On My Wishlist: Blackstar’s Studio 10 6L6

Earlier today, I popped round my local guitar shop to try Blackstar’s new Studio 10 combo amps. I came away with the 6L6 version firmly on my list of amps to buy.

Why Are You Looking For A New Amp?

I love my Marshall Origin 20H. In the 10 months or so that I’ve had it, it’s become my everyday amp at home. It’s been a much better pedal platform than I could have hoped for. Even now, I’m still learning how to get new tones out of it. Without a doubt, it’s been one of the best purchases I’ve ever made when it comes to guitar gear.

If there’s one ‘but’ when it comes to the Origin, it’s that the Origin’s strong personality can always be heard, no matter the pedal used. The Origin is middy, with a strong emphasis on the upper mids. Sometimes, I just feel like a change. Sometimes, I just want a break from the Origin.

Maybe it’s because I grew up playing Strat knockoffs, I don’t know. There’s just something about 6L6 / blackface-voiced amps that always draws me back to that sound. Especially when playing cleaner tones with a Strat.

And with rehearsals well underway for our first acoustic gig, I’m playing a lot of clean stuff atm.

That Sounds Like You Want A Fender Amp?

Fender doesn’t really play in this space atm.

Their high-end amps like the Deluxe Reverb Re-issue (DRRI) are lush. They’re also big, heavy, and expensive. I haven’t really found anything in their lineup that brings that beautiful blackface clean tone to home players on a budget.

So it’s no wonder that other manufacturers are looking to fill the gap in the market that Fender’s left for them.

Enter Blackstar Studio 10

New for 2019, Blackstar has launched 3 new 12” combos: Studio 10 EL34, Studio 10 KT88 and Studio 10 6L6. As the names suggest, each is focused on bringing a specific kind of tone to home and home studio players, in a 10 watt format.

I can’t comment on the Studio 10 KT88 at all, as I’ve not played one yet. When they turn up in the shops, I will go and check them out.

My local shop did have both the Studio 10 EL34 and Studio 10 6L6 in stock. I spent the best part of an hour playing through both with a couple of the new American Performer Strats and Fender’s The Pelt Fuzz pedal. I love that pedal so much!

What Was The Studio 10 EL34 Like?

It sounded good.

It’s got that mid-push EL34 thing going on. Clean, the tones from the Strat were cutting, with good clarity. The kind of clean tones that would work really well in a mix.

With The Pelt, the mid-focus was really apparent. There isn’t a lot of bottom end / extended range on tap. I couldn’t find any warm tones in the amp. It struck me very much as an amp to rock out on, without the excessive brightness of Marshall Origin combos.

I’ve already got the Origin 20H. If I didn’t, then the Studio 10 EL34 would probably be on my wishlist.

What Was The Studio 10 6L6 Like?

Mmm. There it is. That lush blackface clean tone that I’ve been looking for.

This amp has both the extended range and mid-scoop that I remember from the last time I played a DRRI. Clean sounds have that piano-like ring that I want, and The Pelt was warm and chewy.

If anything, sat next to it, the amp was a little boomy. There’s a single tone control, but that’s more for matching the amp to your guitar. You might need to budget for an EQ pedal in the FX loop if you find the amp a little boomy too.

I had no trouble at all imagining this amp sat in my office all day as an alternative to my Marshall Origin. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen come pay day.

Did You Mention The American Performer Strat?

Yes, I did.

I tried both the maple and rosewood fretboard versions, and they both were great to play. I’ll talk more about them at pay day, when at least one of them is coming home with me.

New Arrivals For January

The turning of the year can be a great time to hunt for new (to you) guitar gear. The second hand market is normally flooded with folks who are moving on gear they no longer want – or sadly can no longer afford to keep. And there’s Winter NAMM, where brands large and small drop announce new products.

I’ve been lucky enough to pick up some stuff that I’m interested in, and I thought I’d share it with you. Some of it is new to me, and some of it is me taking a second look at things I’ve had before but didn’t gel with. And there’s a few very special items too.

