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Austin TGP Modeler Shoot-out: Kemper, AXE-FX2, Helix and Amplifire

PhilosoPhrets

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
770
Too much love here.
You're doing it wrong:
Some device has to be declared the winner. Everyone else fights about it for twenty odd pages. No one's mind changes, feelings are hurt, enemies and alliances are made.
Everyone standing around saying "isn't this awesome?" is no fun at all. The thread will give out in a couple more pages at this rate.
Maybe this technology really can be used for good.

"I have a dream! That one day, a man will not be judged by the brand of his modeler, but by the content of his guitar playing!"
 

RandoMan

Member
Messages
338
Oh man, guys, please, please, PLEASE let me know when the next round happens. I'm up in Round Rock, just upgraded from the HD500 to the Helix, and would LOVE to be able to pop in and hear the next shoot-out. I'm very interested in hearing an AXE (especially if someone has an AX-8) as a point of comparison. I use my Helix each week for P&W so the AX-8 is definitely on my mind. Plus, I'd love to get to meet and hang out with some of my fellow Austin guitar players (especially those having gone down the digital route like me!).

Thanks!
Randy
 

Chris Hayden

Member
Messages
1,401
Very cool guys! I would love to participate in a get together like this in my area. Currently, another TGPer is trying to set up a a bigger such comparison get together in our area for late summer or early fall. Hope it comes to fruition for us as it did you guys. I would love to see the Axe and Kemper in person (maybe by the time our thing happens we'll get to see an AX8 too!)
 

Proteus

Member
Messages
48
This is very cool! I live in Pflugerville and own both the Amplifire and AXE XL+. I use two xitone active monitors but live I run mono. For the last 4 months I've been using the amplifire live because I uber down to gigs and its very compact in size. So far I've gotten great results and with future updates I expect it to get better. I'm hoping my name comes up for the AX 8 soon but I also thought about maybe getting the FX8 and using the Amplifire for amps. I'm on both wait lists and I guess I'll decide what to do when my name comes up on one. It would probably make the most sense to go AX8 and sell the amplifire. We'll see. If you guys do this again I would love to come hang out and talk modelers!
 

djd100

Member
Messages
3,116
Finally, some real scientific testing! :p

I have some other tests suggestions you could perform next time:

1) drop them each off the stage. which ones are the hardiest? try the hot car test during the summer. do they melt?
if they all pass, try the Hendrix lighter fluid trick and reassess.
2) leave them on the edge of the stage and take a bathroom break. which ones get stolen?
3) for those over 42 years old, how many feet away can each unit's display be comfortably seen and read?
4) hooked up to a small cabinet, can any of the units be turned up enough to blow the cab's speaker? (make sure you have a few speakers on hand)
5) if you are attacked while performing, which unit thrown at your attacker has the best stoppage potential? yes, removal time from a rack mount is part of the test.

Maybe it's best to perform them in this order: 3, 4, 5, 1, 2
 

djd100

Member
Messages
3,116
If you do it again, perform the tests at around 85db (use a db meter, many free ones available for you phones worst case). If you do it any louder your ears will continue to progressively change in a relatively short period of time (thus screwing up your listening etc).

a) I suggest that you use a looper or guitar recording for the input while everyone listens during the listening tests with various pickup selections and volume settings etc (the input has to be identical and of a proper level for the individual box etc). Two different people playing the same guitar with the same pick can of course sound somewhat different due to their touch. Be sure to include some legato playing with long sustaining notes and chords, to listen to the entire envelope of the sound as it decays to silence/noise with and without any included noise gates (at various input levels).

b) Listen to dry tones, no FX.

c) Use a mixer and the same FRFR speaker for all (use mono since there are no FX etc), and and keep the FRFR speaker away from any boundaries as much as possible (walls/corners etc). If you can do it in a real studio with good monitors all the better. Keep your ears in a similar position vs the FRFR speaker for all tests to minimize any differences in room acoustics. The same holds true if testing with a guitar cab too.

