Review – Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5 Pro
If Jimi Hendrix were still alive, there’d be no doubt which virtual guitar studio would fit him perfectly: Guitar Rig 5 Pro – great rock sounds, out of this world effects.
By Alex Arsov, Sept. 2017
There are a few really great guitar studios around all offering copious amp models, cabinets, guitar effects and even a kind of multitrack internal studio where you can record different takes during guitar practice. Most of them come in both standalone versions and as plug-in effects to be hosted inside your DAW. So, saying that one offers more amp models, cabinets or effects, at least among the three prominent guitar studios, is nonsense. The main differences are in character. Of course all of them, Amplitube, TH3 and Guitar Rig (and there are also few others that could appear in that list), cover the full spectrum of guitar sounds, from distorted metal to the clean Fender-like sound, for all genres and styles. The truth is that all those guitar studios sound a bit different from each other, with individual character making one more appropriate for one task and another for some other.
If I can use some common guitar terminology, then Amplitube is more AC-30-like, TH3 is a bit more Fender, while NI Guitar Rig 5 Pro is a bit Marshall-like. I know that developer of S-Gear Studio is an ex-Marshall-engineer, but still, S-Gear is more like something between Marshall and Fender in character. Don’t worry – I’m aware that this is totally subjective. But this is my personal point of view, and that’s the way I see it.
So, if I need two guitars in parallel, clean or just slightly distorted, sharing the same amount of distortion, I will probably go for Amplitube since it offers a large number of totally diverse models that can sound different with almost identical setups (bass, treble, high and gain/master). There is a consistent color in Amplitube. If I want to go with a Fender-like metal twang in a clean tone, then it’s probably TH3. If I need that Gibson with a Marshall amp impact, or even if I need some basic metal sound, or maybe jazzy clean, not to mention my favorite choice, an effected guitar sound that almost doesn’t sound like a guitar anymore, then definitively Guitar Rig 5 Pro gets the nod.
I bought Electric Ladyland vinyl from The Jimi Hendrix Experience recently and was amazed, just as I was when I bought this record for the first time as a kid. How many guitar colors are there – all those mad effects, everything bouncing, totally unlike all those new rock bands. Guitar players nowadays just use some distortion on a few different amp models while all colorfulness is left to the synthesizers – a total blasphemy if you ask me. I’m really good with synths, but it is amazing how many wild things you can do with a guitar if you can make it sound a bit different than normal styles. I’m totally thankful for all those mad, totally original (but still guitar) effects, and thankful for all those combinations that the Native Instruments fellows have combined in patches inside the Effect directory. Hats off to my dear German sound experts. I don’t typically try all presets in such a preset-laden beast, but I did that this time. I tried every single one from all categories, setting stars and copying best ones in new user directory – and there were plenty of them.
Of course, my wife doesn’t share my enthusiasm, since I spent a few summer days locked away with my guitar. But after all, this is a tool that is perfectly matched to my new project in which I’m working on a collection of a guitar-based songs that all share the same concept: not sounding like they’ve been made with a guitar, without using any of those so 80s-sounding guitar effects like flanger, phaser, chorus and the like. Of course, those things are present, but mixed and tweaked in such a way that the mix sounds quite futuristic and not like a blast from a past – and it all seems to work just fine.
Guitar Rig 5 is quite easy to use. Everything is immediately at hand. At the left half of the main user interface we can choose between three different views.
Browser: I’m quite happy with this one as it brings various categories, helping us to find the appropriate sound. We can search through Amps which are divided into groupings for guitar and bass. Styles cover the entire sound spectrum from metal to country and even to ambient. Songs – here we can find presets that recreate guitar sounds from some well-known songs. Effects – from reverb and delays to special effects and effects aimed at different types of instruments: drums, vocals to things like ambient and colored.
There is also the New in GR5 and Products directories along with one called “Arsov”. Oops, sorry … this is actually User category, one of many that you can make and name it by your need.
