STL Tones made a splash with Tonality: Howard Benson and it won our amp sim of the year in 2018. When it came out, I was seeing a lot of djent demos that were trying too hard to make it something it wasn’t. That plugin was a plugin designed for vintage inspired tones so it was only a matter of time before STL did something for the modern hi-gain lovers. When I heard they had designed just such a plugin, I immediately referenced the quality of the hi-gain tones in their Kemper packs.
Will Putney is well known for his work as a producer with bands like After The Burial, Shadows Fall, Pig Destroyer, The Acacia Strain, Body Count as well as his work as a guitarist in Fit For An Autopsy. The man knows his tone and he has collaborated on a suite with STL Tones that features a ton of gear.
The plugin looks badass, it looks awesome in every way. The GUI is fairly complex to navigate at times as it is pretty involved so take the time to learn your way around if you’d like to dial things in quicker. There’s a metric ton of presets included and some of our available in the vault link below so use those to see how things change across all panels.
I will note my one issue with the plugin right now and while it’s not a big one, it is worth noting for newer users of the plugin. This plugin allows you to use two amps and two cabs at once but you need to be in MIXER MODE to see both amps or to be able to switch between them. Otherwise, you will only be changing the settings for one of the two amps and not get the full picture of the plugin. Most of the presets involve two amps so be aware when getting used to this plugin.
Everything can be bypassed and I suggest while getting used to this plugin, create a starter preset in NORMAL VIEW. Go amp by amp, component by component to really get to know every piece of gear before blending stuff together. Go to fast, you might miss something cool.
AMP 1 – We start of with an amp based on the lead channel of a Peavey 5150 II. It’s beyond crushing to say the least. It gives you every bit of the right characteristics associated with the hi-gain side of the Peavey / EVH amps. There’s not a lot of versatility with this one, it’s pretty well locked into hi-gain mode which isn’t a bad thing at all but no green channel here, just dead-RED.
AMP 2 – A Bogner Uberschall bats second in this line up and no, it’s not the same as the Uber in Tonality: Benson. It’s a far different sounding and different geared Uberschall amp featured here and I would say it’s my favorite amp in the suite. It gives you a true hi-gain Bogner tone and for me, the first hi-gain Bogner amp sim I have really meshed with. The values across all of the knobs make it easy to get something top shelf without even needing much EQ.
AMP 3 – When the term hi-gain comes up, Mesa Boogie is never far away from the conversation. The Mesa Boogie TC100 however isn’t normally even in the top three amps that normally come to mind or even the top 5. That’s certainly not a bad thing, it’s great to see new amps showing up in pluginland. The TC100 might be a lesser-known amp but it’s got plenty under the hood and I believe it’s used by Willie Adler of Lamb of God. Amp 3 features two channels with a “tight” and “norm” variation on each one.
Amp 3 gives you a mix of vintage and modern tones from mid to hi-gain. It’s looser than the other three guitar amps in Tonality: Putney but It has that highest level of realism and probably the warmest tone as well. Simply add the tube screamer to tighten things up.
AMP 4 – Diezel amps sound like Diezel amps, they have their own very distinct set of characteristics. Tonality: Putney includes the rhythm and the lead channel of a Diezel VH4 and it is a hell of a lot of fun to shred on. I spent a bit of time with a VH4 over a recording session years ago and I really enjoyed the amp. This amp sim cuts like a knife for thrash, punk, hard rock, death metal and many other applications.
AMP 5 – Another cool feature to note with this plugin would be the inclusion of a bass amp sim, in this case it’s a 1969 Ampeg SVT Classic. It’s nice to have a bass amp included because the bass amp sim / plugin market really has no depth at this point. It sounds warm, detailed and there’s a great deal of body for the right tone. I felt the inclusion of such a vintage era bass amp with four hi-gain beasts was a little odd but it works out.
On the down side of amp 4, when coupled with the internal matched cabinet, there’s a spike in the mid-range that kind of tries to take over the whole tone. You can turn the mid knob all the way down, bring the treble down, turn off the Ultra-hi and so on but it’s very difficult to get rid of. Plus by that time, you have already removed a lot of power and body from the tone
When I bypassed the matched cab, it helped the situation but not overly. I worked with some EQ in post but I just don’t believe a tone should be fixed in mixing when it can be fixed with the gear first. I don’t start mixing until the tones are where I like them.
CABS – The internal impulse section is simple and solid. Each amp has a really great sounding matched cab that’s ideally been optimized for said amp so you get four guitar cabs and one bass cab to match the amps. Each cab also works nicely with any amp it seems so it makes for even more tone options in the plugin. The downside is that there are no mic or mic placement options which for me aren’t mandatory but they are a plus.
The cab section allows you to also use it as a loader for your own impulse collection. I like this feature with any amp sim but it needs to be done right to be effective. In this case it’s lacking the ability to skip seamlessly from file to file and folder to folder. This is the case with many built in loaders it seems and for me, to be useful, they need to have just a little more flexibility.
PEDALS / COMPONENTS – First you get three pedals; a tube screamer, delay pedal and reverb pedal. The tube screamer is simply awesome in every way, it reminds me of a hardware pedal called the Kartakou Warmer. The TS/boost in the plugin has more than your average three-knob layout, there’s a few extra ways to alter the tone through the pedal.
The delay pedal is exceedingly high detailed, versatile and it sounds beautiful on leads. There’s a huge amount of ways to tweak the delay pedal endlessly as well as the option to put it before or after the amp and cab.
The reverb pedal is another very nice included feature. You can get worlds of different reverbs with all different sizes, lengths and so on while also getting the option to put it before or after the rig. The question here for me was “where do I use this?”. There are no real clean tones in Tonality: Putney so if I can be picky, it would have been better to include another pedal that would have more applications related to the tones from the amps. Not a complaint by any means, I just didn’t get a lot of use from it because I don’t generally run reverb before my EQ.
The last included component that I will touch on here is the included EQ. It’s been modeled from one of Will Putney’s personal favorites. I found it was incredibly useful almost constantly in both subtle and more aggressive applications. NOTE: This is another moment when you have to watch your signal chains. The EQ is often on and used in many of the presets so if using your own EQ plugin after the suite in your DAW, you will likely want to bypass the internal EQ.
UPS / DOWNS:
If you like ANY type of heavy or aggressive playing, buy this suite. I can’t make it any easier for you. If you are on the fence, trying to decide whether to buy Tonality: Will Putney or not, I say jump over that fence and wield this plugin like a warrior! There’s nothing from mid to high gain that this plugin can’t do. It’s highly complex and versatile inside the parameters of more aggressive genres.
I would say this whole suite is pretty well mix ready with very little fuss or tweaking. The whole plugin is designed to be insanely flexible for mid to hi-gain applications. You can go from the first note to mix ready in one minute worth of tweaking things into place. Djent, thrash, black metal, death metal, tech-death and literally any other style is only a few turns away.
While the plugin does have a few things that don’t knock me out like the rest of the plugin, I am still giving it a 5/5 rating because the value and quality involved here is extraordinary for the mid to high gain loving guitarist.
If you already use the plugin – check our Tonality-Will Putney presets in the Preset Vault