If every successive generation of DSP/SS Amps is better and more tube-like than the one before...

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Mike Eskimo, Oct 1, 2019.

  1. Paul G.

    Paul G. Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Rhode Island
    While they are doubtless improving, the main factor in their acceptance is the fact that less and less musicians have ever used the amps these things are emulating.

    Remember back when people were serious about their music systems? You spent a ton on your Marantz, McIntosh, Dynaco, Acoustic Research, JBL, Wharfdale so you could hear the nuances and dynamics of your vinyl record collection.

    Now most people listen to overly compressed, digitally recorded and processed music on $10 earbuds or 3" computer speakers. Don't talk to me about how your Excellent 4000 DSP Deluxe amp sounds just like a whatever...most of you haven't even heard one, let alone played it and felt it interacting as an extension of your instrument.

    And yes, I sometimes gig with a Solid State amp because it's light, loud and tiny. But je me souviens.
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  2. scout2112

    scout2112 Tele-Holic

    Nov 6, 2017
    Colorado, USA
    Why sound like only one amp when you can sound like hundreds?

    A few reasons why I switched to DSP:

    1. DSP technology is finally reaching the point where it's nearly impossible to tell the difference between real and virtual amps.

    2. The setup is incredibly simple... in the old days it was a nightmare managing my pedalboard, all the cables, isolating problems with noise from various sources. Now I have two cables; guitar to DSP, and DSP to sound source.

    3. Radical alteration of guitar tone at the switch of a single button... no more doing a tapdance on my pedalboard.

    There's another factor that's impeded the popularity of amp modeling up until now... the so-called "FRFR" amps. They have also needed to improve and advance along with DSP.

    I liken digital amp modeling to the advent of digital cameras... albeit at a slower pace. Just like film cameras, I believe that in the future it will be the rare few who still use "analog guitar amps". When this happens, the value of old amps is going to drop considerably. I would be mindful of this or some may one day find themselves with a lot of stuff that they can't sell.
  3. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Oct 14, 2015
    IL, USA
    Predictably, this has strayed from the original topic. Might as well join in.

    I have a 66 Ampeg sitting next to the Mesa cabinet I run my Helix models through. I don’t really see them as competing - they are just tools to make sounds.

    I guess I’m more into searching for sounds themselves than knowing I’ve matched some other amp perfectly. I might hear something I like and go about finding a way to get it on the Helix.

    Now, of course I relate those sounds to names of “real” amps - it’s just much more logical to do it that. Sparkly highs, beautiful scooped cleans, etc - yea I’m going to reference that as the Twin model I built it with. Referring to it that way is no big deal though imo. Hell, most of us call ourselves guitar players, when we really just sit on the internet and talk about guitars all day [emoji56]

    As usual, people will view things through their narrow version of reality. The idea that amp modeling only works at home or for recording is laughable. It’s used for all types of live music today. Check out almost any current touring Nashville backing band.

    As for the cycle of obsolescence, it is an issue, but it’s more a consumer-centric culture issue imo. Assuming you like the sounds, there’s no reason why what is good today can’t be good 10 years from now. We’re just conditioned to anticipate the next big thing when it comes to technology. That’s one reason I really appreciate the products with continuous updates with new amp models, effects, and features. It satisfies that itch pretty well.
  4. L.A. Mike

    L.A. Mike Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 1, 2014
    somewhere over a rainbow (Ex-L.A. resident)
    I admit the tracking is much better than in the 1980s and 90s when I briefly tried using a guitar interface to synthesizer. I tried a few of them including the famous Roland that Fripp used and with the help of one of my bandmates (a keyboard genius) was able to patch into and use the latest & greatest keyboard synths on the market at that time. But the tracking and latency was very frustrating.

    Regarding the video posted, the tracking is great but the synth sound sounds like a MTV 80s big hair sound. Played on a Casio Keyboard.
    This example is exactly the point I like to make. No one is developing anything new as far as sounds go. Even Allan Holdsworth whom I admire greatly was limited to the programming that had been done. He had to tackle the problem himself and learn how to program and modify sounds to get his Synthaxe to sound like something better than a Casio.

    It's economics. Companies aren't going to invest lots of money into R&D and production on something people aren't familiar with and won't buy. The better mousetrap has always been the carrot on the stick dangling in front of the consumer. They see the mousetrap and think "the mousetrap that I already own works just fine, thank you".
    If a rich guitarist/musician wanted to be a patron to the art of music, and wasn't concerned with making money on their investment, would pay to develop some new products and sounds, it would be fantastic. I don't think I'll see it in my lifetime. People just keep coming up with repackaged mousetraps.

