Has software caught up with hardware in sound quality?

Discussion in 'Digital & Modeling Gear' started by olejason, Mar 26, 2015.

  1. olejason

    olejason Supporting Member

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    I specify sound quality because I think the workflow of software is still not as intuitive as hardware. Most people are more comfortable twiddling knobs than navigating menus or instilling new drivers. I'm really only talking about the quality of the final MIXED guitar sound. So I mean after all tweaking and editing.

    For me and for the music I play current gen software is just as good as any hardware on the market including Axe and Kemper as far as sound.
     
  2. C-4

    C-4 Member

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    That is why I plan to save for a Kemper and why it is so appealing to me. I can twist knobs and get something back, rather then having to navigate menus.

    I don't have the training or job experience where navigating deeper menus is easy for me. At least there is an alternative with a more immediate gratification quotient.
     
  3. GuitarKidd

    GuitarKidd Member

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    IMO, far surpassed the analog in functionality and ease. When the final product is produced, no one can tell analog or digital as almost everything today is being converted to analog anyways..
     
  4. tapehead

    tapehead Member

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    I guess it depends on one's goals and sensibilities. And ears.
    "Sometimes but mostly no" is my own personal answer w/r/t modeling.

    Good audio software isn't very useful without good hardware.
    I think pres...converters...processors...speakers...are more deterministic to sound quality than the software used with [them].

    I still have yet to hear a modeler that has "caught up" with the sound and feel of a good gnarly fuzz pedal (with sensitive vol knob interaction) into a tube amp's front end. Like a Jazzmaster > Fuzz Face > 50w Marshall 4holer with a greenbacks halfstack.
    The way it transforms the response of the pickups with urgency, and the impact of that cab still isn't there AFAIC.

    Now a pedal like Dr Scientist's BitQuest? Yes...I'd say the sw has caught up, even potentially exceeding the sound quality and limitations of fully analog hardware. In a single, remarkably pedalboard friendly layout you've got a Flanger, HP/LP filters, Bitcrusher, Infinite Reverb, Notchfilter, Pitchshifter, Ringmod, Delay. But they aren't necessarily trying to *nail* or emulate any existing designs...AFAIK they're just trying to sound great at what they do.
     
  5. mikah912

    mikah912 Member

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    Speaking only for rock/metal stuff, but yep.

    Just listen to any Toontrack EZMix metal guitar/bass expansion packs. Then listen to the Axe-FXs or real amps the artists involved used. Super duper close as far as finished, mixed sound.

    The challenge is in software having what exists before that - the raw amp or high-end plug-in sound with all of the implied dynamics and "feel". A lot of people say no, but I'm not a stickler for "feel" and don't use the volume knob much in my playing. As long as it reacts to pick attack, I'm good.
     
  6. olejason

    olejason Supporting Member

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    Totally agreed but I'm not talking about the feel of the amp sim at all. My one and only concern is the sound quality of the final mixed track. I totally understand that some guys will not be able to track at their full potential if the feel of a modeler is lacking.
     
  7. ChrisVereb

    ChrisVereb Member

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    Right or wrong, I voted no based on this. Like most products, quality varies with price. My gear tends toward mid priced to budget lines. Within that price range (say a couple hundered USD...Mustang Floor, G3, RP1000, used HD500/GT-100 range) I can get a lot better tone with a HW modeler than I could with the interface, foot controller, software, and computer I could afford, IME. So for my budget and application, HW is still better. I know the question was just listed as "in sound quality". But since I only have experience with gear within my budget, I chose not to separate the two issues.

    I certainly think SW without any restraints on supporting HW is ABLE to achieve really good tone, at least as good as the current generation sub $1k HW modelers.
     
  8. colonoscopotamus

    colonoscopotamus Member

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    Purely sound quality, absolutely.
    Think about it this way: instead of considering it in the context of actually playing guitar, think about it in the context of reamping a non-guitar signal (drums, vocals, that sort of thing).
    I'm willing to bet that nobody could tell the difference in a mixed track between a vocal that was reamped through a mic'ed amp and one that was just run through s-gear.
     
  9. Multicellular

    Multicellular Supporting Member

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    The last generation or two of amp sim software are pretty much there. I did my last album about 50 50% just based on whether or not I was sure about the final tone I wanted. I can't remember now listening without looking at my notes. Maybe if I isolated the tracks, but the end user wont be doing that.
     
  10. mikah912

    mikah912 Member

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    Given that PCs are pretty much ubiquitous in this era, the only real costs are interface and perhaps foot controller (free amp sims, IRs, and a DAW like Reaper are MORE than adequate. Even if you wanted to spend, you could drop less than $100 on Recabinet 4, Revalver 4 or Bias and be good).

