The final leap in solid state amp design to give them equal performance with tube amps ?

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TelejesterTelejester Frets: 502
I was recently watching a yt video about Metallica's live right. They are a band I've always equated with jcm800s in their early days and boogie mk2s from there on.

I was surprised to see how it is all now solid state, axe FX preamps and solid state power amps being the order of the day. If a global act like Metallica has made the jump from all tube to solid state then I think the solid state tortoise is quickly closing in on the tube hare.

What is the element in how a solid state guitar amp sounds that when designers nail it the end for tube amps is conceivable ?

For me the tube amps give a 3 dimensional sound that solid state amps don't. Where the tube amp has the fullness in the low end married to the detail and spatiality of the high end, I've found solid state to sound flat and 2 dimensional. Imo when, not if, solid state amp designers. Solve that issue I think we will see a major shift in purchasing behaviours.

In your opinion what is the last piece of the solid state puzzle that when solved will shake things right up ?


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  • SporkySporky Frets: 11117
    Prejudice.

    When people start comparing the two blind I'll be more convinced by the comparisons.
    Never forget that you are wearing your invisible tiara.
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  • TelejesterTelejester Frets: 502
    Sporky said:
    Prejudice.

    When people start comparing the two blind I'll be more convinced by the comparisons.
    Know what ya mean, I remember auditioning a guitarist years ago where I had a Peavey 5150 mk1 behind me and he showed up with a solid state amp.
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  • Solid state rigs on the road, axfx/kemper etc all make sense with a great big clean power amp, but last I saw they still had all the valve heads in the studio.

    But for me  this conversation is fast approaching the "who really cares", use what works and sounds good to you, the digital stuff these days is really good. I need a new home amp and if a Katana fits the bill for cheap great, but I have the real deal at the factory that is load of fun to play through
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  • richardhomerrichardhomer Frets: 16074
    Sporky said:
    Prejudice.
    I think this is certainly a big part of it.

    I recently bought an old Musicman combo - the clean channel of the pre-amp is entirely sold state. It’s cleans sound better to me, than my all valve Lonestar Special. Received wisdom says this shouldn’t be the case - my ears tell me differently....
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 26820
    The critical factor is in the dynamic response of the power amp.

    Which is why richardhomer's Musicman sounds like a valve amp, and a Marshall Valvestate doesn't even though they go some way to emulate it.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • fandangofandango Frets: 391
    In a large venue, the likes of Metallica, U2, Robbie Williams etc perform, how many punters gives two hoots whether they play through tube valve amps?. You can't tell at those volumes and spaces. A microphone in front of a valve amp, fed through a digital (or semi-digital desk) then on to a PA means any advantage in tone that a valve amp may have is lost. So what's the point of a valve amp at Wembley Stadium or Madison Square Gardens?

    Mega bands have also got touring down to an art where they have so reduced their tonnage to keep logistics costs down, that there's little motivation to lug fully laden 4x12 and 6x12 Marshall valve amps everywhere, especially when the house PA is doing all the work, and "tone" can be added at the desk. Volume is no longer Marshall stacks - which hark back to the days before PAs took over. That Marshall backline that Quo tour with? It's all empty boxes. Get over it.

    Even in smaller venues, it's also about getting a balanced sound. You try having the patience to do that with your valve amps these days with so little time to set up before the gig. A PA with small portable desk makes setting up very much simpler, and as many older Fretboarders acknowledge, far kinder to the joints/ back/ aging muscles when clearing out after a gig. Not every band has a team of roadies to do the grunt work.


    F R E A K   O U T !  And don't mind the bananas!
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  • merlinmerlin Frets: 764
    This ⬆︎ I prefer the tone and dynamic response of my Columbia Reverb any day but for reliability, quick start up, cool down, ease of transport and the ability to line out, effects loop etc, I prefer my Blues Cube Artist for touring. 

    If it's a one off then it's the Columbia but a shlepp round the UK.....?
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  • ecc83ecc83 Frets: 709

     Before this debate goes any further can we establish a few ground rules?

