Rating: 9.5 / 10
(Version reviewed: 1.0.0)
STL Tones is new to the amp sim universe but they have been around for some time releasing some amazing Kemper and Axefx profiles/patches. They dropped this product with a bang and it was quickly being called one of the best amp sim plugins ever.
Tonality was created in collaboration with top notch and well known producers Howard Benson and Mike Plotnikoff. Together, the two producers have been at the helm of a long list of great sounding albums with equally great sounding guitar tones.
What you get is five amps, three pedals, 5 cabinets and a selection of features and functions to help out with the process.
The looks, layout and workflow are all top notch. You can tell they put a lot of time and thought into the look and flow of the product. It’s a very easy sim to work around and navigate fully which goes a long way for a lot of users. Most people want that plug and play experience and Tonality delivers.
The amps seem to go almost in order of the amount of gain involved which is smart. STL Tones ensured that there was a great variety in the 5 amp selection. American, British, German and even Canadian tones are in the box here. 50s cleans to modern hi-gain.
Amp #5 was inspired by a Fender Bassman which is the cleanest of the 5 amps. I read a review that raved about them. The raving was justified in this case because the first amp I tried was clean tone heaven with very little dialing required. I added the onboard reverb and delay for what I can only describe as possibly the best clean tone I have ever heard from an amp sim. blues, country, southern rock, jazz, pop, folk and really any application requiring a clean tone is with Tonality. Amp #5 also responded well to the onboard tube screamer.
Moving onto amp #4, I am greeted by a Fender Super Reverb of some sort but I could be wrong there. It’s warm, lively and very real sounding. It’s smooth, warm and the quality of the sim becomes even more apparent here. I found really nice tones for country, blues, southern rock, punk, ska and indie rock on amp #4. It responded incredibly well to all three of the pedals included with Tonality.
Amp #3 is the one that caught my eye in the videos and reviews I’d seen around the web. It’s a Marshall JMP Tremolo 50. The texture of the tolex looks really great. I have always loved a red amp head and even more so when it’s an old Marshall.
The Red Marshall is just so useful in every way. I was able to get really authentic sounding rock tones and the realism is really on point. I used the included reverb with Amp #3 to create a tone that sounded like I was in front of a wall of stacks.
Amp #3 excels at all lead work, it cuts like a knife. I would say this amp would be perfect for southern rock, punk, power metal, classic rock, grunge, stoner/doom and just about anything else. I tried pushing the amp to do really heavy stuff but it’s just not geared for it but for everything else, Amp #3 is golden.
When I read there was a “Canadian amp” included in the mix, I knew right away it had to be a Wizard. I had the chance to tour with a guy for a time that had a Wizard Modern Classic. Wizard amps are just impeccable pieces of gear to say the least. The addition of the Wizard 50 made me really happy because I like when developers take a chance on an amp that hasn’t been done to death.
Amp #2 is simply a perfect amp sim. It sounds so good that I had to stop and kind of grin because yet again, I get to play on and record with another amp sim based on a bucket list type amp. I heard it every night for a couple weeks and it stuck with me so getting to rip on it even in amp sim form is a lot of fun. I really like when developers take a chance on an amp that hasn’t been done before. In this case it paid off because Amp #2 is a rock beast. I created one of the best pure rock tones that I have ever made and it made the amp a blast to play on.
Amp #2 has two channels, one clean and one dirty. The dirty channel dropped my jaw to the desk. It’s the best distorted tone in Tonality for my personal tastes. You can get everything from crunchy rock to full-bore hi-gain tones from Amp #2 with almost no effort. Even the cleans can get a little dirty and raunchy for killer southern rock, blues and lower gain applications.
The hi-gain sector of Tonality is also represented by Amp #1. It’s a Bogner Uberschall! It looks like a twin jet but that could just be a design thing. I never hate seeing a Bogner option when it comes to plugins. I have never used this amp personally but I have heard more than a few and the tones are pretty unique. Bogner has some of the most loyal customers out there and it’s not by accident.
You get hi-gain without sacrificing the warmth or general quality of the tone. The note articulation is still very clear even with the gain at 10. From crunchy to shreddy in no time flat and the quality is evident all the way across the controls. It’s so easy to weave Amp #1 through mid to hi-gain genres with only a few minor changes to your settings. I would recommend Amp #1 to anyone for literally any mid to hi-gain purpose.
The pedals included are solid, simple and high quality. You get a really nice tube screamer that doesn’t leave you searching through your boost plugins. Next a simple and effective delay pedal and a reverb pedal to put the cherry on top.
The impulse section offers you a matched cabinet for each of the amps in Tonality. You can switch between them, select your own with their onboard impulse loader or bypass the impulse section in favor of your own loader. The only thing I didn’t like here was that when you select your own impulse with their loader, there’s no way to skip around inside that folder like you can with most loaders. It adds a lot to the workflow when trying a bunch of impulses inside Tonality.
UPS / DOWNS:
One thing you can hear behind this product is the decades of experience the people involved have making great sounding albums. You can go back through the albums they have produced and even if you don’t like the music, you can’t deny the production quality and guitar tones.
Tonality provides complete versatility with the amps and pedals included. It also requires so little processing. STL Tones also included a ton of great presets to get you pointed in the right directions.
Tonality is the first multi-amp suite with this level of quality. Having this much great sounding gear in one package is an invaluable plugin to have in any studio or home recording rig.
My Dad is a classic rock guitarist and general grouchy traditionalist when it comes to gear. He has been a tone snob since I was but a glint in his eye and he also has an intense hatred for guitar software. Well, long story short, I bribed him with a 6-pack to sit and play while I messed with Tonality. The look in his eyes while he was listening to himself play was remarkable. It was the straw that broke the camels back and he asked me when I could install it on his computer at home. Great, now I also have to show a 67 year old man how to use a computer. Tonality converted him!!
If you already use the plugin – check our Tonality-Howard Benson presets in the Preset Vault