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How "good" will modeling amps become?


Hound Dog

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First of all, I am not against modeling amps. I have a modeling processor and a tube amp and I see benefits to both. Some people like modeling amps and some don't. Given that "good" is subjective, my question is really directed at how much more can modeling amps really be improved upon. I ask this because I really do not know.

 

I have seen a few examples of how as time goes by and technology improves, major improvements are noted in the quality of performance and capabilities of certain things. Example: I owned one of the first "Pong" games. Now you have playstations, X boxes, Nintendo, etc. We've watched the quality of digital imaging increase greatly and the results are noticeable.

 

With a lot of products, you usually have something on the high end that is cutting-edge (usually at a ridiculous price). Like with digital cameras, you can buy easy-to-use digital cameras all day long for a few hundred dollars, but you can also sink thousands into a professional digital camera.

 

What is the cutting-edge modeling amp technology?

 

Modeling amps seemed to rise to its own status quo quickly as far as sound quality goes and then level off. Most of the improvements lately have been in the area of added features. I don't hear alot of people saying things like: "Wow, the new Line 6 plexi model is it!" From my perspective, as much as modeling was heralded, its market is actually more suited to providing alot of very decent sounds at very affordable prices.

 

I'm just wondering if there is more to be had in the way of sound quality and "feel" of the patches. Will better processors and more digital horsepower bring better results, or are modeling units to become like digitial watches: they tell time very well and you can get them on the cheap.

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I don't mind people using modeling amps, but I'm sort of a purist... They have their advantages, in price and versatility, but if you just want one sound, might as well go for the real thing. The way I see it, even if you can't tell the difference, it's sort of like a fake painting, which is after all, art just like music...so what, even if you can't tell the difference anymore, the "value" of a sound generated by the real thing just makes you feel better. I makes you wonder if the high-tech is worth the jazz if a simple tube will do, even with some draw-backs!

Of course, I'd "approve" more of someone buying emulating amp from which I can't tell the difference to real tubes as I'd appreciate someone dishing out tons of extra cash for a super-high-end system, if an upper-middle class system for much less will produce a sound that's almost too close to tell a difference.

 

For some reason, I'd prefer either extreme, more so than I'd appreciate a mixture of both. Either a purist rig with "authentic" tone, or on the other end, highly digital use of equipment for a sound taking full advantage of modulation, effects and modeling.

 

I know this doesn't really answer any of your questions, I just wanted to but in my $0.02 ;)

-Andy

 

 

"I know we all can't stay here forever so I want to write my words on the face of today...and they'll paint it"

 

-Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon)

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I don't know that you'll ever get a good answer to that question beyond what you already know.

 

There is something lively about a good tube amp that is sorely missing in every modeller I've heard, but those modellers would sound fine to the average listener.

 

Maybe they'll eek out that last 10% with better algorithms, more computing horsepower, etc, but I think it's a moot point. As you point out, you can get everything and the kitchen sink but it sounds flat, dull & lifeless when compared to the real, tube amp. I'm not sure they've quantified what that "it" is they should be searching for to make a modeller that sounds indistinguishable from a tube amp.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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One thing is for sure though, as prices for technology goes down (and probably prices for 'vintage' circuits/electronics will go up), you'll get FAR more bang for your buck using modeling tech.

-Andy

 

 

"I know we all can't stay here forever so I want to write my words on the face of today...and they'll paint it"

 

-Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon)

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I think they are pretty near the end of the modeling amp development. They have their targets identified and do well in those segments that close enough is fine! I have one modeling amp and four tube amps and that's a pretty good ration I think. I gotta say the modeling amp is pretty good on most things but yes it just doesn't quite make the jump to impressive like the big tube heads do when they are running hot and loud! There is just nothing like a cranked tube amp to bring out the most in a player.
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Well, it seems conceivable that modeling could find a home in the digital recording studio, as much as those guys hate modeling.

 

1. guitar -> modeler -> studio input

2. guitar -> preamp/amp -> mic/preamp/gizmos/etc. -> studio input

 

In both cases, you're interfacing the guitar to the studio input through something. What does that something do? It acts on the waveforms produced by the guitar and changes them somehow. (You could also bypass the external modeler by going DI into the DAW and then applying software modeling.)

 

Which is better, an all-analog flange or a digital one? Does it matter if in the end you're only looking for 24-bit/44.1kHz sampling (and that's what the digital produces)? (Yeah, I know what the guys with their $7,000 microphones are thinking. And they're right, of course, but for a home studio on a budget I think things are different.)

 

What about feedback?

 

I don't know for sure, but I'd say that most modelers available today don't digitize as finely as studio equipment. So that would be a path for improvement.

 

What you might find in the future -- and it might just catch on -- is USB or FireWire ports built into guitars (in addition to the traditional jack). That would probably be more popular than MIDI on guitar. If they're smart, the guitar manufacturers will leave their onboard audio-to-digital interface upgradable, so when the standard for home studios go up the interface can be upgraded. (Of course, they will make this impossible because there's a higher profit margin on selling a complete guitar compared to a small electronic device. This in turn will make onboard interfaces a fad.)

