What is the Ample Sound Gutiar Collection?
Ample Sound creates virtual guitar instrument plugins in the following formats: standalone, AAX, Audio Unit (Mac only), RTAS, and VST, in both 32- and 64-bit, for both PC and Mac.
The electric and acoustic guitars feature both expressive solo playing as well as a realistic sounding strumming engine. In this review I will take a look at their entire range of products, which consists of (at the time of writing):
4 electric guitars:
- AGG (Gibson Les Paul R8 electric)
- AGP (PRS Custom 24 electric)
- AGF (Fender Stratocaster 50s)
- AME (ESP Eclipse I)
3 acoustic guitars:
- AGL (Alhambra Luthier classic guitar)
- AGM (Martin D-41)
- AGT (Taylor 714CE)
2 bass guitars:
- ABJ (Fender Jazz John English Masterbuilt Bass)
- ABP (Fender Precision electric bass)
Installation and registration
After purchasing the products from the Ample Sound website, you will receive an e-mail with download links to separate installers for all the products – RAR archives for PC and DMG archives for the Mac installers. The size of each of the installers ranges between 3.5GB and 5.83 GB each, but the download size of the packed installers is about half of that.
After unpacking the archives, you have to run the installation executable, where you can select what versions of the plugin you want to install (AAX, Audio Unit, RTAS, VST, standalone, 32 or 64-bit), as well as your plugin and soundbank install locations.
When you first open a plugin, it is in demo mode (where you get the full functionality of the plugin for 7 days). In a dialog where you have to enter your Ample Sound account’s username and password, the server checks for a product license to assign to your account, removing the demo limitations.
The activation process is straightforward, but when you have multiple products, you would have to enter your login data for every separate product. There is no option to activate all the installed products at once, but I hope this will be made possible in a future update.
GUI and functions
On the main page, you will find all the functions that will change the sound of the guitar in one way or another. On the bottom left, you will find the keyswitches: normal sustain, natural harmonics, palm mutes, different slide modes (including a very cool “slide guitar”), and hammer-on and pull-off.
The acoustic guitars feature mic 1 level, mic 2 level, and main level faders. There’s also a width control and a stereo doubling function (with adjustable delay in ms) to widen your guitar sound. Furthermore, you can adjust levels for release noise, FX, resonance, and fret sounds. The resonance release knob determines how long the notes ring out, and you can use the sample start time knob to get tighter timing, as well as a capo to realistically transpose the guitar.
For the electric guitars, the mic 1 level and mic 2 level faders have been replaced by pick volume and pick humanization faders respectively (the latter randomizes the pick volume). The resonance release is replaced by sample fade in, so you almost make it sound like the strings are bowed.
There are a few play modes available. In keyboard mode, you can play polyphonically, including multiple notes on the same string. In solo mode, you can only play monophonically, and in standard mode you cannot play multiple notes on the same string, but you can slide between those notes or use a hammer on/pull off articulation.
The bass guitars have slightly different keyswitches: normal sustain, natural harmonics, palm mutes, slides, hammer-on/pull-off, staccato, tap, slap, and pop. Here, instead of the mic 1 level and mic 2 level faders, there are autobuzz and accentuation noise functions.
Last but not least, on the electric guitars, you are given a choice between several pickups that can drastically change the sound. The AGF gives you a choice between Neck and Both, the AGG gives you Neck and Bridge, while the AGP provides Bridge or Both.
The choices are slightly different for the acoustic guitars: AGL provides Pick and Finger, AGM provides Strum and Finger, and AGT provides Strum and Pick.
Ample Sound’s well written manuals cover all of the libraries’ features in a lot more detail and are worth a read.
The electric and acoustic guitars include a Strummer page to activate and control the strumming engine. You can load up to 8 preset patterns (or your own created user patterns) in an instance and keyswitch between them. The editor is easy enough to immediately dive into if you would like to make your own patterns, rather than load up any of the 700+(!) existing patterns included.
The Strummer editor kind of resembles a piano roll, with a list of articulations on the left side in lieu of piano keys: downstroke-bass, downstroke-treble, upstroke open, mutes, down and upstroke mutes, and separate strings for playing arpeggios. You can add in notes by left clicking, dragging down or up to change the velocity, and dragging left or right to change the length. There are also knobs to add swing, change the play speed, and change the time signature.
You can load up to 24 chords and keyswitch between them, but there is also an option to play the chords yourself if you prefer.
Finally on this page, you will find controls for stroke time, body resonance (release/ring out time), stroke volume, and timing and velocity humanization options.
On the edit page you can change the tuning and volume of each of the individual samples – very handy if you want to play in a micro tonal scale.
In the settings window, you can choose the default preset to be loaded when you open up the instrument, change the sample library path, change master tune and voice count, as well as a whole lot of other useful stuff (as you can see in the screenshot below).
The ample guitars can load and play guitar tab files in the formats: GP3, GP4, GP5 and GPX.
The acoustic and electric guitars also include a few basic effects: compressor, overdrive, EQ, chorus, phaser, delay, reverb, and a wah pedal.
Sound and playability
Although all guitars share most of the same features, they of course each offer their own distinctive sound. To demonstrate this, I recorded the same solo melody line with all the guitars and all the pickups, as well as a little strumming sequence. The electric guitars are sent through Amplitube 3’s Fender Supersonic amp.
ABJ and ABP:
AGT, AGM and AGL Solo:
AGF Solo (neck pickup, both pickup):
AGG Solo (neck pickup, bridge pickup):
AGP Solo (bridge pickup, both pickup):
AGT, AGM and AGL Strumming:
AGF Strumming (neck, both):
AGG Strumming (neck, bridge):
AGP Strumming (bridge, both):
With some work, you can create realistic solo lines, and the strumming sounds very good to my ears.
It’s very easy to come up with a strum sequence like I did above: just choose a few patterns, and then decide if you want to use the chord select option (which might give you great inspiration by selecting random chords that you hadn’t thought of yourself), or play the chords yourself with your left hand.
For $749,- you’ll get 3 acoustic guitars, 4 electric guitars and 2 bass guitars, each featuring a distinctive sound. It might look like a lot of money at first, but it’s a great package if you are looking for a broad palette of realistic and playable virtual guitars. You always have the option of purchasing the guitars separately if you only need one or two. The prices range from $119,- to $179,- (the price list is available here, and if you buy more than one, you will automatically get a discount!
The authorization process could be a little more streamlined, and it would be nice to have a main Ample Sound plugin into which you can load all the various guitar plugins, rather than having to load them all as separate plugins. This would make it easier to quickly swap out guitars and A/B them.
If you’re often wanting to use guitars in your music but can’t play yourself, I can totally recommend the Ample Sound Guitar Collection to you. It might save you a lot of money in the long run not having to hire a guitarist to play in every part!