There are a number of talented Russian developers doing amp sims. One of the newer companies out of Russia is Nalex. They released a number of freeware amp sims last year that turned some heads and piqued the interest of many players.
The Nalex Crunchman is modeled after a Friedman BE (Brown Eye). It’s a very popular and unique sounding amp capable of Already in its first release this was a good amp sim. Now there has been a couple of quick updates that makes it even better.
In version 2 the DSP coding was updated to improve the sound. In version 2.1 it got a huge improvement in the UI with a new graphic design made by Luan Albani (drop by the HASR Usergroup on Facebook if you want to give him some credit for this!). And in the newly released version 3 the Crunchman get’s an integrated poweramp, in earlier versions it was a preamp only sim.
The once modest and plain GUI has been updated in a big way. It now looks simply amazing with the same ease of use. Just by looking at it, if you would never know it was freeware. One could be easily fooled to think this was a high level paid release. Freeware looks and sounds better every single day and the new Crunchman GUI is proof of that.
The Crunchman is a two-channel amp, modeling the BE and HBE channels of a Friedman BE amp but leaving out the clean channel and accordingly there’s basically no way to get clean sounds from it. Think of the BE as a crunch / rhythm channel and the HBE as the high-gain or lead channel. The BE100 is a high gain amp but it’s much better suited to vintage high gain applications. Ideally the HBE channel for me is just for leads only but everyone is different and this plugin has tones for days.
All the controls on the front panel are shared between the two channels. There is a gain control, a tonestack with bass/middle/treble controls, and presence + volume controls for the poweramp. At the end there is a master volume which is great for being able to push the amp’s channel volume to 10 while using the power amp knob as the master volume. Having this setting makes for more gain staging options and thus more tones.
There are also a two voicing switches. One called Fat which boosts the low end and makes the amp sound a bit more . Then there’s a switch called CFF which might be similar to the C45 switch on a Friedman. In any case it gives a slight variation to the amps mid-range voicing. Treat this the way Friedman suggest for their C45 switch: “Turn it on. If you like it leave it on. It’s kind of cool”. I find this switch comes in very handy when trying to get leads and solos to stand out a bit better in a mix but it also adds a nice vibe to rhythm tones depending on your pickups.
In the past, the plugin required an outside power amp plugin but with the jaw-dropping new GUI, the Crunchman also got an added power section. The power section doesn’t sound like that of the real BE-100 though it does provide some nice tube-like warmth. I really like being able to use the plugin as an all-in-one but having a bypass for the power section would be a good suggestion.
The amp includes no cab section or IR loader so you need to add your own in the signal chain. If you don’t have an IR loader, check HERE for suggestions. Since Friedman amps was born from modded Marshalls, reach for your favorite Marshall 412 IR packs and if you don’t have any, there are plenty of FREE ones out there. There are also many Friedman IR packs out there from various developers but ultimately, the Crunchman plays well with a very wide variety of IRs. I strongly suggest Nalex install a single impulse response with a bypass to make it even easier to use and a complete head/cab.
UPS / DOWNS
Overall the Crunchman seems to be well modeled and sounds really great. The whole amp is extremely fun for playing classic / vintage rock, punk, hard rock and beyond. While the amp is technically high gain, it’s definitely not a modern high gain, even the high gain channel I found best for lead work.
With it’s stellar GUI and great tones the Nalex Chrunhman in it’s version 3 incarnation is yet another amp sim showing just how good freeware is getting. If you are looking for some hot-rodded British influenced tones, download the Crunchman ASAP and take it out for a spin. The price is certainly just right for any budget.