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Tech 21: emulation, not modeling

Discussion in 'Digital & Modeling Gear' started by Eminor7, May 22, 2011.

  1. Eminor7

    Eminor7 Member

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    Why do people on this forum classify the amps and pedals manufactured by Tech 21 as modelers? The term "modeler" is derived from the term "mathematical model." Modelers are little more than computers that are hooked up to analog to digital and digital to analog converters. All signal transformation in a modeler is performed via one or more discrete mathematical approximations that are implemented in digital logic (program code or hardwired logic). 



    On the other hand, every device that Tech 21 manufactures has a 100% analog signal path. All tone shaping is performed the old fashioned way via gain stages and tone shaping networks. That's why Tech 21's stuff feels closer to the real thing than modeling gear. What Tech 21 is doing with their SansAmp-derived circuitry is known as "emulation." If we have fit Tech 21’s stuff into a category, it should be classified as analog solid-state gear.

    For those on the forum who are too young to remember having to drive to a local drug store or 7-Eleven with a bag full of tubes from one’s radio, stereo, or TV in order to run them through a tube tester, the term “solid-state” was coined when transistorized circuitry replaced “tube-type” circuitry. The phrase “no user serviceable parts” appeared at the same time. Transistorized solid-state circuitry basically eliminated routine consumer-level maintenance of electronic devices.
     
  2. electronpirate

    electronpirate Member

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    Why do you care?

    We call them BOTH 'amps', but if you want to be technical, they're just copies, not 'actual' amps. However, I can clearly see your preference; you want your own 'category' to distinguish yourself from that digital stuff... Okay with me, in the 3 threads this year on Tech 21 stuff I'll be sure and use 'emulator' if I post.

    Not sure this is worthy of working yourself into a lather, and FWIW, 'I'm buying a Tech 21 Emulator' doesn't have alot of sexy cache' to me...

    IMO. YMMV.

    Ron
     
  3. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    AxeFx and 11R are preamps, not amps. ;)
     
  4. _pete_

    _pete_ Supporting Member

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    If it sounds good, it is good.
     
  5. Just A Box

    Just A Box Member

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    EMULATEtransitive verb
    1
    a : to strive to equal or excel b : imitate; especially : to imitate by means of an emulator

    2
    : to equal or approach equality with

    My HD500 is now going to be dubbed "The Line 6 HD500 Emulator Pedal".

    Honestly, it seems to me that you're finding a pretty small bone to pick here. The Sansamp is clearly not an amp, so why not simply call it the Tech 21 Sansemulator? Your argument, while marginally pointed, is akin to arguing that store-brand aluminum foil should never be confused with Reynolds Wrap. Both accomplish the same thing.

    Anything that isn't a tube amp could be classified as a modeler or an emulator. Clearly every non-tube amp or pedal maker has something in mind for a sound, and in many cases those sounds are meant to be as close to existing, rarer, or more expensive tube amps, either classic or modern.

    The technology used to emulate, or model, another amp is irrelevant. The ears like what they like. The fact that a person could buy a Tech 21 Character pedal or a Line 6 HD pedal and get really close to the sounds of some great amps & effects that many of us will never own, at this point in musical history, dispenses with rigid definitions like tube, analog, and digital and simply asks "Hows this sound?".

    Let's not even get into where you stand on hybrid pedals & amps.

    I assume you don't prefer the picture of an old analog picture-tube TV compared to modern, ahem... digital LED flat screens? Digital can be very good, my friend.... very good indeed. That's not to say that I don't love my Carvin V3 or my Blackstar HT-5 (is it really safe to call it a tube head since it uses Op-Amps?), but if someone showed you an Axe-Fx in 1969, right after you returned from the drugstore with your tested vacuum tubes, it would have only been able to be explained with the term "derived from alien technology".