    You can find quality interfaces for $100 or less used on GuitarCenter and Music Go Round's websites, or even better...in your local area. You're also paying less than $100 for a Behringer FCB1010 foot controller and just a little over $100 for a MIDIMate on eBay.

    Not as much of a price gap as you may believe....
     
  11. db9091

    db9091 Member

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    If I understand the OP correctly, the KPA and FXII are considered "hardware"?

    They are software. With extensive I/O. You'd still need I/O to play guitar, unless you are taking pre-recorded guitar and using MIDI, but that guitar needed I/O and can't articulate as well as a real player per performance.

    But I generally agree that software not only can equal hardware, but in many ways has surpassed it.

    I also agree that less expensive units are quite capable of sounding like real amps. The 11R can and in some cases the POD's, GE's etc can too. Unless the tone is clean, the distortions often require extensive EQ sessions with real amp comparisons, but they ARE indeed capable of sounding real with a good ear and some work. The more expensive software options lessen that need for ear and time for work.
     
  12. omahaaudio

    omahaaudio Senior Member

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    DAW software has been way ahead of hardware for quite some time.
     
  13. olejason

    olejason Supporting Member

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    Hardware modelers are just that. There is a box containing the software & hardware all in one package. Software modeling consists of all the work being done on the PC. Obviously there is still a bit of hardware required, namely the interface but, in general, almost any modern USB interface is sufficient for tracking electric guitar and bass.
     
  14. ChrisVereb

    ChrisVereb Member

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    I've heard S-Gear via my $100 used interface and via an RME Baby face. On the cheap hardware, I'd go with a HW modeler. On the more expensive interface, I'd have no problem using SW. My fingers, my ears, etc...
     
  15. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    It's all dependant on what you need, why you need it and how you apply it.

    Your answer will absolutely depend on your own situation and experience with what you are comparing/contrasting.
     
  16. db9091

    db9091 Member

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    That's my point. The KPA is a Linux computer. So it's the same thing as your computer: Big box with hardware components whose software algorithms are what produce (or in this case reproduce) the tones.

    Now a Universal Audio compressor hardware being done in software is what you mean. But if they put a PC in a rack mount box that utilized the software to emulate the Universal Audio hardware, it would be the same analogy.

    The Kemper doesn't utilize hardware to make it's tone. Only I/O and D/A, A/D conversions like any large audio interface or M-Box.

    BTW, Software Plugins emulating hardware effects units clearly have become the equal of hardware from certain companies (UA, some Waves, Slate, etc)
     
  17. Deuterium

    Deuterium Member

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    The question posed in this topic is dependent on what intended use/purpose is.

    Here, I am presuming the definition of a "software"-based modeling to apply to PC, MAC (or perhaps Linux) computers running 3rd-party software-based amp modeling programs. Conversely, I am presuming "hardware"-based modeling solutions to be fully integrated, dedicated purpose platforms that use DSP processors and proprietary first party algorithms to perform it's functions, such as the Kemper Profiling Amp (KPA), Axe-FX, Eleven-Rack, Digitech GSP1101, Line 5 POD HD, etc.

    With all respect to db90091, I cordially disagree with a reductionist approach, and basically categorizing everything as "software-based". It may be splitting hairs, but I am guessing the OP was drawing a clear distinction between the two definitions I offered, above. A PC (whether Windows, MAC or Linux) is a general purpose device. A Kemper or Axe-FX is an integrated, dedicated purpose guitar amplifier modeling device.

    -- If it is for strictly DAW-based recording, then PC/MAC based amp modeling software is eminently suitable and capable, in terms of "sound quality". Although I wouldn't say any current software-based solution is in any way "superior" to either the KPA or Axe-FX, in terms of sound quality, even for this purpose.

    -- If it is for general home and or practice jamming, then I suspect it all comes down to personal preference and ease of use...although, I would take some serious convincing that even the most bleeding edge software-based amp modeling solution running on the highest end personal computer, could match or exceed the KPA, in terms of faithfully recreating the tone, feel and dynamics of model-specific amps. Here, it has nothing to do with computational power...it is the simple fact that Kemper has a patented, proprietary and altogether unique approach to reproducing the sonic and dynamic characteristics of individual, model specific guitar amplifiers, which cannot be duplicated by another party.

    -- If it is for actual gigging...well, I think most people would strongly favor a dedicated purpose, hardware-based modeling solution.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2015
  18. olejason

    olejason Supporting Member

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    Exactly right. I thought that much was obvious but maybe not. I think everyone realizes hardware modelers are using software to generate the sounds...
     
  19. AZG

    AZG Supporting Member

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    Having both S-Gear and an Axe-Fx II I have to say they are often close, but the Axe reacts to the guitars volume knob much better and usually sounds better to my ears. But I'm still often really impressed with and enjoy the tones I get out of S-Gear. Other software sims I tried did not impress.
     

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