The Marshall Valvestate was the first solid-state amp Marshall ever produced. It was designed to be a cost-effective and reliable way to get the Marshall sound and it was extremely well received from the moment it hit the market in the early 90s. It came out in both combo and head/cab formats though the head became the most popular of the bunch. The VS line had a few models but the 8100’s legacy is the only one to make it through the years.
It took about zero seconds for players from literally every style and genre to make the amp hugely popular. It was capable of delivering really great distorted sounds without the help of a pedal which was fairly rare for lower cost amps at the time.
Players from all styles and genres including myself turned to the amp for a variety of gainy sounds. Sure it was easy to see why guys with less money flocked to the amp but for Chuck Schuldiner, Dino Cazares, Billy Gibbons, Tommy Victor and then later members of Strung Out, In Flames, Meshuggah etc to use the amp when they could use literally anything says something.
Audiority came onto the amp sim scene with the incredibly versatile and free L12X based on the tiny Marshall Lead 12. The company then announced the Solidus line of plugins based on solid-state amps with the first one being the Solidus VS8100. It’s based on the…. yep you guessed it.
Audiority manages to consistently ensure their plugins have uniformity in the GUI. Their stuff always operates flawlessly so I was more so curious than concerned as to how the GUI would be laid out. You would never know that this was the company’s first time doing a multi-panel set up like this.
One thing I really like about the GUI is that it’s really easy on the eyes in every way. Rather than being dark with high contrasted lighter features, the VS8100 has a softer background. Everything functions seamlessly, the workflow is fast and getting great tones could not be easier.
The first component in the suite is a simple but effective noise gate. The three position switch gives users three different feels and it’s very effective. Simple and could use use a few small tweaks for lower gain playing but for the mid to higher gain sounds, it really clamps in just the right ways.
For the boost / pre-FX section, Audiority have included the ability to create your own one knob boost! A fine example of a one knob boost would be the Fortin Grind pedal. The basic idea of these pedals is that one knob is used to boost a signal right after the signal passes through an EQ curve that is unique to the pedal. The one knob boosts can be handy or they can enhance stuff that might not be your thing. Luckily with the VS8100 boost, you can make your own or use the presets in the component panel.
In this section users can utilitze a 10-band MXR M108 EQ to create their own signature sauce boost or use it to recreate a number of different sounds. Huge points for the developer including presets for the two EQ components in addition to the amp because it made it just so much easier to lock in great tones fast. I could see this component being a little bit difficult to get used to without the presets so be sure to give the presets a rip with the boost knob to see how things function. What a great idea!
The amp section of this suite makes me very happy to look at and play on. No settings or controls have been missed, everything sounds terrific to say the least. The Valvestate was considered high gain for the era though by today’s standards, it lacks a pinch. Audiority has become known for adding very cool mods so it would be great to see a saturation or gain boost added here. I think it would give it just that extra bit more that it needs to fully fit in with any of the high gain amp sims patrolling the front lines these days.
There’s no clean channel in the Valvestate, it’s more of a driven clean than a “crystal” clean. You can get it real close to clean but never really all the way there but in all honesty, the driven cleans are more than enough to get by. The main way I used the analog version was to crank the normal channel with the crunch switch engaged. The VS8100 covered this tone to perfection to where it actually had me smiling like a punk kid in a garage with his buddies on a summer day with the doors open (before the cops came to shut it down haha).
The high gain side of the amp has two stages; OD1 and OD2. The included EQ/boost adds a ton of shaping options and to my surprise, the djent players that tested the plugin along with me raved about it non-stop. For rock and mid gain tones, I prefer the normal channel with crunch to the boost channel’s OD1. For high gain tones, it’s OD2 all day long so OD1 is kind of that in between channel that I use less. The Contour knob is as crucial as it gets for the boost channel. It can either add a scooped flavor to the tone or it can add a bit of a mid bump.
Next in the chain is another EQ, this one modeled from a Mesa Boogie 5-band. This EQ is the same as or at least very similar to the one traditionally seen in most of the Mesa Boogie Mark series of amps. At this stop users can choose to fine tune things before the signal hits the cabinet section. This EQ can be really great for everything from a bump here and there to an all out 80s style mid-scooped valley. This EQ can also act as another gain stage in the plugin if used right.
The cabinet section includes selections from Dr.Bonkers Sound Lab and Valhallir which is a comforting factor. Neither company has a bad IR pack in their entire product line. The original analog Valvestate 8100 stack included a terrible under-sized 412 cabinet that sounded like it was made out of cardboard and car audio speakers. All that was ever required for the VS to sound good was a good sounding cabinet. Audiority added a small but very effective selection of single mic and blended 412 IRs that covers a lot of ground. A variety of speakers, mics and positions are available.
The cabinet section also has a built in loader that actually has a proper navigation window. This is a something that many developers do not include so it’s nice to see them when they pop up from time to time. Having the ability to navigate between folders and files quickly is important to my workflow. On the downside of the loader, the navigation and quality come at the price of a slightly higher than normal amount of CPU being used. The names on the files could be altered to promote ease of use.
UPS / DOWNS
As a long time Valvestate user, it’s just so awesome to have this amp in plugin form. The plugin does all the things the analog amp can do and a lot more. When I found out Audiority was going to do a Valvestate, I was immediately excited to put it to work with modern applications. I already knew from the amp’s history and also my history with it that the amp could perform terrific classic distorted tones and the VS8100 performs all of those tones flawlessly.
When I moved to the aforementioned modern applications, I wasn’t the least bit surprised at the plugin’s capabilities. Djent, thrash, rock, hardcore, metalcore, pop punk, you name it, it can do it without a lot of effort. The ease of dialing in this plugin is hugely enjoyable, even when trying to cover new ground the amp isn’t known for.
On the down side, to really nail modern high gain tones, the amp could use a gain or saturation mod to get the extra reach. I feel the IR loader is a little bit CPU heavy and the names on the files could be made to be a little more straight forward. Other than that, I really have nothing bad to say!
Do you have the amp and want more presets? Check out our collections of VS8100 presets in the Preset Vault!