Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kuassa Vermilion Review - Retro, Tube Amp Sim Gold Medalist

Kuassa have recently released one of, if not “the”, finest vintage/retro guitar combo amp sims to have ever been seen and heard “In The Box”. Considering the spectacular quality that this top-shelf plugin delivers, the $39 USD price point is most definitely affordable!

This polished, new guitar amplification simulator is a definite BEST in CLASS product. The vibrant, authentic-sounding, retro tube amp tones that come out of this piece of programming creation are par excellence. Kuassa have released Vermillion in native 32bit & 64bit for Mac and PC.   Bam!

Sit down on your favorite studio stool, and let’s give this boutique combo amp the center stage; shall we?


Pretty. In a muscular, foxy, kind of way. The clean, silky 3D GUI tantalizes your retina and optic nerves in the manner that seeing a 1953 spotlight on Mae West would. Beautiful, man. Beautiful. The charming oxblood-colored “tolex” looks as though it were just polished with Armor All®, after being unboxed in the showroom. The subtle, expertly-applied, photo-realistic lighting and shadowing effects add a defined, graphical elegance. Careful attention to detail is obvious; even the “brass” corner caps are eye-catching.  Kuassa have certainly kept the bar held high with regard to photo-realistic, 3D-like GUI design.

The pair of virtual stereo mics are adjustable front-to-back and also from side-to-side. One, or both of the mics can be angled off-axis at 45 degrees.  The mics are very similar in appearance to the perennial “Shure SM57”.  Even the twin mic stands look ‘sturdy’ and pristine. The ‘mic cables’ aesthetically match the amp cabinet. Every UI element flawlessly flows in cohesive visual design.

The controls are all smoothly dialled in; very smoothly. The knobs remind me of those used on a vintage Tube Screamer TS 808. Classic combo amp decals are sharply brought to focus here. Even the ol’ skool power indicator and active channel buttons are displayed with a classic red ‘incandescent’ glow. The amp sim’s front mimics the tasteful appearance of a classic VOX grill-cloth - minus the "iron" grill.

All of the buttons, knobs, and switches are clearly labelled in crisp, white text against an “anodized, brass-colored face plate”. Each of these elements is well laid out and immediately familiar to electric guitarists.

All of this ‘de rigueur’ is handsomely presented in down-angled, 3D perspective on virtual hardwood ‘studio’ flooring. As Austin Powers would exclaim: “Yeah, baby. Pretty in a muscular, foxy kinda way.”

The parameters for speaker/cabinet, mic selection, panning, etc., are optionally displayed in clear, white overlays and are configured in neatly arranged sections. These sections provide smooth mouse-controlled sliders and drop down menus.

The plugin’s interface is conservatively sized in dimensions measuring 650px wide x 500px high. Perhaps this exquisite GUI should have been made larger, or at least be made available in multiple sizes. This is a feature that many plugin developers have included with their more recent offerings. Many modern PC monitors operate at resolutions of 1440px x 900px and greater; a plugin of this size can be difficult to view and manipulate.

Stereo Imaging and Depth Perception:

Rich, full-bodied stereo spectrum is readily available here.  The user can easily configure the ‘speaker’ options of this plugin in an array of stereo configurations, with each side being independently blended, panned, and mixed by many degrees. The front-to-back mic positioning can simulate a substantial amount of believable depth, focus and placement.

Sound Quality:

Attentively calculated emulation of classic tube amp tone-stacks, paired with finely recorded impulse responses of revered classic speakers/cabinets, lavish a guitarist with credible, authentic-sounding, vintage tube amp sound. We are amply supplied with (3) distinctly voiced channels and selectable overdrive/gain boost. The individual channels may be summarized as follows:

Channel (A): Well-rounded and ‘organic-sounding’ with smooth, unobtrusive mids. Warm, rich tonal character featuring a lovely chime-like presence on top makes this channel the perfect choice for typical roots, country, blues and ‘earthy’ tones. Engaging the overdrive boost, and applying moderate gain, results in smooth, creamy overtones. I wouldn’t exactly call it “crunch”; perhaps fluid, liquid overdrive is a more befitting accolade.

Channel (B): Best suited for ‘thinner’ vintage tone. Think SUN Recordings from the 50s. This channel has ‘Memphis’ twang splashed all over it! With liberal amounts of reverb added, you can dive right into some serious surf sounds, dude. It’s wild, man. Wild! Crank up the gain on this channel, and tasty blues notes can burrow their way through a mix in true Elmore James or Albert King fashion.

