Joey Sturgis Tones Toneforge Guilty Pleasure by Diogo C
Ease of use
Bang for buck
*Product: Toneforge Guilty Pleasure *Developer: Joe Sturgis Tones (JST) *Formats: AAX/AU/VST for Mac and Windows *Price: $89 MSRP *DRM: Unique serial number
The Scope: Producer and engineer Joe Sturgis is back with its Toneforge series of plug-in to present us with Guilty Pleasure, a self-contained guitar channel strip with basically all the elements required for mixing guitars in the box. Given Joe’s background and overall orientation of the Toneforge series you might have figured out by now that we’re heading into high-gain territory. The Toneforge Guilty Pleasure plug-in (from now on just “TGP”) is geared towards heavier strains of rock and metal, it’s capable of other styles but it’s definitely focused on aggressive tones. It’s comprised of tube-screamer style pedal followed by a high-gain amp head, two Mesa/Orange 4x12 cabinets with four mic options (condenser, 421, 57 on and off axis), “Magic” button with an exclusive trick from Joe Sturgis which scoops the harsher mids while bringing up a bit of the low and top end, three configurable effects (Delay, Reverb and Wah), SSL-style equalizer and a limiter at the last point of chain. It’s also equipped with a gate (first point in the chain), a tuner and input/output meters and trim knobs.
Sound quality: Guilty Pleasure is on par with the best amp simulators out there when it comes to higher-gain situations. Breaking down to its parts the core of the sound (i.e. amp head and the two offered cabs) is quite good and ranks very high, but the effects are a bit passable, which is arguably the case with many other guitar amp sims out there so it does not really disappoint as long as you don’t have high expectations for it. One good effect here is the limiter, which can be handy to tackle some wild peaks and it’s very simple to use. A cool aspect about the TGP is that the two cabs and microphone choices have quite a different sound from the each other and that adds some good variety, which can be further expanded by importing other impulse responses and bypassing the factory cabs. The amp head can do lower-gain styles quite well too depending on the situation, but in my experience it’s best use was when higher-gain was needed. In my personal setup I’m usually switching from three or four plug-ins for my guitar amp sim needs, and those are the Scuffham S-Gear, TSE Audio X50II and Brainworx Rockrack V3/Mega Dual. I’m not really a big fan of amp simulations “platforms” and would rather use more “specific” plug-ins, so this one fits that bill very well. Having said that, the GP is way heavier than S-Gear’s heaviest (the Wayfarer) and I can easily see the GP doing one of the sides in two-guitar “hard left and right” along with the X50II on aggressive high-gain material. It also contrasts nicely with the high-gain amps that I already have and overall the feeling I get is that the TGP stands neck and neck with the best.
Ease of use: Quite straightforward as far as amp simulators goes, with a straightforward interface that’s well organized by sections accessed at the bottom of the plugin. Each element of the signal chain gets its fair share of screen real estate, controls are mostly large and have good definition, and there are some good utility tools such as one-knob gate, input/output metering and level trimming, which are all useful to have around and add to the ease of use. There’s an eighteen page PDF manual that can be accessed from the plug-in through the question mark button and provides enough guidance in case one needs. On the other hand the lack of browsers for presets and impulse responses hurts the plug-in a bit, especially when navigating through many folders of different IRs, but as a whole the plug-in is easy to operate and getting great tones won’t require much effort.
Features: TGP is quite stacked with features, it’s basically a point-to-point signal chain so there’s not much to complain here in terms of scope as it’s quite comprehensive, but I would happily trade the equalizer for a few more cabs and mics since I’d rather do my equalization with other plug-ins. Perhaps the only feature I really miss is the lack of proper browsers for impulse responses and for storing presets, those would be really great thing to have, the IR browser would be particularly useful (there’s so screen real estate for that on Cab window that could be used to accommodate that). Other than that the current feature set is more than well-rounded enough to deliver many great tones and to keep most of the work within itself. I’m not a guitar player, I only mix/engineer/produce, but with my guitar-playing friends in mind I’d say that a standalone app could also be useful for DAW-independent sketching, jamming and fun noodling.
The signal path window and the lower section buttons allows to quickly bypass and access each part of signal chain.
Bang for buck: Quite affordable at $89, which makes it very enticing if you’re not set with a high-gain guitar amp simulation plug-in and attractive enough to make you consider adding another entry to your current collection.
Recommended for: Producers and mixers dealing with heavier strains of rock and any metal sub genre you can think of.
Quality high-gain tones
Flexible cabinet and mic options
Needs proper browsers for impulse responses and presets