How "good" is amp modelling today?

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by nosuch, Dec 15, 2010.

  1. Will Chen

    Will Chen Tele-Holic

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    Yep, every time I read something like this I like to post the following link. Its a real versus modeling listening test with a panel of producerss who could only guess the actual amp 38% of the time...

    http://emusician.com/tutorials/showdown-clubhouse-amp-software/
     
  2. cntry666

    cntry666 Friend of Leo's

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    That's funny and true. I've had my amp snob friends fooled before and they are also engineers. I love tube amps but if someone bought me the Eleven Rack I would not be upset. I'm just not a fan of "patches" and programs anymore because live I found them to be unreliable level-wise. Tik brings up a good point about how much effort is needed sometimes to make it sound good. That's why I find them more suitable for studio. When paired along with a real amp they can make for great tracks.
     
  3. tiktok

    tiktok Poster Extraordinaire

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    "I initially considered having a guitarist in the studio to play through the amps and modelers live, but I ultimately chose to record DI examples in advance. Once at the studio, I could instead send these files through the amps using a reamping device and through the modelers within Pro Tools.

    Some people will say that using a prerecorded track through a reamper takes away from the natural interaction between guitar and amp live in a room and the loading of the pickups that occurs. That is a valid point for certain types of guitar parts, but the truth of the matter is that plenty of tracks get recorded with the guitarist either in a different room from his or her amp or recorded through a DI to be reamped later. I also felt that using the prerecorded DI track would assure that the performance would be identical when it was pumped through the amp and the modelers. This would level the playing field and remove the possibility that a better performance on a particular pass would influence the panelists as to what sounded best."


    That sounds about right to me. I've heard, and made recordings using modeling stuff that sounded fine to me, but actually playing through one always feels different.
     
  4. jrfrond

    jrfrond Tele-Holic

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    You can say what you want, but I CAN hear it. I've designed, built and modded a lot of tube amps, so my ears are dialed-in. We service a lot of amps here, and perform warranty service for all brands, so I get to hear everything that is out there, pretty much. And lots of it. When I am not looking, and one of my techs is working on a modeling amp kicked into overdrive (the acid test for modeling amps), 100% of the time I will ask "Which piece o-sh*t is THAT???". It ALWAYS turns out to be a modeling amp.

    Tubes will never be "gone". Perhaps after we are all dead and buried, maybe. Right now, they are alive and well, and there is a certain sector of players that can hear and FEEL (THAT is a key word) the difference readily. Why is that so hard to believe? Modeling, like digital recording, radically affects the analog signal, and the signal path is extraordinarily long. Even some analog guitar amps with digital EFX send the ENTIRE signal through the DSP, because it is easier and cheaper to implement. I think it is a joke to subject the entire signal to an unnecessary codec process.

    Am I a purist? Somewhat, but not necessarily for tubes, just for analog. I've heard excellent solid-state designs and bad tube designs, but also excellent designs in both. Haven't heard ANYTHING excellent yet in modeling, despite all of the NAMM Show hype. Again, it's always just good enough, and never a benchmark.

    It's not a crime to want benchmark tone and feel. Digital audio processing is largely about convenience and economy, dating way back to the first digital effects processors in the 70's, all the way up to present-day modeling amps and ProTools HD.
     
  5. cowardm

    cowardm Tele-Holic

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    30 years from now we'll all be bickering about how they don't sound as good as they used to.
     
  6. varakeef

    varakeef Tele-Afflicted

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    One thing is for sure. When I plug my guitar into a real amp I can be sure that it feels and sounds like a real amp. That exact amp, on that given moment. And it happens right away, without tweaking a single parameter.

    It's not a model of some example amp and it thus cannot be found in every single modelling unit. There's tens of years of meddling, wear and tear, abuse that makes it an individual. A persona. Try to model that.

