Scuffham S-Gear is a pretty popular multi-amp suite that is aimed at players that want a more vintage aimed plugin. S-Gear has been labeled by many over the years as one of the best amp sims ever made and I would care to agree in some respects.
Users get 5 amps, a bunch of impulses and a really strong post effects section for flavor. I have been using S-Gear for years and it’s come in handy countless times.
For a while it seemed like S-Gear was the only good amp sim for anything but modern and hi-gain applications. The market is starting to offer way more vintage options but Scuffham S-Gear is still one of the best.
The GUI looks great and operates seamlessly, the layout stacks the components kind of like the Guitar Rig suites but it’s done better in S-Gear. All of the components can be easily bypassed or minimized whenever you want and the layout is very convenient which always creates a better experience with any software.
I cracked through the presets and found they were all pretty top shelf for my taste. You can always tell when the presets are made by someone with a real ear for tone because they generally showcase the best the amps have to offer. S-Gear offers some really usable presets for blues, country, rock, fusion, jazz, southern rock and loads for classic rock. You can hear and feel the warmth as you cycle through.
Alright so let’s get this show on the road with the Custom 57. I can only assume it’s some sort of 50s Fender Tweed. It ended up being my favorite amp in the bunch. It’s a really nice snappy tone that can take a lot of shapes depending on the impulse you decide on. It can sound big or small but it really does have that nice vintage Fender tone at all times.
The 57 sounded really great boosted, like really great. I boosted it with every boost and tube screamer type plugin I had with so many terrific results. S-Gear doesn’t include pedals but if you grab a few, the 57 will thank you for it. Toss a boost and compressor in for a real deal country tone that is very nice for recording.
Next we will hit the Wayfarer. This one is sort of a blend of Fender style tones. You get three channels and a few tone shaping switches that can take things from a pristine twin or deluxe type clean to the thick driven grit of a more hot rodded Fender amp and ending the tour with a more modern “hi-gain” tone.
The cleans are gorgeous, the tone shaping options are useful across all of the S-Gear amps so you have plenty of brightness to spare. The middle gain crunch type tones are pretty decent but the lead II channel didn’t do as much for me. I pulled a few really strong, detailed blues tones out of the Wayfarer. There’s a higher gain channel but I preferred the amps other tones.
Moving through to The Duke amp. The description of the amp on the page says it was inspired by the tone of Robben Ford. That could mean it’s a specific amp or a blend of things like a Dumble, JTM45 or any number of amps he used but I couldn’t nail it down.
The Duke is impressive, the tones are warm and silky smooth even when driven. The amp really feels like it was meant to play solos above all else. The sustain and resonance in this amp is impressive. It can cut a mix like a knife while never really getting harsh or adding anything really unwanted. Thumbs up to this one.
The Stealer is said to be inspired by an old modded Park amplifier. I read it was supposed to be really hi-gain and it is but not in a modern way so don’t go grab your 8 string for this one. Again, I would say this amp also feels way better as a lead focused amp rather than a rhythm amp. It’s rhythm tones are excellent and can take you from SRV and Jimi to possibly Judas Priest if you reach a little. It’s pretty nice and I have used it plenty since. This amp provides some of the all out most realistic blues tones you will hear from a plugin. A little boost out front with a tube screamer and you can really hear the amp being pushed.
Our last stop on this long-winded but hopefully informative stroll down S-Gear lane is The Jackal. Again, it says hi-gain but it’s more of an 80s hi-gain amp than a modern crusher. It’s supposed to be inspired by the Soldano SLO but I only hear some of the Soldano characteristics so I gather the developers opted to tweak things in their own light a little. The Soldano SLO is one of my personal favorites so when someone name drops it, I begin the experience by pulling out my fine tooth comb, magnifying glass and my salty old man attitude. Am I a little harder on amp sims based on amps I love? Yes and you should be too.
This amp is however worthy of the SLO association and the name drop. I really enjoyed it and it’s a very high quality amp with a ton of capabilities. The Jackal is also as versatile and high quality as a real life SLO so I will tip my cap to Scuffham on this one. The leads, rhythm and crunch tones you get from the Jackal are really useful and I have always really loved this option in S-Gear. Even when I open S-Gear for a clean tone or low gain purpose, I will usually flip over to the Jackal for a good rip. Just don’t get crazy trying to dime the gain because at hi-gain, the tone gets thin and it kind of starts to lose realism.
I am a huge fan of old country, blues and southern rock, they are genres I grew up with around my house with my Dad being a fairly well traveled session musician in said genres. Inherently I developed a love for the best players and tones in those genres. Scuffham brings a lot of very warm, detailed and convincing tones for vintage uses. It’s still the best plugin on the market for vintage tones in my opinion.
Boosting was so awesome with so many pedals on every single amp in S-Gear. Load up every tube screamer you have and boost away. You can easily tighten up all of S-Gear’s amps. Since there is no pre-FX section, users will need their own boost/OD/Dist pedal plugins. S-Gear is just so easy to find pedal matches for that end up with the right areas enhanced.
The plugin includes a lot of great, high quality impulses in a ton of speaker sizes and configurations. There’s even a few impulses from Redwirez in there. I like what’s in the package but when I reached for my own impulses, it was a huge turning point in the review.
The loader has a one touch bypass to enable you to use your own loader and impulses. If you do use your own with S-Gear or really any plugin that has post-FX, always make sure you also bypass the post effects. The S-Gear bypass area is in the I/O control component. If you leave the delay or reverb on, you will be feeding the delay and / or reverb into your EQ, multiband or whatever you have in the chain after the sim.
While they do give you some really nice sounding impulses, the selection is fairly limited. If you have your own collection of impulse responses, throw everything you can at every amp in this suite. Each amp included excels with 3rd party IRs so be sure to experiment.
As mentioned, S-Gear has no pre-FX like boost pedals and such but it does have a really reliable array of post-FX. You get a great reverb unit, a unit for delay, the impulse loader, a control center and the Mod Thing. The Mod Thing gives you flanger, phaser, chorus and other useful modulation gear.
While the stuff is high quality and fantastic if you are just jamming with S-Gear, it’s kind of hard to record with it if you plan on putting anything in your signal chain after the amp sim. If you put an EQ plugin after the sim without bypassing the effects, you are now trying to EQ the reverb, mod effects, delay and whatever else you are running.
This holds true for any plugin with post effects included. Remember, your mods, delays and reverbs go at the end of a signal chain. You can bypass individual post-FX on the component or do them all with the bypass in the control center on the bottom.
UPS / DOWNS
This one is a great plugin to have in your arsenal for cleans and mid gain stuff, killer lead tones and perhaps for the occasional tap for vintage hi-gain uses. It’s a complete masterpiece from all sides and it’s a seriously fun amp sim to use.
Bottom line here is that S-Gear is a seriously great value and if you are a fan of music and styles that call for a warmer more vintage approach, this plugin must be yours. It’s been around a while but with updates, it’s remained one of the top products for a reason.
I ran this one by my Dad, who I have mentioned in other reviews. He used to despise amp sims as he is a very traditional blues and country player that only believes in his vintage amps and so on.
Not long ago, I managed to convert him with STL’s Tonality and he’s been interested ever since however, amp sims to him are either great or complete garbage. I sometimes use him as my judge for vintage amp sim authenticity and this time out, he spent a couple hours riffing away happily. Scuffham S-Gear is DAD APPROVED!
Alberto Barrero – S-Gear demo
Claudio Santos S-Gear Demo
Jeff McErlain S-Gear demo