Toneforge Guilty Pleasure by Joey Sturgis

Guitar amp simulator plugin

Toneforge Guilty Pleasure by Joey Sturgis

Review by George Shilling

Joey Sturgis is an American record producer with a studio in Indiana and a reputation as a leading expert working in the metalcore scene. He started out as a drummer, and is a self-taught producer with credits for writing, arranging, mixing, engineering and mastering on his productions which include artists like Attack Attack!, The Devil Wears Prada, Asking Alexandria and Miss May I.

Guilty Pleasure is a new guitar amp simulator plugin for VST2, VST3, AU, RTAS, AAX and Audiosuite, which installs as 32 and 64 bit on Windows and Mac.

The main interface comprises a central area where the different modules in the signal path are controlled. Always visible are a one-knob Gate, a Tuner button to flip a very clear Korg rack-style tuner display on, Input and Output gain knobs accompanied by LED meters, and along the bottom the signal path component selectors (along with a Signal Path overview). The signal path order cannot be changed, and frankly there is no need to be able to change it. From the overview, all sections can be bypassed (except the amp).

Toneforge Guilty Pleasure by Joey Sturgis

First up is an Overdrive pedal before the input to the amp. Controls comprise Level, Tone and Gain, and this gives the signal a nice boost when necessary before hitting the amp.

Second is the guitar amp head, with traditional Marshall-style controls comprising Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence and Output. This is a pretty high-gain affair, clearly leaning towards metalcore tones, although lowering the Gain knob you can get some very involving slightly tamer sounds. But for completely clean amp sounds, you'll really need a different plugin.

The third section is the Cabinet, with a choice of two: Mesa 4 x 12 for a more middly, incisive sound, or an Orange Custom 4 x 12 for a bit more size, top-end crunch and low-end weight. You can also load your own impulse response. Here you can also choose between four mic settings: Condenser, 421, 57 and 57 off-axis, which are each quite distinctive and different.

Toneforge Guilty Pleasure by Joey Sturgis

Only visible from the Signal Path page is an additional module in the chain which as no controls but is simply on or off, and it's just labelled Magic. This is Joey's magic post-processing, seemingly just a bit of tone-shaping which warms things up a bit in a pleasant manner.

The next page is FX with three sub-pages for (in this order) Delay, Wah and Reverb pedals. These all sound great and work really well; there's nothing too clever here but the Wah includes an option for further distortion, and the Reverb includes four types, with a simple 'Amount' knob to control the nature of it.

Toneforge Guilty Pleasure by Joey Sturgis

There then follows a comprehensive desk-style parametric EQ with five bands, and all bands cover the entire audio spectrum. It's extremely powerful, and the outer bands can switch between shelf and filter, with a Q control to vary the shape. There is no graph display for the parametric EQ, which might have made this absolutely perfect, but, hey - use your ears!

Finally there's a Limiter with LA-2A style controls - just Threshold and Output knobs, but with an auto make-up gain function built in. It sounds great - not too fast on the release, and fairly invisible sounding. And there's a big traditional VU meter for Gain Reduction or levels to see what's going on.

For metal guitar tones Guilty Pleasure is pretty fabulous. There's really very little to criticise here - MIDI control would be a useful addition, especially for controlling the Wah FX pedal, and an EQ graph would be a nice luxury. But hey, you've already got plenty of EQ plugins if you want to get fussy. Unusually, there are no provided presets, so you’ll need to actually tweak your own settings, but everything can be automated. Of course there are more comprehensive guitar amp plugins like Native Instruments' Guitar Rig, but for authentic metal tones this is hard to beat. And at just $79 there's nothing to feel guilty about here.

Highly recommended!

(I was testing the AAX version with Pro Tools 12.6HD.)