STL AmpHub Review: The #1 Plugin For People That Hate Plugins!

Over the past year, we have looked at tons of amp sims, including STL AmpHub. But we are finally taking a deep dive into the plugin, and it’s better than I thought! Today we take a look at what STL has to offer, and talk about why it’s so easy to use.


STL AmpHub: There Is A Lot Going On…

We have covered a lot of amp sims before. We took a look at the ones you can find for free, as well as the more expensive ones. Personally, I found a ton of uses for the free versions, because they were simple/basic and easy to use. The bigger, more expensive amp sims were sometimes confusing, and they cause option paralysis. Is it cool to have over 15,000 cabinet options? Well, yes…that IS cool. But it also makes it harder to plug in your guitar and just start playing or creating.

For example, I spent some time with Amplitube last year, and used it to record a few demo songs. It had so many different amps, and presets to play with, that I was actually really overwhelmed. I am the type of person that will try every feature of a program, before I settle on a tone. This proved to be problematic, because I found myself endlessly scrolling through the options.

Now I have had the same problem with the Line 6 Helix also. But I eventually settle on a preset, and that is what I use. Currently, I have about 15 Line 6 patches that I use to record with, and while I like them, it took a lot of work to dial them in the way I wanted. I have tried almost everything that Line 6 has to offer, and with each new product, more features get added. There are so many impulse responses, it will make your head spin.

I just need a great guitar tone, that I can record with. I want the process to be streamlined and easy. I want it to be professional grade quality. Now some guitarists enjoy the idea of having a million things to try out and dial in. If this is you, then I mean no harm, you’re probably just smarter than me. But other guitarists want an amp sim that is easy right out of the gate. I think STL AmpHub has nailed this streamlined idea.

STL is popular for the ToneHub Series that can be used on a Kemper profiler amp, or on your computer for recording. I thought this was all that STL provided, and since I have no interest in the artist pack sounds, I never paid much attention to STL Tones even though some of my favorite guitarists use it. But this week, I got the STL AmpHub Suite for producers, and it has a lot of features to talk about! I have been testing it, and I can’t wait to share this with you! I rarely get this excited for a guitar product, because I have seen it all. At least I thought I had…


STL AmpHub: Specs

The STL AmpHub is set up just like an actual rig that you would use live on stage or in the studio. At the bottom of the program UI you can see all of the individual components of the rig. You essentially build the rig just like you would in real life. This is a virtual “studio amp room” that most big studios have in Nashville, and Los Angeles. So pedals like a preamp or overdrive come first before the amp, modulation comes after. But this UI is very simple to navigate, even if this is your first amp sim. You have:

  • Input Volume
  • Noise Gate Control
  • Guitar Tuner
  • Preamp/Going Into The Front Of the Amp
  • The Amp
  • Speaker Cabs
  • Effects/ FX Loop Sounds/Modulation
  • Midi Control
  • Output Volume

STL AmpHub: The Amps

STL AmpHub
Screenshot of the 5150 Model: We are getting married.

The STL AmpHub package has a lot of features, but the way these features are organized is what sets it apart from it’s ilk. You have several preset banks that will get you started, or you can just create your own tones and save them. At the bottom left, you can see a tuning fork. This is your guitar tuner function, and it is extremely accurate! You also have your input levels and noise gate control next to the tuner. But where everything starts, is the amps!

The first component to dialing in your tone is going to be the amp choice. You click on the amp symbol, and you are brought to a menu with all of the amps. Because of copyright issues, these amps are not named “specifically”. But in my screenshot above, this amp is clearly a 5150 by Peavey. The program has quite a few amps, but STL AmpHub is constantly adding more every month. As of November 2021, you have:

• Solstice Solo 100: Soldano®  SLO100®
• Cali Dual Rect 2 Ch: Mesa Boogie® Dual Rectifier 2 Channel®
• Frantic Kobra: Framus® Cobra
• Frantic Drachen: Framus® 
• Vulture A30 Combo: Vox® AC30® Top Boost
• Brit J45: Marshall® JTM45®
• Brit J800: Marshall® JCM800® 2203
• Brit Plex: Marshall® Super Lead 100®
• Fenix Brown Combo: Fender® Deluxe® 6G3
• Fenix Bass 1959: Fender® Bassmann® 5F6-A
• Origin Rocker MK1: Orange® Rockerverb MK1®
• Emissary: Ignite Amps® Emissary®
• Eagle Power V1: ENGL® Powerball® 1
• Eddy 5153: Fender® EVH® 5150 III
• Meridian Class 30: Fender® Classic 30®
• Krater Dimed Plus: Krank™ Krankenstein+®
• Pyros Tremor 15: PRS™ MT15®
• Ignite Amps Graviton: Custom Bass Amp
• Vicarius Black 30: Victory™ V30 The Countess™ MKI
• Lab Mr Hectic: Laboga™ Mr Hector™
• Brit J1 2084: Marshall™ JMP1™ / Marshall™ EL84 20/20
• Eagle Fire 60: Engl™ Fireball™ 60

