Review: Shreddage 3 Virtual Guitar Instruments Line by Impact Soundworks
Fantastic engine that empowers you to play a wide array of articulations and styles
The Strumming feature is innovative and allows for both chordal and arpeggiated playing
An effective use of assignable keyswitches that are well thought-out and allow you to control multiple parameters directly from your midi controller
An excellent set of samples that sound and feel authentic
A large selection of editable effects and guitar cabinets
Multiple picking patterns to cover different playing styles
Controllable hand positioning and string selection (Force String) that authentically recreates the sound of playing in different positions on the neck and strings
Plenty of controls to shape the tone and sound of each guitar
A healthy set of Kontakt snapshots that cover many playing styles and genres
Smart polyphonic controls that intelligently insure a chord sounds like a chord and not a robotic simulation
Multi-tracking for up to four guitars that sounds fantastic
Each guitar is sold separately – a discounted package option would be nice
There is a learning curve to taking full advantage of the instrument, but it is completely worth it
Do you need a guitar player that shows up on time, plays what you want when you want it, and never complains? Shreddage 3 is that guitar player for me. If I simply close my eyes, it’s hard to tell the difference between Shreddage 3 and an expert studio guitarist.
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Review: Shreddage 3 Virtual Guitar Instruments Line by Impact Soundworks
Impact Soundworks have blown the lid off my DAW with Shreddage 3. This is the electric guitar library I have long been looking for. Whether you want a rocking rhythm guitarist, a wailing, screaming guitar soloist, or simply a tool for writing your own rhythm and solo guitar parts, Shreddage 3 fits the bill. You can easily write a full rock track with Shreddage 3 that sounds authentic and believable. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.
I remember the first time I ever heard a somewhat believable virtual guitar strum. It seemed like a whole new world was being unlocked for this barely-plays-guitar piano player. This was around 1997-98 when I was checking out a friend’s Roland workstation and, at the time, I was smitten with a synthesizer that was just beginning to approach the ballpark of guitar realism and authenticity. Fast-forward to 2019 and enter Impact Soundworks. After purchasing several different guitar loop and virtual guitar libraries, I have finally found something in Shreddage 3 that feels and sounds authentic and allows me to create believable, realistic guitar tracks.
Shreddage 3 is not actually a single guitar library but six different libraries: Stratus, Archtop, Serpent, Rogue, Jupiter, and Abyss (Bass).
All told, Shreddage 3 runs the gamut of virtual electric guitars, giving you the ability to play everything from metal and hard rock, to blues, jazz, and ethereal post-rock refrains. Impact Soundworks have removed the limits by giving users the ability to produce screaming, ear-piercing solo lines, with pinched harmonics, tapping, mutes, hammer-ons, slides, chokes, and tremolos, as well as completely convincing chords and strums, with upstrokes, downstrokes, partial strokes, and chordal picking patterns. There are power chord sustains, power chord mutes, movable hand positions, capos, and just about everything this barely-plays-guitar composer could ask for. Impact Soundworks have been working on perfecting their guitar offering for around a decade now (i.e. Shreddage 1 and 2) and it shows. It would be hard for a rookie developer to create an engine that is this intuitive, well though out, and feature-rich. Shreddage 3 feels like the result of a lot of blood, sweat, and…blisters!
As with every sample library, there are two crucial pieces to a virtual instrument that will either make it shine or struggle for attention: the engine and the samples. There are some types of virtual instruments that can withstand a mediocre engine, as long as the samples are pristine and plentiful. This is far from the case with a virtual guitar. Creating a virtual guitar that can convincingly recreate strums, leads lines, power chords, arpeggios, etc. is heavily dependent upon a powerful engine that can simulate the behavior of a real guitar and a real guitarist. I would dare say that the engine is the MOST important part of a virtual guitar library, and Shreddage 3 just gets it right. For this reason, I will focus most of this review around the Shreddage 3 engine, and then wrap up with a brief description of each of the instruments in the Shreddage 3 series.
