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Modelers and tubes...

Axe-Man

Member
Messages
7,145
With all the talk about the new L6 adaptive amps and all the threads on FRFR, I just wanted to put my perspective forward.

Straight up, I love modellers and what they bring to the table. Headphones and their quiet practice ability and the multiple tones available at the twist of a knob...wonderful stuff. They are also lightweight, cost effective and in general they sound pretty damn good.

So initially, I tried the modeller + FOH approach but it just wasn't for me. It was a bit distant and lost that warmth and punch that a tube amp generally delivers. I like the FR headphone sound but when unleashed via a couple of loud speakers it just didn't work for me.

I then moved to guitar cab + SS power amp and found it a noticeable improvement. This was in fact quite refreshing as I was about to purchase a more expensive FRFR cab (a QSC K12) and was quite relieved about my change of direction.

I knew that I was then on the right track and then purchased a Mesa 2020. Great little 1RU tube power amp and I felt I'd arrived 'tone wise'.

I clearly understand the benefits of FRFR and SS but if we discuss playing for no other reason apart from enjoying an authentic amp like tone, wouldn't we just go with what sounds best (not necessarily the most flexible or reliable)? TGP gear hounds seem to go to the nth degree chasing tone when it comes to pickups/guitars/picks/bridges/cables etc, so why do many of us settle for FRFR when many concede it doesn't sound or feel quite as good as a tube rig?

Anyway, my Mesa died the other day after a fair cranking (it turned out it was just the PI tube - I don't think it’s ever had a tube change) so it got me thinking that perhaps I needed a backup (considering all the tube amp horror stories floating around). So during my investigations I stumbled across a somewhat rare Sherlock Amplifiers 5050 dual mono block, 6L6 (or El34) 50 watt stereo power amp (which is no longer made - well it can be made to order if you're happy to wait for a while).

Not knowing too much about it bar the rave reviews of other newer Sherlock products (Dale is an amp tech from Melbourne Australia that has been hand building amps for over 20 years), I decided to grab it as I was looking for either a Mesa 2:50, 2:90 or 2:100 for a higher headroom amp; and I thought that this would be in many ways similar.

The price was also very appealing (as not many people know what a Sherlock is) so I decided to ring the builder to talk about it and about some mods to my Mesa (the deep mod).

I put down the phone 20 minutes later and I had to have it. Dale said it was modelled after a VHT 2 50 2 but with no expense spared on the components. Top notch OS transformers and a hand built interior. He said he made them to last a lifetime.

So after a short test drive the first night and some extended testing at high volume during the past week, I have to say...WOW...I even bought it just playing straight into the amp and it still sounded great - no preamp!

What a fantastic unit.

With my 11R dialled into a nice DR patch, IMHO it sounds just like a classic Fender. Complete with that big lush full sound. It completely (IMHO) destroyed the cranked HRD that I heard the other day on the clean channel. It just is so warm and full!

Playing the start of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang sounded basically the same to me.

Wonderful. At times for me anyway, it’s punch the air good. Crazy I know, but true.

Metal tones sound fantastic with loads of bottom end and cutting clarity. I really do love the little Mesa (and it's not going anywhere) but this unit is the bomb.

Yes, it weighs 40 pounds but I honestly don't care.

So I've tried FRFR and SS and to me, this by a LARGE, clearly evident margin nails the solid state/FRFR stuff I've had.

Again, I am now surprised every time I read someone say how tubes don't make any difference with modellers.

It really is a big sonic difference between SS and tubes to my ear! That whole night/day thing that get’s bandied about...this really is it. No BS.

I now know why many owners love their VHT amps...the builder Dale basically said that there was a definite difference between his amps and say a Mesa. He even said (in jest mind) that I was insulting him comparing this amp to other high end brands (I think I also mentioned a Marshall)! If this is a hotrodded VHT, I'm sold.

So for me personally, I feel the journey has ended. I'll naturally keep periodically acquiring the best modelling pre in the future but the rest of the rig will definitely stay put (including the Mesa).

Now, this is the crux of what I've been pondering...

When I joined TGP, I basically followed the general advice to run a modeller with FR.

I purchased some decent cabs but whilst I found it 'ok', I just wanted it to sound like a real amp (which it didn't). I probably thought things were better at the time when playing through it but it quickly lost its lustre.

Ultimately, I just needed a very solid modelling pre (11R)...a pro quality tube power amp...and a great quality cab (or three) to get the sound I’ve been chasing.

Many TGPr's may find that their feelings resonate in a similar way to what I have found but ultimately YMMV...

