OverLoud THM amp modelling for Auria – music app review

In their desktop recording systems, recording musicians take for granted the ability to integrate multiple software packages into their working environment and 3rd party plug-ins into their DAW of choice. On mobile platforms such as the iPad things have not yet reached the same level of maturity and while some music apps can work ‘in the background’ or communicate with other apps, there is not – as yet – the same ability to work with multiple bits of software (your favourite synth, favourite drum machine and favourite multi-track recorder) in quite the same seamless fashion. I suspect, however, just a matter of time…

Take Auria from WaveMachine Labs for example. This is undoubtedly a game-changing app in its own right, bringing 48-track audio recording to the iPad platform (see our review of Auria here). However, even from launch, Auria includes a number of built-in plug-ins provided by 3rd party developers. In addition to those included in the app’s purchase price, the Auria Store also features some very tempting additional plug-ins. As a guitar player, the most appealing of these is Overloud THM – a guitar amp, cabinet and effects modelling plug-in developed by Overloud – and which makes it easy to record all your electric guitar tracks into Auria without needing any additional software or external hardware other than the audio interface required to get your guitar signal into the iPad in the first place.

For convenience, having access to amp modelling is a real bonus, especially if you want to keep your mobile recording studio easy to use (no jumping between different apps) and ultra-portable (no amp modelling hardware to carry around). Convenience is, of course, only part of the equation and, while Overloud’s desktop amp modelling products are highly regarded, THM also needs to cut it sound wise. So, is Overloud THM worth the additional £13.49 (or the $/€ equivalent) as an in app purchase to go with the excellent Auria as part of your iPad’s mobile DAW arsenal?

Interface in your face

Overloud THM would usually be placed as an insert effect on a channel.

Once you have made your in app purchase, the THM plug-in becomes available within Auria and can be placed as an insert effect in the standard way for any of Auria’s audio channels. Two versions of the plug-in are available; mono-in/mono-out and mono-in/stereo-out with the latter obviously best if you use some of the spatial effects built into THM such as the reverb. There is, of course, nothing to stop you applying THM to non-guitar sources and, equally, you can use it in one of Auria’s two Aux Effects slots if you so wish.

The initially blank THM interface with four areas into which you can add components of your rig. Click on any of the images to see a full size version.

On initial start-up, Overloud THM presents you with an empty workspace within which to place your various processing options. There are four sections available here. In order of the signal chain, these are pedal, amp, cab and rack. Within each section is a large + icon that, if you tap, brings up a selection menu of the emulated devices available in that section. Some of these menus feature a locking pin (located top-right) so you can lock the menu in place if you wish to quickly audition different options. In the pedal and rack sections, you can place multiple effects in a chain and, if you want to change the order of the chain, you simply touch the effect you wish to move and hold your finger in place until a set of icons appear. These allow you to move the effect left/right in the chain, delete the effect from the chain or add a further effect in to the chain at that point.

A full THM patch ready to rock.

On the whole, the interface is very intuitive and makes it easy to put together a complete rig in a matter of a minute or so. The only negative comment I’d make is a (very minor) cosmetic one. As THM opens in Auria’s FX window, access to all this functionality is constrained by the size of that window. As a consequence, some of the controls on the individual components such as the amp or rack effects might feel a little ‘compact’ if you have fingers like jumbo sausages. It might be nice to have the option to zoom in on a particular component while you adjust the controls but, as far as I could tell, this isn’t currently possible. Perhaps this is something for a future update but, even so, if you have worked within any of the mainstream amp modellers before, finding your way around THM will be a breeze.

What’s in the box?

The list of amp models covers the range from clean to high gain.

While you might not expect an iPad amp modeller to be as well stocked as the desktop equivalent, THM does provide an impressive array of different amps, cabs and effects. The amps are divided into three groups – clean, crunch and lead – with 10 options listed. The names of these give a good clue as to what is being modelled so no prizes for guessing what the Top30 or Darkface’65 are intended to sound like for example. And while you don’t get dozens of amp models to choose from, or a bass guitar amp, for 6 stringers, all the bases are covered from super clean through to high gain.

A good selection of cabinet types are available.

In terms of speaker cabinets there are 8 possibilities including a single 1 x 12, a couple of 2 x 12 and a range of 4 speaker cabinet variants. Again, the model names suggest the inspiration. As in real setups (anyone remember those?), switching between the different cabinet types really does produce a noticeable change in the guitar tone for any amp so the ability to mix and match opens up a very wide range of sonic possibilities. In addition to that, each cabinet includes a microphone model. You get a choice between three microphone positions – close/on axis, close/off-axis and ‘far’ (which give more of a ‘room’ sound) – for further tone tweaking and, if you double-tap on the microphone, you also get a selection of different microphone models.