The engine within Shreddage 3 gives you tons of playing flexibility and an impressive amount of sound-shaping controls and features. This written review is too confined a space to present an exhaustive list of the features found within the Shreddage 3 engine, so here I will focus on some of the features that I find to be most helpful and impressive. Keep in mind that there are three separate tabs that make up the engine within Shreddage 3: the Shreddage Engine tab, the Console tab, and the TACT (Articulation Setup) tab. There is so much control offered within each tab that there are actually entirely separate manuals for each one. So, even with this detailed review, I will only be scratching the surface of what’s inside Shreddage 3.
When first opening the Shreddage 3 Kontakt interface you will land within the Shreddage Engine tab. There are five pages that make up the Shreddage Engine tab: Main, Articulations, Performance, Strumming, and Advanced.
The Main page is where you will likely spend the most time and includes the most common (and useful) features. For a guitar with switchable pickups (i.e. Stratus – apparently modeled from a Fender Stratocaster), there is a visual model of the classic 3-way switch that functions exactly as it would on the real deal. There is also a great visual of the guitar itself so you can see exactly what frets are being played on each string. In the middle of the interface you will find a multi-tracking option that allows you to easily recreate double, triple, or quadruple-tracking. When clicked, each guitar represents a different sequence of samples that will be played back, with extra stereo panning, to provide an authentic studio-worthy multi-tracked sound. This is an excellent feature that can add depth and a polished, professional sound to your tracks. Below the neck of the guitar are controls for Picking Mode, Fretting Mode, Force String, and Hand Position. Each of the controls beneath the neck remain consistent when clicking throughout all five tabs. The Picking Mode selects the picking style that will be used when playing: Up for only upstrokes, Down, for only downstrokes, Alternate, for alternating between upstrokes and downstrokes, and Economy.
When changing a string, the Economy mode directs the engine to preserve the stroke direction that was used on the last note played on the previous string for the first note played on the new string, resulting in a more realistic picking pattern.
The four Fretting Modes allow you to change the way in which notes are fretted on the guitar: Natural, for leads mixed with chords simulated in a static hand position, Sweep, to simulate the sweep picking technique used in fast guitar playing, Moving Lead, to ascend the hand position slightly when moving to strings to play a higher pitch (allowing a three-octave range for scales in a static hand position), and Polyphonic, which prioritizes using as many strings as possible simultaneously, ideal for playing chords and helping to ensure that each note of a chord is played (instead of triggering legato, fret changes, etc.). It’s easy to figure out what the Force String control does – it literally forces all the played notes to be performed on a single string. The Hand Position allows you to set the fret at which the virtual fretting hand will start its reach to other frets (taking the Hand Size control into account – yes, yet another customizable option that allows you to actually control how big, and therefore far-reaching, your virtual guitar player’s hand will be). At the top of the interface you will find controls for Bite, Transpose, Global Offset, Pitch-bend Range, Unison Bend, and Vibrato Control. The Bite control can dial-in some extra grit and raw character to your guitar’s performance. The last control I will mention on the Main tab is the Poly Input Latency control. This little knob is very well thought out.
When you are playing the instrument on your MIDI controller, it is impossible for the engine to predict what you will do next (unless you are using a “Prophet” Synth – LOL! Okay, please forgive my corniness). This is where the Poly Input Latency control comes in. This knob allows you to introduce a variable amount of latency into your performance, allowing the Shreddage 3 engine to see where you are going and create more realistic voicings for playback. Think of this as the engine’s crystal ball, looking into the future to make sure your performance sounds like that of a real guitarist. This is a feature that is best used in conjunction with a full review of the instruction manual, as there are good and bad places to use this feature.
The Articulations page provides you with controls for Hammer-On and Slide, as well as Tremolo Speed and Vibrato. The vibrato can be controlled either via the modwheel or by aftertouch and allows you to adjust how the frets are played: Emulated, Fingered, or Whammy. The Emulated vibrato is simulated using pitch modulation in Kontakt. The Fingered vibrato is live-recorded vibrato performed with finger and hand movement. Whammy vibrato was performed live using the whammy bar.
The Performance page further enables realistic guitar playing via the following sections: Triggering, Release On, and Shred. The Triggering section includes two modes: Mono Lead Mode – prevents the engine from holding multiple notes so that releasing the most recent note while holding an older note causes the older note to retrigger, which is excellent for creating screaming rock solos; and Poly Release Retrigger – does the same thing as Mono Lead Mode, but constrains the retriggering of older notes to a single string, allowing you to only use a legato-style performance for notes performed on a single string while it becomes disabled when the notes played move to another string.
