Best Amp Models outside of Kemper/AXEFXIII?

guitarlix

Member
Messages
1,852
Assuming Kemper / AXEFXIII are the gold standard, what other 'platform' has the best amp tones and feel? (let's leave effects out of this discussion for now)

Hotone?
Helix?
Iridium?
Amplifire?

So many choices. I really like what I'm hearing with the Iridium (best on youtube vids) but wanted feedback from actual users.

My goal is to run from modeling device to power amp (like SD 170) to guitar cab w/ guitar speaker.
 

Ejay

Member
Messages
5,282
I have hands on experience with amplifire, kpa and mooer and boss.
Iridium sounds very good to me on YT.

amplifier was way to bright for me to use into amp and cab...and no usefull tools to dime the treble side of things. So I wouldn’t recommend it for that scenario. Direct signal is solid...cause the dark cabs compensate for the amps.

Mooer sounds pretty good to me..i use it regularly on gigs going into returns of combo.
The other day I tried a boss gt1 at a shop...that’s prettty solid also. If it had the functionality to send a signal without cabsim simultaniously with a non cab signal..I would have replaced the mooer. (Cause the effects are more solid and extra knob / expression pedal compared to the ge 150...and still fits a gigbag)
So...don’t discard boss....solid stuff!

here’s what i got out of the mooer 150

 

Andrews R

Member
Messages
20
I had an AX8 (owned it twice), hated it. Sounded good, felt alright, but was a nightmare to tweak.

I had a Helix (3 seperate times), was sooo easy, so many options.. could do whatever I needed. But it ALWAYS feels like something is missing. Especially under the fingers.

Lastly I've owned 3 Kempers. I kept selling it thinking other options are more intuitive. But it's the only one that actually FEELS the way you want it to under the fingers. I just got tired of buying amp packs and only using 2 profiles.

The Kemper just "feels" right.

If the Helix "felt" better, it would be my only option. The interface is the absolute most advanced currently on the market. The new Quad Cortex looks like it will be the perfect solution, but we have much time before any one can judge.
 

Brandon7s

Member
Messages
1,373
Outside of Kemper and Fractal land, my favorite amp tones from a hardware modeler is from the Atomic Amplifire units. I've had the Helix many times, the Kemper, Axe FX-II, Boss GT-1000, Atomic Amplifier, and Iridium.
 

mdubya

Member
Messages
1,043
Outside of Kemper and Fractal land, my favorite amp tones from a hardware modeler is from the Atomic Amplifire units. I've had the Helix many times, the Kemper, Axe FX-II, Boss GT-1000, Atomic Amplifier, and Iridium.
The Iridium sounds fairly spectacular in the demos I have heard. Could you expand further on how and where it stacks up in this list? Thank you. :aok
 

ShaunOsovs

Member
Messages
237
Helix and Amplifire were both top notch in my experience. They can certainly hang with Kemper/AxeFX
 

Brandon7s

Member
Messages
1,373
The Iridium sounds fairly spectacular in the demos I have heard. Could you expand further on how and where it stacks up in this list? Thank you. :aok
I'd put the Iridium just under the Atomic Amplifire. It's got the superior Vox model, I feel, but I prefer the Atomic's Deluxe Reverb model just slightly more, and I definitely prefer Atomic's Plexi; the Iridium's Plexi doesn't stack up well against it at all, in my opinion. I've got a thread comparing the two here where I note down more of my thoughts between them.

I'd put the Kemper and Axe-FX II on the same footing and at the top of the food chain... at least until I get to use an Axe-FX III. :D Then I'd rank Atomic's amp modeling just very slightly under those two, but be aware that the Kemper/Axe-FX II absolutely blows Atomic away when it comes to FX, interface, and variety of amp models; however, when comparing amp models that the Atomic does have to their equivalents with the top two I think it's 97% there. I'd never be able to tell the difference in any kind of listening test and the way it feels to play feels very, very similar.

For the classic Vox AC30 sound then I'd put Iridium up there with both Kemper and Axe-FX II - it's really very good. For the other two amp models I think it's below the tones of the other three modellers mentioned above.

Then the Helix. Despite owning a Helix LT for more than a year, then an HX Stomp for a few months, and a full sized floorboard Helix for just about a month, I just don't think it sounds as good when it comes to straight up amp tones, and that applies to both high gain and low gain amps. It's tough to describe WHY I think that, but there's just something about it's amp modeling that seems to exaggerate harmonic distortion in both the high and low frequency extremes but leaves a hole in the mids where most of the body of the guitar sound sits. I think the Kemper/Axe-FX/Atomic hardware all do every amp model in their repertoire better than the Helix, when comparing similar amp types.

