I have received a lot of messages the last few days and many of them had a general subject of “should I buy ___ or ____”. We aren’t here to make decisions for you. You have different tastes, pickups, guitars, needs, budgets and so on. What we can do it help you get the info you need to make the choice,
In these scenarios it would be really easy to give someone a glowing recommendation towards the product I prefer of the two personally. However doing it that way wouldn’t hold up with the ideals of this page that I have worked towards so what I would prefer to do is try and help everyone find the right product for their budget and needs.
Part of making a good decision is seeing the bigger picture. You always have to extend your thinking as far as possible. Sometimes things may appear different than they are, allow me to explain. I will create a fictitious scenario.
- 5 one-channel amps (clean, driven, mid gain and two high gain)
- Drive pedals in the pre-effects
- 1-2 cabs with several mic options
- Delay and reverb in the post-effects
- Noise gate
- Price: $120
- Top quality developer
- Well known endorser
- One four-channel amp (clean, driven, mid to high gain, full on gain)
- Each channel sounds different and has its own EQ, Volume, Gain etc
- 100+ high-quality impulses incl many mics and positions
- Delay and Reverb in the post-effects
- Price: $125
- Top quality developer
- Licensed by the popular builder of the amp being modeled
Let’s look at this decision shall we? Let me show you how I would approach this decision and hopefully it can help you in your travels.
STEP #1 – The first step for me is always the trial versions of the products I am considering. Fully functioning trials are quickly becoming the industry standard and if a product doesn’t have one, for me that product is out of the mix but in this case let’s say both products have a trial. Not every amazing product has a free unrestricted trial so for some, you may have to ask around and research.
STEP #2 – I will test, test and test some more during whatever the timed amount allows. I’ll make lists of pros and cons for both plugins while using them exactly as I would intend to if I bought the plugin. Put everything to the test and then hit the other areas of the plugin, your focus should be whether it does what you need it to do, the way you want it done or not?
In this case, let’s say #1’s amps kind of match up with #2’s channels. I would test them against each other for a few sessions, record with them and see which one sounds better and more applications that may determine a favorite. Remember, you don’t need shootout videos when free trials exist. Do your own shootouts based on your own needs. In this case, even though #1 has an extra hi-gain amp, I didn’t really like that 5th amp so it’s no longer a 5 vs 4 situation.
STEP #3 – If the process makes it past the trial point and I still can’t decide, I will start to delete common factors that cancel out ex: both plugins are versatile and sound great or the GUIs are both nice. This step usually clears the smoke pretty well to narrow things down. Find all the things that kind of cancel each other out by both being of similar enjoyment / enjoyment.
STEP #4 – When it comes to things like signature plugins, celebrity endorsements and plugins licensed by popular amp or pedal companies, it’s all business and money, I try not to fall for these things because I have been through more than a few subpar products that had all of the above features. I usually like to remove these factors because they can seriously influence decisions superficially without actually requiring any quality. They help with sales but none of these factors ever guarantee a good product so they become non-essential to the decision. The only way I buy into these is if I have trust in the endorser from past products that worked out for me but even then, it’s all secondary to the product.
STEP #5 – We all obviously love to get stoked about pre-release content and that’s part of the curiosity but try not to buy into the hype. Avoid the nonsense that comes from pre-release speculation. Nearly 100% of the time, if companies want you to have info, you’ll have that info very clearly in the form of either very deliberate graphics, play on names or full licensing. Otherwise, the guessing game helps no one.
At the moment of release, get the trial and give it loads of your attention but while testing it, ignore social media (that includes us) to avoid the masses and media swaying your decision. Let your ears and your enjoyment of the product put the stamp of approval on your purchase.
STEP #6 – Post effects sections are a really great addition to any plugin but with so many amazing delay, reverb and other great plugins out there, I don’t let these sway my decision too much. Reason being is that in a recording signal chain, the amp suite post effects section ends up basically useless as soon as you add an EQ plugin (which you will). Reverb and delay should come at the end of your chain so if you use anything after the suite in the chain, the delay and verb end up out of proper order. This is even more so the case if you bypass the cabinet section.
STEP #7 – At this point I am aware that both plugins have a ton of quality so I can really start to break things down further. If one plugin contains components based on gear that I have a lot of versions of already and the other has mostly stuff that makes my tone library larger and more complete, that can really have a factor in things IF and only if the gear has been done right. Another factor I consider at this point is which plugin I can get the most use from for my ideal application. ex: If one has more hi-gain tones and I am doing more metal right now then whichever gives me the best hi-gain tones wins. The other is still an option for later.
STEP #8 – If I still can’t decide, I will buy the cheaper of the two immediately and then put the other on my watch list for sales. Always sign the mailing list for all of your favorite developers because you will know first when the sales are so you can pounce on deals. If I am trying to decide and I literally just can’t pick, sometimes I will even put both on a watch list and snipe the sales. I’ve waited over a year for stuff to go on sale. There’s no rush.
How would you decide between these two scenarios? My decision is not important but I can tell you that my EARS make the decisions and so should yours. We are in an industry that is quickly evolving quality wise and decisions will become harder and harder. Everyone is going to buy an amp they feel is a pile of crap, myself included but at the end of the day, if you really just can’t decide, feel free to email us and we can help by providing more information and factors that could help finalize things.