The guitar genius Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine used to have to set up individual guitars each preset with the specific tone he needed for each song. This was back in the 80s, in the modern world of guitar technology and digital prowess, these days are long gone.
In this Guitar Rig 6 review, we will show you that you can now digitally simulate your whole setup onto your computer. This not only allows you a level of control on customizability as well as being able to have super accurate settings for your specific setup.
Got a few different setups? Simply press a button to change them with the help of this practical and useful software.
Guitar Rig is a multi-effects and amp simulator that allows you to get amazing effects and tones on your guitar with the use of a digital interface, it can operate as an independent application or as a plug-in for other software such as Ableton.
Guitar Rig is a piece of software developed by the well-known Native Instruments, first released in 2004 the software has received its most recent upgrade in 2020 with Guitar Rig 6 – the first major update since 2011.
Whether you already have Guitar Rig and want to know if the update is worth it, or if you are considering getting Guitar Rig as a newcomer, the last thing you want to do is waste money or time on a piece of software that you may just find unusable.
We’re sure that won’t be the case, but to save you both time and money we have done the hard work for you. Read our review of the new Guitar Rig 6 to find out if it’s for you or not!
Guitar Rig 6 Review – What Can You DO?
The baseline version of Guitar Rig works almost the same as your physical effects setup, however, it simulates these things digitally. This means if you connect your computer to the sound system you play guitar out of, your rack set up is the same but is now digital.
The other way to use this is within other digital audio workstations such as Ableton which allows you to record as well as a whole host of other features.
With over 1000 presets to choose from, you can simply load one up and start jamming. If you want to customize the presets this is easily achieved by messing with them digitally through Guitar Rig 6’s now improved user interface (but more on that later).
Conversely, you can create your own presets from scratch which is one of the best features of this digital software that sets it apart from physical setups. However, other digital amp and effects simulators can also achieve this, so this is where a comparison must be made.
Although, perhaps what sets Guitar Rig apart from its competitors is the quality of their effects. Again, while other software does also have this, Guitar Rig’s effects quality is pristine and crisp and has a sound quality far above its price point.
Not only does this mean you can have a super professional and sonic, yet simple, reverb effect, you can also customize this wildly by routing them to different frequencies, changing dials and knobs, and stacking it with other effects.
Essentially you can have anything from a simple distortion effect to some seriously unique and strange sounding guitar effects that have taken days of customizing.
The other feature to talk about is the amp simulator within Guitar Rig. Axe-Fx and Kemper are the main competitors when it comes to digital amp simulation, many people use these live and the audience will likely be none the wiser.
Guitar Rig could potentially reach this level with the right amount of adjustment and setting. Thanks to Guitar Rig’s dynamic tools you can get the same sort of ‘live’ and ‘active’ sound you get from a physical amp.
So essentially, if you play around enough Guitar Rig’s amp can be as powerful and dynamic as a real amp. Although, many find the default amp good enough for studio recordings.
There are plenty of other features within Guitar Rig that can be meddled and muddled with to achieve so many different dynamic sounds, but what does the newest upgrade offer?
Guitar Rig 6 Review– what’s changed?
Guitar Rig hadn’t been changed since 2011 until this most recent update in 2020, Native Instruments seem to take an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach as many people loved Guitar Rig as it is. However, technological and digital advancements meant that they can now alter it to be even better.
User Interface – small details make a big difference
One thing they changed was the user interface, which had become clunky and aged – having been unchanged since 2011, it certainly benefited from a revamp.
The changes seem to be somewhat based on Native Instrument’s Maschine platform which has a really fun and intuitive user interface that encourages exploration of features and simple navigation. Guitar Rig 6 is now similar, it enables you to mess around with presets more easily and encourages this sort of experimentation rather than making it troublesome with a clunky layout.
In this fashion, you will definitely find you get more out of Guitar Rig 6 than its previous update through this simple change.
Another user interface change is that you can now resize your workshop window to your own specifications, like a browser window. While this sounds trivial it’s actually really helpful and exposes some issues with the old software.
