Don’t get fooled by the front panel: The Torpedo VB-101
IT’S TRIVIAL TO RECORD ELECTRIC guitar these days: simply plug your ax into the computer or iPad and call up an amp modeler, right? However, some of us don’t want to give up the sound and playability of our favorite amp for the sake of convenience. Although there are a number of speaker simulators and load boxes that can safely pass the signal from an amp’s speaker output to a DAW, these products don’t offer the features that dedicated amp modelers have, such as simulated cabinets and microphones. That’s the niche that French manufacturer Two Notes Audio Engineering wants to fill with the Torpedo VB-101.
The Torpedo accepts the speaker output from your favorite amplifier, provides the proper impedance load, and then sends the signal through high-quality mic and speaker simulations that can be fed directly into a mixer or DAW interface. The device employs convolution processing, commonly used in reverb plug-ins, which offers an exceptional degree of realism. However, convolution is a computerintensive process, so it makes sense to use a dedicated device rather than your host CPU. Despite the technology, you won’t notice any latency or delay when playing through the Torpedo.
The Torpedo’s price and I/O confirm that it’s intended for pros. The three analog outputs—two with processing and one dry—are on XLR connectors, as is the analog input, for running prerecorded tracks through the unit. The rear-panel 1/4" input accepts 8Ω, 150W max signals from your amp, and the Thru jack can be used to send a parallel, dry signal to a speaker cabinet. The digital I/O includes AES/EBU and S/PDIF connectors with 24-bit/96kHz resolution, a word-clock input for external synchronization, standard MIDI I/O for pedalboard control, a USB port for computer connectivity, and an optional Ethernet port. A headphone jack with a volume control is on the front.
The Torpedo’s sturdy 2U chassis feels roadworthy and includes a fan, though it never started in normal studio use. Two Notes also suggests using the Torpedo onstage when you want to patch your amp into a P.A. system; the unit’s build quality suggests that it would survive the road much better than your computer would.
With Torpedo Remote, you can reposition the virtual
Despite its wealth of features, the Torpedo is surprisingly simple to use. The Quick Start Guide outlines the basic connections, warning you to use a speaker cable to connect your amp to the Torpedo rather than an instrument cable, and to make sure you use the amp’s 8Ω output. The device defaults to the Safe Gain Adjustment mode, which automatically sets the input and output levels. I had the Torpedo up and running in a mere five minutes, auditioning speaker and mic pairings through my headphones.
Editing the Torpedo from the front panel is intuitive. It comes with a single default preset, so I jumped in and created my own. There are three modes to work in—Program, Spkr/Mic, and Post-FX. To audition the speakers and mics, I pressed Spkr/Mic and scrolled through my options. There are 33 cabinets, based on common models for guitar and bass, from 1x10 to 4x12 and 8x10. The eight mic simulations include popular dynamic, ribbon, and condenser types that obliquely refer to the Shure SM57, the Electo-Voice RE20, the Royer R-121, and so on. You hear every selection in real time, so you can quickly locate the sound you want. (Worth noting is that third party IRs and the user’s own cabinet/mic combinations can also be added using the free Torpedo Capture software.)
From there, you can set the virtual mic’s distance and position (on- or off-axis, front or back of the cabinet). A unique feature on the Torpedo is the Variphi parameter, which simulates the phase relationship between two mics placed in front of an amp. As you turn the dial, you’ll hear a timbral change as if you were moving one of the mics. This was one of my favorite effects, because it modifi es the frequency spectrum in a natural- sounding way.
The Post-FX section includes a variablefrequency low-cut filter, a 5-band graphic EQ, an exciter, a compressor, and a spatializer, each of which can be individually or globally bypassed. The spatializer creates a pseudo-stereo sound, but it doesn’t include any parameters: It’s either off or on. The global Wet/Dry control sets the mix of unprocessed (dry) guitar and processed (wet) signal, while the Overload feature allows you to dial in any degree of speaker saturation. Together, the Spkr/ Mic and Post-FX sections give you a wide tonal range, with the ability to make very subtle changes. The Torpedo has 100 slots for saving presets, so you have plenty of space to store your work. Your presets can also include input and output levels, as the Safe Gain Adjustment is defeatable.
Designed for pro applications, the VB-101 uses XLR
Although it’s easy to edit from the front panel, it’s more fun to do it from your computer using Torpedo Remote (Mac/Win), a free patch editor available from the Two Notes website. Once you’ve downloaded the app, simply connect your computer to the Torpedo with a USB cable and you’re ready to edit, load, save, and retrieve presets. I also used it to update the device with the latest firmware and additional presets from Two Notes. Everything worked flawlessly from the computer.
Of course, the sound you get from a preset is defined by the amp you’re using ahead of the Torpedo. So, unlike sharing presets in other modelers, your Torpedo preset will react differently if you share it with a friend who is using a different amp than you. But at least it’s a place to start.
I ran my Hagstrom Viking and Fender Stratocaster and Mustang guitars through Orange and Marshall amps ahead of the Torpedo, and I was consistently pleased with its exceptional sound quality and vast range of colors. Although it doesn’t offer stompbox effects like the more common modeling products, it does provide a solid foundation for tracking guitar, while retaining the interaction you’re used to getting from your amp. If you’ve spent a lot of time and money getting just the right amplifier, the Torpedo will help retain that sound when you have to record direct or run a direct feed from your amp in a live performance.
PRICE $2,650 street
MEMORY SLOTS 100
EXTRAS Variable-frequency lowcut filter, 5-band graphic EQ, exciter, compressor, spatializer.
KUDOS Retains the sound and feel of your amp while direct recording. Third party IRs and user’s own cabinet/mic combinations can be added using the free Torpedo Capture software.