TH3 by Overloud
Overloud has set some high standards with their new TH3 virtual amp suite. It shines at both extremes, offering aggressive distorted metal sounds as well as heavenly light and lyrical clean sounds.
by Alex Arsov, Jan. 2016
Overloud’s TH3 is a host for an effects chain that emulates a real-world electric guitarist’s gear. The “3” in the name indicates that it enhances the previous version, TH2. It not only emulates guitar amps and cabinets, but also provides a wide selection of effects for a deep variety of sound-shaping purposes.
I’m totally in love with this one, but my first impression was quite the opposite – it was nearly a disaster actually. Firstly, input is set to stereo as default and I spent some quality time figuring out why everything sounded so awful. Then I spent some additional time figuring out how to set it to mono. Secondly, I have my heavy body Telecaster and all the presets sounded very boomy. I thought this was just how it was, but it proved to be just a matter of internal rack settings. For some odd reason all the presets had the bass knob nailed on a high value, while treble was quite low. Looks like that developer owns one of those Joe Satriani Ibanez iron desks with teen body. Lastly, some presets were quite – how should I say? – overloud, but OK, there is a volume knob and an option to turn off some effects and volume knobs on amps or effects.
So, after sorting all these issues out I went through a load of presets, changing settings, and by the end the results were very impressive. Clean and dirty, TH3 shines at both extremes, offering an impressive sounding arsenal of distorted metal sounds, and very strong on clean sounds as well. Th3 also shines with its effects. I simply love all those flangers, delays, ring modulators and the others. I know that other competitors offer their collection of effects too, but the truth is that even though every virtual amp suite offers similar groups of effects, the overall sound differs from developer to developer, bringing quite a unique character to each suite. Guitar Rig shines with a nice collection of weird effects that can turn your guitar into a space ship. Amplitube offers effects that can easily cut through the mix and TH3 offers some effects that in general sound fairly identical to those that we remember from the golden era of the guitar stomp box. I’ve missed all that unique color of Flanger, Phaser, Harmonizer, Octaver and similar from the past. Somehow, the amps, cabinets and effects in combination sound very guitarish – bringing back memories from before the virtual amp days. Don’t get me wrong, all the main guitar suites sounds very authentic, the main difference is in the general feel and color.
To tell the truth, I don’t know how much all those Th3 amps, cabinets and effects sound compared to the original models that they are trying to recreate. And I don’t even care. Virtual recreations can sounds only good or bad, being quite fake. I don’t need any specific Dolly from the past, I just want a good guitar sound, that can inspire me, offer me an easy and fast adaptation to my workflow, not being too difficult to get it just right, and that’s more or less all. It’s not CPU hungry and you can easily find and drag various components inside the main window.
All in all, there are 203 various components inside Th3. 72 virtual guitar amp models, three of them being bass amps. There are plenty of well-known models that are recreated here, from Orange, through various Marshall models, to the some relatively new models that you can’t find in other suites. A few models are even approved by original makers. Randall®, THD®, Brunetti® and DVmark®. My favorite in this approved section is THD which can really rock. There are also 35 guitar cabinets along with two additional bass cabinets. Eighteen microphones in total, up to four inside a cabinet. 75 guitar pedal and rack effects. Definitely quite an impressive number that gives even more impressive end results when used in combination. There are 24 new amps and ten new effects in TH3. Of course the whole graphical interface is also redesigned offering quite a different experience from the previous version.
I know, there is maybe too much of everything included to just start from scratch, but there are more than 1000 presets inside the suite, so, all you need to do is to find the one appropriate from the well-organized preset group directories, using it as a good start, changing a few details, adding an effect or two as you desire and that’s it.
Most of the amps have this recognizable metal snapping sound that some better hardware amps have. You can hear a similar sound by playing a totally new set of strings on your electric guitar. I almost forgot that sound from the hardware era. It really adds character to clean sounds as well as distorted ones. Most people rate the TH series by its distorted metal sounds, but for me, the clean sounds are priceless. It really shines in this field. So, when you combine that metallic snappy amp attack with distortion, you can easily understand why it is so popular in the metal population. Its bite and bark, having very stable low end combined with a pleasant snappy high end.
