Stomp King Guitar Amp Free VST Plugin

Bob Leggitt | Sunday, 8 January 2012 |


The Stomp King SK-5 GuitarAmp is a belter of an all-in-one guitar amp simulator for the VST environment. This blazing hot virtual pedal has been a long time in the making and adopts a different approach to recreating the power of a guitar amp in the VST domain. Although it’s modelled on the characteristics of a loud guitar amp, it’s not just for guitar sounds. It’s also excellent for keyboards. Screaming or grungey organ sounds are easy to create with the SK-5. This effect will, for example, add guts to the VSTX3 'clonewheel' VSTi. You can also get heavy with your synths, grunge up your electric pianos… This is not a fizzy, wasp-in-a-tin distortion, so all commonly overdriven instruments should sound cool. In particular (apart from guitar of course), this effect is excellent for filling out bass sounds. If you use samples of real bass, or electric bass patches from a synth, you should find they sound a lot more realistic with this effect. See Principles of Use below for advice.

Most distortion effects are just that. They clip the waveform, and that’s pretty much it. This effect aims to capture all the nuances of a loud guitar amp and cab setup. The build is much more complex and sophisticated than a typical VST distortion or overdrive. I can perhaps best illustrate this by explaining what the controls do.

THE CONTROLS

The first of four knobs (going from left to right) adjusts the Drive. This is equivalent to pre-amp gain. The SK-5s pre-amp element has its own, specifically tone-shaped digital circuit which cranks the gain into overdrive before feeding it to the power amp stage.

The second knob is labelled Strain. The Strain control is a seven-position rotary switch offering levels of power amp strain from ‘quite loud’ (0), up to ‘virtually falling apart under the pressure’ (6). At higher settings the power amp stage will itself distort noticeably (provided the input signal comes in at a regular volume and is not unusually quiet). Once again, the power amp element has its own special tone-shaping to mimic the power stage in a real guitar amp.

The Tone knob comes next. This is not just a simple treble roll-off. It’s actually a variable speaker simulator which blocks the frequencies a real guitar speaker would block wherever you set it. A zero value is actually the maximum, and will produce the brightest (but never fizzy) tone. Reduce the value of the Tone control to get warmer and smoother sounds.

Finally, you have a Level control, which tailors the output volume to match the level of the input signal – so you can switch the unit on or off without things getting any quieter or louder.

PRINCIPLES OF USE

By keeping the Drive and Strain values low, you’ll get the character of a guitar amp, but without serious distortion. It’s like a clean amp sound. If you can’t get things quite clean enough with the Drive and Strain on minimum, reduce the volume of the input signal.

The best way to start cranking from there is to first increase the Strain. The Strain mimics all the effects of turning up the amp volume, so the sound will feel like it’s being ‘pushed’. Because of the way this effect works – unlike a conventional overdrive effect – it’s much more convincing for mild overdrive sounds. If you want mild overdrive, increase the Strain first, then increase the Drive if you’ve maxed out the Strain and still want more saturation/distortion. If you're using the SK-5 on bass, try keeping the Drive at minimum and using as much Strain as you need.

Generally, if you want older, ‘70s type tones, try a lower Tone setting. If you want things more modern, set the Tone to a higher value. 

DOWNLOAD, INSTALLATION AND USE

To download, click the download link at the bottom of the page and then follow the prompt(s).

Place the .dll file in your VST Plugins folder, and when you start your VST host it should detect the new software. If you normally have to add your VST instruments and effects manually, you’ll need to use the same process here. 

Please be aware that the Stomp King effects are home-made products, released as freeware, with no guarantees of any kind. Every effort is made to ensure that the effects work well and enhance your recordings. However (and this is the case with most freeware), they cannot be tested on a wide range of systems, and therefore there exists the potential for problems. In downloading, you agree to absolve Planet Botch of all responsibility should a problem of any kind arise as a result of you downloading, installing and/or using the .dll file.

Once the effect is installed, simply switch on the SK-5 by clicking its On/Off stomp component, then use the four parameter knobs to adjust the effect to taste. The SK-5 has digital readouts under its parameter knobs, allowing you to note your settings (and perhaps pass them on) when you dial in a combination you really like.

Below I've added a demo featuring the SK-5 in use. The track was recorded by a guy called Pickasso, who's provided some valuable feedback which has helped me sort out some teething troubles. For his full effects chain he's used the Green Gate, the TSE808 Tube Screamer, the Stomp King SK-5, and the Boogex IR Loader. As you'll hear, the extra gain of the TSE808 combined with the Strain effect of the SK-5 creates a powerful metal sound. Using the SK-5 to 'amp up' a distortion effect is a good application for it, I feel. Thanks to Pickasso for the demo.



Download the Stomp King SK-5 GuitarAmp

The rest of the range is available via the main VST FX Download Page.

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