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#1
Inspired by the Spider V thread and being bored at work.

There's always existed a universal principle in slightly less immature music communities that tone is in the ear of the beholder. We have different tones in our heads and the ideal tone to one person is almost never identical to another's. It's a principle that is made to promote creative expression and mutual respect for what we like and what we don't like and all the slightly less immature among you understand that.

Poll question: do you think this is strictly always true, only true up to a certain point, or completely untrue altogether?

I think that while tone being in the ear of the beholder is all very well and good, I don't think it's necessarily that simple.

Tube amps and the like are designed not so much to model other amps per se, but to sort of be their own amps in their own right. Or at least in my experience that is the common perception. But I think modeling amps (and other amps that claim to model) are more of a grey area.

One might consider it arguable that modeling amps can be objectively bad because the ability for a modeling amp to accurately model another amp under the same conditions can be quantifiably measured. And in the situation where so many other amps in the same price range objectively model the same amp more accurately, then could one fairly consider that some amps are objectively good and other objectively bad? Despite the fact that this defies conventional wisdom?

What are your thoughts on this? Where would you draw the line?
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Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Sep 29, 2016,
#2
Modeling technology continues to improve, and IMO, some of the amps have been very good for a period of time. I think modeling has tiers and early on, I thought the line 6 stuff for the money, produced decent tone. I also think the recent very high end new modeler are as good as anything. Not my choice but understand why people like them.

For me, it is less about recording and all about the sound in the room, and I am very happy with my tube amp.
#3
There is some objectivity to what sounds good. I mean, even a complete pile of shit can be made to sound okay in the right hands, but that person would sound even better with an objectively better setup.

The modeling amp thing is an interesting example, but then you are kind of mixing metrics. To sound good is one thing, but to sound like something is different. I can absolutely love the Fender Twin model in a piece of gear and it can even sound objectively great, but it may sound closer to a Vox AC30 than a Twin.

It's tough to draw the line where something can be considered bad sounding in general, because there's an implication that it will sound bad in any application, but I don't think that's true of very many things. I can imagine that somewhere out there is a person running one of those pocket amps, micing it up, and getting a pretty cool (if unusual) sound with it. Still, that's an exception, which is bound to always exist.
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#4
I think it depends on how you define objectivity. Like you have in the opening post, it's certainly possible in my opinion. If you're grading on likeness in sound of the model to the real deal, you can say one sounds more like the real deal than the other.

What you also could have is that you compare amp A and amp B on their Mesa Rectifier models, for instance. Amp A might sound pretty good but nothing like a Rectifier and amp B might sound like a Rectifier much more, but have a fizz in it that is very unpleasant. In that case, amp A would sound better, but amp B would model a Rectifier better.

A big point that matters to me is the situation and use of the amp as well. I personally don't enjoy a Line 6 Spider, but I know someone who gigs with one (through a Marshall cab) and their gigs sound fine. Tons of beginners get a Spider and really like it. I can't say that I wasn't a bit jealous of my friends Spider when we had just started playing and I had the crappy 10" speaker amp with only 3 knobs and 1 channel. The Spider did not only have way more features, it sounded better.

All considered, I think there are modelling amps that can be considered objectively good, but none that can be considered objectively bad. What I might think is bad, is a good piece of gear for someone else. However, I do think that the high end modelling stuff like the Axe-FX, the Helix and the Kemper are more than able to satisfy anyone sound-wise. Be it in recordings, live through a PA, or even with a poweramp through a cab. I don't think there's anyone that can't get a sound out of a good modeller that they like.
#5
While most of the cheaper modeling products are, at best, a decent tool for learning and practicing, the higher end modellers like the Axe's and Kempers are very nice. While one could say they aren't recreating the amps at 100% accuracy, per se, they do sound incredibly good and maybe more importantly feel more like a tube amp than cheaper products.

As far as your "mid-range" modelling products, I have two general thoughts. First, yes, they can sound good. However, most of these amps, IMO, usually come with strengths and weaknesses, meaning while they may do some tones well they will also struggle with others. That said, I think when used by a player who knows what he's doing and is using the stronger tones the amp can produce, you can get good results. For instance, I have a good friend who has used one of the Vox modelling combos for a handful of years at least, and he's always been able to pull good tones for his bands, which have varied from rock-a-billy to alt/rock and alt/country.