    "Solid state" amplifier. NOT a modeller (I'll get me coat!) . To my mind that way madness lies because digitals can be anything you/they want them to be. In my HO we are very close to a modeller that WOULD fool most people, most of the time on a 'DBlind A/B test.

    "Valve" amplifier. Got to be I think TOTAL valve audio path? No ICs, no emitter followers (Boogie) . I think we must allow a Silicon rectifier if only because modern valve rects seem such shit?

    The last one is tricky! Whilst I personally think a lot of "SState" designs would fool LISTENERS in  DBA/B test I am not sure many would fool a seasoned player? Now, setting up a statistically valid DBA/B session for listeners is quite a task, doing so for the PLAYER such that HE does not know WTF he is playing might be nigh on impossible?


    Anyone know of a suitable university, dripping with spare cash with Ugrads who can do the job?

    Last thought. I doubt amp makers will donate/lend? Whilst many would LOVE to be told 'good as valve' not many would want the sobriquet 'no different from transistor'!

    Dave.

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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 6036
    fandango said:
    In a large venue, the likes of Metallica, U2, Robbie Williams etc perform, how many punters gives two hoots whether they play through tube valve amps?. You can't tell at those volumes and spaces. A microphone in front of a valve amp, fed through a digital (or semi-digital desk) then on to a PA means any advantage in tone that a valve amp may have is lost. So what's the point of a valve amp at Wembley Stadium or Madison Square Gardens?

    Mega bands have also got touring down to an art where they have so reduced their tonnage to keep logistics costs down, that there's little motivation to lug fully laden 4x12 and 6x12 Marshall valve amps everywhere, especially when the house PA is doing all the work, and "tone" can be added at the desk. Volume is no longer Marshall stacks - which hark back to the days before PAs took over. That Marshall backline that Quo tour with? It's all empty boxes. Get over it.

    Even in smaller venues, it's also about getting a balanced sound. You try having the patience to do that with your valve amps these days with so little time to set up before the gig. A PA with small portable desk makes setting up very much simpler, and as many older Fretboarders acknowledge, far kinder to the joints/ back/ aging muscles when clearing out after a gig. Not every band has a team of roadies to do the grunt work.


    One of the worst live guitar sounds I ever heard was Steve Morse. I know it’s subjective but basically mush with a bit of ear grating thrown in and I feel confident that wasn’t what he was after. He had a lot of nice looking valve amps but in the audience I’m not hearing them direct, I’m hearing them via some mics, a dubious sound guy and the poor acoustics of the room. The guitarist in the support band was using, as far as I could see, a POD and it sounded better. It wasn’t a truly great sound but I could at least tell what he was playing. 
    I feel the warm, healing, liquid presence of God’s genuine cold-filtered grace. 
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  • vasselmeyervasselmeyer Frets: 1934
    There are some incredibly good SS amps that sound and react very similarly to valve amps. The Session Award Blues Baby is one that gets regularly namechecked and I think @Sessionman posts here intermittently about why that circuit sounds and behaves like it does. 

    I've just gone back to pedals through a lightweight SS head from a valve amp and I'm enjoying playing it. It does feel and sound different to my last amp but so do different valve amps. 
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  • It depends what you mean by equal performance. I was using a Lab Series L5 way back in the late 1970's. I believe that amp was also used by Allan Holdsworth, Ty Tabor and BB King.


    It's not a competition
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  • It’s hardly the best video but you get the idea. They don’t sound 100% identical but definitely close enough to not care.

    https://youtu.be/nnYZ96DHo_g

    And especially so if you’re going direct in the studio or to FOH.

    https://youtu.be/nnT8_JRC8nA

    Basically it’s already there, people just think of crappy solid state amplifiers from the old days and don’t realise how advanced newer stuff is.

    Ive referenced Kemper here but it’s equally true of most modellers that use solid state power sections, ie the Axe Fx Rig Metallica use.