    I assume you are referring to my previous post. Notice in the post that I was writing from my perspective, my opinion. I stated what I like and what I think sounds best with a band.
    I know a couple of Nashville players who do tours with headliners. Sure a lot of them use modelers because they have to, not because they want to. It is all economics. You can't lug around big tube amps and a big pedal board on most of these tours. It costs too much to move it and the sound man wants a cable from your modeler to the P.A. so he can control the stage and venue volume. The only people who get to use mic'd tube amps these days are the headliners who are also guitarists. They are writing the checks.
    John Bohlinger, best known for leading the band on NBC's Nashville Star, serving as music director for the CMT Awards and specials on PBS and GAC discussed this with me the last time I was in Nashville and saw his band playing downtown. He uses what he's required to use, not what sounds and feels best. The attitude is, it's good enough and stays on budget.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2019
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  5. Beachbum

    Beachbum Friend of Leo's

    Mar 11, 2009
    Sand Land
    I'm not at all worried that the Katana head that I recently purchased may and probably will go obsolete in the next five years. At $350 spread over 60 months I'm only putting out a little less than $6 a month. I'm figuring, what the heck? If and when that happens I'll just chuck the old one and update.
  6. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    Why blame the technology with SS/digital? Maybe the guy just dials in a horrible sound?

    I had the exact same experience at a festival recently. Fun glam band followed us. Blues JR. on one side. Some sort of Line 6 Spider on the other. The BJR guy dialed in a horrible, beamy, garbled, harsh high end sound. Even in the mix. The Spider guy dialed in a beautiful, warm, edge-of-breakup sound. Neither was terribly loud.

    Some people have a sound that will appeal to us and know how to dial gear in. Some don't.

    Yet people habitually blame the gear when it is SS/digital. But blame the player when the gear is tube.

    Last edited: Oct 2, 2019
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  7. codamedia

    codamedia Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 4, 2009
    Western Canada
    ^^^^ this ^^^^

    I've said this before.... Give three players a JCM 800. One will make it sound like a muddy mess, the next will make it sound like a bumble bee and the next will get a glorious tone. The same thing happens with solid state amps, and with modelers. The only difference is where we lay the blame.
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  8. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

    Sep 4, 2008
    Hudson Valley, NY
    Worst tone of any guitarist I have ever played with was a guy with a new Les Paul and a JCM800. He never sounded anything other than fizzy, harsh, buzzy distorted and far too loud no matter what we were playing. The weird thing was that in a rehearsal room he could somehow dial up an identical tone from a Blues Deville...

    All that said, I have found that I like the tone of the Katana stuff better at home than in a live setting. It doesn't seem to work as well at high volumes. My Blues Cube sounds pretty good live, though. YMMV.
  9. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Lubbock, TX
    I agree that any equipment is at the mercy of the user. That said, the converse is also true...any user is at the ultimate mercy of the equipment. Each player will find a way...if experienced....will find a way to get the best that that player can find in whatever equipment is available/chosen. Ime, I have not heard any solid state equipment that can give me what I want to hear. The old Lab
    Series L5/7/9/11 amps come closer than any other solid state that I have heard.....digital included. And...yes, there are tube amps I find to be less than desirable for my ears.
    I will say it again...and others have noted the same here.... The ears of the beholders will change...it already has happened. Digitally recorded and reproduced music does not have the ‘content’ that analog recordings and reproduction had/have. Those who have not experienced the ‘olden’ ways have no perspective from which to know any difference...and digital will necessarily become the norm.
    Digital recording and reproduction is one reason why I have purchased less and less music over the last twenty five years. My ears react to it the way my ears react to solid state guitar amps....they get fatigued and can’t enjoy the experience.
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  10. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    Yes, I get that. I'm happy with my gear, and happy to let others do as they wish.

    But this is a forum, so I offer some commentary. I tend to be less than enthusiastic about self-limiting technologies and designs. Especially in this case, since it need not be the case. As some have said, there are a lot of directions this tech could go. But instead, they work very hard, and make an overly complex solution, just to mimic something that we already have in abundance. That was my point when I said that based on the thread subject, pretty soon these modelers will be more tube-like than the tubes theselves. Obviously never going to happen. The best they can hope for is to be exactly as good.
  11. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 25, 2003
    Santa Barbara, California
    There actually is a proposed physical resolution to the conundrum of going half the distance again and again but never reaching the wall because you can in theory cut a distance in half an infinite number of times.

