Review: Joey Sturgis Tones Toneforge Menace

So you want to process your sounds through an aggressive metal-style software amp plug-in? Well, you're in luck. Toneforge Menace from Joey Sturgis Tones does just that. But how does it perform/  

Joey Sturgis, who has some great credits behind him, is generally known for his production and mixing skills when it comes to the heavier side of music. I’ve been testing out out his Toneforge Menace amp simulator. So what’s it like?  

Signal Path 

The Toneforge Menace is billed as an Aggressive Metal amp. I’m not going to argue with that as that’s a pretty good description of what it does. It’s essentially five stages designed to shape your guitar tone in a simple way. Or as JST say, guitar tone simplified!

I’ll start with the amp section which delivers a somewhat mind-bending amount of distortion (in a good way) and is reminiscent of a Diezel or Engl hi-gain type sound. It has a Gain control, Master Out and a pretty nice EQ section. This then goes into a Cab stage which provides four speaker impulses to further shape the tone. There’s an SM57 (on and off axis), a Sennheiser 421 and U87. So far so good. 

After this we get a dedicated EQ section and a Limiter. I’m not sure whether Menace actually needs these two stages as they just seem to get in the way a bit. I can think of other third-party EQ’s and Limiter/Compressors that I’d rather employ instead of these as they aren’t great.  

This brings me to the first stage which looks like a Tube Screamer type pedal. Trouble is it doesn’t work anything like a Tube Screamer or any other pedal for that matter. One thing Menace doesn’t do well is clean up at low input volumes (it’s on or off) which makes me wonder why there’s a separate ‘Input’ attenuator too. In fact, reducing its Gain like you would on a Tube Screamer and using it as a clean boost into the front of the amp actually just destroys the sound. This pedal stage should be looked at or binned, sorry!

Other features here are a Noise Gate which does a good job. There’s also a built -inTuner too. Clicking on Signal Path open a page where you can disable stages. There’s one called ‘Magic’ that when unchecked just doesn’t do Menace any favors either. This adds a thickening effect and should just be left on and hidden from the UI. 

 

In Use

I did a bit of recording with Menace and I ended up just using the Amp and Cab section for the most part. Now, I know I’ve been a bit harsh on some aspects of Menace but when you just use the Amp part it’s ‘really’ nice to play through. Crisp distorted rhythm parts that have great note definition and some fantastically smooth high-gain lead tones come out of this thing. With the amp Gain down, you can get a nice ‘just past’ crunch tone out of Menace too.  

I found when Menace is doing the thing it does well, it really does deliver in spades. That thing is high gain! Menace doesn’t really to pretend to be anything else so it’s doing exactly what it says on the tin.  

Conclusion  

You can get a tremendous amount of grunt from Menace and if you’re into brutal metal sounds then you’re probably going to love this. For me the front and back end stages of this plugin don’t really do it any favors. 

The Amp and Cab stage are quite brilliant and deliver some ‘really’ chunky metal sounds with loads of bite and attitude. If JST were to focus on these two stages and introduce something like more speaker/cab impulse options, they’d have a really formidable product here. Basically ‘simplify’ the plugin to what it does best!    

Price: $65 USD (normally $79 USD)

Pros: If you’re after a dedicated Hi-Gain Amp sim with buckets of distortion then Menace performs that task with aplomb. 

Cons: Should simplify feature list and work on its strengths.

Web: http://joeysturgistones.com/products/toneforge-menace?variant=11685310081

 

For the past 20 years Toby has worked as a professional guitarist, programmer and producer. Clients include Sir Paul McCartney, George Michael, Shirley Bassey, Yusuf Islam, Giles Martin as well as the London 2012 Olympic Ceremonies. He has also worked extensively in TV, Advertising and Film. As well as composing himself he has also ... Read More

Discussion

IlluminatedRecordings
I bought menace pretty much right when it first came out, and have had great results on all aspects of the plugin. I'm a sucker for a lot of JST products, but I don't blindly buy them without taking into consideration what they'll accomplish for me. When I bought menace, I was tired of the old pod farm patches I kept using, and needed a fresh start for my guitar tone. Never in my time of recording, have I achieved a guitar tone so simply. From the minute I slapped the plugin in my chain, my guitar tone had new life and sounded fantastic. After actually tweaking it, it was even better. Personally I disagree with your comments about the limiter and tube screamer not being viable or comparable to 3rd party plugins.
Joey
Thanks for reviewing.
Steve Perrino
I think youve got the wrong idea on how a lot of these features are commonly used. The tube screamer isn't really intended for what you mentioned, but more commonly used to drive the input of the amp more to hit the "sweet spot" in a consistent way.

