If modeling is “just as good as the real thing” these days, why is analog still super popular?

LaXu

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10,956
To me, the frustrating thing with modeling is the IR/mic'd cab piece of the puzzle. I still don't understand why we can't just have a modeled sound without the mic, similar to what Powercab accomplishes. Quite honestly, Helix with Powercab is the closest thing to an amp in the room set up I've played, next to real amps of course. Why can't the sound coming from the guitar speaker be modeled without the mic variable?

I gave modeling such an unfair shake in the past, and then I tried my amps through a Suhr Reactive Load IR. I was SHOCKED at how close to modeling my own amps sounded. The IR variable sounds much better than I'd anticipated, but it still gave my amps that modeled sound and feel that I always sort of hated. Once I heard my Two Rock Studio Signature through an IR, it clicked for me. This is just what it sounds like to mic an amp and listen through monitors, headphones, or PA speakers...modeled or otherwise. Once I accepted it, now I can just sit back and enjoy and not obsess.

Because that sound depends so heavily on a lot of factors. The room, the volume, the placement of the cab, the speaker cab used, where the listener is in relation to the cab etc. People have tried replicating the sound of a cab with all kinds of filters without success. Impulse responses solve much of the problem with the caveat that it is the sound as perceived by a microphone. Even if you use a reference microphone that has no coloring of its own, it will still not be the same thing as our ears perceive. Most of us are used to listening to a cab blasting at our knees. Maybe eventually someone will figure out how to properly model a guitar cab or DSP improves to the point that it is possible.

I would recommend everyone tries a tube amp through a reactive load and IRs before saying modeling does not sound like a real tube amp. The results are often indistinguishable. That's the sound you hear through a PA at a big gig, that's the sound you hear on records. The sound of a guitar amp played through a cab that is then miced and mixed.
 

lp_bruce

Silver Supporting Member
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17,819
@LaXu - That's a good explanation of why cab/speaker emulation is so difficult and why that's where modeling fails with some players. It is not easy to do.
 

Furious George

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
380
.

You know, all those old brands with products going back to the 1950s have invested so many Marketing dollars to convince buyers that old is bestest that the new companies have a hard time competing.

Did you need to have the same PC computer that Bill Gates wrote DOS on to get great tone from your Spreadsheet?

New is always better in nearly every product category except for guitars and amps.

Eventually gear buyers will figure that out.


.
Well I think the PC analogy is a non sequiter. It was always digital technology. And as you correctly note digital can only get better as technology advances.

As a counterpoint consider the repairability of old John Deere farm equipment and therefore their premium prices on the secondary market.
 

SwirlyMaple

Member
Messages
1,572
Maybe eventually someone will figure out how to properly model a guitar cab or DSP improves to the point that it is possible.

The way to model a guitar cab blasting at your knees is to use a guitar cab blasting at your knees. :)

I know that sounds flippant, but when you consider how modeling works, it's not far off from the truth. Consider the variables being controlled:
(1) the source -- your guitar. That's easy. It's the same whether it's a modeler or a real amp.
(2) Everything happening inside the amp. Again, you can black-box all of that, if your algorithms are good, and the modeler itself has complete control over what happens there.
(3) The sound output reaching your ears. This is where things go out the window. If you take two sets of high quality speakers, with a claimed identical frequency response, and play the same source through them, they'll still sound different. Maybe they're smaller/bigger, maybe they're spaced further apart, maybe they're aimed differently; maybe certain frequencies resonate and are accentuated in one set but not another. The point being, this is the part of the equation that cannot be controlled for, meaning it also can't be reliably reconstructed. To use an analogy, I used to do a lot of photography. You learn quickly that color management is a challenge -- how the camera interprets colors, how your monitor interprets colors, and how you printer interprets colors are all different, and to have any hope of them sorta-matching, you have to individually calibrate each one, and create a color profile for each that translates them to a consistent reference standard. Modeling guitar sounds and simulating amps and cabs is like this, where the tone/timbre we hear is analogous to the color of photography and image reproduction.