I guess we are all very different in relation to how our minds and ears translate what they hear but surprisingly Fractal with their tube powered cabs and Line 6 with their Spider Valves and (possibly) their adaptive amps (also their new DT line) seem to know something that I feel I've personally discovered as well.

Tubes...definitely heavy, archaic and always pricey...they may be in may ways sub par...but man do they make your modeller sound good.

I have been personally blown away.
 

Wesman61

Member
Messages
4,330
I use an RP1000 much like you'd use an M13. No amp models, just f/x and dirt into a tube amp (Bugera V22 or HRDx). I can barely tell a difference especially when I use dirt boxes in the loop.
 

Electric I

Member
Messages
3,495
Agreed.

For me, the ideal match is model pre with tube power/guitar speaker in the room & modeling for direct.
 

TheFlash

Member
Messages
663
For those of you who are using a tube amplification solution with your modelers...are you able to get your ideal tones at low stage-volumes? I know there's a lot of people who use modelers in those specific situations because their tube amps are just too loud when turned up to sweet spots.
 

jdolll

Member
Messages
1,082
The thing is, with a modeler you don't want to overdrive your tube section. They are there just for some warmth and dynamic feel, enough to get a little feedback maybe.
 
Last edited:
Messages
2,097
For those of you who are using a tube amplification solution with your modelers...are you able to get your ideal tones at low stage-volumes? I know there's a lot of people who use modelers in those specific situations because their tube amps are just too loud when turned up to sweet spots.
Yes, very much. I use a Boss GT-10 into the power amp of a ValveKing 112 and a Classic 30, and it is much more managable volume wise then running into the front end. :D

Cool thread.
 

Gasp100

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
24,227
I see your point. I'm torn at this juncture and I'm doing another stab with FRFR. In a perfect world for me the modeler + FRFR solution would be IT -- I really want the flexibility of switching virtual cabs in and out. The weight, price and bulk of a high quality tube power amp like the VHT is extremely unattractive to me right now, especially when you add in the price of a cab (or several). At that point for me, it seems like there is too much lost to try and make the modeler "work" and I would have to consider going back to a real amp for 'in the room" and dedicate the modeler for recording/direct.
I'd still feel a little wary about relying on tubes as well. I guess you could say the same for relying on a modeler, what happens if it just doesn't boot up one day? But with a tube power amp, you're relying on tubes and they just don't make em like they used to.
I think if FRFR doesn't work for me at this point I will probably either dedicate modeling to recording at home OR look to a really nice, powerful, versatile tube amp (the Egnater Renegade comes to mind) and work on a 4 cable method setup. This way you get the best of the amp, you can use the modeler to replace the preamp if you want, you get the tube power section (in the case of the Egnater 6L6 or EL34's via a knob on the amp) AND the cab/speaker of course. If it's a small, quick gig and you don't feel the need for the 4CM the amp itself is versatile enough to carry you through (on board reverb, dual channel, built in boost with heavy duty pedal, etc...).
I can't come to grips with dropping ~$1K for a tube power amp that weighs 40lbs, takes up two rack spaces and generates a lot of heat. Just my two cents.
 
Messages
2,097
I use an RP1000 much like you'd use an M13. No amp models, just f/x and dirt into a tube amp (Bugera V22 or HRDx). I can barely tell a difference especially when I use dirt boxes in the loop.
So how would you say the bypassed signal is?

How would you say the amp models are on it?

I have had many modelers but never that one so it kind of interests me.
 

Axe-Man

Member
Messages
7,145
For those of you who are using a tube amplification solution with your modelers...are you able to get your ideal tones at low stage-volumes? I know there's a lot of people who use modelers in those specific situations because their tube amps are just too loud when turned up to sweet spots.
I was practicing last night with my 6 month old and wife watching tv next door and it still sounded surprisingly decent. Cleaner, more bluesy tones are better this quiet (it was seriously pretty quiet) as I found mid range heavy marshall tones cut right through her tv shows and elicited immediate wrath!

Ear friendly practice sounds great and jam/gig level sounds wonderful.