    I highly recommend you read Carlo Rovelli-- an eminent theoretical physicist who writes extremely readable books that explain things like quantum mechanics and general relativity very clearly.

    This infinity conundrum was posited thousands of years ago by ancient Greeks. They actually proposed a solution to the problem of cutting a physical object in half an infinite number of times
    themselves by theorizing that matter is made up of atoms...such that eventually you get to a point where you have 2 atoms, then 1 atom, then 0 atoms. Thousands of years later the atomic
    structure of matter was confirmed and they were proven right.

    Similarly, in modern physics space-time is very different from what we perceive of as space and time. Time runs differently in different places because of the actual structure of the universe,
    as described by general relativity. If you have two atomic clocks and put one on a mountain top and one at sea level, they will run at measurably different speeds because of their different relation
    to the gravity well of the Earth. Space-time is actually curved in the sense that the shortest distance between two points is not actually a straight line but a curve. To analogize, on Earth,
    the shortest distance between two points is actually a curve because the surface of the Earth is curved.

    So, on to resolving the conundrum of cutting the distance to a wall in half an infinite number of times, thereby never actually reaching the wall. There are theories right now (waiting to be confirmed)
    that space-time itself is quantized, like matter. That there are finite quanta of space-time. So you cut keep cutting the distance in half and eventually you get to 2 space quanta, then 1, then 0 and you've reached the wall. One way
    to picture it is imagine a foam of soap bubbles. As you cross space you are actually passing through individual, quantized, foamy bubbles of space.

    The universe works in ways that are extremely hard for us to intuitively picture. The math is often super accurate and predictive, but it's very difficult to express in words. Carlo Rovelli is very good at it.
    For example, remember the model of how electrons can inhabit a particular "cloud" at a distance from the nucleus depending on their energy level? An electron can "jump" from one
    level to another, recall that? Well, here's the weird part. An electron is always in one of those levels (remember Neils Bohr?). It is undetectable while it is conceptually traveling from one level to another.
    As far as we can tell in some ways it basically doesn't exist-- it is at one level, then it is at another, but it has never been possible to measure it existing in any intermediate state, nor do the physics
    equations even allow for that to happen. Kind of like having a wife that is either totally angry or totally chill, with no intermediate states and no ability to detect the transition from one to another.

    Even our mental picture of there being empty "space" vs. solid "matter" is totally an illusion and not reality. Any object is actually 99.9999999999999% empty space. The reason you can't just run your hand through a table
    is due to the dancing electrons.....see this website http://theconversation.com/if-atoms-are-mostly-empty-space-why-do-objects-look-and-feel-solid-71742 and I quote from it:

    "If you touch the table, then the electrons from atoms in your fingers become close to the electrons in the table’s atoms. As the electrons in one atom get close enough to the nucleus of the other, the patterns of their dances change. This is because, an electron in a low energy level around one nucleus can’t do the same around the other – that slot’s already taken by one of its own electrons. The newcomer must step into an unoccupied, more energetic role. That energy has to be supplied, not by light this time but by the force from your probing finger.

    So pushing just two atoms close to each other takes energy, as all their electrons need to go into unoccupied high-energy states. Trying to push all the table-atoms and finger-atoms together demands an awful lot of energy – more than your muscles can supply. You feel that, as resistance to your finger, which is why and how the table feels solid to your touch."
  12. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

    Sep 4, 2008
    Hudson Valley, NY
    Yeah, but that's not the whole story. You can get your modellers a number of ways - these new Fender amps are trying to mimic-and-improve-upon something that Fender already makes, in a cheaper, lighter format with a couple useful bells and whistles for gigging guitarists. There are no Twins out there that weigh 35 lb, with power scaling and XLR line outs! Other modellers like Line 6 Helix aim to take more advantage of the potential of the tech at the cost of a complex UI that turns off a lot of people. Other modellers use the tech in order to make the best sound possible out of a $200 beginner amp. I'm sure, if you're "against" the technology, you'll find reasons why those other two directions are terrible as well. You can always still buy a tube amp - and used Twins are cheaper than ever! Honestly I have not played these new amps and I don't have a dog in this fight. I'm taking a break from jamming on my real-deal '69 Super Reverb which I LOVE the sound of but I am struggling with the volume level. It clearly wants to be between 3 and 5 on the volume, which is somewhere between deafening and ludicrous.
  13. foundjoe

    foundjoe Tele-Holic

    Apr 28, 2013
    So I watched this video and all I could think of was the scene in Animal House where John Belushi grabs the guitar out of the guy's hands and smashes it against the wall. Nothing personal but that "tone" is awful.
  14. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    May 30, 2017
    Silicon Valley, CA
    I recently watched a few minutes of a guitar synth demonstration on YouTube. One of the problems (with that video anyway) is that the guy just played regular major and minor chords using synth sounds and the voicings give it away. It could probably be used in a more subtle way, but to strum some E and A chords in 1st position and play a few bluesy licks... seemed silly.

