When the first ReValver was released, it looked like a great package. At that time, though, it was so system-intensive that 60ms of latency was about the best that you could hope for (processors were much slower back in 2000) so it was hard to gauge how useful it really was. Since then, things have moved on.
There are now much more powerful CPUs to play with, and there have been several heavyweight releases in the amp sim field (IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube and Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig being the most notable). In today’s market, ReValver Mk II is going to have to really step up to the mark to earn respect.
The software is loaded with features and contains emulations of nine different amplifiers. These include such famous models as the JCM900, Fender Bassman, Vox AC30 and the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. There are 27 effects and stompboxes to get stuck into, and you’ll also find a dead handy VST host module. This enables you to insert your existing VST plug-ins into your ReValver setups.
Whatever configuration you go for, you can choose from a massive 21 speaker cabinet emulations. Each of these has as many as 27 model and mic position variations. A vast number of features and options is all very well, but good sounds from the basic amp/speaker combinations are essential.
Unfortunately, ReValver is very much a mixed bag in this respect. It's difficult to get a decent clean tone when playing a Strat. No matter which amp and speaker configuration is used, the sounds are just far too bright. They lack any support from the lower frequencies, and serious EQ adjustments must be made to all the amp models.
Rescued by distortion
Things get better if you switch to a guitar fitted with humbuckers -- the sound is a little more full and rounded -- but the fact that you're forced to switch instruments at all is not a good sign. The distortion sounds are more satisfying, with all bases being covered. The ’62 Bluesmaker does a good job of emulating the classic blues sounds of players such as Eric Clapton, while the Foxy AC45 does a great impression of Brian May’s extremely bright AC30 sound.
The real star here, however, is the ‘Kitty’ amp; based on the awesome Mesa Boogie brand, it offers five different settings -- Modern, Clean, Normal, Red and Vintage -- of which the Modern is particularly impressive. High-gain sounds in software are hard to come by, but Kitty dishes out an aggressive, biting tone that’s very responsive and will keep most modern rock/metal players more than happy.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about ReValver Mk II is its editability: every stage of the signal path is open for adjustment. Once you’ve elected to tweak your selected amplifier, you’re presented with a display of the tubes (valves), and these can all be individually adjusted. This can become a big job when you consider that there are around 20 editable parameters per tube - when you’re faced with Kitty, for example (ten tubes and two tonestacks), you have an almost bewildering amount of flexibility!
Too much freedom
But ReValver Mk II doesn’t stop there. The Speaker Construction Set enables you to set the size of the cabinet your speakers are housed in, and you can also define the mic type and position. Now, all of this freedom to refine the tiny details of your sound is great, but only if you never want to see the light of day again. It’s impressive that the software goes way beyond simple EQ and gain adjustment, but frankly, not everyone’s interested in messing about with capacitors and agonising over cathode-biased treble boost.
Although it would be all well and good to leave that sort of thing to the ardent tinkerers while the rest of us just ‘dial a tone’ and get on with it, the unfortunate truth is that the basic sounds are simply not good enough to keep the tweak monster that lurks within at bay. As a consequence, you constantly find yourself fiddling with the sound rather than getting on with making music -- exactly what many musicians hope to avoid.
Ultimately, what has to be asked is: how well does ReValver Mk II measure up to AmpliTube 2 and Guitar Rig 2? Well, it certainly beats both for editability, but unless you like your sounds really bright, Alien Connections’ software falls down in the sound quality department. It could be argued that there are great tones within the program, but you’d need to invest a lot of time in it to be able to dig them out.
However, at around £100 (roughly half the price of Guitar Rig 2 and AmpliTube), ReValver at least represents good value for money, so tweak-happy guitarists who have time to spare should give it their consideration.