The Rock Bug is an amp-speaker simulator that has an incredibly authentic and analog sound. It offers two basic sounds or responses – an Open Cabinet and a Closed Cabinet. The open cabinet has similar properties to a Vox AC30 (a tighter and crisper sound), whereas the closed cabinet has similar properties to a Marshall stack (thicker with more bottom end). Below is a YouTube video demonstrating how various pedals improve in sound using the Rock Bug, although the Rock Bug really shines when combined with an amp or preamp (I utilized a Carvin Legacy Drive preamp, the Le Lead preamp by Two Tones and a Taurus high-gain stomp head amplifier).
There is a reason why cabinet simulators are popular, whether speaking of VST plugins or hardware. Simply put, they make all the equipment before them sound truly alive and with greater dimension! And with today’s technology to reproduce the qualities inherent with actual tube amps and cabinets, the Rock Bug is a worthy investment for anyone wanting private headphone practice, for direct DAW recording, or for a direct plug-in to a PA system without having to lug around a regular sized amp and cabinet to a gig (or in the event your amp-cab fails).
The Rock Bug is both amplification and an effects pedal (an effect that produces the quality of good amplification). Although other companies produce products that offer more than one type of amp-cab simulation, at a price of about $250 Canadian the Rock Bug does what it does very well, and easily just as authentic as what you would hear from a Fractal Audio Axe Fx II rack-mount unit. And that’s what impressed me with the Rock Bug – how good it sounded compared to one of the industry leaders in amp-cab simulation, which is why I compared it to a Fractal unit in the video above. I did not try to tweak the Fractal amps-cabs to make it sound exactly like the Rock Bug, but did strive to produce a decent open-cab and closed-cab tone with a Vox AC30 and Marshall stack selection. Both of these on the Fractal unit sound good (albeit different), but the Rock Bug sounded as good (and in my opinion superior in terms of detail in the tones, harmonics, etc.).
EASE OF USE:
The Rock Bug is very straight-forward with little tweaking required. Both the open-cab and closed-cab simulations sound awesome on their own, without having to frig around with EQ, gains, etc., all of which is controlled through other hardware/pedals, etc. You need to find your tone or sound with your chosen gear and the Rock Bug then enhances the sound like the gear is on steroids… with incredible vibrancy and authenticity.
Once you plug in, the Rock Bug is active (no on/off switch). There is an overall Level control, which affects both the headphone and ¼-inch jack inputs (the balanced XLR output must be controlled via a mixing console). The Guitar Volume knob controls the instrument volume when using the XLR, but also works in relation to the Master Volume when using the headphone jack or ¼-inch stereo jack output. Pretty straight forward.
There are two outs and two inputs, thus making it a very nifty and complete package in a pedal. There is a ¼-inch out designed for either headphones or a line out to a mixer, your DAW, etc., and a balanced XLR. There’s a ¼-inch cable input, which obviously is used for your guitar/pedals or other equipment, but also a stereo AUX input for MP3, CD or DAT, so that you can jam with music privately or through speakers, etc.
RELIABILITY & DURABILITY
Carl Martin makes good quality gear that is a pleasure to implement. Many other companies are gimmicky or offer dozens of options (e.g., digital reverbs and delays come to mind), but when Carl Martin produces something it is very usable in every respect without excess bells and whistles. Like its other products, the Rock Bug has a steel casing, and since there is no on-off switch (although an LED to let you know it’s on), little can go wrong with wandering feet. There are two plastic knobs toward the top (Master Level and Guitar Level), both of which have a solid and smooth feel when turned. The selector switch for choosing an open cabinet or closed cabinet is at the very top of the pedal – again, away from any potential harm. The power input is located in the back of the pedal, making for easier access to a pedal board power storage and less likely to be damaged by being yanked or pried. (Although you can hook a 9v power supply to the Rock Bug, it can operate on a 9v battery, thus making it ideal for easy hook-up, transportation in a guitar case and private headphone rehearsal.) All cable inputs and outputs are located along the sides. Although I prefer in-puts and out-puts located in the back of a pedal (to save on pedal board real estate), with all the input-output option on the Rock But it would be impossible to fit those in the back.