Genres: Blues, Jazz, Southern Rock, Indie Rock, Funk, Folk, Classic Rock
Uses: Rhythm, Lead, Clean
SCORE: 7.5 / 10
AXP / Softamp have been offering up high quality freeware for some time now. Every plugin they offer seems to be a hit.
The FM25 is a plugin meticulously modeled from the Fender Frontman 25R combo amp. If you are at this moment wondering why anyone would model such an odd amp, it was the developer’s first amp. Plus, why not?
The FM25 plugin includes a 2 channel amp, two impulses and onboard reverb.
The plugin looks great, I love the Fender looking knobs. It looks crisp, the controls are all laid out nicely and everything you need is at your fingertips. The FM25 is easy to use for anyone. I regularly recommend this plugin to people getting started with amp sims because of it’s ease of use as well as it’s quality and simplicity.
AXP/Softamp included the stock amp but also added the ability to switch from the stock to the AXP version of the plugin which changes elements in the amp’s gain staging and tone stacking areas. I felt there was a definite difference between the two though they can be similar at times.
The FM25 has a flat out phenomenal clean channel. The shimmer is always a good indication for me. When I say shimmer I mean there’s a nice sound to the pick response across a full chord. I find this to be a simple and effective way to hear quality if you have the volume up a bit. Lower quality plugins just don’t have that shimmer to them. The FM25’s clean tone is immaculate. I spent hours making tones for literally any clean application I could think of and it pulled them all off convincingly. Thumbs way up on the cleans.
The second channel is a drive channel but remember, this is a Fender Combo amp folks, let’s not get too crazy. I felt that keeping the amp’s drive under 4 or so kept the amp in it’s comfort zone. The drive is at most a drive you would use for classic rock or indie rock but beyond that, it starts to degrade the tone for my taste. I got a few really nice classic rock and driven blues tones when I started adding boosts but I actually felt boosting the clean tone with some drive felt better overall for drive applications.
Boosting the FM25 turned over some really great tones. I tried the AXP/Softamp Charbooster and it really matched up well with the amp. I also had some nice luck with Audified’s Multi-Drive Pedal Pro. Boosting the clean channel brought way nicer tones than boosting the drive channel. The clean channel also took well to the Audiority Distortion One and the Brainworx Yellow Drive. Southern rock, driven blues, classic rock and even classic punk tones jumped out of the amp pretty freely.
The FM25 comes with two impulses so it’s really easy to plug and play quickly if you need to but if you have a love for impulse matching like myself, this is a great amp sim for just such a quest. The clean channel matched with seemingly everything. 112, 212, 110, 210, 410, 412, vintage, modern and pretty well every impulse I tried sounded great. The drive tone was a lot pickier about the process but I did manage some nice vintage driven tones with open back 212 and 412 impulses.
The built in reverb is useful. It adds some nice elements and atmospheres to really any of the clean tones. It really makes the plugin just that much more of a complete package.
UPS / DOWNS:
Being able to reach out and grab a clean tone this awesome for free is fantastic. I strongly advise everyone give the FM25 a shot if you are in search of a nice clean tone. I can’t think of a better clean tone available for free and it’s yet another free plugin that really leaves no excuse for bad tones. You don’t need to spend money to sound good.