Impact Soundworks Archtop review

  • $159

Deeply-sampled jazzbox guitar

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Our Verdict

A fabulous-sounding guitar captured to near-perfection with articulations and noises for supreme realism of performance.

For

  • Beautiful, creamy sound. Good selection of recorded articulations. Intelligent string and fret scripting. Well-designed interface. Useful tone shaping effects.

Against

  • No automatic chord scripting. Main instrument takes a long time to load.
Buying options

Native Instruments' Kontakt platform has become the first port of call for developers looking to create complex multisampled instruments. Impact Soundworks' Shreddage II rock guitar package was a prime example, and its latest outing takes a slightly mellower path, sampling a customised Sadowsky Jim Hall Archtop hollowbody electric guitar.

The player is renowned guitarist (and Sadowsky owner) Josh Workman, and the library of almost 10,000 samples (just under 4GB) was captured via DI, giving a pure, clean tone as a starting point, to be treated and processed as you would any DI'ed guitar recording.

"A wide range of performed articulations is included, from regular sustain and sustain octaves to palm mutes, tremolo and harmonics"

Archtop comprises one main Kontakt Instrument, plus a second supplementary one made up of a few extra neck and pick effects. A wide range of performed articulations is included, from regular sustain and sustain octaves to palm mutes, tremolo, harmonics (natural and artificial), natural vibrato, staccato, hammer-on/pull-off and portamento.

There are also some script-based articulations (ie, created by the software rather than recorded as audio), including strumming and artificial vibrato. Rounding off the sample-based articulations are chokes, release noises and an extra pick option for emphasising higher notes.

The instrument parameters are spread across four main pages - Perform, Fretboard, Articulations and Engine - and there's much potential for user customisation, including keyswitch assignments, articulation velocity ranges, release noise level (both pitched and unpitched) and vibrato type (real or LFO- generated).

Many of these changes can be made via the main Quick Edit parameters, including all effects settings, articulation velocity ranges, keyswitches and specific articulation parameters such as mute tightness, for example. Onboard processing comes in the shape of eight effects, including amp simulation, distortion, chorus, flanger, phaser and reverb.

Bridging the gap

The inclusion of both bridge and neck pickups with a continuous Blend control makes for a broad palette of sounds between the two extremes of the edgy bridge position and the smooth neck setting. Further to that, the Stereo setting splits the pickups left and right, and also combines with the Blend control for a spectrum of wider sounds.

Archtop includes pre-mapped (but editable) keyswitching and control for a host of features, including single string selection, release noise, choked strumming, strumming and, of course, articulation switching. Strumming is activated on the Perform page, and two keys (D5 and D♯5) strum down and up respectively for whichever notes you hold down. The only notable omission, really, is any form of auto-chord playing function.

The primary sustain articulation sounds great and works well with MIDI pitchbend, and we were pleased to discover that Archtop's hammer-on/pull-off articulation works alongside the sustain with overlapping notes.

Additionally, and by default, portamento is set to work on a different velocity range to sustain, so through careful velocity and note programming, you can achieve very natural movement (ie, slides) between notes. The other articulations are equally usable - we particularly like the mute and staccato options.

The big sound of the hollowbody electric is at its best taking centre stage. Archtop captures this perfectly and is the sort of sampled guitar you could happily 'feature' in a track rather than hide in the mix. It's beautifully presented, and its pristine DI sound serves as a fantastic foundation for a huge range of tones.

Get 68 VST/AU plugins for free…
…with Computer Music issue 238

Tech Specs

Required Hard Disk Space (GB)4
PlatformPC/Mac
Additional RequirementsKontakt 5 or Kontakt 5 Player