Today we’re having a look at Softube’s new guitar amp simulation plugin Amp Room, together with its first expansion, the Marshall Amp & Cabinet Collection.
Featuring 6 amplifiers, 16 cabinets, 10 effects pedals, 3 studio effects, and 8 utility modules, Amp Room offers a luxurious virtual recording studio that is equally accessible for both aspiring newcomers and veteran guitar and bass enthusiasts.
The Marshall expansions add another 5 officially licensed Marshall Amps and 8 matching cabinets together with an elusive array of gold-standard microphones.
For this review, Softube kindly provided us with test versions of Amp Room, the Marshall Cabinet Collection as well as the 5 new Marshall Amp modules. Let’s hop right in and find out what Amp Room and the Marshall expansions have to offer for us composers!
The Swedish team of audio software developers at Softube established themselves as one of the pioneers of authentic hardware emulation ever since they released their very first plugin over ten years ago. With their original “Vintage Amp Room” and “Metal Amp Room” plugins, they set foot into the world of capturing realistic guitar tones from highly sought-after amps and expensive recording chains. Both plugins quickly became favorites among both bedroom composers and professional music producers alike for their convincing sound and authentic tonal behavior. Legendary guitar amp manufacturer Marshall Amplification was so impressed with Softube’s work that they soon offered the Swedish team an exclusive license and endorsement for emulating their hardware products.
The new Amp Room plugin is not only a completely reworked and refined version of the original software, but it offers an entirely new and modular ecosystem of pro-level guitar and bass sounds, adding a huge amount of new features and possibilities.
A MODULAR RECORDING STUDIO
The new Amp Room plugin comes with a completely redesigned look that makes it a breeze to create your very own recording chains. The plugin is laid out in a modular fashion, meaning that you start with a blank canvas and drag in sound modules as you go. Your library of modules at the left of the GUI is logically structured into five categories: Pedals, Amps, Cabinets, Studio FX, and Utility modules.
In the main window, you create a signal processing chain that your signal runs through from left to right. Your clean guitar or bass signal gets passed through the different types of gear one after another, just as it would in a real-world scenario. The sequence of gear suggested by the structure of the library is a typical sequence for guitar and bass recording, but nothing stops you from switching it up and putting stuff wherever you like it. You can also put in so-called Split modules to split your signal into two or more paths and send threm through different amp and cabinet combinations.
You can either click on modules in the library to add them to the end of your chain, insert them by clicking on the “+” symbol between existing modules, or just drag them to the exact position you desire. Once placed, you can easily drag modules around to change the sequence of processing.
The top of the interface features an array of cool utility functions, including a noise gate, a DTC control, a headphones mode, as well as a tuner. The DTC (Dynamic Transient Control) control works like a transient shaper and adds more attack to your dry signal. The headphones mode adds a simulated room sound to your guitar signal to make up for the unnaturalyl dry listening environment when recording with headphones.
Lastly, Amp Room provides you with 260 elaborate presets created by the expert guitar sound designers at Softube. These offer a generous supply of bread-and-butter starting points as well as more experimental processing chains made for unique guitar tones.
Amp Room offers an elusive collection of iconic amps, cabinets and microphones you can use to create authentic guitar and bass sounds. The gear is faithfully modeled after sought-after, vintage hardware from brands like Fender, Vox, Marshall, Engl, and Ampeg. Although Softube is allowed to use the official brand name on only the Marshall gear, you can quickly discern the real-life counterparts of the other amps by their looks and sound.
Based on the sound and information Softube gives us, these are my guesses for the amps and the potential hardware they are modeled after:
- Marshall JCM 800 (1981 Marshall JCM 800)
- 30W Top Boost Green Amp (1964 Vox AC30)
- Dual Tremolo Brown Amp (1966 Fender Twin Reverb)
- 100W High Gain Metal Amp (ENGL Powerball?)
- 100W Bass Amp (1970s Ampeg SVT?)
Those amplifiers come with their respective loudspeaker cabinets as well as some additional ones modeled after famous Orange Amplification cabs. Softube also throws in the original cabinets that were included in the original Vintage Amp Room plugin. Made possible through the close collaboration with Marshall, Amp Room features a selection of four vintage Marshall cabinets from the 1960 series.
All cabinets are equipped with at least one microphone you can move around freely in front of the virtual loudspeakers to achieve different guitar tones. Some cabs even offer two or more microphones and allow you to continously adjust their balance and width. As with the amp and cabinet selection, the microphones available represent a collection of rare and iconic microphone models from brands like Neumann, AKG, Royer, Shure and more.
Amp Room features 10 effects pedals and 3 studio FX you can use to subtley shape your guitar tone or entirely turn it upside down. The stock pedals represent studio-standard units such as various overdrive and distortion pedals (some modeled after popular BOSS units), a chorus, a delay, a reverb, a compressor and a parametric EQ. One of the pedals particularly worth noting is the one tightly modeled after a 1988’s Marshall Guv’nor distortion pedal, made famous by iconic guitarists such as Gary Moore, Josh Klingenhoffer or Rage Against The Machine bass player Tim Commerford.