d) If a reasonably powered tube power amp is available for the guitar cab, repeat all feel tests with the modeled tube power sections off to isolate the modeled preamps, and to test the modeled tube power amps. Create a second preset for this so you can adjust the amp parameters for best tone with the guitar cab while being able to return to your other DI/FRFR tone.

e) For the actual feel playing tests I'd suggest using both a guitar cab with cab sims off, and the same FRFR cab as above with cab sims on.

f) Use the same IR and similar amp models for all tests (maybe not so good/easy for the KPA, not sure, but I think you can profile the amp with a reactive load and use a standard IR now, but I'm not sure how that compares to the standard profiling method?).

g) Test a variety of amp gain settings (clean, edge-of-breakup, mid-gain, pushed-mid gain, and highest possible gain for the amp in question etc), at a variety of guitar volumes.

h) Record everything if possible (and post here if possible!)?

i) Last, once the real testing is complete, turn up the volume and FX and have a good time!


This endeavor was a bunch of fun and worth every minute. For one, at least for me, it was great to step out from behind the keyboard and share some face to face time with other musicians. There just something more authentic and satisfying about being able to witness, in real time, the reactions and feedback of the others. I will add these guys had some great chops, far beyond my skill level, and that's not me trying to be humble here on this forum, there was some real talent in the room.

It would just take too long to put into a response all the thoughts I got swimming around in my head so I'll just try to bullet point some "take aways" which I hope others will find helpful in some way or another.

  • There really is no substitute for hearing something live vs. YouTube videos or SoundCloud files.
  • All in all everyone of the units sounded really good, I mean really really good.
  • I think if you were to find someone who absolutely has no hands on experience with any of these they would easily find the Helix to be the easiest UI to figure out and work with.
  • The Kemper and Fractal had what I would term as a more "refined" sound. I guess I mean that to say that what I was hearing was seemingly a little closer to what I would expect to hear at a concert after the guitar content had passed through the main console and received any eq and processing an engineer would apply to the sound before pushing it out to FOH. Very pleasing to the ears.
  • I could be happy with all three, in fact I want all three. If and when my name comes up on the AX8 wait list, and if at that time I have the financial resources to support the purchase then I will at least have two of the three.
Some random thoughts.
  • If we would have had the time it would have been fun to build a patch from scratch on all three units that were geared to sound similar. It would have given us a better idea of work flow ease and then how difficult or easy it was to fine tune the sound.
  • Third party IR's do seem to help the Helix some, but the stock cabs are still great. I am very hopeful that L6 will work on this in future updates. I think having the ability to move the mic around more will really help, i.e. side to side, and off axis. Ultimately I want to use stock cabs as much as possible.

Maybe some ideas about how to make the Helix better out of the box.

  • Better amp default settings or maybe some default templates like the one floating around on the Matchless model coming out, having those default settings embedded into the software would be cool. It would be neat to twist a knob and the amp settings would adjust according to the sound you are attempting to coax out of the amp. I liken that to how a bore scope functions on a rifle. They are designed to get the rounds on paper so that you can fine tune the scope for greater accuracy. Having that feature in the amp modeler greatly reduces the time a novice user spends monkeying around with any particular amp model.

Bear in mind this is just my perspective and there is no "one size fits all" solution. That applies not only to which device is better but also how to make said device better.

Sometimes if feels like these devices are like politicians, you can easily hear and say good things and bad things about each and in the end you feel no closer to knowing which is better or for whom you will cast your vote for.
 

