The FRFR/Direct Conundrum

Discussion in 'Digital & Modeling Gear' started by mtmartin71, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. mtmartin71

    mtmartin71 Silver Supporting Member

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    Just some thoughts after trying to figure out the best approach to take with my IRs and the Axe-FX to get a) a sound l like and b) a sound that cuts through. I'm curious on your take.

    For the majority of recordings ever put to tape or disk, and particularly the majority of gigs in large stage environments, the sound going out the audience or listener has been a close mic'd guitar cab. And, in a lot of those cases, a close mic'd SM57 guitar cab. It's been stated many times that this sound is not necessarily natural and it's "hyped" as compared to playing an amp and cab in a room. Please...I know there are a ton of exceptions to these concepts but can we agree that a big chunk of rock music from 1970 on was either recorded with a close mic'd 57 to the grill of a 4x12 or was reinforced live through the same method on the big stages? So here comes digital modeling with the ability to virtually recreate that environment. However, now we have tools in the new modelers that allow you to shoot for a natural cab in the room effect (far field, etc.) to make it sound like you hear it in your space, or, you can still do a virtual cab and mic and try to reproduce the classic close mic'd approach to the audience. The challenge I've seen is that many a player using these techniques would prefer to hear what they hear when playing through a traditional amp but that has been a harder sound to capture to many peoples' standards. I guess the question is, why then did most recordings and live shows utilize a close mic'd technique which hypes the frequencies? Was it available technology and tradition? Could the engineers of the day not directly reproduce the cab sound as it was to the player or did this result from needing to get that person to cut through the mix i.e. hyping frequencies with mics?

    I was pondering this as I took on Scott P's thread again around how he's dialing in his AxeFX patches particularly with the PEQ elements of the speaker tab in the amp block. It had me realizing that after a number of years playing the AxeFX, I've forgotten what a real amp sounds like so I have no comparison or reference point anymore. I think my ear has become accustomed now to the close mic'd cab sound like you hear on a recording. I don't know whether that's good or bad. I do know using Scott's technique, those patches definitely sound different. Not as much presence to them as just using Ownhammer mix of SM57 and TC30 close mic'd and that's after dialing up the treble presence and mids...and the speaker tab adjustments. They definitely sound fuller but I have no idea how they'll fit in the mix of my band. I don't know if the frequencies will fit the right way or not. I'm going to try Scott's approach for my next gig though and see if I can keep my EQ flat at the board and still cut with the new approach.

    So what's my net here? I guess why do many real Marshalls into a 4x12 cut pretty much no matter how they're dialed and yet we have to go through so many gymnastics and dialing in the virtual world to attempt to achieve the same thing? I once had a Marshall 2061x that when opened up, there was no doubt I was in the mix. It only had tone and volume. Dead nuts simple. Guaranteed cutting rock tone. Now, it was way too loud even at 20W and that's a huge reason I gave up real amps, but there was nothing to do other than plug in to the high input of the lead channel, turn the volume and tone up to around 70%, and enjoy a tone that dropped it in and didn't disappear. How do we get to that place with the world of modelers?
     
  2. Jay Mitchell

    Jay Mitchell Member

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    For one reason and one reason only: to minimize bleed from other instruments. Nobody who knew what they were doing ever kidded themselves that a close-mic'ed amp sounded like the amp itself, but the need/desire for a guitar-only signal with minimal drums/bass/keys in it overrode all else, both for recording and for concert reinforcement.
     
  3. mtmartin71

    mtmartin71 Silver Supporting Member

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    Didn't think of that angle as the reason why but makes total sense.
     
  4. mattball826

    mattball826 Member

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    i agree with op. i think most use the tech stuff for so long they forget how real amps work and why they dont have teh tap dance, gymnastics or whatever. a traditional amp and cab might be one trick pony, but that has many advantages on a live show. of course i am using a mark v which is anything but one trick. even if i use my simple jcm head its just great tone and cutting power with less things to fight.

    modeling is a different way to work as for live sound. its not the same as real amps and real cabs. there are plus and minus either way too. its waht benefits that individual player that matter most, but yes players do often forget what real amps are like. more if you sit with cans on your head noodling or recording.
     