The Release On mode includes controls for: Hand Move – when enabled, if the virtual hand moves to a new position, all held notes are released; and Chord Change – when enabled and strum mode is activated, all held notes will be released when new notes are entered, which is a really helpful feature for creating crisp, clear chord voicings (instead of old notes being held down continually sustaining) every time a chord is changed. “You Shred!” is one of the best compliments a rockin’ guitar player can receive. In the case of Shreddage 3, Shred processing allows you to better emulate the fast playing of a guitarist by smoothing out your picking to sound more realistic. Shred processing combines sample offset and low-pass filtering, resulting in a reduction of the sound of your picking during fast passages, which leads to smoother sounding lead lines. The Shred section includes the following knobs: Shred Window – the maximum amount of milliseconds between the triggering of Shred processing between notes being played; Shred Offset – controls the amount of sample offset to use during Shred processing, which when fully dialed in, results in a smooth transition between played frets. Last up on the Performance tab is the Curve section, consisting of a Minimum/Maximum Curve grid and a control to select either a Velocity Curve or a Strum Speed Curve.
The Strumming page gives you a lot of control over how the engine plays strummed chord patterns. Strumming mode can be enabled either from the interface itself or via the use of dedicated keyswitches. When strumming mode is enabled, single notes cannot be played, and held-down notes will not result in any sound unless you also play the strumming keyswitches. Once you trigger the playable notes to make a chord, you can release the notes and continue to play the chord using the strumming keyswitches. I love the way Shreddage 3 implements this feature, as it gives you the chance to find the notes when changing your chord long before you ever need to trigger them. I found this to be immensely helpful in allowing me to play realistic strumming patterns without tripping over my left-hand movements (or lack of movement in some cases). Another nifty feature of strumming in Shreddage 3 is the ability to play either full or partial chords with either downstrokes or upstrokes. The Strum Distance setting allows you to control how many strings are activated when partial strums are performed. Essentially, the Strumming page gives you a good amount of control over how you create realistic strum patterns. You can control how the speed of your strums are modified, how your partial strums are modified, etc. For those who don’t want to fuss over a lot of meticulous control, there is also the Strum on Poly Input, which allows you to easily mix strummed chords and lead/melody lines without having to worry with keyswitches. Strumming in Shreddage 3 is dripping with realism and SUPER-fun!
The last page you will find in the Shreddage 3 Engine tab is the Advanced page, where you are given control over everything from line noise and release times, to rake picking and keyswitches for triggering various controls. One of the coolest features you will find here is the Random Resonance control. When Random Resonance is enabled, your virtual guitarist will occasionally “flub” a note by touching an adjacent open string or two. You can even use the Chance control to set how often this occurs and the volume of the resonance! This can add extra grit and overtones to your playing to make it sounds more human but beware that it also can be CPU-heavy.
The Console tab in Shreddage 3 gives you an over-the-top amount of control via separate individual and master mixing channels (for Stratus there are separate channels for the Neck, Middle, and Bridge in keeping with the 3-way switch) to fully shape the sound of each guitar. Each mixing channel comes with 8 FX slots that allow you to select from 30 different built-in FX like delay, distortion, chorus, twang, reverb, etc. In addition, there is a Master channel with 8 more FX slots you can use to apply to the overall sound. One of the most useful built-in FX is the Cabinet, which lets you choose from over 50 different guitar cabinet simulations. All of the FX have their own set of controls to let you dial them in exactly as you want.
There is also a dice icon on each one that lets you randomize the parameters of that module.
There is also a dice icon on each one that lets you randomize the parameters of that module. You need to be careful though, as this means you can end up with some extreme values that could end up blowing your speakers or ears. One of the great features Impact Soundworks have built here is the ability to save your custom channel strip settings and reload them into other projects. This can save you a ton of time if you have crafted a sound you love and want to carry it over to other projects, or even other Shreddage 3 instruments. While you can always use the “INIT S3” patch within each instrument to route an unprocessed version of the instrument through your own plugins and FX, the comprehensive nature of the Console tab means you won’t have to reach for lots of additional plugins or FX racks to have plenty of options.