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  • I tried this experiment recently with a good old Peavey Bandit, the only issue was harshness at reasonable volume at two gigs (noticed by other band members quickly too), going to try a different speaker to soften this out hopefully first (it's a 90's transtube with a Sheffield speaker, just used clean channel with pedals).  It sounded pretty good but lacked the body of the valve amp (quite an unfair comparison against a Two Rock Studio Pro Plus 35!!)       
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  • JalapenoJalapeno Frets: 3063
    I'll bet that Metallica had a programmer or two to dial-in the correct JCM800 patches, cant see Hetfield et all putting the time in learning the AxeFX manual
    Imagine something sharp and witty here ......

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  • Musicman20Musicman20 Frets: 184
    edited October 31

    I went to see Metallica on Saturday and the guitar sound was fantastic. I kinda wanted more bass (I always do with Metallica) as Rob is a stunning bassist, but overall the clean stage setup and more emphasis on a really great show and the work their sound guys did to upgrade the PA worked wonders.

    It's hard, IMO, to have a heavy band not sound like mush. I've seen countless pro heavier bands just sound like bass drum/snare and a noise for guitars. Both guitars, especially the solos, were fantastic. The bass on For Whom The Bells Tolls worked perfectly.

    I've gone all solid state for my bass gear after owning a really nice tube amp, because honestly, with bass I think headroom is more important and there are so many good bass overdrive/tube drive type bass pedals now that sound close to a good tube amp that no one ever knows, plus I can get the growl at a super low volume.

    I've got guitar tube amps, but I bought a Boss Katana for home and for rehearsing and it's absolutely belting. I bought a Helix on a whim for both bass and guitar and whilst I don't have the time to enjoy it and I've put it up for sale, part of me thinks it is time to get to know it and just enjoy what it can do.

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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 3000
    I think AxeFX \ Helix etc is fine for high gain stuff like Metallica ..... it's just not as convincing on lower gain stuff with more complex chords. It is pretty darn good though. 
    I have heard a lot of good solid state amps which don't use modelling, Tech 21 Trademark 60, Trace Elliot something or other combo, my own Fender Champ 110. 


    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 2723
    Sporky said:
    Prejudice.
    I think this is certainly a big part of it.

    I recently bought an old Musicman combo - the clean channel of the pre-amp is entirely sold state. It’s cleans sound better to me, than my all valve Lonestar Special. Received wisdom says this shouldn’t be the case - my ears tell me differently....

    I wouldn't rate the Lonestars as particularly good examples of clean on a valve amp.  I tried a couple of them when they first came out, and I thought the cleans were awful.  The drive sounds were ok but finding a solid state amp with better cleans wouldn't be all that hard based on the ones I've played.
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  • fields5069fields5069 Frets: 1129
    As far as proper solid state goes, it seems to be a case of requiring some smoothing out at the final stage, hence can never sound quite as "open" as a nice valve amp.
    Some folks like water, some folks like wine.
    My feedback thread is here.
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  • JalapenoJalapeno Frets: 3063
    Danny1969 said:
    I think AxeFX \ Helix etc is fine for high gain stuff like Metallica ..... it's just not as convincing on lower gain stuff with more complex chords. It is pretty darn good though. 
    I have heard a lot of good solid state amps which don't use modelling, Tech 21 Trademark 60, Trace Elliot something or other combo, my own Fender Champ 110. 


    Roland JC ?

    my Henriksen JazzAmp sounds amazing with an archtop or acoustic (bit to FRFR-like for solid bodies)

    Also AER 60 is superb for electric cleans
    Imagine something sharp and witty here ......

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  • RolandRoland Frets: 1331
    Jalapeno said:
    I'll bet that Metallica had a programmer or two to dial-in the correct JCM800 patches, cant see Hetfield et all putting the time in learning the AxeFX manual
    Matt Picconi worked with Metallica’s techs to configure the AxeFXs. The biggest issue was not sound but workflow. I don’t think Hatfield even sets up his own amps nowadays.
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  • Phil_aka_PipPhil_aka_Pip Frets: 6879
    The modellers do sound quite good to me, especially the far-out distortion bit, it's as good as any overloaded stack and way more controllable.

    Where solid state amps tend to show their weakness (IMO) is that point where single notes are clean but you can hear the grit when 2 strings are sounded together or one note is hit especially hard. Valve amps do that far better in my opinion.
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs.
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  • jpfampsjpfamps Frets: 1108

    The decision by Metallica to use modelling amps on the last your was, believe it or not, made on the basis of cost. It was simply a lot cheaper than dragging around a mountain of analogue / valve gear.