    The fact is, it's a good time to want to play guitar. Mainstream amp makers & boutique alike are making some awesome amps, and for the price of a decent stompbox up to over 2 grand you can now have dozens of amps & hundreds of effects, all updateable and tweakable in ways that the original manufacturers never could have provided for. The answer to the question of "What do I plug my guitar cable thingy into?" has never been harder and, at the same time, easier to provide an answer for. The method utilized to get great tone to the listener, and the terminology used is becoming less and less relevant.
     
  6. uglybassplayer

    uglybassplayer Member

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    You used to drive there? Sheesh you kids... We used to have to walk to the 7-Eleven to test our tubes... Uphill both ways... In the snow! Oh, and we liked it! ;)
     
  7. Just A Box

    Just A Box Member

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    True, but in a finished recording who's can tell the difference between the Axe and a miced up cab? In the end it essentially does the exact same thing as a miced up amp & cab, so other than naming conventions, what's the difference? Could I, if I had an axe-Fx, tell someone "let me show you my collection of amps, cabinets & effects" and simply point to the little black box?
     
  8. Eminor7

    Eminor7 Member

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    The Trademarks are indeed real amps. They just happen to be designed such that all tone shaping occurs in the preamp circuitry. This topology is no different than the approached used by Mesa Engineering. Mesa biases the power stages of their amps so cold that they add very little color to the tone.
     
  9. uglybassplayer

    uglybassplayer Member

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    So if this is the case, why didn't SS amps & preamps succeed in replacing their tube counterparts for guitarists?
     
  10. Eminor7

    Eminor7 Member

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    I am not trying to instigate a digital versus analog battle. I love both technologies. I hold undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science, and have designed and built analog amps and effects since I was kid.

    However, with that said, the term "modeler" has a distinct meaning; namely, a device that coverts one signal into another signal mathematically. This operation is usually performed via a process known as digital convolution.

    Finally, your assertion that anything that is not a tube amp is an emulator is incorrect. There are a lot of great solid-state guitar amps that do not attempt to emulate the overload characteristics of a tube amp. There also solid-state amps with distortion circuits that have their own voice.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2011
  11. Eminor7

    Eminor7 Member

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    Solid-state technology came very close to replacing tube-type technology in the mid to late eighties. One of the best kept secrets is that the original SansAmp was heavily used in studios in the late eighties. Had it not been for the fall of the Berlin Wall, tube technology would be a foot note in history at this point time (U.S. tube production ceased in the early eighties). Mike Matthews of Electro-Harmonix fame opened former Soviet Bloc tube companies to the world. However, the ecosystem necessary to sustain tube-type equipment manufacturing is rapidly disappearing. The move away from hole-through to surface mount construction is eliminating a source of parts for robust tube-type construction. Plus, radio and TV stations, the other major users of tube-type technology, are finally migrating to solid-state. The production of high-margin transmitting tubes subsidizes the production of lower-margin receiving tubes (most guitar amps use receiving tubes).

    In the end, digital modeling will replace tube-type guitar amplification just as solid-state and digital electronics replaced tube-type technology in consumer electronics. As nasty as solid-state electronics manufacturing is to the environment, tube-type technology is even worse.
     
  12. Just A Box

    Just A Box Member

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    I'll take these points one at a time:

