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Is the Genie out of the bottle with modelers?

Gearzilla

Member
Messages
4,452
Axe Fx and Kemper seemed to have had commanding leads with their gear. Recently Amplifire and now the soon to be released Theta Pro and Helix have narrowed and possibly closed the gap tonewise. By Winter or Summer naam 2016 will there be parity across the board with modelers from the various manufactures?
Much like in the television market.
I imagine most companies have teams(or someone)that can tear down, analyze, and then "model" another brands modeler. They go back to the drawing board,include their own conceptual modifications, and go on to produce a parallel product less any patents(unless they licensed them). Voila! Another great sounding modeler on the market.

Are we there yet?
 
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MKB

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
8,452
I don't think so. Until a company releases a modeler that makes the majority of players give up their tube amps, I think there will be many companies scrambling to find the magic formula. For most players, Axe and Kemper are too expensive, the lower end stuff doesn't sound mind blowing, and all of them are too hard to learn to use and too hard to amplify to sound great at loud stage levels.

This is on top of most guitarists being the most backward looking consumers on the planet, and having contempt for modelers. But the times are slowly changing. We are certainly heading in that direction.
 

Gearzilla

Member
Messages
4,452
I don't think so. Until a company releases a modeler that makes the majority of players give up their tube amps, I think there will be many companies scrambling to find the magic formula. For most players, Axe and Kemper are too expensive, the lower end stuff doesn't sound mind blowing, and all of them are too hard to learn to use and too hard to amplify to sound great at loud stage levels.

This is on top of most guitarists being the most backward looking consumers on the planet, and having contempt for modelers. But the times are slowly changing. We are certainly heading in that direction.
I really didn't mean to convey a great tube amp player migration to modelers. I meant to convey something more along the lines of whether or not the majority of modelers are going to be comparable in tone and feel wise to the previous level of the high end modelers within a couple of naam shows.
 
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JWDubois

Member
Messages
7,923
There were enormous companies with thousands of engineers doing R&D on TVs, and this went on for decades.

There are probably only a handful of engineers on the planet that know enough about the subject to do modeling well, and even the two arguably #1 guys are still tinkering with their models.

I think there's a long way to go before modelers are as generic as TVs are now.
 

randombastage

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,960
I think we are approaching that rapidly. I've had an AxeFxIIxl recently and now the AmpliFIRE is keeping me from buying another one. I'm not trying to bait the fanboys with that statement, just merely suggesting that for my ears and preferred uses of a modeler the AmpliFIRE is "that good".
I ordered the Helix for its feature set with the confidence that it will sound better than the PodHD did by at least a little bit and that 'little bit' should be enough to also be "that good". And so in my mind we are very close if not already to the scenario you have pointed to.

Now does this mean someone Like Cliff Chase or Christoph Kemper won't push the bar higher and once again step out front by a huge margin? No. But I think even if they did the pack would close on their heels much faster than before because of the progress they have all made.

I think you could give Pete Thorn an AmpliFIRE, an AxeFxII, a Kemper and the soon to be released Helix and let him make a CD with each song using only one of those modelers and the vast majority of players wouldn't be able to tell you which song was made with which device.
I think after it was done Pete might have a preference for the way one of them felt to play through but I bet it would be a very minor difference to him.

Sounds good, feels good. All that is left is feature set and price to set them apart.
 
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Gearzilla

Member
Messages
4,452
There were enormous companies with thousands of engineers doing R&D on TVs, and this went on for decades.

There are probably only a handful of engineers on the planet that know enough about the subject to do modeling well, and even the two arguably #1 guys are still tinkering with their models.

I think there's a long way to go before modelers are as generic as TVs are now.
True. However information is much easier to obtain now and also analyze compared to when the early development phase in television took place. Look at a company like Vizio. I'm sure they didn't do a lot of the R&D.
Borrowing is rampant with mobile devices. Some teams in the guitar processing field already seem to be making inroads into the prestige product space. I'm saying something more along the lines of once someone runs the four minute mile, it's only a matter of time before a couple more people can, and pretty soon the four minute mile is not the high bar that it was once perceived to be.

Very importantly I'm trying to say digital knowledge is becoming better and more widespread and not trying to imply blatant third world type of product infringement. Many companies do evaluate competitive products from an engineering standpoint in many industries to better understand their competition and then go on to produce unique products without intellectual property infringement.
 
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Will Chen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
6,720
I have and love the Amplifire. That said, I stil feel there is a gap between it and the Kemper. There is something very hard to explain about the Kemper, it captures a certain attack, feel, and has a level of "real" that is still in a different class. Mind you, the differences are subtle especially to the untrained ear...but it's that last bit of magic which makes it a very special device. I dont think we are at a moment of parity among all options on the market yet. That said, great sounds can be had among a great many different devices.
 