Then there's the Boss GT-1000. Frankly, the only amp model worth using in it is the X-Modded Marshal-type amp, and even then that doesn't sound any better than anything in the other modellers, its just the only decent one it has. The rest just sound plain bad when compared to any of the competition, including the Helix. It's just not in the same league.
 
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mikah912

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7,038
I've had them all, and I'm wary of anybody (And I used to express opinions like this too) who says "X amp models sound better than Y amp models". They're just not that monolithic, in my experience. Kemper profiles vary wildly in fidelity and usability. Same with Fractal models. Same with Helix models. In the case of Helix and Fractal, these models have been developed over years and years. The latter models incorporate lessons learned and optimizations that the earliest ones never had. They grow in quality year after year. Beyond that, I've had favorites on each platform that I could not replicate or surpass with the others.

The user experience/user interface is the far more significant line of demarcation. I don't know how many blind A/B-A/B/C comparisons we've had here to show that they sound remarkably similar when you normalize the rest of the chain (same DI going into them, same IR at the end of the chain), and even the subtle remaining differences almost get entirely rubbed out in any sort of practical application (e.g. in a full live or studio mix).

I remain interested in all of the platforms because they're fun to play and all sound good, but there are details and caveats that get lost when someone boils it down to "X is better than Y which is better than Z".
 

jcmmnx

Member
Messages
48
I've tried probably a few dozen different amp modelers, and have come to the conclusion that with good IR's most of them can sound good enough for me. Helix probably gets the nod from me for variety and ease of use.
 

Alchemist XP

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,707
If I spend enough time with them, I feel like I could get virtually any modeler, even the old original PODs to sound good ... a lot depends on the amplification method used.

When you hear a really good tone on a demo ... on the internet ... chances are it's 45% skill of the person dialing it in, adjusting the parameters and recording it ... 45% the skill of the guitarist to get the tone to match what he/she is playing (how the tone fits the context) and 10% due to the differences between a Helix, Iridium, Fractal, Kemper, Boss, etc.

User skill / error is by far the biggest factor ... and the most frustrating to accept.

This is why every single demo from Pete Thorn sounds fantastic. He knows how to dial gear in, knows how to record and knows how play in a way that fits the tone and context he's recording into ... so it just sounds fantastic.
 

dmock66

Member
Messages
1,576
If I spend enough time with them, I feel like I could get virtually any modeler, even the old original PODs to sound good ... a lot depends on the amplification method used.

When you hear a really good tone on a demo ... on the internet ... chances are it's 45% skill of the person dialing it in, adjusting the parameters and recording it ... 45% the skill of the guitarist to get the tone to match what he/she is playing (how the tone fits the context) and 10% due to the differences between a Helix, Iridium, Fractal, Kemper, Boss, etc.

User skill / error is by far the biggest factor ... and the most frustrating to accept.

This is why every single demo from Pete Thorn sounds fantastic. He knows how to dial gear in, knows how to record and knows how play in a way that fits the tone and context he's recording into ... so it just sounds fantastic.
Totally agree. Also, as @mikah912 stated, each platform has some models that are just better/worse. If that platform's "worse" model is the one you most want to play, that creates your reality. The amp model I played most on the 11R and Atomic was the JCM800 - and it was really good on both. I've not bonded with the actual JCM800 on the Helix, but have found other amps that give me that tone instead. Also, each platform has some unique parameters that can have a dramatic impact on resulting tone/feel. Once you recognize those parameters that matter most to you the experience changes, usually for the better.
 

Jarick

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,273
Strictly amp tone, I'd be inclined to vote for the Atomic Amplifire. I was impressed by the sound when I had one.

I have a thread comparing sound clips of Fractal, Helix, and Headrush. I've also done comparison clips with the Amplifire. I think that, outside of some kind of specific amps, they can all be in the same ballpark sonically. Now feel and interaction and detail and all that it starts to separate.
 

