IK Multimedia recently released their biggest update to Amplitube, their popular amp modeling software, and it is chock full of new, creative sounds and an easier workflow. Amplitube 5 is a complete overhaul of the amp modeler thousands of guitarists use to explore new tones and record release-ready music. From the completely redesigned GUI to the recaptured gear, Amplitube is truly born again. There are so many new things to cover here. I was truly astonished as soon as I opened Amplitube 5 for the first time, and I know you’ll be as well.
Footprint and Layout
I had heard a ton of amazing rumors about the look of Amplitube even before I was asked to review it, and purposely didn’t even look at any of the sneak previews of the layout until I downloaded it. Boy, it was just like Christmas morning. The GUI is absolutely stunning. Both the standalone app and the VST are fully scalable to any screen you work on, which is IMPERATIVE to me, as my main screen is an old 42” TV and my secondary “mix” screen is a 25” computer monitor. It fits both screens absolutely perfectly.
Upon first look, you’ll see a new, user friendly layout of three different windows: your gear window (where you’ll see an amp loaded up at default), the signal chain, and a virtual gear locker. Now, like a lot of you, I’m a very visual person, especially in the studio. I greatly appreciated that all the gear is visible in front of me as if I had just walked through the doors of a guitar playing producer’s heaven. You don’t have to scroll through arduous menus and folders to find a piece of gear that you’re looking for, it’s just right there.
The gear looks realistic. All the knobs and parameters fit the model of the amps that they correspond to, giving it the feel as if they were a part of your own amp locker. All the mainstays of your rig are accessible from the signal chain, which are displayed as its correct icon instead of an ambiguous title that previous versions of Amplitube had. Click your “cab” icon and you won’t just see some speakers with mics, but an entire virtual room with interchangeable room mics, room types and even some different speakers if you want to do a swap mid-session.
V.I.R (Volumetric Impulse Response)
Before I dive in to tell you about my first chords through Amplitube 5, I want to explain their whole new Volumetric Impulse Response, or V.I.R technology, which captures every nuance of the cabs and heads. The one reason that players like myself have stayed clear of modeling in the past is though the sound was quite close to the real deal, there was still mojo missing in comparison to the amp being played in a live room. The folks at IK Multimedia captured around 600 different impulse responses per speaker to achieve the most 3D sound I’ve heard in a VST to date. There are so many different factors in relation to what the frequency response of your speaker is, let alone how it reacts to the mics and the environment you’re playing in, and every single speaker, room and mic combination in Amplitube 5 encompasses all of it. Each speaker has its own IR per room or mic as well, so if you have selected a cab with 4 speakers, you guessed it! 2,400 impulse responses in total. So why am I harping on this? These aren’t just one size fits all captures. Every nuance, parameter, volume pot, mic and cab placement sounds capture a 3D image of the rig of your dreams.
Amplitube 5 can handle anything you need, and more than you can even think of. The signal chain is freely configurable, giving you the chance to make wet/dry rigs with mid/side processing and huge stereo tones that will make you think twice of doubling your guitar parts. Every pedal, amp, cab and outboard effect could be placed wherever you like, and the possibilities are endless. To get the most options, however, I’d recommend buying at least the “standard” version of Amplitube 5 rather than just the CS. You’ll also get more gear this way!
There are 8 different room models for each of the cabs, which all have their own individual characteristics that will make you choose them in a mix. You can go in and also change each speaker in your cab with the plethora of speaker simulations that are provided. With the “standard” version, you can even load your own cab IR’s to make this truly fit into your current rig.
Sound and Performance- First Look
Though a lot of these amps have familiar names that you’ve known from previous versions of Amplitube, every little nook and cranny has been completely re-modeled to give you the most realistic sound, feel and dynamic yet. Even from jamming on the default “Marshall” style head for a lengthy period of time, I noticed right away that the amp reacts way more naturally than its predecessor (which was super close to the real deal as well). Rolling back the volume cleans the amps up while still maintaining a full, realistic sound, and lightening my touch makes these amps sound like a moving instrument rather than a stoic, one trick model.
It took some time to go through all the different amps in this bunch, even just from the free CS version. But each amp has a full range of dynamic and frequency character that will make you think differently before plugging in your loud Twin. I started my journey through this app by preset surfing, but actually got more out of making my own rigs. The ease of loading up your amp, pedals, swapping some mics and adding some outboard EQ and compressions from Amplitube 5 itself takes only a matter of minutes. It doesn’t take too much time to learn the layout for people just getting their feet wet with Amplitube either, as everything is presented in a logical manner.
Just like all the other gear I get in, I threw it through the fire of a session right away and was blown away with how much life each amp model gave to the song. I had Amplitube 4 running on my guitars previously, and while it sounded amazing, the amps on Amplitube 5 (especially the “American Clean MKIII mixed with the Diode Drive) made me play more dynamically and inspired me as the real amp would. I spent little to no time dialing in the tone I needed- placing the mics in the virtual “room” took far less time than it normally would as well (for obvious reasons). The guitars sat perfectly in the mix and cut through when they needed to.
The onboard pedals and signal chain gave me a ton of flexibility, especially with more ambient “wet/dry” rhythm work that I pushed back in the mix. Though I had a plethora of options, I stuck mostly to what I knew and what the song called for. I worked as if this was my only amp in the session (say if I was in a quick Nashville style demo session) and tried my own pedalboard as well and got a whole range of tones just from this single rig. Compressor, Diode Drive to push the amp, MKIII with matching cab on the verge of breakup with a smidge of ‘verb, a little slap-back for the tape echo and the amp in the “large studio” room with a R121 and SM57 models panned hard left and right.
I must add, however, that you need to properly gain stage your pedals into your DAW to achieve the most usable tone. It takes a little fiddling at first to make sure you’re not pushing anything super hard, but it is just simple gain staging that I would have needed to do regardless if this was software or live amps.
As far as latency and bug issues, I haven’t experienced anything yet. I run this as a VST in Logic on the highest buffer size on “Low Latency Mode” and even the most loaded rigs in Amplitube 5 track my playing quickly and react just like I need it to without any crashes. Like anything else, after I’m happy with my take and tone, I do bounce each track down with the effects embedded just to give me less to worry about when it comes to mixdown, not for “system overload” in this case. And in case you’re wondering, my computer isn’t decked out like crazy either. It’s a 2015 Mac Mini. This marks a huge “check yes” for me.
Just like how little CPU Amplitube 5 takes up on your computer, it will take little on your wallet as well. The SE “standard” version is just $99 which you can add a la carte any unincluded amp you want as well inexpensively in the IK Custom Shop. Speaking of Custom Shop, there’s a completely free version called Amplitube 5 CS which gives you a load of amps, pedals, effects and flexibility in one single download click, and will give you the chance to see this right away for yourself.
Other crossgrade and upgrade options are available. Need a hardware interface? Buy IK’s AXE I/O Solo and Amplitube 5 bundle for $299.99 and there’s also a Max bundle ($399) which includes every single piece of gear imaginable. If you’re a producer always looking for an arsenal of great guitar tones at your fingertips (or more computer), you’ll love Amplitube 5.
IK Multimedia website:AmpliTube 5 guitar software