IK Multimedia Amplitube 4 by Sound-Guy
AmpliTube 4 (Standard, Deluxe and MAX) from IK Multimedia
IK Multimedia introduced the fourth generation of AmpliTube four years ago, yet the only review of AmpliTube on Gearslutz is for version 3, posted over seven years ago! And that review was not too positive being written by a “newbie” who was trying to use GarageBand on a now ancient Macbook that had trouble running AmpliTube, yet I’ve used AmpliTube 3 for years myself with excellent results. I thought an evaluation of AmpliTube 4 running on a real computer might be informative.
AmpliTube 4 plug-in window with a Gallien-Krueger MB 150S amp model – note signal flow diagram at top.
The 8 buttons on the left (below Default label) change the signal path as described later.
What It Is?
AmpliTube 4 (AT4) is the latest version of IKM’s studio collection of pedals, amps, cabinets and mics for guitar and bass (and actually about any instrument), and comes in a range of “bundles” from the free AmpliTube Custom Shop which includes 24 pieces of “equipment” (9 stompboxes, 4 amps, 5 cabs, 3 mics, 2 rack effects and a tuner) to the MAX version with over 330 pieces of gear! The good news is that using any version of AT4 enables you to try any of the available gear for a 72 hour period free, buy it if it meets your needs or try another unit. You can also purchase one of the special collections of gear such as the new AmpliTube Brian May that adds unique rigs used and approved by the artist (see the Gearslutz review).
If you are still using AmpliTube 3 you may note an additional ‘box’ in the signal path named Insert, which is another FX rack that follows the stompbox and precedes the Amp section. This rack uses the same ‘outboard’ gear as the Rack at the end of the signal chain, but provides these FX before miking the cab. Actually, the Stomp section can also use Rack gear and the Inserts and Racks can use stompboxes. A lot of FX in a lot of places!
Some people have expressed displeasure over the custom shop approach, claiming it’s just a marketing gimmick. It is a clever sales system, but no one is forced to buy any amp, stompbox or other gear they don’t want. The really brilliant feature is being able to check out actual “gear” in your own system for three days at no cost, which seems reasonable to me. Of course, if you really like the gear, you’ll want to buy it, which may be what really bothers those displeased people!
There are complete descriptions of what gear is included with each bundle on the IKM site, with the standard version (AmpliTube 4) including 66 pieces of equipment, the Deluxe bundle providing over 140 pieces of gear, and the MAX over 330, including 88 stompboxes! One might argue that no one needs 88 stompboxes, but one could also argue that no two reverbs sound alike, nor two distortion boxes. I could argue that only one volume pedal is really needed (MAX comes with three!) but trying each of the other 85 stompboxes found plenty of variation. It’s a gearhead’s (or Gearslutz’s) dream!
The paid versions all have the same interface and more basic features than the free custom shop: among other things the free version has only a two track recorder while paid versions include eight track recording and a four track looper in the standalone versions. All versions include the ability to import a Wav, Aiff, sd2, Apple Caf, Flac, or MP3 audio file and have a SpeedTrainer for speeding up/slowing down imported tracks without affecting the pitch to help learn parts. All versions are 64 bit only and include a standalone module and plug-ins in all the usual formats for Mac and Windows DAWs (AU, VST 2, VST 3, and AAX). The free version is good to evaluate the sound quality of various gear, but to really utilize AmpliTube you should probably get at least the standard version.
The user interface of AT4 is very clean and easy to navigate. The signal flow diagram at the top of the window enables instantly selecting one of the signal path “modules” to access a choice of gear, be it stompbox, amp, cabinet, or rack gear. The Preset window to the left of the signal flow area enables accessing sets of gear that may include stompboxes, rack equipment, amps, cabs and mics.
Preset window open to AmpliTube 4 British Collection with a Brit 9000 chosen.
Selecting the a Stomp module displays a view showing any stompboxes selected, either via a preset or selected from a pull-down window.
