With seven amp and six cabinet emulations, there’s a wide range of guitar and bass tones on offer here.
The new Voltage Amps has options for bass and electric guitar, and is available in the usual plug‑in formats for Mac (Intel or Silicon, running macOS Catalina 10.15 or later) and Windows. It seems pretty light on CPU — it barely tickles the CPU load meter on my M2 Mac mini. Separate plug‑ins are provided for the guitar and bass plug‑ins, with mono and stereo versions of each. The emphasis is on making it easy to dial up the desired sounds quickly, and to that end it has a special feature called Focus, the aim of which is to help match your guitar and its pickup types to the amps on offer.
The plug‑in is almost as quick and easy to tweak as an actual amp, but there are also plenty of presets — over 400, in fact, many created by leading musicians and producers. As you might expect, the amps are informed by classic UK and US types, and the sounds range from super clean to aggressively distorted, but while they cover the classic tonal colours you might expect from Fender, Marshall, Mesa Boogie and high‑gain models such as Soldano, these models don’t purport to be precise emulations of specific amplifiers.
Silverado excels at clean tones, while Arena is good for serving up stadium rock. Royal‑X’s jangly tone hints in the general direction of Vox or Matchless, while Blue Flame goes for a boutique amp sound. For searing metal tones, the aptly named Aggro will oblige. For bass players, the two amp models go from smooth and deep to vintage tones. Vintage Velvet sounds similar to what you might expect from an old Ampeg, while Dark Mass delivers a more solid, assertive, modern bass sound.
The Focus control helps compensate for your guitar’s pickup types, which can vary from bright single coils to thick‑sounding humbuckers.
Although each amp has a different look, their control layouts are all identical. A global Input control adjusts the level being fed to the amp models, and this has a small meter with a clip indicator. The selected amp’s controls comprise Focus, Volume, Gain, a three‑band EQ and a noise gate with variable threshold and time, and the amp can be set to Clean, Overdrive, or Lead mode. The Focus control helps compensate for your guitar’s pickup types, which can vary from bright single coils to thick‑sounding humbuckers; essentially, you just turn the control until you like what you hear.
The amp can be paired with one of six IR‑based cab setups, and each selection comprises two IRs, with a Dark/Bright knob setting the balance between them. For when you’re using a separate cab emulator or feeding a physical amp and speaker, the cab IR stage can be bypassed. When the Lock switch to the left of the EQ is engaged, each amp’s individual settings are maintained when you change from one amp to another or choose another channel type. A further dial adds stereo room ambience, which creates a natural sense of space (if heard without added reverb, especially over headphones, modelled amps tend to sound very dry, and nobody records in an anechoic chamber!).
Each amp has its own sonic character, and even the high‑gain amps have a clean setting, which affords a wide range of clean tones. To my ears, the drive sounds have what I’d call a ‘US character’, which is less smooth than what you’d expect from UK classic rock. But if you find the driven sounds too gritty for your taste, adding some steep top‑cut EQ from another plug‑in is a quick fix. The Arena amp comes closest to what I’d expect a UK rock amp to sound like, and is capable of some great lead sounds. However, if gentle blues‑style dirt is more your thing, you may find that there’s a gap between the sound you get using high gain in the Clean setting and low gain in the Drive position — if the low‑drive settings are still too dirty, you can reduce the input level so that less signal is fed into the amp. There are no spring reverbs or tremolos, but that’s no biggie in my view, as the room ambience is decent, and we all have tremolo and reverb plug‑ins in our DAWs.
The Focus control comes in very handy if you need to warm up the sound of bright pickups, but it’s also good for adding definition to thick‑sounding humbuckers. You can also use your own overdrive pedals with the amps set to clean, for an even wider range of tones. It is also worth experimenting with any other cabinet models you have; you’d normally bypass the internal cabs when doing this, but you can sometimes get some useful results with both active. Finally, as always with amp sims, remember that they’re not just for guitar: Voltage Amps sounded great for thickening or dirtying drums and adding attitude and warmth to synths. All in all, then, it’s a versatile plug‑in that sounds good and is simple to operate — well worth trying.
A versatile and really easy‑to‑use amp‑modelling plug‑in with a wide tonal palette and some interesting features.