This article tells you everything you need to decide whether it’s time to buy or upgrade to SPARKLE 2:

  1. At a glance
  2. MIDI Drag & Drop
  3. Shaping your guitar sound
  4. Wrapping up

At a glance

It would have been simplest to add a couple new features and expand upon the original version, but for the newest iteration of UJAM’s timeless virtual guitarist, we decided to do a complete overhaul, just like we did with IRON 2. The new SPARKLE 2 puts the sound of electric pop guitar in your hands no matter the decade: 60s grit, 70s disco, 80s glam, 90s brit pop, 00s indie, contemporary electronic pop, you name it — SPARKLE 2 can provide it! One big reason it’s able to cover so many decades is the extensive set of onboard effects, which we cover in greater detail below, but it doesn’t hurt that the core sound is based on a customized vintage guitar with a legendary sound. Because everything is recorded direct with no effects or processing, you have maximum control over the sound as always.

SPARKLE 2 isn’t just a reskinned version of the original, though — the entire sample set is filled with entirely new recordings to match the additional flexibility and realism programmed into the new version of the plugin. When you upgrade, you get an entirely new guitarist ... and perhaps best of all, that means you can use it in conjunction with the first SPARKLE! This lets you hardpan one left and the other right, giving you true stereo guitar parts without any phasing issues. If there’s a preset you love from the original, there’s no reason not to combine both versions of the virtual guitarist to beef up your songs even more.

Version 2 also contains over 30 styles and 350 phrases, offering you endless possibilities for guitar rhythms spanning many different genres, between modern pop, rock, funk, old school metal and plenty more — and all of these are totally different from the ones in the original version. We also expanded the harmonic capabilities by including an Open Chords feature, allowing you to get a wider variety of sounds than were ever possible with SPARKLE’s first iteration. If you enjoy using a lot of guitar in your songs, this will allow you to get even more mileage out of it!

MIDI Drag & Drop

Just like with IRON 2, we saw the limitations of pre-made guitar phrases and decided it was time for a change; now you can drag the MIDI for any guitar phrase right into your DAW and modify the rhythm and phrasing exactly how you like! This type of feature is unheard of with virtual guitars, at least with realistic ones ... but with SPARKLE 2, you have endless flexibility available to you, and you can easily build on the extensive library of existing patterns and riffs so you never have to start from scratch. This can save you hours in the production process (possibly even for a single song), but you’ll never be restricted to the “factory” options — when you’re done having fun, you can have a completely new guitar part that meets your needs every time!

UJAM’s Instrument mode also made its way into SPARKLE 2, allowing you to design completely realistic guitar parts from the ground up! While the Player mode uses premade MIDI phrases to allow you to instantly create guitar parts you love (which can be easily manipulated, of course), Instrument mode “unlocks” the virtual guitarist and allows you to play everything note by note, complete with open, half-muted and fully muted notes, along with stops, dead notes and more. Every articulation included in SPARKLE 2 is accessible through this mode, giving you absolute control over the timbre and contours of everything you play.

This is achieved with a much more flexible approach than the clunky keyswitch model employed by many other guitar VSTs, as you can actually play in each articulation without even changing chords. Once you feel how flexible this is in action, you’ll love playing in realistic guitar parts on the fly as you gain complete control over your guitar performances. The performance style is nearly identical to that of IRON 2, so if you’re familiar with one, the other is even simpler to integrate into your workflow.

Shaping your guitar sound

While the original SPARKLE had excellent amp simulations, we felt the release of version 2 deserved an upgrade! The extensive suite of onboard effects has been updated to include 30 different stomp box combinations (pre-amplifier, meaning the amp and “speaker” will dynamically react the signal as you make changes to the core sound) and 60 multi-FX chains in the upgraded Finisher section. Altogether, you have access to a wider variety of professional-grade sounds than ever before, especially when you test different combinations of settings across the various different sections (offering literally hundreds of possible sounds to play with).

In SPARKLE 2, you’ll find presets that let you bridge genres in an instant, whether you’re looking for something clean and polished, grungy, even indie rock. You have endless flexibility at your fingertips, and with a few tweaks of the Amp and Character settings, you can completely change the behavior of this guitarist to match the needs of your song. When you’ve covered all your bases but there still isn’t enough oomph, use the Drive knob to push the signal that last little bit and heat things up to the temperature you’re looking for!

Wrapping up

SPARKLE 2 is a completely separate entity from its predecessor, with far more opportunities for realism, flexibility and creative processing techniques all within the plugin interface. Its MIDI control alone offers so many possibilities for creating new rhythms and performance styles, making this the closest thing you’ll find to recording a live pop guitarist (in our entirely unbiased opinion). The effects are entirely user-controlled as all samples were recorded dry, meaning you’re not stuck with distortion or air you don’t want just because of how it was recorded.

The interface may appear similar, but this is simply to ease the transition for existing users — under the hood, SPARKLE 2 has been totally revamped in order to create the most powerful virtual pop guitarist to date. Give it a try and see the difference ... and if you own the original, try using both together to fill out your arrangement!


About the Author

Harry Lodes is a copywriter, marketing consultant and content writer for audio and ecommerce brands. He lives in the Philadelphia area, releasing Eastern/Western hybrid EDM under the artist name KAIRI hearkening back to his roots in Berklee College of Music.