capsule review

Guitar Rig 2

At a Glance
  • Native Instruments Guitar Rig 2

    Macworld Rating

Since it was first introduced in 2004, Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig has lured an increasing number of guitar players from their traditional pedal setup to the digital world. While there is no doubt Guitar Rig was a breakthrough product, the first release was not without its problems—most of which have been corrected with Guitar Rig 2 .

The software

One of the biggest drawbacks of going digital is the wide variety of modeling techniques companies use to reproduce amps and effects pedals. Unfortunately, nobody has really nailed it yet, so that when you choose an effect or amp, you never know exactly what you are going to get.

However, Guitar Rig 2 comes very close to this panacea of correctly reproducing tone. Being able to dial in a tone—whether your own or a model of another guitarists’—is one of the hardest things to do. Having an application that models tone so well makes that task much easier.

Users of the original Guitar Rig will be pleased to hear that the interface has remained relatively unchanged in the newest version, making the transition to Guitar Rig 2 very smooth. You can also easily exchange presets, so all the customization you did in the original is not lost. Just export the preset bank that contains your tones and import it into Guitar Rig 2. The good news is that there are more effects to play with in the new version that could help you dial-in those old tones a little better.

Perhaps the biggest change for me was the addition of the Marshall JCM 800 amp. I love this amp. Most of my favorite guitarists have used this at one time—it has been a staple of hard rock and heavy metal for 20-plus years.

The first thing I did when I unpacked Guitar Rig 2 was create a new preset and start to emulate Zakk Wylde’s tone. Within a few minutes, I had something close; after 15 or 20 minutes I had it pretty much dialed-in, although I continued to play with it for a couple of days until I was satisfied.

In comparison, I was never able to get the tone I wanted from the original version of Guitar Rig. I blame most of that on the amp modeling. It also seems the Chorus and Distortion pedals give a much more refined sound, too.

Typically with software modeling and emulation, you have to add more effects than the guitarist actually uses. This is fine, but it can sometimes cause more feedback than what you would like. I was able to recreate Zakk’s tone basically using the JCM 800, 4x12 Cabs, Distortion, Chorus, and I threw in a Screamer just to give me that extra punch for doing pinch harmonics.

Among the many additions to Guitar Rig 2 is the Loop Machine. I didn’t know if I would use this much because I was used to recording and looping using the built-in decks. After laying down a medium-tempo blues-backing riff and clicking the Overdub button, I was hooked. I spent a good hour just doing overdubs on that riff.

The hardware

While I was intrigued with Guitar Rig when it first came out, I dismissed it as a serious contender to replace my old pedal setup. The main reason for this was the hardware Rig Control (stompbox) that shipped with Guitar Rig.

Rig Control had to be connected to an interface like the M-Audio MobilePre using two 1/14-inch instrument cables and then fed to the computer over USB (or FireWire, depending on your device). No matter how hard I tried, I could not get this to work satisfactory. That’s not to say it didn’t work at all, but I always had feedback or annoying hum that seemed to be traced back to the Rig Control.

Guitar Rig 2 includes a better-looking, higher-quality Rig Control that connects directly to your computer over USB. That solved one of my problems with Guitar Rig’s hardware unit before I even took it out of the box.

The new Rig Control also includes redesigned foot pedals, which look more like pedestal click buttons. The old pedals were difficult for me&38212;I generally don’t like the short, stubby pedals because I tend to hit more than one at a time, which can cause a lot of problems when changing effects.

One thing that bugs me about all stompboxes is the fact you can’t see the pedals in the dark. Usually guitarists have to use colored tape or some other silly remedy just to label the pedals. Why can’t someone use a translucent backlight on the pedal itself—it sure would solve a lot of problems.

Macworld’s buying advice

There is so much to like about Guitar Rig 2. Anyone that was interested in the original version will immediately see and hear the many improvements.

[ When not emulating Zakk Wylde, Jim Dalrymple is the editor of Macworld.com News. ]

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Many new amps and effects
    • Redesigned foot controller
    • Compatible with Guitar Rig 1

    Cons

    • Foot-pedal lights are sometimes hard to see in low light
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