Alchemist XP

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,707
Totally agree. Also, as @mikah912 stated, each platform has some models that are just better/worse. If that platform's "worse" model is the one you most want to play, that creates your reality. The amp model I played most on the 11R and Atomic was the JCM800 - and it was really good on both. I've not bonded with the actual JCM800 on the Helix, but have found other amps that give me that tone instead. Also, each platform has some unique parameters that can have a dramatic impact on resulting tone/feel. Once you recognize those parameters that matter most to you the experience changes, usually for the better.
So True ... I had a Boss GT-10 that I used and absolutely loved for years. I'm definitely a tube amp person, but I really learned how to dial in that Boss unit. The key was to forget completely about the overdriven amp models ... Just pick a clean model like a Roland JC120 or a Twin Reverb, then get the dirt from the pedal sims and that just worked with that particular piece of gear. Could get that type of setup to sound much more "marshally" for example, than the actual Marshall amps sims that sounded, for the most part, like crap. Dialed in that way the feel was great, nice touch sensitivity and great tone. If you just forget about the labels and use your ears, you can get almost any piece of modeling gear to sound good but maybe not in the "formula" you're thinking of.
 

dmock66

Member
Messages
1,576
So True ... I had a Boss GT-10 that I used and absolutely loved for years. I'm definitely a tube amp person, but I really learned how to dial in that Boss unit. The key was to forget completely about the overdriven amp models ... Just pick a clean model like a Roland JC120 or a Twin Reverb, then get the dirt from the pedal sims and that just worked with that particular piece of gear. Could get that type of setup to sound much more "marshally" for example, than the actual Marshall amps sims that sounded, for the most part, like crap. Dialed in that way the feel was great, nice touch sensitivity and great tone. If you just forget about the labels and use your ears, you can get almost any piece of modeling gear to sound good but maybe not in the "formula" you're thinking of.
I agree. I've done similar things on different platforms. When I started playing guitar I used only what the amp had available. I'd been playing for a couple years before I got my first pedal (in the early/mid 80s). After I accumulated a few ODs I got my first single channel amp - then retooled my mental paradigm to view my amp as a platform. Since I used both approaches with analog gear before going digital I've been more open minded with how I approach digital equipment and use the best path to the end result.
 

mdubya

Member
Messages
1,043
I'd put the Iridium just under the Atomic Amplifire. It's got the superior Vox model, I feel, but I prefer the Atomic's Deluxe Reverb model just slightly more, and I definitely prefer Atomic's Plexi; the Iridium's Plexi doesn't stack up well against it at all, in my opinion. I've got a thread comparing the two here where I note down more of my thoughts between them.

I'd put the Kemper and Axe-FX II on the same footing and at the top of the food chain... at least until I get to use an Axe-FX III. :D Then I'd rank Atomic's amp modeling just very slightly under those two, but be aware that the Kemper/Axe-FX II absolutely blows Atomic away when it comes to FX, interface, and variety of amp models; however, when comparing amp models that the Atomic does have to their equivalents with the top two I think it's 97% there. I'd never be able to tell the difference in any kind of listening test and the way it feels to play feels very, very similar.

For the classic Vox AC30 sound then I'd put Iridium up there with both Kemper and Axe-FX II - it's really very good. For the other two amp models I think it's below the tones of the other three modellers mentioned above.

Then the Helix. Despite owning a Helix LT for more than a year, then an HX Stomp for a few months, and a full sized floorboard Helix for just about a month, I just don't think it sounds as good when it comes to straight up amp tones, and that applies to both high gain and low gain amps. It's tough to describe WHY I think that, but there's just something about it's amp modeling that seems to exaggerate harmonic distortion in both the high and low frequency extremes but leaves a hole in the mids where most of the body of the guitar sound sits. I think the Kemper/Axe-FX/Atomic hardware all do every amp model in their repertoire better than the Helix, when comparing similar amp types.

Then there's the Boss GT-1000. Frankly, the only amp model worth using in it is the X-Modded Marshal-type amp, and even then that doesn't sound any better than anything in the other modellers, its just the only decent one it has. The rest just sound plain bad when compared to any of the competition, including the Helix. It's just not in the same league.
Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to expound! :aok
 

-Empire

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,975
I have owned Kemper, AxeFX III, AX8, Iridium, Helix, HX Stomp, AFB, and AA3.
Through the same cab IRs (i.e. comparing apples to apples), the differences in amp modeling on corresponding amp models are negligible between all of them. I’ve stuck with Helix / HX Stomp because they meet my needs the best and I like the price and UI, but I would use any of those units before going back to real amps.
 




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