Components: The next view is called Components where we can find all Guitar Rig parts organized into different groups: Amplifiers, Cabinets, Delay and Echo, and many others up to Special FX and Tools. You can even drag some components into the Favorites directory at the top. Compiling your ideal rack is dead simple. You just need to drag any chosen element to the Rack window at the right.
Option: The last view is Option, opening a window where we can set various characteristics of Guitar Rig 5, from setting the size of the whole interface to setting MIDI channels to specifying a hardware controller for controlling the interface. There is also a window where you may connect new hardware controllers.
Rack: At the right we have a big rack with all elements that are present in the current preset. Here we can set all further details on every element. With one click we can open additional small windows with a tuner, metronome, and a few other things along with a control window for Rig Control, which is a discontinued pedal rack for Guitar Rig that Native Instruments used to sell.
All in all there are seventeen amp models, 27 cabinets and 54 effects. Of course, we should not forget a vast collection of presets that offer some really innovative combinations of those effects and amps, bringing quite fresh colors to the guitar world. It is interesting that although Guitar Rig 5 Pro provides fewer amp models than some competitors, it offers a far more colorful and versatile sound palette that is much wider than any other guitar studio that I know. I suspect that the main reason for this is the large number of effects, many of them being unique. I assume that every company tries to find its niche and Native Instruments definitively has done that with this product.
Amps are all uniquely great, so it is hard to say that one of them is the best. Lead 800 and Citrus along with Jazz amp and Van 51 are the ones I use most. While in the effect directory it is quite difficult to choose a favorite, given that there are so many that are excellent. PsycheDelay is one of the craziest delays that you can find – quite simple but unique sounding. If you really like to go bonkers with your guitar, then all six effects from the Modulation category come in very handy for that purpose. The same can be said about all four from Pitch and all from the Special FX directory. Of course, this is just the beginning. Adjust your mad professor glasses and start digging into the Modifer directory. LFO and Analog Sequencer can drive you into space, as can the Envelope effect. At the end you can add Talk Wah or even Pro Filter or Filterbank from the Filter directory and you are ready for the future.
Yes, I like effects but hate when they only sound like some ordinary guitar effects. The 80s are gone forever. Thankfully Native Instruments offers a whole arsenal of up-to-date effects combining old-school ones with some that are not very typical and rarely-used on a guitar.
I didn’t find any – simple as that. If this were my only guitar studio, I could easily survive with it. I have most of the available guitar studios and use different ones for different purposes. This one offers me some elements and options that cannot not be found in any other, so I’m quite thankful for that. Some old guitar freaks still swear by hardware, but I’m not so sure if anyone can spot the difference anymore.
Maybe Native Instruments developers should be the first ones to find some way to apply some controlled microphone feedback to the signal and then virtual guitar reality could become more real than the real one.
And It Is …
If you are a serious guitar player then you probably already have all the top guitar studio packages. This one is definitively not one that you should overlook. It is ideal for metal, rock, jazz and for me, old Electro-Boy, all those heavily effected presets that sound so fresh and original are simply priceless. And let’s not forget that Guitar Rig 5 Pro comes with an easy-to-use main interface that allows you to drag and drop elements into a setup to open up a great number of new possibilities when tweaking or even totally changing some already perfect combinations. You don’t even have to be too brave to just start from scratch.
Regarding what it offers, €199 EUR is a more-than-reasonable price for this product. You get a wealth of great sounding presets that make it a complete guitar solution which can be used in your home studio or even in a big professional recording studio. I don’t perform much live but I have a few friends playing in some popular bands who use Guitar Rig 5 on stage, so nothing is impossible.
For more info visit https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/guitar/guitar-rig-5-pro/
P.S. You can also download the free reduced version Guitar Rig 5 Player to get some general impressions how the whole thing sounds. The free player is good for some basic rock sounds, offering a reduced number of effects and cabinets. But if you want real madness with all the amps, cabinets and really cool effects, the pro version is highly recommended.