Also included, and arranged along of the mini-cab window, are buttons for high or low pass filters, phase reverse and the interestingly named ReSPiRe button. This last one is based on Overloud’s Real Sound Pressure Response technology that is included in their desktop amp modelling software and attempts to emulate the feeling you get playing in front of a real amplifier/cabinet combination. Personally, I found the effect subtle unless monitoring through my studio monitors so, out of the road, it might not matter too much. Still, it is nice to have the option to experiment with.

There are plenty of stomp box options if you like to add some colour to your amp tones.

The virtual stomp box collection is split into overdrive, modulation, delay, dynamic and filter sections, with 13 pedals in all covering the usual overdrive, distortion, chorus, flanger, delay, compressor and auto wah options. There is also a very usable noise gate that comes in handy for keeping a lid on the things when you are going for a high gain tone. Again, the selection provide is a very sensible one, providing plenty of choice. A further selection of effects is provided via the rack section. These are, as the name suggests, more rack-based, studio style processors rather than stomp box style units and include a nice reverb, delay, some very capable modulation effects and a parametric EQ.

To get you started, THM is supplied with a range of preset rigs that patch all these emulated components together to create a range of tones. Tapping the preset button brings up a further dialog where you can move between different banks (including ones you have created for yourself) to select the tone you require. The supplied presets are split into a series of banks covering cleaner sounds, classic rock and metal; again, all bases covered. One of the nice features in this dialog is the Cue button. Engaging this allows you to audition any of the presets without having to load it first and this is great when you are not quite sure what sound you might want and need to browse. Once you have found the required preset a quick tap of the Load button does exactly what you would expect and returns you to the main THM editor view.

Sound as a pound

The supplied presets to a good job of demonstrating what THM can do – from ultra clean to full-on metal.

So, THM looks the part and contains a very impressive range of virtual equipment but how does it sound? Thankfully – with the obvious qualifier that the better the quality of your audio interface, the better the results will be – the answer is pretty good. I was particularly impressed with the clean and crunchy rock tones. The former could easily be made to range from a sparkly jangle through to a smooth, rounder jazz-friendly sound and, with a touch of the rack-based reverb (or reverb added via Auria’s own effects), the result was pretty classy. The more old-school rock tones were equally good, whether you wanted some basic rhythm crunch for power chords or a more saturated lead tone with a dollop of echo for those ‘eyes-closed, head-back, I’m a rock-god’ moments.

I was perhaps a little less convinced by the more highly overdriven presets where, for my tastes at least, things got a little fizzy and hissy. That said, this is something that is often true of other amp modelling software and, with a suitable tweak of the EQ and an instance of the noise gate, things became a little more controllable. Again, a cleaner input signal through a decent audio interface makes a big difference here to the final quality of the sound.

Of course, one of the big advantages of using a plug-in amp modelling option is the ability to tweak your tone after recording. This makes it much easier to customise the guitar sounds during the final mix stage so that the guitars work at their best with the other instruments in the arrangement. So, whether you need to back off the overdrive or add a little flange post-recording, THM allows you to get what you want.

Natural resources

Squeezing a 48 track DAW into an iPad is an impressive feat but, once a project is in full swing, it does mean you have to keep an eye on the iPad’s CPU usage. THM adds to this load and, as you might expect, the more effects or rack units you add into your virtual guitar rig, the greater the load on the CPU.

Auria’s CPU meter comes in very useful here. I typically found that an instance of THM, loaded with an amp, cab, couple of stomp boxes and a rack unit or two, added about 10% to the overall CPU load on my 3rd generation iPad. Clearly, you wouldn’t want to be using to many instances of the plug-in simultaneously if you wanted to keep Auria running smoothly. However, as Auria includes a pretty slick track freezing function, you can easily render tracks using THM once you have the sound about where you want it so you might only have a single instance on the plug-in working at any one time. As you can then unfreeze a track (and re-freeze it) to make further adjustments, in practice, the CPU load is not really a major issue.

In summary

There are a number of very good guitar amp modelling apps available for iOS including the excellent AmpliTube. However, if you want convenient access to this sort of technology from within Auria – which is the best iPad DAW by a mile – then Overloud THM is well worth the price of entry. It is capable of some very good guitar tones and covers a wide sonic palette that ought to keep most guitar players happy.

While it might be nice to see a dedicated bass amp/cab added to the virtual equipment collection and, for the more stubby fingered, some of the controls might appear a little fiddly, the bottom line here is that Overloud THM gets the job done in a very competent and straight forward fashion. If you use Auria and you play the guitar, this plug-in is well worth adding to your system. And if you are serious about your iPad music making and don’t already own Auria, then you really should check it out. Let’s hope that WaveMachine Labs can keep the Auria plug-ins coming from other developers and keep expanding upon what is already a very impressive recording system.

 

Auria - WaveMachine Labs, Inc. WaveMachine Labs Auria is available via the iTunes App Store. Overloud THM is available as an in app purchase within Auria.

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