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Studio Devil Virtual Guitar Amp (Mac/Win) Review

February 6, 2009
photo of Studio Devil Virtual Guitar Amp

FIG. 1: Studio Devil Virtual Guitar Amp models 18 classic and modern amplifiers.

Studio Devil jumps into the ever-growing field of guitar-amplifier modelers with its Virtual Guitar Amplifier plug-in ($79). It features 64-bit floating-point processing and comes in VST, AU, and Pro Tools RTAS formats.

Rather than cover scores of amplifiers, stompboxes, and analog and digital effects, Virtual Guitar Amplifier sticks to modeling 18 well known amplifiers from Fender, Vox, Marshall, Matchless, Peavey, Laney, Mesa Boogie, and Soldano. Its only effect is a noise gate, and you get two cabinet selections, which you can bypass. It relies on your host software for any MIDI learn and automation functionality.

Channel Switcher

The graphical user interface features a brushed metal faceplate with virtual knobs and switches. The Preamp section contains three switches for selecting between simulations: Style (Classic, British, or Modern), Channel (Lead, Crunch, or Clean), and Boost (On or Off). This is consistent with most guitar amps, but until you''ve memorized which simulation requires which combination of switch settings, you''ll be looking at the manual often. For example, if you want to use the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier model, you select Modern on the Style switch, Crunch on the Channel switch, and set the Boost switch to Off. If you use the same preamp settings but turn on Boost, the model changes to the Soldano SLO simulation.

Aside from selecting the model, the interface is very straightforward. The Gain knob sets the amount of preamp distortion for the amp model. Standard amplifier tone knobs set bass, mid, treble, and presence. All controls are active for every model, even if the original amp didn''t have them. A three-way switch selects between the two modeled cabinets (a 4-by-12 and a 2-by-12 combo) and a DI box (which bypasses the cabinet simulator). The Power Amp Drive knob dials in power amp compression. The Noise Gate effect has a Threshold knob and an on/off switch.

We''re Jammin''

The documentation is well written and full of useful tips. For example, it invites you to experiment with the volume knob to explore Virtual Guitar Amp''s dynamic response. I found the clean and mid-gain models to be exceptionally playable and to have good dynamics (see Web Clip 1). Rolling off the volume knob on my Koll Tornado cleaned up the tone nicely. When I punched it, the tone would both saturate and get a bit more treble, depending on the model.

I especially enjoyed the Peavey Classic, Laney, and Fender models; they were very expressive and accurate. The Vox and Mesa Boogie models didn''t quite live up to the dynamics and accuracy of my favorite modelers, but they weren't bad. I would like a greater selection of speaker cabinets, but the two included cabinets sound fine.

The noise gate is mostly transparent, responsive, and just right for its purpose. If you go crazy with the preamp gain and power amp drive, the tails of long notes will sound unnatural, but when used judiciously, it clamps down on pickup and amp noise without cutting off notes.

Devil Inside

Virtual Guitar Amp might seem a bit feature deprived, but by not trying to be everything to everyone, it succeeds in filling a niche of its own. Although simple to use, I did find the lack of straightforward pop-up menus to select amp models a bit of a drawback.

When I used Virtual Guitar Amp to process drums and vocals, it performed wonderfully, providing a warm and realistic saturation effect that was quick and simple to dial in. If you''re in the market for a complete guitar rig in a box, Virtual Guitar Amp won''t fit the bill. However, if you''re looking to add a responsive, good-sounding collection of amps to your existing effects, this plug-in is definitely worth a look.

Value (1 through 5): 3
Studio Devil

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