Let’s get one thing straight: I love tube amps. I have owned almost a dozen in the past years and currently own three of them. For what it’s worth, I even built two of them myself. Nothing really compares to this truly integral experience of playing straight into a cranked tube amp. Once you try that, everything else sounds and feels like a toy.
There are however, a few drawbacks to this experience. Even with a 15W 1x12 amp, you will be asked by the sound engineer to turn your amp down well before it hits “that” spot and you will have a hard time carrying it around because it weighs a ton.
Now, I have been flirting with digital for a while, but every blind date turned out to be a big fat flop. If it was not because of the crappy sound, it was because of the million buttons and a million ways to tweak your sound. And coming from a tube amp where you get a perfect sound just by twisting a few knobs, you can understand how annoying it is to spend hours of tweaking without hitting “that” sound. After seeing the Torpedo CAB M reviews on YT, I was intrigued because it sounded convincingly, could fit on a small pedalboard and was priced reasonably. I read a bit about it and decided to try an “ampless” solution with just a preamp for which I decided for Tech 21 Hot Rod Plexi due to convincing palette of sounds and the fact that the battery lasts forever.
In a classic Thomann fashion, package arrived within a few days and I must admit that I have not been so excited for a piece of gear for a while now. After putting everything together and trying it out with headphones, the sounds I was getting were convincing but I felt there was more to the gear and that I could get even better sounds out of it. After spending some time with tweaking the poweramp parameters, signal levels and microphone positions, I was already miles ahead of where I was the first day. If you consider buying this, take into account that there is a learning curve (though not a crazy one) and you will need to spend some time tweaking the CAB.
After setting everything up, it was time for a first real life trial run - the rehearsal. This was the first rehearsal where my sound was as good as when playing with a tube amp (I would dare to say, even better!), where the guitar was sitting in the mix exactly where it should, and all that without excessive volume and noise.
One of the best features of CAB M is the fact that I can tweak my sound at home (and practice through headphones) and then just take that exact sound to a gig and plug straight in. If your rockstar ego will allow you to play without a half stack, of course ;)
Still have not tried it as a cabinet simulator between an amp and a cab, so I cannot comment on that...
Convincing sound and feel
Simple, yet comprehensive and effective settings
A lot of virtual Cabinet options
External IR loading
Intuitive interface (both on device & computer)
Could be better:
No separate headphone volume control - preset and master volume can control it but can lead to clipping before you get to the volume you want
Headphone jack - would be nicer if they used a big plug
Device knobs can sometimes be imprecise