The Nembrini Audio Cali Reverb is based on the Mesa Boogie Recto-Verb 50 watt head (Series 2). There are many opinions on the differences but to overly simplify; Single Rectifier + Reverb = RectoVerb. Of course there are differences but the amps share a lot more things in common. The plugin was modeled from a stock amp with 6L6 power tubes.
Nembrini Audio has surrounded the 2-channel / 5-mode Recto-Verb with a nice little suite that offers the amp, a great cab section and a few additional tools all for a quality competitive price. Nembrini also have frequent sales so, as I always advise, get on all of your favorite developers’ mailing lists to make sure you always know when the sales are.
The GUI looks great and functions with ease. When starting with the default tone, the ambient mic is blended in a little bit which to my ear, makes the default tone a bit muddy. Muting or turning down the fader for the ambient mic tightens things up nicely to get started. It’s also worth noting that traditionally, the Rectifier family of amps has a lot of low end. For a good starting point, we found it was good to pull the bass controls back to around 10:00 on the dial then increase / decrease as needed.
The amp has two channels but as far as tones go the clean/pushed and raw/vintage/modern switches help to create a lot more than two channels worth of tones. Understanding the two switches on the far right of the panel is the key to unlocking the tones. The first switch is the “clean / pushed” switch. The clean mode has been designed to deliver glassy and full cleans. In the clean mode, the CH1 gain control from 0-5 is going to be crisp and cleaner, beyond 5 will get warmer and a bit rounder.
When the switch goes to the “pushed” mode, CH1 becomes dirty, driven and pleasantly full. It’s a beast but a different type of beast. The switch adds a bunch of gain to a low gain circuit and the end result is a lot of crunch. Like the analog amp, If you turn the gain all the way up, setting the treble high can create a some issues. To avoid this, try not to go above 6-7 on the treble and instead use the presence control to add more high end.
Moving to CH2, the big show is the 3-way switch on the far right of both the analog amp and plugin. In the early 2000s Mesa came up with a different kind of presence circuit for the 3-channel rectifiers. This set up carried over to the Road King and Roadster on their relative channels. The three modes alter the power amp response to negative feedback and thus the amount of distortion it is capable of producing. Modern delivers the most and raw, the least. This switch has been modeled with care and a player’s ear on the Cali Reverb.
CH2 can deliver a huge variety of driven tones. In Raw mode, hit up dirty and grimy goodness that is rough and tough around the edges for punk, classic rock and other tones most don’t expect from a “Recto”. Vintage mode starts adding some more teeth to the equation with more crunch for skate punk, hard rock and a lot more. Modern is where the high gain aspects of the amp start to come into play. Many of the heavy Rectifier tones we all know and love can be found here. So many genres were based around the Rectifier family of amps. Nu-metal to hardcore, skate punk, death metal and so many other types of beefy brutality can be easily dialed in but the amp takes time to get there.
One of the first thing’s I noticed was an updated GUI from Nembrini’s previous offering. Everything was laid out easily and effectively in the cab section before the new version but the new layout is definitely very smooth to work with. The section provides a terrific sounding collection that features cabs from Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Soldano , Bogner, Fender with a nice selection of industry standard mics. The Soldano / “SLD 412” and the Mesa / MB cabs are my favorites for the mid to high gain areas of the amp but the Bogner 212 and Fender 410 options can really work well when trying add versatility to the clean mode of CH1. There are no bad choices at all in the cabinet section.
The position and distance controls have been optimized so users don’t have to work very hard to find the sweet spots in all of the cabs quickly. Users can also load their own IRs or bypass the cab section entirely in favor of their own loader and IR selection. The Cali Reverb matched up great with a lot of packs from my collection of IRs. A good start would be to try the plugin with a variety of packs based on Mesa Boogie OS / Oversized 212 and 412 cabs. Almost every IR developer has a Mesa OS pack of some sort and it’s likely many of us have at least one in the IR collection. Give them a rip!
Also tucked away neatly into the cabinet section is a simple but handy noise gate and a processing section labeled as “cleaner” that can smooth things out / shape things up a little bit extra. Both tools are appreciated and useful. The cleaner section is very much something that depends on the player’s personal taste. It can be effective but it’s not always necessary.
I don’t personally need a boost section in a plugin as it’s very easy to add my own to my signal chain. However, on the other side of things, having a good boost in an amp sim can make things easier. With newer users leaning on what’s “in the box” and then the loose low end of the Rectifier series of amps, having a boost would benefit the user experience. So many of the famous Rectifier tones involved boost pedals so in the review process, one was required from time to time. The Cali Reverb works well with a wide selection of boost, overdrive and distortion pedals.
UPS / DOWNS
If you like Rectifier type tones, you will love the Nembrini Audio Cali Reverb. It’s a really nice take on a very underrated amp. It can provide soulful driven charm for players that prefer clean to mid gain tones and with a flip of a switch it turns into a battle hardened high-gain tank. It’s a wonderful and very strong offering that is instantly in the top Mesa-modeled products available on the plugin market. The authenticity is pretty solid and the attention to detail is very much appreciated.
The ambient mic really doesn’t help the first impression / default tone at all but it is a useful feature when blended in a very small amount. A simple boost section is not a necessity but it does help provide a more complete signal chain. It would also make the plugin more appealing to the large number of users that prefer not to work outside of the suites. That said, it’s very easy to turn off or mute the ambient mic and add a boost before the plugin in the chain.
See more: Nembrini launch video and some tone demos from the HASR Youtube channel