I see your point. I'm torn at this juncture and I'm doing another stab with FRFR. In a perfect world for me the modeler + FRFR solution would be IT -- I really want the flexibility of switching virtual cabs in and out. The weight, price and bulk of a high quality tube power amp like the VHT is extremely unattractive to me right now, especially when you add in the price of a cab (or several). At that point for me, it seems like there is too much lost to try and make the modeler "work" and I would have to consider going back to a real amp for 'in the room" and dedicate the modeler for recording/direct.
I'd still feel a little wary about relying on tubes as well. I guess you could say the same for relying on a modeler, what happens if it just doesn't boot up one day? But with a tube power amp, you're relying on tubes and they just don't make em like they used to.
I think if FRFR doesn't work for me at this point I will probably either dedicate modeling to recording at home OR look to a really nice, powerful, versatile tube amp (the Egnater Renegade comes to mind) and work on a 4 cable method setup. This way you get the best of the amp, you can use the modeler to replace the preamp if you want, you get the tube power section (in the case of the Egnater 6L6 or EL34's via a knob on the amp) AND the cab/speaker of course. If it's a small, quick gig and you don't feel the need for the 4CM the amp itself is versatile enough to carry you through (on board reverb, dual channel, built in boost with heavy duty pedal, etc...).
I can't come to grips with dropping ~$1K for a tube power amp that weighs 40lbs, takes up two rack spaces and generates a lot of heat. Just my two cents.
I know what you mean.

Initially the modeler+frfr concept was so appealing as it was very lightweight and flexible. Also possibly more reliable but I've picked a couple of amps (the Mesa is now backup) that are apparently really well made and in general should be quite robust.

My PA cabs were heavy, my old JCM 800 stack and 6262 combo was heavy and whilst my rig is still heavy, it is at least modular.

In one way I feel silly as I'm no pro player (I am getting much better as I practice a fair bit - 20 year break!) and the rack looks a little too serious.

The cost was a little hard to swallow at first but I frankly was sick of not having the tone in my head.

I'm selling other gear to pay for this new stuff but ultimately I would have spent about $2850 AUD on a rig which can handle just about anything.

A single new Marshall head here is $2500, a Recto $4500 and an Ultra is $3650 without any amplification system.

So if you look cost wise at even a decent 1x12 or 2x12 combo plus a M13 or RP1000 you are still going come close to the rack rig. I can also run stereo or even with just 1 1x12 and the Mesa for small gigs.

The amount I would have had to fork out for a K12 paid for the power amp and half my CB Orange PPC212 cab...with a couple of 1x12s it would have been about $50 difference. So this kind of rig isn't that pricey...possibly if you own cabs it's actually cheaper.

The main raison d'être for not using a tube amp with a modeler is the power section/cab modeling...but if that DR tone isn't big and fat and lush, even with lots of flexibility you may feel short changed sonically. I don't ever remember laughing out loud at how cool an amp sounded. Laughed at how ridiculously loud one was (definitely) but never about how great one sounded. I honestly considered buying Marshall and Fender heads to obtain tones that were there waiting to be unleashed from the Eleven Rack.

On a side point, I have to say that the longer I've lived with the 11R, the noticeably better the tones have gotten. I loved it straight up but it's even more amazing once you get to know it...just ask VSA.
 

buddaman71

Student of Life
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
12,930
For me, the ideal match is model pre with tube power/guitar speaker in the room & modeling for direct.
This is my method of choice as well, and I have the best live tones I've ever had.
As modelers go, I literally could not care less about accuracy of modeled amps; I just want good sound.
 

Will Chen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,235
I clearly understand the benefits of FRFR and SS but if we discuss playing for no other reason apart from enjoying an authentic amp like tone, wouldn't we just go with what sounds best (not necessarily the most flexible or reliable)? TGP gear hounds seem to go to the nth degree chasing tone when it comes to pickups/guitars/picks/bridges/cables etc, so why do many of us settle for FRFR when many concede it doesn't sound or feel quite as good as a tube rig?
To be honest, I think a vast majority of of modeling amp users aren't concerned with getting their tone but their tones, plural. In order to best emulate multiple different amp types, cabinet modeling needs to be employed and that works best in a FRFR system. Also consider many of these dudes can move their whole gig rig from the car (or train where a single trip is required) in a single trip as they run direct into the venues system.

Anyway, my Mesa died the other day...
And then there's this...
 

Axe-Man

Member
Messages
7,145
To be honest, I think a vast majority of of modeling amp users aren't concerned with getting their tone but their tones, plural. In order to best emulate multiple different amp types, cabinet modeling needs to be employed and that works best in a FRFR system. Also consider many of these dudes can move their whole gig rig from the car (or train where a single trip is required) in a single trip as they run direct into the venues system.
I agree that a tube amp isn't going to be lightweight though what do you do when you need to practice or jam and you're like me and not important enough to have you own roady or don't have a FOH setup wherever you wish to jam?

I personally don't feel that a 40-70 pound PA cab (lightweight FR is expensive and cheap is very heavy) is exactly lightweight.

