Guitar Rig 6 is a software package that allows for stand-alone playing (connect a computer to a speaker system for live playing) or within a DAW for recording. Easy to download and install, the stand-alone version opens by clicking the icon, or you can drag and drop the program into an audio track’s FX bin within a DAW. There are over 1,000 presets that can be utilized as is, or edited or new ones created from scratch. When selecting one of the premade presets, you select the ‘instrument’ (e.g., bass, vocals, guitar, keys, etc.), and a list will be provided of the more appropriate choices. There still are hundreds listed just for guitar, and so you can narrow your selection further by selecting a genre (e.g., metal, pop, country), tone characteristics (clean, crunch, metal, ambient) or FX category (e.g., modulation, reverb, delay).
So far, this is straight forward, and do realize that I’m basing my review and opinion on not having worked with previous Guitar Rig versions. I have used other VST plug-ins, although I found them somewhat sterile sounding (which may not be a surprise since that experience is at least a decade old). However, based on forum discussions, many people have found previous versions of Guitar Rig good for home practice and perhaps some general recording, but that the program lacked liveliness, insofar as the sound of the amps and cabs were concerned. I have no opinion on that, but I can say that I am impressed with the amps and cabs in version 6.
Can one compare the amps and cabs with Guitar Rig 6 to a real amp, or perhaps the sounds from an Axe-Fx or Kemper? I don’t think they are that far removed, thanks in part to the new machining technology and the custom cab IRs by Ownhammer and 3 Sigma Audio. But even if the real amp and the other modelers are better (more so for crunch and hi-gain, as the cleans are sublime), as some demo gear personnel have suggested, there are a few recommendations I would like to make. The program includes various dynamics, two of which I really like. First is the Transient Master (select ‘Zep Room’) and the other is the VC76 model (select ‘Electric Guitar’); run each separately and together, since they both are complimentary. With either or both in place, listen to the comparison and how much more alive a preset can sound (I did not do this on the demo, but do download the free demo version and give it a try). However, adding either or both tends to increase the gain or drive, and so the amp may have to be adjusted down to some degree to maintain the same amount of hair. Once these are in place, I find the Guitar Rig 6 presets sound exceptional (better) and ideal for both live and recording purposes.
The flexibility of Guitar Rig 6 also is superb, allowing you to drag and drop as many effects as you want, stack cabinets and customize to your heart’s content. One feature I want to bring up is the cab/mic customization, including use of the Control Room Pro, which provides eight custom setups with 27 cabinets, up to 16 microphones and up to three mic positions (including room mics). If that wasn’t enough, select the ‘general’ control room that provides its own presets, but allows you to combine classic cabinets with up to eight mics (positioned by studio expert Peter Weihe) – each mic has its own fader that integrates into an 8-track mixer so that you can blend them as desired.
Now, for those who were not impressed with previous version amps and cabs, there is no argument that a Guitar Rig strength is its effects. There are many standard delays, reverbs and modulations, but what makes this package so awesome is the wide array of custom presets that includes dozens of unique, strange, beautiful and sometimes weird effects that would be impossible, or darn near so, to reproduce with other programs or hardware. Another strength is the studio tools, such as allowing you to adjust the mid and side channels of a mix or split the signal into high and low frequencies. Other tools include a sequencer, oscillator and multi-step envelope, as well as rack tools (recording tape deck, tuner and a macro control center with up to 16 parameters that can be configured as knobs and buttons).
Without hesitation, for the price of Guitar Rig 6, which is about the same as some pricier pedals on the market, you get a huge amount of gear and flexibility that can be applied to any instrument, without even utilizing the amps and cabs. You then can use one of the amps with your own cab IRs, or other amp plug-in amps with the Ownhammer and 3 Sigma Audio IRs included with Guitar Rig 6. Overall, there is a lot to this program, both pre-developed and available for customization. And with a free trial download, there is nothing to lose.