So far, I have tried out all of these amps, and I have played along with songs that I know were recorded with the featured amps. For example, I know that Carcass had a blend of 5150 amps for their masterpiece album “Heartwork”. I managed to dial it in perfectly in about 15 minutes. I played along with a few songs, and it sounded amazing!

I think it is very clear that STL AmpHub is geared towards Modern Metal. So if you are looking for an amp sim that can cover all types of genres, maybe STL isn’t for you. Just being honest, here. I was expecting more classic amps, but I am more than happy that STL AmpHub caters to Metal as a priority. There is a “quality over quantity” theme with this STL amp sim, and I think that’s why it’s so great.

As far as other high gain amps, the Framus models sound absolutely crushing. The Orange amp is a newer addition to the lineup and it responds almost exactly like my old Rockerverb. You can use the volume knob on your guitar to dial back the harshness and gain. These amps all respond to natural dynamics surprisingly well. So if you hit the strings lightly, it responds just like a valve/tube amp in every respect.

The ENGL and Soldano are usually among my favorite amp models with this kind of software, and they do not disappoint. Both of these amps have their classic mid/treble boost though, so it’s easy to dial them in to sound too brittle. If you are having a tough time getting these to sound good, crank the bass on the amp and make sure you’re using a good IR. Because once these are dialed in, they sound fantastic. Both are great for rhythm guitar overdubs or treatment tracks!

The clean amps are all really good too, and the Fender Bassman model has a lot of midrange “honk” to it’s tone. Just like the real Fender Bassman, it can get dirty if you crank it up, but I found that using it for strictly clean sounds is better suited. The Fender Deluxe is very bright, and the tone is just begging for some serious reverb and delay. The Vox AC30 model is similar, and it is just as chime-y and sparkling as the real Vox. I tried all of these amps with a single coil guitar, and you can get some gnarly Blues tones out of them, surprisingly.

The other high gain amps like the Victory and the PRS are based on the small 15 watt head versions of the amps. These also nail the tones of the real amps and they are perfect if you want something very minimal. I played a lot with the KRANK Dimebag Signature amp, and played along with the “Cowboys From Hell” album. You guessed it; the STL AmpHub nailed the tone on the album with the scooped out mids and heavy chug.

The Dual Rectifier is an amp that I am very familiar with, as I gigged with one for quite a while. So this one was the real test for STL Tones. I dialed it in the same way I would when I would play on stage, and it was PERFECT. I never thought I would play a Mesa Dual Rec ever again in my life, as it’s just too big and loud for me these days. It honestly made me a little bit giddy when I started shredding my favorite Metallica riffs.

Now all of these amp choices are amazing, and it is pretty clear that these are geared towards heavy music. But the other component to a good amp sim, is the cabinet impulse responses. You can have all the coolest amps in the world, but bad IRs can make it, or break it. So how is the cab system?


STL AmpHub: Cabinets and IR Loading

STL Amphub
Cabinet UI for STL AmpHub

Right next to the amplifier icon on the bottom is a speaker icon. Clicking on this, will bring up your cabinet interface for STL AmpHub. First of all, I want to state that you CAN load your own IR if you have one that you use all the time, and it saves your IR in the menu. I tried this with the one I got from Ola Englund, and it worked great. But that isn’t to say that the ones that come with the STL AmpHub are bad at all. In fact, I was very impressed!

The drop down menu gives you lots of different cab choices. You can choose from any of the presets, and you can mix and match them:

  • Brit 2×12 1922 G12T: Marshall® 1922 G12T 2×12®
  • Brit 4×12 1982 G12H: Marshall® 1982 G12H 4×12®
  • Cali 1×12 BS Open: Mesa Boogie® 1×12 BS Openback
  • Cali 4×12 V30: Mesa Boogie® Oversized 4×12 V30
  • Origin PPC 2×12 V30: Orange® PPC 2×12 V30®
  • Origin PPC 4×12 V30: Orange® PPC 4×12 V30®
  • Origin PPC 4×12 G12M: Orange® PPC 4×12 G12M®
  • Eagle RG 4×12 G12H: ENGL® RG 4×12 G12H®
  • Bog 4×12 SL V30: Bogner® SL 4×12 V30®
  • Vulture A30 2×12 Alnico C: Vox AC30® AC30 2×12 Alnico Blue Celestion®
  • Vulture A30 2×12 Alnico C: Vox AC30® AC30 2×12 Alnico Blue Vox®

Each speaker type can be used with any amp model and you can blend two cabinets together at a time. Have you ever wanted to blast a Vox through a Mesa cabinet? Well you can do that, and so much more with the cabinet feature. There are a lot of options here, and this is usually where amp sims can get overwhelming for some people. But let me make it easy for you!