The studio FX include an EQ and compressor module programmed after the popular API 550 and 2500 Class-A units. You also get a dedicated room simulation module that emulates a recording room with close and far microphone positions. A particularly special feature of Amp Room’s studio FX is, that other Softube plugins you own will also show up as studio FX modules in Amp Room. This way, you can use your beloved studio plugins to shape your guitar tone, all from one single plugin instance. Currently, the following Softube plugins are available in Amp Room:
- Tube-Tech CL1B Compressor
- Trident A-Range EQ
- Softube Tape Saturation plugin
- Softube Tube Delay
AUTHENTIC GUITAR SOUNDS
Each of the six amp models in Amp Room features its own, distinct set of guitar tones. Just with their real-life counterparts, some amp-and-cab combinations put themselves forward for certain musical styles or playing techniques. The Dual Tremolo Brown (Fender) amp offers pristine clean tones for pop, funk and country, while the 30W Green (VOX) amp has a classic, twangy British Invasion sound. Of course, the Marshall JCM 800 delivers everything from blues to classic rock and 80s hair metal, while the ENGL inspired 100W amp provides you with a modern rock and metal sound.
I could A/B only two of the six simulated amp models with their original hardware equivalents (though not the same year of manufacture), but the similarities were astonishingly obvious. The sound and characteristics of the models are extremely close to the originals which is not limited to their sound only, but also becomes apparent through the dynamic behaviour of the amp sims. Real amps behave very differently depending on how soft or hard you play your guitar and the amps in Amp Room emulate just that very, very well.
The range of the tone, gain and volume controls is very close to the hardware originals and the quirks and characteristics of the particular brands are captured close to perfection. Although a huge portion of the sound is established by the amp and cabinet chosen, the microphones used for capturing the guitar signal also play a big role. For some of the cabinets, Amp Room offers different microphone combinations that have a substantial impact on your final guitar tone. Playing around with various settings and mic positions can lead to entirely different results, just as it would in a real-life studio scenario.
All of the pedals and studio FX are super-easy to control and can shape the overall guitar tone drastically, especially in conbination with the many great sounding amps and cabinets. Depending on your settings and the positions of the effects in your chain, you can achieve quite spectacular and experimental sounds in no time.
MARSHALL CABINET COLLECTION
Shortly after the release of Amp Room, Softube released a first expansion pack for the plugin in collaboration with Marshall Amplification. The Marshall Cabinet Collection adds 8 classic, handwired Marshall cabinets to Amp Room, together with multiple microphone options for each.
The range of cabinets includes the following elusive 4×12, 2×12, and 1×12 models:
- Marshall 1960B 4×12”
- Marshall 1960BV 4×12”
- Marshall 1960AX 4×12”
- Marshall 1960HW 4×12”
- Marshall 1936 2×12”
- Marshall 1936V 2×12”
- Marshall 1912 1×12”
- Marshall 1974CX 1×12” Open Back
Each model brings its own distinct sound characteristics and set of microphones. The cabinets were captured in a way that provides you with control over 6 single microphone options and 6 different multi-mic setups. The cabinets are compatible with any of the amplifiers featured in Amp Room, which allows you to create both classic Marshall tones or more unusual and fresh combinations.
In addition to the Cabinet Collection, Softube released 5 iconic Marshall amplifier models that defined the history of rock ‘n’ roll. These amps range from praised vintage units like the legendary 1962 Bluesbreaker to modern classics like the JMP 2203. The amps can be used on their own, stand-alone plugin or within the Amp Room ecosystem. All of the amps and cabinets were recorded and engineered by acclaimed producer Tony Platt (AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Motörhead).
The amps are sold individually and encompass the following products:
- Marshall Plexi Super Lead 1959
- Marshall 2203KK Kerry King Signature
- Marshall Silver Jubilee 2555
- Marshall JMP 2203
- Marshall Bluesbreaker 1962
Same as with the amps and cabinets that come with the standard version of Amp Room, Softube went to great lengths to capture the unique characterists of these amps as closely as possible to the hardware originals. Within just a few clicks, you have iconic rock, pop and metal tones under your fingertips that had me shredding on my guitar for hours. The sound of the amplifiers is flawless and the sonic behaviour and character of the amps leaves nothing to be desired.
The sound and tonal options of the officially licensed Marshall emulations make it easy to recreate the guitar tones of many classic albums and provide you with all the tools you need to make them your own.
With Amp Room, Softube managed to create a state-of-the-art modular, guitar recording platform that sets new standards when it comes to authentic amp simulation. The interface is super straightfoward and allows both beginners and experienced users to quickly dial in convincing guitar tones. Part of that is surely due to the many carefully designed presets which provide great starting points and interesting effects. But even if you create your recording chains from scratch, it’s hard to come up with bad sounding results.
The Marshall expansions show that Softube is eager to expand the Amp Room ecosystem with new, great-sounding modules that offer a welcome variety in tone and musical styles. I’m excited to see how the Amp Room ecosystem will grow bigger over time, hopefully retaining the top quality of modules it features now.
In terms of price, Amp Room positions itself well below other established amp simulation plugins while offering a better quality and cleaner interface than most of its competitors.
Amp Room, the Marshall Cabinet Collection and the five Marshall amp plugins are all available as downloads through Softube’s online store. The current prices are as follows:
- Amp Room – €149
- Marshall Cabinet Collection – €39
- Marshall amps – €149 each
For owners of the Vintage Amp Room, Bass Amp Room, Metal Amp Room, Amp Room Bundle, and Volume Plug-in Collection, Softube offers discounted upgrading options to the products above.