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It’s not always practical to transport bulky amplifiers to gigs, rehearsals, and recording sessions. While it’s hard to beat the sound of an electric guitar being played through a high-quality amp, some scenarios require a portable, mobile solution.
Amplifier simulator pedals allow guitarists to access a wide range of tones while keeping their rig as compact as possible.
In this guide, we’ll present the 6 best amp simulator pedals so that you can choose the best option to broaden your tone-shaping options.
What are the Best Amp Simulator Pedals?
Amp Simulator Pedals Reviews
Known for their various offerings in the guitar amp market, Blackstar has upped their game in their latest iteration of the Amped series, the Amped 3.
The Amped 3 is a lightweight, floor-based solution that brings together a multi-channel front end, a powerful 100-watt Class D digital power amp, Blackstar’s CabRig technology, and versatile connectivity. It encompasses all the features you would anticipate from a traditional amp head, and perhaps even more, in a compact and portable design.
Without even getting into the sound, one would be mistaken in not mentioning how Amped 3 excels cosmetically. With the Amped 3’s sleek design and sturdy construction, along with a deep black finish and minimalistic look, the Amped 3 exudes elegance and style.
As mentioned, the Amped 3 is the third iteration in the Amped series. Although it utilizes identical housing to the Amped 2, some features are removed, while others are added. The onboard modulation and delay effects, as well as the built-in guitar tuner and the ‘USA / UK / Classic’ amp voicing switch, are no longer present.
Initially, this might appear as a step backward for the Amped series. However, it represents a pivot toward a fresh direction that prioritizes expanded gain possibilities through three channels, each offering two voice options.
The Amped 3 now includes a Crunch channel, an additional Overdrive channel, and simplified reverb controls, empowering players to shape their ideal amp tone. The patented ISF knob seamlessly transitions between UK and USA-style amp voicings, or a blend of the two, unlocking an array of tonal possibilities. Overall, I found the sound quality delivered by the Amped 3 to be top-notch.
While the focus has been on enhancing the amp channel options, some might feel that the effects aspect has been somewhat overlooked. The Amped 3 still offers two 9V outputs to power additional pedals, but the maximum 500mA output might present limitations.
Although this feature remains valuable, the absence of onboard effects means players must now acquire and transport their own delay, modulation, and tuner pedals, unlike the Amped 2.
Despite this compromise, Blackstar’s ability to incorporate numerous features into a compact unit deserves praise. The improved tonal options and versatility solidify the Amped 3 as the premier choice within Blackstar’s Amped series. It serves as a testament to Blackstar’s unwavering commitment to providing musicians with exceptional pedal amp solutions.
- Increased tonal functionality and gain possibilities
- Sleek, stylish yet sturdy design
- Versatile connectivity options
- Reduced delay, reverb and modulation functionality
I’ve been highly impressed by every Strymon pedal I’ve encountered in the past, and this Iridium amp simulator continues that trend.
A highly versatile pedal, the Iridium houses a total of 12 emulations – 3 based on classic amplifiers, and 9 diverse speaker cabs. The complexity of the presets is brilliant, with every slight nuance and detail included in the sound.
The amp and speaker emulations range from modern, solid-state types to vintage tube amplifiers of decades gone by. Although they’re not named after specific amps or cabinets, you can hear the influence of the likes of Fender, Marshall, and Orange.
If you use a wide selection of effects pedals in your guitar rig, this boutique amp simulator will blend with them to create fresh, unique sounds.
I’d recommend experimenting with the position that you place the Strymon Iridium in your signal chain, as it produces some interesting and varied results.
- This pedal houses a wide range of authentic-sounding amplifier tones, suitable for rock, blues, and other genres
- Allows you to play your electric guitar without needing to transport an amplifier
- Very useful for recording directly into an audio interface
- May require experimentation to find the best signal chain placement
At first glance, the striking ACS1 by Walrus Audio looks like a fairly complex stompbox. However, despite its array of tweakable parameters and features, this pedal is very easy to operate.
The tonal diversity of this amp and cab simulator pedal is typical of Walrus Audio. If you enjoy the warm, unmistakable sound of tube amplifiers from the 1960s, I’d highly recommend checking out this pedal’s 3 amp models.
The rotary controls are laid out to resemble those found on the front panel of a tube amp. There’s a three-band EQ for frequency adjustments and parameters that control the dynamics and gain.
Walrus Audio has also installed a headphone output on the ACS1, which is an invaluable tool for rehearsing in silence.
Another aspect of this amp modeling pedal that I found useful is the boost control. This makes it easy to propel your electric guitar above the mix and removes the need to spend extra money on a standalone boost pedal.
- The pedal is intuitively laid out to resemble a real tube amplifier
- Includes a boost control that allows you to stand out when performing in an ensemble
- Up to three users presets can be stored in the pedal’s internal memory
- Can sound overly distorted when positioned after certain gain-based pedals
The Helix amp series is one of the most popular and highly regarded creations by Line 6. These solid-state amps are often loaded with onboard effects, presets, and innovative features.
