Cherry Audio’s virtual modular environment gains a range of affordable, high‑quality guitar‑oriented processors.
Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular is a free‑to‑download virtual rack environment which can host any of Cherry’s plug‑in synth and effects modules. Modules can be connected to the rack and to each other via virtual patch cords so, conceptually, it’s much like a modular synth system — except that it’s been implemented entirely in software.
Independent developers Waverley Instruments have now created a number of their own modules for this environment, and they’re available to buy directly from the Cherry Audio site. These ones are inspired by guitar pedals and amplifiers, which might extend the appeal of Voltage Modular to a wider audience, but they work very well in conjunction with synth modules too. Called Guitar Gig Bag Plus, the collection is priced at $30, but individual modules cost only $5 for effects and $10 for the amp sims. (The Portasonus module, which I mention briefly below, isn’t included in any bundle yet but may be purchased individually.)
In The Bag
Designer Rob Jackson told me that, rather than go down the forensic amp‑modelling route, his approach to developing this collection was more like the analogue sound-shaping used in products such as Tech 21’s SansAmp; even the speaker simulators in the amp models work by emulating analogue filters, rather than using the now more common impulse response (IR) approach.
The bundle comprises 10 pedal modules and two amps, which are designed to work in mono or stereo. Most have a relatively small number of controls, which is similar to what you might expect to find on a pedal or amplifier front panel, and they can be bypassed when not in use. In no particular order, then, let’s start with Scruncher. This is a two‑knob (Crunch and Squash) dynamics processor module, combining a crunchy sounding compressor and a brickwall limiter. Smoothie is, as the name suggests, a smoother‑sounding compressor — a one‑knob type, which also sports a wet/dry mix control. Dirtverb also does much as the name implies, generating lo‑fi reverb by adding distortion to vintage spring reverb, with a choice of routing options, while Echoverb combines echo and reverb effects designed to enhance the stereo soundstage with delays of up to three seconds and a choice of routing options for the two sections.
Tremoverb combines a typical amp‑style tremolo with an emulated spring reverb, with a routing switch that flips the order of the tremolo and reverb sections, and a switch to invert the polarity of the tremolo applied to one channel — this produces a panning effect. OK Chorale is an analogue‑style chorus/vibrato module; for a richer chorus sound, the LCR Chorus module applies different chorus effects to the left, centre and right signals, each with its own LFO rate and switchable Chorus or Chorale effects. Apparently, inspiration for this module came from Korg’s LCR chorus, which is found in their Wavestation synth.
Wobulator combines a short delay with modulation, using a three‑LFO matrix to generate what Waverley call ‘wobulation’. Pandulay is an analogue‑voiced stereo delay with a variable left/right delay time ratio, a tone control, pitch modulation and an independent auto‑pan applied to the repeats. Very dreamy! Dloop‑16 is also a delay, but this time it goes up to 16 seconds and includes a basic ‘always running’ looping function with Record and Play buttons; the length of the loop corresponds to the delay time. Staying on the delay theme, Auldelay channels a vintage three‑knob analogue delay producing a dark and slightly gritty texture. It offers up to eight seconds of delay and also has modulation and a Dark/Warm EQ switch.
Baby ABY is a straightforward A/B/Y switcher, which takes a single input and routes it to output A, B or both. However, it also includes a fade time control, so that the output crossfades between the two input sources rather than being abrupt, and it’s a useful module when you consider the modular nature of the environment it sits in. Another useful utility module is Gigswitch‑3, a three‑channel stereo mixer, switcher and effects loop. An optional limiter can be activated on the output to avoid accidental clipping, and a fade option smooths the effect of channel switching.
Portasonus, which as I said earlier is only available as a separate purchase, is a noise gate with separate open and close thresholds and a variable Hold time. Up to 96dB of gain reduction can be dialled in and there’s also a sidechain/key input. The Attack control has enough range to create slow swells (of up to 2.5 seconds), so this module can be used for creative effects as well as for more conventional gating.
Fuzzbomb is a 1960s‑style fuzz box with an extra Skew control that creates asymmetrical clipping. It also has bass and treble EQ, and in my tests it sounded very authentic, though I did need to keep the Fuzz control up near maximum when playing through it with a guitar fitted with single‑coil pickups. By contrast, Clipdriver is a conventional overdrive, and this one is suitable for low‑ to medium‑gain crunch tones. It sports a three‑band EQ and a Tight compression switch.
Minicab Driver is a British‑style, no‑master‑volume amplifier model and includes a three‑size room reverb and an integral mains buzz noise reduction system. A Cab Sim switch engages a simulated 12‑inch ‘green’ guitar speaker. There’s plenty of drive on hand plus, again, a switchable Tight mode that increases the overall sense of compression. The EQ is a typical three‑knob affair but the whole tone stack can be bypassed if required. Buzz Kill, switchable between 50 and 60 Hz, comes as a standalone mains buzz reducer module, but the same system is built into the Minicab Driver.
A more US‑centric amp sound is delivered by Junioreverb Deluxe, which is inspired by a familiar small US combo with a 10‑inch speaker, built‑in tremolo, two‑band EQ (which can again be bypassed) and spring reverb. This amp also includes Buzz Kill, variable room ambience, and a mid‑hump dirty boost. The Cab Sim switch brings in the 10‑inch guitar speaker emulation, while the midrange boost option adds something of a Tube Screamer vibe to the sound. A classic post‑reverb tremolo is also included with a ramped, soft‑bypass switch plus the usual Speed and Depth controls. I have also just been informed that an enhanced version of this module, the Junioreverb Deluxe Plus, will soon be available and that will include variable power‑supply sag, variable tremolo LFO shape, more speaker options, more reverb options and a stereo effects loop.
Guitar Gig Bag Plus may be a budget product but it sounds a lot more expensive than it is.
I found the Cherry Audio rack both liberating and a touch frustrating at the same time. It’s liberating in that the patching system allows for configurations that most basic pedalboard emulations just don’t cover, and this means you can make the most of all those stereo ins and outs, including constructing parallel chains. The frustration, albeit a small one, is that whenever you change or add a module you have to spend that extra few seconds moving virtual patch cables around before you can hear anything — it would be great if the default was to feed the output of each sound processing module to the inputs of the one to its right; you’d still retain the flexibility that way.
Guitar Gig Bag Plus may be a budget product but it sounds a lot more expensive than it is, and the pedal emulations sound very ‘analogue’ to me. The Pandulay has an impressively lush character that’s reminiscent of the EHX Memory Man. Of the two amps, I gravitated towards the Junioreverb Deluxe for guitar, since it has a really sweet, not‑at‑all clinical clean tone but can also be pushed to deliver some touch‑responsive, bluesy drive if needed. However, the Minicab Driver offers a different voice and teams nicely with the overdrive module. I also like the extra twists that have been added to some of the modules, such as the internal routing options, and all without making them too complicated.
Downsides? Well, the lack of tempo sync for the delays may be taking ‘old school’ just that bit too far for me, though I suspect this might be added in a future update as I’m not the only one to request it. And the only obvious ‘standard effect’ omissions in the range so far are a phaser or Univibe type of effect, and a dedicated flanger.
Given their smooth, analogue‑like sound quality, the fact that they work just as well for processing synth and other sounds as they do for guitar, and the pricing, I have to conclude that the Guitar Gig Bag Plus collection offers good value for money, as well as plenty of creative potential. And if you prefer to buy individual modules, they come at beer money prices.
A capable and good‑sounding collection of guitar amp and effects models for Cherry Audio’s free Voltage Modular environment.
Full collection $30. Individual modules from $5 each.
Full collection $30. Individual modules from $5 each.