Studio Devil Amplifier Modeler Pro offers better models than its predecessor, Virtual Guitar Amp, as well as more flexibility and effects.
Two years ago, Studio Devil entered the amp-emulation fray with Virtual Guitar Amp (VGA). More recently, Studio Devil released Amp Modeler Pro (Mac/Win, $149) — AMP for short — which offers more of everything while retaining VGA's simple, single-window GUI design. AMP is a cross-platform plug-in that supports AU and VST formats.
AMP's small yet uncluttered editor window delivers all the controls you would expect in guitar-processing software. The GUI is divided into three sections. The standard set of preset and bank parameter controls are in the thin top section, where you can select presets and banks from pop-up menus and you can save, rename, import and export banks and presets. The middle section takes up most of the interface and furnishes controls for the preamp, power amp and cabinet simulations. Effects controls are in the bottom section.
THE DEVIL'S IN THE DETAILS
Amp Modeler Pro lets you select separate preamp and power-amp models. All the amp models share the same tone parameters. You can adjust the Gain, Bass, Mids, Treble and Presence using corresponding knobs, as well as increase the gain with the Boost switch. The preamp module also has Bright and Deep buttons, which add high and low end to your tone. A three-way Lo-Cut switch lets you select either drastic, mild or no low-end reduction. If you have sufficient CPU power, you can use the Hi-Fi switch to enable high-sample-rate mode. In addition, you can separately toggle the preamp and power-amp modules on and off.
The pop-up Preamp Model menu offers 16 emulations of popular guitar amps. Classic Fenders, Marshalls and Voxes are covered, along with Laney, Matchless, Soldano and other boutique amps. AMP's excellent manual also explains that you should be able to add future preamp models to the list using downloadable XML files.
The Power Amp Select switch lets you choose between three types of power amp: FET (solid-state), AB (symmetrical push-pull tube) and Class A (asymmetrical). Adjusting the Drive knob with Master Volume lets you dial in additional overdrive without clipping your signal.
Though I was not impressed with the Rectifier or Fender simulations, the AC30 and high-gain Marshall and Soldano simulations were some of the best I've heard (see Web Clip 1). They not only sounded in the ballpark of the amplifiers they modeled, but they responded very much like a real tube amp, cleaning up with the guitar volume knob and responding to picking dynamics.
The Cabinet Impulse Processor and Master section take AMP's flexibility even further. AMP ships with impulse responses (IRs) from 13 cabinets, but you can also import your own, extending the cabinet section even further. Because some IRs introduce latency, AMP offers a Fast/Norm switch; the Fast position replaces your IR with a minimum-phase version that offers zero latency. The Filter Size selector lets you further modify your IR, changing the cabinet tone and response. The Highend Sizzle knob does an excellent job of removing the high-end noise that can accompany digital simulations.
The Master section lets you toggle on and off a 7-band graphic EQ with a three-way switch to select between three different frequency-band sets. You can place the graphic EQ either before the preamp or after the power amp. The EQ's level slider lets you adjust the EQ's total output. Also in the amplifier section, the controls for the wah-wah filter are simple enough — just an on/off button and a slider, which you can control with a footpedal by using AMP's MIDI Learn functionality.
AMP's effects section supplies compression, echo, reverb, gate and modulation (chorus, flanger, phaser and tremolo), but no distortion-pedal simulations. Most effects let you choose pre- or post-preamp positions. The effects all sound good, but they're not especially flexible, and you don't have nearly the breadth of placement or parameter options that you would with packages that include a full complement of stompbox simulations. Nevertheless, you can use AMP's effects to create anything from subtle effects to a washy “wall of guitar” sound (see Web Clip 2).
THE DEVIL, YOU SAY
All this flexibility amounts to an impressive amount of tone control. You need to be careful to watch your gain staging, though; with so many drive stages, it's easy to clip your sound, but the results are worth the effort. It's easy to get very good sounds out of Amp Modeler Pro.
Overall rating (1 through 5): 4