Ah Guitar Rig… the very first full suite plugin I ever used back a ways. I remember using the first couple Guitar Rig Amps and being pretty unimpressed but then again that was some time back now.
It’s a full amp suite with 17 amps, 27 cabs and 50+ effects. Not a bad haul at all but it is a bit smaller than some of the other full suite / max pack type plugins. I’d prefer companies work harder on a smaller component offering than a bunch of empty boxes with fancy graphics.
The plugin looks pretty decent. The graphics are pretty nicely done. I really like the layout a lot, it’s very handy and the workflow is really consistent. Some people may not like the way the layout involves stacking the components but I like it and I feel it gives the user a simple look at the signal chain which is good for learning your way around.
Right away I notice the quality of the amps is miles better than I assumed it would be. There’s a ton of value in the controls but you need to use the presence and treble plus maybe some processing to bring out the plugin’s higher frequencies. Some of the amps can be a touch flat at the start. Presence controls on amp sims can be tricky, sometimes you need them and sometimes they add nothing good.
I couldn’t resist buying the Rammfire expansion for Guitar Rig 5. Like them or not, listen to Rammstein’s guitar tone and tell me it’s not heavy and high quality. Being a fan of their tone and with the expansion on sale, I pulled the trigger in a sleepy daze and surprised myself in the morning.
The selection of amps provided in GR5 is pretty nice. Native Instruments have included a good mix of amps but they didn’t really get too adventurous. The amps included are amps that have mostly been done by multiple developers so the selection isn’t as much impressive as it is solid and reliable. There’s something for every purpose but none of it really sounds amazing. It’s all just kind of passable and in need of a replacement.
The Marshall inclusions are pretty gritty and solid. I liked the Jump, Cool Plex and High White a fair bit. The Lead 800 is ok but it’s more of a modded JCM 800 with an added boost that kind of simulates a tube screamer so if you have a TS in your signal chain, you may want to dial it back a bit or bypass it.
One thing the Guitar Rig series struggled with through the first few versions was hi-gain. It was always grainy, noisy and generally unpleasant but in GR5, NI seems to have added some competent hi-gain options this time around that really do perform decently. The Hot Solo, Jump, Van 51, Rammfire and Ultrasonic bring some pretty decent bite for hi-gain applications. The Gratifier however needs replacing because it’s been hanging around since the earlier versions and it’s always been a below average sim, perhaps they could remove it to put in Rammfire full time? The Hot Solo however is really nice but I admit I am pretty biased towards Soldano.
Stoner/Doom is a possibility with GR5 as well. The Citrus, Plex, Cool Plex and a couple other amps mesh really well with the included Red Fuzz pedal and to be honest, the tones were fairly realistic sounding. I liked the Citrus the best for this style.
Lastly for the amps, NI included some really decent amps for cleaner and lower gain usage. I got some pretty convincing tones for country, blues, jazz, folk, funk and southern rock without a whole lot of effort. The Twang Reverb was my favorite of this bunch, it really had that smack and pop needed for telecaster riffing.
For the most part the amps are fairly realistic and the sims do capture a lot of the signature tones and tone characteristics of the amps they represent. These aren’t meticulously detailed sims but they are solid and reasonable flexible options that will get you where you need to go to a reasonable extent.
The pedals are hit and miss for me. The Red Fuzz is really cool but most of the OD and Dist pedals included really aren’t too flexible. The Big Fuzz / Big Muff sim is pretty bad to be honest, I always love trying Big Muff plugins but this one wasn’t great. I felt the OD/TS additions made things a bit too plastic without pushing the amp sims much. This might just be me being picky.
The modulation, delay and other included pedals are pretty fun to play around with. Most of them work pretty well but for the pedals overall, I don’t know how much has actually changed or been updated from the earlier versions of GR. I think NI could stand to add a bunch of updated pedals to the suite. The tube screamer needs updating as well.
Rammfire is an expansion and as far as I can tell the only expansion for Guitar Rig 5. It was developed in collaboration with Rammstein guitarist Richard Z Kruspe. It’s basically a modded Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier with a simplified control panel and four channels. It’s actually a pretty good sounding sim with a decent and useful bunch of hi-gain abilities. If you buy GR5 and you like hi-gain, buy Rammfire too.
The plugin includes Control Room and Control Room Pro which are pretty solid tools to tweak the onboard impulses. Each amp has a matched cab feature but inside that cab you can use the Control Room tools to shape the sound of the cab with mic placement, mixes and more. All in all I would say the impulses are fairly decent but as with many full-suites, I always suggest bypassing the cabs and post FX, adding your own loader and giving the plugin more depth with your own impulse collection.
UPS / DOWNS
Ok so, this is not a professional grade plugin but most of the full suite plugins aren’t overly professional sounding outside of Helix Native and TH-U. Guitar Rig 5 fits with programs more like Amplitube but I feel GR has better tones. This plugin sits in the middle grade somewhere and I would call it more of a recreational plugin rather than professional studio solution. You can coax some pro level sounds out of it with a little processing but if you are looking for a more professional sounding plugin, you may not find it with GR.
The price is too high, even on sale, I think NI is pricing themselves out of the game in some respects being that there’s a ton of great stuff coming out for much less or free. Not saying it’s ridiculously high but it could benefit from coming down a bit. Hit the link, what do you think?
See more: Native Instruments demo of Guitar Rig 5