My second thought in terms of the mid-range modellers is that most of the guys I see gigging them have no concept of tone, whatsoever. I attribute this as part of the reason modellers get such a bad reputation. With all of those guys, it's nearly the same thing - a good guitar, usually in the $1000+ price range, going into a modeller (there's a 60% chance it's a Spider Valve, 20% chance it's a lower-end Line 6 floor unit) using most likely a Marshall setting (or maybe a Mesa setting) with the gain cranked to the point of annoyance and the mids heavily scooped.
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#6
Interesting question.

If we assume that a particular modeller's goal was to emulate a tube amp to the degree that you can't tell one from the other then you can measure that with a degree of objectivity, such as with blind tests.

If we are asking "Is the Spider V objectively bad because I think it sounds like ass" then no, because there will always be someone who likes what it sounds like.
#7
There's no "objective" here -- it's ALL "subjective" if it's based on personal listening.

I evidently have a different listening experience here in LA compared to a whole lot of the folks on here who are scattered around the planet.
I can actually drive to Line 6 in Calabasas and (if they're in a really really good mood) listen to the actual amps that they've modeled (they have them at the plant, you know).

Here's the thing with the Spiders. The modeling itself ain't bad. Listen to it through something other than four-buck earbuds, though. They then feed it through "cheap enough to build in volume and sell at a big profit" amplification and speakers and you get the AM Radio version. If you're going to compare what results to a Marshall stack, there are going to be *cough* differences and you're just not being fair. If you're comparing it to what you think you remember a Marshall stack might have sounded like once upon a time, there are going to be even more differences.

Modeling amps aren't "objectively" bad -- they've outsold every other kind of amp on the planet. Cheap modeling amps are...cheap amps. Some sound better to some ears than do others. That's subjective.
Last edited by dspellman at Sep 29, 2016,
#8
One thing that I notice a lot of people seem to ignore is that modelees don't have some of the limits of the amp's they are attempting to emulate. For example, a modeled Mesa Mark III might have more gain on tap than the original and more powerful EQ controls. A lot of people mod an amp's circuits or speakers to increase their capabilities or change sounds while a modeler may do those things right out of the box.

It's kind of like when you play on a fancy workstation keyboard and you can edit the ADSR properties of an instrument beyond what that instrument is capable of. So in some ways, the modeling technology can push an amp or instrument beyond its own limits.

In that way a modeler has some level of objective superiority over the genuine article if the sound is 90% but the capability is 120%. And that isn't even including other aspects such as cost, size, availability, and general convenience which are even easier to measure objectively.
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#9
I think that someone may have a subjective opinion that their tone is good, but the objective opinion from those with a more "professional" ear is that the first person's subjective opinion is wrong. There is a point where it is not about opinion but about actually providing a proper sound for the job.

Cheap modelers often get a lot of slack because the majority of tones we hear from them are from people that do not know how to play and do not know what they are doing. Granted, cheap modelers often are garbage in comparison to the "real" amps, but getting a usable tone out of many of them is not impossible. So I do not think "the point of separation between tone and can-o-bees" is in the gear, but in the user. However, some amps will be very difficult to work with, not worth the money or time, and generally uninspiring- again in comparison to the "real amps." I think professionalism comes from understanding that and using gear that fits their needs to do the job.
#10
Quote by theogonia777
One thing that I notice a lot of people seem to ignore is that modelees don't have some of the limits of the amp's they are attempting to emulate. For example, a modeled Mesa Mark III might have more gain on tap than the original and more powerful EQ controls. A lot of people mod an amp's circuits or speakers to increase their capabilities or change sounds while a modeler may do those things right out of the box.


Good point, although that only applies if we are trying to grade sound quality as opposed to how accurate the emulation is of the real thing.

I have found since buying a Kemper I have significantly more control over the tone even if I am limiting myself to just one amp/cab combination. With a great modeller, you can closely emulate a particular amp and then go even further and tweak it to sound even better.
#11
Quote by Will Lane
I think that someone may have a subjective opinion that their tone is good, but the objective opinion from those with a more "professional" ear is that the first person's subjective opinion is wrong. There is a point where it is not about opinion but about actually providing a proper sound for the job.


But what is a "professional" ear exactly? I know sound engineers that do pop, hip-hop, and RnB that have worked on Grammy winning platinum albums that would probably consider a lot of the "classic" 60s-80s rock guitar tones to be unusable garbage. Then you have the classic albums that have used amps that "golden-eared" tone freaks would consider trash despite being worked on by some amazing producers.