It’s easy to choose the right cab for the job, in both of the cabinet slots that STL provides. First of all, you can disable one of the cabs if you want, and only run one cab option. But if you want to blend two cabs, then it’s easy to pick the right ones. If you are using a big high gain head, then pick two of the 4X12 options. If you are using one of the mini 15 watt heads, then pick a 1X12 to run it through. It’s important to think of these in “real life” terms.

The microphone placement can be done by dragging the mouse around the speaker, or it can be controlled by the knobs in the center. Each cabinet has multiple mic options, but not so many that it gets confusing. Again, apply some real world knowledge to the process. In real life, I often use a Shure SM57 microphone to record with, so that is the option that I chose for most of the presets that I have made. There’s plenty of experimentation to be done, or you can make it simple just like I have.

This interface is light years ahead of Helix, and many other processors that I have used in the past. Having a visual representation of the speaker, along with a simple list of cabinet types really makes the whole process smooth. Each amp will also load with a preset IR. Like a Marshall will be paired automatically with the Marshall cab automatically, but you can change it if you want.


STL AmpHub: Preamp Pedals/Boost

STL AmpHub Review: The #1 Plugin For People That Hate Plugins!
Preamp User Interface

If you just look at the list of available pedals, this may seem like a weak lineup. This is exactly what I thought when I first saw them. Imagine that! The guy who doesn’t like too many options thought there were not enough options! While it may seem spartan, the lineup is actually quality over quantity here. There is everything you need and more to get a great Metal tone.

  • Forbid 66: Fortin® 33®
  • Bold Drive S1: Boss® Super OverDrive SD-1®
  • Ibis Drive T9: Ibanez® Tube Screamer TS-9®
  • Tease Preamp: TC-Electronics® Integrated Preamp®
  • Xordium Preamp 2b: Xotic® BB Preamp®
  • Max Drive M808: Maxon® OD808®
  • Prodigal Raw V2: Pro Co® Rat®
  • Mizar Dist Plus: MXR® Distortion+®
  • EarShatter Drive Pluvius: Earthquaker Devices® Plumes®
  • Bold Dist H2: Boss® HM2® 

I honestly don’t have a lot to say here, as the pedals speak for themselves. The addition of the Boss HM2 will get you some grinding, buzzsaw Death Metal tones in an instant. The Tube Screamer has been used for years as a boost pedal in front of the amp, and it works here just like it does in real life. The Rat pedal can be added to a clean amp to get some solid Doom tones and it sounds absolutely filthy. The Fortin 33 does some amazing things when you pair it with the 5150, giving the gain boost an extra kick in the balls.

The preamps are all really impressive, and these work well with clean tones. But mostly, this whole section of pedals is here for you to take your high gain tones to the next level, and really cut into the mix. When I played live, I rarely ran anything through the front of the amp, so this is all kind of new to me. I’m having a great time trying out different pedals to color my tone on an amp, like the 5150 and ENGL!


STL AmpHub: Effects Pedals

STL AmpHub Review: The #1 Plugin For People That Hate Plugins!
Post Effects Section

Once again, this was an area that I was worried about once I saw the selection. But again, it is a quality over quantity approach. Each of these pedals has a plethora of setting combinations that make each pedal much more versatile than first glance. The list may seem small, but I have had no problem dialing in some amazing sounds, and some of them are very unique. You get:

STL AmpHub Review: The #1 Plugin For People That Hate Plugins!
Time Based Effects Pedals

All of the FX loop/modulation pedals are your basic versions in most cases, but each one does one helluva job when it comes to tone. You have your basic pedals with the Tremolo, Phaser, Flanger, and Chorus variants. These are all great, and have very simple controls, making it easy to pull one up and dial it in fast. I honestly rarely use these types of pedals minus the chorus effects. That said, each one works really well with every amp.

