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PAR Picks 6: Guitar Amp Simulation Plug-ins

Our software editor shares six crucial guitar-amp simulator plugins that are good enough to fool even guitar-amp aficionados.

In this installment of PAR Picks 6, we highlight an ideal collection of guitar-amp simulator plug-ins. The sound of real amps with real tubes glowing inside will always carve out a soft spot in our hardwareloving hearts. Yet “going direct” with a plug-in can provide recordists and savvy live performers a wide choice of amps, cabinets and mics, not to mention saving us lots of production time. Like anything, each plug-in has its own strengths and weaknesses. But with a little effort, these plug-ins can sound really good — and even fool a few golden ears.

AVID Eleven

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AVID Eleven

This plug-in for TDM/RTAS and AudioSuite covers a lot of territory as far as simulations of Fender, Mesa Boogie, Marshall and Vox amps go, plus AVID adds a few custom models of its own. The ‘64 Black Panel Lux Vibrato (based on ‘64 Fender Deluxe Reverb Vibrato Channel) is sweet when used on country/blues sounds, and the ‘92 Treadplate Modern (based on a 1992 Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier Head) can rip any high-gain track with ease. I like to throw on the 4 x 12 Classic 30 Cabinet, a touch of Speaker Breakup and the Dyn 409 (Sennheiser MD 409) for some beef.

There’s also a nice collection of speaker cabinets, including a sweet ‘68 Marshall 1960A with G12H Greenbacks and a ‘59 Fender Bassman 4X10 with Jensen P10Q speakers. Mic choices (which can be switched on- or off-axis) include such goodies as the aforementioned Sennhesier MD 409 dynamic, the Sennheiser MD 421 dynamic and even a Royer R-121 ribbon microphone. At the top of the GUI resides a Thresh and Rel gate, and at the bottom is a useful Speaker Breakup slider, which can also be bypassed. Overall, Eleven is easy to use and really gets some thick tones. It runs on TDM, RTAS and AudioSuite.

Price: $595
Contact: AVID | avid.com/products/Eleven

AVID/Line 6 Amp Farm 3.0

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AVID/Line 6 Amp Farm 3.0

Introduced in 1998, Amp Farm was one of the first TDM guitar simulator plug-ins and is still one of my favorites. When mixing, I’ve even placed it across amp’ed guitar tracks for extra bite. It’s still one of the easiest plug-ins to use, simply choose your amp, cab and mic from its drop-down menu. You can also go to the presets menu for some generic choices such as “Tweed Blues.”

I’ve found that the internal level of Amp Farm clips quite easily, so it’s wise to drop the Input Level a bit. Also, the Gate (Threshold and Release) comes in handy with single coil pickups, as they can pick up video monitor noise quite easily.

One of my preferred TV guitar sounds involves recording my Les Paul in one channel with the 1989 Solo 100 Head (based on the 1989 Soldano SLO Head), the 4 X 12 Treadplate Cabinet and the Sennheiser MD 421 dynamic microphone. Then I record my Tele through the 1986 Brit J-800 (based on 1986 Marshall JCM 800) in a separate channel, panned fully opposite, with the 4 x 12 Brit V30 cabinet and Shure SM57 off-axis microphone. The result: truly heavy and delightful! As no reverb is included, you’ll need to add your own to taste.

For clean/slightly dirty blues, the 1960 Class A-30 (based on the 1960 Vox AC-30) with 2 x 12 AC30 cabinet is also a winner.

The only real bummer is that Amp Farm is available for TDM only.

Price: $595
Contact: AVID | avid.com

IK Multimedia AmpliTube 3

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IK Multimedia AmpliTube 3

AmpliTube 3 features all newly “remastered” amps and gear with their most recent modeling technology. Within the latest version (v3.7), there’s a link at the top right of the plug-in called Custom Shop. With a few clicks, you can purchase and instantly download brands that include Fender, Ampeg, THD, Gallien-Krueger, Soldano, Groove Tubes, T-Rex, Seymour Duncan and Jet City. There are amps such as German Gain (based on the Engl Powerball), Thunderverb 200 (based on Orange Thunderverb 200), etc. Also provided is a wide choice of guitar, bass and rotary cabinets as well as Stomp, Mics and Rack gear.