I’m going to do full articles on each of them, once I’ve had a bit of time with them. For now, here’s the very first impressions for you.

The Acoustasonic Telecaster

Fender’s big announcement at Winter NAMM 2019 was this unusual-looking thing. It’s a Telecaster that sounds like an acoustic guitar.

I know, right?

I was away on a business trip when the announcements came out, and my reaction was the same as pretty much everyone else’s – meh. It seems like such a gimmick. And it isn’t helped by being priced around the same as an Elite Telecaster or Stratocaster.

But when I got back home, and was able to listen to the demos – especially the Andertons and Reverb demos – my opinion changed. It sounded so, so good. Hear for yourself:

Normally, this wouldn’t be my thing. But I’ve just started weekly rehearsals for a gig (hopefully in April), and we’re doing an acoustic set. This new Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster seems perfect for that – even better than the Taylor T5z.

I’ll be using it at rehearsal for the first time on Wednesday. I’m already looking forward to it.

Lovepedal Tchula Black Mamba

Lovepedal’s legendary Tchula pedal, in its Black Mamba variant

Lovepedal’s Tchula pedal is right up there with the Klon Centaur and Analogman’s King of Tone as a fully-fledged member of the Legendary Pedals Club. Don’t @ me.

At its heart, the Tchula is two COT50 boost pedals stacked together. One side is a fixed boost, and the other side has (I believe) a bias pot so that you can dial in to taste. There are several different variants, and (with the exception of the Mississippi Tchula) each variant sports a different take on the COT50 to give a slightly different tone.

I managed to snag the Black Mamba Tchula. This variant is said to be a little warmer than the original gold Tchula designed for Josh Smith. Sounds ideal for a bright amp like my Origin 20 🙂

AEA Nuvo N22 Ribbon Microphone

AEA’s Nuvo N22 Ribbon Microphone

I was watching a video on Chicago Music Exchange’s YouTube channel over Christmas (I think it was this one on the new Fender American Performer Telecaster), and I was stunned by the sound quality.

Here was a mic capturing all the mid-range we’d expect, and with all the body that we love for home tone. There’s plenty of top-end too; it doesn’t sound like someone threw a blanket over it.

The mic they were using was a ribbon mic, the AEA Nuvo N22. And it was just my luck that a 2nd hand one turned up earlier this month.

Literally all I’ve done with it so far is plugged it in to make sure it wasn’t DOA. When I’ve got some free time (haha I wish) it’s going to get used for making Kemper profiles and on some female vocals.

Mad Professor 1 Brown Sound Pedal

Mad Professor’s 1 Pedal. The Eddie Van Halen sound in a box.

Speaking of Kemper profiles, I’ve started thinking about collecting as many Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB for short) pedals as possible. I think it’d be handy to have a wide palette of Marshall-like tones to hand.

Plus, I’m a huge fan of Mad Professor pedals. So when a couple of these 1 pedals came up on the 2nd hand market this month for a really good price, I thought it was a good idea finally pick one of these up.

How can I describe it? It’s basically got two settings – high gain, and melt-your-face-off gain. As you’d expect, it’s a one-trick pony (most MIAB pedals are), but what a trick. It gives you that perfect 80s hair-metal tone that we all wished we actually had back in the day.

Carl Martin PlexiTone Drive Pedal

The PlexiTone overdrive pedal from Carl Martin.

This is another Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB) pedal that I’ve seen plenty of but never heard before. I can’t remember seeing any demos of this up on YouTube. So I was curious to try it – if one came available at a good price on the second hand market.

I’m glad I did.

With all these MIAB pedals, there’s a risk that most of them will sound pretty much the same. After all, they’re all chasing the same iconic tone. But here’s the funny thing about tone – we all hear something different. And that can be seen in how different all these MIABs often are.

The PlexiTone has a 70s rock feel about it. It’s brighter (cutting, even), and thinner than the pedals that chase the 80’s hair metal sound. It makes me want to sit here and play old Thin Lizzy riffs – if only I knew some!

Lovepedal Eternity E6

The Lovepedal Eternity E6. As made famous by Capt Anderton.

