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Neural DSP Archetype: Tom Morello

Neural DSPArchetype: Tom Morello

No synthesizers were used in the making of this plug‑in.

Over the last few years, Neural DSP have quickly established themselves at the cutting edge of guitar rig simulation, with both software and hardware offerings that deliver impressive results. On the software front, the latest release is Archetype: Tom Morello. Like other titles in the Archetype series, Neural have worked in collaboration with the named artist to create a software simulation of their complete rig. So, if you like the idea of having access to the epic guitar sounds that shaped Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, or any of the other musical projects that Tom Morello has brought his distinctive guitar style to, then Archetype: Tom Morello is bound to intrigue.

All The Rage

Tom Morello has used pretty much the same rig (guitars, amp, cab and compact collection of pedals) for most of his career. Indeed, as he described in a recent ‘rig rundown’ video on YouTube, the now well‑worn mid‑1980s Marshall JCM800 2205 amp that sits at the heart of his setup even has various settings marked by each knob; it’s a ‘set and forget’ that’s lasted over 30 years! The amp is faithfully represented here alongside his equally long‑standing Peavey 4x12 cab, with each element having its own page in the familiar Archetype UI. There’s plenty of flexibility too: the user is given the ability to adjust the amp’s controls away from Tom’s preferred settings, the cab sim page allows you to use two virtual microphones simultaneously (from a choice of 10), with control over their position relative to the speakers, and you can load other IRs should you wish.

The included pedals are arranged across a number of pages and, in terms of the signal chain, sit in front of the amp, in the amp’s effects loop, or as ‘post’ effects. Tom is well known for his use of the DigiTech Whammy pedal and that’s included here, but positioned in front of the amp you also get a virtual Dive Bomb pedal, which offers a further pitch‑shifting effect, providing a pitch glide either up or down, with the speed of the glide controlled by the expression pedal. It’s a cool effect.

This is a Tom Morello rig emulation so, yes, you get a Whammy pedal — and the plug‑in makes setup for a MIDI expression pedal very easy.This is a Tom Morello rig emulation so, yes, you get a Whammy pedal — and the plug‑in makes setup for a MIDI expression pedal very easy.

True to how the man himself runs his setup, most of the other effects are placed within the amp’s effects loop and arranged across two pages of the GUI. The emulated Whammy and wah are on the first, while a simple delay, a seven‑band EQ and a one‑knob phaser (presumably emulating Tom’s MXR Phase 90) appear on the second. The Whammy and the wah are classic elements of Tom’s ‘sound design’, and the delay does exactly what it says on the tin. Tom generally uses the EQ as a boost (set flat but with the level raised) and this tactic is replicated in some presets. The ‘post’ effects comprise a further nine‑band EQ plus flexible and well‑featured delay and reverb. They’re perhaps less obvious reflections of specific pedals within Tom’s rig (which does include multiple delay pedals), but they certainly bring additional versatility in a recording context.

The pedals that inspire the Dive Bomb, Whammy and wah obviously feature expression pedals, and if you want to replicate Tom’s distinctive playing style you’ll need a suitable MIDI expression pedal for real‑time control. The plug‑in’s MIDI Learn system makes this very easy to configure, and once you’ve done that it’s a very satisfying playing experience: if you have some Morello licks to hand then Neural’s recreation of his rig will deliver this characteristic element of the sound with ease. The Whammy is particularly impressive, with options for setting the pitch shifting ±24 semitones and a detune mode offering ±100 cents. It’s obviously a pedal that requires a little practice, but once you get it down it’s a heck of a lot of fun to use!

I mean this as a compliment — it’s probably the ‘wildest’ JCM800 emulation that I’ve tried!

Shredding In The Name

From interviews, it’s clear that Tom embraces the idea of getting inventive with a modest selection of gear that he knows well. His compact set of presets recreate the settings used in some of his more iconic tracks and, sonically, they are spot on: just play like Tom (that’s the hard part!) and you’ll hear his sound. The more general rhythm guitar preset is also right on the money: overdriven and raw. Indeed — and I mean this as a compliment — it’s probably the ‘wildest’ JCM800 emulation that I’ve tried. It’s great for aggressive classic or modern rock tones, and whether you’re doing your best Tom Morello, early EVH, Nuno or Slash impression, this amp model will deliver something suitable.

The plug‑in also ships with a larger collection of ‘factory’ and artist‑designed presets, and these span a wider range of sounds than you might expect, with some additional ambient patches making great use of the post‑amp delay and reverb options. There are even (shock, horror!) a few clean tones to be found here, and generally the amp model responds nicely to your guitar volume control, so you can clean things up in that way also.

The plug‑in also offers the other usual elements of the Neural GUI. This includes options for configuring input and output levels, an effective gate for the input, a tuner, tap and tempo options (when using the software as a standalone application rather than within a DAW), a transpose module and a metronome. You also get Neural’s rather wonderful Doubler switch with the associated Spread knob to adjust the time offset between left and right channels. This is a really effective way to create a tightly ‘double‑tracked’ effect for rhythm or riff playing.

The Archetype range of plug‑ins are an interesting part of Neural DSP’s product line. There is absolutely no doubting the quality of the modelling on offer here — it’s great. And for fans of specific artists, the appeal is very obvious: whichever signature artist you pick, you get an accurate representation of their guitar rig plus a number of useful extras built into the Neural GUI. In that context, this latest Archetype edition will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Tom Morello, myself included.

But how far can you stray from the Morello sound? As noted above, what’s available from the particular amp/cab pairing on offer here can deliver some truly great rock guitar tones, and if that’s the palette you’re looking for this plug‑in would do great service. But if you’re after an amp/cab sim to cover a wider range of sounds, it might not be the best option — being a ‘signature’ plug‑in, it wouldn’t be appropriate to cram it full of things Morello doesn’t use! Don’t worry, though, as the same technology is used by Neural in plenty of other ‘rig in a plug‑in’ products, and some offer multiple amps and cabs, as well as options such as overdrive, distortion or compression pedals that can be placed in front of the amp. For example, for one that spans clean, crunch and high‑gain sounds, you could check out Archetype: Nolly or Archetype: Rabea, while for cleaner tones something like Archetype: Cory Wong might be a better starting point. (At some stage, I’d love to see Neural deliver a generic front‑end that allows owners of multiple Archetype plug‑ins to mix and match components to create customised rigs; I imagine this would prove tremendously popular!)

The cab sim section provides plenty of options, including the ability to load IRs, and the presets designed by Morello himself are based upon some iconic tracks.The cab sim section provides plenty of options, including the ability to load IRs, and the presets designed by Morello himself are based upon some iconic tracks.

Sound Judgement

When it comes to sound and the underlying quality of the emulations, Neural DSP already had all the boxes ticked. Archetype: Tom Morello is no exception and, while it will not make you play like the man himself, it does provide a remarkably convincing simulation of the rig he uses to create his sonic mayhem. Aggressive, angry, inventive and melodic, it’s all here. If you want to rage just like Tom, Archetype: Tom Morello puts all the (virtual) gear you need to create those tones into a convenient plug‑in format.


  • Sounds epic!
  • Authentic virtual recreation of Tom Morello’s guitar rig.
  • Good support for MIDI expression pedals.


  • Morello’s rig doesn’t cover as much ground as some others.


Archetype: Tom Morello is a faithful recreation of the artist’s unique guitar rig — if that’s the sound you want, this is where it’s at!


€142.80 including VAT.

€119 (about $133)