Modeling vs Tubes After 10 Years of Modeling

fender4life

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This is just MY thoughts on it but i'd be interested in what others think. First, my take on tube amps that's necessary to explain how I feel about modeling vs tubes. I've had more tube amps than I can remember starting with Silverfaces in the 70's then Boogies, Marshals, etc. Tube amps IMO need to be broken up into 2 distinctly different categories, those with cascaded gain stages that are designed so that distortion is generated in the preamp with little to no concern for generating great output distortion. These amps generally are not designed with that in mind and when cranked way up they ofter don't sound as good. Some do like the first Marshall cascaded designs and even some later ones. The second category are non master amps OR those with masters but no cascaded gain stages in the pre. This category is as different from the first IMO as modeling is from tubes., They are a completely different sounding beast and this category is the sound that modelers try and cop for the most part. That output distortion and clean tones u get by riding the guitar pot are just so different. Theres a completely different dynamic and body to the sound than the distortion generated in a cascaded preamp stages.

Here's where I think modelers fall short for some. Those who are used the more vintage tube amps for cleans or distortion be it with pedals or by getting really loud are I think the people who never get real happy with modeling. And the reason i say that is that to my ear at least modeling's strength is copping cascaded master volume amps, not vintage amps. Modeling IMO has not come real close at all to either cranked vintage style tube amp tones or clean tube tones. So just my opinion, but i feel thats where the split is between players who love modeling and those who don't. Those like myself who've used tube amps with cascaded preamps for many years love modeling because it can do those tones with authentic tone AND touch as well as that type of tube amp. To my are at least, none have come real close to the other category. Thats why i believe i like modeling so much and haven't felt the need to go back to tube amps for years. I used tube amps like that for decades and i was very happy with that tone even tho i DID note that i could not bet that cranked amp tone the same as a real cranked vintage style amp. But i didn't care because in some ways i liked it more and it was infinitely more convenient.

This is a generalization and there are of course exceptions, but thats the way my ears and fingers feel about it. In fact one of the biggest reasons i prefer modeling over cascaded tube amps is somehow modeling does 2 things far far better then any tube amp i've ever owned. 1-shows the difference between my guitar like nite and day, whicle most tube amps i didn't even have to tweakn the amp when switching guitars. More convenient sure, but also made having different guitars much less fun. 2- consistency. Modeling for me has been amazing in that it sounds basically the same nite after nite room to room barring rooms with hideously bad acoustics. I battled ny tube amps for decades due to thier propensity to sound like god one nite and manure the next.

Anyways, i just felt like voicing my thoughts on what i thought about tubes vs modeling and why it's not just a black and white subject at least to me, so there ya go. Wondering also if any others have thought the same.
 

Cali Dude

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My experience with modelers is very limited. I messed around with one back between 2009- 2012. I really hated that amp. The sounds were not even close to my preferred tube amps (a Deluxe reverb, a Tweed Harvard, and a THD bivalve). I only used it for quiet practice at home. I understand that modelers have come a long way in the last 10 years. Still, I am sticking with tubes. Glad you have found something that you enjoy. P.s. In my gigging days my preferred amps were a '65 Deluxe reverb, and a Fender Prosonic.
 

fender4life

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My experience with modelers is very limited. I messed around with one back between 2009- 2012. I really hated that amp. The sounds were not even close to my preferred tube amps (a Deluxe reverb, a Tweed Harvard, and a THD bivalve). I only used it for quiet practice at home. I understand that modelers have come a long way in the last 10 years. Still, I am sticking with tubes. Glad you have found something that you enjoy. P.s. In my gigging days my preferred amps were a '65 Deluxe reverb, and a Fender Prosonic.
I felt the same. Modeling was horrible for a long time back then. Not the same today, tho then again it depends on the modeler.
 

ahiddentableau

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I think 90+% of the variation in sound comes from monitoring. I.e. the difference between being able to monitor direct from the amp (when using a tube amp) vs. from the PA/IEM or some full range external speaker (when using a modeller). The vast majority of players will never have the ability to hear them both through the same speaker at the same volume level. If people could make an apples to apples comparison at equal volumes (no amp on stage, all monitoring from IEM or full range speaker hooked up to the PA) the differences pretty much disappear. The only difference that persists is the interactive feeling you get when you stand in front of a cranked amp/loudspeaker. The feedback, interactivity, etc., that's a great experience and you can't reproduce that with a modeller. Provided you can turn up the volume, the playing experience is always going to be better with a tube amp.
 

The Angle

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Different tube amps accomplish their ends in very different ways.

Different SS amps accomplish their ends in very different ways.

And different modeling amps accomplish their ends in very different ways.

Some of these ways succeed and some don't.

Among tube amps, the approaches that didn't succeed have largely all been weeded out. Those unsuccessful designs survive now only among collectors and those for whom nostalgia trumps all else.

Although modeling has been around for a while now, it's still a relatively young technology with plenty of room for advancement. As it matures, the less successful methods will get weeded out and the better stuff will rise to the top. Just compare a 20-year-old POD, for example, to a Katana or a Mustang GTX. The POD ain't bad and can still be used, but the Katana and Mustang beat it in every way. Twenty years from now, Katanas and Mustangs will seem as quaint as the POD. But the Katana and the Mustang built on the POD's foundation, and future modelers will build on what we learn from Katanas and Mustangs.

