If you aren’t familiar with John Suhr‘s mods, he created a high gain mod for Custom Audio Amplifier’s CAA 3+ SE Preamp in the early 90s. (Which go for about $1200+ if you can find one.) Eddie used it on the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album. Doug Aldrich (played for Dio and Whitesnake) has the mod in his Marshall Amps, and there are a few presets named after him.
This amp is clearly a classic Marshall tone combined with more hi-gain metal power. Aside from the 3+ Preamp section, the amp has a ’68 Plexi output section. The head sports your standard Bass, Middle, Treble EQ section, as well as Presence to add more high end. The Level controls the mater volume and the Gain adjusts the Channel Gain. Depth is used to boost the low-end of the ’68 Plexi power section.
Like most amp emulation plugins that Brainworx makes for UAD, there is an FX rack built in, giving you a noise gate, filters, and delay. They used several Cabinets in the simulator from Suhr, Mesa Boogie, Marshall, Friedman and Orange. And put a dozen mics on each cabinet, giving you tons of tone options. You can audition these “Recording Chains” by hitting the plus/minus buttons, or better yet, use the auto button, and it’ll cycle through the settings as you play, so it’s truly hands free.
So how does it sound. For the following examples I used a ’95 Fender Stratocaster with stock pickups and an ’08 SG with Burstbucker pickukps. I also stuck with the presets, so you’d get an idea of what it sounds like out of the box. (Not everybody is a tweak head, and many producers/guitarists just need to dial in a sound quickly.)
Here’s the Cleaner Strat preset with a few clips on the ’95 Strat.
The Rock Atmosphere preset adds a bit of effects. If you are producing/mixing in the box, you may prefer to stick with other “studio” grade plugins for the effects, but the built in effects aren’t bad.
Check out our Amplitube Mesa Boogie review.
Now for the ’08 SG. I thought I’d try a Doug Aldrich preset to see what all the fuss was about. I found the sound quite impressive on my studio monitors. The clips below don’t do it justice. Note: I spent zero time “dialing in” a sound on the guitar or the amp, to really put it to the test.
Another SG clipd with the “Polite Rock Crunch” preset.
A couple of clips with the “Humbucker Clean Shaven” preset.
And finally the “Classic LP Rock” preset. I couldn’t figure out if LP meant Les Paul, or Long Play (as in vinyl record.) I guess either way it could mean 70s/80s rock tone.
I don’t think this would be my first choice for a Strat, but definitely liked the tone on the SG. Keep in mind I didn’t really”dial it in”, so I’d imagine you could get better “pinch harmonics” out of it. If you are going for a heavy Marshall sound, something a bit more modern than the other UAD Marhsall offerings, then this might be the way to go. I would definitely consider adding it to the plugin arsenal, and if it’s on sale, then it’s a no brainer. If you were looking at buying a hardware unit, this might be a cheaper way to test the waters. While it’s not a swiss army knife amp, it has been used for jazz as well, so it does offer some diversity aside from hard rock.