So if you need to amplify yourself with your modeler and don't like the guitar cab paradigm, you then need a PA cab for a monitor/amplifier...so out goes the train or bus portability of a modeler IMO. Unless you are particularly Arnold like anyway.

Additionally something like a K12 isn't exactly cheap.

For the price of a single K12 I could have bought my poweramp and my two 1x12s for a stereo rig. A stereo K12 rig would also have bought my SG and 11R...and you would still need the modeler to go with it.

Also, if we wind our memories back just a few years, most guitarists owned a couple of cabs and a number of heads (if they had GAS anyway). My rig is just the same as having two different cabs with many heads.

I personally don't feel too constrained by only having 12 amps (models) and a stereo tube rig. In fact, I could spend months just tinkering around if I really wanted.

Plus just like those old school guitarists, a Fender still sounds like a Fender, a Marshall a Marshall...etc etc just running through a couple of different cabs.

And then there's this...
Now to set the record straight, the Mesa is possibly 8 years old, has been gigged and I don't think it's ever had a tube change.

How would an X3L or RP go after an 8 year haul?

I needed a single $15 12AX7 PI tube and 60 seconds later it was back in action.

Both my amps are hand made and high quality; I personally doubt they are going to blow up if someone steps on the power supply cable like an X3 for example. I've even read stories of the 2020 falling down stairs and still working after a tube change.

I definately know where you are coming from but ultimately my post started out with the qualifier that I was discussing tone.

Not convienience or FOH sound for an audience. It was about being a gear head and wanting something that personally sounded the best 'to you'.

FRFR is definately fine in my book. Likely great with an Ultra and stereo Fractomics or K12s. But then it's expensive and it's then not any more portable than my rig. I just believe that the feel and warmth of a tube power amp is worth the hassle. If it makes you smile and feel good...isn't that why we started playing guitar?

I have had some decent rigs and some really sucky ones. For me this is the best yet.
 

JoeBuerger

Member
Messages
40
Axe-Man,

Thank you for starting this thread. I really appreciate it as I am believe I'm about to get into modeling amps, but want it to sound good for me, in my basement, when no one else is listening. I also want to be able to use it at Church where I play regularly. So thanks again for this thread, as most of what I've read on here has been dedicated to making it sound good for the audience.

V/r
Joe
 
Messages
2,551
Well, if I thought I was sacrificing the tone I get to hear just so the audience could hear something good, then I wouldn't even play... Yes, it should sound good to them, but if I don't enjoy it as well then no game. I play an Ultra because I like how it sounds, period. Lots of times I didn't like how my amp sounded because I wasn't allowed to crank it.

The Ultra lets me hear great sound no matter the venue: playing at home, recording or live.
 

Faraldi

Member
Messages
1,373
Gonna embarrass myself here...

I know what FOH means but someone please tell me what FRFR stands for.
 

Axe-Man

Member
Messages
7,145
Axe-Man,

Thank you for starting this thread. I really appreciate it as I am believe I'm about to get into modeling amps, but want it to sound good for me, in my basement, when no one else is listening. I also want to be able to use it at Church where I play regularly. So thanks again for this thread, as most of what I've read on here has been dedicated to making it sound good for the audience.

V/r
Joe
No worries Joe.

I just wanted to throw it out there that not all of the TGP members were focused solely on FOH and gigging tones.

Really appreciate your response.
 

eriwebnerr

Member
Messages
2,800
Hey Axe-Man,
Your new configuration sounds very cool. But what are you using for cabs / speakers? I've had an odd time trying to find the right fit with modelers. I've had some results that sound pretty good but not terribly versatile.

The speakers I gravitate toward have a a lot of their own character (greenbacks, G12H30s, Alnico Blues). I tried putting together a small rig just for modelling with a reportedly "flat" speaker (Celestion Lead 80) with the hopes that the voice of the modeler would shine through and deliver a wider array of tones. But I ended up with a more sterile uninspiring tone.
So I'm wondering if you are addressing the cab / speaker issue by going for more of a flat response or going with speakers / cabs you like and dialing in the modeler to compensate?
Thanks!
 

Elric

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,254
Every time I've tried the type of rig you're describing, I could keep the guitar power amp operating in the linear region since I rarely need outrageous volume anyway, so no problem with excessive negative coloration (i.e. it's acting like a flat power amp) but the guitar cab always wrecks the whole thing for me.
 

TieDyedDevil

Member
Messages
2,452
I agree that a tube amp isn't going to be lightweight though what do you do when you need to practice or jam and you're like me and not important enough to have you own roady or don't have a FOH setup wherever you wish to jam?

