OVERALL IMPRESSION: This is one of the most enjoyable plug-ins I have used (from the perspective of a guitar player). Although Audified claims it will “improve the tone no matter what amp, pedal or plugin you are using for your electric guitar processing,” the results are more wide-ranging than that. The Tone Spot Electric Pro is based on a series of general and specific presets with studio mastering in mind. The plugin alters your hardware or software signal for enhanced tone and EQ’ing so that it cuts through the mix better (not always, depending on what you’re starting with, although often), but also can have your tone take on a different life (from fat and heavy to sizzling and scooped). As important, this plugin is relatively easy to use and tweak with very audible results… a modest learning curve… and some excellent changes to your tone (vital for those with limited equipment or gear). To give an example, your tone may sound raunchy, but a bit on the ‘classic’ side; conversely you want something more modern sounding. All you need to do is select a Metal-based preset in the general category (e.g., Steel Boost is one of my favorite) – or within a particular genre (e.g., Heavy or Hyper). From there you can tweak various aspects, described in the next section.
GENERAL USE: The easiest way to use Tone Spot Electric Pro is to select a preset that makes sense for what you’re playing and trying to improve upon. For instance, if playing acoustic or clean electric and you want to boost the midrange, then you would select such a preset in the ‘general’ category, or perhaps something like Indie Chords or Picking would sound better (from the Classic folder). You then can tweak one of those presets if required, or select a ‘default’ preset (with everything flat) and adjust each section, which explanation I’ll keep brief (you can download a trial version of the program, as well as the user manual for more detail).
The VOICING section applies legendary EQ shapes used in studios, including Classic (classic rock tones, obviously), Heavy (aggressive and thick, great for rhythms), Choco (lots of midrange), Hyper (modern, e.g., Diezel or Friedman amps), Sing (even more mids than Choco, ideal for lead tones) and V (a scooped curve typical in hi-gain amps).
CHARACTER allows you to select how the VOICING should sound, with Vintage, Natural or Modern, but also if you want the tone a bit brighter, scooped or Lo-Fi. And SATURATION allows you to add grit and fullness.
SHAPING is the big EQ section, and this really makes a difference. I find a lot of EQ plug-ins a bit hit or miss… constantly tweaking to get the right tone before you get ear fatigue and everything starts sounding the same (or the original tone sounded better than what you eventually ended with). This plugin’s EQ is unique in that the results are fast and each section is relative to its own range. For instance, Boom adds that bass thump, whereas Body increases the thickness of the low and middle range. More mid-range tweaking can be had with Paper and Wood, whereas the upper mids and treble are affected with Steel and Air.
SMASH is the Compressor section, and it does a great job without that overly squishy effect (and there’s a boost in that section in case you lose some volume via compression). SURGERY allows you to fine-tune the EQ, and it does this in very fine amounts (for bigger changes you need to go back to the SHAPING section). EFFECTS provide a host of typical guitar fare, including Tremolo, Modulation (phaser, flanger and chorus), Delay and Reverb. These are very straight forward, and so you don’t get a lot of unusual choices (e.g., reverse delay), but they are very solid sounding and will fill the niche of typical basics used by most guitarists in most instances. FINALIZER is the mastering section of your tone, allowing you to add a touch of fatness, tightness or smoothness to the overall result (and you can adjust the mix/boost of those elements).
PROS AND CONS: The most obvious Pro is that this plug-in sounds great – viz., what it does to your guitar’s tone and whether using hardware or software. It can make it sound like you have new preamps, a new guitar, some added pedals, etc., since the result is so significant, e.g., having a thick and perhaps slightly muffled rhythm tone can become a scooped hi-gain tone. Adjusting any of the knobs of any preset also produces immediate and noteworthy results, and so tweaking is easy. For those achieving a tone with a plug-in, it may be reasoned that if you don’t like one sound you can select another, or tweak the one you like so that it sounds better. However, the presets in Tone Spot Electric Pro were developed with that ‘mastering ‘ effect in mind, so that certain elements pop in the mix based on its characteristics; consequently, this plug-in can have a positive and dramatic result with other plug-ins. As well (as demoed in the video with the hi-gain tones), you can mix your original (dry) tone with that of a Tone Spot preset, to create a hybrid between the two, which I found impressive in several instances. Whether playing clean, with some crunch or pushing the envelope of gain, I doubt anyone having this plug-in will ignore it – it will be in constant use (on sale for only $49 at the time of writing this!).
Now, the Cons are not really that bad, but a few things to consider. First, different guitars with different pickups and different amps/cabs (whether hardware or digital) will experience different results with the same Tone Spot preset, e.g., Metal Riffage. The presets work with what you have and will improve the results accordingly (therefore, adding a Metal preset to a clean guitar tone does not make it sound Metal). This is no different than playing a Strat vs. Les Paul in the same equipment. Second, there is so much involved with this plugin that although easy enough to use, the results as you tweak a knob and button here and there really make a difference and you can get lost chasing that ideal tone. But, at least, you can save any preset you like and have finalized. Third, each main section (e.g., VOICE, CHARACTER, SATURATION, etc.) has an on/off button, and a few times I tweaked items in each without hearing any difference, only to notice the ‘on’ button was not on. Not a big deal, but best not having a few beer during operation. Finally, I wouldn’t mind having this in a pedal format – something like an Eventide H9, whereby you do all the adjustments either on the pedal or via software and then save the presets for live use. That’s not really a con, but wishful thinking.