Amp sims IK Multimedia Reviews

IK Multimedia Amplitube 5

Rating: 8.5/10

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

INTRO

There’s no chance that anyone reading this or really any amp sim user anywhere hasn’t at least heard of Amplitube before. Many users have gotten started with Amplitube, after all, the first version came out in 2002 which makes it one of the originals in the game! The plugins have always had solid graphics and a list of gear that could draw a crowd but over time, the market standard elevated significantly which showed bit of age in the Amplitube series. It was clear that IK Multimedia (IKM) had taken Amplitube 4 about as far as it was going to go.

Amplitube fans can now rejoice as IK Multimedia releases Amplitube 5! All the models you know and love have all been upgraded while the ones you maybe didn’t like have been given more life. The base-level SE plugin includes 77 components, the full Amplitube 5 comes in at over 170 components and the popular Amplitube MAX drops a bomb with 400+ components that includes all of the signature and artist pack expansions. For a very detailed and full explanation of the tidal wave of new features, please see the link HERE for all info.

Check out the ups and downs section below for individual thoughts on the packages! It’s also worth noting that Amplitube 4 owners have affordable and FREE upgrade options available so all the expansions you once purchased will get some new use!

EXPERIENCE

It’s impossible not to immediately notice the jaw-dropping visual upgrades users get with Amplitube 5 vs the 4th installment. Every single pedal, cab, amp and more has been given a new, fresh look that really impressed me. Everything operates flawlessly, things are easy to find and even complex stereo signal chains are easy to create from thin air. Graphics aren’t everything, we all know this by now but with a suite that has a ton of gear to choose from with so many editable parameters everywhere, a great GUI is beyond essential. IKM came to bat here in a big way by making everything look shiny, new and very detailed.

The gear list for the MAX is gigantic but if it’s one thing we should all know by now it’s quality not quantity. It’s rare that all of the components in a full-suite type plugin will all be winners but some plugins have more hits than others. For a look at the full selection of amps, pedals, cabs and everything else included in the MAX version, check out the this list. Make no mistake, IKM put a lot into other areas of the plugin but still managed to include a reasonable amount of new gear in the process. On paper, there wasn’t a ton of new gear added for the release but with the upgrades to the rest of the plugin, the stage is perfectly set for an avalanche of new amps, cabs, pedals and more to step into the picture in the near future.

When riffing on Amplitube 4, the licensed / brand and artist signature packs always sounded much better to me than the Amplitube-branded components. The Dimebag, Satriani, Hendrix and other packs that stood above the pack before, do so even more so now with the advancements. The Joe Satriani and Dimebag packs are both packed solid with truly great components. I have had hours of fun on those alone creating everything from clean to high gain tones that I felt really great about. These packs definitely stand out to me as by far the best expansions available for Amplitube 5. Otherwise, the expansions are all pretty decent and if you owned any of them for AT4, they have been given new life so give them another rip.

Let’s talk about licensed plugins for a moment shall we? Brand licensing happens when a software developer and analog gear building get together and strike a deal where the developer pays the builder to use their actual name and logo on a software plugin. The more common unlicensed approach involves changing the name and logo to be obvious but not infringe on copyrights. Users have often over the year confused licensed as being the true mark of a plugin representation’s authenticity and quality but there’s more to it.

Not every analog gear builder has a real concern about how well their gear has been captured in plugin form as long as the money is good. This has really changed over the last couple years but prior to that, there was a lot less thought from that end. So it’s important to remember that licensed doesn’t always equal good and unlicensed certainly doesn’t equate to bad. In this case, AT5 has a lot of brand-licensed stuff floating around from Mesa Boogie, Wampler, Soldano, Ampeg, Fender, Seymour Duncan and many other popular names that most users will appreciate. Most of it can provide at least a look at what the specific components bring to the table but I wouldn’t say anything is hyper-realistic. These are not the best or worst licensed efforts out there, most of the offerings are average to slightly above average in quality.

