You can sound completely different with the same guitar and pedals as you change up your cabinet, amp tubes and microphone/mic placement. Solid Studio offers 8 classic cab selections, three tube types, eight microphones and three different placements for a wide variety of possible outcomes and tones.
Typically my favorites are the Roland Jazz Chorus 112 for cleans and the Marshall 1960 4x12 for dirt; and typically I prefer the EL34 tubes and the Sennheiser MD421 microphone in center position for both. Now, having said that, the tone I want from my pedals I sometimes prefer a different cabinet, set of tubes, microphone and its placement. Consequently, the Solid Studio is not a one-trick pony and minor tweaking does make a difference, particularly if you want to break free of your typical crunch or lead sound. I also noticed that if I’m using a preamp I don’t find the ‘Power Amp’ option on the Solid Studio useable (it tends to thin the tone), but when using just pedals (e.g., fuzz, overdrive, modulation) then the Power Amp fills out the sound a better (that option also includes a Presence knob to add that high-end sparkle).
OVERALL IMPRESSION: A DI or direct input device, Solid Studio allows you to record direct to DAW, play through a PA system or into a FRFR (full-range flat-response) speaker. Using the IR (impulse response) of a particular speaker cabinet, tube amp, mic and its placement you can zero in on various and different tones to help sculpt an ideal sound and at a very reasonable price of only $199 USD. Besides the typical XLR balanced output and a quarter-inch jack input/output, there also is a ‘through,’ so that you can have a dry line out to a different source. Included is access to eight different classic cabinet types from Fender, Marshall, Roland, Vox and Celestion (Vintage 30s and Greenbacks). There are eight microphone types (from Shure, Sennheiser, Neumann, Royer and AKG), three mic positions (center, mid and edge) and three tube types (EL34, 6V6 and EL84). In sum, there are dozens of options to coordinate with your gear’s characteristics to achieve the tone you want for recording or live play. You also have access to a Power Amp option, which is very helpful when working with pedals only (and no preamp) for a bigger more polished sound; an option that includes Master volume, Drive and Presence. The NUX Solid Studio also has a USB output for firmware updates. I would have appreciated 1-2 fewer Fender option and 1-2 higher-gain options, e.g., Mesa or Friedman cabs.
GENERAL USE: Solid Studio requires some experimentation, since your choices depend on the gear (e.g., pedals, guitar pickups, etc.) you use. With the Roland Jazz Chorus 112 working so well for my clean tones, I start with that selection, although I will zip through the other cabinets to hear what they have to offer. Likewise, my dirty tones start with the Marshall 1960 cab and then I will try the others in case there is a better choice (the Fender Bassman cab seems to work well with clean and dirty, for example). My mic selection often is the Sennheiser MD421 as it offers a good amount of thickness and clarity (I may want a thinner sound or even a heavier sound and may select a different mic as I go through the fine-tuning). The next step is to select my tubes. EL34s are heavier with a bigger crunch, 6V6 have a warmer sound, and the EL84s are brighter with more high ends. I often select the EL34s, but I do have some drive pedals that have more punch and grain with the 6V6 tubes. The microphone selections vary significantly, with some producing a deeper and thicker response, whereas others are ‘lighter’ with more clarity, any of which can be used to coordinate with dark pickups/pedals vs. bright pickups/pedals. Likewise, mic placement makes a difference as having a center position translates into more high-ends, a mid position more mids and an edge position more bass. Double tracking your guitar (so that one is center and the other either mid or edge, with the same or different mic) can produce a very unique and multi-dimensional sound.
OTHER DETAILS: A medium-sized pedal, Solid Studio measures about 105 mm (L) x 115mm (W) x 58mm (H) with knobs (4.1 x 4.5 x 2.3 inches). The heavy-duty metal chassis has powder coated dark blue paint with white graphics. The five knobs (Cab, Mic, Master, Drive and Presence) feel of heavy plastic and will withstand normal use and abuse. The two toggle switches that control tube type and mic placement are solid when flipped and located toward the back of the pedal, sandwiched between the largest two knobs. All knobs have exceptional quality pots (smooth and very solid when turned without any static or noise). The two soft footswitches (Cab on/off [bypass] and Amp) are solid in feel. The cable input/output, power supply, etc., are located in the back, saving on pedalboard space and keeping any cable inserts away from a stomping foot. The larger XLR cable output is located on the left side. Solid Studio does not run on batteries and requires a 9VDC power supply while requiring 240mA of power.
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