    I owned a Casio MG510 I think it was, MIDI guitar way back when. It sounded just like me playing dopey blues riffs with the added benefits of glitches and false triggers galore. Not even close to Holdsworth!

    Yes, they say "you may have to alter your technique" - quite the understatement - and in doing so you've lost what makes the guitar unique.
  15. Dennyf

    Dennyf Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 9, 2011
    Mt. Holly, NC USA
    It's not about making a more "tube- like " ss amp.

    It's about making us want the new amp so we'll buy it. It's about making us believe in some mysterious unicorn.

    Lots of solid state amps from at least the Gibson L5 forward sound just fine. Do they sound like tube amps? I don't know. Which tube amp is the reference? Fender? Marshall? Vox? Magnatone? Silvertone? 'Cuz none of these tube amps sound like the others. But they all have this je ne sais qua in common that is unique to tube amps. Ok, if true, is it actually important to you? 'Cuz if it is, and you can hear it, why even mess with solid state?

    This "obsolete" business is what makes it clear that this is all about selling, not utility. If the amp (or guitar, or keyboard, whatever) was musically valid when it was introduced, how is it rendered "obsolete" by the new insert-product-here?

    It's not. But believing so will make folks want to buy the new thing.
  16. Ironwolf

    Ironwolf Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

    Mar 11, 2008
    Boise, Idaho
    I have a couple of the Vox VT series amps which are very good at what they do. The VT100X can be gigged in a smaller venue or miced up. And if you select a single amp model (I use the clean Dumble) and then program the different model banks to apply different effects to that model, you can use the Vox foot control instead of a pedal board.

    Modeling amps keep improving every year, but the direction I think they are going to move in is towards reproducing the behavior and feel of tube amps in general, or if they are made by one of the current tube amp makers, reproducing the qualities but not necessarily the exact sound of their tube amps. They will likely start to make extremely modeled versions of their classic amps (ala Fender's Tone Masters) for weight and cost savings as well as features that aren't available on the tube version.

    We have to remember the sources of tubes in the world currently are down to Russia, China, and I believe one in eastern Europe. As the environmental protection regulations continue to take hold, the European provider can be expected to go away. The other two countries are military powers hostile to the West and tube production is a military requirement for certain EMP resistant and legacy equipment on both sides. It should be no surprise if supplies from those countries were to be cut off.

    SS and modeling is the future of amplifier technology whether we like it or not, and it may be all that's available sooner rather than later.
  17. Blrfl

    Blrfl Tele-Holic

    May 3, 2018
    Northern Virginia
    And that's really important. There will be a point in the future when the last functioning tube amp has quit working and there are no spares to repopulate it. It probably won't happen in my lifetime, but it will happen. Not getting the hang of emulating glowing bottles in software by that point will make tubes an artifact of history. There will be recordings, but anything new will have to be made with the best models we came up with before the tubes vanished.

    I don't see the logic in dumping on the people who are working to make modelers and haven't got it 100% right yet. That's the only way this stuff is going to be preserved for generations who won't have actual tubes. People who think this shouldn't be done are either in the "I've got mine, screw everyone else" mindset or all of the bleating about muh toob toanz is meaningless.
  18. TeleTex82

    TeleTex82 Friend of Leo's

    May 4, 2010
    Out there
    Lmao someone actually suggested people Like digital amps because they've never heard or played through real ones?

    I've owned or played through tube amps in every price range. I also listen to music on vinyl every single Day.

    My blues cube still sounds and feels great.
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  19. muscmp

    muscmp Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 1, 2008
    same old same old!
    buy one you love and don't worry about what is coming around the corner. as usual, it is all subjective.

    play music!
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  20. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

    Oct 22, 2006
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    At a college engineering lecture, the professor was talking about limits and approximations. He brought two students up front, one male, one female. They were obviously a couple. He started them off about twenty feet apart, marked a center line on the floor, and asked them to move halfway to the center each time he clapped his hands. He told us they would never reach the center, but they would soon be close enough for all practical purposes.
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