Archetype: Rabea is one of very few modellers to include guitar‑synth sounds, alongside the usual amps, cabs and stompbox effects.
Rabea Massaad is the latest guitarist to collaborate with Neural DSP in order to create a signature plug‑in simulation of his guitar rig — he follows in the footsteps of Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood, John Petrucci, Tim Henson, Tosin Abasi, Cory Wong, Plini and the band Gojira. Through his work with rock/metal/prog bands such as Toska, Dorje and the Totemist, as well as gear reviews and guitar tuition (through his own popular YouTube channel and that of retailer Andertons), and as guitarist in fellow YouTuber Leo Moracchioli’s FrogLeap live project, Rabea has created a fanbase of which many more mainstream artists could be envious. Indeed, the chances are that you could walk into almost any guitar store on the planet and bump into a fan. So if you play the guitar and haven’t yet checked his YouTube channel, consider this a recommendation!
I reviewed Neural’s Archetype: Nolly plug‑in back in SOS January 2020 and it impressed, and their Quad Cortex hardware‑based guitar modeller went on to be voted Best Guitar Technology Product in the SOS Awards 2022. So I think it’s fair to say that, despite the company’s relative youth, Neural DSP have already established themselves as one of the market leaders in amp‑modelling technology.
Archetype: Rabea follows broadly the same format as the previous signature plug‑ins, but with an added twist, which I’ll get to in a moment. You get sophisticated models of a compact set of stompbox effects pedals, guitar amps and matching cabs, dual microphone modelling, a flexible four‑band EQ section and post‑amp effects, all chosen to capture Rabea’s signature sounds. These modelled gear choices are all housed in a flexible front‑end that includes MIDI support, a tuner, a noise gate, audio transpose, automatic doubling, a metronome, and a well‑stocked preset system.
Like many manufacturers, Neural avoid using the real names of the modelled amps and stompboxes, but the core gear here comprises three amps (chosen for clean, crunch, and high‑gain duties, respectively) three cabs (you can mix and match the amps and cabs, and load your own IRs), and four virtual stompboxes, which cater for two stages of compression, an up/down octaver, fuzz and overdrive. The last three of those each have a Vintage/Modern switch, to provide very distinctive flavours of each effect, and the post‑effects section consists of a very flexible dual delay, and a reverb with an interesting ‘freeze’ function.
From a typical guitarist’s perspective, the only really obvious omission is any form of modulation effect — but I reckon this can be forgiven, since the plug‑in is intended to emulate a specific rig. It’s a particularly interesting rig too, since the aforementioned ‘twist’ is the inclusion of a monophonic synthesizer engine, which I believe is a first for Neural. While this guitar synth only works with monophonic input signals (in other words single‑note melodic lines; the pitch‑tracking system won’t translate chords), there’s no need for any specialist hardware or pickups. This means you’re able to transform any guitar’s audio into a range of synth sounds, pretty much instantly.
Neural’s amp, cab and effects modelling have always been up there with the very best, and Archetype: Rabea is no exception. The clean amp is, for the most part, very clean — it’s capable of Fender‑like, crystal‑clear tones, with plenty of note attack. The crunch amp can also do clean at low gain settings, but as you dial in more gain it gradually gets more ‘rawk’. If high‑gain modern metal tones are what you are after, the ‘lead’ amplifier will have you covered, whether you’re looking for aggressive gain or smooth saturation. Rabea is well‑known for using Victory Kraken amps (he was involved in their development), and that’s undoubtedly an...