800, but not by a lot. Stiff and sterile sounding.
Citrus. People seemed to be raving about this one, but tang has more flavor. Classic NI dead amp sound. I was able to dial up a pretty good on the verge of breaking up clean sound out of it.
AC Box. This is supposed to be a Vox emulation. I don't hear it. I've never owned an AC30 TB, but my first good amp was a Vox Buckingham. I was able to get a good tone out of it though by cranking the brilliant volume all the way up and the bass as well. Compared it to the Amplitube AC30 TB... NI: Fail.
Tweeddman: I like this one quite a bit. Easy to get a nice crunchy break up tone. Sat nice after the stomp boxes. Good job NI.
Tweed Delight. This one suffered from that weird gritty break up that a lot of the amps seem to have. I was able to get a few good sounds out of it but I'm sure when I need the fender sound I'll be in Amplitube Fender.
Twang Reverb: I liked this one a lot. More than the 65 Twin in the Fender emulation. I've never owned a Fender amp in my life though so I'm only going by what I like. I didn't like it overdriven, but this amp isn't about that.
Jazz Amp. Don't cross me NI. I'm a JC-120 fan from way back. You missed. The JC-120 sounds chimey and sweet, not brittle and harsh.
High White. WTF? FAIL. I couldn't get a decent tone out of this. What is it emulating? Hiwatt? I hope they sound better than this.
Bass Pro: Nice job. The presets were facacta, but I was able to get some really nice solid state bass amp type sounds here.
Effects. I'm going to cut this short and say all the effects are great. Really, I got Guitar Rig 3 for Psychedelay and the pitch pedal and harmonic syntheesizer, but frankly they're all great. BTW, IK? If you're reading this, copy NI on this front and take they're MIDI learn system while you're at it.
The distortion pedals? I love the meztone, demon and transamp. The rest? Meh.
The EQ stuff is all decent. Love the pro-filter and talkwah.
Reverbs are all good.
Tools? Useful. Nice addition.
MDF: This is where Guitar Rig trumps them all. LFO, Envelope, Step sequencer, analog sequencer and an input level follower. Assign them to parameters... delicious. These and the effects are probably worth the price of admission.
So, I'm going to pretend that amplitube is a few decent amp sims and a alot of great features and effects. That's what I expected but I wanted to become intimate with it and this seemed as good a way as any. I would not make this my main amp sim. No way. But it fills some holes that no other single tool will.
I'm not going to compare Guitar Rig (GR) with real hardware amps. By now I think most people will have made their mind up about modeling vs tubes etc. This review will be in the context of a modeling solution for a PC.
GR offers three main types of modeling; Amps, Speakers/Mics and Effects. In addition it ships with its own custom foot controller. All this is wrapped up in a stand-alone/vst/dxi/rtas format.
Amp wise you dont get as many models as some other packages, but the main 'bread-n-butter' styles are there. Vox, Fender, Mesa and Marshall types are available in 1.10. However, you do get to tweak the amps more than some packages. Things like variac power supplies, tube bias etc can be tweaked. This gives the amp models a far wider range than would at first be seen.
The 'more tweaks' theme is carried over to the cab/mic models. The big feature is being able to setup multi-cab/mic setups, either fed by a single amp or multiple amps. A wide range of cabs and micing techniques are modeled.
Its really 'effects-r-us' for the remainer. A whole box full of virtual pedals covering all the standard guitar effects varieties.
Taken as a package, I think the sounds possible are very good. GR does seem to handle clean or crunch slightly better than full out distortion. To my ears some of the 'flat out' sounds sound a little synthetic.
But beware, its possible to tweak things the wrong way and get some truely horrible sounds, but thats the price of flexability.
The demo offers a chance to try it out, but lacking the foot pedal and the full library, you really only get a taste. The pedal works very well. Having a responsive rocker pedal that can be linked to any setting is fantastic. It can be a wah-wah or volume, or trem rate, or depth or twin amp balance etc etc. Very expressive patches are possible. The pedal is strange as it uses audio for the control signals rather than USB etc. Having said that, it worked straight out of the box.
GR ships with an enormous set of presets. These cover almost all guitar styles. Some nu-metal devotees may be disapointed though. CPU usage is reasonable, nothing taxing my 2.8 P4 unduely.
Buyers should ensure they have a suitable I/O device for their PC though. Personally find anthing with a latency over 10ms hard to play to. I use a Edirol FA101 and find it fine with no timing problems when playing.
Authorisation is via NI's now standard challenge response system. Support appears good and they have setup a users library to exchange presets.
In summary, GR offers a massive range of tones and effects. The sound can be very 'real' or very weird, you choose. The hardware may seem to make it expensive, but it really does expand the expression available through the software better than other systems I have tried.