Featured Universal Audio Fuchs Overdrive Supreme 50 by PassionFlower
Product: UAD Fuchs Overdrive Supreme 50
Platform: UAD-2 (VST, AU, AAX)
Price: $149 / €149
Zee German Surprise
Many UAD users were anticipating a new in-house developed Fender amp plugin with the 9.1 release of the UAD-2 software. After all, with the UAD Fender Tweed Deluxe plugin many have considered Universal Audio to have set a new standard when it comes to amp modelling software and it left many users longing for a Fender Twin Blackface emulation of the same calibre.
And the new release did contain an amp simulation, but to everyone's surprise it wasn’t a digital replica of a famous vintage Californian amp, at least not directly.
What we got was a plugin version of the Fuchs Overdrive Supreme 50 developed by the crafty germans at Brainworx. Certainly not a highly requested amp model, but is it an unwelcome one?
The Attack of the Clones of the Clones
So what did I mean when I wrote that it wasn’t directly a replica of a famous vintage Californian amp?
Well, in the 1970s the Los Angeles based boutique amp builder Alexander "Howard" Dumble created what has become probably the most sought after guitar amps in history; the Dumble Overdrive Special.
It’s an amp that many have heard but few have actually used. It was manufactured in limited numbers and had a fairly hefty price tag which made it an amp that was used mostly by the elite. The unique and sweet tone set it apart and the word spread quickly amongst the top players who often ordered custom made amps specifically tailored for their taste in both tone and visual aesthetics.
Over the years it has been used by many famous guitarists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Joe Bonamassa and Eric Clapton so chances are that you’ve heard the amp many times and you’ll probably recognize its unique tone once you hear it.
Nowadays you can expect to pay somewhere from $70,000-$100,000 for an Overdrive Special which makes it unattainable for us mere mortals.
Robben Ford’s rig crowned by a Dumble Overdrive Special
Driven by the motivation to acquire this special tone without taking out a mortgage on their house and spending the kids college funds, people started to reverse engineer this mythical beast. Something that surely could not have been an easy task as Mr. Dumble made sure to cover the pre-amp circuits in epoxy resin to prevent people from leeching off his intellectual property.
In the late 90’s reverse engineered schematics for the Dumble amps started to appear on the internet and it catched the attention of musician and electronics enthusiast Andy Fuchs who started building his own version of the Overdrive Special which he named the Overdrive Supreme. After several build requests from friends and encouragements from his wife, Andy decided to make his amp building hobby into a business. Something that proved to be a very successful move as he now, almost two decades and several new amp models later, operates his business together with several employees in a 5000 sq foot factory in Clifton, New Jersey.
Recently Andy teamed up with the with the software developers at Brainworx to attempt to clone the Overdrive Supreme into the digital realm and the fruits of their labor has now been released for the UAD-2 platform in the form of the Fuchs Overdrive Supreme 50 plugin.
I have to say that it is fascinating to think about the history that has led up to the release of this plugin. From Howard Dumble’s tinkering with Leo Fender’s original amp designs in the 60s to the modern DSP recreation of Andy's take on the legendary amps. It’s an evolutionary process driven by bright minds all in the quest for the holy grail of tones.
A complex temperament in a simpleton suite
When I pull up the plugin on my screen I’m presented with the very simple front panel of the Fuchs ODS. But it doesn’t take long to realize that despite the few knobs and switches this amp allows for some serious tone tweaking.
At the far left we have the clean gain knob, and beside it there are three switches named “Brite”, “Deep” and “Rock/Jazz”.
As the name implies the brite switch will boost the highs when the clean gain is set to between 0-50%. Further gain increments will lessen the effect to retain a pleasing sound.
In this example the first half is with the brite switch off, and in the second part with it engaged.
This one will on the other hand slightly boost the lows to give single coil guitars a bit fatter sound. This effect is very subtle and might not even be noticeable at all in some situations.
The rock setting will give you an edgier sound with more gain and presence while the jazz setting presents a more natural toned down sound.
In this example the first half is with the jazz-mode engaged, and the second part with the rock-mode.
Further to the right you’ll find an EQ section with three knobs of which two are pullable to allow for more options.
When the high knob is pushed in will simply adjust the high end. When the knob is pulled out it will move down the frequency spectrum to allow for a high mid boost.
When pushed in the mid knob will simply control the midrange, but when pulled out it will disengage the mid control and boost the input signal.
Unsurprisingly this one controls the low end. It has no other hidden super hero powers.
Moving on to the overdrive circuit you’ll find two simple controls: input and output.
The input is fed from the clean input gain which means that the overdrive does not function as an independant channel. If you boost the clean pre-amp input you will also be boosting the overdrive. Therefore some tweaking is needed to find a good balance between the clean and overdriven sound. Luckily the OD section includes a separate output control which makes that job an easy one. The output knob also works as the engage switch for the overdrive.
The master knob simply controls the master output volume of the amp.
The accent knob is what most people will probably recognize as the presence control. It reduces the negative feedback of the power amp section at higher frequencies. This allows you to soften or accentuate the attack of the tone and push through a mix.
I have to say that it is rare to find such a pleasing and usable presence control on an amp. Often they tend to have a sweet spot which I usually leave them at, but this one sounds good across the whole spectrum making it a very useful tone shaping tool.
Those who know their Fuchs will probably have noticed that there is one knob missing. Right, there’s no reverb! I’m thinking that Brainworx most likely omitted this to save processing power. And although it would be nice to have the built in reverb in place, there are a lot of really great sounding reverbs available for the UAD platform that will probably do a better job anyway.
Alright.. enough about the knobs, switches and geekeries! What about the sound?