    But modelling has taken big leaps. Recently I tried a Strymon ElCapistan tape echo simulator. I was really impressed by it's sound and how it behaved. This is so close to a real thing (except the unpredictability an unreliability) that I may eventually retire my Space Echo. I has too many knobs, but otherwise it is a great simulator.
     
  7. tiktok

    tiktok Poster Extraordinaire

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    It'll be interesting to see at what point a no-longer-in-production modeling amp starts to appreciate in value. As it is, they seem to depreciate sharply in the manner of computers.

    It'd be interesting to line up say a Twin Reverb, a 50W Marshall and an AC-30 and dial them at stage volume, in hooked up to an A/B/C switch, and then try to match those three tones on a modeling amp.
     
  8. SngleCoil

    SngleCoil Tele-Holic

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    Good thing is that the music played through either could turn out just as priceless ;)

    So for some people modeling has gotten "good enough". Some people think it has gotten better, but it is not quite there yet. And then there are some that think it is still no where close.

    ...Question for those in the "no where close" group. Do you think digital will ever be good enough? Would it be a good or bad thing if it ever did?

    I think it is an interesting question. While I'm in the camp that is really pulling for modeling to get all the way there, if digital ever became so good that tube/analog solid state/whatever were no longer needed, what would be the benchmark for new guitar tones? I mean a lot of our beloved guitar tones are the result of pushing available equipment beyond what was intended. As a happy accident, the results were pretty pleasing. In my experience, pushing something digital past it's intended envelope doesn't usually yield very pretty results...but then again, even with analog amps, who is really pushing the envelope to find something new. Seems everyone is trying to recapture 50+ year old magic...sorry for the ramble.
     
  9. soul-o

    soul-o Friend of Leo's

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    For recording, I have gotten some really good tones with a desktop Vox Tonelab through an old Vibro Champ. I usually don't use the speaker modeling aspect in that scenario. It's really good for auditioning a wide variety of useable tones to see what works best on a song.
     
  10. Brian blaut

    Brian blaut Friend of Leo's

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    I'll add that it also can matter what kind of music you play and what tones you are after.
    Clean is one thing, heavy distortion or overdrive, especially with other effects laid on is another. But the real devil, for me, is that line between the two - just breaking up or clean based on dynamics. This is when you're asking that amp to be it's most orgainic.

    Then you have people that are married to specific tones, like a Deluxe breaking up, or what have you. People have different expectaions and needs, and so you get many valid yet varied answers to the question. It's not just that the naysayers are being snobs, or that the modeling lovers are easy to please. Its complicated.

    On thing is for sure, it's better than it used to be and it will be better in the future. My predicition is, there will someday come a time when modeling is the absolute king for the working musician. And there will someday come a time when tube production is practically dead (even moreso than today), and all the NOS tubes are gone and it's just too expensive to supply your tube amp with anything. Those two things will likely go hand in hand.
     
  11. stevesz

    stevesz Tele-Holic

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    I use modeling plug-ins a lot in recording. They sound great when you spend time tweaking them. Do they sound as good as a nice tube amp does in real life? No. But the sound of an amp will always be altered in some way by the microphone and the rest of your signal chain and the mix of other instruments and so on. If you can make that mental leap and just get behind a plug-in you're going to find some cool things. I like the IK Fender Amplitube plug-in and the Line 6 stuff.

    As for modeling amps, I think they have some nice sounds but most of the players I see using them don't do anything with them to achieve really good tones. They stick with the effects laden presets and it usually sounds all gummy to me.

    YMMV
     
  12. musicalmartin

    musicalmartin Poster Extraordinaire

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    I ignore what the label says on all amps ,modelling or otherwise, and just dial in a sound I like .Most devices have sweet spots in there somewhere but if you dial say blackface,you may miss a far better sound further along .I dont bother comparing at all .I will say however that the Vox Amplug certainly sounds like the AC 30 I played in the 60's through a strat .Uncanny ,just as I remember it .
     
  13. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    There are good modelling amps and bad ones. The Valvetronix are some of the best, they usually come out well on top in all the reviews I've seen.

