AmpKit 1.2: A Giant Leap for High Gain Play

September 14th, 2011 by Jack Ivers

AmpKit 1.2 Sultan Serpent ScreenshotFrom its very first release, AmpKit has earned a place in the hearts of high-gain guitarists, with tons of great high-gain amps and effects, each accurately delivering the full high-gain experience of the real gear. When we designed the Peavey AmpKit LiNK guitar interface, we included circuitry to minimize crosstalk, which greatly reduced the problem of feedback on high-gain setups. So where other apps were forced to dumb-down their gain to avoid feedback, in AmpKit you’ve always been able to rock out with full-strength gain.

AmpKit 1.0 included an extensive array of high-gain amps, including models based on Marshall®, Mesa Boogie®, and Fender® amps. Better yet, our relationship with Peavey enabled us to offer official, highly-accurate versions of their high-gain screamers including the 6505+, 6534+, and 3120. AmpKit 1.0 also included six distortion pedals that cover the full spectrum of tone, from the Elevenizer (based on the Ibanez Tube Screamer) to The Haze (modeled on the Big Muff Pi).

We’ve built on this strong foundation in AmpKit 1.2, dramatically improving the high-gain picture with the addition of great new high-gain gear, upgrades to all of AmpKit’s existing high-gain amps as well as the Noise Gate, and several other important improvements for the high-gain player. (Check out the two embedded videos for two examples of AmpKit 1.2 high-gain play.)

Gear for Gain

AmpKit 1.2 includes six new amps, whose gain levels range from sizable to extreme:

  • Fargen Hot Mod™ Baby Blues: This amp actually models a Ben Fargen-modded Fender Blues Junior™. The hot mod results in a significant boost in gain, as you can hear in this AmpKit demo track that Ben created.
  • Fargen Olde 800™: This great amp features a decade selector. Dial up 60s, 70s, or 80s and you get three very different tones reminiscent of popular amps from the selected decade, with the ’80s setting providing the most gain.
  • Budda Superdrive 30 Series II: In preparing this blog series, I checked out what people were saying in various forums about this Budda amp, and the consensus was “want!”, first and foremost because of its ultra-smooth overdrive tone, and AmpKit’s SD30 model faithfully reproduces this creamy overdrive.
  • Fargen Super Collider™: This amp is a rare Fargen Custom Shop model; Ben had to actually borrow an amp from one of his customers so we could model it. The OD channel delivers sharp, stinging distortion.
  • Sultan Rack 88: Now we’re getting up into the “extreme gain” zone. The Rack 88 is modeled after the Soldano rack-mounted X88R preamp pushed through a Mesa Boogie® 20/20 power module, with a nicely matched 4×12 cabinet. Both the Rhythm and especially the Lead channel really crank; we love the unique treble-weighted feel of this amp.
  • Uber Xtreme 101: The high-gain winner among the new crop of amps in 1.2, this beast models a Bogner Ecstacy 101B and will definitely blow your hair back.

These are great new high-gain amps — but don’t forget, we completely rewrote all of the amp and cabinet simulations* for all of the “old” high-gain amps we already had in AmpKit. AmpKit now does two-stage amp simulation, modeling both the preamp and power amp, which provides the biggest tone improvement with high-gain amps. I’ve done A/B testing on all of the new models, and the improvements are dramatic. The lead channels on all of the Peaveys are just incredible now. I’ll put AmpKit’s free ValveKing up against anything out there (except perhaps other AmpKit amps!); the lead channel of the Peavey Classic 30 is really lovely now and is the favorite AmpKit model of guitarist Rob Math; and the 65xxs and 3120 are total gain monsters.