The TACT (Articulation Setup) tab (standing for Total Articulation Control Technology) allows you to customize and map each articulation as you see fit. Not only can you select the keyswitch controls here, but you can change the volume of each articulation, select a minimum or maximum volume at which an articulation is triggered, control an articulation with a sustain pedal, select a key range for a particular articulation, and change the velocity scaling of each articulation (meaning you can choose how the MIDI 1-127 volume values apply to each one). Impact Soundworks have put you in the driver’s seat here to give you full control over how Shreddage 3 maps and activates each articulation.
Whew! While that might seem like a lot of words to simply cover a virtual instrument’s engine, Shreddage 3 is a beast that gives the user so much control and tweakability that it’s hard to keep this review brief.
So, what about the guitars themselves? After all, what good is the engine if the instruments themselves aren’t up to par. Thankfully, these instruments completely met or even exceeded my expectations. Each guitar comes with the same engine, plenty of varied snapshots, and a clean version of the instrument that resets all tabs and controls, allowing you to process the instrument through your own FX plugins and processors. So, with that said, in this section I will only focus on the differences between each guitar and the snapshots that come with it.
Shreddage 3 Stratus is the first release in the Shreddage 3 series. Stratus will look completely familiar to anyone who has ever seen a Fender Stratocaster; there is the classic 3-way pickup switch, the sleek trim body, and the classic, legendary sound you would expect from a virtual version of an American classic.
Along with the clean and FX-free version of Status, Impact Soundworks have included around 50 snapshots that cover styles such as rock, ambient, blues, jazz, thrash, funk, and more. The same strengths and weaknesses that would apply to the real version of the guitar also apply here. Stratus will be perfect for rock chords and leads that cut straight through a mix but might not be ideal for jazz or music from which you would require a warmer tone. The snapshot “Stratus American Lead” played through Stratus will make you feel like you’ve just stepped on stage at a rock concert in front of 60,000 screaming fans. If you are looking to pick up a single Shreddage 3 instrument, I think Stratus would be an excellent choice.
The Shreddage 3 Stratus sells for $149.00 from Impact Soundworks
Shreddage 3 Archtop takes Impact Soundworks popular Archtop: Hollowbody Electric Guitar and updates it with the Shreddage 3 engine. The original instrument for Archtop features a Sadowsky Jim Hall model guitar with dual pickups that produce a warm velvety tone. Archtop was performed by master session musician, Josh Workman.
Archtop includes around 30 Kontakt snapshots that give you the ability to play everything from funk and blues to ambient and classic rock. However, Archtop really excels with cleaner tones and genres like jazz, fusion, alt rock, blues, funk, and R&B. Archtop is not the most flexible instrument in the Shreddage 3 line, but I love its warm, beautiful tone. The snapshot, “Contemplation” (shared by each of the instruments in the Shreddage 3 line) sounds oh so good when played through Archtop. The warm echoes of this snapshot combined with the warmth in the low register of Archtop just sounds fantastic.
The Shreddage 3 Archtop sells for $149.00 from Impact Soundworks
Shreddage 3 Serpent takes the popular Shreddage 2: SRP virtual guitar and upgrades it to the Shreddage 3 engine. The original SRP was viewed as the most well-rounded instrument in the Shreddage 2 line and had the most balanced tone of all the Shreddage 2 series instruments.
Serpent features a 7-string guitar performed by metal hero and YouTube star, Jules Conroy (FamilyJules7x). Serpent features a pretty versatile tone that sits somewhere between the darker, fuller-bodied sound of Jupiter and the thinner, more biting and dirty tone of Rogue. Serpent would be good for heavy chugging rhythms, leads, and more. This is an excellent choice if you are a metalhead who wants to chug and roar with a piercing and clear tone. However, don’t let this 7-string metal beast fool you – it is really flexible. Impact Soundworks have included a lot of varied Kontakt snapshots here that will let you run the gamut of styles. I personally love how that 7th string means you can reach all the way to a low A, which makes this instrument even more flexible. The snapshot “Serpent Metal Lead 1” is a great example of the balance Serpent can achieve by giving you a tone that can be both warm and clear at the same time. Serpent’s flexibility makes it another great choice.
