Eleven offers emulations of ten classic vintage guitar amps and two that are entirely of Digi's own design. Each amp has its own head controls and Digidesign has been very faithful in their reproduction. The AC30 model, for example, has both Normal and Brilliant channels and, like the original, the Treble and Bass tone controls only work on the latter, while the Cut (presence) and tremolo module work on both.
Where amp channels can be ganged – or 'jumped' – in real life using a patch cable (to yield series or parallel use of two channels at once), they're generally modelled in a way that can reproduce these tones. However, you won't find any spring reverbs.
As well as amps, there are seven cabs to choose from. These include those that were intrinsically attached to the amps, such as that of the Fender Deluxe combo, or those that were classically associated, such as a 4x12 Marshall loaded with Celestions.
Toggling through the cabs, the impact and variety of their sound comes as quite a surprise – in fact, the raw sound of the amps with the cab switched to bypass is wholly unappealing!
A great guitar sound can be as much about imperfection as everything working in harmony, and to this end, Digi have added a control to dial in speaker break-up. This is how the speaker responds and vibrates as the amp's power is increased, and introducing some of this into the sound brings an appealing thickness and fullness.
At the end of the virtual signal chain you have the choice of eight mics, from expensive favourites like the Neumann Valve U67 through to cheaper dynamics like the Shure SM57. You'll no doubt find your favourite mic and stick with it; the U67 is particularly rich.
The mics can be either on- or off-axis, which is fine, but a variable slider with a choice of points in between would be better. Likewise, double miking and a distance setting introducing air and room sound would also be great.
Of course, you can use multiple instances of Eleven to imitate a multi-mic setup, but the plug-in's hyper-realism doesn't come cheap and easy, as it absolutely devours CPU cycles. With just three instances of Eleven and no other plug-ins running, our test machine started to show the strain.
A noise gate rounds things off, quickly and efficiently getting rid of amp noise, making the sound tighter and punchier. A dedicated gate might be a more precise bet for the final mix, though.
There's a clear American rock influence on the sound that becomes increasingly evident the more you use Eleven. You can effortlessly achieve big-bottomed and bright, fizzy, distorted tones of the classic rock variety.
"Eleven's hyper-realism doesn't come cheap and easy, as it absolutely devours CPU cycles"
King of the amps, we reckon, is the '89 SL-100, in particular the Drive channel. It's based on the Soldano SLO-100 and has all the fat bass and fizzing drive that's so loved by rockers such as Aerosmith. Not only is the tone convincing, but all the extraneous noises – bumps and thumps, hums and buzzes – add up to gritty realism.
Up there with the SL-100 are the emulations of a Mesa Boogie Mark IIc+ and a Dual Rectifier. They have a more defined tone in the mid-range and a punchier presence in the mix, which is what makes amps like the Dual Rectifier so popular with modern metallers.
Also in the premier league is the DC Modern Overdrive, a Digi original. It has the rich tone of the Soldano coupled with Mesa-like clarity, making it a good choice for big double-tracked parts. The Marshall JCM800 emulation's rawness has buckets of old-school charm, bringing the likes of Hendrix to mind. For smaller, crunchier rhythm sounds, the '59 Tweed Lux – a Fender Deluxe, natch – has a very open tone that rides the mix well.
These are our personal favourites, but Eleven also includes Fender models numbering a Bassman, Deluxe Vibrato and Twin Reverb; a Marshall Super Lead; a Vox AC30 and another Digi Custom model called Vintage Crunch.
A more dangerous and edgy element to the palette would be welcome, though – how about Pete Townshend's Hi-Watt, or the aggressive, raucous sounds of the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones or Kurt Cobain? There's plenty of rich bottom end to be had and the presence cuts through well, but that tight, ballsy sound in the lower-mids on less driven sounds – the tone that gives attitude – seems elusive. Still, this is a deficiency we've found with other amp modellers too.
Digidesign's attention to detail in the development of Eleven has paid off in the plug-in's highly flexible amp modelling environment, which reacts in much the same way as the hardware it emulates. The big distortion sounds are exceptionally good, though the bright, smooth sound palette might not be to everyone's taste.
Of course, you can always fire up your favourite distortion pedal inserts to further shape Eleven's sound, and this plug-in isn't just for guitarists either. It's a useful effect when strapped across bass, keyboards, drums, or anything else you fancy.
The quality of the emulations and their versatility - coupled with 'so low it's unnoticeable' latency and convenient immediacy - makes this an extremely handy tool to have in the box.
Check out these audio clips of Eleven in action:
Lead 800 Classic
SL-100 Crunchy Drive