Like pedals and rack effects?.. IKM does as well and they have you covered! The entire pedal collection has been given new graphics pedal by pedal, knob by knob, patch cable by patch cable. Gone are the cheesy boxes to make way for a pedalboard building extravaganza. Keep it simple with a single drive pedal, dial up the gain with some distortion or maybe modulation is your thing? If so, there’s a modulation candy store to be raided or maybe you like post-FX? Delays? Reverb? Oh boy, yep there’s a lot of those as well as an army of everything in between. Some of the pedals even allow for the customization or “modding” of the internal workings but I didn’t find many of the adjustments to be all that useful. The combinations for tones are literally endless so jump in and see which pedals end up impressing!

The multitude of terrific clean tones available inside Amplitube 5 is quite impressive. The Amplitube-branded amps can’t do much for high gain but when it comes to clean tones and rock etc, there’s plenty to be uncovered. No matter what style of clean tones you are after, AT5 has an amp for it. I was pretty impressed by the blues, country, southern rock, jazz and folky tones that I am able to find with even just a simple 2-3 component signal chain. The Jazz 120 (Roland Jazz Chorus) + really any mod, rev, delay etc is purely magical as is the Silverplate 50 but overall, users in search of the cleaner side of guitar have a lot to cheer about.

Moving to the rock / dirty / gritty side of AT5, we enter the plugin’s real strengths and the best evidence of the upgraded power amp modeling. The rock rhythm and lead tones are pretty strong all things considered. Gone are the moments where AT4’s rock attributes were torn down by a constant but subtle “cardboard” vibe. Users seeking everything from edge of break up vintage rock to fuzzed out leads to full on stacks of British brilliance will encounter 20 times the warmth, detail and picking response of the plugin’s predecessor. For rock leads, all I really needed to do was kick in a boost pedal and kick in a pinch of delay with the end result being full of warmth and sustain. The MAX pack’s assortment of rock amps vastly outweighs the basic AT5 package but regardless of the tier owned, there is a lot of potential for solid rock tones.

High gain amps are a huge part of the amp sim universe but none of the Amplitube versions have ever really delivered even an average high gain experience. At the time of release, the only additional high gain weaponry added is a Diezel VH4 model (Vhandcraft 4) that really just doesn’t perform very well. Even with the power amp / IR upgrades, there’s not much from the older collections to choose from to acquire average tones for genres and styles that require high gain. I really see this as an area the company should and likely will focus on a bit in the future, especially considering the rabid market of amp sim users that lean on the heavy side. Not doing so at time of release definitely brings the score down a pinch.

The bass gear in Amplitube has never really done the job for me in the past. There has always been sort of a boxy type feel to everything but with the upgrades to the power, cab and other sections, things have changed yet again for AT5! I wouldn’t say the bass components rival the quality of the stuff at the top of the bass side of amp sims but they have become a lot more useful. The new warmth and punch seriously helps the bass gear, maybe even more than the guitar components as the upgrades seem to bring a lot more of a realistic feel to the low end most notably in the low-mids. The Ampeg expansion is now much more useful than it once was and the rest of the bass gear follows suit. That said, the collection of bass gear vs. guitar components is pretty lop-sided so it would be nice to see some more added in the future. Mixing and matching guitar amps with bass cabinets can dredge up some truly mean distorted bass tones so again, experimentation is key!

IKM really put a lot into the overhaul of the IR / Cab section which will have AT fanatics jumping for joy. Of all the shiny new AT5 features, the new cab section might be the best of the bunch. The AT4 cab section had been one of the plugin’s main drawbacks so it was really nice to see the company put a lot of research and development into a full-on overhaul. 100+ cabinets in total with some new selections in addition to all of the re-mastered / re-measured cabinets / IRs provides a pretty terrific landscape for players of any style.

The new 3D cab section operates easily and smoothly while also having a ton of adjustable parameters and options to ensure full customization for the user. None of the added features are empty or just for show, everything does what it’s supposed to do very nicely instead of simply providing something semi-useful for the sake of user interaction. The speaker swap feature is very nicely done and can really take users down a great path for a fun way to change sounds considerably. Any 3D cab section can prove to be a bit of a task for beginners or those that really don’t know anything about mics, positions, speaker types or room sizes etc so before getting too fancy, we recommend learning the ropes via learning resources. IKM has included plenty of help and the GUI does also ease the learning curve but researching all of these things will give any user a leg up to dialing things in.

