The Marshall Valvestate was the first solid-state amp Marshall ever produced. It was designed to be a cost-effective and reliable way to get the Marshall sound and it was extremely well received from the moment it hit the market in the early 90s. It came out in both combo and head/cab formats though the head became the most popular of the bunch. The VS line had a few models but the 8100’s legacy is the only one to make it through the years.
It took about zero seconds for players from literally every style and genre to make the amp hugely popular. It was capable of delivering really great distorted sounds without the help of a pedal which was fairly rare for lower cost amps at the time.
Players from all styles and genres including myself turned to the amp for a variety of gainy sounds. Sure it was easy to see why guys with less money flocked to the amp but for Chuck Schuldiner, Dino Cazares, Billy Gibbons, Tommy Victor and then later members of Strung Out, In Flames, Meshuggah etc to use the amp when they could use literally anything says something.
Audiority came onto the amp sim scene with the incredibly versatile and free L12X based on the tiny Marshall Lead 12. The company then announced the Solidus line of plugins based on solid-state amps with the first one being the Solidus VS8100. It’s based on the…. yep you guessed it. As of the first major update, the amp comes in a suite with a gate, boost pedal modeled from the Horizon Devices Precision Drive, pre and post EQ sections, a large selection of IRs from Dr.Bonkers Soundlab, Valhallir, Seacow and more. All for a very affordable price.
Audiority manages to consistently ensure their plugins have uniformity in the GUI. Their stuff always operates flawlessly so I was more so curious than concerned as to how the GUI would be laid out. You would never know that this was the company’s first time doing a multi-panel set up like this. The company went even further with an update that changed the GUI completely with the addition of a smoother workflow, new components and more. Updates are always great for the internal workings of a plugin but when updates also add useful components, it’s always a win win.
One thing I really like about the GUI is that it’s really easy on the eyes in every way. Rather than being dark with high contrasted lighter features, the VS8100 has a softer background. Everything functions seamlessly, the workflow is fast and getting great tones could not be easier. For those that prefer the blackened background look or just like having multiple options, there’s a “dark mode” that can be accessed via the top left menu. Everything is laid out so nicely for a great workflow and ease-of-use.
The first component in the suite is a simple but effective noise gate. The three position switch gives users three different feels and it’s very effective. Simple and could use use a few small tweaks for lower gain playing but for the mid to higher gain sounds, it really clamps in just the right ways. Users intending to use their own boost pedals with the VS8100 will want to make sure to bypass the internal gate in favor of their own gate plugin to maintain signal chain integrity.
For the boost / pre-FX section, Audiority has included the ability to create your own one knob boost! A fine example of a one knob boost would be the Fortin Grind pedal. The basic idea of these pedals is that one knob is used to boost a signal right after the signal passes through an EQ curve that is unique to the pedal. The one knob boosts can be handy or they can enhance stuff that might not be your thing. Luckily with the VS8100 boost, you can make your own or use the presets in the component panel.
In this section users can utilitze a 10-band MXR M108 EQ to create their own signature sauce boost or use it to recreate a number of different sounds. Huge points for the developer including presets for the two EQ components in addition to the amp because it made it just so much easier to lock in great tones fast. I could see this component being a little bit difficult to get used to without the presets so be sure to give the presets a rip with the boost knob to see how things function. What a great idea!
When the plugin first came out, one of the main suggestions from many users was the addition of a boost pedal to give the amp a modern edge when needed. The company answered with the addition of Dr Drive; a plugin representation of the Horizon Devices Precision Drive. The pedal gives users by far the best version of a precision drive to hit the market at this point and it also drives the solid-state VS8100 immaculately. I really like the analog version of this pedal and while it might seem like an odd choice to pair with an amp made in the 90s, trust me, it’s a perfect match. The pedal is a great way to drive the amp on every channel and mode it has so feel free to reach for it sparingly or religiously. Your call!
