Review: Native Instruments Guitar Rig 2 - Part 2

Robust digital guitar studio with foot controller. (March 1st, 2007)

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Product Manufacturer: Native Instruments

Price: $579 US or $339 US Software only

The Good

  • Convenient Rig Kontrol that serves as floor pedal controller and USB audio/MIDI interface. Useful tools including tuner, tape recorder, metronome, loop machine, and signal split/mix.

The Bad

  • Somewhat pricey with the hardware. While meant for guitars, the Rig Kontrol audio interface lacks an XLR input along with the 1/4" inputs which would be nice for a small home studio.

This is Part II of the Native Instruments Guitar Rig 2 (version 2.2) review. Guitar Rig 2 is a software-based guitar audio processor with state-of-the-art amplifier, cabine,t and microphone modeling including many built in effects.

You can use Guitar Rig 2 for studio recording or in a live performance. Using it in the studio, there is little not to like. You can build any flavor of sound you desire using any of the parameters on any of the effects. The most useful are the amp and cabinet models that offer settings in impressive detail. Even without using a single effect, you can create a multitude of sounds usually unavailable on real rigs.

Sound and Performance

From the accurate emulation of real setups to the new sounds impossible to create without thousands of dollars in equipment, it is all possible here. The sound quality is simply excellent. The tones are clear and clean and are easily customizable in real time. Some users have observed that the sound is almost too clean, that it lacks the warmth provided by a real amp. I wholeheartedly disagree. I have produced sounds that rival those from my Marshall amp, and think that it delivers even more color.

You can create and share sound banks with others and expand your library of custom sounds or recreations of classic tones from popular artists through simple file sharing. I hope Native Instruments adds more models of amps, cabinets, and mics, as well as new effects, because then I do not need anything else for my guitar sound.

The stand-alone and the plug-in versions work well under Logic Express and I am very pleased with the ease of use. This is the first time I am not fighting with settings to record my guitars and bass with a great sound and no hiccups.

From the perspective of the live performer, I have also not found anything undesirable. As long as you have a decent computer running the software, you can feel comfortable with the reliability of sound and behavior. Guitar Rig requires at least Mac OS X 10.3.x and a 733 MHz G4 or an Intel Core Duo 1.66 GHz with 512 MB RAM.

There is practically no discernible latency when playing and it is adjustable if needed. I was pleasantly surprised that while my M-Audio Fast Track Pro USB audio interface could not work smoothly through my USB hub, the Rig Kontrol 2 that ships with Guitar Rig 2 works flawlessly. Historically it has not worked properly when connected to a hub, it needed to plug directly into the USB port of the computer or the sound just crapped out. I have experienced system crashes when switching back to the M-Audio sound card in the Preferences, but do not know if it is an M-Audio driver problem, a Mac OS X problem, or issues with Guitar Rig 2 itself.

Hardware

The Rig Kontrol 2 is an elegant and compact 5.7 pound foot controller that provides the expression pedal and foot switch controls to turn preset effects on and off. It also serves as an USB audio and MIDI interface with 2 inputs, 2 outputs, and headphone jack. Any switch is programmable to handle any variety of parameters and controls on the software. I am still not quite used to the style of switch buttons used on the floor unit or the touch and feel of stomping on them, though they do feel sturdy. While the lightweight and compact nature of the unit makes it easy to carry around, it may easily be kicked around during a live onstage performance. Ultimately I would rather have this light piece of equipment over a heavy one.

Guitar Rig2 with Rig Kontrol
Guitar Rig 2 with Rig Kontrol

Conclusion

I have yet to use Guitar Rig 2 extensively in live performances, but I am excited about the prospects. It will be nice to just carry my laptop and the Rig Kontrol 2 with me instead of the old heavy pedal board and amp.

Part I Here



Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Joshua Wachs with Jacky Reif


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