BluGuitar Amp1 vs SD PowerStage 170 vs Orange Pedal Baby
This review should be of interest to users of Helix, Kemper, Axe FX, and/or any other Amp emulation.
I just did a side by side comparison of power amps for Helix dialing in several tones on the Helix in the mid gain range for Blues, Blues Rock, Classic Rock genres. I plugged the out from Helix directly into these at line level and directly into the Amp1 return for the power amp stage only. I’ve compared the PS 170 before but this is the first time I’ve done a back to back with all three.
Conclusions and Notes:
Plenty of power/volume in small to medium sized venues or stage volume only.
I’ve heard people describe the PowerStage as sounding “sterile” compared to the Pedal Baby. I have to concur. It is more sterile sounding compared to it and outright dead sounding compared to the Amp1. After many comparisons back and forth between all three I believe I know exactly what is missing in the PS 170. It is missing a large amount of the natural harmonics produced by the tube amp, and since Helix is not super great at reproducing these, they are glaringly missing. The sound is there but there are large “gaps” in the harmonics from one amp to the next.
There is no “bounce” or “give” when you play. It feels completely “digital” or non-organic.
Orange Pedal Baby
It definitely sounds BETTER and like one reviewer on youtube recently stated, “more amp like”. Even though it was better, no matter how much I EQ’d Helix, there was still a lot of mojo and oomph missing. I WAS ABLE to increase some of this on the Pedal Baby itself by increasing the bass dial resonance, as well as reducing the treble dial resonance to more closely match my speaker. However, even though it had MORE body, presence, and harmonics than the Power Stage, it still lacked a glaringly large number of the harmonics that the Amp1 produces and although it also FELT slightly better to play, it still felt mechanical and non-organic.
Just absolutely stellar in comparison to both of the others. When you take a Helix tone and send it through the Amp1 power amp you get:
1) The FEEL of a tube amp… that bounce and feedback is there… but I’m still playing a digital emulator! Best of both worlds.
2) Tons of transparent power on tap
3) It SOUNDS like a real tube amp with a glorious array of tube harmonics.
If I put the Amp1 at 100% for sound/feel, the PowerStage is about 65% and the Pedal Baby is like 70% at 12 oclock dials and maybe 78% when adjusting dials to match your speaker.
Conclusion: There is still no better option than a used Amp1 (~$400) for amplifying something like the Helix. I still think Thomas could make a killing just selling his nano tube power section only for ~$450 - $500.
What Helix user wouldn't want the feel and sound of a real tube amp?