Being able to change your window size like this means you can see your whole digital rack without having to scroll. Moreover, this same change means that when you load Guitar Rig within a DAW it dynamically resizes itself to best fit the software visually, which makes it really easy and practical to use within a DAW.
While these changes seem really small, they actually expose a lot of issues within the previous version that many hadn’t really noticed. Sometimes these small changes can really unearth flaws in a system.
AI technology in music software – Native Instrument’s shiny new ‘Intelligent Circuit Modelling’
Intelligent Circuit Modelling is a new modelling approach whereby machine learning is used to emulate the dynamic behaviour of sound better. This is a very techy feature that goes above the heads of most sound engineers but can be fairly simple to understand.
What the ICM does is utilize AI technology to create an algorithm that absorbs information the more you play and mess around with your amp. This allows Guitar Rig to more accurately and realistically emulate the intricacies of hardware.
For example, when you walk up to a physical amp with a plugged-in electric guitar, there will be feedback. As this is such a physical thing that is to do with electrical signals and soundwaves, it’s hard to emulate with digital technology.
While ICM won’t necessarily create this feedback the same way, it can create a similar phenomenon in your digital hardware.
ICM essentially remembers and reacts to how you interact with your digital amps and presets meaning next time you play, your amp will have adjusted slightly from what it has learned. Not only is this the case with your own usage, but is a community-based phenomenon where your amp also learns operations from other users across the globe – seriously cool tech.
To simplify even further, the introduction of ICM means that Guitar Rig 6 can successfully emulate the interesting and unique ways that your guitar would react to an actual piece of physical, electrical hardware. This seriously sets Guitar Rig apart from other software thanks to Native Instrument’s ingenuity and is actually a big moment for AI technology more widely.
The only drawback here is that the only amps that currently use the ICM technology are the three new amps they introduced with this update: ‘Bass Invader’, ‘Chicago’, and ‘Fire Breather’. We would love to see Native Instruments and Guitar Rig branch out with their ICM tech in the future as it is not only cool but really practical.
Brand new toys
Another change in the update was the introduction of a whole host of new toys to play around with in addition to the new amps already mentioned.
‘Dirt’ and ‘Bite’ are two effects that add a lot of texture to a guitar sound and simply add to the wide range of presets a guitarist can customize and operate within Guitar Rig. In addition to this, Native Instruments have incorporated studio processors that were previously exclusive to their ‘Komplete’ production software.
These processors (Komplete’s VC 160, VC 2A, and VC 76) are ideal for compression and allow you to achieve dynamic and musical smoothing of levels, or the opposite if you please. This is just to name a few, native Instruments have introduced a whole host of production tools that make your guitar effects way more accurate, dynamic and professional.
In essence, with the update to Guitar Rig, this newest update has provided you with thousands of new tools to shape and color your guitar sounds with limitless possibilities. Forget a new toolbox, Native Instruments have provided a whole shed of tools to work with.
Guitar Rig 6 Review – Conclusion – Is it worth it?
Yes, this update couldn’t be worth your money and time more. Guitar Rig was already a pretty good software, and Native Instruments were right to tweak it rather than overhaul it.
It’s a great demonstration of a useful software update – they haven’t completely changed the software’s operation, simply, they changed small things like the user interface to expose multiple flaws in their older systems.
Beyond simply improving on what they already had, Native Instruments have added a whole host of practically useful features you will seriously appreciate. The most impressive addition is the ICM approach to machine learning which is seriously progressive to use AI tech in music software.
It’s hard to find fault with any of the additions. The upgrade does cost money from its previous model and does cost to buy from scratch. However, we would not only be shocked if you were upset with the upgrade, but the money you are paying for an upgrade is so minimal in comparison with what you are getting.
Moreover, the upgrade costs a fraction of what it would cost to recreate Guitar Rig’s capabilities with actual software. We can’t encourage you to upgrade, or simply invest in, Guitar Rig more!
Here’s another article where we discuss more Free Guitar VSTs.