Scuffham’s S-Gear amp suite is economical, but nonetheless includes dual convolution engines and three amp models.
Three amps plus delay and convolution
It seems every time I do one of these roundups, there’s a new, “dark horse” amp sim maker; this year, it’s Scuffham. S-Gear is the least expensive of the sims reviewed here, but nonetheless features three amp models, a sweet delay module, dual convolution cabinets (with seven impulses and four filters, as well as two virtual mics with four positions each), natural-sounding noise gate, and solid preset management.
The three amps have different characters. They’re intended not to model specific amps, but create their own sounds from the ground up. I appreciate this approach; it’s not always necessary to sound just like, say, a Marshall JCM800 or Vox AC30, as long as you capture the spirit that would make an amp iconic.
The effective complement of controls allows squeezing multiple sounds out of the models. The delay does long delays, chorusing, chorus/delay, and offers two different timbres (including analog bucket-brigade delay emulation). A power-amp config module lets you emulate sag, perform a highfrequency cut, and set the presence frequency. Nice.
Initially, although I liked the clean and crunchy sounds, I found the high-gain/distortion sounds harsh, due to nasty digital artifacts, and the controls unresponsive. After a “WTF”? email exchange with the designer (who had designed Marshall’s JMP-1, so he knows his stuff ), it turned out that my style of playing (hard pick, heavy strings, and highly percussive), coupled with very high-output pickups, was generating initial transients that were much stronger than the average signal level—these were slamming the input, but because they were so short, they weren’t showing up on the amp’s input level meters.
The solution was simple: I lowered the pickups a few millimeters. This reduced the ratio of transient strength to signal level, the artifacts went away, the controls worked as expected, and the high-gain sounds became rich, warm, and responsive—it was definitely an ugly-duckling-transforms-intoswan experience. (As a bonus, this fixed some artifacts I had been getting with a couple POD Farm amps, too . . . so I’m leaving the pickups where they are.)
The dual convolution speaker cabs are a big deal, as you can pan them and create true stereo images, while choosing different impulses for the two speakers so their sounds complement each other. (You can load other impulses, too—you’re not locked into the 56 included impulses.) In some ways, I preferred the filter speaker responses; regardless, if you choose your “virtual mics” and positioning carefully, you can get some huge—yet authentic—sounds.
Download the fully functional 15-day demo, and check out Scuffham’s amps for yourself. They definitely have their own sound, and even if you already have several amp sims, they provide an excellent complement because they’re not trying to sound like some specific amp. This is one dark horse that I predict will still be around for next year’s roundup.
SCUFFHAM AMPS S-GEAR WINDOWS VST/ STANDALONE
Inexpensive. Wonderful delay. Relevant control complement. Comes with dual convolution engines, and you can load additional impulses. Straightforward to use/ learn.
Not yet available for Mac. With high-gain sounds, be careful about hitting the input too hard as the meters don’t display short, high-level transients.
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