Additionally, the EQ is nice for HP/LP/Cutting harsh frequency bands such as 3-4kHz. The limiter I'd say is great for controlling volume build up from palm muting, low end, etc.
Lee
I don't think this plugin needs simplifying whatsoever. There are enough parameters in this plugin to have enough capability to sculpt 2 completely different guitar tones. If you took enough time to mess around with this plugin then you'd realise that the compressor and limiter is VASTLY different from other VST compressors/limiters. They're also there so that you can tweak the tone all in the same program saving CPU and leaving you with a superb playing tone with virtually no latency while tracking. Also could you elaborate on the 'TS' problem. Could you not get a good tone while using it? I'm failing to understand what the problem with it is. It sounds like the problem is user error rather than anything wrong with the plugin/algorithm. It's an overdrive pedal.. It does what it says on the tin. This plugin will get you a great high gain guitar tone from the off. You're entitled to your opinion on the plugin but a few of your pointers are wildly inaccurate/uninformed.
Danny Anticks
I have to respectfully disagree with you on this.. I don't know how much time you spent 'really' demoing this product but you left a lot out and I don't think you were very fair in saying that it's basically only good for 1 thing.. The tones you can get out of menace are awesome and you can do so much with it.. And I don't even know what to say about your TUBE SCREAMER comment lol.. JST has an incredible product here.. Anybody taking this as whether or not to purchase this product please do some more research for yourself.. Menace is sick.. Joey and his team def know what they are doing..
Jonny Keenan
I have to disagree with what was said about certain uses in ToneForge Menace. As a new-to-the-game "producer" (aka I'm still learning, don't know much) it has been super easy and sleek to use. The biggest thing I love, is that it's brought me back from a really difficult bout of writer's block. Everyone has their own opinions on how things "should sound" or "should work", but when it comes down to it, I'm grateful to Joey for this product! Not only does it give me the exact sound I want, but it's ready quickly. It performs to my needs(which are not just metal) and gives me the satisfaction that no other amp sim I have has. (LePou, Pod Farm 2.5, etc..) just my opinion. Thank you for sharing yours.
Jake Y
In my experiences, Toneforge blows other amp simulation software out of the water. And I think its worth mentioning that other amp sims, like Amplitude and POD farm, require a TON of post processing in order to get a polished tone. That right there is the key difference and the value you get when you purchase Toneforge. I've purchased hundreds of dollars worth of software over the years, searching for something to help me get close to that "professional" sounding hi-gain guitar tone. What Toneforge allows me to do is get a great guitar tone as soon as I throw it on the DI guitars. Of course, processing of the guitar tone is needed no matter what simulator you use, but Toneforge makes mixing the guitar tone A LOT easier. I use the Overdrive pedal to shape the tone of the gain, so if i want a darker sound ill decrease the tone nob on the overdrive pedal itself. For the purpose of getting a good metal guitar tone, this pedal is key. With heavy tones, limiting is essential. Although you can use other limiters out there, the built in limiter works just fine and does exactly what it was designed to do (I will say that L1 is my favorite though). I think the EQ works perfectly fine and I have had no issues with it. Overall, Toneforge is a fantastic piece of software that everyone from kids in their basement to professionals can use and afford. Being able to get fantastic quality into the hands of the next generation of musicians is really cool.
Bravery Sound
First off, I'd like to say that I have used Toneforge Menace on plenty of my clients mixes, and never once have I had a complaint about the tones that I have achieved using it.

Also, I want to say that I strongly disagree with some of the points this article makes.

1. The part about the "Tube Screamer"...At no point anywhere in this plugin does it say tube screamer. It is an overdrive. And as an overdrive, it does exactly what is expected of it. It adds distortion.

2. Saying that the Eq and Limiter should be thrown out to "Simplify" this plugin would be a terrible idea. Toneforge menace is designed to be a one stop shop for a guitar tone in a mix. While, yes there are plenty of plugins that do a better job at eqing, or limiting, not one of them can be found for less than some people spend on shoes. Also, use of these features allows for a much more customizable tone, and removing them from the plugin would limit the user far too much in my opinion.

In conclusion, I wouldn't recommend anyone who is interested in purchasing Toneforge menace let this post deter you, as Sturgis himself has proven that this plugin is more than capable of performing on a professional level (See Miss May I's latest album, "Deathless") and for the price, you won't find a better amp sim suited for metal.
Alex
When I start doing some recordings, I don't know a shit about this and start using Guitar Rig presets and I was stock in that. When I get Menace I realice the easy way to get a great tone without using any external plug-ins, which is good when you are starting. So, now, I can provide to my clients a quick view about them tone just open one plug-in. I think all the stages in Menace are specifically made it for a quick, heavy and great tone without worrying about third plug-ins.
Chuox
I am a musician guitarist, a few years ago I am focusing on the theme of the musical production and to achieve a sound heavy in terms of drum,bass, guitar. Listened to my favorite bands and overnight in time to be fans of the bands to become fans of producers. And I encounter with a group of leading producers that not only make discograficos materials, if not who create products to help new producers. toneforge menace is an amazing amp simulator that i has made life easier achieving great tones, and without the need of having to fit 5u6 plugin on the same channel. Only by placing toneforge menace and activandolo is amazing. Do not I am going to talk about technical aspects because I am new in this world of production. But after testing several simulators toneforge menace i has been very good help.

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