I think I finally found the amp in a box solution I’ve been looking for.
Overview & Cost: $399.00 from Sweetwater, Strymon.net, Amazon.com, and Reverb.com (some affiliate links).
I’ve long been a hold out when it comes to making the switch from tube amplifiers to amp and cab sims and modelers. While the Line6 Pod Go got me pretty intrigued by the whole process, it did not replace my beloved Vox AC15. Enter the Strymon Iridium.
At the time of writing this review, I have switched over to doing all of my pedal and guitar demos with the Strymon Iridium at the end of my signal chain. While all three amp channels sound good, the chime (modeled after a Vox AC30) is unbelievably close to my actual amp tone. The other two are no slackers either, based off a Fender Deluxe Reverb (“Round” setting) and a Marshall Plexi (“Punch” setting). There’s also 9 iconic guitar amp cabinet impulse responses (IRs) that come stock on the Iridium, though you can also load your own IRs via their websites Impulse Manager software. So, you can plug your pedal in and really dial in or download the cab IRs you want in addition to the fabulous ones pre-loaded (which include AC30, Blues Junior, GNR, Mesa, and many more iconic amp sounds).
You also get controls for room reverb (SUPER useful), bass-middle-treble, drive, and overall level. The EQ controls can also take on different roles depending on the amp you picked, i.e. you get the classic Vox “Tone Cut” knob control via the mids knob when on the “chime” setting. You can save your favorite setting, and recall it anytime by hitting the second footswitch on the left.
Review & Opinion:
This is, without a doubt, the closest I will ever get to my amplifier tone in the room via an amp/cab sim. The Vox “chime” voicing is just dead on when you actually use the room reverb control. As my friend Taylor from PedalHaven astutely pointed out “Use the room reverb! There is one key difference between playing through a real guitar amp and an amp simulator. The room. When playing through a real guitar amplifier, your sound bounces around and interacts with the room the amp is in.”
This couldn’t be more spot on, as all three amp settings (Fender, Vox, Marshall) totally come alive with the room reverb around 9 o’clock at least. It really accentuates the strength of the Iridium, which in my opinion is the onboard gain sounds. You can dial in real warm, rich amp distortion on the Vox and Marshall channels especially. And as someone who gets a lot of their basic gain structure from my Vox AC15 being cranked, this is a game changer for me. I’m in my apartment late at night but can’t crank my amp to record a pedal demo or write a song? Not a problem anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, this pedal will not make me sell my Vox AC15, but will certainly make it much easier to record, practice, and even gig without hauling my amp around or sacrificing tone. That’s totally worth the price of the Strymon Iridium. The price is even more reasonable when you treat this as an amp, not a $400 pedal (which is very much not something I’m usually into). I love that I can dial in my perfect Vox settings, save it, and then play through a cranked Marshall Plexi with my personal tone now just a click away thanks to the “fav” footswitch.
Conclusion & Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Yes, this pedal genuinely deserves the high score. This isn’t something Guitar Player Magazine BS where they just give the trending pedal a high score, the Strymon Iridium is thoroughly impressive and a bit life changing for me as a staunch tube amp conservative. As much as I want to do my thing, and rail against expensive gear, this isn’t a $400 pedal. It’s a $400 amplifier. That changes my weighting, scoring, and approach quite a bit.
In the sports world, saying that someone is versatile as their best trait is usually a polite way of saying they aren’t very good. That is not the case here when I call the Iridium a versatile solution to amplification. The Marshall, Fender, and Vox channels are all excellent in their own right for recording or playing but it is so fun to have all of them in one box. Of course there are other amp flavors out there you’d want, but you can’t expect them to squeeze an old Ampeg or niche Silvertone into this pedal.
All that and I haven’t even dived into the world of creating and loading my own IRs. There is a lot to like here and I’m anxious to continue to find out how to best use the Iridium. But for now, it has successfully given me something that makes me as happy as my Vox AC15 does, but with more portability, convenience, and flexibility.
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