Neural DSP’s Archetype series of signature plugins has been incredibly well received from the very first offering (Archetype Plini). The plugins are designed to give users a good look at the signature artist’s sounds all in a nice compact and convenient suite. Past versions include collabs with Plini, Nolly, Tosin Abasi and Cory Wong so it’s not hard to see the insane amount of versatility across the series. There was however a need and demand for an Archetype that featured the signature sounds of a more metal influenced player.
Archetype Gojira answers the call! This is a suite focused on bringing the monstrous tones of Joe Duplantier of… yep, you guessed it; the almighty GOJIRA! Fan or not, any guitarist that’s heard the band can at very least appreciate their incredible array of guitar tones. Whether it’s their first or most recent album, the band has always been backed by a gigantic wall of tone.
For me, the Archetype series isn’t as much about trying to get guitarists one specific band’s sound, it’s about providing a great suite full of components that can be used for a number of applications. This is the first time I have gone into an Archetype review as a long-time fan of the artist but I have always gotten a lot of enjoyment from the plugins regardless of the name involved.
Archetype Gojira is a three-amp suite with a very nice selection of pre/ post effects, three cabinets and a lot more for a price that is a little higher than the other plugins in the series though it’s worth mentioning that there are more components included than ever before.
The plugin’s GUI looks otherworldly good even for Neural DSP. Their plugins always look and operate flawlessly but I have to admit that this one dropped my jaw. The textures on all of the components are immaculate, they look like you can reach out and grab them. The look is mostly dark but there are light accents everywhere to even things out nicely. I am not always one to put a ton of stock in just the looks of a plugin but it’s almost as fun to look at Archetype Gojira as it is to use it. One thing I notice to be missing from the company’s fairly uniform layouts is the high to low quality / oversampling control, which was puzzling for a moment until the company clarified in a statement quote below:
A new audio engine powering Neural DSP pluginsOur analog modeling technology has been shifting towards completely automated machine-learning-based methods.We have developed a new audio engine that uses a proprietary anti-derivative trigonometric interpolation (AATI) algorithm to convert any sample rate used in the system or DAW to an optimum internal processing sample rate. The AATI algorithm allows us to use our machine-learning-based black-box modeling techniques for a wide range of effects in special amplifiers and distortion pedals.The benefit of using our AATI algorithm is vastly improved stability and CPU efficiency, allowing us to achieve optimal CPU performance and audio quality for any DAW sample rate. This change removes the need for an oversampling switch in our plugins – a change many users have noticed in Archetype: Gojira, with which many users are reporting dramatically improved CPU performance.We intend to roll this change out to all our other plugins over the following months. – Neural DSP
We see a lot of users getting overly caught up in trying to positively identify the amps inside the Archetype plugins, hell, we all do it but it’s a difficult pursuit. To me, it seems like at least a few of the amps in these plugins involve the blending of preamps and poweramps as well as possibly some other little additions to create tones that are closer to the artist’s album / mixed tones. Whereas the company’s licensed products for Fortin, Powered By Omega and others feel more like they’ve been modeled with extreme authenticity to the specific analog components.
The plugin gets started with a whammy pedal and an octaver…. wait what? Yeah, that’s a whammy and an octave pedal! Both are firsts for Neural DSP and neither pedal really had a whole lot of representation on the plugin market at the time of release. The whammy seems like a simplified version of Duplantier’s Digitech Whammy with three positions instead of the original 15+. I owned a Digitech whammy for a few years and I really only used two of the settings so it’s likely that the pedal has been optimized to include the artist’s favorites. To test the whammy, I used both automation and the manual pedal to turn out all the authentic WH-5 tones I had hoped for pretty easily. The Fatso position was my favorite but I had fun across the entire pedal. The plugin is fully MIDI programmable though we did not test those abilities.
The octaver pedal isn’t something that Duplantier has in his live rig but given it’s positioning beside the whammy, it could possibly have been added to replace a couple of harmony/octave settings that had been removed from the whammy so that users could nail the sound a bit easier. Either way, Gojira’s albums can often feature harmonizing and octaver in sections so the pedal is appreciated.
The OCT pedal can act as a very subtle and almost jazzy/fusion/funk addition to Amp #1’s beautiful cleans or added into some high gain for more depth and beyond. I had a lot of fun creating everything from killer funk tones to getting really close to the two tone metal riffage of CKY. Be careful though, playing with high gain and any octaver is more than just turning on the pedal and playing your regular riffs. Playing chords will only turn things into mush, a lot of octave-rock riffage can tend to lean on single notes.
Moving to the second pre-FX panel, users get access to four pedals; a traditional TS/OD type pedal, a distortion pedal, phaser and chorus. This section alone has the potential to create 100 different tones with even just the clean amp in the suite. There are literally endless combinations that can keep users busy and creative for endless hours or simply nail down that one single perfect tone for the application.
