I have always loved Marshall amps and I always get a ton of use from a good Marshall amp sim. Spark features four high quality sims inspired by some truly legendary amps. Along with the 800 there’s the Slash AFD and two different versions of the JMP. It’s basically a Marshall candy store.
The list of artists that have used the amps modeled in the Spark multi-amp suite is far too long for a review. With those amps, users get very healthy pre and post effects sections.
Mercuriall Audio GUIs are always very strong and I love what they did with this one. The control values are on point with the real thing and it’s real easy to get a really high quality tone. With Marshall amps, I generally like to be easy on the treble while turning the presence way down even on the real thing so with the sim I did the same to start out.
Each of the four included amps has what looks like two channels but these channels feel more like regular/modified versions of the amps. Four amps with two variations a piece with varying levels of gain across the board and the realistic control values all adds up to a ton of available tones.
I was pleased to see how the controls responded to being pushed, there was no noticeable digital artifacts with things turned up. I also had a ton of fun with the master and gain knobs on all 8 channels of Spark. If you back the plugin’s output off to about 3 on the dial, you can then turn the master and gain knob to max which many will argue is how the majority of Marshall amps should be played. You can do that with Spark and you can feel it respond to being pushed.
Before the amp, most of the Mercuriall Audio plugins offer a pre-FX section. Spark has a couple tube screamers, the Greed Smasher and other ways to push and focus the amps beautifully. My favorite as always is the Greed Smasher that can also be found FREE on the Mercuriall Audio website.
The AFD is the most difficult of the bunch to dial in and I found the mod switch added a flavor I was not fond of. It adds a big shot of mids that I later on harnessed into a nice djent tone. The #34 mod is included here, which is amazing. This is Slash’s personal mod I will say that the sound it adds is kind of like a boost pedal with the modern “0-10-10” type settings. I would avoid using the #34 switch when on the higher gain channel of the AFD but it sounds incredible on the lower gain channel II.
The 800 sounds simply awesome. If you read enough around here, you might notice I have a soft spot for Marshall Amps, further reading would uncover my love for the JCM 800. Mercuriall Audio do the 800 serious justice in the Spark suite, it’s mean, nasty, gritty, raw, sawing, cutting and all the other things a real 800 can be. I love both channels of this amp.
The spark is great for rhythm or lead but for my tastes, the leads are its high point. I really love the way leads cut through any mix with the Spark without a lot of need for processing. I really like the pick attack, warm and sustain of a Marshall for any type of lead or solo and the Spark does it really well. 95% of the time I do a lead or solo on a track, I am using a Marshall plugin of some sort.
If you are looking for a plugin to get you that “Yngwie Malmsteen on top of a cliff in a Ferrari” tone, the Spark can get you there. Mercuriall Audio included onboard chorus, delay and reverb with the Spark so you can create everything from Yngwie to Satriani, Eric Johnson or really every power metal lead guitarist’s dream tone.
Wanna go to the Sunset Strip in the 80s? How about recreating Metallica’s Kill em all tone? How about some Motley Crue, AC/DC, Rancid? Skate punk, pop punk, ska, prog, classic rock and so many other tone pursuits routinely end with the Spark.
To open another world of uses for Spark, add some muff and fuzz pedal plugins to the signal chain. The 800, Lead 68 and Bass 67 all make incredible amps for that stoner/doom sound we all know and love. The Audiority Big Goat and Blue Fuzz were the two best of the bunch I tried.
The cabinet section could use an impulse loader but it does have a bypass. Overall however, the cabinet section sounds great. It includes all the industry standard mics and the freedom to position them however needed. The cabinet selection is small but solid and there’s a bypass if you choose to use your own. Spark is never hard to find a match for in the IR world.
Post-effects sections are also something that remains similar and consistent across most of the Mercuriall offerings. There’s always a high quality and very tweakable selection of components. Users get delay, reverb, chorus and other ways to create a huge spectrum of tones. I love adding the chorus to rhythm tones and the delay to lead tones.
UPS / DOWNS:
It’s really amazing what can be done with even a plain old unmodified JCM800. I have seen probably 100+ used for every guitar related genre imaginable and in nearly every case, it did the job well. The amps included in this four amp plugin can really do just about anything. Any type of rock, thrash, death metal, blues, southern rock and so many other things – but if you are looking for something that does modern high gain to a higher degree, I would recommend you to look to one of Mercuriall Audio’s other killer products.
On the downside; This plugin can be a real PC hog when trying to scale up the oversampling. Also, if there’s an update for Spark, it would be really cool to have an impulse loader.
See more -Riffs, Beards & Gear demo of the Spark