STL Tonality Howard Benson Review

STL Tonality Howard Benson Guitar Plugin Suite Review

It seems like every week a new amp simulator is announced. To stand out from the crowd, manufacturers are teaming up more and more with famous guitarists or amp builders. STL Tones have taken a different approach and have joined forces with award-winning producers Howard Benson and Mike Plotnikoff. Having worked with the likes of Santana, P.O.D, Bon Jovi and My Chemical Romance, I think it’s fair to say they know how to get a good recorded guitar tone. STL Tonality are well known for their amazing Kemper and Fractal tone packs too so it certainly sounds like a winning combination.

What Is The Tonality Howard Benson Suite?

Put simply, STL’s aim was to make an all-in-one mix ready guitar suite based on Benson and Plotnikoff’s personal amp and effects collections. I’m sure they have a huge amount of equipment to choose from but to keep things easy to use they’ve chosen 5 amps and 3 effects. While this is a relatively small collection, the chosen models cover a broad tonal range.

The basic layout will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used this kind of package before. The top of the screen is where you access the various banks, presets and routing options, while the bottom is where you switch between all the fun parts. Consisting of input + output level controls, gate, tuner, and various buttons for switching amps along with buttons to change the middle section of the display between pedals, amps and cabinets. It’s a simple layout which works well.

STL Tonality

How Does It Sound?

Starting with the effects, although there are only three pedals available they are very high quality. The Screamer pedal is perfect for adding gain to one of the low gain amps or for tightening up one of the higher gain models. I found it was ideal to add extra clarity when looking for a good lead tone. The delay and reverb pedals can do anything from subtle to ridiculous. If you want to add a little atmosphere it’s easy to achieve. If you want totally spaced out ambient effects there is more than enough available. It’s easy to add too much delay or reverb but at least the option is there if that’s your thing. For me personally, I found it best to keep the controls on these two pedals fairly low. Rock lead tones and clean tones really benefit from the attention they’ve put into these pedals, the delay is one of the nicest I’ve heard in this kind of plugin.

Moving on to the amps, you have the choice of the rather unimaginatively named Amp 1, Amp 2, Amp 3, Amp 4 and Amp 5. The names might not inspire you but the tones definitely will.

Amp 1 is based on a Bogner and this is going to be where metal fans spend most of their time. It’s a roaring beast of an amp which seems to have the perfect metal rhythm tone on the default settings. You can adjust the tone a fair amount with the controls but I kept returning to the default preset. It sits perfectly in a mix and lets you get on with riffing instead of adjusting the sound.

Amp 2 is a great choice for hard rock as it’s based on a Wizard amplifier. Welcome to Crunch City. Again, it sounds perfect on it’s basic preset and I was reluctant to change the settings. When I did, I discovered how versatile an amp this is. From light crunch to thick, heavy distortion, it’s all here.

Moving on to Amp 3, we enter Marshall territory. This is a classic rockers dream. Although it sounds great for rhythm guitar, this was my go-to amp for leads. The ‘Howard – Rock Lead’ preset is a thing of beauty. Simply adjust the effects to your desired level and you have the perfect soaring lead sound. This is probably the best sounding preset I’ve ever used on a modeller and is one I’ll be returning to over and over again. This is one seriously great sounding amp model.

Amps 4 and 5 finish the collection off nicely with a couple of Fender based models. Everything from completely clean to those unmistakable overdriven Fender tones are available from this pair. Amp 4 with a little delay and reverb added gives a tone to die for. With so many great distorted tones available from the other amps, it’s nice to have the package completed with such a fine pair of cleaner amp models. Again, they sit well in a mix and you can quickly dial in whatever kind of clean or overdrive sound you are looking for.

Completing the suite is the cab section. In all honesty, this wasn’t something I felt like I needed to play with too much. The matching cabs for each amp model seemed to work perfectly so I didn’t feel like there was any need to change them. It’s always nice to have the option though and including an IR loader is a real bonus for anyone who likes to use their own IRs.

STL Tonality Pedals

Conclusion

The more I used the STL Tonality, the more impressed I was. Especially when I added it to a mix. It shouldn’t be surprising given the names involved in creating the plugin but they genuinely are mix ready tones. In isolation, some people might find they lack some of the rawness associated with real amps, but for the recording guitarist, it’s actually a bonus. I’m used to adding some extra effects on my guitar tracks to help them sit well in a mix but I never felt the need to with this suite. The five amps cover everything from country cleans to heavy metal distortion and everything in between. The effects pedals give some extra tonal variety and are more than just an afterthought, they are as well designed as the amp models. The only thing I felt was missing was a chorus pedal. Some of the clean tones I dialled in were crying out for a little chorus so it’s a shame there isn’t one available. Especially given how good it would sound based on the other effects.

One huge bonus I haven’t mentioned so far are the presets. I’ve never really used presets in amp simulators because they’re usually not worth it. With the Tonality it’s a different story. Plenty of them sound great as they are or simply need a slight tweak to your own taste. A very worthy addition.

Overall, the STL Tonality is one of the best sounding and easiest to use plugins I’ve tried. The huge variety of tones, stunning presets and ease of use combine to make it superb value for money and a plugin I’ll use over and over again.

Rating 9/10

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The STL Tonality Howard Benson Plugin Suite is currently available for pre-order from STL Tones for $89 – Please visit them HERE

STL Tonality Howard Benson Demo Videos