- Channel (C): This channel approaches high-gain amp territory and does a good job of it. Perhaps the developer borrowed some code from the respectable “Kuassa Amplifikation One”. That being said, this channel is a little bit ‘vanilla’ for me. Wait! Please don’t take offense. What I mean by that statement is that there are a plethora of amp sims that emulate extremely overdriven, high-gain guitar amplifiers. It seems to me, that there other amp sims that better suited for more aggressive, high-gain musical genres.  Notwithstanding, the (C) channel in clean mode does lend itself especially well to round, warm jazz tones due to its fuller low end and well-balanced mids. It is this reviewer’s findings that the clean sounds of this channel are better appreciated than its higher gain potential.

It is reasonable to presume that most guitarists consider IK Multimedia’s Amplitude Fender™ to be one of the audio software industry leaders in vintage tube amp emulation. I, too, have been a faithful Amplitude user and admirer. I gotta tell ya, kids: this new gem from Kuassa, is a tube amp lover’s dream-come-true. In particular, this plugin “NAILS” that great, classic “clean” tube amp sound; as well as silky smooth overdriven tones. If you’re looking for honest-to-goodness vintage vibe, this little combo amp simulator wins the gold!

Effects & Features:

I would not describe this amp sim as ‘feature-rich’ in comparison with large, “all in” packages such as Guitar Rig Pro, Amplitude, Overloud’s TH2, Peavey ReValver, and the like. However, we are discussing a boutique, speciality amp sim that truly NAILS authentic-sounding, vintage tube tone. Vermillion may not be feature-rich, but its features are “Rich”.

I’m getting well along into my middle 40s, here in year 2013. I grew up with tube amps. They weren’t considered ‘vintage’ back then; they were what we used. The ironic, downright comical things is, nobody was impressed if you had an old Fender Twin – you got noticed if you had a shiny, new Peavey Chorus 212. 30 years ago, tubes were considered ‘antiquated’ and anaemic. Young players wanted more headroom from the 200 watt RMS solid-state fare, and crazy distortion with Boss MetalZone pedals.

-  Pulsating, tube-circuitry tremolo.
-  Deep “sproingy” spring reverb.
-  Mild overdrive and ‘singing’ harmonics once you set your pre-gain to “5”.
-  Picking and dynamics sensitivity.
-  Full range speakers with “paper” cones and heavy magnets that would ‘flap’ and start to ‘break up’ with enough juice delivered to them.
-  Warm tone that had a live, organic quality.
-  Sheen & presence with plenty of upper harmonics.

These are the attributes that I know well, from good, 75 lbs. tube amps. I’m excited to announce to you - my viewing audience, my colleagues in the pursuit of tone integrity – that Kuassa has captured this attribution. Vermillion delivers so well, you may want to look behind your computer in case there are glowing 12ax7T’s and 6L6-GCs burning the desk.

I laud Kuassa for including a built-in, smooth-functioning noise gate. The gate features adjustable threshold, attack, and decay parameters.

Vermilion is not a "one trick pony". It offers plenty of mic/speaker configuration options:

-  5 types of matching cabinets: Black Tolex (2x12), Red Tolex (1x12), Vintage Blonde (1x10), Iron Grill (1x10), and Cloth Grill (1x8).
-  4 microphone types: Dynamic 57, Dynamic 441, Condenser 1, and lastly, Ribbon 1.

Kuassa have kindly included a capable impulse loader to facilitate 3rd party IRs. Just in case you want to load up that gnarly Marshall 1960 Greenback IR, you can easily do so.

CPU Consumption:

The plugin remains very light on system resources in standard operating mode; kick it up to HQ (oversampled) mode, and the sound quality is breathtaking. HQ mode does demand more CPU, but most nearly any dual or quad core system should be able to handle at 3 or 4 simultaneous instances of Vermillion.


-  Excellent Value vs. Price ratio.

-  BEST in Class, authentic-sounding tube amp tone.

-  Deep spring reverb and pulsating tremelo.

-  Excellent stereo imagery and perceived depth.

-  Attractive, photo-realistic user interface.

-  Familiar controls & easily configured.

-  Friendly, professional product support.

-  No dongles, call/response challenges, nor invasive piracy protection overhead.

-  32 & 64 bit (MAC/PC).

-  Capable of 96Khz sample rate.


-  Slightly under-sized GUI dimensions.

-  High gain emulation is slightly weaker than the sim's clean/overdriven sounds.

Visit the Kuassa website. Kuassa Amplifikation

Brother Charles is a freelance writer, Gospel music artist and minister. Charles had been a professional touring musician during the nineties; working primarily as a lead guitarist in the Canadian country music industry. Brother Charles is also involved with music production and quality home recording.

Intellectual Copyright - 2013 - All rights Reserved. This review may not be copied or reproduced in whole, nor in part, without express written permission from the author.

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