  5. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    The Speaker Resonance tab in the Amp block of the Axe-FX II isn't a PEQ though - it is the speaker resonance and impedance you are playing with. It looks like a PEQ, but that isn't what you are doing with it.

    I've done dozens of shows now with this, with other guitarists and keys in the mix. The other guitarist in my band uses an Egnater Renegade which is a very nice 112 amp. I am cutting and sounding fine in the mix, could not be happier.

    My way of setting up the cab has three main elements that matter to how IR's are used; and no one outside of Jay Mitchell has ever really talked about doing it much.

    1. Two Speakers in a stereo cab, panned center. One is a Far Field (FF) from Jay Mitchell. The other is your Near Field (NF) and the easiest way to do this is to use an OwnHammer (OH). Use any of the OH that fits your style.
    2. Pan both speakers center. VERY important. Leave the "mic" set on "none". Speaker Motor Drive on 2.25. VERY important.
    3. "Tune the Speaker Resonance" in. I have detailed posts on how to do this on threads here on TGP and on the Fractal Forum. VERY IMPORTANT.

    Jay does things differently - he's all about FF and zero NF. I find that to 'mix' both a NF and a FF, particularly a JM with an OH in the Axe-FX II... something special happens on post 5.xx firmware. All the PEQ, GEQ and EQ in general that I used before was not needed. The tones are so full, so balanced and so present that I want everyone with an Axe-FX II to at least try it. At volume. It's something very simple, very honest, and very good.
     
  6. mtmartin71

    mtmartin71 Silver Supporting Member

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    I hear you on this and I will definitely be trying it live. It's different sounding but I noticed that it does sound fuller and probably more natural although it's been so long since I tried an real amp and cab, I forgot! I'll let you know how it pans out. My goal will be for my channel EQ on the board to be flat yet I'll still get the cut. I "kind of" think I'm dialing up the right levels on the speaker parameters per your instructions. I guess my point is I wish there was some way for virtual interaction between the amp and cab block such that you could "plug in" just like an amp and cab vs. trying to nuance that by ear. There is something magical about just plugging into a Marshall and the right cab and boom, it's there. I know (or I think) a lot of that has to do with the physics of audio and the difference between a PA speaker vs. the interaction of a real amp and cab.
     
  7. DarrenTD

    DarrenTD Member

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    I totally get what you're saying with getting used to the FRFR thing. I used my Axe Ultra with FRFR for the last couple of years, and recently I've been playing around with my tube amps again. It was really hard getting used to regular amps again after being accustomed to the modelling rig for so long. That being said, I am really enjoying my amps again, and there are some certain dynamics that I missed and had forgotten about.

    I've been thinking about jumping the shark with all the modelling stuff and going back to my amps permanently, but I have a feeling that the first time I have to haul all that analog stuff around, I'll change my tune pretty quickly! :D
     
  8. hanales

    hanales Member

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    I've been running direct the last 6 months or so, so I just ordered the DT-50 to go with my HD, so we will see what happens live. I don't THINK I've missed the tube thump, but my drummer has been complaining!
     
  9. Yek

    Yek Member

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    At home I have Output 1 (Axe-Fx) connected to studio monitors. Output 2 is connected to a power amp (either a ss Matrix or tubed Atomic 50/50), and a 1x12 guitar cab (M75 at the moment).

    Both routings sound really great, but the added thump in every freq. when switching from Out1 to Out2 (same volume) is so noticeable. The audience won't hear that thump, but I love it for personal monitoring.

    It's something I haven't been able to recreate using FR, whichever method, NF and neutral mic IRs included. User error perhaps, but then again I haven't heard many reports of others having achieved that.
     
  10. mtmartin71

    mtmartin71 Silver Supporting Member

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    Just curious if you tried Scott's method and what you thought of that?
     
