Field Test: IK Multimedia AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix SoftwareCLASSIC GUITAR SOUNDS FROM A FAMILIAR GUI 9/01/2007 8:00 AM Eastern
The late great Jimi Hendrix is revered nearly as much for his love of technology and experimenting with new sounds and effects as he is for his guitar virtuosity. IK Multimedia's AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix
The software builds on the familiar AmpliTube interface and is powered by the AmpliTube 2 engine. Once you open the GUI, the options are plentiful, with four power amp models, seven cabinets, five mic emulations, nine stomp effects, four rack effect models and a tuner. The software comes with presets; each setup can be saved and recalled for later use.
Guitarist Tony Poulos from my band T-Bone & The Butchers helped with this review by emulating the sounds of Hendrix's records on the cover tunes we play. (Check out some of the guitar sounds and clips on the Mix Website in “Mix Media.”) he played a Strat-type guitar with single-coil pickup and stacked humbuckers, using pickup selections and playing styles he thought appropriate for what was used on Hendrix's recordings — i.e., the neck and middle pickups set out of phase, choosing only the neck pickup or just a high-output lead humbucker.
I recorded the tracks directly into an M-Audio Delta 66 with the Omni breakout box tied to a Dell P4, 2.4 GHz with 1 GB of memory. AmpliTube Hendrix was used as a VST plug-in within Cakewalk SONAR 6. It installed without a hitch. Each test used the Jimi Hendrix AmpliTube presets for “Fire,” “Little Wing” and “Castles Made of Sand.” Nothing else was done to the recording — no EQ, no other effects, no additional compression. I tested the software in stand-alone mode and as a playback-only effects plug-in. Used either way, the interface is virtually the same. However, the stand-alone mode adds SpeedTrainer and Metronome options to help those looking to learn new licks or practice at anything less than light speed.
Inspired by various Hendrix albums and songs, the presets also include several settings for particular songs, such as different guitar sounds for the intro, verse or solo. It also includes many other popular and useful types of guitar rigs — American to British, clean to dirty. Take your pick. Because this package simulates all the gear between your guitar and a recording input, it's truly a full rig simulator.
The company has always done a good job of making clean, easy-to-use GUIs for its software. AmpliTube Jim Hendrix benefits from this design experience as I found that the manual was not necessary. The look of the stompboxes, amplifiers, cabinets, mics and racks is authentic and inviting, and makes you want to start turning knobs and trying the endless combinations to see how they sound.
Mixing and matching amp heads to cabinets to mics gives you worlds of tonal possibilities. I enabled the oversampling option for the best possible sound quality and it never taxed the system. A built-in CPU meter monitors your PC rig so you can watch how much processing power the Hendrix rig is consuming. I experienced no dropouts or other problems while using the software.
I was impressed with the authenticity and detail that was put into emulating Hendrix's rig. One of the most important and difficult things to simulate is realistic amplifier overdrive, and AmpliTube Hendrix sounds pretty darn good, especially at this price ($249 retail). Soft-clipping, like on the “Castles Made of Sand” preset, exhibits just a hint of clipping during the louder peaks of the guitar passages. However, I should mention that some of the mixing effects and techniques used on the original records — mostly time-based effects like flanging, echo and side-to-side panning — aren't part of the Hendrix rig. After all, this is a rig simulator and doesn't re-create the console or the ears of the engineer at the controls.
Manipulating the output to avoid overloads — which is dependent on the selected pickups, input level, gain, tone settings and master volume — took a bit of work. Also, when switching from preset to preset, you have to keep tweaking the levels and clearing the overload indicator. Some sort of auto-leveling feature would be helpful here as the output from a guitar is very dynamic, especially for anyone who likes to plug in directly without any outboard gear.
Overall, AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix is certainly worth adding to your VST arsenal, especially if you're looking for authentic and carefully constructed Hendrix sounds without filling the room full of gear. Yes, they're emulations, but a lot of love went into making these some of the best around at an affordable price. That — combined with the ability to save endless rig configurations — makes this a compelling package to own.
IK Multimedia, 954/846-9101, www.ikmultimedia.com.
Rick Spence is the owner of AVT Pro, a production company in the Silicon Valley.