Then you have the world renowned guitar virtuosos that swear by their DS-1 or their solid state combo. Tons of great steel players for example swear by Fender tube amps and hate the Peavey steel amps... but guys like Buddy Emmons and Paul Franklin and others seem to be quite fond of them. And everyone knows how Steve Vai and Satch felt about DS-1s.

All I'm saying is that the actual pros disagree with each other on what is good and the pretend pros disagree on what is good and both groups can agree and disagree with others and plenty of people use all kinds of gear that others don't like and there is really no agreement on gear and it's hard enough to decide who has a professional ear and who doesn't.
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#12
I have one professional ear and one amateur ear and I can never remember which is which.
Same with my photography -- folks have often said I have a really creative eye. But just one.
#13
Quote by theogonia777
One thing that I notice a lot of people seem to ignore is that modelees don't have some of the limits of the amp's they are attempting to emulate. For example, a modeled Mesa Mark III might have more gain on tap than the original and more powerful EQ controls. A lot of people mod an amp's circuits or speakers to increase their capabilities or change sounds while a modeler may do those things right out of the box.

It's kind of like when you play on a fancy workstation keyboard and you can edit the ADSR properties of an instrument beyond what that instrument is capable of. So in some ways, the modeling technology can push an amp or instrument beyond its own limits.


Yup.

I'm used to a Korg Kronos keyboard, which has nine different "engines" for producing sound. It can nail a grand piano right down to whether it's German or Japanese and how far the lid is open and what the placement of the mikes (you get to choose which ones) might be. At some point in that range there's a duplicate of the actual grand piano in the room, but since the options go so much beyond just that point, there are a lot MORE sounds that don't match exactly how you think you remember that grand piano, but which are entirely legitimate within and outside of that spot.

Modeled amps are often duplicated at some point within the modelers range, but that range can easily exceed the sound space of the original, modeled amp.
#14
Just curious, but where would amps like a Randall RM or Egnater Mod fit into this? They can take and emulate an amp, but also go beyond with custom modules via shops like Jaded Faith and Salvation Mods. Furthermore, the tubes themselves can be swapped around using a variety of power amp tubes, So you could have a Marshall module running 6L6 tubes or a Mesa Rec or Mark module with EL34S tubes. A plethora of tonal possibilities.
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#15
true up to a point, i'd say

and that's a good point about the modellers
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

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#16
The whole thing with the spider is generally they are ok. They get a bunch of sounds, but nothing I could objectively call good. I don't refer to how well they model, but how well they sound as their own amp.

BUT! The higher end modellers can sound really Damn good. Especially when set up through a proper rig.
The lower end modellers are good for learning, just like the cheapo practice amps that get bashed as well, but I wouldn't use one for live or recording.

I strongly considered getting a pod or helix set up, but they didn't have the tones I wanted in their models. But the did sound good.

It all depends on the price point. If you pack a ton of features into a low price point, you would have to sacrifice the quality somewhere.
#17
The first affordable modeller that I was prepared to use is the Atomic Amplilifre. I am yet to hear an actual modelling amp that I'd buy. However, as good as it is, my RM100 eats the Amplifire for breakfast. I have been using the Amplifire mainly because it's so easy to drag around. I am prepared to lose that much quality for the convenience but that is as cheap as I am prepared to go.
Spiders are OK for practice (just) but keep them the fuck away from my stage.
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#18
i would never lump modeling amps into one category, as good or bad
it really depends on specific brands and models
some make great guitars sound like shit, and others make cheap guitars sound great
it's all down to what works and doesn't work
in general i do agree that spiders and other simmilar amps make great practice amps, but not much else more.
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#19
Quote by Liaztraht


I strongly considered getting a pod or helix set up, but they didn't have the tones I wanted in their models. But the did sound good.


It's been rare to find a modeler that didn't need some kind of tweaking and adjustment for individual tastes. Even the Axe-FX/Kemper price range products, which have some of the best presets around, have required that. I personally know of a couple of arena-class guitarists who paid to fly factory techs out to tweak AxeFX units *for* them, until they got sounds that they liked. Everything's in there; it's just a matter of learning how to get it out. It's a lot simpler to order up a tube amp, and you're faced with a lot fewer choices. But what I think some of the critics *don't* get (or remember) is that tube amps rarely conferred "great tone" automatically, either. Bruce Egnater used to offer two-day classes in how to build and then tweak JTM-45 - style amps until you got what you wanted. He used to laugh that people bought a Marshall and then automatically *assumed* that they'd achieved great tone because it was, after all, a Marshall tone that everyone else seemed to want to sound like.
#20
I think some people are missing the point of this thread a bit. This isn't a question of which particular modelling amps are bad, but could it be considered objectively bad if they do not deliver what they promise compared to other amps in the same price range.
Quote by dementiacaptain

The modeling amp thing is an interesting example, but then you are kind of mixing metrics. To sound good is one thing, but to sound like something is different. I can absolutely love the Fender Twin model in a piece of gear and it can even sound objectively great, but it may sound closer to a Vox AC30 than a Twin.

