What: The next generation of IK’s cross-platform VST/AU/RTAS/standalone AmpliTube modeling software, with a ton of emulations: 51 stompboxes/effects, 31 amp/preamp/power sections, 46 cabinet models, 15 virtual mics with virtually unlimited miking options, and 17 post-amp “studio” rack effects that help create a “produced” sound.
Two mics being set up on a cabinet, one close and centered, the other further away and on the edge of the speaker.
Why: AmpliTube, introduced in 2002, was the first native amp sim software; each iteration has given not just more gear to play with, but a more detailed, organic emulation that continues to refine the amp sim tone.
Installation: IK has ditched the dongle in favor of a simple online registration system, as well as a user area that makes it easy to keep track of authorizations, or ask for more if your hard drive blows up. But check for updates—IK often does “point” releases with extra features and bug fixes.
Learning curve: AmpliTube 3 (AT3 for short) is very much designed for guitarists, down to the graphic look, and is pretty non-intimidating. IK also makes several hardware interface/controller products that work with AT3, thus simplifying the learning curve for an IK-based system.
Best bits: AT3 has added extensive room/mic modeling options that go far beyond previous versions. You can use two virtual mics (chosen from 15 different types) and place them pretty much anywhere in relation to the virtual cabinets, which themselves can live in five different room types. This may not seem like as big a deal as new models, but being able to model not just an amp, but an amp in a room, contributes much to realism. It’s also possible to change cabinet size, which is a great effect when creating amp stacks. But even this takes a back seat to the sound, which has a certain warmth, and effectively models the Holy Grail of amp sims—the clean-to-breakup transition. The new amp and effects models reflect the increasing sophistication of IK’s algorithms, but some of the older elements have gotten a makeover as well. For example, the reverb looks the same, but is now impulsebased instead of synthesized, yielding a more accurate sound.
What's more, AT3 includes two virtual pedalboards. You can connect them in series to create a chain of 12 effects, or in parallel if you prefer two chains of six effects.
Limitations: AT3’s main issue is trading off ease of use for flexibility. For example, there are eight routings and while they cover most (if not all) of what most people need, you can’t, for example, do parallel processing beyond two signal chains. Also, it’s not possible to apply various types of modulation to different processors, although AT3 has added some more “synth-like” processors such as step filtering.
Bottom line: You can download a demo and decide for yourself if AT3 makes the kind of sounds you like, but suffice it to say that if based on past experience you don’t think amp sims...