From the clean and rich to the dirty grind
The plugin starts up with all the knobs at twelve o’clock and all switches in the down position. With that you get a mellow clean sound that is a great starting point and from there the controls can take you pretty much anywhere you want to go.
Turning on the brite switch, dialing back the gain and dialing up the accent knob will instantly get you in a fat fenderish land.
Crank up the gain and pull the rock switch for some dirty riffs. Dial back the gain again, flip the brite switch off, the deep switch on and put a smiley face on the EQ and you have some sweet jazz and blues tones for that hollowbody guitar.
Even without engaging the overdrive circuit this amp provides such a vast variety of tones. The cleans are harmonically rich and gorgeous sounding, and it can be pushed up into a fat, creamy and crunch by just pushing the input gain.
Something I’ve noticed is how much of the actual guitar tone that comes through. So much that I realized that a change of strings was long overdue.
It’s one of the loveliest clean channels I’ve heard in a software amp and I could honestly be happy with just that. But it would be silly not to pull the OD switch when it’s right there!
Diving into overdrive mode I noticed that the tonal character changed a lot. It suddenly became thinner and more mid focused. I didn’t expect there to be such a difference given that the OD circuit feeds off the clean pre-amp and I was initially a bit disappointed by it. But after a bit of playing I realized that it actually made a lot of sense. If I want the base preamp tone sprinkled with some more distortion I can just put a pedal in front of the amp. The built in overdrive section on the other hand will allow me to get two very different characters out of the amp without twisting knobs like a madman to cut through when it’s time for the solo.
The overdrive circuit is not as smooth, gentle and charming as the overdriven clean pre-amp. In fact it’s rather dirty and wild little beast which makes it a perfect contrast. With a bit of tweaking it can do both edgy rock riffs and fat singing leads. It even works well for some hard rock, but if you are looking for the fat metal tones you might want to look elsewhere.
But wait.. there’s more!
Those familiar with Brainworx amp plugins will probably know that if you click the “FX Rack” button at the top of the plugin window it will reveal a whole panel of tweakable goodies.
If you’ve used any other Brainworx amp plugin this panel will be easy to navigate.
At the top left there’s a gate and filter section for removing unwanted noise and shaping up the low and high end a bit. The filters can be used either before and after the amp. This is something I wish more amp sims would include as shaving off the high end is often necessary to get a pleasant tone.
At the top right there’s a basic delay. It’s not the most gorgeous sounding delay but it does the job well, and there’s a Lo-Fi feature which will degrade the delay a bit for more of a vintage vibe. It’s very nice to be able to add a bit of delay without having to insert yet another plugin. The only thing I’m missing is being able to put it before the amp which can give you a nice effect
Moving down to the bottom left we find the recording chain section. That’s where you can choose between the supplied impulse responses of cabinets recorded with various microphones and sometimes processed with EQ. It’s often underestimated how much the speaker and microphone can change the sound of an amp, so spending some time in this section when looking for tones is well worth the effort. There’s also the option to turn off the cabinet simulation all together if you want to use third party impulse responses or if you’d like to run it out to a real speaker.
Here’s my only real complaint about this plugin though. There are no less than 82 recording chains to choose from and it’s not obvious which one to go for. You pretty much need to go through them all, and then there’s the problem of remembering which one you liked.
Brainworx tried to make things easier by adding an audition feature which will automatically move between the recording chains every 1-8 bars. It’s nice but it doesn’t really solve the main issue.
I think they should take notes from Universal Audio and Softube which both managed to solve this issue in equally elegant ways.
The last section contains a knob for input gain, which is not only useful for balancing the input signal but also for driving the clean preamp into overdrive.
There is also switches for bypassing the preamp and poweramp. Bypassing the preamp can be useful if you want to run another amp plugin into it, or even if you want to record a real amp head. So if you have a real Fuchs amp you could run it into the plugin for the ultimate meta experience.
At the very last there’s a knob labeled “Power Soak” which will allows you to crank up the poweramp which will introduce additional distortion and change the character of the sound. I think this knob is well worth trying out as it can give the amp some lovely ompf.
So should you buy it?
I have to admit that I’m deeply impressed with the quality and versatility of this plugin.
The clean sound is the obvious star of the show but the overdrive circuit is really good as well and adds another dimension to the amp.
The emulation is not of the same calibre as the UA Fender Tweed Deluxe. It does not have the same level of responsiveness and polish. But it sounds wonderful none the less and it’s really fun to play through.
And I’d like to point out that Brainworx has managed to capture something that I haven’t heard in other plugins. The attack of the tone, especially with clean sounds, feels a lot like how a real speaker would act. You really get the feeling that it is a cranked up amp that pushes a speaker and not just a digital sound processor. That in itself is something remarkable.
As I wrote earlier, my only real complaint is the recording chain section which is a bit painful to use. But that’s a pretty minor complaint when you look at the big picture.
This is in my opinion Brainworx finest work yet when it comes to guitar plugins.
If you are looking for a single amp plugin to get for the UAD platform, then look no further. This one covers a lot of ground, and coupled with a few nice pedals this could very well be your only amp. At least if you’re not into high gain metal amps.
But even if you have several of the other UAD amp plugins this one fills a sonic gap with tones that have not been available before. Even on the native plugin market we are not spoiled with Dumble-style amps, and this takes the place of my previous favorite (Scuffham "The Duke").
It might have come as a surprise, but it’s a very welcome one. It will without a doubt be one of my go-to amp plugins for many years to come. And chances are that if you hit that demo-button, you will most likely feel the same way.
- Gorgeous sound, especially the cleans
- Highly versatile
- Many options for re-amping
- Cabinet section is a bit of a hassle