ML Sound Lab and Ryan Bruce aka “Fluff” are both pretty well known names to many guitarists worldwide. When I heard they would be collaborating on a plugin together, I wasn’t surprised but I was definitely eager to reap the tone benefits.
Fluff has long been known as a reliable resource for the gear and techniques needed to create great guitar tones. He knows how to pull solid and useful tones out of damn near anything so for him to put his name on an amp sim is definitely going to draw a crowd. The plugin includes two pedals, four amps and matched IRs for each amp.
Users can choose to use just the FREE 5034 + gate / drive or purchase the full compliment of amps for a very affordable price.
The GUI is simple and effective. It’s easy to use and navigate around to find the various tones available. The controls for each amp have been condensed and laid out the same way which does make it easier to get great tones quickly but at the same time, by design it removes authenticity. The controls will get you where you need to go but those looking for a hyper-realistic experience may not get what they seek. It depends on the user and how familiar they are with the analog amps these have been modeled from.
Before the amps, ML Sound Lab has included a duo of tried, tested and true pre-FX pedals. A simple but effective noise gate to calm the situation down a little which is a must for any gainy signal chain and some sort of “green” boost/drive pedal that boosts all of the amps nicely. The board is the same for the FREE and paid/expanded versions though the remaining room on the board is likely a sign of fun add-ons in the future. Looking forward to it!
The first amp in the suite is the 5034 / FREE amp! I have to say up front that it walked in and instantly became one of the best free amp sims made to this point. It has been modeled from the red channel of EVH 5150 III Stealth34. The Stealth34 is essentially a regular EVH 5150 III with EL34 tubes instead of the stock 6L6 setup. One could also suggest it’s similar to the Peavey 6534 that took the 6505 / 5150 style and did the same a but earlier on.
The 5034 sounds really good on all levels and really comes through reliably for both rhythm and lead. EL34 tubes always seem to make me happier than any other power tube type when it comes to leads and solos. I have always loved the feel EL34s brought to the 5150 family of amps and this one has a lot of those likeable factors. This amp’s job is to leave the user wanting more and it definitely succeeds. Some people dislike the “unlockable” content being so visible but
The 5151 is be based on the red channel of the 1992 “block letter” Peavey 5150 which is sort of the “holy grail” to many 5150 enthusiasts. For me, literally any of the large family of EVH/Peavey amps is a welcomed sight in analog or plugin form but two in the same suite? I feel spoiled! With the massive range of players and styles covered by just these two amps, I can see this plugin having great appeal to many.
The 5151 amp is a really strong offering capable of mid to high gain tone perfection. Van Halen tones? Done. Death metal tones? …c’mon seriously? How about some 90s skate punk tones? Obviously they’re in there and hell, if you wanna go all 2010 with some metalcore chugs, you go ahead and bust out those skinny jeans my friend because, yep, you got it, it’s in there. 5150 lovers may notice a little additional low end to this amp but otherwise, it’s pretty close!
Moving on, we encounter the main rarity of the plugin; The Bill Kelliher (Mastodon) signature Friedman Butterslax! I have been wanting a plugin that modeled this amp for some time now so it was very nice to see. I am 90% sure they modeled CH2 of the classy behemoth. The Freeman can definitely do metal but I very much preferred it for lead work and mid-gain rhythm tones. I love this amp, I really do and I can see it getting a lot of use.
Lastly we have what sounds like the orange channel or “CH2” of a blackface Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. What makes a “black face” or “black plate” rectifier better? Apart from the color… well, nothing really. There’s a myth out there that they sound smoother or less “boomy” but without modifications, they are effectively the same as the silver face/plate model.
For me, the Mega Fluff provides some of the best punk, rock, hard rock and hardcore tones that I have ever heard. Without the screamer, it’s capable of some of the all-out most authentic rectifier mid gain tones that I have heard in a plugin. It’s obviously a bit different to dial in with the condensed controls but they will get you there. Any and every rectifier both plugin and analog that I have used sounded better with some type of boost when it came to metal tones.
The Mega Fluff really tightens up nicely with a boost and I like it for heavy tones. It really feels like the orange / CH2 in the “modern” position rather than the ultra-high-high-gain red channel so those looking for the Cannibal Corpse or Hypocrisy type tones may need to add a bit of gain or saturation to the tone somewhere to achieve them. I could be wrong on this but either way, I was really impressed by this amp.
The suite doesn’t have a cabinet section as much as each amp has a single IR blend that can be either on or off. This was a confusing move to me given that ML Sound are well renowned for their premium impulse responses. The file for each amp has been meticulously matched to perfection but to me this is a bit like a guy with a supercar showing up to a high stakes race without it. It would have been perfect to see an IR loader with even a modest selection of ML stuff included. The lack of a cab section has to reflect on the score which is unfortunate because this section for ML Sound Lab should have been a huge selling feature.
For those that outgrow the internal IR selections or just want to unleash even more of the plugin’s potential, there are two pretty great options. When I added my own loader, I found tons of IRs from a variety of developers sounded amazing with the Amped Roots: Fluff suite but if you’d like to add more ML Sound Lab quality to the tone, a couple options exist. Users can use the fantastic cabinet simulation plugin known as MIKKO which also comes in a FREE version that can be upgraded significantly with a variety of cabs. Another option would be to simply add an IR loader to the chain then load it with ML Sound Lab’s great collection of single mic and blended cab files.
UPS / DOWNS
I’m actually kind of shocked that this is his first signature plugin given his market presence over the years but it’s definitely a welcomed addition to the amp sim market. The gear selection has been very well thought out to include both some market rarities and staples which is really nice to see. They took a chance with a couple slightly less known amps to go with the Mesa and 5150 which immediately makes the suite more unique. Big points for the Butterslax and Stealth34. Thanks guys!
This is not a plugin that is just for djent kids or tech shredders. Every single amp inside Amped Roots is an amp that should appeal to a wide range of players. Whether you are sitting in your bedroom with your custom 8-string looking for CHONK, sitting in your lavish home studio doing divebombs on the Frankenstein replica you paid too much for or anything between, this plugin can satisfy your playing needs.
Depending on how you look at downsides, there are factors to mention. Firstly, all of the amps involved have had their control panels condensed and simplified for ease of use. This is a very common practice and has been since amp sims began but in doing so, plugins always lose out on authenticity, overall feel and versatility. When controls and switches that have a huge impact on the sound of the analog amp are omitted, it makes for a different experience. For some, this could be a plus feature but for others it could be a deal breaker.
The other downside was the lack of a bigger IR selection. With even a modest selection of MLSL’s phenomenal selection of premium IRs, this plugin is damn near perfect. However, I believe the included matched files along with the amps working well with a variety of external premium IRs are all anyone should need to create massive tones with Amped Roots. I am seriously looking forward to their next offerings.
See more: Who better to introduce this plugin than Fluff himself!