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Pleasingly pointless perceptions about praiseworthy plugins

The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 7 – Scuffham S-Gear

Scuffham S-Gear is one of those products whose name is only spoken of in hushed whispers! It is legendary among guitarists for its authentic tones, hailed for its realism. So, is it actually any good? So let’s jump in and find out.

My first reaction upon opening the large and attractive S-Gear UI was “Guitar Rig”! it definitely has that “everything on one page” look and feel in common with Guitar Rig that others like Revalver, Amplitube, TH3 and Bias have eschewed, having the different components on separate pages in various ways. This is both good and bad; good that everything’s visible and right there in front of you, bad that everything feels crammed in. In fairness, Scuffham has done a good job here, everything is legible and well laid-out in an attractive UI.

My next reaction was when I saw the small “Impulses by RedWirez” banner on the cabinet convolver section. We’ll get to this later!

Continue reading “The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 7 – Scuffham S-Gear”

Do graphics cards make a difference in a DAW?

DAW – the clue is in the name, right? Digital Audio Workstation, not Digital Graphics Workstation, so why bother with anything other than a basic graphics card that is good enough to power your monitor but no more?

As long as your audio software and plugins can be seen on the screen, you don’t need to worry about shader cores, DirectX compatibility, memory size, texture rendering or GPU speed. In fact, keep it simple so there’s less complexity in your computer and thus more processing power for your audio. Simple, right? Continue reading “Do graphics cards make a difference in a DAW?”

The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 6 – Positive Grid Bias Amp Desktop

Positive Grid’s Bias Amp has to be the most divisive ampsim I have ever encountered! In the red corner, we have the die-hard fans who will take Bias Amp to their grave; in the blue corner are those that have tried or used it, and think it’s a bit “meh”. It really does seem to polarise people’s opinions, but which is it? Greatest ampsim ever or a bit of a damp squib?

Let’s start with what Bias Amp isn’t – it is not an ampsim that is modelled on original hardware. So, unlike Revalver, Amplitube, Thermionik and so on, they haven’t taken a Mesa Boogie, Marshall or 5150, measured the heck out of it and come up with a software version. Rather, they have modelled valves, tone stacks and transformers. If a preset conjures up a Dual Rectifier, it is because Positive Grid has assembled those software valves, tone stacks and transformers in the same way that Mesa Boogie have done and lo-and-behold, they get the same-ish sound. Continue reading “The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 6 – Positive Grid Bias Amp Desktop”

The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 5 – Kazrog Recabinet

This might seem an unusual time to review Recabinet 4 because Recabinet 5 is coming out in just a few days. Why review Recabinet 4 now? Well, it is an ampsim that is held in high regard by many and with a new version coming out, I wanted to compare and contrast, so this review is a baseline for what is coming up.

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Recabinet 3

Now, the thing about Recabinet 4 that differs from its earlier incarnations is that Recabinet versions 1 to 3 were just speaker cabinet simulations – you supplied the amp yourself. Recabinet 4 added the Thermionik tube amp modeller. As you can see from the image on the left of Recabinet 3, Recabinet 4 didn’t undergo any UI changes, Thermionik was simply added to the top of the UI to feed in to the original “recabinet” section. Although I never used the earlier versions of Recabinet, I have found Recabinet 4’s UI to be well designed and easy to use. The plugin window itself is quite tall (remember, Thermionik was added to the top of the existing UI) and on my 1440×900 screen requires a vertical scroll bar for all of about 50 pixels! Still, it’s a fine size and it packs a lot of features in to quite a compact area of screen estate without feeling cramped at all; indeed, it’s very well laid out.  Recabinet 5 is apparently going to feature a significant redesign but even so, I like Recabinet 4’s UI very much. Like his KClip clipper (which I reviewed many moons ago), Kazrog has done a really good job here. Continue reading “The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 5 – Kazrog Recabinet”

The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 4 – Softube Metal Amp Room

Another older ampsim again, this time Softube’s Metal Amp Room which goes back to at least 2010. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if it sounds good, it sounds good, period. Metal Amp Room is designed to do one thing, and to do it well, and that’s to create high-gain metal guitar sounds. Yes, there’s a clean preset in there and even a couple of crunch presets, but that’s not what this ampsim is all about. It’s metal, simple as that. Continue reading “The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 4 – Softube Metal Amp Room”

The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 3 – Kuassa Amplifikation One

First things first, I love Kuassa Amplifikation Creme, an ampsim designed for rock and metal. I also think that the Kuassa Amplifikation Lite sounds really good too (and it’s free!), so I had rather high expectations for Amplifikation One.

Amplifikation One is an ampsim comprising 8 different amps (from clean to high-gain) which are not modelled on any specific amps, but designed by Kuassa to offer the best of everything. It also has a noise gate, 5 overdrive/distortion effects and a whole bunch of cabs and mics, as well as a comprehensive IR loader that can load up to four IRs at a time, with various routing options. On paper, it is a fully-loaded ampsim that should offer a huge range of tones and sounds. Continue reading “The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 3 – Kuassa Amplifikation One”

The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 2 – Brainworx BX_Megadual

I’ll be honest, when I first tried the Brainworx bx_megadual I didn’t like it. I mean, I loved the UI, I loved the controls, I loved the features, but I didn’t love the sound. The bass was muddy and thick, the treble was loose and lacked definition and it just didn’t really excite me. In fact, when I first drafted this review, I wrote this:

I really, really wanted to like it, but everything that had some gain to it sounded like it had blankets thrown over the cab – it was SO bassy with so little top-end definition even when I rolled the bass off and maxed out the presence and treble. I put it on a track I am working on and the megadual just disappeared in a mush, I could hardly make out the notes, it was just a wall of bass. It was so bassy I would struggle to get it to fit in to a mix without massive EQing, and if I have to do that, then this isn’t the amp for me. Continue reading “The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 2 – Brainworx BX_Megadual”

The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 1 – Studio Devil Amp Modeler Pro

Amp Modeler Pro is a somewhat older ampsim, dating from 2011. Its age is betrayed by the size of the UI, clearly designed for a time when screens were not much more than 800 by 600 pixels in resolution, for this occupies a compact 575 by 375 pixel rectangle. By modern standards, especially on screens which are significantly higher resolution, this is tiny to say the least, especially with the amount of content in it. Amp Modeler Pro comprises 10 different sections, all crammed in to this tiny space; add in the not-very-successful attempt at photo-realistic graphics and it adds up to a UI that is very hard to use – text merges with graphics and switches and knobs require an accurate mouse click if you are to avoid undesired
changes. Continue reading “The Big AmpSim Roundup Part 1 – Studio Devil Amp Modeler Pro”

The Big AmpSim Roundup – Introduction

Here’s a subject I’m really getting in to in a big way right now – ampsims. I’m far from a good guitar player but I do really enjoy playing, especially rock and metal stuff – it’s just damn good fun! Of course, nothing beats playing through an amp and cab (if you’ve never actually done this, put it on your bucket list, you have to try it), but that does require you owning an amp and cab, and living far away from other people. Like playing drums, it is quite an anti-social hobby. Continue reading “The Big AmpSim Roundup – Introduction”

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