This is why purpose-made products like PowerCab and Kemper Kab tend to work so much better. They allow for fine control over the last piece of the pie. Without that, it's never going to be consistent.
 

MTN

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
246
Honest question. I hear of so many people these days ditching their amps and pedals and getting a Helix, Kemper, or a Fractal unit, and claiming it’s “just as good” as the real stuff. So if it’s really that great these days, why are tube amps and analog pedals still selling really well?

Just wanted to get peoples opinion on this matter. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m just curious why real amps and pedals are still really popular, when apparently digital has “caught up” to the real deal according to a lot of people.

Because it’s not “just as good”. It’s an approximation...a good one, at that. But not as good.
 

hank57

Silver Supporting Member
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9,635
I still try noiseless pickups. In a band setting an audience doesn’t hear it. I might not hear it that much in a band setting but all the rest of the time I miss that pretty bright happy tone.
 

Ejay

Member
Messages
7,710
I have actually considered getting a lower wattage tube head like the PRS Tremonti 15 watt thingy and a 2 note captor for recording at home. I don't really use too many tones. A good clean, good mid gain, good high gain, and a boost/low gain drive pedal is all I really need. I am perfectly happy with the sounds I am getting from my modelling software for recording, but the advantage to ME would be consistency. I can take the amp out to rehearsals or gigs and still get the same sounds as I get when I record. I don't think it will increase the quality of my recorded sounds, but i can craft a sound and carry it with me, which is appealing. I suppose a modeler could do that too.

It's just a thought.....perhaps a Kemper would be even better but I am trying to work out how i would monitor it onstage. the FRFR thing does not seem cool to me, but it has cab sim baked into the profile so running a traditional guitar cabinet makes no sense. Hmmmm.

you can turn off the cab.
With studio profiles (cab baked in) the kpa estimates the cab section....rather good actually.
With DI or merged profiles the KPA has exact data of the cab section.
 

Ejay

Member
Messages
7,710
just the feel of any latency ruins it for me / plug a Tele or any good guitar into a 5E3 (tweed deluxe) and you can feel like your fingers are attached to the voice coil of the speaker making you play with more touch sensitivity which in turn ignites your senses and soul. You feel the windings on that great pickup you love. Listen to MARK KNOPFLER and his old Les Paul or Strat on most of his studio recording, wow!

Ironicly he is touring with a Kemper ;)
 

DJ_61

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,524
For me the discussion about analog vs digital echoes the introduction of the compact disc many years ago. The inventors and early adopters claimed that it was so much better than our traditional black discs and pointing out especially the convenience of the smaller silver ones. It took decades for people to realize that they were fooled (remember Mark Twain?). Nothing beats vinyl. The guitar world is more conservative. True, digital is convenient, but nothing digital sounds and feels like a real tube amp.
 

LaXu

Member
Messages
10,956
The way to model a guitar cab blasting at your knees is to use a guitar cab blasting at your knees. :)

I know that sounds flippant, but when you consider how modeling works, it's not far off from the truth. Consider the variables being controlled:
(1) the source -- your guitar. That's easy. It's the same whether it's a modeler or a real amp.
(2) Everything happening inside the amp. Again, you can black-box all of that, if your algorithms are good, and the modeler itself has complete control over what happens there.
(3) The sound output reaching your ears. This is where things go out the window. If you take two sets of high quality speakers, with a claimed identical frequency response, and play the same source through them, they'll still sound different. Maybe they're smaller/bigger, maybe they're spaced further apart, maybe they're aimed differently; maybe certain frequencies resonate and are accentuated in one set but not another. The point being, this is the part of the equation that cannot be controlled for, meaning it also can't be reliably reconstructed. To use an analogy, I used to do a lot of photography. You learn quickly that color management is a challenge -- how the camera interprets colors, how your monitor interprets colors, and how you printer interprets colors are all different, and to have any hope of them sorta-matching, you have to individually calibrate each one, and create a color profile for each that translates them to a consistent reference standard. Modeling guitar sounds and simulating amps and cabs is like this, where the tone/timbre we hear is analogous to the color of photography and image reproduction.

