“Revolutionize your live performances”: The multi-effects market has never been more competitive – does Hotone’s next-generation Ampero II Stage do enough to make a mark?

Hotone Ampero II Stage
(Image credit: Hotone)

Hotone has unveiled the latest addition to its lineup of multi-effects pedals, the Ampero II Stage.

The brand’s new offering joins the ever-developing amp modeling, multi-effects arms race, which has seen some significant changes over recent weeks.

Such shake-ups include the arrival of Fender’s flagship Tone Master Pro – a unit heralded for its new-age approach to UI – as well as the changing price of the Neural DSP Quad Cortex, and various updates to the unit.

In other words, the multi-effects sphere has never been more concentrated and competitive than it is right now, and as such, only a genuinely herculean effort that brings something new to the table will give companies the edge over one another.

This is the state of play in which the Ampero II Stage finds itself. So, how does it hold up?

The third iteration of Hotone’s Ampero II collection – following the Ampero II Stomp and Ampero II Mini – the Stage is described as the range’s flagship offering, and looks to “revolutionize your live performances”.

On paper, it hopes to do that through its triple-core platform, powerful AD/DA converters, evolved F.I.R.E modeling system for authentic tones, and suite of onboard amps and effects models. In total, there are 87 amps, 68 cabs (curated with a “more precise” algorithm) and more than 100 “legendary” pedal sims.

There’s also a dedicated Impulse Response loader with third party support, up to 50 custom IR slots and 20 included Celestion speaker IRs.

All of this is accessed via the enlarged touchscreen display. As we posited upon the release of the Tone Master Pro, feel and usability will be where the next stage of the modeler battle will be waged, and so a sleek touchscreen here is a big plus for Hotone.

Unlike the previous Ampero II models, the Stage is (as the name would suggest) crafted with live use in mind. That means there are more footswitches and more controls for stage performances.

Specifically, there are eight assignable footswitches, with one of those serving as a default selector between Patch and Stomp modes. Again, it’s pretty self explanatory: Patch mode navigates between separate presets, while Stomp turns the Stage into a de facto pedalboard with triggerable effects.

Hotone has also introduced a Scene feature in a bid to make the unit more stage-friendly. Here, users can seamlessly switch between five “scenes” – i.e., transition between presets, effects and parameters with no interruption.

That doesn’t mean the Stage is redundant as a studio or practice companion, mind. Owing to its connectivity options – and thanks to its 8x8 USB audio functionality – it can also be used as a recording and streaming device. There’s also a 60-second stereo looper and drum machine that offers 100 rhythm styles.

Elsewhere, there are two expression pedal inputs, a stereo FX Loop, balanced and unbalanced outputs, and two instrument/microphone jacks.

Like we said, the multi-effects scene is ultra competitive right now, but Hotone looks to have done enough to offer a fairly comprehensive, impressively intuitive package that would appeal to those looking to take the leap.

Moreover, there’s the price point. The Ampero II Mini was so alluring because it was priced at $255 – more affordable than many of its closest competitors – and since an official price for the Ampero II Stage has yet to be revealed, it could be another plus for Hotone.

To find out more, visit Hotone.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.