 

And then because it's easier to transmit digital data than your typical audio patch cord, look for new wireless units and amps/preamps with USB/FireWire connections (and devices to enable "vintage" amps of today to handle the new interface).

 

[Come to think of it, they may opt for ADAT.]

 

When that day comes, modelers will either be built-in to the onboard interfaces or exist as external units with digital connections. They will be blazingly fast and adhere to a standard unobtainable today. But they will still be expensive because of the way the musical instrument market works. And your modeler from today will be like that Pong controller, looking odd in it's '70s white and black styling, with giant knobs and unsightly switches.

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I talk about this question a bit (both here and on the Line 6 forums). As a direct answer, yes the technology will get better, both in hardware and software. Will a modeled amp into a computer or headphones ever sound exactly like a tube amp, probably not. I am pretty much committed to amp modelling for my electric playing. Once you become used to playing through it exclusivly its hard to go back to normal tube amps. I think everyones playing and feel adjusts to whatever they use.

 

I got into modeling amps as a necessity. I live in an apartment and I ended my lease on my practice space years ago. I still wanted to play electric guitar so I bought a V-Amp. It was usable for practice but I never would have considered performing or recording with it. I then bought a POD 2.0 and noticed a significant improvement. I still wasn't happy enough with the tones to give up my tube amp. A year or two ago I bought the POD XT Live and I was finally to the point where I could be happy, at least through headphones, with the musical sounds I was getting out of it.

 

I think the technology is somewhat limited by the idea that you have to try and sound exactly like a '58 Bassman or whatever. Even two new tube amps made at the same time are going to sound differently than each other. I think they need to concentrate on making good musical sounds without needing to be exactly like the original.

 

I think engineers and software geeks can only go so far in evaluating what sounds good and what doesn't. Wave form analysers aren't as good as a good set of ears such as found on a master musician. Plus, so much of what constitutes a good tone is subjective, just look at the arguements we have here on the forum about who sounds good and who doesn't. One area of improvement is that a good tube amp will sound good throughout its whole range of tones from clean to dirty to saturation. Line 6 hasn't quite gotten this down on each individual emulation. You really have to search and tweak between different models to get what you want.

 

Its pretty hard to capture a sound out in a room to even quantify it. I wonder if they have tried to separate the amplifier part from the speaker/ A.I.R. part and model the amp as a circuit. Could they virtually do to a guitar signal what an electronic circuit does? Model each componant in the circuit and design it that way. I mean in an amplifier the signal is just electrical from the time it leaves your guitar till it comes out the speaker. It seams like it would be pretty easy for an engineering type person to approach amp modelling this way rather than through sound waves. The speaker and sound emulation is a separate issue. I have heard people play through tube amps but used speaker emulation in a live setting and it sounded great.

 

So like I said, I am sold on modelling technology. I never really liked to play all that loud and prefer to get me full range of tones at a reasonable volume. I used to try and rely on pedals for distortion, and never was 100 percent happy with that choice either. I really like the way Eric Johnson for instance uses amp switching to get all kinds of sounds, but for me not only is it impracticsal, its just to loud. I know combo tube amps have gotten more versatile recently with channel switching, I could probably find somehting I would be happy witht there, but now that I am used to playing through modelling amps, I can't say I really miss tubes.

 

I have to end this post by saying I bought an Atomic tube amp to warm up the sound of my live playing with the POD, its kind of the best of both worlds. I wasn't able to find another way to get the Line 6 to sound good through any of the other options I tried for live sound. It always sounded great through headphones, but through a guitar amp, PA, or Keyboard amp, it was lacking.

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Originally posted by RicBassGuy:

Well, it seems conceivable that modeling could find a home in the digital recording studio, as much as those guys hate modeling.

 

1. guitar -> modeler -> studio input

2. guitar -> preamp/amp -> mic/preamp/gizmos/etc. -> studio input

 

In both cases, you're interfacing the guitar to the studio input through something. What does that something do? It acts on the waveforms produced by the guitar and changes them somehow. (You could also bypass the external modeler by going DI into the DAW and then applying software modeling.)

 

...

 

What about feedback?

 

I don't know for sure, but I'd say that most modelers available today don't digitize as finely as studio equipment. So that would be a path for improvement.

 

Among your other points, Feedback is possible by just cranking the studio monitors :evil:

 

Anyway, the most impressive modeler I've played is NI Guitar Rig 1, and it still lacks a certain something that just happens with a live amp.

 

I don't know about the Line 6 stuff, but I think the software modelers benefit from using the A/D converters of whatever soundcard you use, which I suspect may often be of higher quality than something folded into a stompbox. You do need some CPU horsepower to handle latency issues.