This is why purpose-made products like PowerCab and Kemper Kab tend to work so much better. They allow for fine control over the last piece of the pie. Without that, it's never going to be consistent.

Typically with a modeler you are adding another amplifying solution in the mix and that will have an effect on the final sound. I recently tried running my tube amp through a loadbox and reamped through my BluGuitar Amp 1 Mercury Edition (100W Class D poweramp paired with a subminiature tube, not sure if the tube is in use when going straight into the fx loop) and was surprised that instead of feeling like the tube amp to play, it felt tighter and more dynamic - because I had replaced the poweramp driving the guitar cab with another one so it took on the response of the BluGuitar. Of course it still sounded great, but it was not the same as the tube amp directly connected into the guitar cab.

So even if your tube amp is modeled perfectly, the final amplification solution will have some effect on things. You can account for this if you have a modeler built around a particular poweramp and in the same way you can account for it in a Powercab. That goes even further by also making sure the speaker modeling works with the speaker installed.

With modeling, too many people spend time trying to figure out if the modeling sounds exactly like amp X when those concerns are never a thing with any regular amp, even solid-state ones. This question was never asked by anyone when they played the Yamaha DG80 I had back in the day because it did not explicitly say "Marshall model X" on it. Its amp models were just "Lead 1, Clean 2, Drive 1" etc. People just played through it on its own terms and everyone who did said it sounded good.
 

MrTAteMyBalls

Member
Messages
4,694
you can turn off the cab.
With studio profiles (cab baked in) the kpa estimates the cab section....rather good actually.
With DI or merged profiles the KPA has exact data of the cab section.



Ahhh good to know. I haven't had a chance to play with one but here in Germany they can go used for 800-1000. It's really a steal for what it can do.
 

tritter

Member
Messages
13
wow, this is a long thread... haha
I think many of the things I am going to say were already stated but maybe I can add a bit to the discussion. It is all subjective and this is only my personal opinion, my main amp is a mesa lonestar classic (100w head + 2x12 cab) but for home practice and demo recordings I use a strymon iridium. The iridium is supposed to be "state of the art" technology, it doesn't have all the menu headaches everyone is mentioning, it is as simple as it gets and it sounds great, I can put it in my pocket but it just always makes me miss the real thing.

- the tone is indeed really similar, I get what people say that on recordings it would be hard to tell the difference but that is only true if someone else is playing and you are only a listener. I think the feel and response is still far from being the same but you can get used to it. It is like with Rhodes emulations, I don't think I could tell the difference between a Nord digital emulation vs the real deal on a recording but the real deal and playing the real deal vs playing an emulation of it will always be different. The nord synth offers many other sounds, it is easier to lug around, it is more consistent, the maintenance costs are much lower.. etc. so that is why people choose it and not because it is "just as good" (although it is actually playing back samples of the real thing)

- price is an interesting factor right now, iridium is still new so to get it, its the price of a used fender hot rod deluxe. You can play bar gigs and rehearsals with the hot rod, I would not do it with the iridium. Kemper costs as much as a used mesa mark V which arguably has all the sounds you will ever need (it all depends on your style ofc.) so your decision is driven by your application. If you are a studio and you want to have the widest array of sounds available, you will go for the Kemper but I still feel a real amp a lot more inspiring

- I really don't get the point of the tone master series and I also don't quite get the situation where you need to lug around a power amp plus a cab or an FRFR. If it is as big as the original, almost as expensive and only a tad bit lighter, why would you bother. It is like a digital drum that is as big as an acoustic kit because instead of external speakers has built in sound sources. The whole point should be to create sounds that are new and analog is not capable of creating. Like people using the sunhouse sensory percussion thing, their last goal is to create acoustic drum kit sounds.

