Overloud TH-U FULL by Diogo C
The scope: Overloud presents the latest iteration of their successful TH amp simulation platform, and after TH-3 here comes TH-U, bringing a number of meaningful auditions and improvements over previous versions. The TH line is well-known at this point and needs no further introduction, but in case you’re not that much of an amp sim aficionado let’s recap what it is all about and also have a look at the new features:
- Complete set of electric guitar and bass amplification tools with proprietary algorithms, providing amps, cabinets with up to four mics, rack/pedal effects, utilitarian tools for signal routing, mixing and tuning.
- 15 new amplifiers and 14 new cabinets for a whopping total of 93 amplifiers and 52 cabinets for bass and guitar, including officially approved models by Randall, Brunetti, DVmark and THD.
- 77 effects, including effects based on Overloud’s Breverb and Spring Age. TH-U also adds a new Multitrack looper, a Shimmer Reverb and a Shimmer Delay.
- 18 microphone models with flexible 3D positioning of up to four mics per cabinet.
- New “Rig Player” with 20 factory rigs, which works similarly to the Kemper Profiler by sampling an entire setup from pedal to mic using Overloud’s proprietary R2M “Rig To Model” technology. As of right only Overloud can capture rigs i.e. users can not capture their own setups to be used in the Rig Player.
- New “Amp Tweak” feature offers customization of pre and power amp tubes.
- Improved Cabinet impulse response (IR) module and onboard convolver for user IRs.
- Over a thousand presets organized on intuitively named banks with search function for both presets and banks. A bass-oriented preset bank is also included.
- Full MIDI implementation for remote control including MIDI learn.
- Input metering with indication for optimal level.
- Resizable interface.
- AAX, AU, VST plug-in support and standalone software for Mac and Windows.
Sound quality: It’s hard to put almost one hundred amp models in the same bag and give them the same score, but the overall impression left on me after nearly twenty hours of preparation for this review was highly positive, and after a few sessions I was able to pick a handful of go-to amps to cover most bases. Lately I’ve been dealing with styles that are miles apart from each other, jazzy Brazilian bossa and black/death metal to be specific, so my experiences with TH-U were mostly on the extreme ends of the spectrum, from blazing high-gain riffs at insane tempos to calm, gentle tunes which are mostly done on acoustic and hollow-body guitars, and Overloud didn’t let me down on both, delivering tones that were highly convincing. I was able to do some tests with some “middle ground” material - 90s grunge rock DI tracks sent by friends - but it was a solo amp outside of the bigger picture that is a complete production with proper mixing which is something certainly hurts the assessment, so I’ll save the final judgement for an actual complete production. However, it is more than safe to say that TH-U can do basically all genres in competent manner and all of its signs point to the right direction, so it’s impossible to deny it our highest score.
Ease of use: Perhaps TH-U’s most troublesome aspect to the eyes of this reviewer, but this reviewer has to confess that he’s not a big fan of the “real-world lookalike” approach to GUIs taken by so many plug-ins. In general terms I believe that skeuomorphism is something that should be avoided, but that’s aggravated on plug-ins such as TH-U and other amp sims because it’s not only gimmicky, but to me it’s also not an efficient interface design. It’s different from let’s say, a compressor, where you only have to deal with a certain number of parameters. In that regard, TH-U is mostly easy to use if you’re sticking to simple amp plus cab setups, but on complex rigs there’s simply too much clicking, dragging and zooming in to access a certain parameter, and that goes against a fast-paced workflow. However, that’s not the biggest problem here because as browsing through the insanely vast catalog of amps, cabinets and pedals proves to be a much bigger issue. It’s a bit disheartening to open the amp menu and have to come to terms with a bunch of names that hardly means anything. As you hover the mouse cursor over each model you get a tooltip with their real world name and there are four authorised brands which are easily identified, but even then they seem a bit lost in the middle of a big list of semi-generic names. In contrast, the preset browser is neat and works wonders, with banks that are intuitively named and a search bar to help us quickly find the desired sounds. The number of presets and their sonic range is also worth praising, so if you’re a preset guy then there’s nothing to worry about as there are literally a thousand of them to choose from and they’re easily accessed with the search bar. The new Rig Player is also a breeze to use, it streamlines the setup to a single interface that aggregates all controls and certainly speeds up the tone tweaking process. The same can be said for the MIDI implementation with the always handy “learn” feature. CPU footprint is surprisingly light even on complex setups with multiple processors, all without any extra added latency. Lastly, the 33-page PDF user manual covers in clear and concise language all the user needs to know.
Features: I’d love to see a different interface that embraces graphical design instead of pursuing realism, but that’s a bit of wishful thinking! Anyway, feature-wise TH-U is pretty much impeccable, ranking up high with its immense number of gear options and a good infrastructure to put it all together despite the difficulties mentioned earlier, which can all be solved on an update as they are all easy to address - easier than nailing a myriad of amp tones, which Overloud certainly did in spades!
Bang for buck: TH-U is in a tough spot as it is not prohibitively expensive but also not quite what we can call affordable on the highly competitive and crowded amp sim market. Just so we can establish a fair comparison with a similar software, Amplitube 4 goes for literally half the price. Nevertheless, TH-U certainly has the upper hand and offers more content, it’s arguably at the top right now when it comes to diversity by the strength of the numbers. Another aspect to consider is that expansions will probably come for the Rig Player, which is something Overloud has done with their REmatrix reverb plug-in and will likely happen with TH-U as well, so there goes more cash on top of the initial asking price of €299*, but I hope I’m wrong here and that some content is offered without any charges in the future. A way to ease the financial burden is to grab TH-U on genre-specific chunks such as TH-U Metal, Rock, Funk and R&B, which are standalone products (not expansions) that offers a selection of amps and cabinets tailored towards to their respective music genres. They all offer upgrade paths with progressive discounts for the Full version, but perhaps one only needs Metal while others only need Funk, so it is a nice option to have on the table before going for the whole thing. The bottom line is that TH-U is far from being excessively priced, in fact for what it offers it is more than fair priced. Most importantly, it delivers on what it promises and provides a well-rounded piece of software that stands amongst the best amp simulators right now, so it has to be in contention when choosing a virtual guitar amp.
*Suggested retail prices, VAT included.
Recommended for: guitarists, engineers and producers looking for a one-stop solution for all their virtual amplification needs.
- Convincing and realistic amps to cover seamlessly all genres.
- Highly versatile thanks to the big collection of modeled amps, cabinets and effects.
- Lightweight on system resources and runs with zero added latency.
- Comes with a substantial collection of useful presets.
- It’s hard to navigate through that vast sea of gear and better ways to sort out all that content would be highly welcome.
Click below for sound clips and full resolution screenshots.
Kudos to my dear friends M. Murrer and A. Caetano for sending me guitar tracks on such short notice!