A slightly different angle on Digital Versus Tubes

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  • John_AJohn_A Frets: 2019
    If I were a millionaire rockstar I’d probably use proper amps for gigging and recording, just because I could, not really because I thought they sound better
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  • MayneheadMaynehead Frets: 1480
    John_A said:
    If I were a millionaire rockstar I’d probably use proper amps for gigging and recording, just because I could, not really because I thought they sound better

    So even with all the benefits that modellers have to offer, there's still something that draws you towards a valve amp...

    And therein lies the reason why digital may have won some good battles so far, but it will not (yet) win the war.

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  • ESBlondeESBlonde Frets: 2577
    Class D has been around a while with bass amps - and a good chunk of bass players will often say that a quality class D amp is a compromise - weight is so much better for convenience, but you lose some “heft” (what that actually is is a whole subject for debate).

    It’s true to say that for bass it’s often less of an issue because we usually DI for big venues and you end up with all the power stage coming from the PA - but the fact still remains that many feel the class D power stage definitely lacks something. 


    In the pro sound world there are also many exponents of the same bass 'heft' idea, and so old style heavy iron core transformerred power amps are considered best for bass and sub cab reproduction. The modern powered lightweight cabs mean you can have more power for your money, but 'heft' is still 'heft'. Of course big artists specify the latest high tech rider friendly line array, but many providers would rather have the bottom end the old fashioned way.
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  • gearaddictgearaddict Frets: 745
    Maynehead said:
    Maybe my question was slightly confusing.

    Basically what I’m asking is, is it the actual tone of the amps that draws people towards modellers, or is it all the other conveniences that they offer?

    If you were a millionaire rockstar recording an album at the studio, would you still use a Helix?
    I don't know if he's a millionaire but that's what Chris Robertson from Black Stone Cherry did with their last album. I saw an interview with him - he said they were struggling to get a tone and he thought he'd just try the Helix and he got a tone straight away and that's what they used for the whole thing.

    The more I think about modelling, the more confused I get. What is the purpose of modelling? Is it to re-create the sound you hear as a punter out of a PA? Or is it to re-create the sound you get out of a guitar amp. When people complain that modelling doesn't sound like a real amp, they get told "Ah - but it's not supposed to...it's supposed to sound like a recorded tone or a tone out of a PA".

    But that's not right is it...the sound we all love, and the only sound people used to hear before the invent of modern PA equipment, is the sound out of a guitar amp...surely that's what everyone wants to hear at the end of the day? If the FoH PA sounded exactly like a classic Marshall into a 4x12, the audience isn't going to go "hang on...that's not quite compressed enough and lacking in detail". OK, I'm being deliberately facetious but you get the idea.

    I was watching a comparison of various FRFR speakers today and they were commenting on how some of them were better because they sounded more like 'real amps'...but I thought hang on...I thought they weren't trying to be real amps.

    I guess I'm saying modellers are great at sounding like a guitar amp through a PA...which is probably why a lot of pros are totally happy to use modelling tech while us amateurs are still a bit hesitant. They are focused on delivering a 'PA' sound to punters and a recorded tone, whereas most of us still mostly experience the amp in the room tone.

    Dunno. Just a thought.



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  • ESBlondeESBlonde Frets: 2577
    After a year or so in semi retirement I dragged my old plexi amp out to a gig on Friday. Bear in mind that in the meantime I've been using a well regarded valve combo. 
    For the time I was on stage I was grinning like a Cheshire cat, that sound was just gorgeous. Someone videod the gig and I'm actually dancing! Those that know me can attest that fat 60 year old arthritic guitarists just don't do that. Even the drummers wife said i looked like I was really enjoying myself.
    The cab might have to go, two x 12" JBLs in the JBL cab is harder to lift than I remember. 
     For a couple of weeks I'd been toying with the idea of a line 6 pedalboard or maybe even the whole digital setup. Not now, now I remember what a GOOD valve amp is there is no way I'm taking that step anytime soon. If you haven't played through a good valve amp do yourself a favour.
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 784
    edited February 4
    I think something like the Suhr PT15 is the way forwards, or indeed the Reactive Load IR/Ox Box/Waza Expander to "digitally model the back end" as they say. I love my valve amp and real pedals, but want digital flexibility and most importantly the ability to run it silently/through headphones.

    I keep thinking about getting a Helix but it just seems like such a boring safe option. Running a real amp into a load and IR appeals much more to me for some reason, but it could just be the whole "t00bz is better" myth - I change my mind about it daily. We probably just cling onto valves as it's what we've always known but it's probably time to join digital like literally every other industry and product we own! Then again I've also never had a modeller sound or feel as good as a valve amp.
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  • John_AJohn_A Frets: 2019
    Maynehead said:
    John_A said:
    If I were a millionaire rockstar I’d probably use proper amps for gigging and recording, just because I could, not really because I thought they sound better

    So even with all the benefits that modellers have to offer, there's still something that draws you towards a valve amp...