Although it’s not marketed as such, the Lovepedal Eternity pedals have always been lumped into the Marshall-in-a-box category. There’s been a lot of variants over the years, but perhaps the best known one is the E6. Capt Anderton used to use one on all the Andertons videos, and his signature Lovepedal Stax Master dual-drive pedal featured the E6 on one side.

I used to have one a few years ago, and I moved it on because I thought it was too noisy. Since then, I’ve made a lot of improvements to the quality of my rig, and I thought it was a good idea to try this again.

I’ll be honest – it didn’t stay out of its box for very long. It arrived around the same time as the Tchula, and that Tchula is a magical wonder to behold. The pedal isn’t noisy (yay!), but I was finding it hard to dial in the ‘glass’ control to suit. I think I need a bit more time with it, and to be dialling in the amp more than the pedal.

Xotic Effects EP Booster

The EP Booster from Xotic. Based on the Echoplex preamp.

Now here’s another pedal that I had noise concerns about, before it arrived.

I’ve never owned one before. I’ve had two other Xotic pedals, and one reason I flipped both of them is that I wasn’t at all happy with how noisy the pedals were. I chain pedals together for my recorded tone, and if a pedal has a high noise floor, all that noise gets magnified to distraction in a pedal chain.

Again, since them I’ve made important improvements to my rig, and I need to revisit old experiences to see if they’re no longer valid. That, and the Echoplex Preamp is one of my favourite boost pedals. I was curious to see how the EP Booster compared.

Both pedals are based on the preamp circuit of the legendary Echoplex tape delay unit. The preamp circuit adds colour to the tone in a way that’s really pleasing.

My main pedal board needs completely stripping down and rewiring from scratch. So I haven’t been able to compare the EP Booster to the Echoplex Preamp pedal yet. I have run it into my Marshall Origin, and I didn’t hear any noise problems there. But the jury’s still out until I’ve built the new board and tested it there.

Suhr Shiba Drive

The Shiba Drive, from Suhr.

I’ll be honest – I don’t know much about this at all. One of my eBay searches is for Suhr guitars, and every now and then a genuine Suhr pedal turns up in the search results too. (The Suhr Riot is one of those pedals that all the usual suspects have cloned over the years).

It isn’t marketed as such, but I’m tempted to say that this falls squarely into the TubeScreamer segment of the pedal market. Only, you can definitely use it into a clean amp – something the TS isn’t strong at. It’s definitely a pedal to sit in the mix. I’m looking forward to using it to drive my Synergy Amps rig at some point.

Wampler Tumnus Deluxe

I’m sorry, I forgot to take a photo of this one before sitting down to write this blog post.

Just before NAMM, Wampler put up a post on Facebook that strongly suggested that the Tumnus Deluxe was about to disappear from the range. I had a look round, saw that it was out of stock almost everywhere, and managed to buy one of the last few I could find in the UK.

Yeah, I paid full price for this one.

Turns out, the Estate of CS Lewis have objected to the name of the pedal, and forced Wampler to rename it. At the time of writing, all the Wampler folks are at Winter NAMM, so there’s no-one around to update their website and it isn’t 100% clear what the pedal’s new name will be (the GOAT perhaps?) That’s going to be the only change. The circuit will remain the same.

I bought this thinking it was going to be discontinued. I’ve mixed feelings on the news that it’s just getting a name change. I feel a bit mislead by Wampler, but at the same time I’m glad that you’ll still be able to get this pedal.

Because it’s great.

All the Klon klones I’ve tried so far – including Wampler’s own Tumnus mini-pedal – have a flaw in the bass tone when used as a boost pedal. Every single one of them gets very bassy. And that’s something my Klon KTR just doesn’t do.

The Tumnus Deluxe has an active bass control on it – something that’s rare (if not unique) amongst Klones. Perfect. It also has a ‘hot’ switch, so that it can be used as an overdrive pedal all by itself. I haven’t spent very long with it so far, but I was able to dial in a lovely open dirt tone straight into my Marshall Origin 20.

