Gearheads around the globe know how important every minute detail is when it comes to their equipment. How they run their pedals changes the signal chain. Different types of speakers, in open and closed back cabinets, can alter the tone drastically. However, the most popular and engaging topic of discussion is the increasing popularity of digital modeling and the implications where the line between valves versus digital becomes blur.
Following an extensive video all about EL84 tube amplifiers, this week on TPS Dan & Mick decide to take a comprehensive look at the all-new Strymon Iridium Amp Modeler.
Disclaimer: Better Sound In Headphones
Known to the web as old school gear aficionados, Dan and Mick begin the video with some tasty runs and licks through the Iridium before addressing the elephant in the room.
“The reason we haven’t done a video on other modeling amplifier pedals (mainly the Helix) is because there are much better people to review digital modeling, but this pedal is something special,” Mick explains. Rather than being solely a digital amplifier interface, the Iridium is a multi-amp experience.
Home to a wide array of well made and received guitar pedals, Strymon has held a claim in quality audio and effects for quite some time. “The mains reasons the Iridium feels so good,” Mick adds, “is because it is made well, there isn’t an overwhelming menu with 50,000 models to edit… and it doesn’t give the user option paralysis.”
Since digital modeling is the current, central technology for recording and home musicians around the globe, Dan and Mick decide to dive headfirst into just what the Iridium can do, as well as how it holds up to its comparable counterparts.
Well, What Is It?
While the TPS gurus would much rather use analog technology, the Iridium brings something old school to a new age conversation. “Basically the Iridium is an amp, through a cabinet, in a room,” Mick adds colorfully. The amp modeler comes with three preset amplifiers: a ’65 Fender Deluxe Reverb, a Vox AC30 Top Boost, and a Marshall 959 100 watt Plexi, respectfully. To pair with said amplifiers Iridium hand selected three different sounding cabinet set-ups for each amplifier, as well as three different acoustically dynamic room settings. “Three amps, nine cabs, three rooms,” Dan chimes in. “Simple as that.”
While other amp modelers and digital modeling effects have presets and options, the thing that sets the Iridium apart is the ability to use it simultaneously with pedals one may already own.
“It’s an aesthetically different approach,” Mick explains. “This can be added to other single use pedals without overpowering them.” This allows the Iridium to stand out among other pedals while letting the effects not get muddled by a digital signal.
“The best way to use this would be to stick it right at the end of the signal chain, where your amp would go,” Mick states. “Then it would go right to the front of house, into recording software, or to full-range flat response speakers.”
So How Does It Sound, Then?
The interesting thing the Iridium does that makes it stand out from other amp modelers is the room ambience effects have all been recorded in stereo, rather than mono or dual mono. This creates the idea of a physical presence from a digital amplifier, a rather unique yet hard-to-get-used-to experience.
“It sounds like a good, recorded guitar,” Dan adds after playing his ’63 Telecaster through the Iridium and comparing it to their ’65 Super Reverb (since they don’t own a Deluxe Reverb). Hearing the audio there is a noticeable difference, however both the Iridium and the ’65 Reverb have the same round, full tonal quality. The only difference is the Iridium “has no playing dynamic… has ‘gratifying’ compression,” Dan follows up with.
After a switch to Mick’s ’58 335, they run through the Iridium on the AC30 preset alongside Dan’s ’61 AC30. “Perfectly playable,” Mick adds. Running the Analogman King of Tone, Keeley D&M, and the Diamond Memory Lane through both amps provides a hands-on approach to the tonal varieties of both amplifiers.
Lastly, they run through the 100-watt Plexi preset on the Iridium, comparing that with running both the Super Reverb and AC30 in stereo through Simon Greene’s ’61 Sunburst Strat.
“While this is the best guitar I’ve ever heard,” Mick beckons over the borrowed instrument “the intensity of playing has a wider dynamic when playing a valve amp in relation to (the Iridium).”
Where It Stands With The Guys
To end the video, they address any final thoughts and concerns. While there are some differences in the amplifiers, so it is impossible to get an entirely accurate comparison, a few thoughts are gathered.
“I think I’m generally impressed by the Iridium, more than I thought I’d be,” Mick says. With that, Dan follows with “I don’t need to use it, but it is convenient.” The amp allows for different more modern and practical implications for the musician of today. Valve amps have their place, but digital modeling allows for an alternative approach to playing music when full force tube amplifiers aren’t ideal.
To appease the masses and hopefully lead the protesters to put down their torches and pitchforks, Mick ends the video with one final, gleaming ray of hope: “Just use what you wanna use, man.” Duly noted, Mick. Duly noted.
That’s it for this episode of That Pedal Show! Tune in next time for Dan & Mick’s next adventure into the world that is all-things guitar!
TPS Episode Rig Rundown:
Guitars: Fender ’61 Stratocaster, Gibson Memphis ’58 ES-335, Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster
Pedals: Analogman King of Tone, Walrus Audio Fathom, Diamond Memory Lane, Keeley D&M, ZVEX Fuzz Factory, Jam Ripply Falls
Amps: Strymon Iridium, ’61 Vox AC30 w/Celestion Alnico Blue speakers, Fender Super Reverb (Reissue) w/ 4x10in Jensen P10R speakers