• Maxwell Feinstein (Sparky)

The Case for Amp Plugins: Neural DSP

This COVID lockdown has meant a lot of changes for musicians. For many of us, it meant not having access to rehearsal rooms or recording studios. For me, it meant working exclusively in the box for the first time after 8-years of having my own space to make as much noise as I wanted. As a result of having that space I never really got into amp simulations, but the Neural DSP Archetype plugins converted this skeptical newbie into a believer.

These plugins meant that I could work from home in my tiny apartment (while confined with my wife) and not wake her or my neighbors at 3 am, and now that I’m back in the studio I’m taking an extra DI line when I record guitars so I can round out the sounds from the actual amps and I'm blowing the minds of my collaborators in doing so!

The Archetype line of plugins models amps from popular musicians ranging from Metal titans Gojira (their newest offering) to contemporary funk luminary Cory Wong (my personal favorite). This means you effectively have a sound for any kind of player. Seriously, their pedal platform game is on point. My review will be based on my experience with the aforementioned Cory Wong model.

Variety: Within each Archetype plugin is a selection of simulated amplifiers and cabinets allowing for quite a bit of customization. The Cory Wong model provides you with a high quality simulated DI as well as 2 pedal platform styled amplifiers (one of which I believe is based on a Dumble). They also have a variety of cab and mic sims you can tinker with, which are nifty, but not on my radar yet, so I’ll keep this moving.

Gain Staging Tone Shaping: On each of those amps, you have a full tone stack to work with exactly as you would on a real amplifier in addition to an independent 9 band Graphic EQ. You tweak it just like a normal amp. Each plugin also has a master input and output knob as well as a super handy noise gate for helping your tracks settle into a mix neatly and quietly. It also has a built-in tuner which is super efficient if you’re working directly in-the-box.

Pre Gain Effects: While each plugin has its own unique set of amps it’s when we get to this section of the plugin that things get unique within the product line. The crafty individuals at Neural DSP have built a pedalboard into each of their plugins! Many of them have pre-gain compression and gain units for additional gain staging and tone-shaping capability while the Cory Wong has a surprisingly musical auto filter! These simulated pedals are just as intuitive to use as the real thing, but that’s just foreplay leading up to my favorite part.

Post Gain effects: This is where the Archetype line really shines. As a pedalboard guy, I found my early experiences with amp plugins to be frustrating because when you try to use delay or reverb pedals into an interface you’re effectively putting your ambiance ahead of your gain staging. The whole sound was washed out and messy. The Neural DSP Archetype lines simulate an effects loop style of post gain delay and reverb pedals. I can not overstate how immersive of an experience this feature alone provides. It single-handedly made me a devotee and absolutely puts this product far above its price point, which speaking of.

Price Point: The Archetype plugin line ranges from $139-$159 in price with the Cory Wong model being the cheapest. Many pedals range in this price point as well as many other amp simulators and to my knowledge, few of them provide nearly the quality and variety that the Neural DSP Archetype line offers. For $139 I have access to not only 3 amps, but also a comprehensive Graphic EQ, a Compressor, a Filter, 2 dirt boxes, a Delay, and a Reverb, and all of them are incredibly musical and intuitive to use!

Let me break that down another way: $139 gets you access to features you would ordinarily need a signal chain of like 7 plugins to create.

Neural is so confident in their product that you can have full access to it for a 14-day trial. I was able to figure out which plugins were right for me without spending a cent, and I was sold on my first day. Give their products a try, man, what do you have to lose?

Learn more about Archetype -HERE-

Be Well,

Maxwell (Sparky)

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