Amp sims Brainworx Reviews

Brainworx Friedman DS-40

The Dirty Shirley promises classic rock tones in an easy-to-use format. We take a look to see if it lives up to that.

Rating: 8.5/10

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.


Friedman amps got their start modifying Marshall amps and I believe they still do to this day. So, it’s not a surprise that several of Friedman’s amps have many similarities with modded Marshalls. In this case, we are referring to the Friedman DS40 “Dirty Shirley”.

The Dirty Shirley is well known to be a direct descendant of the Marshall JTM45 which basically makes Shirley a princess of sorts. The JTM45 has been one of rock’s most popular amps for over 50 years and while many players still use it today, Friedman’s slightly more modern take on the amp is well loved by many.


The GUI looks just like the analog amp right down to the textures. Brainworx have always set a high standard for their graphics. It’s beginner-friendly if users take time to familiarize themselves with the amp and other features. It’s not a complex amp to operate, there’s very little to it even though it can cover a fair bit of ground. I like that Brainworx have added both a cabinet bypass and GUI sizing options. The analog amp’s high and low inputs have been condensed into a switch for convenience.

Right away, the tones surprised me and continue to do so every time I use the plugin. It’s a dirty, sleazy little rock machine capable of a wide range of tones that fall under the massive umbrella of “rock”. The plugin does a nice job of capturing all of the JTM45 influence with the modern Friedman touches. It really comes through reliably for me on a regular basis when I need an honest, no-nonsense and no-BS rock tone.

The plugin includes a cabinet / IR section that works very nicely with the amp. There aren’t many even sort of bad eggs in the bunch of IR files included. Users will find a ton of IRs that use a variety of cabs, mics, positions and more. The selection really comes through during tone creation, tone chasing, mixing and a lot more. Rhythm or lead, Brainworx has made sure every IR file sounds great with the amp section. Big thumbs up for the cabinet bypass once again as it’s much faster and easier than having to go to the bottom of the list.

When I have reached to my own IR collection, I have been pleasantly surprised to hear that damn near every pack I try with it seems to work out nicely. Shirley’s definitely not overly picky about the cabinet that acts as her voice as is also true with the analog version from what I have encountered. This is a great sign because if and when the times comes that the generous cabinet selection provided finds its limits, the change to 3rd party IRs is seamless. 112, 410, 212 and 412, open, closed or half-back, it’s up to the player! Try ’em all!

The DS40 plugin does not come with a boost or overdrive plugin and quite honestly, for many applications, it really doesn’t need one at all. However, those that choose to add their own tube screamer, overdrive, boost etc to the chain will definitely find that doing so opens up worlds of new tone possibilities. The drive function on many screamers and drive pedals are rarely used in the mid to high gain realms but with lower amounts of gain, open those drive knobs up! This allows users to both unleash the true identities of their drive pedals while using them to shape the amps even further.

The same goes for modulation, delay, reverb and a lot more components. When it comes to very simple amps, often times the amps are simply different types of canvases that players can use pedals to paint with. The DS40 “Dirty Shirley is a great example of just such an amp. Go ahead, break out the effects and paint your atmospheric or psychadelic masterpiece! No effects? Brainworx / Plugin Alliance has you covered there too so be sure to check out their stomps.

The additional recording chain components are all very handy. High and low pass filters, the cab section as well as a number of other controls lurk in the FX panel so be sure to have a look. All of the additional components can be bypassed and if using any of your own plugins after the DS40 in the chain, keep your signal chain in mind.


I love the analog amp and I love the plugin as well. Brainworx nailed this one and it’s an absolute joy to work with. It looks, functions and sounds awesome without needing 5 panels of bells and whistles which is a true testament to the real deal. Simple, to the point and great at what it does.

I wouldn’t say it’s a 1:1 replica but it’s a great plugin representation. I can damn near guarantee that any player in search of great tones for blues and literally any type rock from any era will find something to enjoy with this plugin. I would also recommend it as a fine plugin to bring new players to plugins so if you know a rock player out that that you’d like to convert.. look no further.

See more: Glenn Fricker takes a look at the DS-40

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