Honestly, a big part of what I like about modelers is not that they're the be-all and end-all of guitar tone. They're not, at least not yet. It's that they're rapidly evolving. We're seeing it happen and participating in it in real time. Tube amps are fantastic but they're largely frozen in time. No one is making great advances in tube amp design anymore. Modeling amps are taking big steps forward every year, and that's exciting. Not everyone shares that view, and that's fine. If one or two great, proven tube amps are everything someone wants, I say more power to them. But I enjoy experiencing progress in the world of amp modeling.
 

fender4life

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Honestly, a big part of what I like about modelers is not that they're the be-all and end-all of guitar tone. They're not, at least not yet.
No doubt, tho IMO they ARE better in some ways. Thats the thing....u can't say tubes are better or visa versa, and thats basically what i was saying. I would never expect a modeler to nail a fender clean in both tone and feel. Or even a cranked fender. But i have been abole to get master volume type amp tones that are better then many tube amps, even some i think are quite good. Then theres the matter of consistency i mentioned,. To me thats huge. I struggled to get even adequate tones on some nites or in some rooms with even some of the best tubes amps i owned. Thats only happened once with modeling and it was a huge cavernous room with all hard surfaces that no amp would sound good in. But yea, nothing is the be all and end all of tone. Some are capable of that tone but not all the time. So i try to go from amps that do the most things great including and especially quality tone.
 

codamedia

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I play tube amps when I need feel, tone and warmth.... all loud enough to play on a stage with any size band.
I play a modeler when I need feel, tone and warmth.... all loud enough to play on a stage with any size band.

When I use a tube amp it is usually a head... so the cabinet I use with it is important. Not the time to go cheap.
When I use a modeler it is a stand alone... so how I monitor it is important. Not the time to go cheap.

When I need a tube amp to sound great at low volume, I use an attenuator. (I'm considering a load box/IR loader as well)
The modeler is already capable... outside of Fletcher Munson, they sound the same at every level.

Learn your gear and compare apples to apples when it comes to budget.
They are both capable of getting great results, they just get there differently.
 
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burntfrijoles

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I use both. I like tube amps when I play with a band. I use modelling when I record or play quietly.

They are tools to make music with.
This is my take as well.
I don’t gig or play in a band. I love the feel and sound of a tube amp and use one for my home recording needs up until recently. I never liked modelers before but, with the iridium, I have found a product that lets me do what I want for recording purposes. It fits my needs.

Different players have different needs and expectations.
 

dreamingtele

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I use tube amps.

I use solid state amps.

I use digital modellers.

I even use a hybrid tube preamp and digital poweramp/speaker IR combo.

I use all of it in different combinations.
All of which sounds good.

Its so overused now, but it really is on the archer, not the bow. Different archers, different bows. And I use and love all my bows - which makes me very efficient and flexible because my skill set is wide and varied. Lol

I dont buy the argument of “you need to tweak lots to make it work and sound good”. Everything needs some level of work.

Heck, even tube amp users obsess on littlest things, like what tubes, nos tubes vs new tubes. Lol. Or us, obsessing which material sound best on the saddles of 3-barrel bridges. Haha

But just because some use long bows, the need to bash a cross bows especially if they havent tried it, and just repeating or parroting things from someone and making it their own is very rampant in these arguments - and it also goes both ways for those who defend cross bows at the other end. Lol. Its funny.

Thanks for sharing OP, and for remaining very objective in your thoughts.
 

Killing Floor

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I can’t play drums because I am a totally uncoordinated ox. But I can play a drum machine, I can write a sequence even with intentional micro-drifts in timing to humanize it. I know that no matter how good the sound engines get they still don’t sound like a kit played by a drummer.
The disconnect is that a lot of guitarists think their models sound exactly like a blown out Plexi.
 

fender4life

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I can’t play drums because I am a totally uncoordinated ox. But I can play a drum machine, I can write a sequence even with intentional micro-drifts in timing to humanize it. I know that no matter how good the sound engines get they still don’t sound like a kit played by a drummer.
The disconnect is that a lot of guitarists think their models sound exactly like a blown out Plexi.
Thats where i guess i differ from most. I have no expectation when using modelers of getting a sound like this amp or that amp. Even with tube amps i was never like that. I didn't care what brand or model it was as long as the tone was full and dynamic with no issues like harshness or bad tonal balance or overly compressed etc, i was happy. Didn't matter if it was a peavey or marshall or what. What matters to me is the QUALITY of the tone. Does it sound and feel natural like tubes do and have great touch dynamics and all that good stuff? If so i'm good.
 

fender4life

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Agreed, the crowd may have have shouted some nasty things, but no one ever shouted ' get a tube amp you moron!'
I always hear people say how the audience doesn't know or care, but that's just not relevant. If that were the standard for tone we'd all be playing $50 no name amps instead of spending a fortune on gear. The audience doesn't know if u r playing a $50 POS or a $5000 boutique, but the fact is the vast majority of experienced players know that when the tone isn't inspiring in not only how it sounds but even more importantly how touch sensitive it is, you don't play as well. That's what drives us to find great tone.
 

gimmeatele

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I always hear people say how the audience doesn't know or care, but that's just not relevant. If that were the standard for tone we'd all be playing $50 no name amps instead of spending a fortune on gear. The audience doesn't know if u r playing a $50 POS or a $5000 boutique, but the fact is the vast majority of experienced players know that when the tone isn't inspiring in not only how it sounds but even more importantly how touch sensitive it is, you don't play as well. That's what drives us to find great tone.
So if I don't bow to the great God if tube amps I am not an experienced player not care about my time?
 

Grandy

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Just to make it clear, are we talking about digital amps with speakers or devices with amp sims, IRs, mic sims and so on or software on a computer or all of these?

I wouldn't know which amp has cascading gain stages but I've always preferred clean amps and dirt boxes over amp distortion, because many two channel amps share the tone stack and the eq setting that works with clean usually doesn't work with driven tones. And do it all Boogies and such are out of my price range.
 




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