For those seeking versatility and a wide range of tones, Modeling amps provide an affordable alternative to amassing vast and expensive collections of gear. Manufacturers go to great lengths to analyse the characteristics of popular amps, cabinets, pedals and effects units and recreate these digitally, allowing you to write and save your favourite combinations.

For a little more background on digital vs analog see our recent post.

Here we look at the features offered by five of the most popular mid price, mid wattage, modeling combos:

Vox VT40X

guitar-congress-vox-vt40xThe Vox VT40X combines the old with the new by including a 12ax7 tube and analog circuitry in its Valvetronix preamp, before feeeding the signal into a redesigned modeling engine offering 11 amp models (this rises to 20 if you use the editor/librarian software) and 13 digital effects. 33 Presets (60 via software) include programs designed to emulate famous guitarist’s signature tones. Vox use their proprietary VET (Virtual Element Technology) to analyse target amps at deep-down component and circuit level, resulting in splendidly realistic emulations.

A USB port allows connectivity with Mac, PC, IOS or Android, and grants access to the wonderful world of  VOX Tone Room software, where you can customize amps, effects and presets to your heart’s content.

The sealed cabinet contains 1×10” speaker enhanced by a specially designed bass reflex to provide a fuller sound than a ten inch cone alone would normally deliver.
The Vox VFS5 footswitch (sold separately) offers reverb, effects and tap tempo control.

Vox VT40X Key Features:

    •    40w output
    •    Analog/digital amplifier utilising Valvetronix preamp
    •    10” speaker in sealed cabinet with bass reflex
    •    11 amp models (20 via software)
    •    13 effects
    •    33 presets (60 via software)
    •    USB connectivity
    •    Auxiliary input
    •    Headphone output


Marshall Code 50

guitar-congress-marshall-code-50Marshall teamed-up with software innovators Softube to create MST (Marshall/Softube) modeling technology, offering realistic emulations of Marshall, and other amp, past and present. Bluetooth connectivity allows for music streaming (iOS/Android) using the proprietary Gatemay app, while USB allows Code to be used as your computer recording interface. An MP3 input is also provided for play-along.

Features include a choice of 14 MST preamps, 4 MST power amps with voicings based on the most-used valve-amp tubes, 8 classic Marshall cabinets and 24 high-qulaity digital effects including stompbox emulations, all fully programmable.

Marshall’s 91009 four-way Code footswitch (sold separately) provides multi-function control over key features. personal CODE experience.

Marshall Code 50 Key features:

    •    50w 1×12 combo
    •    14 preamp modesl
    •    4 power amp models
    •    8 speaker cab models
    •    24 digital effects (5 simultaneously)
    •    100 presets
    •    Bluetooth connectivity
    •    MP3 input
    •    USB connectivity
    •    Headphone output


Peavey Vypyr VIP 2

guitar-congress-peavey-vypyr-vip-2The feature-rich Vypyr VIP 2 delivers 40 watts throush a Peavey Blue Marvel 12” speaker, via a semi closed ported cabinet. Alongside 36 amp models, 6 bass amp models and 6 acoustic amp models plus 25 onboard effects, are a number of instrument simulations giving passable impressions of bass, acoustic and twelve-strings and more.

Peavey’s patented TransTube® analog technology ensure rich, authentic core tones and their SHARC® processor powers the amp and effects modeling, all controlled via an intuitive WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface.

Vipyr edit software provides further editing capability plus tuition and jam-along features.
Peavey offer the most comprehensive foot controller of the bunch, with their Sanpera 1 and II (sold separately). More than just controllers, these provide further functionality, including looper control and access to 400 patches, plus an expression pedal (two expression pedals on the Sanpera II) and a wealth of switching options.

Peavey Vypyr VIP 2 Key Features:

    •    40 watts output
    •    1×12 speaker in ported cabinet
    •    Patented Transtube circuitry
    •    Amp, effects and instrument modeling
    •    WYSIWYG controls
    •    36 guitar amps, 6 bass amps, 6 acoustic amps
    •    25 onboard effects
    •    Looper (with Sanpera foot controller)
    •    Chromatic tuner
    •    USB connectivity
    •    Headphone output
    •    Auxiliary input


Line 6 Amplifi 75

guitar-congress-line-6-amplifi-75Another stereo offering, but here with a unique five-speaker system (one 8” speaker plus a pair of mid and a pair of high-frequency drivers) delivering a total of 75 watts. The Amplifi concept places more emphasis on control via a remote device, via the AMPLIFi app (iOS or Android) which allows customisation of over 200 amp and effects models, all controlled wirelessly.

For this reason the onboard controls offer comparatively few options (there are only four onboard presets, as opposed to limitless via the app). However this unit is fairly and squarely aimed at the digital generation so most users won’t be concerned by this.

Bluetooth technology allows audio streaming from Android, iOS, Mac or PC and Line 6’s neat tone-matching feature automatically emulates the guitar sounds from your favourite tracks.

The Line 6 FBV MkII Foot Controller (sold separately) allows control over key functions.

Line 6 Amplifi 75 Key Features:

    •    75 watts output
    •    5-way stereo speaker system
    •    Wireless control via AMPLIFi app (iOS/Android)
    •    Over 200 amps and effects
    •    Virtually limitless editing/storage when controlled remotely
    •    Automatic tone matching feature
    •    Bluetooth and USB connectivity
    •    Stereo Aux input
    •    Headphone output


Blackstar ID:CORE STEREO 40

guitar-congress-blackstar-id-core-stereo-40The ID:CORE has offers intuitive traditional amp controls allied to the flexibility of digital patch creation and storage. Build from six core ‘voices’, Clean Warm, Clean Bright, Crunch, Super Crunch, OD 1 and OD 2, and tailor your sound using the unique ISF (infinite shape feature) EQ before adding studio-quality ditigal effects from the 12 available. You can only store six sounds which may be limiting in some circumstances, but enough for most gigs/sessions.

Deep-level tweakng can be achieved using  Blackstar’s INSIDER software (OSX or PC) which also provides jam-along and phrase training functionality.
Power comes from 2x 20w power amps delivering super-wide stereo when used with appropriate effects.

Connectivity comprises USB, MP3/Line in and speaker emulated line-out.
Patch-changing and cycling can be achieved using the Blackstar FS-11 footswitch (sold speparately).

Blackstar ID:CORE STEREO 40 Key Features:

    •    2x 20w super-wide stereo
    •    Patented ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) EQ
    •    6 voices
    •    12 stereo effects
    •    Free Blackstar INSIDER software
    •    USB connectivity
    •    MP3/line in
    •    Speaker emulated line out


Like all-things digital, modeling has improved at a pace, and all these combos offer mind-boggling capabilities and high quality emulations. If stereo is your thing then the Blackstar and the Line 6 are good choices. We like the use of a 12AX7 tube in the preamp of the Vox, providing vintage warmth at the front end. Both the Marshall and the Line 6 offer Blujetooth connectivity for streaming and playing along, and for this the tone-matching feature on the Line 6 is a lot of fun. The Peavey has a great feature-set and really comes into its own when used with one of the Sanpera foot controllers.

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