A recurring theme in many of the recent guitar amp simulators has been a lack of variety for fans of high-gain guitar tones. If you don't like, say, the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier emulation, then you've often been out of luck.
With AmpliTube Metal, IK Multimedia is making a direct attempt to meet the needs of fans of outrageously hot guitar tones with a single piece of software.
Metal can run standalone or as an AU, VST or RTAS plug-in on PC or Mac. It's laid out in the now familiar AmpliTube style – there are Tuner, Stomp, Amp, Cab and Rack sections – but it's the amp models that are of most interest here, and there are five to choose from.
There's a standard Marshall-style option, but the 150W model – based on the Peavey 5150 – is the real treat. It delivers an aggressive tone that's definitely the most gain-happy of the lot and will satiate fans of modern metal.
There are also emulations of the Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier and Randall Warhead – the latter is sure to keep Dimebag Darrell fans amused for hours.
These four amps can't generate completely clean tones, so there's a bespoke 'clean' version of the Rectifier emulation for that purpose.
The tone can be further shaped by mixing and matching the virtual cabinets and mics. You can also run two setups in parallel, in various routing configurations, leading to some monster sounds and thick, stereo tones.
Metal has 14 virtual stompboxes modelled on classic units associated with metal and the harder end of rock. A version of the venerable Boss Metal Zone is present and correct, complete with the parametric EQ section that shaped many a metal tone in the late 80s and early 90s.
We also enjoyed the Big Pig, which delivers a fat, chunky tone that's much like the Big Muff from which it's derived. The Feed Distortion unit deserves a special mention, too, as it generates an endless stream of feedback – something that's difficult to produce in a software-only setup.
Overall, the plethora of distortion and overdrive boxes gives you massive scope for crafting a crushing sound, and the flangers and phasers are handy, too.
One disappointment, though, is the Wharmonator, which is based on the Digitech Whammy pedal. It's a bit of a waste of space, since the rackmounted Harmonator unit is of more use as a harmoniser.
Whereas AmpliTube Hendrix Edition had clear applications for musicians outside of the land of Hendrix wannabes, AmpliTube Metal is really only useful for a specific set of users.
If you're an AmpliTube 2/Hendrix Edition user, then using Metal in conjunction with the free X-Gear 'shell' (which enables all the various AmpliTube products to be accessed as one plug-in) will give you an unrivalled range of guitar tones. It should also be noted that Metal is being bundled with IK's StompIO.