JoeB63

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,613
If you do it again, perform the tests at around 85db (use a db meter, many free ones available for you phones worst case). If you do it any louder your ears will continue to progressively change in a relatively short period of time (thus screwing up your listening etc).

a) I suggest that you use a looper or guitar recording for the input while everyone listens during the listening tests with various pickup selections and volume settings etc (the input has to be identical and of a proper level for the individual box etc). Two different people playing the same guitar with the same pick can of course sound somewhat different due to their touch. Be sure to include some legato playing with long sustaining notes and chords, to listen to the entire envelope of the sound as it decays to silence/noise with and without any included noise gates (at various input levels).

b) Listen to dry tones, no FX.

c) Use a mixer and the same FRFR speaker for all (use mono since there are no FX etc), and and keep the FRFR speaker away from any boundaries as much as possible (walls/corners etc). If you can do it in a real studio with good monitors all the better. Keep your ears in a similar position vs the FRFR speaker for all tests to minimize any differences in room acoustics. The same holds true if testing with a guitar cab too.

d) If a reasonably powered tube power amp is available for the guitar cab, repeat all feel tests with the modeled tube power sections off to isolate the modeled preamps, and to test the modeled tube power amps. Create a second preset for this so you can adjust the amp parameters for best tone with the guitar cab while being able to return to your other DI/FRFR tone.

e) For the actual feel playing tests I'd suggest using both a guitar cab with cab sims off, and the same FRFR cab as above with cab sims on.

f) Use the same IR and similar amp models for all tests (maybe not so good/easy for the KPA, not sure, but I think you can profile the amp with a reactive load and use a standard IR now, but I'm not sure how that compares to the standard profiling method?).

g) Test a variety of amp gain settings (clean, edge-of-breakup, mid-gain, pushed-mid gain, and highest possible gain for the amp in question etc), at a variety of guitar volumes.

h) Record everything if possible (and post here if possible!)?

i) Last, once the real testing is complete, turn up the volume and FX and have a good time!
I guess the term "shootout" made it sound like we were trying to pick a winner. That wasn't the plan. We just wanted to let interested people try (and also compare) the various modelers and do some personal comparisons. Nothing wrong with your list above per se, e.g. using a looper would have been a good idea if we were truly doing a 'best modeler contest,' but the point was of the get together was "How does this product work for you?" which really requires playing it yourself.

It's also very difficult to compare like to like with these things, because (for instance), which of the 300 available Plexi profiles should we choose on the Kemper? One that I like might be one that you hate. And which of the 25 Plexi-ish profiles on AXE should we use? Who gets to tweak it to perfection? How long would that take? So instead, we dialed up a DR-style patch on each one, a "plexi-ish" patch on each, a Vox/Matchless-y one, and everyone got to play and listen and have some fun. But they weren't all models of the exact same amp, and the possibilities for tweaking are endless for these boxes -- even if you use the same IR for each. You could set up a methodology (as you did above) to get in the ballpark, but you probably wouldn't get to definitive results - at least not in a single day.

Your ideas are still good, but I wonder if we did all that, and found that 3 people preferred Kemper, 2 preferred AXE and 1 preferred Helix, what would that prove? Even if every person said that (for example) the AXE was better than the others, few-to-no minds (that weren't in the room) would be changed. Ain't that the nature of people and the Internet? Those I suppose if we all agreed, we could write the whole thing up as a white paper (with video and audio) and license it to the company whose product won the shoot-out. Now that's an idea! JoeB63's Independent Modeler Research Lab at your service!
 
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Gearzilla

Member
Messages
3,731
That sounds more like work than fun....

Anyways I have a much better handle on getting around on the Axe-Fx now, and should be able to keep the fumbling around down to a minimum if there are any future events.:D
 

LeftyASAT

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
281
Yes, it seems a lot of folks here were hoping for some detailed comparison data here - sorry if we built up that expectation! It was great just to get to play through several of these devices through the same system and meet a few local players too. Even though it was very casual, I think we all learned quite a bit and left with some good comparisons. Maybe we need to set up a somewhat regular get-together in town where a bunch of us Austin pickers can share some gear? The Space location could be an option - in So. Austin and pretty inexpensive, with large rooms, PA and doesn't even smell bad. :)

By the way, Line 6 just posted the promised new v1.06 firmware update for Helix and a new v1.03 Mac/Windows librarian app update - go get 'em! The new Matchless amp is really great.
 