  11. Yek

    Yek Member

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    Sure, I like it. I think Scott's approach benefits mainly those who use FR for personal monitoring. I use the direct signal for FOH only and have no issue with NFs in that routing, so I stick to those. :)
     
  12. Gasp100

    Gasp100 Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm doing a very similar setup at home with the Kemper.
    Main Outputs to audio interface / nearfield monitors
    Monitor Output (note, mono, only 1 1/4" out) to power amp (EHX 44 Magnum) and VHT cab with Scumback H55.

    The KPA sounds really nice with most profiles recorded direct to disk, using headphones -- well, just okay in phones, but better than any other modeler I have used to this point -- and low to moderate volumes on my Adam A5's. The "nasties" (all those hidden frequencies that start to pop out using FRFR in the super high end, mushy middle and booming bass frequencies) come out with I push my monitors too far.
    Running into power amp + cab picks up where the nearfields left off, I can get pretty ridiculous volume out of that EHX 44 Magnum! Much more balls than the RCF 312A I had in the house last week, and that is a loud sucker, even at half. The problem with cranking the RCF is exactly the same as the nearfields = the nasties come out, just loud as all hell, everything sounds thin, metallic and fake for lack of a better word.
    My problem is that the power amp is subpar (from a fidelity, tube punch, feel, swirl perspective) and the speaker in my cab only sounds good clean (supposedly because it needs to be broken in... not sure). The overdrive sounds terrible, so a new speaker might be in order.
    I need to upgrade, but I can say this - the power amp cab approach is limiting for sure but just sounds / feels better at higher volume and is much easier to implement. The question now is, why am I using a modeler again???

    :facepalm

    If I have the best modeler in the world, but only gravitate to a small subset of tones (clean, broken, crunchy, leads) AND I'm limiting myself by using a power amp + real cab, maybe an amp is best for "in the room" and a modeler is best for recording direct to disk and low volume playing.
    To the OP, I say go out to a store and demo some amps. It might be a nice reality check for you, I did that yesterday (although the selection sucked) and I'm doing it again for my lunch hour).
     
  13. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    I would counter this by just pointing out two things.

    A) You are using NF mic'd cabinets only when using the KPA or the Fractal I'd imagine. That is where things get 'ugly' right from the get go and are the root cause of what you are talking about. The brand name on the box has nothing to do with it - it's the nature of things that are close mic'd. It does not sound natural on its own. IMHO; but there is no way to deny it. Even if you hate Jay and disagree with him on most everything - he is 100% right smack on the money about close mic'd IRs (or close mic'd analog cabinets or profiled close mic'd cabinets if you prefer).

    B) You are limited using FRFR to the quality of your chosen solution. There really is no better place to honestly say that you get what you pay for than in your choice of FRFR.
     
  14. Gasp100

    Gasp100 Silver Supporting Member

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    A) Jay Rocks!
    B) I see your point on the FRFR "get what you pay for"
     
  15. mtmartin71

    mtmartin71 Silver Supporting Member

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    Like I was saying guys, it's the conundrum. So you get that great sounding tube amp/cab sound in a 1x12. Live, now you've introduced a different stage volume to your mix and you've forced others on stage to address that if you've got more than one guitarist. If you want to carry the room some, you've got to point it to the crowd. Now you've got to get it louder. It's probably pointed at your ankles so you can't hear it as well either. So you mic it. Now you're close micing it right? There you go...close mic'd guitar cab sound going to the audience. I guess you could say that some of your cab is as well so it's a mix the actual amp cab and your close mic'd sound and that's the philosophy, I think, of Scott's approach.

    I LOVE the convenience of volume control and effects integration with modeling and I love that you can get different amp tones and get lead volumes without a bunch of pedals or a/b solutions. But...I miss the simplicity of one guitar, one cord, one amp (multi channel so no pedals needed)...play. The challenge I always had was I wanted a clean sound, dirty sound, and a lead boost all within an amp. I didn't want pedal distortion. Any other effects were a bonus. The closest I found to an elegant solution that didn't involve pedals and compromises around running some in front and some in the loop was my Mesa Lonestar Special 1x12. That had two channels and an integrated solo boost. Just one foot pedal to change the channels and up the master volume. The problem was that amp disappeared a bit in the mix with a large band like I was in. The Marshall 2061x was much better in that respect but it had no loop, no master volume, and no flexibility so it couldn't last either.

