Waves GTR3 (Guitar Tool Rack) is out and no one made a lot of fuss about Digidesign Eleven – Sorry Digidesign, but the demos seem to suggest it’s another average amp modeler.
But not GTR! That one sure sparked a lot of interest at AES 2007 in the field of high quality amp modeling, and made everyone curious about the technology used for modeling paired with the convolution (yes, the one used in convolution reverbs) used in the speaker + mic modeling stages.
On the other hand, we have the “oldies” Native Instruments Guitar Rig and IK Multimedia’s Amplitube 2. Up until recently, Guitar Rig was the king, but lately Amplitube 2 appeared to be accepted as the winner, not for overall options and tweakability, where Guitar Rig shines, but simply sound quality and realism of simple & straightforward amp modeling possibilities.
So how does the old & current winner look against the apparent new kid from AES 2007? Who would win in a street fight for amp modeling sound quality in different music genres and playing styles? We put ’em both face to face and got ’em really angry. And it wasn’t pretty.
Round 1 – Clean tones
Amplitube 2 and Guitar Rig do a great job with clean guitar sounds. It’s even possible to pull out a very faithful Roland JC120 Jazz Chorus modeling out of Amplitube 2. We have one to compare and we were impressed with the results. Still, that is a flat clean sound, used both in jazz and nu metal/hard rock – where dynamics are not the most wanted feature, and it shines for having a natural compression to it, with the chorus effect being a huge bonus.
But when we talk about a more bluesy, all-tube clean sound (Fender Twin-like), things would look a little different for these competitors. Enter GTR3 with its convolution speaker emulation, and wow.
The dynamics are just where they should be for a real amp recording. Or at least as close as they can be, considering it’s “just” a plug-in. And playing blues with GTR feels and sounds amazing.
And usually if it can do the hardest thing, it does the easiest too – Jazz Chorus-type sounds were even more natural than with Amplitube, on a first analysis.
Winner – GTR3
Round 2 – Dirty sounds
Amplitube 2 was a great step ahead in dirty, halfway-overdriven sounds. But the lack of attack and presence was still there, like in most emulations. Apparently, GTR3 solves the problem. Everytime you hit the strings there is a present attack to it. It’s naturally dynamic and defined, and it distorts differently as you play harder! This was never previously achieved by any plug-in.
Winner – GTR3
Round 3 – Lead distortion
OK, lets see if things start changing a bit here. GTR is still GTR – defined, dynamic and with tons of presence. But when the Amplitube 2 track is un-muted, it’s hard to explain what you can hear – there’s less attack, it does sound a little more “modeled”, but there’s something about the way the grain sounds. There’s naturally more gain to it, and it sounds fuller and less dry than GTR. Maybe GTR wants to be tweaked around a little more, we can’t know for sure. They both sounds fine, but they need to improve in different areas.
Winner – Tie!
Special round – Wall of sound…
A very important part of modern electric guitar, from modern rock/pop to hard rock and metal – but often forgotten in modeling reviews.
I already knew what Amplitube 2 could do, and I was fairly happy with it, although I could maybe use some more attack and “chunk”.
So I tweaked GTR a little, to see what could be achieved. And I was happy with the results. And then I went back to Amplitube 2 just to hear my old preset again. And I was disappointed at GTR. It just wouldn’t cut it. The guitars sound natural on their own, but a double-take stereo pan sounded just … not as it should. It sounds too skinny and no matter how much you turn the gain up, you wish it could go up to 11, because you just don’t get the same fullness you get with Amplitube 2, for some reason. The ideal would be to probably use both on each channel, and tweak the levels.
Winner – Amplitube 2
It just depends on how much money you have to spend (with GTR reaching $600 for the native edition – but including a DI box/interface) and specially what you want to achieve. If you want modern hard rock tones (Linkin Park / Chevelle / Alter Bridge / Sevendust) you will never get same attack with Amplitube 2, but with good drum and bass sounds, you won’t notice that lack of attack when the mix is finished, and at least you have the sound stage filled with only 2 takes (stereo panned). It’s that good for fullness (if you tweak it right).
With GTR3 you will have the attack, but you’ll have to do at least 2 takes on each side to fill it up a little more and get closer to a wall of distortion. In mostly everything else, GTR is the winner. Maybe not that much if you think of heavy leads, but definitely a winner in pure clean tones.
Still, if all you need is to get close to Amplitube 2 and still produce some killer tracks in-the-box even with $0 budget… then look no further. Just get the SimulAnalog Guitar Suite (VST) and play with it. (If you use Pro Tools, you will need to buy FXpansion’s VST to RTAS Adapter).
Fuller wall of sound? Lower budget? – Amplitube 2
Best overall recording tone? More processing power? More money? – GTR3 (Guitar Tool Rack)
Special suggestion: No money? You have an old, weak CPU? Still want a killer sound that can compete with the big guys? – SimulAnalog Guitar Suite (+ Fxpansion VST to RTAS Adapter, if you use Pro Tools)