Most reviewers here are guitar players, I imagine. As for myself, I've never even struck a chord on an electric guitar.;-) But I grew up with The Ventures, The Shadows and The Spotnicks and I use Music Lab and Orange Tree in the box with TH-U, AmpliTube, Kuassa, Mercuriall and Scuffham S-Gear.
Swanky Amp sounds different to my amateurish (in this respect) ears. It sounds alive, even with virtual axes, that's my subjective impression, and it positively invites dial twirling and experimentation. Definitely a keeper for me.
After some first testing this tube amp simulation really seems to be one of the really good and very naturally sounding tube amp simulations on the market.
I often have the impression that an authentically GUI meanwhile is more important than authentic sounding and reacting tones for tube amp simulations, or at least helps a lot to cover missing sonic authenticity. One company once defined this as "...inspired by legendary amps". My personal interpretation of a definition like this usually after testing was "We tried to come close to the real amp's tones but unfortunately failed."
Therefore I find it positive here, that this plugin does not even try to simulate the look of a specific tube amp, but gives you a well organized set of adjusting and tweaking tools instead and concentrates on sonic quality and authenticity.
The presets are a good orientation, in fact this plugin seems to be extremely flexible, you can adjust good sounding clean as well as high gain tones and almost everything in between at a very high quality level, to be honest, a lot of well known - and also more or less expensive - amp simulations from a lot of professional competitors sound much more wrong and worse to me than this one.
The real (not only for a freeware plugin) luxurious secret weapon of this plugin seems to be the Staging section, which not only allows to select the number of preamp gain stages but also offers some more tweaking options, like blending between a more mid-scooped American and a typical British voiced tonestack and much more. Also very useful are the decent informations, what a control does, if you move over it or use it.
Very musically, organically, naturally sounding tube amp tones, with also good dynamic reaction.
Maybe for even more additional tweaking options some different preamp and power amp tubes could be added in the future (eg. Mullard, EI, Tesla, RFT ECC83, Sylvania, Tung-Sol, RCA 12AX7, Russian 6N2P, ... as preamp tubes, EL34, EL84, 6L6, KT88 from different manufacturers as power amp tubes, or maybe also selectable single ended or push-pull power amp circuits, with pentode/triode switching.).
But also as it is now, this is one of the best and most naturally sounding tube amp simulations for me, I've heard in the last time.
The most positive, most musically sounding plugin surprise for me this year.
Keep on developing so good and professionally sounding and working plugins! And thank you very much for this one.
Addition after some time of testing: I unfortunately noticed meanwhile that the overall sound - especially if compared to my favorite amp simulations - always sounds a little bit too musty and muddy for my taste, independent of the tone and gain controls. Somehow like heard though a curtain. Treble and harmonics could be more present, bass and mids could sound tighter, not as loose and present as now. Usually I complain about to digital and harsh sounding treble, here the sound is too round and diffuse for my taste, some typical treble, harmonics bite, directness and freshness is missing, also the dynamic reaction to pick attack could be improved. Sounds rather to me, as if the plugin had a built in always on compressor.
I've been looking for a way to get tweed-like dynamics at any volume for decades now, and Swanky Amp is it.
The key for me seems to be passing a large clean signal to the power amp section, so keep preamp DRIVE and STAGING moderate to keep compression low, but crank up INPUT level right up there (I've only tried this using single coil Dynasonic type pickups). Then use higher power amp DRIVE and SAG settings. I also boost into Swanky Amp using a "tape" type delay plugin which is essential for NY inspired dynamics — the clean repeats hitting the struggling power amp really brings out the chime! Set like this I can go from chimey "clean" to saggy sustaining fuzzy overdrive using only the guitar volume knob which is new to me with an amp sim — guitar volume control is usually worthless for amp sims. So, not unlike a real-world small tweed pushed hard, Swanky Amp can operate much like a 400 volt Fuzz Face.
Garrin, the developer of Swanky Amp, seems uniquely qualified to model nonlinear dynamics and I look forward to future offerings from Resonant DSP.
I've been following the development of this plug-in since the early alphas. It has developed into a very useful amp sim with unique character. Single-coil clean tones on the edge of break-up are definitely its key specialty but that's a bonus to a very solid and general purpose guitar amplifier simulator. Unashamedly modeling tube signal response, the developer made a special effort to model sag at high gain configurations. Those that know about such things have given it praise for being able to get into Live Rust territory.