Waves GTR (Guitar Tool Rack) is the result of a collaborative effort between two industry heavyweights: Waves, known and respected for their expert plug-ins, and Paul Reed Smith, recognised for the superior build quality and tone of his guitars.
It’s a hardware/ software guitar amp and effects package that’s designed to be of an absolutely superlative quality, putting all the tools at your disposal for achieving high-quality electric guitar recordings without using hardware amplification and effects. The GTR package comprises software and a DI box. The hardware is designed to bridge the impedance gap between your guitar and your audio interface – it boosts the weak signal from the guitar and enables you to plug straight into a line input.
The DI box is beautifully built, sturdy and fully-featured. On the front you’ll find a guitar jack input, trim pot and metering LEDs, while the back panel houses 1/4¨ jack and XLR outputs, an output selector switch and a power adapter input. There’s no adapter included, but you do get two 9V batteries that fit into the base. The unit was designed with transparency and quality in mind.
Installing the GTR software takes only a few moments; sorting out the copy protection, however, takes rather longer. Waves have chosen to use the iLok protection system, which employs a sizeable USB key (this contains your software licenses). The GTR package doesn’t come with an iLok key, so you’ll have to buy one (at a cost of £49) if you don’t already have one.
Like most other virtual amps, GTR operates as an insert effect. However, it differs from its competitors in that the amp, tuner and stomp box effects sections come as individual plug-ins – each requires its own slot. Various different amp and stomp box modes are offered, and their individual nature means that you can insert stomp effects pre- and post-amp.
The amp interface is very clear. Large, obvious controls are set onto a black speaker grille background, and you get the same controls for each amp – drive, bass, mid, treble and presence. However, to add authenticity, the response of the controls changes for each model.
To the left of these controls is a drop-down menu for choosing your amp model. The models available include: Direct, Clean, Edgy, Drive, Crunch, Hot and Modern. Each of these is based on a premium classic, and the amps become progressively more overdriven as you work through the list. Waves have employed proprietary sampling techniques and the results are stunning - you can create an edgy crunch, driven, bluesy tones and even metal-friendly ultra high gain sounds. These amps are truly a pleasure to play through.
Beneath the Amp section is the Speaker and Mic section. Again, drop-down menus enable you to choose from a selection of eight speaker cabinets and six mics. Cabinets range from 12" open back to 4x12" vintage. The collection of mics includes stalwarts – the Shure SM57 and Sennheiser MD421 – plus rarer examples such as the ribbon mic, which is superb for bass guitars. All mics have both on- and off-axes.
The GTR amp can be loaded with either a mono or a stereo output and with one or two cabinets. The twin cabinet example enables you to select any two cabs and two mics. This means you can create huge guitar sounds and increases the sonic potential two-fold.
Waves are renowned for their effects plug-ins, and GTR has no fewer than 23 virtual stomp boxes that can be configured in any order in banks of up to six pedals. It’s no surprise to discover that, for the most part, they sound great. You get reverbs, distortions, delays, chorus, phaser, flanger, panner, vibrolo, wah, doubler, gates, compressors and EQs. The only real letdown is the octaver, which produces erratic, glitchy results.
Both the stomp box and pedal board settings can be stored, and all the parameters are MIDI controllable. Waves have also been good enough to include a tuner; again, this comes as a separate insert effect. It’s fully featured, supporting standard and user configurable open tunings, but is terribly sensitive and takes a while to get used to.
GTR is a high-quality product, and you do pay a lot for it. Crucially, though, it sounds better than any of the other virtual amps currently available, and the DI box works a treat. The developers clearly adopted a ‘quality in, quality out’ philosophy, and you can create some great sounds as a result. If you’re a hardcore guitar tone guru or a studio pro who requires the best guitar amp emulations available, GTR is for you.