At this stage, Neural DSP’s Archetype plugins don’t really need any kind of introduction. These rig sims have been taking the scene by storm with their studio quality sound, and the massive variety of tones that can be extracted from them.
When it comes to tonal variety, there are few players who can match RATM’s Tom Morello. He’s known for his wildly experimental sound, and frankly crazy techniques. While you can’t technically buy his guitar skills, you can invest in a rig that will absolutely nail the tones.
If you hadn’t guessed, we’re talking about the new Neural DSP Archetype: Tom Morello. In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be going into depth on this fantastic plugin to give you the lowdown before buying it for yourself.
Neural DSP were kind enough to give us access to the Tom Morello plugin for the purposes of this review, but they didn’t ask for any input, and as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.
Whether you’re trying to nail that RATM tone, or you’re just building up your plugin collection, you’ll definitely want to keep on reading!
Who is this for?
This plugin is perfect for Rage Against The Machine fans, or even just fans of Morello himself, who have been dying to nail his tones. We know that his pedal board is surprisingly small considering his sound (he claims to use the same 4 pedals for everything), but having those pedals and getting the sound right are two very different things!
It works for both Mac and PC users, and is compatible with most DAWs. We do suggest running it on a newer machine, regardless of platform, because it’s pretty resource heavy, and the advertised minimum system requirements (in our experience) aren’t quite enough to get the most out of this.
One of the coolest things about this (and other) Archetype plugins, is that if you don’t have a DAW, you can still get full use of it – all the FX, all the cabsims, the amp model, everything is available within a standalone app.
Appearance / Features / Controls
The Archetype: Tom Morello wasn’t quite as feature laden as some of the other Archetype plugins we’ve tried. In fact, it came with just one amp model – a digital representation of Morello’s disheveled Marshall JCM 800. Other Archetype plugins are known to come with multiple amp models (like the Rabea plugin we previously tested). However, this makes sense insomuch as the entire package is designed to replicate Morello’s “A Rig”, the setup he’s most famous for which is also based on his JCM800, but we think it might have been nice to get some of his additional gear included.
As well as the A Rig Marshall, it came with his iconic 4 x 12 Peavey cabinet, preset to Tom’s preferences, although there were hundreds of IRs included, as well as 10 positionable mics, and even a room mic.
The graphic design on the amp sim was fantastic, although we wouldn’t have expected any less from Neural. We were able to adjust everything by clicking on the virtual knobs and controls – this also included the built in FX loop.
In terms of FX, it came with Divebomb – a virtual expression pedal that allowed for a seamless -12/+12 semitone pitch change, Wham-1 – a digital whammy controller that allowed for a -24/+24 semitone pitch change, and of course, being a Tom Morello rig, it also came with a Wah effect. There was also a 9 band graphic EQ controller, and stereo delay and reverb pedals.
Performance / Sound
Despite having fewer amps than some of the other Archetype series plugins, we have to say we really enjoyed playing with this plugin. It wasn’t quite as niche as we first thought it might be, and found that there were tons of useful tones for a variety of music styles. This is most likely down to the fantastic versatility of the JCM800, and Neural DSP’s unparalleled ability to really nail the features of a digital model.
The out of the box tones were really a Tom Morello cheat code. If you, like many of us, have spent any amount of time struggling to squeeze his sound out of the gear you already have at home, you’ll struggle no longer if you invest in this plugin.
In terms of clarity, because it was such a simple rig, the signal chain didn’t get muddy at all, which we found useful, as we’re sure you will if you have limited skills in music production.
As far as the FX went, we were absolutely blown away. Morello is well known as a user of the Digitech Whammy pedal, and the Wham-1 did a frankly amazing job of replicating those warbly tones. The pitch shifting we got from both the Divebomb (more subtle) and the Wham-1 (subtle as a sledgehammer) was all super authentic. Digital modulation is often a bit hit or miss, but in this case – bullseye.
As we ventured into free play with the plugin, we changed up the speakers, moved mics around, and even played with the room mic placement, and as we’ve previously found with the Archetype plugins, everything felt just like using physical gear in the studio. Mic positioning was genuinely reflective of what would happen in the real world, and overall, we were genuinely happy with it.
The post FX were also really useful for hitting the RATM sound. Having access to a transposer/doubler was super convenient for drop tuning – you’ll find this most useful if you only have one guitar and you don’t feel like changing your tuning everytime you want to play something different.
To get the most out of his pedals, having access to 1, or preferably 2 physical expression pedals is preferable. Being able to manipulate the Divebomb and the Wah as we would with physical gear really made a big difference.
Final thoughts on the Neural DSP Archetype: Tom Morello
If you’re not already familiar with Neural DSP, they really are at the forefront of digital modeling, and so it’s no surprise that their Archetype range has been so wildly popular. The Archetype Tom Morello might well be one of the more sparse rigs in the lineup in terms of amps and features, but in terms of being user friendly, plus having features you might find yourself using outside of RATM covers, we think it’s one of the best yet.
For us, the biggest takeaway was the overall quality of the tone and FX. We thought that everything sounded just like it was supposed to, which admittedly is one of the easiest parts of making digital models. The hard part, and the part that Neural really nailed, was how the rig responds to changes in input – whether that was playing dynamics, or changes to the settings on the gear, it really felt like we were getting to plug into the notorious A Rig, and that alone was worth the price of entry.