In that situation I think the model is objectively misrepresenting what amp is trying to model. I'd be pretty disappointed if a model that is supposed to sound like a Duel Rec actually sounds like a Fender Twin. I know that's an extreme example, but the point is that if an amp is supposed to claim that it models something, it ought to model what it says it actually claims to model. The fact that it sounds more like a Fender Twin might be nice to some, but isn't what I asked it to do.
Quote by dspellman

Modeling amps aren't "objectively" bad -- they've outsold every other kind of amp on the planet.

What sells and what is a genuinely effective product do not march in lockstep.
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Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Sep 30, 2016,
#21
Flextones, vettas, axe FX Kemper are perfectly fine others not so much.
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#22
I think one of the main points of contention is due to sales tactics. For the most part you hear stories on this forum about kids not needing a modeler getting one thanks to the friendly sales person at their local big box music store. The fact that a certain brand has higher commission rate due on their cheap Chinese radio quality cheese graters end up in more hands that don't need them. One of these cheese graters ended up in our rehearsal room but the other guitarist that bought it needed a crap box to plug in to run scales through and that amp did the job for what he wanted. Granted, a Zoom pedal through a boom box would've sufficed as well

Tone is all subjective so there's a certain mystery and aura around it and modeling has always set out to exploit that as being the cheaper alternative to the real thing, which might be the reason why it isn't perceived as the real thing. For the most part I hate that gimmicky aspect of the market and the sneaky sales tactics by companies that all try to put lipstick on a pig (token tube here and there) and call it the next best tube tone killer.

Then few months later they wonder why the $300 junk modeling amp won't make them sound like say Slash and they start piling overdrive and other effects in front thus making a bad situation worse.
Last edited by diabolical at Sep 30, 2016,
#23
Quote by dspellman
It's been rare to find a modeler that didn't need some kind of tweaking and adjustment for individual tastes.

I researched the products, downloaded and read the manuals and then went to guitar center for hours tweaking the things. Lots of good tones but not what I wanted.
Instead I got an amp that gave me that warm fuzzy feeling that says "this is it". It still happend to be a solid-state. And I still get that feeling when I play it.

I see where you come from defending the modellers. I defend the ss amps myself. But with any amp type there is good and bad, so I do apologize if spider bashing gets you riled up. Shows you have passion for your instruments.
#24
Liaztraht WHat is the amp if you don't mine me asking?

About ss amps - I am really a fan of the Tech21 series, been using their pedals and modelers for years. Still have a Sansamp PSA-1 preamp which is stellar "modeling" amp. What I like about it is that it gets a great tone but doesn't really try to call it a Marshall, Fender or whatever...it is just a great tone
#25
diabolical The Orange cr120h.
I'm working on recording with it right now and can share it's sound when done
#26
Quote by theogonia777
One thing that I notice a lot of people seem to ignore is that modelees don't have some of the limits of the amp's they are attempting to emulate. For example, a modeled Mesa Mark III might have more gain on tap than the original and more powerful EQ controls. A lot of people mod an amp's circuits or speakers to increase their capabilities or change sounds while a modeler may do those things right out of the box.

It's kind of like when you play on a fancy workstation keyboard and you can edit the ADSR properties of an instrument beyond what that instrument is capable of. So in some ways, the modeling technology can push an amp or instrument beyond its own limits.

In that way a modeler has some level of objective superiority over the genuine article if the sound is 90% but the capability is 120%. And that isn't even including other aspects such as cost, size, availability, and general convenience which are even easier to measure objectively.


That's an interesting point. I'm not sure (depending on the situation) that many guitarists would trade in 10% in sound quality for a 20% improvment in those other things. And "feel" is another thing.

But even regarding your point about the modellers (which you touched on yourself with your point about speakers etc.), you can mod amps for more gain (either the circuit, or use higher or lower gain tubes, or use a boost pedal up front etc. etc. ) and I'm not sure the modeller is really in the lead then. And a lot of modellers have more gain etc. not because it's an "improvement" but because newer players want more gain (I'm obviously talking about cheaper modellers there).