As the main pedal board is out of action atm (see earlier in this post), I haven’t been able to compare the Tumnus Deluxe to the KTR. I probably won’t either, as I’ve got the KTR dialled in exactly how I like it, and I’d hate to adjust it at all.

Your New Arrivals?

So those are my new arrivals for January. And most likely for February too (at least)!

What gear have you managed to pick up for Christmas? Which ones got away? What have you got your eye on for later in the year? (That new green finish for the Silver Sky has certainly turned a few heads …)

Leave a comment below!

Slate Digital VRS8 Interface Launched

Slate Digital has launched the VRS8, their 8×8 recording interface for Thunderbolt-equipped Macs.

For home studio enthusiasts who want pro-level gear, there’s really only three ways to do it: Universal Audio Apollo, Slate Digital VRS and the Everything Bundle … or buy a standalone interface and collect your own plugins from lots of different vendors.

The UAD system relies on DSP chips in the Apollo hardware to run emulations of analog outboard gear. You have to buy these plugins separately, and they cost hundreds of pounds each. The results are fantastic, and not only well worth the money, but also far cheaper than buying (and maintaining!) the real outboard gear.

There’s just one problem, and it’s the reason why I haven’t bought any UAD plugins this year. The Apollo hardware is simply underpowered. It doesn’t take many plugins to max out the available hardware. And if you’re a home studio enthusiast, it’s a lot of money to move from the Apollo Twin up to the Apollo 8.

Enough money to consider looking at switching to something else.

Now Slate Digital has its own serious problem to take into account. It’s secured by an iLok key. Look at a modern Mac. Where the hell do you find a free port to plug the iLok into these days?!? One port is taken up by power, one by the external storage that the session is on, one by your audio interface, and one by your external monitor.

Yes, I know there’s a virtual iLok now. I live in the UK, where our broadband is about as reliable as a Trump tweet or a Brexit promise. I don’t want a (rare!) creative day ruined because of a broadband outage.

That said, the Slate Digital VRS looks really interesting. For pretty much the same price as the Apollo 8 Quad, you get 8 preamps and a year’s access to the Everything Bundle. (The equivalent UAD Ultimate Bundle is currently over £2,300 and doesn’t include all of the plugins). And your Mac will be able to run far more plugins at once than the quad-DSPs of the Apollo 8.

Thing is, if I’m going to use all 8 preamps, I’d want the Apollo 8p, not the Apollo 8. The difference? The extra Unison preamps, which model the electrical behaviour of whatever outboard gear you’re simulating. I’m a big fan, and a big believer that part of the organicness of a recorded tone comes from the interaction of the electrical circuit.

Question is, though: is it a difference that is noticeable in a final mix? And is it a difference that’s worth the extra money?

tBone IEM200 In-Ears Monitoring Demo

Henning Pauly has posted a behind-the-scenes look at the setup for his recent live band live streams, showing us the in-ear monitoring he’s been using for the live bands.

You probably won’t ever need an in-ear monitoring system for home playing or home recording. But if you’ve got a band that rehearses or plays live, you need something that’ll protect your hearing and let you hear everything that’s happening.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment.

Initial Thoughts On Celestion Impulse Responses

This is a long read. The whole point of the HomeToneBlog is to go in-depth on getting great guitar at home, and understanding the choices available to us. The backstory is a big part of that process 🙂

I’ve been a very happy Redwirez Big Box user for years now. The sheer amount of cabs, microphones and placement options have allowed me to gradually figure out how everything that comes after the guitar amp affects my tone.

So why am I looking at Celestion’s impulse responses? Well, it’s all thanks to the Kemper …

The Need For Speakers

I’m currently running a dual-amp setup as my pedal platform. I’ve got a pair of Synergy SYN-1 enclosures running into the SYN-5050. I went with a Synergy setup partly for how compact it is … but also because the preamps are interchangeable modules.

Right now, I’ve got 4 different Synergy preamp modules: the Morgan AC, the Metropoulos Metro Plex, Synergy’s 800 and their T-DLX. The Morgan AC and the 800 module both pair well with the T-DLX for pedals. And the Metro Plex is just very special, and worth the price of admission on its own.