Stomp A window with four of six slots loaded.
Note there are two Stomp panels, each with six slots, as well as two Insert racks that precede the amp section, each with four slots, and two post-cab “racks”, each with four slots – and rack gear and stompboxes can be used freely in any of these positions.
Amps and cabs can be selected and adjusted in the Amp and Cab windows. Any selected amp has multiple controls such as Drive, Presence, Gain, sometimes EQ, sometimes tube or transistor configurations, yielding a wide range of tones and response characteristics. The Cab window includes speaker cabinet selection, mic selection and even individual speakers for 12 inch units. It also is where you can adjust the position of a pair of room mics, and has the mixer to balance each cab mic, the room mics, and a DI signal that bypasses the cab and mics if you want to blend in a direct signal. The Cab window is where you can select the environment of the cabs with six room choices from an isolation booth to a garage to a big live room. The room sound contributes a stereo image that adds depth to the results.
One of the basic AmpliTube amps with a preamp section, an EQ, spring reverb, and power amp section,
each with a range of controls and settings. This amp alone could keep most people happy for quite a while.
The Cab module includes speaker cabinets, microphone selection and positioning, and even individual
speaker replacement for 12-inch units!
Note that the views above all use only a single path through Stomp A and B, Amp A, Cab A and Rack A which is configuration 1 in the upper left corner, but you can also set up other path types including arrangements with various series and parallel modes. There are even two stereo input modes, one that provides entirely separate processing (left channel through all the A’s and right channel through the B’s) and one that accepts stereo inputs, processes them separately and combines them at the end. The full stereo rig is shown below with the left channel modules highlighted.
Rig style 2 with fully separate left/right channel processing – note that although the signal flow diagram
shows the two paths converging at the end, they actually emerge as separate left/right channels.
You could use one instance of AT4 to process two separate instruments with this arrangement.
Stand By Me
The standalone version is slightly larger than the plug-in and includes eight recording tracks and a looper display (switchable between the two in the upper left panel) along with the layout of the rig’s signal path and a view of whatever gear is currently in focus. And of course all the gear and adjustments of the plug-in versions seen above are also in the standalone.
Standalone version with Looper shown on the left with the selection window above the Looper controls
to alternately bring up the recorder – these tools are of course not available with the plug-in since your DAW
can “do it all”.
The sound quality of all the AT4 gear is excellent and includes details such as dynamic interaction between power amps and speakers, power supply ‘sag’, and harmonic interaction between individual speakers, cabinets and rooms. All modeled with impressive realism. While some argue that a computer simulation will not reproduce all the nuances of playing a real amp and cabinet, the naturalness of AmpliTube is commendable. Playing live (and loud – use ear protection!) in front of your speakers can provide real “hardware” feel. Although I don’t play guitar myself, I’ve had guitarists try several “amp” simulations in my studio and all were most impressed with AmpliTube. And I’ve played keyboards and run project tracks through many AT4 rigs with great results.
All the AT4 the gear I’ve tried sounds exceptional and I have never run out of combinations of gear to try – in fact, just trying a single setting for all permutations of 330 pieces of gear in a rig with five stompboxes, one amp, one cab and two mics would require literally billions of tests! Even the standard version of AT4 provides over 200,000 possible permutations of gear, before even changing a setting on anything.
And as I just mentioned, you needn’t limit use of such a rig to processing guitar or bass sounds. I’ve used tracks of blues harp, piano, organ, and a number of other instruments through AT4 with wonderful results. Some of the pedals stretched a piano note into a dreamy pad sound while others created screaming drones and leads. Even vocals can yield some incredible results. So if you don’t play or record guitars, AmpliTube can still yield an enormously useful range of very high quality effects.
What Do You Need?