I personally don't feel that a 40-70 pound PA cab (lightweight FR is expensive and cheap is very heavy) is exactly lightweight.

So if you need to amplify yourself with your modeler and don't like the guitar cab paradigm, you then need a PA cab for a monitor/amplifier...so out goes the train or bus portability of a modeler IMO. Unless you are particularly Arnold like anyway.

Additionally something like a K12 isn't exactly cheap.

For the price of a single K12 I could have bought my poweramp and my two 1x12s for a stereo rig. A stereo K12 rig would also have bought my SG and 11R...and you would still need the modeler to go with it.
That particular argument depends on whether you *need* to carry your own amplification with a modeler.

Some of us are fortunate enough to be able to rely on the venue to provide good sound reinforcement. In that case, there's absolutely no need to carry one's own FRFR system.

You're absolutely correct regarding costs. I have a pair of K10s, a Ksub (not necessary for guitar, but essential for bass) and a board in my practice room. The total cost of that easily matches a boutique amp. Unlike the boutique amp, though, the PA has multiple applications.

Just to be clear, not everyone needs a high-end FRFR system to get full benefit from a modeler. Many players never leave the house. For these folks, a decent pair of studio monitors will provide quality sound at apartment- and family-friendly volumes. That's one of the nice things about a modeler: the volume scales with the sound reproduction system.

Now to set the record straight, the Mesa is possibly 8 years old, has been gigged and I don't think it's ever had a tube change.

How would an X3L or RP go after an 8 year haul?

I needed a single $15 12AX7 PI tube and 60 seconds later it was back in action.

Both my amps are hand made and high quality; I personally doubt they are going to blow up if someone steps on the power supply cable like an X3 for example. I've even read stories of the 2020 falling down stairs and still working after a tube change.
Well, let's compare apples to apples…

You're comparing gear designed for (and proven by) touring musicians to a largely-plastic unit built for mass-market sales to budget-conscious amateurs. A fair comparison would be the Digitech or Line6 pedal versus a budget PCB-based Fender tube amp.

Sure, some pros use Line6 and Digitech gear on the road. I'd bet they carry spares, just like the pros who tour with tube amps carry spare tubes and parts (or, much more commonly, rent their backline and let someone else deal with the maintenance headaches).

Anecdotally, digital gear doesn't *necessarily* die young just because it's inexpensively constructed. I had a first-generation Line6 Spider back in 2000. That same amp - owned by a friend since 2002 - is still working just fine.

I've made the same arguments you make about ease of service for tube amps. It's absolutely true that your failed tube amp will very likely be restored to service with a tube and/or fuse change. But how many players actually carry the spares that they'd need in the event of a failure, or know how to isolate and replace the failed tube, or take the time to do so during a gig? IME, not many at all. Most tube amp players, faced with a failed amps, will make do with a borrowed amp for the remainder of the gig.

On the flip side, when a piece of digital or SS gear goes down there's no chance you're going to effect a repair in the field. OTOH it has been my experience that the probability a piece of digital or SS gear will suddenly fail is much, much lower than the probability that a tube amp will will suddenly fail.

And then there are the consistency issues. A tube amp's sound can vary significantly with changes in line voltage. Digital or SS gear is consistent so long as there's enough line voltage to keep the power supply working. A lot of modern SS and digital gear uses a universal power supply that'll take any voltage source from 90VAC up to 250VAC. Try running your tube amp at 90 to 100VAC (which is not all that uncommon in poorly-wired venues or outdoor gigs) and tell me whether it still sounds right.

The consistency issue has yet another face: When I do change tubes in a tube amp, the amp *will* sound different. Tubes wear. Even if I'm religious about getting tubes from the same batch from the same vendor, the new tube will sound different from a tube that's had significant use. If I'm not religious about matching my spares, even the new tubes will give slightly different results depending upon the vendor and the specifics of the tube's construction.

With a modeler, I can back up my patches. When something happens to the modeler I can buy a new one (of the same model, obviously) or grab a spare (not that expensive, in the grand scheme of things), load my patches, and be ready to go with *exactly* the same sounds I got from the prior unit.

Tube amps have other issues, too. Microphonic tubes. Gradual degradation of the tubes (esp. power tubes) with use. Failures that aren't fixable with a tube swap (the most common being a shorted power tube that takes out a screen resistor).

Bottom line: IME, most players don't benefit from the field serviceability of tube amps. When their amp goes down, the player scrambles for a loaner until they can get the amp serviced by a tech. Players who know enough to perform even the most basic service on their tube amps are in the minority.
 




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