I have used a few software amp modelling applications before but I had never tried Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig even though I used to use one of their Synth modelling programs years ago called Generator. When I saw that Native Instruments was about to release the 4th version of their amp modelling application I was keen to finally try it out for myself.

I have been running Guitar Rig as a VST plug-in for Ableton Live 7 by the way which was a seamless installation. The first thing that went through my mind is how nice the user interface is for Guitar Rig. There is a collapsable browser where you can select Presets, or individual amps, effects, modifiers and of course cabinets and mics. The amp models are pretty amazing based around classic amps such as the Plex, the wonderfully rich Hot Plex, Lead 800, one of my favourites the Jump, of course the AC Box, the Citrus, classic amps like the Tweed Delight and Twang Reverb and then there is a high gain modern amp called the Ultrasonic. Thats a lot to take in and the best way is to start playing around with the Presets and see what is available and possible with a little bit of dragging, dropping and tweaking. You can even adjust the sag, tube bias, the voltage and the power supply (50hz/60hz). I’ve personally never seen this level of control before amp modelling software, very impressive.

When you add an amp to the rack you get a matched cabinet by default with 2 mic’ing possibilitiesa and the ability to blend the 2, however there is also a cabinets and mics module that you can use to customise your setup further. With this module you can add cabinets, mic and mic position as well as distance and individual eq and pan controls. However there is another option which is new to Guitar Rig 4 and is a very cool feature called the Control Room module which “features 5 classic cabinets picked up by 6-8 legendary microphones, each perfectly in phase! They have been painstakingly positioned by studio legend Peter Weihe, delivering pure ear candy and endless facets of sound for you to mix.” and you can mix these mics however you like for that particular amp with the Control Room faders and pan controls.

There is just about every conceivable effects units at your fingertips from classic boost, overdrive and distortion pedals to modulation, time-based and freaky filter effects. There is also 2 modules which are very important called the Split and Crossover modules.

The Split Module allows you to create parallel (instead of serial) effects chains which means you can process the split the sound and process it with different effects and then mix the results back together at the end. Serial, parallel, and mixed serial/parallel combinations offer a practically limitless range of possibilities for combining effects, for a truly original sound. The Split Module can be inserted anywhere in the rack.

This device is similar to the Split Module – it splits the signal path into two. However, in this case, you can set a dividing line (“crossover point”) in the frequency response, and send lower frequencies to one split and higher frequencies to the other split. With the Split Module you can, for examle, create rich effect chains that only affect the high frequencies and mix with a more solid natural foundation of the sound.

These are both very powerful features and make using multiple amp setups really easy.

I have the Guitar Rig Kontrol edition which also includes the Bradshaw-esque looking foot controller which also doubles as a high quality audio interface and preamp called Rig Kontrol 3. This compact controller includes powerful software which allows you to assign the switches and expression pedal to any parameter in your rig. I could list all the features but I would simply be regurgitating the website so have a quick browse of this page which explains the controller in detail.

I think if you watch the videos above in high quality mode you will hear just how outstanding this software is, I was not really expecting Guitar Rig to be anything particularly new but I have found the amp models inspiring and reactive just like a real JCM800 or AC30 would be. As a recording tool this software is almost essential, as a live tool I think it would hold up pretty well especially with the solid Rig Kontrol 3 unit. I’m still too old fashioned to move away from a tube amp for a live situation but it certainly is tempting with such an amazing array of amps and effects available at the stomp of a switch!