I found the OD pedal to be extraordinarily useful with Amps 1 and 2 but overkill for Amp 3. It’s hard to put my finger on which pedal it’s based on. This may have also been an inclusion more for the users given that Joe hasn’t often used a screamer in his rigs. The pedal can create nice vintage rock sounds with Amp 1, it can tighten up Amp 2 beautifully but I didn’t find a lot of use for it with Amp 3 as the amp already has a boosted edge to it. A tube screamer has become an industry standard in suites and Neural DSP always makes sure users have one or more ways to push the amps, add some “cut” to the tone and generally tighten up the sound overall.
The DRT pedal seems to sound and dial in similar to a Proco RAT or something very similar with a filter control. This is another inclusion that I haven’t seen the artist use before but I am beyond excited that he added it to the already killer toolbox. The RAT is a raw, unique, biting masterpiece that was the go-to in the 1980s for everyone from Sunset Strip shredders to Bay Area thrashers and many other players. I don’t know that I ever thought I would see one in a Neural DSP plugin but bravo on a fine job. Like the OD pedal, the RAT sounded best with Amp 1 and Amp 2 but seemed over the top with Amp 3. Use it as a boost or try to blend in some of the exquisite dirt it can provide, just be sure to have the gate ready to clamp!
The PHSR and CHR pedals in the pre-FX section put a big smile on my face. It’s funny how many things about the plugin point to Eddie Van Halen. The EVH amps, the phaser and chorus before the amp in the chain.. all very cool to see. I personally love adding a subtle chorus before a driven amp or a less subtle chorus with a cleaner tone. It creates a lot of depth to rhythm guitars when used sparingly that can really fill out a mix with only two tracks of rhythm. I also love adding it to driven lead passes and solos with a little delay from the post-FX section. The phaser out front can create a very dominant sound in your mix with how the phaser hits the amp and almost starts to get “teeth”. With Amp 1, the phaser and chorus in the pre-FX in addition to the delay and reverb in the post-FX, the atmospheres and soundscapes that can be created will keep users busy (and happy) for hours at a time.
Amp 1 looks like someone built a wooden casing around one of those EVH lunch box amps, it’s a neat look. If I have to guess on this one I would say it sounds something like the clean channel from an EVH Stealth34. The clean channel in the EVH amps is designed by Fender so it’s more than capable. One thing I noticed immediately was that there seems to be some compression built into the amp itself rather than in pedal form elsewhere. It’s not an obnoxious amount, just a subtle bit to smooth out the dynamics a little bit. I don’t mind this move at all, it really did a great job of evening out the pick attack just enough while being pretty transparent. A bypass for the effect might be the best of both worlds for all users but as is, it sounds great.
Amp 1 is a very tight sounding amp. The subtle compression-type effect makes it really easy to hit the amp up for country, blues, southern rock and relatable genres without needing to tweak too much. Add in a little slapback delay and a very small bit of reverb from the post-FX and it’s quite surprising how much Amp 1 + a Telecaster or Strat can pull off. To bring out the rock side of Amp 1, I matched it up with Cabs 2 and 3. The amp’s matched cab gives me more of a 212 feel but the other two cabinets bring out a little more of the beefy side so using the unlink feature, I had fun swapping cabs in and out while using the IR controls to shape things further. All of it came out sounding really good and it gave the plugin a lot more value overall for the dollar.
Amp 2 is one of the coolest looking single amps I have seen in a plugin bar none. With a sort of weird tiled thing going on but it’s a head-scratcher when it comes to trying to identify which amp or amps it’s based on. It had me thinking Mesa Mark series for a minute, then my ears were telling me it sounded like a block letter 5150 but I honestly have no idea but that’s part of the fun. It’s fine because Amp 2 is really good at being really versatile inside medium to high gain applications. It’s warm, punchy, crisp and plays well with all three cabs, both drive pedals and every other component featured in the suite. The amp can do medium gain modern rock or go full-on military-grade mean with only a few tweaks. Adding the OD and DRT pedals to Amp 2 seemed to be the best match of the three amps and I was able to turn up a ton of great tones with a both pedals. Pull the amp’s gain back to make some room for the dirt from either pedal or use the pedals with more traditional boost settings with the amp gain up. It’s a win-win. Punk rock to tech death, Amp 2 is my favorite amp in the suite.
Amp 3 is a serious gain monster that looks very slick and sounds like a tank. The amp very much resembles the dead red channel of the EVH 5150 III but with some modifications. The amp sounds like it’s boosted internally with some sort of screamer locked in optimized settings or just a pinch of saturation somewhere, it’s hard to say for sure. The amp has so much gain that it’s very easy to get one track sounding like 2-3 layered tracks, especially with the gain up. When mixing two rhythm tracks with Amp 3, I had to dial the gain back to about 40-50% tops even for the heaviest tones because it started to get a little too saturated. Amps 2 and 3 compliment each other very well in a dual rhythm track situation as they seem to fill each other out to perfection.