Let’s not ignore pedals either. Both new Sonic Edge pedals bring gain to the party. The Tumbleweed is a dual-function pedal, combining boost with a snappy new compression circuit. The boost comes in Brit, Cali, and Jazz flavors, with the first two rocking significant distortion. The J&J Overdrive delivers a wide range of overdrive tone, all the way up to full-on tube crushing drive. Rocktron’s two offerings push into the extreme gain zone. The Cottonmouth Fuzz is a modern fuzz design that is maximally configurable, with a total of eight controls, including level, a full 3-band EQ, and four unique distortion controls: Bite, Spit, Strike, and Venom. And last but definitely not least is the Zombie Rectified Distortion®: I agree with commenters on Twitter and Facebook that this is perhaps my favorite tone of any of the new gear; it’s like a rectified-distortion amp, but with even greater tone control, in a pedal form factor.

Taming the Beast

One of the downsides of high-gain setups – real or virtual – is that you sometimes have “gain accidents.” On stage with your Peavey 6534+, this might result in ear pain for you and a few thousand of your closest admirers. In AmpKit, what you get is a hit of screech feedback followed by a strong need to tear off your headphones. Either way, gain accidents are best avoided. In AmpKit 1.2, we started by totally revamping the Noise Gate pedal. The upgraded version is capable of blocking feedback with much higher gain setups, and eliminates most cases of bleed-through noise. This may sound like a small improvement, but it isn’t: we can’t emphasize enough how much nicer this gate makes working with high gain gear.

Even with the improved Noise Gate, gain accidents are still possible, especially when using high-crosstalk guitar interfaces. So we tackled the heart of the matter: the feedback event itself. AmpKit will now detect almost all loud screech feedback and automatically attempt to kill it, first by enabling another AmpKit feature, the Noise & Feedback Filter, and then by lowering output gain. The Noise & Feedback Filter, at its lowest setting, has almost no tone impact, but instantly kills screech feedback in a lot of cases; and ratcheting down output gain takes care of any remainder. So what might have been loud feedback in earlier AmpKit releases now becomes a short burst of feedback that immediately stops or becomes dramatically quieter. So you can now tackle monstrous high gain setups like Thirty Greenies (30 Elevenizer pedals in sequence!) without fear.

Freedom of Interface

With AmpKit, you have total freedom of choice on which guitar interface to use. AmpKit works with all headset interfaces. If you have a high-crosstalk, feedback-prone interface, you’ll be thankful for the improved Noise Gate and Feedback Suppression features discussed above. If you have a low-crosstalk Peavey AmpKit LiNK, you’ll be in great shape. All headset interfaces get the benefit of AmpKit 1.2′s Adaptive Input Compensation, which restores the frequencies lost when your guitar signal passes through the iOS device’s voice-oriented headset circuitry.

Headset interfaces aren’t the only game in town, however. AmpKit also supports dock-connected and USB guitar interfaces such as Sonoma GuitarJack, Apogee Jam and Alesis iO Dock. These interfaces have minimal crosstalk, which eliminates feedback except in the most extreme setups, making them a great choice for high-gain play. In AmpKit 1.2, we improved AmpKit’s handling of dock/USB interfaces, ensuring that these interfaces are detected as soon as they are connected.

Anyway, to sum it all up: AmpKit 1.2′s combined lineup of new and rewritten high-gain amps and pedals, along with better ways to manage gain and ever-broadening support for guitar interfaces, is a fantastic jump ahead for high-gain guitarists.

 

*Cabinet simulation is upgraded on all iOS devices; amp simulation is improved on new-generation devices: iPad, iPhone 4, and iPod touch 4th generation.

Bogner is a registered trademark of Bogner Amplification.
Budda is a registered trademark of, and Superdrive is a trademark of, Budda Amplification.
Fargen, Hot Mods, Olde 800, and Super Collider are trademarks of Fargen Amps, Inc.
Fender is a Registered Trademark of, and Blues Junior is a Trademark of, the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.
Mesa Boogie is a registered trademark of Mesa Boogie Ltd.
Rocktron, Zombie Rectified Distortion, and Cottonmouth Fuzz are registered trademarks of GHS Corporation.