Rating: 10 / 10
Neural DSP and Powered By Omega are two companies that are constantly striving to create the absolute best in modern guitar tones. Both companies are also at the top of their game so a collaboration between the two companies to bring a new kind of gain monster to the plugin world is almost guaranteed to be incredible.
Powered By Omega’s Granophyre amp was for a time called the Iridium but the company decided to change the name because there were 2-3 other products using the same or a similar name. The newly named Granophyre is a single channel amplifier based on the lead channel of the company’s ground-breaking Obsidian amp used most notably by Slipknot’s Mick Thompson. View the real deal amp here!
The plugin version of the amp designed by Neural DSP features the amp, a boost pedal, an elaborate cab section and more in a compact package for use in a standalone, in a DAW or even live onstage.
There’s simply never a question about Neural DSP’s ability to put together a GUI that is both great looking and easy to use / navigate. The Granophyre GUI reminds me of one of those movies where someone opens a door to a dark room to some sort of high tech assault vehicle under a single bright light. It’s dark, sleek and really gives the user the feeling that the amp is right in front of them. It’s all easy to find, easy to use and I would recommend it to even beginner users as it really does all function nicely.
From the first moment I put my hands to the strings of my guitar the first time I opened the plugin, I knew it was absolutely for me. The first power chord had no boost pedal and the plugin was in default mode and even still, it kicked my ass. I had a smile from ear to ear before my jaw hit the desk. I sat riffing with things just as they were for about 10 times longer than any amp sim prior so Neural DSP really worked the first impression / default tone to perfection.
We start off in the boost section. Currently, this section only has one offering but in the past Neural DSP have added new toys to plugins via updates so that could be a possibility. That said, the boost pedal included here is a fully-licensed Earthquaker Devices Plumes. I have never seen a plugin based off of any Earthquaker pedal so this plugin would be two firsts in one shot! The boost has a simple volume/tone/gain type format with the addition of a three way switch.
This is one of the most transparent boost pedals I have ever heard whether analog, digital or software. I was extremely impressed by just how perfect this boost is for the amp. It drives it perfectly no matter where you go with the settings or three way switch.
The knobs do not need to be turned up to 10 so for those with the 0/10/10 TS setting habits, you may want to back them off a bit. The idea here is to give each control an extension in value. The switch goes between three modes; Denim Warrior, Blues Lawyer and Oracle Of The Scepter Beyond which to me roughly translates to rock/blues/metal but all positions have versatility. (For what it’s worth, this amp sim convinced me to buy the analog version, thanks!)
As noted in the intro, the Powered By Omega Granophyre is the new name of their Iridium amp. The amp is an absolute and flat out gain monster of epic proportions but you like me, probably have high gain focused plugins for days so what makes this one better? Why do need another one? Well, since we all define “better” our own way, I would say, first and foremost, the big attraction here is an amp sim based on a very unique amp. It’s not an amp builder doing someone else’s thing slightly differently, this is a company building their own brand of “high gain” and forging their own path. Everything about these amps just sounds different in the best of ways.
One of the huge features of the analog amp is that users can employ pretty well any power tube they choose. While the freedom of switchable tube types might be nothing new in pluginland, over in the analog world, having an amp that can both easily and effectively have the power amp tubes switched is unicorn level rare. Why does this matter to plugin users when developers can simply alter code to employ the illusion of different type types?
In this case the plugin is based on an an analog amp that has been designed and built with these capabilities internally. In this case the tube types aren’t an illusion at all but simply another feature of the analog that’s been modeled with precision. This feature is one of my favorites in the plugin because where some might think a one-channel amp can’t be versatile, the tube types provide a ton of tonal variations. Users can call on 6L6, EL34 and KT66 power tube types to help the Granophyre go effortlessly between any heavy / high gain application.
Increasing the versatility of the one-channel dynamo are a couple of key features beginning with the “high / low” switch. This switch represents the amount of gain but it also adds a slightly different voicing. There’s a mile and a half of gain in the low gain channel and I found this channel to definitely be the better of the two for the Plumes boost pedal to focus. The high gain channel can still be boosted but the settings really need to be pulled back from where they might be for most amps. Both gains are beyond useful, unique and very enjoyable.
The other notable switch is the voice control. Flip the switch to change where in the mids the EQ bump is placed. With this switch and the three tube types, suddenly this one-channel amp has a rather impressive arsenal of tones available for all types of heavy / aggressive music. The saturation of the amp can also be controlled with precision in the gain controls which can change the feel of the amp for the user when playing as well as the depth of the tone in a full mix.
The EQ on the amp itself has three bands but the flexibility of those bands is immense. Anyone that knows me knows that I love the odd trip to Scoopsville and this amp crushes at delivering tones straight from that town. The whole EQ becomes even more fun with the voice switch engaged as there is a notable difference between the amp’s two voicings.
Mid scooping might not be popular among the djent ranks but many bands still record with a layer of scooped guitars to add more depth to the mid focused tones meant to capture the attention. On the other side of the dial, there’s a whole world of ways to focus the mids to create a seriously unique attack. The voice switch and mid control work together very nicely to ensure your guitars will have many ways to fit into and / or stand out in any mix.
The cabinet section has over the years been exposed as an area that can really make or break a plugin. Neural DSP has always ensured that their cab / impulse response sections are done by a professional and often their professional of choice has been ML Sound Lab. Users get a single cab with two very different speaker options. The crushing Celestion Creamback M65 (MS-1260) and also Powered By Omega’s proprietary in-house speaker (VM-1265) so users can have even more freedom with their IR section.
I really like that a more traditional speaker was added here because for some, a very unique amp + an unfamiliar speaker selection can make for a little more time for a plugin to settle in. Having the Celestion Creamback as an option creates a little more of that comfort factor going in. Users can choose to go with one IR file or blend two together. The selection of mics is wonderful and the positions can be customized via Neural’s 3D cabinet section. I suggest that users with no experience actually putting a mic on a cabinet always educate themselves on how the various mics and positions can be used in your favor.
UPS / DOWNS
This plugin is pure high gain perfection of in every way shape and form. No matter what I did with the amp’s controls, it sounded and responded in a positive way. For my personal tastes, it was actually a lot more difficult to get a bad tone than to get a good one. You really have to go out of your way to get bad sounds to come out of the Granophyre.
I couldn’t find even one bad thing about the plugin or the gear being modeled inside. Every single component, switch, knob, mic and more is in the winning column. Modeling a unique and fresh new amp is a massive plus to the overall score and my enjoyment of the plugin. It’s so great to lay into something completely different once in a while and let’s be honest, the high gain amp world needed a fresh face.
Having a brand new tool with this kind of quality and potential for devastation is always a welcomed addition for me. Prior to this release, Nameless Suite was my undisputed #1 plugin for high gain but after putting a lot of time in with the PBO Granophyre, I may have a new champion. One thing is for certain, I will be using the Neural DSP Granophyre a ton in the future. Highly recommended!!
See more: NeuralDSP Granophyre Tone Demo
Already using the Granophyre? Check out our presets in the Preset Vault!