IK Multimedia Amplitube 2 guitar amp and effect plug-in

Long ago, my main squeeze was a Seymour Duncan modular tube guitar amp whose different high- and low-gain preamp modules could be combined in many configurations. You could even swap out power tubes and switch rectifiers. It was a tweaker's delight, and it delivered some unique tones.

IK Multimedia's latest tube emulation plugin reminds me of that amp. Amplitube 2 not only gives you the sounds of classic amps but also the various components and submodules from which they are composed, allowing you to fine tune the virtual amp circuitry to meet your version of perfection. Moreover, as with its predecessor, the new software includes a host of cabs, effects and mic models that make it a complete source for guitar tone production. Amplitube 2 works as a Mac plug-in under the VST, RTAS and Audio Units formats and as a PC plug-in under the VST and RTAS formats.

Amplitube 2'S signal routing is efficient and flexible. It has two signal paths: your guitar feeds two amps, each with its own set of effects and speaker cabinets. The paths can run in parallel or in various serial chains, and one amp can feed another.

The signal path consists of a rack tuner followed by two paths, each consisting of a pedal board capable of holding six stomp boxes, an amp, a cabinet and an effect rack that can hold four processors. The whole rig can be run in mono or split into stereo. If it sounds complex, Amplitube 2 certainly isn't overwhelming, and you can create a simple rig consisting of a fuzz box, amp and cab in no time at all.

Navigating the rigs and their modules is easy, as well. A diagram at the top of the interface shows the routing configuration and lets you select the modules for editing. The bottom of the window shows the value of the current parameter, various signal levels and a mini tuner. All in all, Amplitube 2 is a pleasure to work with and well designed.

When it comes to vintage tone, there's an obvious consensus on what gear belongs in the digital time capsule. Amplitube 2 uses new algorithms that improve on the company's already realistic tube emulation. In addition to the standard assortment of amps, effects and cabinets, it includes several new, interesting additions. Marshall, Fender, Vox, Mesa, THD and-Jimmy Page's secret studio weapon-a small Supro are on hand, as are more generic modern high-gain and solid-state amps, each with appropriate cabinets.

Like its closest competitor, Native Instruments' Guitar Rig, Amplitube 2 includes a bass amp with several appropriate cabinets. To IK's credit, the vintage realism of these models is more a jumping off point for useful tone than some reverential homage to the days of tweed and germanium.

Instead of restricting its emulations to complete amps, Amplitube 2 provides 14 preamp sections, 14 EQ sections and seven power amp modules. These can be organized to emulate traditional amplifiers or mixed in new combinations to create interesting hybrids. Say you want to cross a Marshall-based high-gain preamp with an Americanstyle EQ and have them feed a low-watt power amp and a 2x12 open-back cabinet. Amplitube 2 makes it possible.

Switching amp modules is easy-so easy, in fact, that I did so for quite a while before I even bothered exploring the presets (which turned out to be outstanding). Admittedly, some of the reconstituted amps you build will profoundly suck, but those that work will lift you to new levels of inspiration. It's addictive, and when you consider that a rig can contain two custom amps, you'll realize that the possibilities are, no pun intended, virtually limitless.

The effect, cabinet and mic emulations are stellar. Like the amps, they include the stuff you'd most expect to find, but I was impressed with the addition of a harmonizer and a rack parametric EQ, several condenser mics, and the ability to add ambience to the cabinets. IK will release a hardware foot controller in the fall, which should make the package even more powerful.

With my old Duncan, I eventually found a sound I loved and stuck with it for years. Amplitube 2 makes that same experience possible many times over with the outstanding tone and feel of its models. Check it out for yourself by downloading IK Multimedia's free full-functioning demo at amplitube.com.

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