The Spider III 150’s design is quite straightforward for such a versatile creature. One small LCD window displays the current preset, which is selected via a 4-way Presets/Banks button. Various LEDs indicate which amp and effects models are active. The Amp Model knob scrolls through six main settings: Clean, Twang, Blues, Crunch, Metal, and Insane. Each model offers two variations, indicated by either a red or a green LED. The red tone is not necessarily hotter. A Drive knob controls the amount of gain; Bass, Mid, and Treble controls allow further tone shaping; and a Channel Volume knob adjusts the final level. Turning these controls can cause levels to jump dramatically at first, because each knob position may not correlate directly to its setting when the preset was created. Uncontrollable feedback blasted me several times when I stumbled upon a super-high-gain preset while channel surfing at significant volumes. I also noticed a huge volume jump when I turned the Master between 3 and 5, but very little difference between 5 and 10. Other than these few volume issues, navigation was smooth and intuitive. (Line 6 tells us that the Spider’s Master Volume control is “scaled to operate like a vintage valve amp’s, where the majority of the volume range is in the first third range of the control.”)
The first effects knob controls a gradated Chorus/Flange, Phaser, or Tremolo. The second Effects knob can be used to add Delay, Tape Echo, or a spaced-out Sweep Echo (which are also tap-tempo adjustable). Reverb is global. The digital effects all sound decent, and the user-friendly layout makes experimentation fun and simple. Many presets impressed me immediately, some were overwrought with effects, and some just needed a tweak here or there. The Albert Lee settings proudly represented his twangy, slapback sound. Most of the modern metal presets were huge and crunchy. The Blues setting—a Vox AC30 model—had a warm, vintage sound. I considered the Back ’n’ Black preset a pedestrian approximation of Angus Young’s tone until I turned the Master volume knob up to its midpoint. Once the speakers started pushing serious air, the tones became richer and more dynamically responsive.
The Spider III 150 covers every sound from completely clean to ridiculously overdriven, and is a significant tonal upgrade from previous Spiders. Many of the presets are sculpted well enough for immediate real-world use, and when its speakers are pushed, the Spider III stops sounding like a digital chameleon and assumes its own identity as a living, breathing guitar amplifier—one that’s straightforward enough for giggers, while offering endless options for home recordists and practice-room players.