    A friend of mind is an engineer at the BBC, and was working on a Metallica live session at Maida Vale, where they ran out of channels (96!), so I expect they have reduced massively their live set up.
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  • JalapenoJalapeno Frets: 3063
    How on earth does a 4 piece need 96 channels of live sound ? :/

    Smacks of Spinal Tap .....
    Imagine something sharp and witty here ......

    Feedback
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  • darthed1981darthed1981 Frets: 823
    Jalapeno said:
    How on earth does a 4 piece need 96 channels of live sound ? :/

    Smacks of Spinal Tap .....
    Lets be honest, Spinal Tap wouldn't be a good parody unless real life mirrored it!
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  • Jalapeno said:
    I'll bet that Metallica had a programmer or two to dial-in the correct JCM800 patches, cant see Hetfield et all putting the time in learning the AxeFX manual
    They have a tech, but Fractal has a specific guy who helps artists sort out their sounds to begin with.

    Fractal have also included amp models and control features at Metallica’s request
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  • nick79nick79 Frets: 96

    I went to see Metallica on Saturday and the guitar sound was fantastic. 

    I saw them last night in Birmingham, and i agree they sounded very very good. First time i've seen them since they switched to Axe FX, and they sounded as good as ever. 
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  • aord43aord43 Frets: 260
    I am no expert (the opposite in fact) and couldn't tell the difference if you played them to me but at the end of the day both Valves and SS are just shuffling electrons around to drive a speaker.  Any perceived difference can only be in the frequency response, right?  So in theory you could design a SS or digital system to give the same frequency response as you expect from valves.  There's nothing magic about valves.
    I'd be willing to bet a lot of it is nostalgia, emotion, woo etc. and wouldn't stand up in a blind test. Similar to CDs vs. [new, unscratched/non-dusty] vinyl.  And all the audiophile nonsense.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 26820
    aord43 said:
    I am no expert (the opposite in fact) and couldn't tell the difference if you played them to me but at the end of the day both Valves and SS are just shuffling electrons around to drive a speaker.  Any perceived difference can only be in the frequency response, right?  So in theory you could design a SS or digital system to give the same frequency response as you expect from valves.  There's nothing magic about valves.
    I'd be willing to bet a lot of it is nostalgia, emotion, woo etc. and wouldn't stand up in a blind test. Similar to CDs vs. [new, unscratched/non-dusty] vinyl.  And all the audiophile nonsense.
    No, it's surprisingly more complicated than that. The actual sound - as in a steady-state frequency, or combination of frequencies - can be made exactly the same.

    What sets them apart - especially if you're the player, so you're inside the 'feedback loop' of generating the signal - is how they respond to *changing* signals, both in terms of dynamics (how changes to incoming signal are reproduced in the outgoing signal) and frequency response (how changes in incoming signal affect harmonic content, especially when overdriven) - some people call this 'feel' or 'touch response'. This is *much* harder to get right, and is why it hasn't been done 100% convincingly yet even though it's theoretically possible. It's a lot easier to get it right from the point of view of an outside listener who is not the player, so FOH sound at a gig or recorded sound is pretty much there.

    But I think it will come even for the player, and fairly soon.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • Phil_aka_PipPhil_aka_Pip Frets: 6879
    aord43 said:
    all the audiophile nonsense.
    mate, I've A/Bd the CD and vinyl of Traffic On The Road and trust me the CD sounds like it's been put through a graphic EQ with every other band notched out - it's dreadful. I've also heard the Linn CD of Dietrich Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri and been knocked out by how good it sounded.

    Audiophile is about sound quality, it's not nonsense if you can recognise quality when you hear it irrespective of the medium or the means of amplification: I love my little Leak Stereo 20, but have to concede that my Quad 33/303 can sound better even though it is entirely solid state.
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs.
    Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!
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  • i look forward to the day i go see a live band with a stack of empty katana boxes  and empty kemper boxes and hiding behind stage a row of marshall stacks.
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