Toybox: Guitar studio shines with new effects

Guitar Rig 2 includes a better-looking, higher-quality Rig Control that connects directly to the computer via USB

Since it was first introduced in 2004, Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig has lured an increasing number of guitar players from their traditional pedal setup to the digital world. While there is no doubt Guitar Rig was a breakthrough product, the first release was not without its problems — most of which have been corrected with Guitar Rig 2.

One of the biggest drawbacks of going digital is the wide variety of modelling techniques companies use to reproduce amps and effects pedals. Unfortunately, nobody has really nailed it yet, so that when you choose an effect or amp, you never know exactly what you are going to get.

However, Guitar Rig 2 comes very close to correctly reproducing tone. Being able to dial in a tone — whether your own or a model of another guitarists’ — is one of the hardest things to do. Having an application that models tone so well makes that task much easier.

Users of the original Guitar Rig will be pleased to hear that the interface has remained relatively unchanged in the newest version, making the transition to Guitar Rig 2 very smooth. You can also easily exchange presets, so all the customisation you did in the original is not lost. Just export the preset bank that contains your tones and import it into Guitar Rig 2. The good news is that there are more effects to play with in the new version that could help you dial-in those old tones a little better.

Perhaps the biggest change for me was the addition of the Marshall JCM 800 amp. I love this amp. Most of my favourite guitarists have used this at one time — it has been a staple of hard rock and heavy metal for 20-plus years.

The first thing I did when I unpacked Guitar Rig 2 was create a new preset and start to emulate Zakk Wylde’s tone. Within a few minutes, I had something close; after 15 or 20 minutes I had it pretty much dialed-in, although I continued to play with it for a couple of days until I was satisfied.

In comparison, I was never able to get the tone I wanted from the original version of Guitar Rig. I blame most of that on the amp modelling. It also seems the Chorus and Distortion pedals give a much more refined sound, too.

Among the many additions to Guitar Rig 2 is the Loop Machine. I didn’t know if I would use this much because I was used to recording and looping using the built-in decks. After laying down a medium-tempo blues-backing riff and clicking the Overdub button, I was hooked. I spent a good hour just doing overdubs on that riff.

While I was intrigued with Guitar Rig when it first came out, I dismissed it as a serious contender to replace my old pedal setup. The main reason for this was the hardware Rig Control (stompbox) that shipped with it.

Rig Control had to be connected to an interface like the M-Audio MobilePre using two 1/14-inch instrument cables and then fed to the computer over USB (or FireWire, depending on your device). No matter how hard I tried, I could not get this to work well.

Guitar Rig 2 includes a better-looking, higher-quality Rig Control that connects directly to your computer over USB. That solved one of my problems with Guitar Rig’s hardware unit before I even took it out of the box.

The new Rig Control also includes redesigned foot pedals, which look more like pedestal click buttons.

There is so much to like about Guitar Rig 2. Anyone that was interested in the original version will immediately see and hear the many improvements.

The software is compatible with Mac OS X 10.3 and later.

Guitar Rig 2 costs $1,112, excluding GST, from www.protel.co.nz.

— Jim Dalrymple

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