If you haven’t tried AmpliTube, the free version is certainly worth a look and listen – it has the same audio quality as the paid versions, and although the included gear is somewhat “generic”, it can provide some good FX and great flexibility. If you are a guitarist, you likely have a real rig already with some favorite FX, and possibly wish you had some others. Even the free version will enable you to hear how any of the available gear sounds with your guitar and technique. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using a computer-based rig emulation in a live stage performance, but in your own studio you can evaluate a wide range of pedals, amps and cabs with guitar, bass, or just about any audio source and expand tones pretty much to infinity and beyond.
I tested AT4 using a PC Audio Labs Rok Box with Intel Core i7-4770K CPU @ 3.5 GHz, 16 MB RAM running 64 bit Windows 7. RAM requirements varied depending on the FX loaded and I found most rigs used under 400 MB of RAM and none used more than 500 MB. AT4 ran fine with 32 samples of latency in my DAW and as a standalone unit. CPU use was low – typically 1%-2% and never exceeded 4% according to REAPER’s performance meter and the Windows task Manager. No problem using a few instances if needed.
AmpliTube 4 provides a wide range of possible tone modifications with the free version being fun for experimentation and the paid versions, even the basic one, providing an awful lot of gear for the money. And since specific amps, cabs, mics and FX can be tested for free, and purchased as desired, one can assemble about any rig you could dream of, for a lot less than buying the real hardware.
I notice that IKM and some of the big online musical supply companies have end-of-year sales on each of the AmpliTube bundles, up to 50% off until the end of the year (2019). Also some of the collections like the new Brian May are on sale. Now would be a very good time to check out these impressive gear emulations.
Very easy to use.
Models of stompboxes, amps and cabs from top manufacturers have been approved by the manufacturers for their realism.
Any gear available on the IKM AmpliTube site can be downloaded free and used for 72 hours without restrictions, then purchased if you must have it, or you can try some other gear.
Authentic sound processing with amps and cabs that interact dynamically like real hardware.
Very flexible signal chain with eight different series and parallel configurations, with stompboxes and rack effects that can be freely inserted pre and/or post amp/cab.
A large selection of cabs and mics are available with 3-D positioning in front of the cabs, and for more flexibility you can even change speakers to your liking in any 12 inch cab.
Excellent sound quality at sample rates up to 96 kHz.
Both standalone and plug-in versions (64 bit only) are provided.
The standalone version includes an 8-track recorder and a 4-track looper, so no DAW is required for basic recording and up to four loops can be used in live playing.
Low CPU resource requirement, modest RAM needs, and runs fine on a decent computer with only 32 samples of latency.
Gear from previous versions of AmpliTube can be installed using the Custom Shop.
Massive database of presets with multiple guitar and bass settings and keywords with an advanced search function can be very handy, but see “Cons” below.
The limited time sale going on until end of 2019 makes any of the bundles and collections a very attractive bargain.
Massive database of presets with multiple guitar and bass oriented keywords will pop up a warning when gear you don’t have is included in the preset – if you have only the standard version this will affect most of the presets! However, if you really want to try a preset, you can quickly audition any needed gear for free if you are online (though you will need to pay for it if you want to keep it!)
Workspace window size is not adjustable. Depending on your video monitor you may find this annoying. They are fixed at about 1,112 x 726 pixels for the standalone and 848 x 540 for the plug-in. On my system using a 32" (80 cm) WQHD monitor they look fine.
Even Max version does not include ‘everything’ (for example, the Brian May collection, Dimebag Darrell, Slash or Jimi Hendrix collections must be purchased separately). Max includes 334 pieces of gear (stompboxes, amps, cabs & speakers, mics and rack units), but not the specialized artist rigs.
The MAX version is not cheap, but if you want over 300 pieces of gear it’s a lot cheaper than buying the full set of AmpliTube gear separately, and an awful lot cheaper than buying even a single real amp and cab! Even the standard version should keep most musicians happy for a long time. And if you catch the year-end sale, costs are even more modest.
Note that while the free Custom Shop version will host any of the 330-plus pieces of gear, it is a reduced feature version.
and new Brian May collection https://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/brianmay/