Review: Is SSL Guitarstrip the simple way to a great guitar tone?
Does SSL Guitarstrip offer value for money?
The SSL Guitarstrip plugin offers guitarists and studio engineers a whole suite of tools dedicated to helping get a solid guitar tone into songs. Does this all-in-one guitar channel have what you need for your guitar recordings? In this review, I take Guitarstrip for a spin and share my views on this latest studio tool for your DAW.
Review: SSL Guitarstrip
Consisting of four dedicated guitar processing modules, SSL Guitarstrip could potentially be the perfect way to get the best guitar tone into your DAW. The plugin itself comes in all the standard formats: 64-bit AU, VST2, VST3 and AAX Native for macOS Catalina (Apple Silicon included) and Windows 10 or later.
For this review, I used Logic Pro 10.7.4 on an Apple M1 Pro 16″ MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM and an M1 Mac mini with 8GB RAM.
I spend a lot of my week recording guitars and over the years my workflow has mainly centred around finding a solid guitar tone to work with. Often, I use a mix of tube amps, virtual amps and effects. Then I will use various channel strips to EQ, and then add some compression to glue the track in the mix. I’ll usually deal with any potential phase issues along the way. This process is never set in stone but more often than not it will all start with finding a good tone first.
Guitarstrip features many of the tools I use and puts them all in one place, which makes for a smooth, easy-to-use workflow and one that was designed to work as a whole.
Tube Amp and Compressor
As I mentioned above, Guitarstrip can be broken down into four distinct sections:
Firstly, there are what SSL describes as two classic analogue tube amp drive emulations. These are the Guitar Amp and Bass Amp. Each has harmonic tone-shaping controls, allowing for easy manipulation of each of the three Boost, Punch and Edge frequencies. The three controls are controls over low, mid and high. With the ability to add distortion and saturation the further you push them, it’s a simple and effective way to add some grit to your signal. As it is already tailored for the guitar out of the box, it complements nicely and enhances your signal.
Next up is the Compression Section. This comes with 5 preset compressor responses and allows you to easily tame or add more punch to your guitar tone. The simplicity of this section makes it easy to quickly get a solid working tone.
Phase Correction and EQ
The Phase Correction section is then used to quash any phasing issues and is also pretty simple to use effectively. It uses a delay and what SSL dubs an allpass filter to deal with any phasing discrepancies. This section also has access to the sidechain function, which makes it easy to pick your reference material and look for any phase issues.
Over the years, phase issues have often been a problem for a lot of guitar recordings, especially for players starting out and getting used to recording the guitar. This has become more noticeable as people tend to use a DAW at home, and may never have encountered phase issues before. This set of controls really simplifies the process and provides the right tools you need for the job.
Finally, the EQ Section allows you to sculpt your tone. This is a three-band EQ with the ability to move it before or after the compressor, with the exception of the high-pass filter. Each of the three bands allows boost and cut. In addition to this, you have an FFT Graph below to see what you are doing and the Auto Listen button to audition an EQ band in place when a parameter is changed.
The EQ is simple and effective. It works well for guitar and bass, as you would expect, and has minimal controls. This for me is certainly a bonus and makes for an easy-to-use tool within my DAW.
I will also add that I very much appreciated the ‘?’ tool on the bottom right of the plugin window. It gives a brief and informative description of every aspect of the Guitarstrip plugin, which will certainly help beginners and anyone trying to decipher exactly what each control does. The ECO button next to it turns off oversampling and reduces the load on your CPU.
What are the benefits of having everything in one place?
If we break it down into the four components, and then factor in the ease of use, I believe you get a lot for your money. Yes, I could go out and buy four distinct plugins, each covering specific sections contained within this plugin. But would they all work in harmony? Or would I get myself into a muddle and cause more issues than I resolve?
There are some presets to get you going, with Acoustic, Bass and Electric variations. They’re pretty basic though and I guess that they aren’t going to be much help for everyone. But they do give you a starting point and show off some of the extremes of the settings. My advice would be to start with one, tweak it to taste and then save it. Build up your own library of presets and never look back.
Having an A/B button is great though and the ability to quickly try out two variations is very handy. Plus, the obligatory Undo/Redo is also a handy tool, for quickly trying stuff out.
Is SSL Guitarstrip worth it?
The big question here will be value for money. Does SSL Guitarstrip really offer enough bang for your buck? In my opinion, it has some very useful tools for me as a guitar player. It covers electric and acoustic guitar, which is a bonus. Plus, it handles bass duties nicely too.
This is where the concept of Guitarstrip works really well. Everything is in one place and designed to work together. That is certainly its strength and where it gets the thumbs up from me. I found that I could quickly get a great punchy guitar sound and make it sit well inside a full track. That for me was worth the price of entry alone.
As ever you can download a free demo version and check it out on your own system first. The plugin is available to buy outright or as part of the SSL Complete Subscription service. Authorising is handled via iLok (free account or paid USB dongle).
MSRP – EUR 235 *
Videos about SSL Guitarstrip
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- SSL Guitarstrip: SSL
- Guitar Amp and Bass Amp: SSL
- Phase Correction: SSL
- EQ Section: SSL
- Presets: SSL