    And therein lies the reason why digital may have won some good battles so far, but it will not (yet) win the war.

    The only ‘draw’ is as a millionaire rock star I could amass a load of gear on endorsements and pay someone to lug it about and set it up, as a millionaire non rockstar I’d stick with my Helix:)
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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 13243
    Maynehead said:

    Maybe my question was slightly confusing.

    Basically what I’m asking is, is it the actual tone of the amps that draws people towards modellers, or is it all the other conveniences that they offer?

    If you were a millionaire rockstar recording an album at the studio, would you still use a Helix?
    OK - largely, it's the other conveniences.

    However, if I were a rock star recording an album at the studio, I'd probably get my reference tone with a Helix and get the engineer to re-amp through his choice of amps to try to better it. Why? Because I can get the tone I'm after much more quickly with the Helix, and that would give the engineer a good starting point without me farting around wasting time and money.

    If I was touring...there's no way in hell I'd be shipping massive, unreliable, heavy amps all over the place. I'd just have a Helix (and possibly a spare) with all my presets on, a couple of my current squeeze of power amp and have a known-quantity cab on the rider. Why waste all that money when nobody in the audience will a) tell the difference, or b) care?

    I don't know if he's a millionaire but that's what Chris Robertson from Black Stone Cherry did with their last album. I saw an interview with him - he said they were struggling to get a tone and he thought he'd just try the Helix and he got a tone straight away and that's what they used for the whole thing.

    The more I think about modelling, the more confused I get. What is the purpose of modelling? Is it to re-create the sound you hear as a punter out of a PA? Or is it to re-create the sound you get out of a guitar amp. When people complain that modelling doesn't sound like a real amp, they get told "Ah - but it's not supposed to...it's supposed to sound like a recorded tone or a tone out of a PA".

    You're confused because you seem to be trying to make it "this thing" or "that thing". Digital modelling can be used in any number of ways. I, for example, use the Helix live without any cab modelling, into a power amp, into a real cab. I've never met anyone who could definitively tell me whether it was a modeller or a valve amp at gig volume.

    However, when I'm recording, I use it with my favourite cab impulses, and after a bit of massaging from a class engineer, I'd be stunned if anyone could tell the difference.

    On top of all that, I can make signal paths that would be all-but-impossible on anything but an insane budget with my Helix. Modellers can do waaaaaay more than traditional pedalboard-and-amp rigs can reach in their wildest dreams. When you get as far as the AxeFX II or Helix, the limits are more likely to be your imagination than the unit itself.

    The fact is that while folk try to put all modellers into a single basket with a single "purpose", they actually have many different use cases....whereas valve amps have only one (or maybe two at a push if you run them into a reactive load).

    Ultimately, they're just a hell of a lot more useful to me than any amp (or collection of amps) has ever been.
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • Paul_CPaul_C Frets: 4712
    Class D has been around a while with bass amps - and a good chunk of bass players will often say that a quality class D amp is a compromise - weight is so much better for convenience, but you lose some “heft” (what that actually is is a whole subject for debate).

    It’s true to say that for bass it’s often less of an issue because we usually DI for big venues and you end up with all the power stage coming from the PA - but the fact still remains that many feel the class D power stage definitely lacks something. 



    Odd - I may not be much of a sample size, but my experience with Class D has always been positive.

    I started with a Markbass Little Mark II into various cabs, continued with a Markbass 3x10 combo that I gigged in a 10pc band and was magnificent and finished with a TC Electronic BG250 which was fine for what I was using it for and never felt like it was lacking anything.

    I played through a Marshall VBA400 a couple of times when I had the Markbass combo and it didn't make me think "I must have one of these".
    CEO ACME Moats Inc.
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 8381
    TTBZ said:
    I think something like the Suhr PT15 is the way forwards, or indeed the Reactive Load IR/Ox Box/Waza Expander to "digitally model the back end" as they say. I love my valve amp and real pedals, but want digital flexibility and most importantly the ability to run it silently/through headphones.


    For live use I found this to be the worst of all worlds.

    Get an amp and stick a mic on it or get a modeller and stick it into the pa or a cab.

    Amps into loads with impulses and other bits is too complicated, requires too many boxes, too much time to set up and just ends up wasting your time debugging problems. Generally it doesn't sound better either, or at least didn't in my case.