There are some great “small” goodies in this collection, too, such as the Fender ‘63 Reverb unit, Fender Tape Echo and the Rotary 147-1 (based on the Leslie 147 with original woofer). You can also purchase collections such as AmpliTube Jim Hendrix, AmpliTube Metal, Ampeg SVX and, my favorite, the AmpliTube Fender.

Some ripping blues/rock can be had with the Jet City JCA20H paired up with the Orange 2X12 AD 30. The tone can quickly and easily be altered by moving the onscreen microphones around the cabinet. To complement AmpliTube 3, the Stealthplug CS and Stealthpedal CS (Custom Shop) are two easy ways to get your quarter-inch guitar into the computer via USB connection. Overall, it’s a well-done, highly flexible guitar package. AmpliTube will run via VST, AU and RTAS.

Price: $349
Contact: IK Multimedia | ikmultimedia.com/amplitube

Line 6 POD Farm 2.5 Platinum

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Line 6 POD Farm 2.5 Platinum

POD Farm 2.5 delivers over 250 models of amps, cabs, stompboxes and preamps. It’s a wild experience to spin the “carousel of gear” and simply drag and drop your choices. Signals can be split to create two fully independent signal chains, and up to 20 FX models (10 each) can be placed in any order before your amp/cab selection.

POD Farm 2.5 is also available with fewer models: 18 amps, 24 cabinets, five bass amps, 29 stomp boxes and effects and six mic preamps. Built-in gates, a mixer, MIDI options and a tuner/mute section are also provided. I’m a fan of the Orange AD30 amp and the Diezel Herbert for aggressive metal-ish tones.

Throw in a Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi and Maestro EP-3 Echoplex, and it’s “game over.” Essentially, any sound you can think of can be had with the 2.5 Platinum version. POD Farm 2.5 will run AU, VST, RTAS and standalone.

Price: $99 and $299 (POD Farm 2.5 and POD Farm 2.5 Platinum, respectively)
Contact: Line 6 | line6.com/podfarm

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Softube Vintage Amp Room

The modeling approach that Swedish company Softube takes is different: It went for the sound of only three amps along with the associated speaker cabinets and microphones.

Simply called White, Brown and Green, these models seem to precisely emulate Marshall, Fender and Vox amps without directly saying as much. White is super simple: just a single input and no reverb. It’s the most powerful of the three distortionwise and produces some seriously ripping tones. Brown provides great classic Fenderlike tones. “Green” lets you go bluesy and proudly British.

I really dig the way you can grab the mic stand (with a single SM-57 on it) and move it around the speaker and room; in use, the changes in tonality are dramatic, and I’d love to have this type of interaction on all guitar-amp plug-ins. Please note that you are limited to the preset cabinet/mic selections, but these are some really good guitar tones (sometimes, limitations are your best tools).

Waves GTR3

Vintage Amp Room is available for VST, AU and RTAS formats, as well as PowerCore and TDM.

Price: $329 & $499 (Native and TDM)
Contact: Softube | softube.se

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Waves GTR3

This is a comprehensive guitar software package that features 25 amps, seven bass amps, 29 cabinets, 26 stomp pedals and multiple microphones and settings. It’s nice that there are some unusual amps in here, including the Carvin Legacy, Ibanez Thermion and a handful of quirky speaker cabinets like the Acme eight-inch OpenBack (from a 1968 Gibson Skylark), Electron 4 X 12 (straight cab with E-V speakers) and 15-inch ClosedBack (based on a ‘60s Fender Showman).

Users have the ability to load a standard guitar amp, one with two cabinets or even just the pedal board. When loading the two cabinet model, you can adjust the individual volume, phase and delay for each.

Sometimes, I will place the GTR Stomp 2 as an insert after my chosen guitar software and simply use a single spring reverb, utilizing the Mix knob to create a good blend. GTR3 also has the standalone ToolRack; with it, you won’t need a DAW host. ToolRack is a great addition for laptop gigging or just jamming. GTR3 will run on RTAS, TDM, AudioSuite and VST.

Price: $100 (TDM or Native)
Contact: Waves | wavesgtr.com

Rich Tozzoli is an accomplished producer/engineer and the software editor for Pro Audio Review.

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