GtrWiz

Member
Messages
3,903
Yes, it seems a lot of folks here were hoping for some detailed comparison data here - sorry if we built up that expectation! It was great just to get to play through several of these devices through the same system and meet a few local players too. Even though it was very casual, I think we all learned quite a bit and left with some good comparisons. Maybe we need to set up a somewhat regular get-together in town where a bunch of us Austin pickers can share some gear? The Space location could be an option - in So. Austin and pretty inexpensive, with large rooms, PA and doesn't even smell bad. :)

By the way, Line 6 just posted the promised new v1.06 firmware update for Helix and a new v1.03 Mac/Windows librarian app update - go get 'em! The new Matchless amp is really great.
I met with my buddy @jeffinaustin this morning, he works at a church he said we could meet there if we want to do it again. They have everything we would need to do a comparison including video and a pro tools rig all hooked up to the PA. He also has an FX-8 and they just got a Torpedo Live. We probably couldn't bring beer but it's an option...
 

Gearzilla

Member
Messages
3,731
I met with my buddy @jeffinaustin this morning, he works at a church he said we could meet there if we want to do it again. They have everything we would need to do a comparison including video and a pro tools rig all hooked up to the PA. He also has an FX-8 and they just got a Torpedo Live. We probably couldn't bring beer but it's an option...
That sounds cool. As long as I can warm up and dial in a tone I'm willing to volunteer for TGP ridicule.... :)
 

JoeB63

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,613
I met with my buddy @jeffinaustin this morning, he works at a church he said we could meet there if we want to do it again. They have everything we would need to do a comparison including video and a pro tools rig all hooked up to the PA. He also has an FX-8 and they just got a Torpedo Live. We probably couldn't bring beer but it's an option...
Count me in. Thanks!
 

GtrWiz

Member
Messages
3,903
Forgot to ask - how about you guys, which churches do you play at?
My main church is Lake Hills in Bee Caves, I'm a member there... I fill in at a few others, Gateway North, Church at Lake Travis, used to do some at Life Austin.
 

LeftyASAT

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
281
I met with my buddy @jeffinaustin this morning, he works at a church he said we could meet there if we want to do it again. They have everything we would need to do a comparison including video and a pro tools rig all hooked up to the PA. He also has an FX-8 and they just got a Torpedo Live. We probably couldn't bring beer but it's an option...
That sounds great - please let me know if you set up a date for this and I'd like to make it! Actually, a good way to do a more detailed comparison, that could also then be shared with others online, would be to just record a few different simple wav files of dry, direct guitar and then use his Pro Tools/Torpedo rig to "re-amp" the files back through each individual device and record the results. We could also just use amp models with NO cab on each device and then use one cab IR on the Torpedo so that each device would be captured through only that exact same cab. We could even record and bring a few dry guitar recordings with us to save some time. Then we can spend the rest of whatever time having fun and letting everyone try whatever they want. But I'd be up for whatever anyone wants to do!

...No beer?? Well I guess I'll just have martinis then :p
 

Jason Lynn

Member
Messages
620
A little late to this party, you guys should PM me if you have another get together. I couldn't make this one anyway though since I was in L.A.

Always nice to meet some more players in Austin. If you are all the caliber of Tondre, I'm sure there were some nice licks to steal going down :)

Salt Lick is solid, but I gotta give it to the little town of Lockhart when it comes to bbq.
 

zach5150

Member
Messages
57
I guess this could get out of hand but, I'm throwing my name in the hat as a potential invitee as well if y'all get together again! If it's cool, I could try to bring buddy of mine who is a P$W player at Shoreline. He plays an HD500. I'd bring my Eleven Rack as another point of comparison if you were interested.
 




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