    It's so much easier to do things like switch your amp on unloaded and blow it up as well.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 13243
    TTBZ said:
    I think something like the Suhr PT15 is the way forwards, or indeed the Reactive Load IR/Ox Box/Waza Expander to "digitally model the back end" as they say. I love my valve amp and real pedals, but want digital flexibility and most importantly the ability to run it silently/through headphones.


    For live use I found this to be the worst of all worlds.

    Get an amp and stick a mic on it or get a modeller and stick it into the pa or a cab.

    Amps into loads with impulses and other bits is too complicated, requires too many boxes, too much time to set up and just ends up wasting your time debugging problems. Generally it doesn't sound better either, or at least didn't in my case.

    It's so much easier to do things like switch your amp on unloaded and blow it up as well.
    Yes yes yes, a thousand times yes!

    Another massive problem is the guitarists' obsession with making their gig-volume live solution be the same thing they use at home.

    Even with a modeller, that ain't gonna happen - at least, it's not going to sound remotely the same. So why even bother trying?
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 784
    TTBZ said:
    I think something like the Suhr PT15 is the way forwards, or indeed the Reactive Load IR/Ox Box/Waza Expander to "digitally model the back end" as they say. I love my valve amp and real pedals, but want digital flexibility and most importantly the ability to run it silently/through headphones.


    For live use I found this to be the worst of all worlds.

    Get an amp and stick a mic on it or get a modeller and stick it into the pa or a cab.

    Amps into loads with impulses and other bits is too complicated, requires too many boxes, too much time to set up and just ends up wasting your time debugging problems. Generally it doesn't sound better either, or at least didn't in my case.

    It's so much easier to do things like switch your amp on unloaded and blow it up as well.
    Yeah, I'm thinking more for home use. At a gig I'd just use the amp as normal. An all in one digital solution is obviously the easier solution for at home, I'm just thinking about what would be the most enjoyable solution for me.
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  • gearaddictgearaddict Frets: 745
    You're confused because you seem to be trying to make it "this thing" or "that thing". Digital modelling can be used in any number of ways.

    The fact is that while folk try to put all modellers into a single basket with a single "purpose", they actually have many different use cases....whereas valve amps have only one (or maybe two at a push if you run them into a reactive load).

    Ultimately, they're just a hell of a lot more useful to me than any amp (or collection of amps) has ever been.
    Yeah, that is true. And my needs are very simple and I don't like too many options so I don't feel the benefit of the flexibility of most modellers.

    I posted the below video on another thread here but it highlights the point...for me, the best sounding ones are the ones that sound most like a guitar cab. Are the other ones trying to sound more like a guitar cab too? Coz they really don't. I mean, presumably when sound engineers are micing up your cab and mixing the FoH sound they are trying to deliver the sound of your guitar cab to the audience. So, in the same way, should we not be expecting the sounds out of these FRFR solutions to be 'as good as' your backline?

    I suppose once we do get that, everyone will switch to modelling/FRFR. :)


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  • Jez6345789Jez6345789 Frets: 1030
    From looking at local band with young players here in Spain I seem to see loads of pedals into the PA or powered cab with IR 

    so all the drive is coming from amp in a box type of pedals and the effects on top
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  • PolarityManPolarityMan Frets: 4494
    Maynehead said:
    Maynehead said:
    Maynehead said:
    I still think "Modellers" should stop trying to model valve amps, and become Digital Amps in their own right. Only when that happens will there be real competition against the valve amps, otherwise valve amps will always be the holy grail.
    I've honestly never really cared whether a model sounds like the original amp or not...authenticity is irrelevant to me, I just use the model names as a clue to the general flavour of the block and tweak from there. If I can't get it to work, I just move on to the next one that sounds vaguely appropriate for what I'm aiming at.
    I guess the pertinent question here is: If you disregard practicality/cost/feasibility etc., from a pure tone point of view, would you prefer a modelling amp with 10 amp models, or having the 10 actual amps that are being modelled at your disposal?
    I'd rather have 10 useful amp models than the same 10 amps.

    In fact, I'd rather have three useful amp models and a couple of useful alternatives for each major effect type than 20 useful glass bottle amps.

    Practicality wins, for me. For live stuff, that means a good modeller, a tiny-but-mighty power amp and a lightweight cab. For recording...it means having them all at my fingertips whenever the urge takes me.

    I've already proven to myself that no audience member can tell that it's not a valve amp when I'm running through a real cab, and that with a great engineer mixing it, using a modeller like the Helix doesn't detract from the music.

    I'm keeping the JCA50H for sentimental reasons, but from this point forward...I'm all about the modelling.
    Maybe my question was slightly confusing.

