The Friedman BE100 or “Brown Eye” as known by many was born from a love for Marshall amps. Dave Friedman started out modding Marshalls and other amps for everyone from the average Joe to rock titans and he still mods them to this day. However he also started his own very successful company with his own flagship amp; The Friedman BE100.
The amp known as “the modern plexi” has only grown in popularity since it’s inception and the company’s artist roster is beyond loaded with impressive names that can be found right HERE. Jerry Cantrell, Steve Stevens, Dave Grohl, Bill Kelliher, Lizzy Hale, Phil X and many others can be found with the Friedman name behind them on stage.
The Friedman duo of amps from Brainworx were originally released as Universal Audio exclusives that could only be used with their expensive hardware. Fast forward a few years and the amps are now available in native versions compatible with most interfaces. The amp comes along with a cabinet section, delay, gate and more features included.
The GUI could honestly not look nicer. Brainworx have never even one single time failed to deliver a great looking and easy to use GUI. Both Friedman plugins look impeccable and operate with very little work needed. It looks just like the real amp but with the FAT and C45 switches on the front instead of the back for convenience.
Everything is laid out nicely and they have added both a way to change the size of the GUI which helps with various scenarios. For the first time ever, Brainworx have finally included a quick cabinet bypass! I could not be more excited for this as I think I have mentioned it in every previous Brainworx review. Great addition for those that prefer their own IRs.
From the first notes, through all the presets and into my own time tweaking I noticed the overall brightness of the sound was lacking. It was hard to find the tones I was hoping to unlock but I did manage to create plenty of very strong tones. All the low end and mid focused muscle of the BE100 are both pretty well represented in the plugin version but the usual “Friedman sizzle” is harder than it should be to attain.
The clean tones are basic but usable in the analog amp so I wasn’t expecting the world from that section however, I was pretty surprised. I was able to pull some nice clean, driven clean and slightly dirty tones from this section. The clean section also boosted nicely with TS and OD pedal plugins for some smooth blue-collar rock. I didn’t find the BE and HBE channels boosted nearly as well.
The BE channel is the amp’s epicenter of tone. The clean channel is useful but fairly limited and the HBE is best suited for lead work so the BE is my go-to. The rhythm and lead abilities inside the BE mode are a lot of fun to create with, play on and mix with. The warm EL34 tube tones shine through and cut nicely despite the darker overall sound. I regularly see the BE100 being billed as a high gain amp and it does have a mountain of it available on the HBE channel. For me, that moutain of gain in question is best used to create ages of great sustain rather than modern chug chug but you be the judge.
To explain the various mod switches; basically they began as Friedman’s various ways of modding Marshall amps and then ended up as features in the BE-100. FAT thickens things up, Saturation is diode clipping and C45 is a different midrange voicing. These mods really all need to be experienced by the player to be understood as they all add their own flavor. I find that all of the mods are useful but they really depend on personal taste. The lack of brightness in the amp made it difficult to confirm the authenticity of the mods but they all have a huge impact on the tone none the less.
The internal impulses sound great but with the amp being a little dark I wanted to ensure it wasn’t at fault. So. to test the IR section, I bypassed the pre and power sections to leave only the cab section active so I could hear just the IR quality. The included IRs are quite bright with a number of amp sims. There are Friedman and “American” options in the selections with the mic, mic position and other IR info available by clicking the RC info button.
UPS / DOWNS
If I look at it as just an amp sim, I would recommend this plugin to any player looking for honest and solid-quality rock tones both rhythm and lead. However for players looking for an ultra-authentic Friedman experience in a plugin, the Brainworx BE100 will get you in the ballpark but I would suggest downloading the free trial of the plugin for your own take on the authenticity.
For me, when a licensed plugin modeling very popular piece of gear is released, the authenticity becomes a bigger factor than usual. My main issue here is that the amp sim sounds much darker than the real deal to my ear. In my experience and research when it comes to the analog BE100, it’s a pretty bright amp. The brightness and higher frequencies are a big part of the BE100’s signature sound so for it to miss in those areas definitely hits the score a little.
See more: Plugin Alliance Friedman BE-100 trailer