With the amp being so tight and compressed or potentially boosted inside the amp, the OD and DRT pedals really just don’t come in as handy as they do with the other two amps. The DRT pedal + Amp 3 just ended up making a lot of noise, there’s just no need for it without how much pure muscle the amp has. Without a boost, Amp 3 is thick, crushing, saturated goodness that has everything it needs to dominate. Chugs, djent, death metal and pretty much every high gain application out there can be dialed into the amp without a whole lot of effort. Leads, shred, solos or whatever else one might call fretboard wizardry, all of that is possible as well. The sustain and pick attack the amp provides both make high gain soloing a breeze but adding some delay really adds another layer of use entirely.
The EQ section between the amp and cabinet section is always handy on so many levels when trying to shape the tones even further. Altering the signal before it hits the cabinet can be very effective when it comes to trying to get the track to fit perfectly into a mix. Sometimes just a little bump or two can have just the right effect but, it’s also a key tool in trying to achieve either a nice scooped tone or perhaps a mid-heavy djent tone. With so many tone altering / shaping options available, it’s nearly guaranteed that users will find what they are after.
Adam Nolly Getgood (Periphery, GGD, producer) has made a nice new career for himself as an impulse response developer. He has done the terrific Zilla cab plugin for his own company and over time also seemingly took over the in-house IR duties for Neural DSP from his predecessor ML Sound Lab. The quality of his work has always been very good but it has noticeably improved over time. In this case, the plugin has three meticulously developed cabinets that do very well with all of the amps though I have no idea what speakers or actual cabs were used. The loader also features the ability to load user IRs conveniently and efficiently.
The dual 3D cab section features a matched cab for each amp that can either stay linked to their amp or unlinked to be mixed and matched with any of the amps via the link feature. The cabs all have a 412 graphic in the Archetype series and it definitely creates some more mystery with identifying things. Cabs 2 and 3 give me the full 412 sound experience but Cab 1 has more of a 212 feel to my ears which is nice to have in the selection. I loved all of the cabs with all of the amps as there just wasn’t a point that anything sounding out of place. Having this kind of chemistry between components can really make for a ton of tone exploration.
For newer users and beginners, we never suggest 3D cab sections as micing a speaker optimally can be quite difficult. That said, Neural DSP always includes a great selection of presets that can point any user in the right direction. For the most part, I am a fairly simplistic person when it comes to mics and positions as I tend to only use a single 57 and this approach turned up a ton of amazing tones before I even engaged the right side of the dual cabinet. When I did add in the right side, the mic / position combinations open up an even wider range of tones but this will depend on the user’s knowledge of mics, which to blend and how. The section gives users the ability to get pretty in-depth or to keep things simple depending on their needs.
Standalone users will love the Post-FX section and all of the wonders it brings to the table. The reverb and delay pedals are both very effective, versatile and very easy to use. Post effects are always a bonus but for tracking purposes, these sections don’t always work out given the need to put EQ after the cabinet. The section is easily bypassed for players using Archetype Gojira in a DAW that choose to apply their own delay and reverb after their EQ.
The delay included is awesome. It’s simple but flexible and editable at the same time. I was able to get everything from a really nice slapback for country, subtle to full shred solo delays and just about anything I could ever need for huge worlds of clean tone atmospheres. The reverb does a great job of creating a large variety of spaces. It gives the user the ability to have as much or as little of the effect as needed with an additional shimmer effect. It’s really easy to get lost with Amp 1 and literally every stomp in the pre and post effects sections but with amps 2 and 3, I only found the delay handy for leads/solos.
UPS / DOWNS
It’s a very solid plugin that definitely covers even more territory for Neural DSP. It’s another solid collaboration with an artist that has a great mind for tone. It’s a different animal entirely from all of the other Archetype offerings and I’d say totally worth every dime for high gain players / enthusiasts. The plugin might appear to be nothing more than a high gain machine to some but while there was no heavy tone that I struggled to achieve with the gear offered, Archetype Gojira is not at all limited to chugs and sqeals. I was able to hit up tones for so many non-metal or high gain genres but make no mistake, the main goal here is to crush things!!
I wouldn’t say there are any downsides to the plugin for everyone though there are a few things worth mentioning. Some users may see the plugin as CPU heavy but with the growing demand for better plugins comes the need for better hardware to support it. All users should be very sure to go to Neural DSP’s product page to check the minimum computer specs required to run the plugin efficiently. This is even more important for standalone users hoping to run the plugin with zero latency on a laptop. It would also be nice to have a control or bypass for the compression-type effect in Amp 1 as it becomes a little less necessary as the amp’s gain knob is increased.
Overall, I really enjoyed the entire suite. Neural and Joe Duplantier definitely came up with a unique plugin that delivers more than just the average modern tones. It’s a collection of components that will help guide users towards some of Gojira’s album tones but also gear that the artist and developer just thought would be rad to have in the plugin.
Who will be the next signature artist? It’s impossible to tell but we look forward to it!
See more: Neural DSP launch video and some tone demos from the HASR Youtube channel