    Basically what I’m asking is, is it the actual tone of the amps that draws people towards modellers, or is it all the other conveniences that they offer?

    If you were a millionaire rockstar recording an album at the studio, would you still use a Helix?
    Do you know how many albums have original pods on them?
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  • MayneheadMaynehead Frets: 1480
    From looking at local band with young players here in Spain I seem to see loads of pedals into the PA or powered cab with IR 

    so all the drive is coming from amp in a box type of pedals and the effects on top
    I think we’re a bit spoilt in the UK for high end guitar and amp gear. Some of the stuff we have just lying around the house, people in other countries can only dream of, even professional bands may not be able to afford them.

    I might be wrong, and they might be just using pedals for convenience, but I bet if you offered to swap their pedals for a Mesa Mark V 25 and a 1x12 cab they’d bite your hands off...
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  • MayneheadMaynehead Frets: 1480
    Do you know how many albums have original pods on them?
    I don’t know of a single one...
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 20275
    Maynehead said:
    Do you know how many albums have original pods on them?
    I don’t know of a single one...
    There are loads, especially once the second iteration of the Pod was released.
    And through the 90’s truckloads of albums were done with the Line 6 Amp Farm ProTools plug-in.
    I am the juice of four limes.
    Trading Feedback

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  • robertyroberty Frets: 829
    Maynehead said:
    Do you know how many albums have original pods on them?
    I don’t know of a single one...
    A good friend of mine recorded an album with Salaam Remi (Lauren Hill, Amy Winehouse) at his studio in Miami and all the guitars were through a Pod. This is going back 10 years maybe 
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  • Jez6345789Jez6345789 Frets: 1030
    Sorry to the original question 
    I think you are right in one way stop modelling Fender marshall boogie etc.

    But then you have one big problem Guitarists.

    in a world of Strats Les Paul and Tele derivatives being probably 80% of the market who will want to play something original. Unless you spend a fortune trying to get a group of players to endorse it. Have a successful album or a tone that ignites a whole style of music.

    I think a number of software plugin companies have tried to model a few of there own things suited to a style of music but not slavishly one thing. Studio Devil back in the early days when I used it was really just some sort of good sounding hot Rod marshall without slavishly trying to model one thing. Same with toneforge menace as an extreme metal amp but most have expanded out these days to become more of what people know and expect Fender Boogie Marshall etc.

    So it’s not can it be done but do people actually want or use it.
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  • dindudedindude Frets: 5930
    Genuine question - can anyone point towards a truly stunning guitar tone that was done with a modeller, recorded or live. All the talk is of convenience and “no one can tell the difference” but wondered if anyone was pushing the boundaries with them to create great sounds in their own right.

    Through my own musical taste I can only think of what Adrian Belew was doing with Roland rack gear direct to PA in the early 90’s - love the tone below, so juicy and absolutely not trying to be an AC30 or a Dual Rec.

    https://youtu.be/5dtPi8O8bN8
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 35500
    edited February 5

    Another massive problem is the guitarists' obsession with making their gig-volume live solution be the same thing they use at home.

    Even with a modeller, that ain't gonna happen - at least, it's not going to sound remotely the same. So why even bother trying?
    I've always used my gig-volume valve amps at home... I just turn them down, or in some cases use an attenuator. They sound the same - or at least close enough that it doesn't take a lot of adjustment to get there. I certainly wouldn't have any problem using the same modelling amp for both, since they're even less volume-dependent.

    dindude said:
    Genuine question - can anyone point towards a truly stunning guitar tone that was done with a modeller, recorded or live. All the talk is of convenience and “no one can tell the difference” but wondered if anyone was pushing the boundaries with them to create great sounds in their own right.
    Listen to any Garbage recording, studio or live - they don't use amps at all, just Pod Pros straight into the desk. You won't hear any "classic valve amp tones", but that's the whole point.


    "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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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 13243
    ICBM said:

    Another massive problem is the guitarists' obsession with making their gig-volume live solution be the same thing they use at home.

    Even with a modeller, that ain't gonna happen - at least, it's not going to sound remotely the same. So why even bother trying?
    I've always used my gig-volume valve amps at home... I just turn them down, or in some cases use an attenuator. They sound the same - or at least close enough that it doesn't take a lot of adjustment to get there. I certainly wouldn't have any problem using the same modelling amp for both, since they're even less volume-dependent. 
    It's really about understanding which bits are volume-dependent and which bits aren't. You obviously do, but an awful lot of people don't seem to get that the "boom" you get when you've got pretty much any well-set-up amp at gig volume simply isn't going to happen at home volumes, no matter what you use.
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • octatonic said:
    Maynehead said:
    Do you know how many albums have original pods on them?
    I don’t know of a single one...
    There are loads, especially once the second iteration of the Pod was released.
    And through the 90’s truckloads of albums were done with the Line 6 Amp Farm ProTools plug-in.