The Shreddage 3 Serpent sells for $149.00 from Impact Soundworks
Shreddage 3 Rogue takes the most aggressive of the Shreddage 2 series guitars and upgrades it to the Shreddage 3 engine. This axe is fierce, biting, and tailor-made for hi-gain music like rock and heavy metal.
Rogue features a Japanese classic virtual guitar (think Ibanez) with 7 strings and drop-A tuning and works well for heavy music with ear-piercing lead lines. If you are looking for a virtual guitarist who can set your next metal track on fire, look no further than Rogue. Rogue comes with a healthy number of snapshots for everything from metal leads and rhythms to blues, jazz, and rock, but make no mistake – this thing was made to rip the paint right off your studio walls. The “Rogue Wide Metal Lead” snapshot will give you a good idea of what this bad boy is capable of. Half guitar, half weapon, and all bite, Rogue is sure to please composers who want to throw down a flaming lead line that will rival the best metal lead guitarists out there.
The Shreddage 3 Rogue sells for $149.00 from Impact Soundworks
Here’s another axe for metalheads to celebrate, but with a richer tone that makes it perfect for power chords and chugs. Jupiter also has 7 strings and drop-A tuning, but while Rogue seeks to pierce your ears with a dirty, gritty sound and Serpent seeks to balance out that dirt with a little more warmth, Jupiter wants to blow your doors off with clarity and warm punch. This virtual guitar is simply a powerhouse. I love this thing. The snapshot “Jupiter Modern Metal 1” greatly showcases the earth-shaking low power chords this monster is capable of. Everyone is obviously going to have different tastes, but between Jupiter, Serpent, and Rogue, I would pick Jupiter hands down. While Serpent might be a little more balanced between the rich tone of Jupiter and the ear-shattering tone of Rogue, there is something about Jupiter that I just love. It has such a clean, rich tone that just makes it special. Serpent and Rogue have more noise and grit, but Jupiter is just so, so good.
The Shreddage 3 Jupiter sells for $149.00 from Impact Soundworks
Abyss is the singular bass guitar instrument in the Shreddage 3 line so far.
Abyss was created from a custom Muckelroy 6-string electric bass with drop-G tuning performed by Tony Dickinson and recorded through a Universal Audio Solo/610 analog tube preamp. It first appeared in the Shreddage 2 line but has now been ported over into Shreddage 3. Abyss is versatile enough to give you fatness, punch, and warmth. Whereas I have heard other virtual basses that just don’t sound real, Abyss is completely authentic and will fool even the most discerning ear. There are around 20 Kontakt snapshots that allow you to cover everything from hard rock bass to slap bass, mellow bass, and some styles in between. Whether you want to play bass chords, distorted and mean-sounding bass chugs, or funky, slappy bass lines, Abyss can do it. This is a great virtual bass that will definitely be finding its way into my tracks.
I can’t say enough good things about Shreddage 3. If you are looking for a virtual electric guitarist or bassist to support your track for just about any genre, Shreddage 3 has you covered. The years of experience Impact Soundworks bring to the table in creating virtual guitars really shows. They have thought of just about everything you can imagine when it comes to a virtual guitar. All you need now is some punchy, thumping drums and possibly treatment for the forthcoming tinnitus.
The Shreddage 3 Abyss sells for $149.00 from Impact Soundworks
Shreddage 3 is a collection of six instruments for Kontakt 5.7+ including Stratus, Archtop, Serpent, Rogue, Jupiter, and Abyss. Each electric guitar instrument can be purchased separately for $149 from Impact Soundworks, while the Abyss bass can be purchased for $99. Once you have purchased any individual product from the Shreddage 3 line, subsequent Shreddage 3 instruments can be purchased for $119.
Shreddage 3 sells for $149.00 from Impact Soundworks
Contributor Raborn Johnson reviews Shreddage 3 by Impact Soundworks
“Do you need a guitar player that shows up on time, plays what you want when you want it, and never complains? Shreddage 3 is that guitar player for me. If I simply close my eyes, it’s hard to tell the difference between Shreddage 3 and an expert studio guitarist.”