    1. Not starting a battle. As I stated before, as far as I'm concerned, if you start with a guitar and end with a pleasing tone, then what you put in between the instrument and the ears is simply shaping your tone. Ears don't hear terminologies.
    2. The term "modeler" has distinct meanings to some. To the letter of the law, you may be correct. But, the term modeler is coming to the point of common usage referring to any device that attempts to take your guitar signal and turn it into something akin to another amp, Fx box, or a new type of amp sound. Take the technical terms out of the conversation and you simply have devices. Devices which make your guitar sound like this amp or that amp, or a different take on clean or distorted tones.
    If your Tech 21 pedal attempts to sound like an AC30, and my HD500 does too, they are effectively doing the same exact thing when the sounds meet your ears. Tech 21 may say "we don't call it modeling" just to separate themselves from other brands, but if Tech 21 came out with a multi-fx unit that incorporated 10 of their character series pedals into a floorboard shaped like the HD500, then what would the difference be to any average guitar player? Both companies would be attempting to capture the sounds of "X" amps in their floorboard units. Who's to say they're both not modeling pedals?
    3. Your initial point referred to a pedal that attempts to capture the sound of a specific guitar amp. Of course, there's as many different sounding amps as guitars out there. Some will never be captured in pedal form by anyone. My main point is that the term "modeler" is gaining in common usage as any device that attempts to give you the sounds of any particular amp, cab, effect or any combo thereof. Call it what you want, but if it sounds like the real thing but isn't, then it will most likely be classified as a modeling device of some sort.

    Technical definitions regarding how audio signals are processed within a device don't make your pedal any more an AC30 than mine...
     
  13. s0c9

    s0c9 Member

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  14. Pietro

    Pietro 2-Voice Guitar Junkie and All-Around Awesome Guy

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    I have compared my Tech 21 Blonde pedal to my HD 500. No comparison, and no, I don't mean the Blonde is better. There's more than just tone-shaping happening in the "modeling" box.

    Is the Blonde a good solution? Yes. Am I glad to have it as backup? Yes. Is it better than the HD merely because it's analog emulating instead of digital/computer modeling? No.
     
  15. Mysterytrain

    Mysterytrain Member

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    This reminds me of the evolution of the term "pan" in regards to video. Technically, a camera pan is nothing more than moving the camera horizontally left/right. However, with the proliferation of so many inexpensive, high-quality video recording devices these days, everyone's a filmmaker, and using the terminology as they see fit. You can only REALLY pan left or pan right, but to a lot of folks these days, ANY movement the camera makes is a "pan". Pan-up, pan-down, pan-in, pan-out, pan-forward, pan-back. I've even seen professionals abuse the term. It used to really bother me, but now I just let it go. Could we be witnessing the evolution of the term "modeling" too? Maybe. The English language is always on the move.

    btw, don't get me started on the abuse of the word "literally" ;)
     
  16. grego7

    grego7 has left the building Gold Supporting Member

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    Actually the Sansamp pedal is perfectly named.

    The pedal is so-named because it is supposed to be able to produce the sound of a mic'd amp direct into a sound board (without an actual amp), in other words "sans" amp*.

    Calling it a Sansemulator - now you're just being silly.

    :)



    *same naming idea went into "sansabelt" slacks.

    Yes, I'm old.

    Now get off my lawn!
     
  17. timowens316

    timowens316 Member

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    I get your point, but I wonder if the terms should be “digital modeling” vs. “analog modeling”. Just a thought…
     
  18. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    What are you trying to accomplish with these distinctions? For me, there are two types of amps in the world: ones that sound good and ones that don't. There are tube amps that sound like ass and non-tube amps that sound great.

    One of the issues I have with a lot of tone hounds is that they hear with their eyes rather than their ears. All too often, they formulate an opinion of gear based on its brand, form factor, manufacturing technique and underlying technology. These biases tend to overrule what their ears tell them and a lot of great gear gets overlooked in the process.

    In that light, it seems a bit counterproductive to get bent out of shape over what's a modeler vs. an emulator. Unless you're a librarian, such categorization is pretty academic. Just find what you like and play the heck out of it.
     
  19. aziltz

    aziltz Member

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    the catalinbread SFT, DLS, WIIO and Formula 5 are "analog modeling", no?

    So technically anything said to give brown, plexi, tweed, or any other tone that can be described is infact modeling or emulating that tone.

    I think the fact that Tech 21 markets using the term "emulator" can cause some people to thrown it into the pack with things like Line 6.

    just my .02
     
  20. guitarnet70

    guitarnet70 Member

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    +1!!! Agree totally.
     

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