As with any amp, these modules need pairing with a suitable speaker to get the best out of them. I could just stick to using impulse responses. IRs are more than good enough for both playing and recording, and they have some serious advantages for home use.

But by getting real speakers – and cabs to put them in – I can mic them up and create my own Kemper profiles. I’ve already made a few, and for me they’re the key to getting what I want from the Kemper.

Choosing Speakers

When it comes to speakers, there’s a lot of choice out there. It’s also quite difficult to figure out how a speaker is going to sound with my amps. How do you describe a speaker tone using words? And how do you account for how a cabinet will influence the sound too?

So I’m playing it safe, and looking at classic speakers that are commonly used with these type of amps.

For the Morgan AC, the advice I was given was unequivocal: a Celestion Blue is the right speaker for that kind of circuit. I’ve also heard good things about the Celestion Gold, so that’s also on the list.

I’ve already got a G12M-65 and a V30. They’ll cover the Metro Plex and 800 modules just fine. I’m not really a big V30 fan, so I’m quite happy to stick that in storage and free up the cab for another speaker. On the forums I hang out on, the Celestion Cream has been getting a lot of love this year. I definitely need to take a close look at it.

That just leaves the T-DLX module. For pedals, I’m running in on the red channel, which is believed to be a Blackface-style circuit. Real Fender Deluxe Reverbs often use Jensen C12K speakers. However, the recent Hot Rod Deluxe MK 4 amps have started using Celestion A-Type speakers, and I’m really enjoying just how good that whole package sounds on the Andertons videos at the moment.

Whatever I choose, I’ll be getting 16 ohm versions of each speaker, and putting them into Victory V112 cabs. I’ve gone with 1×12 cabs because of how convenient they are, and I’ve gone with these particular 1×12 cabs because I’m very happy with the ones I’ve already got. 1×12 cabs are perfect for the kind of tones I’m after.

The nice thing about this whole process is that I can spread the costs out. I can pick up 1×12 cabs 2nd hand when they come up for the right price, and then buy a replacement speaker for it when funds allow. I’m not in any hurry, and the savings from doing it this way will basically pay for one of the cabs and its new speaker too.

I just need to figure out which speakers I want first.

Using IRs To Audition Speakers

Speakers vary quite a bit in price. They’re also physically bulky and heavy enough to be awkward to post if I don’t like them and want to sell them on again. Whatever I buy, I’d really like it to stick, so to speak.

That got me thinking. I’m largely looking at speakers from Celestion. Celestion have started selling impulse responses of their speakers, and those IRs have had favourable reviews. (I believe Brian Wampler uses them for his company’s YouTube demos.) And, to cap it all, Celestion have just launched a couple of bundles – any 3 IRs for a big discount, and any 5 IRs for another big discount.

It’s not going to be a perfect audition. We’re not told what cabs were used by Celestion, but there’s almost certainly going to be a difference. And IRs are a cab-speaker-mic combination. They capture what the mic hears, not what you and I hear. Oh, and I use the Sennheiser e906, which Celestion doesn’t use. So there’s that too.

It’s better than nothing, and – at less than 30 pounds for 5 IRs – it’s a lot cheaper and more convenient than taking a punt on the speakers themselves.

I ordered 1×12 open-cab IRs of the A-Type, Blue, Cream, and Gold to experiment with. I also ordered a 1×12 open-cab G12M-65 to act as a reference tone.  I bought them from the Celestion Plus website.

What Do We Get

After checkout, the first thing I noticed was that there was no download link. I had to wait for the confirmation email to come through to get access to the downloads. That wasn’t a great feeling.

The downloads struck me as a bit weird. Instead of just offering a single ZIP file for each speaker/cab I’d bought, there were also links to download various subsets. I can’t work out the point of going to that trouble. IRs are tiny on disk, and Celestion’s offering is tiny compared to something like the Redwirez Big Box.

My advice: just download the ZIP file that contains everything. That way you’ve got it.