Gearzilla

Member
Messages
4,452
I have and love the Amplifire. That said, I stil feel there is a gap between it and the Kemper. There is something very hard to explain about the Kemper, it captures a certain attack, feel, and has a level of "real" that is still in a different class. Mind you, the differences are subtle especially to the untrained ear...but it's that last bit of magic which makes it a very special device. I dont think we are at a moment of parity among all options on the market yet. That said, great sounds can be had among a great many different devices.
+1
Kemper has a unique platform, and their patent.
 

FenderTone

Member
Messages
1,657
I have and love the Amplifire. That said, I stil feel there is a gap between it and the Kemper. There is something very hard to explain about the Kemper, it captures a certain attack, feel, and has a level of "real" that is still in a different class. Mind you, the differences are subtle especially to the untrained ear...but it's that last bit of magic which makes it a very special device. I dont think we are at a moment of parity among all options on the market yet. That said, great sounds can be had among a great many different devices.
+2
I profiled my Supersonic with pedals in front and the absolute most subtle details I recognize in the Supersonic were absolutely captured in the Kemper. Kemper is in a different league due to the fact you clone the recorded tone of your own amp.
 

RLD

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,058
Well, I think we are almost there and in the near future for sure.
I also have a Kemper and an AmpliFIRE and while the Kemper is a more sophisticated, feature packed unit, as far as a basic amp tone goes I feel the AmpliFIRE is very close.
So at $600 we already have a modeler that does "it".
 

mikah912

Member
Messages
7,401
I think the idea of "parity" or any sort of objective "shared superiority" among a group of competing modelers is beside the point.

You can debate how "superior" an Axe-FX is to an HD500 or Kemper all day long. You could debate how much better a value an Amplifire is versus an ISP Theta Pro all day long. You could debate which one captures "feel" the best.

The only thing that actually matters is that we live in a golden age where there are professional, good-sounding tone tools available to every guitarist in every genre these days with price points ranging from "free" (freeware VST amp sims and IR loaders, Reaper) all the way to several thousand for full Axe-FX and Kemper rigs. No one is limited by resources anymore.

All of these units in this discussion have some attribute that they embody better than the competition. It might be amp variety, or "feel", or form factor, or simplistic workflow, or endless expandability, or value relative to price.

So there will never be parity. They each have their areas where they shine, and any one of them can be used for gigging reliably and getting you sounds you desire. So much of this comparative spirit is driven by guitarists wanting to "keep up with the joneses" and have what "everybody" says is the greatest.
 

MikeyG

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,075
I think the bar for lower priced modelers has been raised quite a bit in recent years, with blackstar and fender coming out with inexpensive, great sounding gear. Even the Vypyr can sound really good.

A lot will depend on prices of the chips supporting DSP. If they come way down, it could be a completely level field. At that point it may come down to feature sets, ease of use, etc, that distinguishes one modeler from another.

I'd wager we're still a decade away.

My totally non-expert opinion
 

mikah912

Member
Messages
7,401
Isn't that what parity is all about?
Well, in the framing of your original post, you were talking about flat-TV-esque parity, where it's largely commoditized and the same handful of true OEMs have their reference product rebranded by a host of offshore manufacturers.

But gearhounds want the opposite: Clear castes of beginner, intermediate, pro and boutique-level gear that self-justify the prices paid (and resold on the used market) all delineated by such hard-to-quantify concepts of "realism" and "feel". Hip-hop producers don't care if you've laid down $2500 for Komplete Ultimate 9, a bunch of high-end drum sounds, and Pro Tools. Modern pop seems to revel in how cheap, utilitarian and generic your sounds can be.

We crossed the threshold of usable, pro-level products being available for everyone long ago. We obsess over "clarity""attack""thump" and whatever else have you, meanwhile the mainstream music scene has never been less-guitar centric. That's largely because tonal exploration in guitar has largely failed to keep up with the evolution of genres and production.
 

Gearzilla

Member
Messages
4,452
I was thinking more along lines of how the television industry has transitioned from 480p to 720p or 1080p and what we are starting to see now again at 4k more so than the manufacturing infrastructure and rebranding like we have with steel guitar strings.
The end products produce homogenous viewing experience and therefor visual parity in the marketplace.
I think the comparison is slightly different in guitar processing than to pop music in general because the main reference point for the sound quality of digital guitar gear is the analog counterpart being modeled, and not how those tones relate to contemporary music.
I'm pretty sure most guitarists would prefer inexpensive gear that sounded awesome. Don't you?
 