Now, the other 3 are quite special. The delay has a “spill over” switch that lets the delay continue even if you change patches. If you have a midi controller hooked up, this is really cool. The delay can also auto detect the tempo of the song while you are recording, so you never have to manually put in the time. If you are running stereo, it can also ping pong left and right! You can also use the tap tempo button to get the time lined up if you’re not recording. The reverb pedal has a very analog tonality to it, and can be light… or cavernous. This reverb is very usable and I have no complaints…

But can we talk about this Space Verb pedal for a second? This thing is absolutely bonkers, and can do some really cool things to your guitar sound. It leaves a harmonic reverb trail after each note, and it sounds like it’s….singing? That’s the only way to describe it! You can also turn the wet mix all the way up, and turn down the dry to get a synthesizer effect with your guitar! The Space Verb is a crazy as hell pedal and I have had a blast adding it to my lead tones.


STL AmpHub: Final Thoughts…

First, let me say that I am not in anyway affiliated with STL Tones (Though I would like to be!). Everything I have told you is true. This is the best amp sim that I have found. This is the amp sim for people that hate amp sims, or find them too complicated to deal with.

Let’s talk about the best feature of this amp sim: It is only $10 a month via subscription.

That’s right, this whole shebang is just 10 bucks a month. You can even subscribe yearly for $90, and save some money yearly. This is a crazy deal to me, since you get monthly updates that add new amps and features. Comparable amp sims can be anywhere from $400-$1700. This is an absolute steal, and being this cheap can seem suspicious. But STL really went out of it’s way to make something truly unique.

For some guitarists, the STL AmpHub is just not going to have everything they need, and I can see that point. The amp sim is lacking things like a pitch shifter, detuner, harmonizer, and bit crusher. All of these effects have become popular lately and I can see the lack of these being a deal breaker for certain guitarists.

But for someone like me? This is a dream come true! This is the amp sim that I have been waiting for. STL AmpHub is exactly what I would personally design if I made an amp sim. This is full featured, professional quality, and easy to navigate. The UI is clean, and concise. The sounds are producer grade quality, and STL is used by some pretty big studios across the world.

STL is currently offering a free 10 day trial, to see if you like it. You can click here for more info. You can also decline to subscribe, and just buy the individual amp models.

What Amp Models do I get with STL AmpHub?

As of November 2021:
• Solstice Solo 100: Soldano®  SLO100®
• Cali Dual Rect 2 Ch: Mesa Boogie® Dual Rectifier 2 Channel®
• Frantic Kobra: Framus® Cobra
• Frantic Drachen: Framus® 
• Vulture A30 Combo: Vox® AC30® Top Boost
• Brit J45: Marshall® JTM45®
• Brit J800: Marshall® JCM800® 2203
• Brit Plex: Marshall® Super Lead 100®
• Fenix Brown Combo: Fender® Deluxe® 6G3
• Fenix Bass 1959: Fender® Bassmann® 5F6-A
• Origin Rocker MK1: Orange® Rockerverb MK1®
• Emissary: Ignite Amps® Emissary®
• Eagle Power V1: ENGL® Powerball® 1
• Eddy 5153: Fender® EVH® 5150 III
• Meridian Class 30: Fender® Classic 30®
• Krater Dimed Plus: Krank™ Krankenstein+®
• Pyros Tremor 15: PRS™ MT15®
• Ignite Amps Graviton: Custom Bass Amp
• Vicarius Black 30: Victory™ V30 The Countess™ MKI
• Lab Mr Hectic: Laboga™ Mr Hector™
• Brit J1 2084: Marshall™ JMP1™ / Marshall™ EL84 20/20
• Eagle Fire 60: Engl™ Fireball™ 60

Do I have to subscribe to STL AmpHub?

No. You can buy the models outright if you want. Every model is available to buy individually. The subscription service is the better deal, though, as you get monthly updates.

Is there A Free Version of STL AmpHub?

STL Tones offers a free download of the Ignite Amplifier Model, with digital effects for free. You can get it at: https://www.stltones.com/products/stl-ignite-emissary-plug-in-bundle

Do I need a physical iLok for STL AmpHub?

No, you just need an iLok account. You can apply the program to up to 3 devices at once.

Can I use STL AmpHub with a midi controller?

yes, you can use a midi expression pedal, or a controller to switch between banks just like a floor processor.


Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the Georgia Metal community, and the music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. Chris worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer in the mid 2000's. In 2007, Christopher moved back to Savannah, GA and started producing albums in his own studio. Christopher also has a background in teaching beginner/intermediate guitar and working with children at "Rock Camps". Over the years he has worked with some big names like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. Christopher uses Schecter Guitars, Line 6 Processors, EMG Pickups, and Blackstar Amps.

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