There’s something odd about the ZIP files as well. My Mac couldn’t expand them using Finder. I had to open a terminal and unzip them the old fashioned way, which worked without a hitch. I’d like to see Celestion improve their testing to spot problems like this.

Inside each ZIP file, we get IRs recorded at a number of resolutions from 44.1kHz up, and with durations of 200ms and 500ms. The different resolutions are there to match the audio quality you’re recording at.

The two durations? I’ve no idea, and I haven’t been able to find anything online to help with that. For now, I’m assuming that the 200ms IRs are a lower detail than the 500ms, and that they’re provided for use on machines that don’t have enough CPU to process the 500ms IRs. It’s just a guess.

Celestion have used three classic mics – SM57, R121 and MD421 – plus a TLM107 as a room mic. Each of the main mics have been close mic’d (yay!), and there’s six positions for each mic. These positions have names like ‘bright’, ‘balanced’, and ‘dark’, and they quickly become very natural to work with.

Using The Impulse Responses

I’m using MixIR as my IR plugin in Reaper. It allows me to load and blend IRs in multiple ways. I got it as part of the Redwirez Big Box, and I’m very happy with it.

That ability to blend multiple IRs on a single channel came in very handy.

What I ended up doing was running one of the ‘balanced’ IRs, and blending in a small amount of one of the ‘dark’ IRs to add in a bit more bottom-end. I picked which mic entirely by ear. Sometimes I’d use the same mic for the blended ‘dark’ IR, and sometimes I’d prefer a different one.

It took about an hour to hit on this approach. Once I had it, I found that it worked for me with all the different speaker IRs that I’d bought.

My final track setup was this:

  • track 1: Morgan AC panned 100% left
  • track 2: Morgan AC panned 66% left
  • track 3: room mic IR, panned 90% left
  • track 4: T-DLX panned 100% right
  • track 5: T-DLX panned 66% right
  • track 6: room mic, panned 90% right

Tracks 1-3 use mics from the same speaker. Tracks 4-6 use mics from a different speaker. The room mics are getting a mix of post-FX from the other tracks, plus the result of running those tracks through an Echoplex.

The idea is to build a bigger tone through the effects of audio summing, using the Echolex and room mics to give the sound a bit of life without losing the definition.

And, boy did it work. My pedals have never sounded better.

The Different Speakers

The T-DLX module was the easiest to sort out. I paired it with the A-Type IR and didn’t touch it for the rest of the session.

The A-Type didn’t give me those classic Blackface cleans. It didn’t have the same top-end glassy characteristic. That’s okay. It sounded great with dirt pedals, and I’m sure that I can get more out of this with a bit more time.

The Celestion Blue was a huge step-up in audio quality compared to the equivalent IRs from Redwirez. It exhibited a much wider frequency response. That’s very important with the Morgan AC module, as it is hampered by not having an EL84 power section to shape the tone.

I thought that the Celestion Gold was quite similar to the Blue, only with the highs a little more tamed. I went back and forth between the two, and I found that I preferred the Blue for humbuckers. The Gold – with the way I had the IRs setup – sounded a little dull for humbuckers. One thing I didn’t try at the time: I suspect the Gold may be the better choice for my bright Telecaster.

I did briefly try the Cream with the Morgan AC module. Er … no. That just sounded wrong. I’ll revisit that speaker in another session.

I didn’t try the G12M-65 at all. I wasn’t running any of the Marshall-esque modules, and I was having far too much fun with the Morgan to swap it out.

Great Sound Quality

I ran several of my pedals through the dual amp + Celestion IRs setup, and I was delighted with the results.

I always start with the Uber Bee, as it has become the core of my rhythm tone today. I thought it sounded great with the Redwirez IRs. Through the Celestion IRs, it sounded better still.

From there, I tried a bunch of different stuff. The Fender Pugilist was very happy, especially in serial mode. The Boss BD-2 Blues Driver sounded great. The Lovepedal Amp 11 sounded fantastic, but there again it always does.

The biggest leap though came for my Mad Professor Bluebird Overdrive. Once I had that dialled in, I lost a good hour and a half just jamming along to a backing track made by my friend Dave Page. Lovely thick lead tone that worked perfectly over Dave’s clean Telecaster rhythm work. So happy!

