Ample Sound Metal Series Review

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Last updated on April 14th, 2016 at 07:21 pm

Ample Metal Eclipse II and Ample Metal Ray5 II (priced at $119 each) are metal guitar and bass guitar virtual instruments made using AmpleSound’s own sample playback engine. They work as VST and AU plugins on PC and Mac, and come in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. A dedicated host application is also available, allowing them to be used in standalone mode.

Let’s call these two products AME2 and AMR2 for short. AME2 contains samples of a Japanese-made ESP Eclipse I guitar, while AMR2 is an American MusicMan Stingray 5 string bass – obviously, both are based on quite high-end instruments.

The Sound

Both instruments are recorded clean and direct. AME2 is more dark and warm than bright and harsh, and with a proper distorted amp sim it is very easy to quickly get a big, heavy sound. The instrument is tuned to drop C (CGCFAD), so it will not do super-low tunings, but it is a very typical metal tuning and a very archetypal metal guitar sound suitable for just about any metal genre except maybe lo-fi black metal (which needs more shrillness and could use tremolo picking samples), nu-metal and djent (which often use lower tunings). Lower velocity notes are palm muted, with two different degrees of muting sampled for each note for heavy muted chugs, and velocity 127 is a squeal – the manual calls it a “dead note” and it sounds like a pinch harmonic to my ears. The instrument actually sounds quite smooth and civilized when needed, though. Running it through a very clean amp sim makes it a surprisingly nice guitar for jazz, because of its warm sound. Even the slightly palm-muted notes on the higher strings have quite a jazzy quality to them.

AMR2 is, on the other hand, definitely bright. The notes in the lower octaves are very hard-hitting indeed, and it’s never polite – it can’t really do jazz or reggae, though most rock styles are no problem. This bass kicks like a mule, and it definitely has that bright “fresh roundwound strings” sound. It uses standard 5-string tuning (BEADG), though the lowest string can be tuned down to A. It also features two degrees of palm muting. Thinking of the two instruments as a matched set, it might seem odd that they don’t have the same lowest note, but lots of metal bands with 5-string bassists are like this in real life.

AME2 takes 3.5 GB of disk space, and AMR2 is larger at over 4.5 GB, but both seem to have a similar level of detail and feel similarly realistic. The difference in size might be mostly due to heavier bass strings sustaining longer which results in longer samples. The choice of performance noises is impressive – pick noise, release noise and fret change noise are all there, and each category has its own volume control. This, combined with the pick attack accentuation control, allows the same samples to be used for a clean, careful performance or a noisy punk one. There’s also a selection of manually triggered FX noises – various scrapes, slides etc. Also very important for realism, there is true sampled legato, with several types of transitions – hammer-ons and pull-offs, legato slides, and slides in and out. These can either be switched manually or automatically.

The Engine

These instruments are independent plugins that are based on AmpleSound’s proprietary engine, rather than a general-purpose sampler. The engine is very guitar-oriented, which makes it very CPU/RAM efficient and allows for some very guitar-specific features. For example, any of the strings can be tuned down by a half-step or a full step (the AME2’s low string is detuned by default). The strings can’t be tuned up, though, so while you can play standard 4-string bass parts on the AMR2, the AME2 is not capable of standard tuning. There’s also a transposing capo mode, and there’s a really clever “open string first” switch which allows playing arpeggios by utilizing open strings and high-position fingered notes – one of those things that guitarists love to do. Position shifting can either be automated, specified, or for those who really want specific notes played on specific strings, a separate MIDI channel can be used for each string. Now, if you don’t care about that, you can safely ignore it, and even switch to “keyboard mode” which allows multiple notes to be played on one string simultaneously. There’s also automatic double tracking with very simple controls – an on/off switch and a width knob.

All the parameters can be automated as well, so a performance can shift from being noisy to clean (useful for making a guitar-only intro sound realistic, for example, then cleaning the sound up as more layers come in and the noises aren’t needed anymore). The one thing that’s not too flexible is the articulation mapping – the keyswitches are not user configurable, which means you have to learn where they are. On the other hand, the velocity layer thresholds can be moved.

Vibrato can be controlled in multiple ways – up and down vibrato via pitch bend wheel, and up-only vibrato (string-bending) via mod wheel. The mod wheel vibrato can either be completely manual (move the mod wheel to move the pitch up, move it back down to move the pitch back down) or automated, which makes the mod wheel control the depth. Curiously, the vibrato speed in automatic mode seems fixed, but then again this is actually quite realistic behavior. When doing string-bending vibrato, one doesn’t have much control over the speed (unlike violin-style vibrato). This has nothing to do with instruments – it’s just one of the odd things about the way the human body works. We just have better control over how fast we wobble the muscles used in violin-style vibrato. It’s not even something I’ve really thought about before using these instruments, but I thought the fixed speed was odd. Then I tried some vibrato in the real world and realized that this is pretty much how it really works.

Another unusual feature is the tab player – it is only a player, not a sequencer, but it can import files from several versions of GuitarPro. The playback engine has several humanization options, and can either be triggered from the plugin or synchronized with host playback. I’m not too familiar with GuitarPro, but using it in conjunction with the tab player offers these instruments another option for sequencing very realistic and “guitaristic” parts with easy control over details which would otherwise take a lot of key switching.

Guitar Extras

AME2 has a few additional features not found in AMR2. There’s a set of effects pedals – compressor, overdrive, EQ, chorus, phaser, delay, reverb and wah – simple and quite useful. There is no built-in amp sim, though, so you’ll still need to use an external one.

More unexpectedly, there’s a strumming engine. My first thought was “why would a metal guitar want a strumming engine, wouldn’t that be more useful for acoustics?”, but it actually turns out to be quite useful for thrash rhythm patterns using power chords. Even when not playing power chords, it uses chords voiced across 2-4 strings (with selectable low, middle or high register) rather than typical acoustic voicings across 4-6 strings. So, these are chords the way a metal player might play them. User chords can be voiced and fingered in any way you want, though. The strummer can be used in two basic ways: to sequence chord progressions and strums, or to manually detect chords and trigger strums using other notes. With a few tweaks and high voicings, it can even do fast funk-style strumming pretty convincingly – it really is quite powerful and flexible. Same as the fixed vibrato speed, it seems odd in theory but makes a lot of sense in practice.

Summary

Ample Metal Eclipse II and Ample Metal Ray5 II are detailed, serious instruments with a great sound. Where they differ from other high-end guitar and bass libraries are the features that make it possible to really think like a guitarist when playing or sequencing your parts. Even if you decide to ignore all of the advanced stuff, though, you can still achieve very realistic performances with little effort.

More info: Ample Sound (official website)

Ample Sound Metal Series REVIEW

88%
88%
Awesome

Ample Metal Eclipse II and Ample Metal Ray5 II are detailed, serious instruments with a great sound. Where they differ from other high-end guitar and bass libraries are the features that make it possible to really think like a guitarist when playing or sequencing your parts. Even if you decide to ignore all of the advanced stuff, though, you can still achieve very realistic performances with little effort.

  • Features
    9
  • Workflow
    8
  • Performance
    10
  • Design
    8
  • Sound
    9
  • Pricing
    9
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About The Author

D Smolken is a musician, artist and a sampling expert. He creates freely downloadable SFZ libraries available on his website Karoryfer Samples.

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