Dirty and minimal – that’s how I’d describe first impressions of Amp, the just-announced Ableton amp modeling add-on for Live, available a la carte or free with Live Suite. It appears at first glance to be just what you’d expect: it’s a radically simplified user interface for modeling amplifiers (“Amp”) and cabinets (“Cabinet”). (Hey, shouldn’t that have been Amp and Cab, or does that make people think of wine and taxis?)

Or, as Ableton’s press release puts it, the aim is to “get good dirt, fast.” What you get in the add-on:

  • Live-styled, minimal UIs, emphasizing essential parameters
  • Inserts you can use to dirty up guitar tracks, clips, drums, synths – anything.
  • 7 amp models, covering “Clean,” “Boost” (think tremolo British), “Blues,” “Rock,” “Lead,” “Heavy,” and “Bass.” Names have been changed to protect the innocent… trademarks.
  • Cabinet, which instead of offering lots of mic positioning choices and the lot chooses the “optimized” positions for you you’re most likely to use.
  • A Live Lesson to get you started.
  • Integrated goodness, with Instrument Racks, Effect Racks, Live Clips, and 400 presets.

As with previous recent add-ons, Ableton chose a collaborator to bring in expertise. The developers are Swedish outfit Softube, who have done development work for the likes of Abbey Road Studios, TC Electronic, and even work on Marshall’s new JMD:1 hardware/software guitar amp. Their specialty is modeling vintage analog circuitry.

I asked Ableton’s Daniel B├╝ttner, Sound Product Manager for Amp, to explain why we should care. “It’s fully integrated in Live,” he responds, “it’s extremely simple to use and you can get results quickly, and (a subjective observation – ) it sounds wonderful.”

And, says Daniel, Amp is built to be part of the Suite. “Amp greatly enhances the existing Suite instruments. Check out the preset “Bass-Mosh Pit Bass” for example – it is a rather thin sounding Tension preset run through Amp. The result is amazing.”

What Amp isn’t, it seems, is direct competition for guitar packages like IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube and NI’s Guitar Rig. Instead of tons and tons of tweaking and different models, it focuses on the basics. As such, I can certainly see it appealing to people who are deep into the Ableton way of doing things. And with clips and racks and such, while guitarists may insist upon more extensive toolsets in dedicated packages, this appears to be a more producer-friendly option for those who find the big guitar suites overwhelming.

US$129 as the add-on, but it seems more likely as a way of sweetening Suite; once you have Suite, it’s a free download. That means, Suite users, you can go grab it right now with 8.2.