- I love spring reverb and I tried countless high quality emulations but pairing an amp simulator with a digital reverb just can't do the tube amp with reverb sound for me. That being said I use 4 different digital pedals because I need their feature set.

These are different tools for different applications and both have their respective places. I don't think that anyone thinks that the F1 emulation that the drivers use to practice on are as good as driving around the real car...
 

Digital Larry

Member
Messages
957
I use an RIAA eq in the effects loop of my modeler to give it that "vinyl" sound. The soundstage!

I just had a thought pop into my mind as to why this debate rages. Women don't care one way or the other. "That's great honey, can you pick up some things at the grocery store on the way home from rehearsal?"
 

Ejay

Member
Messages
7,710
Ahhh good to know. I haven't had a chance to play with one but here in Germany they can go used for 800-1000. It's really a steal for what it can do.

were neighbours (Niederlande) ;)...and around here, that pricing would ring some “to good to be true” alarm bells tbh. There has been some shady stuff going on In my country with ppl offering kempers for crazy prices...so be carefull ;)
If you go for it...if you play acoustic also...defenitly consider a powered one, cause together with the Kone/Kab its great to have a rig that can do both acoustics and electric (amp in room, traditional speaker sound)
 

Ejay

Member
Messages
7,710
wow, this is a long thread... haha
I think many of the things I am going to say were already stated but maybe I can add a bit to the discussion. It is all subjective and this is only my personal opinion, my main amp is a mesa lonestar classic (100w head + 2x12 cab) but for home practice and demo recordings I use a strymon iridium. The iridium is supposed to be "state of the art" technology, it doesn't have all the menu headaches everyone is mentioning, it is as simple as it gets and it sounds great, I can put it in my pocket but it just always makes me miss the real thing.

- the tone is indeed really similar, I get what people say that on recordings it would be hard to tell the difference but that is only true if someone else is playing and you are only a listener. I think the feel and response is still far from being the same but you can get used to it. It is like with Rhodes emulations, I don't think I could tell the difference between a Nord digital emulation vs the real deal on a recording but the real deal and playing the real deal vs playing an emulation of it will always be different. The nord synth offers many other sounds, it is easier to lug around, it is more consistent, the maintenance costs are much lower.. etc. so that is why people choose it and not because it is "just as good" (although it is actually playing back samples of the real thing)

- price is an interesting factor right now, iridium is still new so to get it, its the price of a used fender hot rod deluxe. You can play bar gigs and rehearsals with the hot rod, I would not do it with the iridium. Kemper costs as much as a used mesa mark V which arguably has all the sounds you will ever need (it all depends on your style ofc.) so your decision is driven by your application. If you are a studio and you want to have the widest array of sounds available, you will go for the Kemper but I still feel a real amp a lot more inspiring

- I really don't get the point of the tone master series and I also don't quite get the situation where you need to lug around a power amp plus a cab or an FRFR. If it is as big as the original, almost as expensive and only a tad bit lighter, why would you bother. It is like a digital drum that is as big as an acoustic kit because instead of external speakers has built in sound sources. The whole point should be to create sounds that are new and analog is not capable of creating. Like people using the sunhouse sensory percussion thing, their last goal is to create acoustic drum kit sounds.

- I love spring reverb and I tried countless high quality emulations but pairing an amp simulator with a digital reverb just can't do the tube amp with reverb sound for me. That being said I use 4 different digital pedals because I need their feature set.

These are different tools for different applications and both have their respective places. I don't think that anyone thinks that the F1 emulation that the drivers use to practice on are as good as driving around the real car...

wether modeling is more expensive ....or a cost saver depends on what you use it for.
To me it a cost saver. Just for fun...the stuff i would get if not for the kemper:

strymon delay and verb 800,-
Compressor 200,-
2 drives 300,-
Acoustic amp 800,-
Combo 700,-
Loadbox/IR thingy...800,-
...that pays for a powered kemper and a Kabinet in spades.