Some pedals didn’t sound so good. That’s to be expected when using an AC-style amp. That’s why I went with a Synergy setup, so that I can switch preamps to suit different pedals.

Conclusions So Far

The Celestion IRs are good. Once I figured out how to approach them, I was able to get better tones than I had from my Redwirez IRs. That was for noodling on a single guitar. I have yet to try them in a mix.

They’ve sold me on buying a Celestion Blue speaker. I am going to revisit the Celestion Gold to see whether it is the better choice with brighter single-coil guitars. I’m not sure that I want both speakers though. We’ll have to see.

I am going to look at whether the A-Type is right for the T-DLX, or whether a C12K would be better for me. I need to stop playing with the dirt pedals, and put some time into those clean tones.

Most of all, I’ve really enjoyed playing through them. Now, if only Celestion did their very own equivalent of the Big Box …

Kemper vs Tube Amp

Camilo Velandia has posted an interesting comparison video. He’s made a Kemper profile of his Indigo Amps El Mariachi, and then put them side by side for comparison.

Have a listen, and see whether you can hear the differences between the two.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment if you enjoyed his video.

AxeFX III Initial Demos

Camilo Velandia has received his Axe FX III, and has posted several videos to show what it can do at launch. A couple in particular are of general interest, whether you own an Axe FX unit or not.

In the first video, Camilo compares quite a few of the stock amp presets from the new AxeFX III vs the older Axe FX II. To my ears, they’re almost identical.

That’s no sleight on the AxeFX III at all. Folks upgrading from the older unit will want reassurance that the tones they know and love are still there.

In the second video, Camilo does a straight shootout of the Axe FX III amp models against highly-respected Kemper profiles. It’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but it does reflect how the two units are used in practice.

The results are a bloodbath.

All the problems of the Kemper’s limited frequency reproduction are front and centre. The Axe FX III has all the body and definition that the Kemper has always lacked. It sounds richer, crisper, and more detailed.

I wonder how many more years Kemper can continue to ship the MK 1 unit? The Kemper’s main defence has always been that you can’t hear most of these differences in a full mix. And, indeed, a recorded Kemper is actually easier to mix that a more accurate tone, in my experience.

Please head over to YouTube to leave likes and supportive comments if you enjoyed Camilo’s videos.

Suhr Reactive Load Demo

Ola Englund has posted a demo – as only he can – of Suhr’s Reactive Load box, and compared it to the Two Notes Torpedo Reload.

It’s a really cool demo that shows how different load boxes do sound different. Neither one sounds bad. It’s simply a case of choosing the one that you like best.

Please head over to Ola’s channel to leave a like and a supportive comment if you enjoyed Ola’s video.

Kemper Profiler Demo

Shane’s been teasing us about the Kemper Profiler that he borrowed from Sky Music of Melbourne … and now we have his thoughts on it.

I’m going to save my thoughts on the Kemper until I’ve had time to sit down and record my own Kemper demos. For now, I agree with what Shane thinks about the Kemper – especially when it comes to pedals – but I have a lot more to share about profiling accuracy soon!

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment if you enjoyed Shane’s video.

Mercuriall Spark Demo

Pete Thorn has posted a demo of Mercuriall’s Spark Marshall amp-sim plug-in. Check out these tones!

The Spark plugin models 4 classic Marshall amps: a Super Bass, Super Lead, JCM 800, and the AFD. The JCM 800 and Super Lead heads are still in production. Looks like the Super Bass isn’t made any more. The AFD was (if memory serves) a limited run – Captain Anderton did a video about his.

Amp plugins are well worth looking at if you can’t afford a real amp, don’t want the hassle, or don’t have the physical space for a collection of big and heavy vintage amps. They run inside your DAW software (I always recommend Reaper – it’s great) and all you need is an interface (like the Focusrite Scarlett) to plug your guitar into.

And, as you can hear on Pete’s demo, they offer very usable tones these days.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment if you enjoyed Pete’s video.