    I've got an older AD30VT, as well as a few nice valve amps, the Valvetronix does not emulate them exactly but it still sounds good. I am no fan of modelling, I always disable all the effects and models on the Line6 TonePort recording interface because they just sound bad. Obviously (?) the AC15 and AC30TB models are very good, the Marshall and HiWatt models aren't bad, the Mesa is OTT, the Fenders are a bit quiet, and I'm not sure about the Dumbles.

    One thing that I do with the AD30VT is only ever run it in manual mode, I do not like the presets: using it can be a bit complicated because it has too many knobs. I also always set the noise gate (a hidden control) to zero. I normally run the power level as high as possible (until it buzzes) and control the volume with the master.

    The Valvetronix does have a valve but it is used in starved-plate mode in the emulation rather than as a gain device.
     
  14. sheltone60

    sheltone60 TDPRI Member

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    I couldn't agree more with the above. I had always been a diehard tube amp guy and stayed away from modeling amps because I knew the difference in feel between, for example, Line 6's blackface twin model and a real, all tube twin.

    That all changed when I read the interview with Bob Rock on the Vox website about how he uses his Vox AD120VTH. It pretty much led me to the realization that you don't need to approach a modeling amp as a replacement for your favorite tube amp, but a tone tool, just like any piece of equipment.

    Once you shift your thinking about it, they're great amps, and I honestly never thought I would say it.
     
  15. Radspin

    Radspin Friend of Leo's

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    I heard Larry Mitchell play last week and he was using an Axe FX into a PA with JBL EON powered speakers. It sounded absolutely stunning, and he was getting a wide range of sounds from clean to different flavors of distortion, to all kinds of time-delay effects including some sounds I had never heard before. I don't know any of the technology behind it, but I thought it sounded terrific.
     
  16. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity

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    DING-DING-DING WE HAVE A WINNER!

    They either walk all over the other instruments and vocalists or get trampled by them.
    Ya gotta go back to Phil Spector and Jimmy Page for their 'wall-of-sound'.
    If you don't leave room for everybody else, you end up having nothing.

    A bitter pill to swallow because the Manufacturer's go to great lengths to make their products sound as BIG and WIDE as they can right out of the box at the Music store.
     
  17. tiktok

    tiktok Poster Extraordinaire

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    Particularly bitter since they spend lots of time on audio quality and options, and typically very little on the user interface.
     
  18. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    +1 there.

    The more features they add, the more they make them unusable with a band. Don't need no drums and built-in songs to play-along with, that's for kiddies.

    My AD30VT does get gigged, but as I said above, I turn the pre-set sounds off, b/c they come with FX on them. The bass gets turned down because we got some guy with a bass. The reverb (and tremolo, the only useful on-board effects anyway) get turned down, 'cos the hall does that. And you do have to leave space for the other players in the band or it all turns to mush.
     
  19. tele12

    tele12 Friend of Leo's

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    Yes some solid state devices cost less than tubes......but the computer (processor chip) costs more than tubes. Here is a link to Intels prices list:

    http://files.shareholder.com/downlo...98-0579-41B0-B630-81518AA60547/PriceSheet.pdf

    Many of current non-modeling amps are built in low cost areas also. All the inexpensive modeling amps I've seen use cheap speakers. I have a GDEC, changed the speaker for a $30 Eminence, looked like it cost 10x what the stock speaker did. I've taken the speaker out of a Roland Cube 30, again super cheap.

    Nothing wrong with modeling, but it requires a lot more computing power than a manufacturer can put in at the price point these sell at.

    And the modeling costs aren't nil because someone needs to sit there and compare the modeled sound to the original amp.
     
  20. tiktok

    tiktok Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm not sure what chip Fender, for example, uses for their modeling amps, but my understanding was that it was common to use DSP-specific chips, and not the CPU's you find in PC's. And I doubt we can figure out the pricing break Fender gets from its quantity purchasing. Ditto on tubes in that regard.
     
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