Price paid: $ 675
Ease of Use — 8
Here's an absolutely true story of gear synchronicity: for the first time in my career I was specifically prohibited from bringing a guitar amplifier to a gig. As I was scrambling to figure out how to handle this when, at the last minute, the Torpedo C.A.B. pedal came to my attention. Days before the gig, I set up my pedalboard placing the C.A.B. at the end of the signal chain with its input and output set to GTR (rather than Line). I ran it through a QSC K10 speaker/monitor, and set it next to an '83 Fender Super Champ for reference tones. I needed to find out if I could quickly and easily simulate a tube amp sound because it was off the list of acceptable gear at the Peppermill Casino in Reno where they were only amenable to a small monitor wedge pointing towards the stage. Decibel level was closely monitored because there was a fine dining restaurant right next to the Terrace Lounge where I was to play with the heavy swing band, A Spirit Hustler. Scrolling through the C.A.B.'s presets I discovered all sorts of sound simulations designed to suit every style from metal to jazz (as well as some designed for bass), but I was honing in on my own specific tone. I engaged my Blackstone Mosfet Overdrive pedal with the yellow channel set to low gain, leaving it on as I normally would in front of a Fender or a Vox combo amp. The red channel on the Blackstone is great for heavier tones. For A Spirit Hustler, I usually ride the volume up and down on a Godin Montreal Premiere for a broad sonic range. Within minutes of plugging in the Torpedo C.A.B., I was pleasantly surprised to find preset 7. Its simulation of an Engl 4×12 cabinet loaded with Celestion V30 speakers sounded so fantastic when sent through the QSC K10 1x10 cabinet with K10's high end boost engaged. Without the C.A.B. the tone was laughably direct sounding. I bounced back and forth between the Super Champ and the C.A.B. many times comparing tones. Shockingly, I was eventually happier with the C.A.B.'s combination of amp and speaker emulation because of its broader frequency range and clarity - even if the feel wasn't quite as dynamic. Considering that even the best amp tone onstage sounds different once it's miked up, equalized, and sent through the house, going direct through the C.A.B. was a much more reliable option. It proved to be invaluable on the gig because the drummer had to play an electronic kit, bass and guitar had to go direct, and the monitor system was all in-ear apart from a couple of small ambient monitors on mic stands. The rhythm section never got really comfortable, but I did, and listening back to the live recordings I was knocked out by how well the guitar tones came across in the room. The Torpedo C.A.B. was a lifesaver.
Sound — 9
When I got home I delved into deeper features and investigated more of the C.A.B.'s sounds. I grabbed my Strat and continued comparing the Super Champ's tone to the C.A.B. When I hit the Edit button and scrolled through the 32 available cabinets I decided that I actually preferred the Voice 30 simulation of a Vox AC30 JMI 2x12 with Celestion "Silver Bell" speakers. I saved that and investigated the power amp options. For starters, simply engaging the power amp simulation made a huge difference. Of the four very distinct and different tube options - EL 84, EL34, KT88, and 6L6 - I chose the 6L6 in push-pull, class AB configuration for its strong, full, Fender-ish sound. (Single ended in Class A was the other option.) I dialed in the Presence, Depth, and Volume, and realized I preferred the Pentode type power setting versus Triode. Microphone type and placement are key to the sound of a live electric guitar speaker cabinet, so naturally the Torpedo has eight microphone simulation options including Mic Off, which sounded bold and present. I appreciated the applicable choices. Dynamic, Condenser, and Ribbon settings sounded like those mic styles. I went with the Knightfall simulation of a Blue Dragonfly condenser because it sounded most like the Super Champ. I wasn't going for a room sound, so I set the miking Front and Center at 0% Distance. Just turning the EQ on in Guitar (rather than Bass) mode made the sound stronger, but I didn't really need to boost or cut any of the five specific frequencies offered. At this point I was absolutely floored by the sound quality. I'd totally lost the urge to jump back to the Super Champ. I was dialed and simply enjoyed playing for a while. When it got too late to make noise, I simply turned off the PA and plugged a pair of headphones into the C.A.B.'s headphone jack. The Torpedo C.A.B. is rather profound for those interested in going deep. First, understand that it's neither a loadbox or a guitar preamp. The Torpedo C.A.B. is actually ideal for those who use guitar preamps rather than combo amp or heads because it fulfills the power amp and cabinet stages so well. If you want to use the Torpedo C.A.B. in conjunction with an actual amp there are a couple of options. Send out from its effects loops into the C.A.B. in order to utilize the amp's preamp sound, or use a loadbox to receive your amp's full signal, and simply disengage the power amp simulation on the C.A.B. What's wild about the C.A.B. is that you can plug it into a computer via USB, and then use the free Torpedo Remote software to customize your speaker and microphone combinations in a virtual environment. The software gives you even more detail to tweak, like the microphone's proximity to the speaker cone and distance off-center, and it also provides access to a growing library of cabinets. Of the 57 currently available, any 32 can be loaded into the unit at any given time. Using these 32 cabinets and all the variable parameters, you can edit, store and access 100 patches. You can decide how you want to use the two user-assignable footswitches. Assignable functions include preset selection, bypass, mute, EQ on/off and more. Musicians equipped with MIDI rigs will be able to remotely control the Torpedo C.A.B. via MIDI.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Though the Torpedo C.A.B. is probably on par with a lot of other digital stompbox-style pedals when it comes to reliability and durability, it really should be compared to a guitar amplifier/power amp/speaker cabinet, because that's what it stands in for. The C.A.B. is surely more reliable than an old tube amp, and most solid-state amps as well. Surely the C.A.B. speaker simulator is not going to suffer the fate of a blown speaker cone, or one punctured by guitar and mic stands flying around in the back of band van. Nor will the C.A.B. suffer the speaker degradation that inevitable dulls even the most sparkling head tones eventually. Of course, the Torpedo C.A.B. is essentially a computer, so if it were to break down you're not going to fix it with a screwdriver.
Overall Impression — 9
In these digital days, there are lots of alternatives to traditional amp rigs, but the Torpedo C.A.B. is enticing because it offers what most players really want - a convincing direct signal option that you can use all your cool stompboxes with, and that's housed in a convenient stompbox format itself. Nothing will ever feel exactly the same as playing through a quality tube guitar amplifier, but the Torpedo C.A.B. feels darn responsive, and the sound is truly convincing. With its headphone output and ability to sound stellar at low volumes, the Torpedo C.A.B. is super practical for practice and recording purposes. It's also suitable for gigging, and it's certainly a more portable, affordable alternative to hauling around a backup amp, which I've been doing religiously ever since my main amp broke down on a big New Year's Eve show. Not anymore. I'm bringing the Torpedo C.A.B. to every gig.