With the HX Stomp, Line 6 has condensed the signature aspects of their Helix amplifiers into a convenient multi-effects processor.
This pedal is predominantly an amp and cabinet modeling tool, with a huge range of presets to choose from. Furthermore, it also includes high-end effects such as polyphonic pitch-shifting, reverbs, delays, and of course, distortion!
While the HX Stomp is mostly aimed at electric guitarists, it also has specific presets for acoustic guitar, keyboardists, and bassists. Consequently, I’d recommend considering it if you’re a multi-instrumentalist.
The connectivity offered by this amp modeling multi-effects unit is also extensive, with the built-in FX loop making it easy to place the HX Stomp in your signal chain.
It also boasts USB compatibility, which means that you can access a range of additional features by hooking the device up to your computer or laptop.
- Includes a huge range of amplifier models and presets to suit all styles of guitar playing
- Makes customizing the existing sound very easy so that you can create unique tones
- Can be used as a USB audio interface for recording purposes
- Some guitarists may find the massive selection of presets and model overwhelming
The Torpedo C.A.B M+ is a compact device designed to provide guitarists with access to a wide selection of amplifier sounds.
With its simplistic two-knob layout, this pedal is extremely easy to use and requires very little effort to set up. By toggling through the 32 presets, you can quickly identify the amplifier and cabinet settings that best suit your tonal aspirations.
Physically, this pedal is robust enough to handle the rigors of extensive use. Its durability is typical of Two Notes devices, and you can guarantee its longevity.
A feature that I found particularly useful when analyzing this amp modeling pedal was its 5-band EQ. Compared to most 3-band equalizers, this makes it possible to customize the presets with considerably more precision.
Along with the Grade-A preamp, the onboard power amp section features realistic emulations of the most popular tubes found in authentic guitar and bass amplifiers, such as EL84, EL34, and the high-gain 6L6.
- Features high-end processing for a pristine and clear sound
- Allows you to customize each preset by changing microphone and room settings
- The two-control layout is extremely easy to use
- Lack of a footswitch means the pedal must be hand-operated
Vox’s legacy as an amplifier manufacturer is unquestionable. With a history spanning decades, they have been responsible for many iconic guitar tones.
The StompLab IG combines a wide range of amplifier presets with a broad selection of onboard effects. I believe that regardless of your playing style or genre, you’ll find many useful settings to enhance your recordings and live performances.
The inclusion of a headphone amp makes this amp emulator pedal the perfect tool for practicing and improving your skills. Moreover, Vox has built a tuner into the device to make it even more convenient.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of playing through one of Vox’s solid-state guitar amps, like the VT+ for example, you’ll be aware of their sonic clarity and versatility.
The StompLab IG features all of the best qualities of those amps, in a much more practical and mobile format.
- Intuitive layout and design with easy to understand categories
- Each amp preset can be modified to suit your preferences
- Metal chassis is highly robust and resistant to damage
- When the unit is muted, the onboard tuner produces some noise
Amplifier Simulator Pedals – Buyer’s Guide
The best guitar amp simulator pedals such as the Strymon Iridium Amp IR Cab Pedal, Walrus Audio Mako Series ACS1 Amp Pedal, and Two Notes Torpedo C.A.B M+ Speaker Simulator Pedal are a worthy investment for most guitarists. That’s because they offer a lot of benefits in every facet of your playing.
Not only do these devices make it much easier to transport your rig from one place to another, but they also open up new possibilities for recording guitar and refining your skills. Here’s a breakdown of the key aspects of amp and cab simulator pedals.
What is Guitar Cab Simulation?
Guitar cabinets are an integral part of any amplifier. They consist of a set of speakers which are fixed within the amp’s chassis, and commonly output the sound that is amplified by the head.
The best cab simulator pedals, also known as amp simulators, are designed to recreate the sound of specific physical cabs.
They achieve this using a sophisticated form of technology called impulse response, often shortened to ‘I.R’. This is used to gauge the sonic characteristics of guitar amplifiers and convert this into a format that the pedal can emulate.
Amp Simulator Connectivity
When you’re looking for the perfect amp modeler pedal for your guitar playing needs, one of the most important things to consider is the connectivity you require.
Many affordable amp modeling devices include the standard ¼ inch jack inputs and outputs so that they can be added to the signal chain.
However, if you’re willing to invest more into a high-end option, you’ll likely find that the best cabinet simulator pedals like the Line 6 HX Stomp Guitar Multi-Effects Floor Processor include FX loops, MIDI, and USB connectivity.
Signal Chain Placement
The conventional position for an amp modeling pedal including the Vox StompLab IG Modeling Effects Pedal is at the very end of your signal chain. This is because the pedal is essentially acting as an amplifier, so you want all your other pedals to precede it to maximize its effectiveness.