 

I recently downloaded the demo versions of NI Guitar combos (click a banner - support the site ;) ) and look forward to hearing the latest revisions. The set of three is on sale for $79 as part of a promotion, so that might be a fair price to add a few tricks to the bag.

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Originally posted by Gruupi:

As a direct answer, yes the technology will get better, both in hardware and software.

I have to agree with this. With the rapid avance in teechnology, it's naive to think this one technology will get stuck in the mud where it is.

I haven't very much liked the modeling amps for guitar that I have played, and it's more about feel than sound. Does the POD XT model of a Marshall Plexi sound exactly like one? How would I know? I've never owned one. Does it react and transmit the same feeling back to my hands that a good tube amp does when it's overdriving? No, not even close, at least none of the ones I have tried.

But, as the technology improves and the models become more detailed, perhaps they will. The XT and Vetta series stuff is a VAST improvement over the POD 2.0 things. In a couple of years, they'll release another improved series. If it isn't on the drawing board already, it should be. I fully expect the modeling amp to overtake tubes in sound and feel eventually.

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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Does it react and transmit the same feeling back to my hands that a good tube amp does when it's overdriving? No, not even close, at least none of the ones I have tried.
That is where the one's I've used are lacking, feel. In terms of sound, I've been fooled into thinking someone used a "real" amp when the guitar was placed in a nicely mixed track.

 

I don't doubt that eventually impulse response sampling will progress to the point they'll be able to replicate specific amp/room combinations so closely that you'll be unable to tell something wasn't recorded at Abbey Road with an old Vox amp.

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Originally posted by Justus A. Picker:

Does it react and transmit the same feeling back to my hands that a good tube amp does when it's overdriving? No, not even close, at least none of the ones I have tried.
That is where the one's I've used are lacking, feel. In terms of sound, I've been fooled into thinking someone used a "real" amp when the guitar was placed in a nicely mixed track.

 

That's the quixotic thing - in the end result, the listener has a fine experience, but in the moment of performing there's a subtle difference for the performer.
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Contributing to the validity of modeling amps is the trend for many players to record while listening to the studio monitors as opposed to being in a room with the amp. Also, for up and coming players that play a lot through headphones, they may actually come to prefer the sound and feel of the straight, modeled signal because that is how they grew up.
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Why exactly are they not environmentally friendly? I've heard it before, it just doesn't make much sense to me.

-Andy

 

 

"I know we all can't stay here forever so I want to write my words on the face of today...and they'll paint it"

 

-Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon)

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my guitar sound is hermetically sealed to vacuum tubes.

they are symbiotic in that w/ out one the other cannot exist. this will never change. it is one of the few constants in my life.

your guitar mileage may vary-mine never will.

s :cool:

AMPSSOUNDBETTERLOUDER
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i sometimes wonder why Yamaha gave up on the DG100.

it is still better sounding to me than alot of amps.

it feels good too.

it doesn't claim to mimic any paticular set of amps but it has sweet cleans and very nice lower gain sounds which most modelers cannot claim.

i just wish mine wasn't 73 lbs.

i don't think it is better than any paticular tube amp but unlike most solid state and modelers out there it has a power section that has balls.

that is the key!

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Originally posted by AeroG33k:

Why exactly are they not environmentally friendly? I've heard it before, it just doesn't make much sense to me.

quote:

Originally posted by Big Red 67:

Why exactly is tube production not environmentally friendly? Just a question that came up on the guitar forum at musicplayer. Thanks, Tate

There are some caustic materials used.

 

Not much info here.

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caustic materials? I thought tubes weren't THAT much different from lightbulbs in production...

-Andy

 

 

"I know we all can't stay here forever so I want to write my words on the face of today...and they'll paint it"

 

-Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon)

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What do you think of this "modeling" TUBE amp by huges and kettner?

 

http://www.hughes-and-kettner.com/products.php?mode=prod&id=112

 

Do you think that THIS amp could be a bridge between the harsh sound you sometimes get with a modeler and the warm sound you get with tubes?

 

http://www.hughes-and-kettner.com/ (click on the test drive switchbalde logo)

 

You ought to listen to the SOUND CLIPS of samples this thing gets! If you have a pair of decent speakers on your computer AND a high speed internet connection with flash player installed, check it out.

 

You can actually play around with some of the knobs on the amp and it shows you what it sounds like if you change the effect settings! You can also switch channels on the floorboard with your mouse! Pretty cool.

 

I think that this really sounds good. I am considering selling my vetta II for this.

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Originally posted by Big Red 67:

It will depend on the amount of money that is spent. I think that they have reached the limit, or very nearly. At a certain point the cost out weighs the bennys. The theory of decaying returns.

Nah, I don't think so. The thing about technology is that after it's been around for a few years, it gets cheap. After the initial period, when the product earns back the investment made on it plus a profit, either the prices either go down, or the features in the product get more numerous. We saw it with VCRs, computers, CD players, DVD players, etc and so on. It'll happen with modeling amps.

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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