Native Instruments Guitar Rig 2 and Rig Kontrol 2

Guitar Rig 2 and the Rig Kontrol 2 foot controller represent significant updates to the original Guitar Rig software and hardware controller introduced by Native Instruments in 2004. You get three new guitar amps (Marshall JCM 800, Fender Bassman, and Roland JC-120), a new bass amp (Ampeg SVT), numerous additional pedal models (including three distortion boxes, and a Cry Baby), and major new features such as the Loop Machine, Tape Decks, and the versatile Modifier matrix (which includes an LFO, two sequencers, and various envelope followers). Owners of the original Guitar Rig will also be happy to learn that the updated user interface is organized much as before, and that existing user presets may be easily imported into the new version, making it virtually painless to trod the upgrade path.

Guitar Rig 2 may be operated as a stand-alone application, or as a plug-in within a host application, and is suitable for either studio or live use. I tested the native (Audio Units) version on an Apple 15" PowerBook 1.67GHz with 2GB of RAM, running OS X 10.4.3, Tiger, within Apple Logic Pro 7. I also tested it using an Apple Macintosh mini 1.42GHz with similar results. Instruments used included a ’85 Fender Strat Plus, a ’48 Gibson L5 with a Benedetto pickup, a Marrs RGS lap steel, and an ’81 Martin HD28 acoustic. I listened on a pair of Mackie HRE824 powered monitors, and when testing the system live, I connected the Rig Kontrol 2’s stereo outputs to a Presonus FireBox.

As with all products of this type, striking the optimal balance between latency (in this case, how long it takes for you to hear a note once it has been struck) and CPU

taxation required some experimentation. Ultimately, I was able to achieve reasonably low latency on the PowerBook, whereas the mini huffed and puffed a bit more at lower latency levels. Moral? Guitar Rig 2 prefers more powerful computers, particularly if you will be using it for live performance.

Virtual Rack

Guitar Rig 2 comes loaded with lots of great-sounding presets of all types, so finding one for use as is, or as a starting point when creating your own presets, is a breeze. You’ll find at least ballpark equivalents for many sounds that you’ve heard before, along with quite a few that you may have never heard—such as those that transform conventional guitar notes or chords into orchestral-sounding textures using effects with complex multi-timbral filtering and modulation. Some of the presets are also humorously named, such as “Pat MaWeenie 70s Chorus” and “Fields of Sco Lead.” A few of my favorites were a Hendrix-style reverse reverb, “Blown Speaker,” and the Spring Reverb, which was so realistic I was afraid if I jarred the computer it would make a loud crash

Of course, a major advantage of working in the virtual world is that you can come up with combinations of amps, cabs, mics, and effects that would be difficult or impossible to create with hardware. Let’s say you’d like a Bassman miked from the rear with a Sennheiser MD 421, combined with a Marshall JCM 800 half-stack miked from the front with a Shure SM57. That’s a pretty straightforward rig that sounds quite good. But what if you routed the Marshall through a 1x10 cab? Or an SVT 8X10 cab? Or perhaps a rotary-speaker cab? And how does the combination sound spread out in stereo as opposed to blended into mono? And that’s just the starting point. Once you have your basic amp sound you can process it using nearly any combination of effects, routed in any order, and patch in modulation sources that are either fixed or controllable in real time using the various functions on the Rig Kontrol 2 (or any MIDI controller). You can even assign multiple parameters to a single controller, such as the Rig Kontrol 2’s expression pedal.


Although I didn’t have all of the actual amps in order to make direct comparisons, the modeled sounds were quite good, and they responded realistically to my playing, including when I changed the settings of my guitars’ volume and tone controls. Some of the presets and individual sounds were noisy when initially loaded, and, in fact, some of that noise bore an uncanny resemblance to the actual noise of an amp and a long effects chain, right down to hum from computer monitors and light fixtures. I was able to significantly reduce the noise in most cases by carefully adjusting the gain structure. When that wasn’t enough, I employed the Noise Reduction program, which worked quite well, and/or the Noise Gate (which can also be used as an effect).

One of Guitar Rig 2’s most interesting components is the Loop Machine, a very intuitive dedicated looper with advanced features—and you can run multiple instances of the Loop Machine synced together and/or to a metronome or your sequencer’s tempo. Using the Loop Machine in combination with the Tape Decks opens up all sorts of additional possibilities, including pitch shifting, time stretching, and an elegant, easy-to-use loop editing and playback function. As a bonus, 150MB of sample loops are included. And while the package is called Guitar Rig 2, the programs may obviously be used with any instrument, a microphone, and even drums (for which there are also presets).

Full Circle

For the price, Guitar Rig 2 offers a tremendous amount of functionality and power. The sounds are all first rate, the interface is clean and well organized, editing is often just a matter of dragging and dropping objects and then tweaking parameters, and the hardware Rig Kontrol 2 pedalboard is sleek and ergonomically arranged. Anyone with the computer power to meet the

system requirements would be smart to consider it—or purchase a new computer to accommodate it—as I am unaware of anything out there that can beat its capabilities at any price. And that’s why it receives an Editor’s Pick award.