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
I think some people are missing the point of this thread a bit. This isn't a question of which particular modelling amps are bad, but could it be considered objectively bad if they do not deliver what they promise compared to other amps in the same price range.


I got it, and I agreed with you that it was a good point
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

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#28
Quote by diabolical
Liaztraht I am aware of its sound. It is not bad for what it is, but not as rich as the true tonal complexities of a proper tube Orange.
I don't expect it to be. I got it because it's what my ears liked the best. Which is of course how each amp should be judged.
#30
Quote by Liaztraht
diabolical The Orange cr120h.
I'm working on recording with it right now and can share it's sound when done


I really want to try one of these. Posted in the Spider thread and I know this is off topic on modeling amps, but for the money, this is a great example of a great amp for a very good price. If you think about the value ratio of tone to cost, it looks like it is tough to beat.
#31
MAChiefs It is a beast. What hooked me over a modeller was this could bring some major balls to my music and retain a British-ish voice that the floor pods couldn't and in a similar price range.

Nothing wrong with the pods, they were just too controlled for my tastes. Wouldn't mind one for all the effects. Infact still considering one in the future as a backup rig/effect board.
#32
Quote by Liaztraht
MAChiefs It is a beast. What hooked me over a modeller was this could bring some major balls to my music and retain a British-ish voice that the floor pods couldn't and in a similar price range.

Nothing wrong with the pods, they were just too controlled for my tastes. Wouldn't mind one for all the effects. Infact still considering one in the future as a backup rig/effect board.


I have seen the Orange cr120h used in the $350 range. Definitely going to try one.
#33
I'm also curious about the CR. Seems like it could be pretty sick. Demos sound good.
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#34
MAChiefsdementiacaptain
Not as versital as a modeler, but still covers an amazing range with an od out front.
#35
Oh I'm covered on versatility

What I'd like to know is can it do those old-school fuzzy solid-state sounds. The sort of "HiFi" fuzz. Everyone wants to compare it to a tube amp, but I'd rather if it wasn't like one.
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#36
Not quite old school solid state, it gets fuzzy like Orange Amps usually do when the gain is cranked. Probably halfway between fuzz and distortion when maxed out. Sounds great for doom, stoner rock, and just rock in general on its own. Still gets some of that hifi fuzz in places, but it's pretty damn good sounding for a solid state.

It responds and sounds more like a tube amp than a spider does but when not in a band mix you can tell it's a ss.
#37
Quote by Dave_Mc
That's an interesting point. I'm not sure (depending on the situation) that many guitarists would trade in 10% in sound quality for a 20% improvment in those other things. And "feel" is another thing.

But even regarding your point about the modellers (which you touched on yourself with your point about speakers etc.), you can mod amps for more gain (either the circuit, or use higher or lower gain tubes, or use a boost pedal up front etc. etc. ) and I'm not sure the modeller is really in the lead then. And a lot of modellers have more gain etc. not because it's an "improvement" but because newer players want more gain (I'm obviously talking about cheaper modellers there).


While you can mod an amp, it's not like you can just switch speakers in and out of a combo the way you can switch them with a modeler. You can make changes and then undo them without putting in the time, effort, or money that it can take to mod a real amp.
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#39
dspellman cleans sounded good, but the dirt was still questionable.
But hey thats a good start. And Andertons does good demos.
I still want to try one in person. Just to be sure.
Last edited by Liaztraht at Sep 30, 2016,
#40
Quote by theogonia777
While you can mod an amp, it's not like you can just switch speakers in and out of a combo the way you can switch them with a modeler. You can make changes and then undo them without putting in the time, effort, or money that it can take to mod a real amp.


yep of course, that's a fair point.

again, though, if the sound is better, that might be worth it for some people. and in my experience (of real amps, not modellers) very often one speaker (or speaker combination) sounds the best with a particular amp- or you can just use external speaker cabs so you actually don't have to swap those speakers.

and in the case of using a boost pedal that's not really much more bother at all.

again i think it boils down to how close the modeller gets- if it genuinely sounds as good, and if it feels like the real amp under your fingers, then i agree with you- you're getting a ton of extra benefits for no cost. Do they sound as good, though? (I genuinely don't know, I haven't tried any of the dearer modellers I know the cheaper ones don't sound or feel as good.)
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
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