Electri6ity by Vir2
By Craig Anderton
Mon, 1 Nov 2010
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KB_MainImage_nr<- The Performance pane (top) lets you go nuts editing guitar characteristics. The Mixer (bottom) can load tons of
effects, and lets you create up to 64 channels, including surround.

I once gave a seminar in Nashville on synth programming. One attendee asked, “I can’t get a good guitar sound from my synth. What do you recommend?” The answer was obvious: “You’re in Nashville. Hire a guitarist.

Today, my answer would include “or get Electri6ity.” As I play both guitar and keyboards, I see this ambitious, complex virtual instrument from both angles. As a guitarist, I’m very impressed by the realism, and as a keyboardist, it’s possible to create physically impossible guitar parts.

The Kontakt Konnection
Electri6ity pushes Native Instruments’ Kontakt 4 Player to the limits, especially with the number of samples (over 24,000 per guitar), and the scripting that turns incoming MIDI data into realistic guitar voicings. A simple example of this is assigning successive notes to alternate between up and down strums.

Cleverly, Electri6ity uses only clean samples of its guitars: Les Paul, Les Paul P90, Stratocaster, Telecaster, 335, L4, Danelectro Lipstick, and Rickenbacker. Why? Clean samples get around the “you should have sampled it through a Marshall/Twin/Mesa Boogie/whatever” issue, as there are two preset options: DI for sending sounds through a physical amp, and Amped presets, which include effects drawn from NI’s Guitar Rig amp modeling software. With 27GB of samples, loading a guitar’s set requires a lot of RAM, which is why Electri6ity is spec’ed for 4GB. You can get by with less, but you’ll probably have to reduce the number of articulations—and forget about multis.

Review continues after these web extras:

The Keyboard Konnection
The keyswitching and articulations really call for an 88-note keyboard, as you use keys above and below the standard guitar range for triggering; fewer notes will work if you edit after the fact, are handy with your octave-shift buttons, or click on the virtual keyboard’s notes, but half the fun of Electri6ity is performing with it.

I can’t emphasize enough how many options there are, and how daunting this can be. You’ll need to refer to the manual, and several “cheat sheets” are worth printing out as you learn the program. Sometimes I think it would be easier to learn guitar itself than all the options in Electri6ity, but the more you work with the articulations, the more you realize you don’t need to use all of them, all the time. Even a few is enough to spice up the presets.

KB_Effects_nr

<- Amped samples load three sets of virtual stompboxes, as shown when you click on the Effects tab.

The King Kong Konnection
You can make huge sounds, but also very detailed ones because of tremendous control over multiple parameters. The Settings page edits characteristics of individual strings, like tuning, sympathetic resonance, dynamic attack, pitch drift, level, velocity, vibrato, and much more—and you can control all these via MIDI continuous controllers. A Performance page lets you switch pickups, alter the guitar’s tone control, change pick position (closer to the neck or bridge), pick direction (up, down, or alternating), control morphing, and so on. A realtime Fretboard page shows notes being plucked, with artificial intelligence to map notes in a “guitaristic” way, although you can turn this off.

With Amped presets, an additional page offers effects. There are multi-effects with independent phaser, flanger, chorus, reverb, and delay; distortion; and amp modeling with seven amps, three mics, and three rooms, with two sets of variations and three bands of parametric EQ. However, you can do lots without touching the Amped presets, because the mixer section offers multiple outputs and aux channels, and each has four effect inserts. Here, there are 17 effects (compressor, limiter, cabinet, distortion, delay, convolution, etc.) along with 19 filters; the convolution effect is welcome for adding ambiences like spring reverb or guitar body acoustics. (Note: It may seem like you can drag effects into the virtual rack, but you can use them only with the inserts.)

KB_Fretboard_nrThe virtual fretboard shows how notes are mapped, and the strum direction.

Tweak-wise, I disabled vibrato because it’s more realistic to do it with your keyboard’s pitch wheel, using your fingers—like a real guitarist. Also, I like a synth-action keyboard better than weighted keys; what works for a stage piano just doesn’t feel right for “guitar.”

The fretboard window is tremendously helpful, as you can see the guitar voicings being used. This helped me mimic what I’d play on a fretboard, but keyboard players can check out chord books for guitar. (Android phone users, check out Solo Lite’s Chord Library page—it has voicings for a zillion guitar chords, and the app is free).

Conclusions
If you’re willing to learn the articulations and your computer is up to the task, Electri6ity will let you create realistic, satisfying guitar parts. You want heavy? You want big? You got it. Almost makes me want to pour some lighter fluid on my keyboard. . . .

Specifications

PROS Good selection of guitars. Huge number of realistic guitar articulations. Mixer section offers effects, as well as Amped presets with their own effects. Maps chords how a guitarist would play them. Excellent morphing between samples.

CONS Really wants at least 4GB of RAM and a 64-bit OS. Flexible enough to be daunting. Becoming an articulations expert takes practice.

CONCEPT Sample-based virtual guitar with extreme flexibility—you can reproduce not just a guitar’s notes, but its vibe and voicings.
FORMATS Mac or PC. AU, VST, or standalone.
MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS Mac: OS 10.5 or later, Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz, 4GB RAM.
PC: Windows XP2 (SP2, 32-bit), Vista 32/64, 7 32/64, 1.4GHz Pentium or Athlon, 4GB RAM.
RECOMMENDED SYSTEM 64-bit OS, more than 4GB RAM, and quad-core processor.

PRICE List: $399
Approx. street: $320
vir2.com

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