Whether you are a djent fan or not, any guitarist has to appreciate the talent of Animals As Leaders’ Tosin Abasi. I recall the first time I saw him on YouTube and the shear disbelief at what I was seeing. At the time, I hadn’t heard anything like him and even now with the thousands of people trying to copy his style, no one really comes close.
He has skyrocketed in popularity more every year and with that came his own line of gear featuring guitars, pedals and more. I am actually kind of shocked that it took this long for his name to grace a plugin though he was part of one of the Toontrack EZmix Metal Guitar Godss expansions a few years back.
It’s a suite style plugin that includes three amps, a variety of pedals, a cabinet section with impulse response loader and it also has MIDI capabilities. (Note: we will not be reviewing the MIDI capabilities).
The GUI is truly remarkable in every way shape and form. It seriously looks beautiful folks and while Neural DSP products all excel in this department, Archetype Abasi raises the bar. I question what impact graphics this terrific have on the CPU demand but nonetheless, it’s a great looking plugin that is very easy to use for pretty well any user.
The Pre-FX section features a compressor and the popular Pathos Distortion pedal from Abasi’s own gear line (see the hardware version HERE). I’ve never used the pedal in hardware form though I did a lot of research on it and the plugin seems to get pretty close. Granted, there’s a lot of variables between YouTube research and being able to claim authenticity. With Amp 1, it worked great but the Pathos didn’t fit very well with the other two. Problem being that both amps already sound boosted and over-boosting only means over-processing. Using the Pathos with the high boost switches on the amps engaged requires rolling some high end off the pedal.
The compressor like the pedals in the post section is either a fictional or perhaps a future Abasi hardware product. It’s the better of the compressors across the Archetype series to date and it’s definitely not a one dimensional component. I was able to use with Amp 1 it for snappy squashed country tones, smooth leads, crisp blues tones and a lot more. I don’t advise using it with Amps 2 or 3 as both amps offer very compressed tones as is.
Before we get to the amps, I wanted to mention the high and low boost switches on the left side of all three amps. Starting with the low side, I truthfully have no idea why anyone would need a bass boost of that degree with three amps already having tons of low end as is. This switch actually puzzles me to a serious degree, I spent a couple hours trying to figure out how it could be useful but nothing made sense.
The high boost really depends on your taste. When it’s on, Amp 1 is great but with Amps 2 and 3, it colors the tone with a bite or edge that is always kind of “there”. That bite can either have your tone heard in a mix nicely or it could make the rhythm guitar almost too present. When off however, all three amps got a bit dull and tougher to get crisp.
For me, the clean amp is definitely the saving grace of the plugin’s amp selection. It’s warm, detailed, versatile and a lot of fun to work with. I had a lot of fun using Amp 1 with the pedals in a variety of combinations. I was able to nail down very nice tones for country, blues, jazz, indie, fusion and more. Every time I hit this amp up, I had a great time playing on it, no downsides here at all.
Amp 1 amp is also the only one that really allows for full range use of the Pathos pedal in my opinion as the other two amps are already kind of locked in boosted high gain mode. The only head scratcher in this section is the blend knob that seems to have some odd values to it that don’t change much until the knob hits about 7. It changes really drastically at that point and the key for me was to find the edge of where the change happens. It was there that I found some of my favorite tones.
Amp 2 is very unique, it kind of looks like a radio you might find at Ikea but sounds like a bulldozer. To me, the amp operates more like a saturation unit than a guitar amp which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just the way things dial in and the intensity of the saturation involved. I managed to get a few modern high gain rhythm tones I enjoyed quite a bit but once I started working more around the amp, I didn’t find a lot of tones to work with.
It seems like Amp 2 is based on a solid-state amp of some sort or at least the picking response and processed feel elude to such. Not a bad thing, just not something I see too often. The way it dials in definitely takes some getting used to and it’s pretty easy to make a mess with the intensity of some of the controls. I love controls that have a lot of value across but Amp 2’s control values really cause somehead scratching.
The bass knob adds more bass by 4-5 on the dial than most could ever need, above that it’s doing more harm than good. It actually seems to even add sub bass frequencies which is all shaved off with any standard high pass filter so the amount of low-end is curious. I had to back the lows off to 1-2 to tame things but once I did, it was nice and punchy. This was around where I found the pocket of tones I really liked.
With the amount of bass in the bass control here, I wonder again about the bass boost switch’s real use overall. With the treble boost on, it has that bite I spoke of earlier and whether you like it or not, it’s there. Turning the switch off makes the amp quite dull. The lack of a middle control seemed a bit odd given the amp being pretty mid-voiced but the “tight” control does help to take the edge off.
Amp 3 is the most visually striking amp I have seen in a plugin to date and once again, I find myself noting that this amp is definitely very unique on a few levels. It sounds no amp I have heard, it almost sounds like there’s a subtle bit of an HM2 or fuzz effect build into it. Whatever it is seems to cause more of a loose feel to the amp. I didn’t find many rhythm tones that I liked but when I started doing some lead work, the amp seemed to be a lot more at home.
There’s a ton of gain in this amp and it’s a wee bit noisy so I tried to back the gain off to calm the amp down a bit. When I got to around 4 on the dial, the amp got really thin so I would advise keeping it above that for best results. For solos, I used the delay and reverb FX to create some nice tones with sustain for days. I was able to get the early Gothenburg style lead tones similar to very early In Flames but it’s definitely not an easy amp to dial in.
The cabinet section is the second one to be done by Adam Nolly Getgood after the popular ML Sound Lab had handled the duties for all previous Neural DSP offerings. Users get access to one cabinet, all the most popular mics and a flexible set of controls to further shape the tone. As usual, the section also offers a very good impulse response loader to load files from your own collection. I had a lot of luck using open back 212 impulses from my stash with Amp 1, it was easy to find matches for.
I don’t notice an abundant amount of differences between all of the Archetype post-FX sections but I don’t notice many weaknesses either. They are always capable of a wide range of great things and this one follows suit.
UPS / DOWNS
Overall, I just don’t “get” this plugin. It’s not that I am not a djent guy, it’s the lack of useful tones across the plugin outside of the clean amp. For the clean amp, yes, it’s great but it doesn’t save the plugin. It’s not a terrible plugin but it’s certainly not up to the level of quality Neural DSP’s become known for.
If you are a djent or modern metal guitarist, this could be right up your alley and 1000+ guys are going to give this plugin a great review based on only its djent / prog abilities. Those should be all the reviews you need if you are looking for that type of plugin. For me, Amps 2 and 3 took a chunk from the score as I didn’t really enjoy them like I enjoyed Amp 1.
Users looking for versatility for their buck may prefer the Plini and/or Nolly plugins as the Abasi suite is fairly specialized in what it can deliver. Though, even for djent purposes, Neural’s Fortin Nameless Suite provides the all out most devastating djent tones ever conceived in a plugin plus a lot more.
The beauty part of the current industry is that Neural DSP and many other developers now provide fully functioning trial versions. Test rigorously, play non-stop, record and mix, play a live show and do anything else required for a purchase decision. At the end of the day, we all have different needs.
See more: Neural DSP Archetype: Abasi release video