FreeAmp 2 vs 3 Review

Your Home Studio - a basic tutorial on home recording studio setup, including building a home recording studio, digital recording techniques, computer recording information, recording software information, how to buy equipment for a home recording studio and operating an audio recording studio at home

Your Home Studio

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Digital Audio Recording








   Dynamics 101




            I was going to do a review on FreeAmp2, but it turns out that they’ve just come out with version 3 so I’m going to do the review on that instead and compare it to the 2nd version. They each have some qualities that the other doesn’t so it’ll be interesting to see if version 3 is an upgrade or a paint job on the same old house. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do this comparison yourself unless you’ve already downloaded V.2 since it isn’t available from anymore.


            Both versions come only in VST flavor, which is Steinberg’s proprietary format that has been co-opted by other software companies, such as Cakewalk, who includes a VST wrapper with Sonar that basically converts any VST plug-in or instrument so that it can operate in a DXi environment. Both version 2 and 3 come with tons of presets that can be a bit daunting at first but once you jump in, it can captivate you for quite some time. Version 2 has more presets but version 3 has some presets for bass and a whole section of effects based presets as opposed to amp model based presets. What I did to audition presets is to record a 4 or 5 measure guitar part and then loop it while I browsed through the presets and other settings.


            First of all, let’s talk about version 2. The interface is pretty intuitive with the amp section on the top and then what appears to be pedal board below it with a pre-compressor, post-compressor, overdrive, wah/auto wah, chorus, flanger, phaser, delay, and reverb. Each pedal has its own controls and  time based effects like phase, flange, tremolo and so on can be sync’d to the tempo of song. Just to the right of the amp section and above the pedal rack is what appears to be a speaker cabinet with a microphone in front of it. You can grab the mic with your mouse and move it around the speaker to get the sound you desire and the speaker/cab combinations are set up so that you can pick the speakers and type of cabinet separately. The amp models include natural, smooth, crunch, etc and I found the sounds generated authentic and easy to dial in. The guitar synth is just outstanding and has some really interesting textures that can be used on vocals, keys, or any sound source you choose.


            Version 3 has a different style as far as the interface goes. To me, the controls weren’t nearly as easy to identify and the labels on them didn’t jump out at me. ”. The most confusing at first was the amp section as it’s broken up into two sections, Clean and Drive. Each section can be turned on an off separately so that if you wanted to you could route an unaffected amplified guitar part through just the effects section. The pedal rack is limited to 3 pedals and you are limited to which effects can be used in each position. The options for just about each control include a right and left arrow so that you can scroll back an forth between choices and a drop down menu so that you can choose exactly which one you want to use. This is kind of cool because the scrolling feature allows you to audition things easily. The tremolo is a pedal in this version as opposed to being a part of the amp section as in the previous version. Choosing a speaker/cab combo doesn’t give you the same flexibility as in version 2 because you can’t choose the speakers and cabs separately. A lot has been said about how low the cpu usage is, but I personally think it was at the expense of number of effects and usability.


            Here’s some of the presets from each version. You decide for your self what sounds better, but I definitely like the flexibility and intuitiveness of the previous version.


            Clean—Version 2                                  

            Crunch—Version 2                     

            Dirty—Version 2                      

            Over the top– Version 2