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Old 28th March 2017
Mercuriall SPARK

This top ten list reminds me of the NBA all star voting this year when they started letting players vote for each other and instead of voting for the best players they just voted for their friends or teammates and ended up making a mockery of the whole thing Of course top 10 lists are subjective, but this one just seems like some people saw the list and said, "I own this plugin, so I'm voting for it!"

Anyway, I love amp sims, I love trying them all out, and I love testing the latest and greatest ones (I'm already excited for Helix Native coming this spring!). Many of the amp sims on this list certainly deserve to be there, for sure, but this list is far from exhaustive and nowhere near accurate. Or maybe the list should be qualified to be more specific/segmented; e.g., top 10 by value, or top 10 by feature set, or top 10 by sound quality. Because the current list is all over the place.

Personally, Amplitube gets my vote for best looking, but even its new amps take a lot of work to sound truly organic to me. Every time I open it I'm excited to use it cause it flows well and looks great, but time and time again, I end up disappointed and turn to my other options for more realistic sounds. It's unnecessary hyperbole to say that it sounds "terrible" or "like crap", because it sounds good for the most part, it's just not as good as I can get with the same or less work in other sims.

Peavey Revalver 4 gets my vote for best "bang for the buck." $99 gets a ton of amps, cabs, and pedals and adding a la carte items is super easy and cheap. Out of the box it's right on par with Amplitube sound-wise, but it also includes unique features like ACT and amp learning tools. And this sim didn't even make the list.

Thermionik wins my vote for least inspiring GUI I know this was a calculated choice by the designer, and many will argue that the visual doesn't impact the sound, but honestly my first impression is that they're just so plain, and with so many amps all looking nearly identical, it's a bit of a pain trying to figure out which one is which. Even the names in my plugin browser are truncated and I can't read the full amp name. That said, they sound good, better than Amplitube in many cases, and much more affordable too. I guess there are trade-offs with every plugin and the pros with this one don't quite outweigh the cons enough for me to use them regularly.

Now, for sound! Which one actually sounds the best? To me, I love Marshalls and Mercuriall's new SPARK, which includes 4 Marshall amps is far and away the best sounding amp sim. It sounds and feels like really well recorded Marshalls. This includes both clean and distorted channels. It comes with great pedal, reverb, and delay effects as well. Here's some of that hyperbole I mentioned before, but these Marshall sounds kill the Marshalls from TH3, Destructor, and every other Marshall sound I've tried. Mercuriall's ENGL sim is great too. These sims aren't as exhaustive and inclusive as some other options, but they sound real, and for me that's the top priority on my list, so they're my go-to sims... for now at least.