The amp section of this suite makes me very happy to look at and play on. No settings or controls have been missed, everything sounds terrific to say the least. The Valvestate was considered high gain for the era though by today’s standards, it lacks a pinch. Audiority has become known for adding very cool mods so it would be great to see a saturation or gain boost added here. I think it would give it just that extra bit more that it needs to fully fit in with any of the high gain amp sims patrolling the front lines these days.
There’s no “clean” channel in the Valvestate really, it’s more of a driven clean than a “crystal” clean. It can get real close to clean but never really all the way there but that’s the amp itself rather than the plugin. I have been able to get some very nice tones for ska, blues, country and even jazz with a proper amount of tweaking. The main way I used the analog version was to crank the normal channel with the crunch switch engaged while bringing back the amp master to about half way. The VS8100 covered this tone so perfectly to where it actually had me smiling like a punk kid in a garage on a summer day with the doors open (before the cops came to shut it down haha).
The high gain side of the amp has two stages; OD1 and OD2. The included EQ/boost adds a ton of shaping options and to my surprise, the djent players that tested the plugin along with me raved about it non-stop. For rock and mid gain tones, I prefer the normal channel with crunch to the boost channel’s OD1. For high gain tones, it’s OD2 all day long so OD1 is kind of that in between channel that I use less. The Contour knob is as crucial as it gets for the boost channel. It can either add a scooped flavor to the tone or it can add a bit of a mid bump.
Next in the chain is another EQ, this one modeled from a Mesa Boogie 5-band. This EQ is the same as or at least very similar to the one traditionally seen in most of the Mesa Boogie Mark series of amps. At this stop users can choose to fine tune things before the signal hits the cabinet section. This EQ can be really great for everything from a bump here and there to an all out 80s style mid-scooped valley. This EQ can also act as another gain stage in the plugin if used right.
The cabinet section originally included a small but very well matched selection from Dr.Bonkers Sound Lab and Valhallir. Neither company has a bad IR pack in their entire product line. In the massive update, Audiority added a large selection of Seacow IRs from their popular “Signature IR pack” that is available HERE. The original analog Valvestate 8100 stack included a terrible under-sized 412 cabinet that sounded like it was made out of cardboard and car audio speakers so there was no need to look around for the factory matched cab. All that was ever required for the VS to sound good was a good sounding cabinet and many players have turned to many different cabinets for it over the years. The included IRs are very nice but unleashing the full power of any plugin can require the use of your own IR selections.
The cabinet section also has a built in loader that actually has a proper navigation window. This is a something that many developers do not include so it’s nice to see them when they pop up from time to time. Having the ability to navigate between folders and files quickly is important to my workflow. On the downside of the loader, the navigation and quality come at the price of a slightly higher than normal amount of CPU being used. Use the VS8100’s loader to load any single file in your IR arsenal at any time and see what hidden treasures the plugin has waiting.
UPS / DOWNS
As a long time Valvestate user, it’s just so awesome to have this amp in plugin form. The plugin does all the things the analog amp can do and a lot more. When I found out Audiority was going to do a Valvestate, I was immediately excited to put it to work with modern applications. I already knew from the amp’s history and also my history with it that the amp could perform terrific classic distorted tones and the VS8100 performs all of those tones flawlessly.
When I moved to the aforementioned modern applications, I wasn’t the least bit surprised at the plugin’s capabilities. Djent, thrash, rock, hardcore, metalcore, pop punk, you name it, it can do it without a lot of effort. The ease of dialing in this plugin is hugely enjoyable, even when trying to cover new ground the amp isn’t known for.
There is no down side at all to this plugin. At the time of release, it was given a 9 / 10 score but with all of the downsides being upgraded significantly in the major update, there’s nothing more to do than to give it a perfect score and wait for the next incredible product from a quickly rising star in the developer world.
Do you have the amp and want more presets? Check out our collections of VS8100 presets in the Preset Vault!