An Ode to the Rockman – Why It’s the Best Analog Amp Simulator There Is

#softshred pioneer Hugh Myrone has been making waves with his MYRONE project for the past year, impressing the hell out of the Gear Gods staff with his unique take on late ’80s / early ’90s synthy shred. Based on that description it should not surprise you to learn that he’s an unabashed solid state amp apologist. Having giving us his controversial thoughts on why solid state is better than tube, he will now get more specific as he professes his love for the Rockman.


I’m not the hugest fan of hardware digital amp simulators. In a studio situation, why would I drop over two grand on an AxeFx or Kemper when I can get tone that’s just as usable from Bias, Podfarm, or Guitar Rig at a fraction of the cost? (or in in the case of Lepou, free)

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(Bias is probably my fav computer amp sim at the moment, gotta love that solid state power option *thot emoji*)

If I’m going the hardware route I like keeping things analog, and as far as 100% analog amp sims go, the Tom Scholz Rockman is by far my favorite. An Axe FX and Kemper might have more flexibility as far as versatility, routing, and durability go, but the Rockman is about 90 billion times more swaggy in the sound AND looks department. I was a pretty, pretty cool guy before I played Rockmans, but I doubt I’d be the suave sensual guitar player that I am if I was playing through an Axe FX.


(Can u handle the aesthetic? Probably not bc ur too busy trying 2 find misha’s axefx patch or something lol)

I’ll forgo much of the Rockman’s history simply because it’s documented insanely well on wikipedia and at, but all you need to know is that it’s the ORIGINAL 100%-analog-no-micing-up-an-amp-guitar-solution. Originally they were sold as headphone amps, but the convenience of just plugging a little weird box into the desk instead of micing up a raging Marshall stack proved to be invaluable in the ‘80s, which is why the Rockman tone became so prevalent (trust me, once you KNOW the rockman sound it becomes easy to identify; it’s VERY distinctive).

(awesome clip of my man Tom showing his stuff)

When you play through a Rockman for the first time, you initially think that they sound weird and “thin,” but that’s because you are used to listening to a guitar amp that hasn’t been EQ’d for a mix yet. Things that sound “big” have a wide range of frequencies, but we all know that the super-high end and low end of electric guitar are usually the first things that get filtered out when mixing guitar tracks (gotta make room for the bass and the cymbals somehow). Sometimes the guitar needs to be less “big” in order for the mix to sound huge. I like the Rockman stuff because it’s like Tom Scholz did most of the work for me. I spend less time tweaking and more time soft-shredding (I’m not sure if the Rockman djents… I don’t really swing that way). Often times I have trouble because the Rockman cuts through the mix TOO much!

(lil vid of me getting emotional with my sustainor)

I started out on one of the headphone amps, which is basically an amp simulator with chorus and delay. You have 4 tonal options (Clean 1, Clean 2, Edge, and Distortion), and 3 effects options (Chorus/Delay, Chorus off, Delay off — dry is unfortunately not an option for those with commitment issues). The Rockman Stereo Chorus is one of the best ever made, in my opinion, so I was always completely OK with just turning the delay off and adding it in Ableton afterwards. Eventually I moved up to the more “professional” Rockman Sustainor (“nor,” not “ner,” lol), which is a half-space rackmount compressor, the Smart Gate (the same circuit that Dunlop still sells in pedal format if I’m not mistaken!), and the Distortion/amp simulator. I’m told that the Rockman Rackmount Chorus Module is still highly sought after.

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(my personal Rockman Sustainor. u jelly?)

I’m a smart enough guitar player to realize that I’m literally going to sound like Hugh Myrone no matter what amp I play through, so having a simple control layout like this is better for me than fiddling like some nerd with a bunch of random crap for hours that ultimately makes little difference to the consumer. Also, any versatility I need can just be made via creative uses of EQ. Sometimes when you make drastic moves with EQ it can create phase issues, but the Rockman stuff seems to play well with huge cuts or boosts (perhaps intentionally by Scholz’s design). I can have three or four different guitar “sounds” that all originate from the same base tone.

The only problem with all of the Scholz R&D stuff is they used the worst switches and power supplies imaginable. I gig with my Rockman Sustainor but I’m completely afraid of stepping on it one day and rendering it useless.

(clip of me at the SXSW MetalSucks show, Rockman Sustanor into a POD HD for a little chorus/delay)

Dunlop still manufactures the Guitar Ace and owns all the patents for the Rockman stuff. I know Bob Cedro — aka the guy at Dunlop responsible for the badass distortion — used to be one of the top guys at Scholz R&D, so I know it wouldn’t be impossible for them to put the Sustainor circuit in a nice MXR style stompbox with some cool rotary switches. We could call it the MYROCKMANE. I suppose I could also just buy the patents myself… *sends 99th email to Dunlop concerning the manufacture of new Rockman gear*

What do you think? Whats your favorite 100% analog amp simulator? Do u own a Kemper but you secretly use a profile of a Rockman? HOLLA @ ME

Latest comments
  • Dat Mid-Range, bro. Good Read.

  • Great page. I just tracked down a mint X100 (rev 10) along with a Bass Rockman. I’m over the moon! In your opinion, what’s the best way to play it loud? Direct, or can I go into the loop of an amp? Have yet to try either.

    • Rockman equipment was primarily designed to plug straight into the board and out to amp/PA. It was also designed with stereo (and line level) incorporated, so be sure to get the most out of a Rockman by treating the output to stereo speakers/monitors, even a keyboard amp or a home hi-fi stereo system will sound amazing!!! People often make the mistake of running a Rockman into something like a Marshall cabinet or such….you’re just not going to get the most out of what a Rockman offers that way. You can go into a loop of a run-of-the-mill amp, I suppose, but again, if it’s not a stereo amp such as a keyboard amp, you’re really missing the boat of what a Rockman has to offer. Hope that helps.

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