An interesting addition is the possibility of linking two different amps in parallel through the splitters that can be added between any elements. So, connecting one clean sounding amp along with a distorted one can really do wonders for your sound, adding a special edge, power and clarity. The same goes for combining various effects in parallel, getting some sound combinations that we can usually only hear from hardware set-ups. Without trying to discover the hot water by yourself, dig into the presets to find a few such combinations and see how the Overloud experts did it, and go from there.
The main graphical interface has changed since the previous version. Everything is much more easy to manage now. In the middle we can see the main window where elements of our guitar rack are, and this is also a place where we can drag and drop various rack elements from the right-hand side where the browser with all the components is. At the top of the components browser is a drop-down menu, where we can easily select between various groups of components – amps, cabinets, or different groups of effects, distortions, or delays, wah-wah or any other. Finding an appropriate component is now just a matter of moments, and if your rack becomes too crowded you can change the zoom ratio by pressing one of the zoom buttons along the bottom. On the left-hand side of main graphical interface is a preset browser containing all those presets. They are all ranked into various directories, nicely labelled, so I filled up my newly created “best of” directory in a less than half an hour collecting more than 50 presets that would cover most of my guitar needs for quite some time.
Of course we should not overlook some of the other nice features. There’s the level meter to tame the input signal. Then there’s the master section to set the input source, choosing between left, right or stereo, adding low or high end to the input signal to compensate for any possible issues. There is even an option to add delay and reverb to the input signal. The next very cool option is to set up a MIDI controller for changing banks, presets, input level, delay time, amp off/on, distortion off/on – all simply by pressing the learn button and tweaking your controller. Looper is something that all new virtual amp suites have, some sort of new trend, suitable for recording some ideas on the fly in standalone mode. I prefer practicing inside a DAW, immediately recording any new ideas, getting it ready for further manipulation and developing the whole idea into a new song. Still, it’s nice to have such an option.
We could go into many details here, describing separate amp models, effects or cabinets, but the main point is the sound. Th3 is an absolute king in a clean Gilmour – Knopfler sort of Stratocaster mid-position sound, and almost unbeatable on distorted metal grounds. It is relatively light on CPU (using a tiny bit less CPU than most other competitors), while offering an impressive number of effects that sound pretty close to those stomp boxes that we all used to love (and as I see it, even the new kids still use them). Let’s not forget the almost-endless collection of good presets. As I mentioned, my first impression was bad news, but after a few tweaks, Th3 has become my favorite guitar simulator. It looks like Overloud already fixed few issues with a new update – at least I got that feeling trying a few presets that I hadn’t already tweaked before.
The most impressive part of TH3, at least for me, is the electroacoustic guitar simulation presets that are compiled just from a few equalizers, splitters that are needed to sort those equalizers into the right order, and one reverb. That’s more or less all. No amp or any other effects are used. Those presets prove that whoever made this virtual guitar suite is not just good at programming math, but also knows how to tweak all those knobs to get the best sound out of most of the components it has (being at the same time the proud owner of the above-mentioned Satriani iron desks without any weight and body, eh…).
We all know that guitarist are like old ladies in an orchid-growing club (count me in), being very picky regarding details, being able to talk for hours and hours about plectrums and strings. So my dear guitar co-fellows, download the demo, sort the input stereo to mono issue, tweak a few knobs, lower the level of some components or enable the compressor inside the rack and devote a few minutes to discover how Th3 really sounds. You will be surprised. I was surprised. I got this one mostly out of curiosity, but it proved to be one hell of a good choice. If Amplitube has a million sound color choices, Guitar Rig raw power, what this one does is bring back the sound of a guitar that we all remember. Thumbs up, Overloud.
More info at http://www.overloud.com/products/th3.php
At the moment you can buy it on discounted price €199 EUR instead of the regular €299. Don’t wait …