ML Sound Labs product page (full version)
Stevie T is a pretty well known YouTube personality and also a monster of a guitarist. Some love him, some… not as much but at the end of the day he’s a very recognizable face with terrific skills and thus a possibility for a signature product in this day and age. Enter ML Sound Lab with another plugin for their Amped series.
Amped Stevie T comes in two versions. A FREE version with one amp or a paid version with four amps. The amps are delivered in a multi-amp suite with pre and post FX, matched ML Sound Lab IRs and one of the strangest GUIs you might ever see.
Well, the GUI is definitely something, that’s for sure and it’s a lock that like or dislike the look, you won’t forget it. The amps are made to look like they are made out of cardboard which part of me likes because it’s really different but it might not be for some. It gives the plugin a unique and unmistakable look while somehow managing to be kinda sleek. They could have done this very poorly with lame looking cardboard but instead they went the extra mile and gave it a lot of depth. Everything in the GUI functions smoothly and the plugin is very easy to use for anyone from beginners to experienced users.
The pedal section for all the plugins in the Amped series is almost exactly the same which is a good thing for users looking for that uniform feel from plugin to plugin. The screamer is passable but after about 70% on any of the controls, things can start to get fizzy and a bit thin. The gate is decent, it does the job effectively and the simple reverb and delay components in the post-FX are decent but limited. It’s worth noting that in a tracking setting, we always recommend bypassing the post-FX section of any plugin in favor of using your own after the EQ in your recording chain.
The best way to describe the modeling in most of the Amped plugins is fairly simple; they feel more like profiles vs fully modeled analog amps. To elaborate, each control panel has normally been condensed from the controls of the analog component in question and the controls available often respond in some very strange ways. Condensed controls have always been part of the plugin world and I am all for it providing the controls available have enough value to remain inspired.
The note articulation can get a bit more dull, the gain a bit fizzy and the picking response a bit muffled when cruising too far from the center line but when inside the 40-60 area, all of the amps can be fun to riff on. That said, ML Sound Lab’s stuff is priced to compete with companies that model and code straight from analog so when put along those plugins, the difference in modeling is pretty glaring so the price in turn should be a bit lower.
Stevie T is well known for making playful fun of djent while being pretty good at dialing in a mean djent guitar tone so the plugin fires up accordingly with an amp appropriately named the “Djentgod”. From the first notes, I was kind of feeling it and it did get better with a subtle bit of tweaking but there’s a point where the amp goes from good to bad kind of mysteriously.
The treble knob is confusing. The knob doesn’t really seem to add treble but it does a large impact on the mids and low end of the amp. This follows suit with the other ML offerings having controls that just don’t entirely make sense in relation to a real amp. To keep things sounding crisp and positive, I stayed in the aforementioned 40-60% range on the controls but even inside that range, the amp has pretty much one sound that the controls don’t edit too well. It’s also worth noting that ML Sound Lab has another FREE amp available in their Amped Roots plugin for those wanting more ML for $0.00.
The remaining three amps in the suite are only available in the paid version of the plugin. The upgrade is simple and easy though from here, the amps get a little bit predictable. The review for each amp in the suite is pretty much identical to that of the Djentgod so it seems a little unnecessary. The Rectifier, 5150-ish “Shreddeemer” amp and Fender-ish sounding clean is a standard line-up Basically, every amp sounds solid with the controls at noon or in the area but beyond that 40-60% range we spoke of, the amps all start to get a bit thin, fizzy and even a little confusing.
Amped Stevie T comes with some very nicely matched IRs but again, it’s just not enough. ML Sound Lab have a terrific selection of premium IRs that feature a long list of terrific cabinets so to have such a tiny IR section just doesn’t make sense. A larger variety of speakers, cab builders, mics, positions etc would also give all of the amps more versatility even inside their limited capabilities. When I reached for ML Sound Lab’s terrific Mikko plugin as well as my own loader and IRs from various developers, the results were fantastic. I was able to leave all of the controls around the default position and just use IRs to change the sound as I wanted to with only minimal tweaking needed.
UPS / DOWNS
The FREE amp is 100% worth grabbing whether you are a djent guitarist or not. The single free cardboard GUI + some great tones for $0.00 is a must-have for any guitarist that loves high gain tones. The Djentgod amp is great for multiple high-gain applications as opposed to being “just for djent” so most metal players will find a tone or two worth ripping on. Freeware is always worth exploring.
As we have noted, there are absolutely usable tones from all amps in the box here but the downsides to this one are basically the same as the other ML Sound Lab offerings with the lackluster controls, needlessly small IR selection and lack of feel. The cookie-cutter tone selection features nothing that users can’t do better with more equipped plugins they may already own, including other ML Sound Lab plugins like Amped Fluff for example. With the amp sim market being as competitive as it is right now, the generic “djent, metal, rock, clean” format has been done to a point that in order to stand out, a plugin must be exceptional.
The Amped series has grown considerably in a short time but has yet to really produce a plugin that sounds, feels or dials in like a real amp. They are all capable of usable tones “right out of the box” but ML Sound Lab could be pushing for better results overall that having more of a made-to-last factor.
See more: ML Sound Labs run-through