Rating: 9 / 10
The plugin world is no stranger to seeing Marshall plugins. There’s one or more Marshall-inspired offering from almost every developer in the game. Softube decided to jump into that game with an amazing selection of fully-licensed Marshall amps, most of which are models not seen in plugin form very often, if at all. In this case the amp in question is the legendary 35w 1962 Marshall Bluesbreaker. The amp has a pretty fascinating history, let’s do the super-quick version.
In 1962 Eric Clapton asked Jim Marshall to make him an amp small enough to fit in the car but loud enough to use on stage. The first result was a 410 model dubbed the “1961” and then came a 212 model called… yep, you guessed it; the 1962. Both amps were essentially the JTM45 in a combo amp size with the 1961 being the “lead version” and the 1962 being the “bass version”. Going even further back, the JTM45 is known to be a modified version of the also-legendary Fender Bassman.
Shift to 1964, the amp known simply as the 1962 became very popular in a flash because of the sound, size and price. In 1966, Clapton’s work on the album “Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton” gave the amp a slightly altered name while launching the sales of the amp through the roof and cementing the amp in the rock’n’roll history books. Since then, whether onstage or backstage, the list of artists to use the Bluesbreaker reads a little bit like the very same history books.
Originally this plugin and a few of the other Softube Marshalls came out as Universal Audio exclusives but are now available in native form for all non-UAD users. They deliver the Bluesbreaker 1962 in a suite that includes a cabinet section and a few other tools. The retail price of Softube’s plugins is in the upper price bracket on par with their competitors. All of the Softube Marshalls are available in solo form but purchasing them will also unlock them for use in Softube’s Amp Room plugin that is available now.
At first glance, the angle threw me off a bit but once given some time to set in, I got used to it fairly quickly. Being that the amp itself is a combo amp, I really like that they didn’t feel the need to turn it into a head for graphic-sake etc. There’s a nice gritty/dusty look to the amp to give it more of a vintage vibe which is a fun visual effect to give the user a better experience. After all, when did anyone last see a perfectly clean, mint condition Bluesbreaker ’62? Maybe the 80s? They make the amp look a little like it’s seen some time in both smokey jam spaces and beer stained stages.
The four inputs are very similar to a few other Marshall creations and for some they can create a little bit of confusion. Channel 1 hi channel 2 low, with the ability to jump channel 1-2. I will usually adjust volume 2 first and than volume 1 to dial it in, then tweak slightly to balance volume and gain. I will either plug into the bottom channel 1 input and play it like that or I will jump channel 1 top input to channel 2 bottom input, it really depends on what sounds better to the user. Understanding how the four inputs interact is necessary in order to get comfortable with how the amp dials in. To perfectly explain, we will leave it to legendary tone master; Pete Thorn in a video HERE.
The amp is definitely not limited to one style but it’s used more effectively for vintage-style tones and more classic / traditional genres. The amp’s strengths revolve more around loose, warm and less articulate sounds, which the plugin does a really great job of reproducing. It’s never easy to tone match with albums from anything earlier than the 1980s using plugins. Trying to match old albums with really the entire Softube Marshall collection however is actually quite easy. Of course, users have to recognize that a lot more than just an amp went into those tones. The board, EQ, pickups and everything else involved in the signal chain have a huge impact on the tone. Many developers have plugins based on the best vintage analog gear so really, users can go as far as they’d like in their pursuit of a truly vintage sound recorded at home.
The plugin also features a very nice hidden cabinet section that gives users full control of an open-back 212 cabinet (likely Celestion Alnico Blue speakers). The cab section can be open or closed cleanly and has a really great looking wood-paneled kind of trim. The cab sections utilized in the Marshall selections are set up very cleanly and easy to use but knowledge of the industry standard short forms for mics etc will make for easier navigation. The internal cab section offers some terrific close and room mic options for users that want more control. The presets do however give the user the ability to cover the full spectrum of this section’s abilities so even users without a lot of experience with mics/positions will still be able to get their money’s worth.
Using the ‘breaker with my own selection of 110, 212, 412 and most notably 410 third-party IRs really just opened the doors for more variations of the amp’s signature sounds. Open back, half back, closed back, it all worked out really well! Also on the topic of third party plugins, I really enjoy adding my favorite fuzz, OD, TS, modulation, delay and really any pedal to the chain with this suite.
UPS / DOWNS
The vintage (how many times can he say vintage in one review?) tones in this plugin are remarkable to say the very least. To have a Marshall Bluesbreaker 1962 in plugin form with this level of authenticity and convenience is a huge achievement. I think sometimes we take these plugins for granted but let’s stop and think about how cool it is to have access to legendary amps just like this to use any time and without needing to wake anyone up. All while having a level of quality that can fool even the most experienced players.
I had a wonderful time with Softube’s Bluesbreaker 1962 and the rest of the killer Softube Marshalls. The terrific modeling of the amp really does a great job not only replicating the sound but also the feel as well. Users can use the Bluesbreaker to flow effortlessly through warm and inviting tones that will impress even the most skeptical of analog tone enthusiasts. The plugin also gives plugin players the chance to experience a very reasonable facsimile of an incredible piece of gear with a great legacy.
There really isn’t a whole lot in the cons column for this plugin but there are a few things worth mentioning. The cab section is easy to use but it takes at least a bit of experience to fully understand what’s being offered. It’s laid out in a way that definitely favors users with a decent knowledge of mics, positions and otherwise. This is certainly not a factor unique to this plugin as we always recommend that amp sim users have a really solid grasp on at least the top mics used for guitar, their differences and most importantly which mics reach out to them most. It’s easy enough to wing it by ear but why poke around in the dark for the door when you can just turn the light on right?
See more: Softube release video