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mikah912

Member
Messages
7,401
I was thinking more along lines of how the television industry has transitioned from 480p to 720p or 1080p and what we are starting to see now again at 4k more so than the manufacturing infrastructure and rebranding like we have with steel guitar strings.
The end products produce homogenous viewing experience and therefor visual parity in the marketplace.
I think the comparison is slightly different in guitar processing than to pop music in general because the main reference point for the sound quality of digital guitar gear is the analog counterpart being modeled, and not how that those tones relate to contemporary music.
I'm pretty sure most guitarists would prefer inexpensive gear that sounded awesome. Don't you?
That's just the thing! I think we already have that.

But there's always an effort of one-upsmanship to separate the $2K purchase from the $300 one, so now people say "Well, sure a Pod HD can sound like X, but it doesn't have that feel or response of a real tube amp and Product $2K does!". Or they'll say how a Pod HD can't deliver "amp in the room" sound, but Product $2K does. Or how the Pod is too "thumpy" or "has a blanket over it" or has "X frequency that can't be dialed out".

A lot of this stuff can barely be qualified or are subtle differentiators that non-guitarists cannot hear and don't care about. But we'll pay $2K for that 3 percent difference, and damnation be unto anyone who suggests it's not worth it. :D

I think there's a bit of reality distortion happening here too. Guitar and amps are already commoditized industries. The "ignorant masses" make up the bulk of sales, and they're buying rank and file stuff sold at any Guitar Center. The guys wondering if X boutique modeler is equal to Y boutique modeler are a small subset, and despite the big dollars they individually lay out, very few companies' bottom line are made or broken by their whims.

Line 6 will survive and thrive if Helix isn't a smash. Digitech, Boss, and Zoom are taking their sweet time to enter this segment, if they ever get there at all. Fractal couldn't survive the collapse in appeal of the Axe-FX II.
 

Gearzilla

Member
Messages
4,452
I don't know whether or not Axe FX would lose it's appeal, but it seems to me like the "average Joe(like myself)"can expect improved modeling and the associated response and dynamics at lower price points like we are already starting to see.
If there wasn't any quality differentiation and room for improvement there wouldn't be any of the price point niches that currently exist. There wouldn't be any frame of reference for perceived value differentiation. At least seems that way to me
 

aleclee

TGP Tech Wrangler
Staff member
Messages
13,247
I think PCs are a better analogy than TVs. One thing that's been killing the PC market is that the latest/greatest isn't considered necessary anymore. Older/cheaper machines are good enough for most people's use. Heck, I record my band's demos (up to 16 simultaneous tracks of 48K/24 bit audio) on a 3 year old Macbook Air and its CPU and drive are hardly working.

I don't know (or particularly care) how my Amplifire sounds relative to my AxeFx. Its form factor kicks ass and it sounds great so you can guess which device I'm bringing to tonight's gig.
 

mikah912

Member
Messages
7,401
Well, I'm not saying there aren't differences between the price points. Objectively speaking, an Axe-FX has more detailed algorithms than a Pod HD500x. The IR sims are higher resolution. That's not really debatable.

What I'm saying is, I think those things are as important as a TV being 4K over 1080P. Or having a 120HZ refresh rate over a 60HZ one. Or running smart apps vs. just being a TV. Or how Neil Young is pulling his music off streaming services because he thinks they sound bad.

In all of these cases, you can certainly show objective attributes that support higher-resolution or fidelity as giving you "more". But people will mostly choose the "good enough" option, and be more than happy with it. How many high-$ rigs get run into aged club PAs that mangle them and recorded onto iPhones that are then uploaded onto YouTube? How many expensive amps go onto sessions for albums that are brickwalled to kill all dynamics, have the guitars compressed to fit that mixed, and then are heard as MP3s or AAC streaming from a cloud somewhere?

Any cook wants to start with the best ingredients for their dish, but the best chefs will tell you it's in how you treat them. There are Mexican street stalls that produce more flavorful beef in their tacos (procured from the no-name supermercado around the corner) than a $100+ steakhouse with dry aged Wagyu ribeye is capable of churning out.

We all want the grass-fed Wagyu or truffles or Jamon Iberico or whatever. It's not necessary for a flavorful or "professional" meal.
 

Mr. Brady

Member
Messages
840
Interesting about the talk of Fractal surviving. I equate Line 6 to the big box stores like Best Buy, Guitar Center, and Wal-Mart where Fractal is the mom and pop down the street or the boutique amp builder.

Wal-Mart can undercut the mom and pop grocery stores just due to sheer volume. Right now Fractal has an edge in tone much like a small store might have better customer service, but when that edge is taken away, price might be the deciding factor and mom and pop stores either go out of business or become more niche in their products.

Our town still has some small mom and pop toy stores when Kay Bee toys and Toy R Us closed up when Wal-Mart came to town. Those small toy stores sell higher end quality toys and carry items that don't get carried at the Wal-Mart toy section. At some point that may be where Fractal needs to head if the larger guys catch up to match the tones.
 




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