With IRs being possibly the most crucial component in the overall sound quality, the cabinet sections many updates / upgrades change things for the better considerably. For those that want even more ability to make the tones their own, simply open the new user IR loader / editor. This section allows users to add in their own IRs and after spending several hours trying a giant library of my own premium IRs, I am very satisfied with the quality and flexibility of the included loader and how it uses user files. Some users may prefer the quality with the internal cabs, some the internal IR loader and others may opt to bypass this section entirely for their own loader though doing so will change the signal chain so don’t forget to bypass any internal post-FX as they will now be out of the proper order.

The selection of cabs will depend on the tier of Amplitube owned by the user but overall, every available tier of AT5 does provide a solid and useful selection of cabinets for a number of applications. We reviewed the MAX pack so there was a huge selection of cabinets of pretty much every shape, size, speaker type and brand that users could ever needs but it’s not just quantity, there’s quality as well! The total of 143,000 files can be a bit misleading since there are so many positions that most users won’t really need but there are many added positions that really bring out the best in the cabinets.

The presets do a great job of showing off all the potential possibilities for very elaborate signal chains. I spent a lot of time building everything from very simple amp+cab chains right up to complete madness level chains with 10+ components and in my opinion, Amplitube 5 is at it’s best when the chains are a bit more simplistic. I have found myself enjoying long sessions with just a single pedal in front of one amp and yep… you guessed it, one cab. As I piled more and more into a chain, I just found the overall realism of the tones started to diminish slightly. Remember, long chains, depend on all components being of quality for the whole chain to be effective so build slowly and assess each component as you add it.

UPS / DOWNS

It’s very clear that a lot of work has gone into giving Amplitube new life but the industry is 20 times more competitive than it was when AT4 hit the market. The new GUI is awesome but the poweramp modeling + the new cabinet sections have really stolen the show. The tones are noticeably warmer, punchier and more realistic across the majority of the components. There was no genre or style outside of really high gain that I wasn’t able to dial in with ease and a reasonable amount of quality. There was a whole world more enjoyment involved with 5 for me than any other previous version.

I’ve always considered the Amplitube products to be more on the recreational side vs. a professional sounding solution. That’s not a bad thing as much as it’s just noting that there are levels to this industry and AT5 does not reach the top level. Amplitube and many other full-suite type plugins just cannot quite compete fully with the full power of the next-gen level single and multi amp suites all over the market. Even with the admittedly significant upgrades, Amplitube 5 doesn’t really compete with the arsenal of premium plugins out there on today’s market.

I felt there was a fair few legacy amps and pedals that just didn’t seem to carry over very well to the new version despite the improvements which in turn waters down the overall component quality. The authenticity across all components is in the 60-70% area but it’s worth mentioning that in full-suite type plugins that boast so many components, perfect authenticity isn’t really the goal as much as giving users a more basic idea of some of the component’s signature sounds. Users that have become accustom to the sound quality of today’s premium level plugins will not find the same level of tones so the score must reflect. I see AT5 as more of just a really great jamming or songwriting tool opposed to a professional quality studio solution. I can see the score changing / improving when all the new components start hitting the market for the new platform.

Amplitube 5’s MAX bundle is quite expensive for what is delivered unless users are upgrading/crossgrading. The full price of MAX puts the plugin in the highest price bracket. I think the plugin is 100% worth the upgrade for users that once put a decent amount of cash into the expansions. The revamped remastered areas of the plugin really do breathe new life into things so if you are one of those “I spent so much on Amplitube back in the day and now it sits unused” type people, at least look into crossgrading to ease that buyer’s remorse. Be sure to look into everything as you may be up for free stuff or upgrades!


See more: IK Multimedia Amplitube 5 overview and new gear

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