    I believe Evanescence's Fallen album was done with Pod Farm.

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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 13243
    octatonic said:
    Maynehead said:
    Do you know how many albums have original pods on them?
    I don’t know of a single one...
    There are loads, especially once the second iteration of the Pod was released.
    And through the 90’s truckloads of albums were done with the Line 6 Amp Farm ProTools plug-in.

    I believe Evanescence's Fallen album was done with Pod Farm.
    And...an awful lot of recordings have been DI-ninja'd without the band's knowledge, or the guitarist's. Mainly because studio engineers know how precious thin-stringed princesses can be about these things ;)
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • sgosdensgosden Frets: 720
      . I mean, presumably when sound engineers are micing up your cab and mixing the FoH sound they are trying to deliver the sound of your guitar cab to the audience.

    Depends on the venue, and time constraints. For a decent venue, when you get a sound check, then yeah chances are the FOH will move the mic placement a bit, but that tends to be to suit the sound of the room.

    majority of smaller venues or the dog&duck, when FOH have got 30 minutes to check 4 bands before doors open... they just need some sort of signal coming through their mics to put through PA.

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  • olafgartenolafgarten Frets: 1432
    I think the issue with modelling is that traditional guitar amps are in a way 'broken'. You are basically getting a signal and putting it through a series of tubes, sometimes at a high enough level to run them out of spec, and then it goes to a rubbish speaker with limited range.

    Tubes are funny as well, as they are completely analog and rely on physical processes, their operation can depend entirely on atmospheric noise and this is almost impossible to model.

    It's also difficult to model the interaction between speaker and amp without developing some sort of smart speaker that could programmatically adjust the way it operates and in this way through communication between the speaker and amp, we could get a more realistic output. 
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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 13243
    Yeah, that is true. And my needs are very simple and I don't like too many options so I don't feel the benefit of the flexibility of most modellers.

    I posted the below video on another thread here but it highlights the point...for me, the best sounding ones are the ones that sound most like a guitar cab. Are the other ones trying to sound more like a guitar cab too? Coz they really don't. I mean, presumably when sound engineers are micing up your cab and mixing the FoH sound they are trying to deliver the sound of your guitar cab to the audience. So, in the same way, should we not be expecting the sounds out of these FRFR solutions to be 'as good as' your backline?

    I suppose once we do get that, everyone will switch to modelling/FRFR.
    None of them sound like a guitar cab, apart from the Line 6 Powercab - when it's being used properly. Why? Because microphones aren't ideal sound detection devices with entirely flat responses. They affect the tone as much as the choice of speaker does.


    I mean, presumably when sound engineers are micing up your cab and mixing the FoH sound they are trying to deliver the sound of your guitar cab to the audience. 
    No. they're trying to get a sound into the desk that's ideal for the way they want to work with it which results in the best overall sound getting into the audience's ears. Generally speaking, that's not particularly related to the sound that the guitarist wants to get from their amp/cab.
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 35500
    digitalscream said:

    It's really about understanding which bits are volume-dependent and which bits aren't. You obviously do, but an awful lot of people don't seem to get that the "boom" you get when you've got pretty much any well-set-up amp at gig volume simply isn't going to happen at home volumes, no matter what you use.
    That's very true. You might actually be able to get it closer with modelling and headphones, simply because you can get the apparent volume up to the same levels. Personally I hate playing through headphones... but modelling may have an advantage exactly because there is always a small amount of latency, which mirrors what you get when you're standing a little further from a real amp - there's a delay of about 1mS per foot purely due to the speed of sound.
    "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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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 13243
    ICBM said:
    digitalscream said:

    It's really about understanding which bits are volume-dependent and which bits aren't. You obviously do, but an awful lot of people don't seem to get that the "boom" you get when you've got pretty much any well-set-up amp at gig volume simply isn't going to happen at home volumes, no matter what you use.
    That's very true. You might actually be able to get it closer with modelling and headphones, simply because you can get the apparent volume up to the same levels. Personally I hate playing through headphones... but modelling may have an advantage exactly because there is always a small amount of latency, which mirrors what you get when you're standing a little further from a real amp - there's a delay of about 1mS per foot purely due to the speed of sound.
    You can get closer to the apparent volume, but then you lose the environmental reflections - which are also massively important, IMO. Your brain expects them to be there, so when they're not...uncanny valley.
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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