    With my current band, I can't really go back to an amp on stage. Everyone else has committed to direct to PA and some are going in ear on monitoring. We are also playing restaurant/clubs where volume control matters a lot and the reason we get asked back is we understand this and keep the noise down. We also tend to be mixed very well. For this band and situation, modeling is my path so it's up to me to find the tones to cut doing the FRFR thing. I'll keep working it.
     
  16. Tone Seeker

    Tone Seeker Member

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    Using the approach Scott outlined (NF/FF mix) I feel reasonably close to just "plugging in" and playing. I find myself predominantly adjusting the Drive, Master and Treble, with speaker resonance tuning being "icing on the cake" (i.e. not make it or break it). What takes me more time is understanding the tone I need to get the job done, and then finding the right combination of amp and speaker for the guitar I'm using.

    I'll give you an example. I had a lead patch set up using the Plexi Treble sim and a NF / FF combo. I could not get enough brightness, even though I had the Treble at max and the Presence pushed up. It was still too dark. So I changed the speaker mix, giving more emphasis to the NF IR. That worked, and I had cut, but now there was too much going on in the upper mids. I simply didn't like the tone.

    After reading through the list of amp sims I decided to try the 1987x Treble and see what the "essential” mod to the tonestack was all about. Bang! The difference was significant, and just what I needed. I could go back to an equal FF/NF mix and still have some treble left to work with. Most importantly, the sound was really balanced, and just what I was looking for. In other cases I've changed to a different NF speaker to address the same kind of issue.

    I find that Marshall tones cut through the mix in a unique and powerful way. They are very good at this, especially when you want a rock feel. If you're having difficulty dialing in a tone that sits well in a particular mix the issue may be more about amp/speaker choice, than it is about modelling or anything else.

    BTW, I use near-field monitors at home and IEM's / direct to FOH when I play out.

    Terry.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2012
  17. 1fastdog

    1fastdog Member

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    I'm considering going the "non-amp" route, fully knowing there's adjustments to my personal "little world" I'm used to when playing a tube amp. I am at total tube amp believer. Have loved the for an easy 40 years of playing for dough. If you truly get used to certain things, even when they can be sometimes great and sometimes a struggle, such a less than steller venue acoustics, or even something a seemingly trivial as moving to stage right after playing stage left for several years, using the best modeler/profiler/software based will not be the same experience on a deck as having the compromised "warm fuzzy blanket" you are accustomed to, the "genuine way". <The fact is, a "real amp" that hits you where you, the player stand, mics or no mics, is not what folks in the audience hear. As alternative ways of achieving a tone that goes to media or through a live reinforcement rigs catches and even surpasses what a close mic can get to the audience, pulling the player satisfaction deal should be approached with more analysis in solving a personal world which accomodate a world that include the audience in the presentation. I don't suggest that a happy "aritste" won't be assisted by being in a wonderous zone of audio with their trusty axe by their side.

    I figure it getting what you need to get without missing the the experience of the folks footing the bill, or those you hope will foot the bill...

    It isn't as though the non-musician audience isn't the biggest camp to please. Musicians and audiences alike rave about what went into a microphone/s and got them going. Great amps are tone generators. You will find no harder head than mine when it comes to what I'll play through. I also am willing to get a grip that the best of tech might be workable for me. The plus column is edging beyond the minus column. Removing every reason for folk to not leave the venue or change the station becomes more and more essential.

    I hope some of this makes sense.
     
  18. rburkard

    rburkard Gold Supporting Member

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    There is an alternative solution. You can use a multichannel tube amp driving a good load box and feeding the mixer and FRFR monitors by using a decent speaker simulation. I am using a setup like this with either my Carol Ann Triptik or OD-3 and these amps give me everything I need in spades. This is working more satisfactory for me than using the AXE or the Kemper without the need to dialing in and programming patches and being prepared for various sonic enviroments. It gives me the simplicity and sonic candy of tube amps with the advantage of be able to absolutely control my monitor and my FOH sound to the degree of still being dependant on the individual soundguy.
    Rene

     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2012

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