Rating: 10 / 10
Brainworx product page (at Plugin Alliance)
The Diezel VH4 is the amp that Diezel’s foundations were built on. It’s a damn juggernaut is what it is. When it landed on the scene, it was being talked about in metal circles like a mythical beast in a fairytale. I recall the first time I heard one in person, it was the Cancer Bats and it was a VH4 double stack. My teeth rattled and the obsession became real. Years more went by before trying one in person.
When you open the Brainworx VH4 plugin, what you see is literally a VH4. It looks crisp, clean, realistic and all in all, it just carries on the rock solid guarantee that Brainworx = Great looking plugins. The GUI itself is amazingly handy and useful for a quick and optimal workflow. The ease of use makes the learning curve for newer users a lot less frustrating.
The first channel is a very solid clean channel that with the right cab, sounds awesome. The internal impulses do a fine job of creating great tones but the real magic for me came when I started blending the clean channel with 212 open back impulses in my own loader. We will get to the impulses later but for now, I will certainly say that the clean tones and driven clean tones that I have created have been really nice. I didn’t expect snappy and articulate chicken picking tones or driven blues when I dove in but it was a nice surprise.
Channel two delivers warm, cutting low to mid gain crunch tones that seem to have a little more of a vintage feel to them at times. I used CH1 and CH2 only when I did a few ska/punk songs not long ago and there was no shortage of tones to be found. From big fat full chords that shimmer with absolute no digital sound fade to a beautiful lead tone suitable for soulful jams.
CH3 is where we start getting closer to seeing if the plugin version captures the mythical world ending kraken style beast fabled in the stories of many a metal guitarist. Think of this like that scene from Clash of the titans when Liam Neeson yells RELEASE THE KRAKEN and you see the bad ass creature getting further out of the water.
The first time I laid into this channel, my eyes felt like they watered a bit in joy. Every time since then, I just get this warm happy feeling when I rip on this plugin and it’s centered around channels 3 and 4. I see this channel as being the most versatile on the amp because all you need is a boost pedal and a volume knob to make it do just about anything. I have used it for everything from punk to death metal and to me it’s where they have done a great job at recreating the precise tone characteristic that helped to build the foundation Diezel was built on.
Channel four is where the Kraken unleashes that scream with the 4,000 teeth and the force of a hurricane. The gain on this channel can be used for absolutely crushing quite literally any genre requiring mid to high gain. The way this channel does metal, yes ANY TYPE of metal is really a mystery. The hardware VH4 has had such a huge impact on heavy genres that not nailing this section of the amp would have been damn near blasphemous. Luckily, the combination of Brainworx and Igor Nembrini never fails in the realism department because this channel was in fact nailed. The mountains of saturated gain can be used to chug, djent, thrash, kvlts, rip, shred and stomp your way to great tone at home with almost no effort.
Boosts… ohhhhh the boosts. This amp doesn’t require a boost pedal to tighten up or get focused but it certainly doesn’t hurt either. I used a handful of boost pedals and they all worked really nicely with the VH4. As usual, I recommend watching the tone knob when you boost any high gain amp really. I start the tone knob at 5 on the boost and go up gradually while working with the mids on the amp. Every channel of this amp sim boosted very nicely with fairly standard settings.
Across all four channels, Brainworx ensure that the realism is firmly in check. This could not have been an easy task considering that it’s almost like every knob on the entire amp goes to about 15 instead of 10. What I mean here is that every knob gives you way more of everything that you could ever need so there will never come a time where you will say “the mids don’t cut” or “there’s no low end to it” and so on. You get miles and miles of every aspect of the amp so the tone possibilities are endless.
The impulse section provides a ton of amazing cabinet, mic and speaker options. The haul of impulses with the newer lines of Brainworx plugins has really increased and every single file included carries quality. They include Diezel, Brit, American and other cabinet options with the usual list of great industry standard microhones. This section could use a quick bypass though it can still be done quickly by going to the end of the impulses list and selecting “No Recording Chain”. If you do this, you will need your own impulse response loader and a selection of impulses. Many impulse response developers have 212 and 412 products based on various Diezel cabinets.
In addition to the cabinet section, Brainworx always build in a useful selection of basic but effective features like high and low pass filters, delay and more that can be accessed by hitting the FX RACK button in the GUI. It’s not a downside but it would be cool to build a section in the same area for a boost pedal. A simple three knobs and a bypass for a TS / Boost in all of their plugins would make them even more versatile in my opinion but with so damn many TS / boosts available for free or very little coin, it’s not exactly a big deal that it’s not included. That said, if you do add your own, remember to turn the noise gate in the plugin off as the signal chain would now be out of whack. Remember, gate before boost, always.
UPS / DOWNS
No downs at all, this is a tone machine! It might be “just one amp” as I have heard it said but it’s a four-channel amp with tone capabilities that really need to be experienced. It plays like a four amp suite to me because each channel carries so much weight on its own. The channels also don’t just sound like extensions of each other but instead channels that compliment each other. They all carry similar traits but provide their own unique approach to a number of styles and genres.
The VH4 doesn’t sound like any other amp and no other amp sounds like it. The Brainworx plugin provides the majority of the factors and tone characteristics that have made the Diezel VH4 such a coveted and well-respected amp. I showed this to a friend of mine that also has a deep love for these amps but he actually owns one. His quote was “I sat down like it was my amp, I turned the knobs like it was my amp and it responded just like my amp. Did aliens build this? What is this wizardry”.
There’s simply no question that both the licensed VH4 plugin and its Herbert plugin companion are now amongst the best high gain amp sims ever made. If you have ever dreamed of the real VH4 but could never afford it or if you have several of them sitting in your crazy guitar man cave, this plugin will satisfy you. Fire it up to get that “playing it for the first time” feeling or shrink your man cave into a plugin for being on the go, on tour or quiet when your kid is sleeping. I love it, you probably will too.
See more: Braimworx Herbert release video