Are you serious about creating rock or metal but never feel comfortable releasing your music due to weak-sounding virtual instruments? IRON 2 improves upon nearly every aspect of the original, finally making it possible for any producer to create realistic songs with nothing more than a laptop, DAW and reliable listening environment. Let’s check out what’s new.

Getting a first look

While we could have simply given IRON a facelift and added some new presets, we decided to go much deeper. You now get access to an entirely new sample set, recorded from an entirely new guitarist. If you already have IRON, that means you can use both simultaneously for additional variety — and if you’re new to IRON, you’ll be starting out with the most up-to-date tools available to you!

IRON 2 is the most accessible virtual instrument for creating rock, metal and the various subgenres within, providing a far greater level of depth and performance power than its predecessor: 30 brand–new style phrases, 354 phrases overall (330 style phrases and 24 common phrases), and 300 additional presets.

The UI is also completely new — updated to fit a more polished, nuanced version of the original IRON plugin. Even though we’ve added a few new features, we adjusted the UI to easily highlight them while maintaining its previous accessibility. If it’s not the exact size you need, you can also resize the plugin window by dragging the bottom right corner or clicking the window icon next to the notification bell.

For easier playability, you can now use the Micro Timing overlay to quantize IRON 2’s performance to your DAW — if your timing is a little off while recording, this will help you align your guitar with the timing of your track so there’s less work to do in the DAW session itself.

MIDI Drag & Drop

One of the biggest challenges with MIDI guitars is realism. Layering individual note recordings doesn’t work as it fails to take into account the interaction between multiple strings and the actual body of the instrument. When a real guitar is played, every sound it creates passes out of the instrument’s body and into an amp, followed by a cabinet, before it’s picked up by a microphone and processed as desired.

That’s why guitar virtual instruments typically add chords and single phrases, so that those don’t have to be built from scratch. This presents a different challenge, however — you only have so many phrases available to you before the guitar sounds fake and repetitive. Virtual instruments like IRON have been able to mitigate this issue by presenting tons of different style phrases that can be chained together at will, creating a fairly seamless performance. Still, we chose to go further, bringing our MIDI Drag & Drop feature to IRON 2, which is virtually unheard of amongst virtual guitars.

Now, you can play any modification of common and style phrases you like by dragging them directly into your DAW session with the tab at the top of each note on the UI’s musical keyboard. From here, you can freely manipulate the velocities and add or replace notes, or chain different phrases together on a much smaller scale than you’re currently used to. If you want to get super granular, you can construct nearly any sound or phrase you like with small tweaks in your DAW’s piano roll — allowing you to get as close to the performance of a professional rock or metal guitarist as possible from a virtual instrument. Plus, if you hold down a key or chord while dragging, it will automatically be added into the new MIDI clip you create.

Which leads into perhaps the greatest achievement of IRON 2…

Instrument mode

This was one of the most requested features for IRON 2, and we found a way to work it into the interface seamlessly. If you click on “Instrument” next to “Player,” this opens up all the under the hood functionality for you to use freely. After that, play any chord you desire in the Play Range area, and then in the Common Phrases area, begin playing semi-random notes. You’ll notice that you can hear chords each time you use the Common Phrases area, alternating between performance effects, downstrokes, upstrokes, muted plucks, individual strummed notes and more.

Rather than holding down a note and allowing each phrase to automatically play out as long as you don’t lift up, now you gain complete control over exactly which notes are played and at what time — effectively allowing you to play the guitar realistically and freely in a way that’s essentially impossible with any other plugin. All you need to create an authentic guitar part with a precise, believable performance is to write out a few chords in the piano roll and manually add in any pattern you’d like. This is likely as effective an approximation of a professional guitarist as you’ll find in a virtual instrument!

Say you have a fast power metal guitar part that would normally be impossible to create without a pro guitarist. With Instrument mode, you can dictate exactly how fast you want to play each note … even if that’s consistent 16ths at 180bpm! In fact, IRON 2 makes it possible to create rapid progressions and rhythms that are almost inconceivable to a live guitarist, while making them sound completely natural. This alone makes it an obvious choice for complex metal performances, especially if you don’t want to play them yourself or make extensive edits to the musician you choose to record!

Effects and tone color

Our Finisher plugins offer a wide variety of processing options for any audio you run through them; for the release of IRON 2, however, we included a ton of streamlined, single-button Finisher options you can use right inside of IRON 2. They’re all easy-to-use presets like Dual Rotary Chorus, Demonizer and Space Reverb; some are self-explanatory, while others offer quite a surprise! You can get a great sound with the Finisher unit turned off, but adding it in helps you extend your sound outside of the conventional guitar realm without you having to reach for a separate effect. The Stompbox unit, on the other hand, is even more straightforward. If you want extra tone color, choose one of the 30 Stompbox presets and have at it, whether it’s wah, delay, chorus or even reverb.

If you turn off both the Finisher and Stompbox and set the amp to clean, you’ll get a relatively unaffected guitar sound ideal for less intense passages and short phrases rather than chords. Just in case you want to take full advantage of this, you can switch from Chord to Note mode, which will apply all of the common and style rhythmic phrases to single notes. Most of the time you likely won’t need this, but it’s a helpful option to have if you need to add in a guitar melody line here or there.

A few other fun additions

You can even tune IRON 2 up or down by up to 3 semitones, further mimicking the characteristics of a real guitar. This is perfect if you want to access lower chords that normally wouldn’t be possible and create a deeper impact, especially when you add in the capability for drop D tuning (extending the low end from E down to semitones to D).

When using an external hard drive, samples can take a long time to load — there’s nothing more frustrating than staring at a screen, wondering whether a program is working. To combat this, we added in a load status indicator so you can know whether you’re facing delays and by how much.

Also, if you’re using Studio One, you can toggle on the Follow Chords setting, following IRON 2’s chords and automatically changing the MIDI to fit perfectly. This will make more sense and allow for easier use if you don’t set a key for your song.

Wrapping up

If you already own IRON 2, you can upgrade at a nice discount. It’s a completely different instrument from its predecessor, so you can even use both in the same songs if you want some added complexity and doubling. You’ll gain way more flexibility and realism than you’ve ever known before with a virtual guitar, paying off tenfold in the quality and variety of the rock and metal tracks you’re able to create even more rapidly. IRON 2 is also perfect even if you’ve never used the original, as this is a full upgrade and possesses all the same key features plus a variety of significant improvements (as you clearly saw above).

Anyone who loves creating rock or metal will love the new additions, as they enable you to create virtually any song you want from start to finish. Guitars are usually one of the most difficult sampled instruments to get a realistic sound from — since that obstacle has been completely removed with IRON 2, there’s nothing holding you back anymore. Combined with Virtual Bassist ROWDY and Virtual Drummer BRUTE, you have an entire rock or metal band at your fingertips, with built-in adjustable MIDI clips you can use to create and produce songs in record time!