Rating: 9 / 10
There’s a very good chance that if you’re a metal guitarist, you have learned something from one of Andy James’ many incredible instructional videos. If not, I have to assume that the UK shredder’s next level skill and speed have probably dropped your jaw at some point (or many).
Andy’s ear for great tone and his mind for great gear selection come together with the wonderful people at STL Tones / Ignite amps to create Tonality: Andy James. This is a suite style plugin that features three amps, pre-FX, post-FX, three matched cabinets, the Andy James signature Revenant pre-amp w/power amp and more.
The GUI looks and functions great! It can take some time to really get the feel of how it’s all laid out. However, the layouts across all the Tonality plugins are all similar so if you have used the first few, you will be fine. The GUI offers many ways to find the tones you want if you spend time creating a good workflow. There’s also the dual rig feature that was brought into the Tonality series in the Will Putney suite. I like this feature but I will be honest by saying I will rarely utilize it as I just prefer to stay with the single amp set up in this plugin. It’s a very handy feature for those that choose to use it but I found it created a tone that was a bit tougher to EQ in post production.
First up is the pre-FX / pedal section. There’s a really great sounding screamer with Maxon 808 graphics that really pushes all three of the amps very nicely. Use it as a boost for the heavier amps or add it to the clean amp with the gain up for some extra dirt. I would avoid using it with the Revenant pedal if you have the “focus” switch engaged as it’s overkill. The OD does however work just fine with the Revenant’s focus disengaged.
Moving to the Revenant preamp pedal, it makes my mouth water when I think about running the hardware version with a Mesa Boogie Simulclass 2:Ninety and a big ass Mesa Oversized 412 cabinet. I have the same dream when I think about hooking the hardware up to a Marshall 9200 power amp and a couple 1960B 412 cabs. I imagine those rigs rattling my teeth when I use the plugin version.
The Revenant pedal doesn’t work with the amps, it’s important to know that it’s a PREAMP and generally you won’t put a preamp into a preamp or at least not with two high gain components. To use the Revenant you need to engage the power amp located to the right of the Revenant. Hit the power to turn it on and the focus to activate the internal “boost”. The poweramp and tube types depend on the amp and tube type that you have selected in the amp section. The presence and resonance controls of the amp you have selected are also applied to the Revenant’s power section.
As mentioned, you can use the green OD pedal in front of the Revenant preamp like you would boost any other amp but if you use the green pedal, I would make sure the focus is off. The shape control adds a really nice shot in the mids that seems to respond differently according to where the lo and hi mid controls are set.
The tube type is tweakable with Amps 1 &2, which creates a number of possibilities. For example, the 5150 III is a 6L6 amp but switch the tube type to EL34 and suddenly it’s closer to the 5150 III Stealth34, the 6505 becomes the 6534 and so on. The KT88 tube option however when selected enables users to create something completely unique.
Moving to the first full on amp in the suite, it’s kind of a first in pluginland. It’s the first lead / red channel of an EVH 5150 III; one of the best high gain amps in existence if you ask me. It may be only one channel of the versatile juggernaut but for many, the red channel is all that’s needed and it’s well represented here. I love this part of the plugin, it’s crushing and it really does provide users with a solid plugin version of the well-loved amp.
Amp 2 is based on the Peavey 6505 but it plays / feels more like the 6505+ to me. I love the entirety of the EVH/Peavey amp family so it was another amp that I was glad to see. The 6505 and 5150 III are very different sounding amps so it’s not as if they are covering the same ground twice. I would really have loved the green channel for this one but the red channel in this case sings a convincing version of the sweet unbridled devastation you can find in its durable hardware counterpart! It’s just another reason for high gain players to head over and check this plugin out.
The final amp is another first. This time it’s the first high quality plugin based on a VOX AC30 Top Boost. This amp at least partially satisfies my need for a plugin version of the legendary British amp. This was the first amp I reached for and I went straight to work trying for the best twangy country tones I could find. It’s amazing for country, blues, jazz, southern rock, classic rock and all the other applications that made the real life AC30 a legend in the amp game. It’s very warm, crisp, articulate and when mixed with the post-FX section, there’s a world of lush atmospheres available.
The cabinet section across the various Tonality plugins can feel a little bit fixed in place. Each amp has a matched cab but beyond that, there’s not a whole lot to it. The quality of the matched cabs in this plugin is better than the other versions of the plugin. There’s nothing wrong with this section however many of the plugins in the same price point have much more flexible cabinet sections with a number of mic and mic position options. The section also includes a very simple impulse response loader that can be used to load whatever you need.
You can bypass the cabinet section but with really any suite style plugin in doing so, you change the signal chain. So be mindful of needing to also either bypass the post-FX section or force the delay/reverb between the amp and cabinet (your impulse response loader). Always know how bypassing components affects the signal chain. I had a ton of luck with the STL / Ignite “Libra” and NadIR 2.0 and impulses from pretty well every developer I tried.
UPS / DOWNS
This plugin can chug the best chugs that ever chugged, it can be used to create death metal, cold and desolate black metal, djent and just about any high gain tone one could ever need. The clean and slightly dirty side of the plugin is also quite solid with the VOX but there’s a missing middle ground for those that require a more versatile suite.
Even though Amps 1 & 2 are inspired by closely related hardware products, they are very different from each other. If a second channel from the first two amps was available, the middle ground would be better represented. This suite is definitely more for the shredders and high gain players.
I would love to see the AC30 amp available on it’s own to give it more spotlight. Having the first solid plugin based on such only available with high gain amps may just tuck it away from many potentially interested buyers/users but as it is, I certainly don’t mind its inclusion.
See more: STL Tonality Andy James release video
If you already use the plugin – check out our presets in the Preset Vault.