When you don’t need direct out or acoustic sounds...or fancy verbs....then obviously a traditional rig is a much more economic choice.

Your point about size/weight.
I agree that when you carry a cab/power section doesn’t reduce the amount of gear much. However...a powered kpa gives me “My sounds” for all my musical activities, recording, gigs, acoustic, electric..with only one device to “manage”. Add the fact you rule out soundguys making a mess of micing your amp, the option to bring the powered head and use a venues cab, or plug into returns of combos, Or do a radio or recording session while entering the building with 1 bag and a guitar.....then it starts adding up.

Quality wise....I can’t tell the difference between my real amp, and the profile of the amp running thru the same powersection and cab..or both thru studio monitors. Not sound, not feel.
And Tbh...I don’t think anyone can doing a direct A/B of real and profiled amp...when the same powersection and cab are used.

Obviously modelers thru fullrange systems, or rubbish 50w solidstate poweramps, will never be the same vibe as a tube amp....and I can’t help to think that ppl base their opinion on those scenarios.
 

lp_bruce

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,819
For me the discussion about analog vs digital echoes the introduction of the compact disc many years ago. The inventors and early adopters claimed that it was so much better than our traditional black discs and pointing out especially the convenience of the smaller silver ones. It took decades for people to realize that they were fooled (remember Mark Twain?). Nothing beats vinyl. The guitar world is more conservative. True, digital is convenient, but nothing digital sounds and feels like a real tube amp.

I understand some people prefer vinyl, but there is a lot of evidence that indicates CD's are better for a variety of reasons. Not least of which are the physical limitations of recording to vinyl. A whole lot has been written about it if you're interested in looking into it. There certainly isn't any evidence people were "fooled."

I think you're right that guitarist tend to be more traditionalists in terms of gear, particularly if you look at folks 40 and above. The younger crowd--not as much.

price is an interesting factor right now, iridium is still new so to get it, its the price of a used fender hot rod deluxe. You can play bar gigs and rehearsals with the hot rod, I would not do it with the iridium. Kemper costs as much as a used mesa mark V which arguably has all the sounds you will ever need (it all depends on your style ofc.) so your decision is driven by your application. If you are a studio and you want to have the widest array of sounds available, you will go for the Kemper but I still feel a real amp a lot more inspiring

It is probably important to acknowledge that your view of application isn't universal. You wouldn't gig with the Iridium, some obviously do and enjoy it. And some find the sounds from their Kempers inspiring. But each of us is different, right?

- I really don't get the point of the tone master series and I also don't quite get the situation where you need to lug around a power amp plus a cab or an FRFR. If it is as big as the original, almost as expensive and only a tad bit lighter, why would you bother. It is like a digital drum that is as big as an acoustic kit because instead of external speakers has built in sound sources. The whole point should be to create sounds that are new and analog is not capable of creating. Like people using the sunhouse sensory percussion thing, their last goal is to create acoustic drum kit sounds.

I think the point of the Tone Master series should be obvious. They are built to model--both physically and sonically--classic tube amps, but with much less weight and some modern additions in terms of power scale and connectivity. It addressed one of the things traditional players complain about--"I just want an amp with knobs I can dial in--I don't want to menu dive."
 

Scrapperz

Play that guitar like there’s no tomorrow
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,780
This will ruffle some feathers.

I broke out the Line 6 DT50 Stack yesterday for fun and it actually sounded great. I cranked that sob up and hammered out some rock, hard rock, metal and toned it down with some classical and country riffs. Made me happy I didn’t sell it. Thanks Line 6!

I still like analog better though but I had that DT50HD singing. Probably crank it up later and have a private concert since Covid put a damper on life. :D
 




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