So, which is it?

Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 781Member
So, which is it? Valves or modelling amps? Analogue or digital?

Comments

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,702Member

    I plug a Telecaster directly into a 30 watt valve amp. That works for me, although sometimes I wish I could keep things simpler :-)

  • LesterLester Posts: 1,679Member, Moderator

    I agree with Derek: a guitar straight into a valve amp as there is a full-bodied warmth and presence to the sound that takes some beating.

    A friend has a Takamine acoustic with a tube preamp in the guitar. Through his solid state amp it sounds lovely. My Takamine acoustic with an ordinary preamp sound equally lovely when I play it through a valve amp. My conclusion is that if a tube is somewhere in the signal chain then the sound is likely to have that loveliness about it.

  • Pete_BPete_B Posts: 562Member
    Screaming Dave posted:

    So, which is it? Valves or modelling amps? Analogue or digital?

    How big is your wallet?

    There is no Mojo!
  • AlidoreAlidore Posts: 528Member
    Screaming Dave posted:

    So, which is it? Valves or modelling amps? Analogue or digital?

    How big is your wallet?

    Pete.

    “There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't.”
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,085Member, Moderator

    My Vox AD50VT is a modelling amp with a valve stage. I think it sounds great.

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,190Member

    I guess I'm a solid state amp plus pedals kind of chap. All I really require from an amp is that it can do a good clean tone (for me that's a warm tone but with a bit of edge) at whatever volume I need, and that it's reasonably portable. If I'm using any kind of distortion/overdrive, I get it with pedals, and all my pedals go in front of the amp i.e. no use of an effects loop. As of yet, using overdrive is a fairly rare event for me, but I'm working on it. Some of the overdrive/distortion pedals available these days seem pretty good to me.

    My main amp is a Polytone Minibrute 2, which is a great jazz amp I got in the mid 90s. I also have a Roland Cube 80XL modelling amp as a backup - I normally just use the clean channel on that (a model of a Roland Jazz Chorus amp). And I also have an old Yamaha G50 112 amp, which is another solid state combo amp known to be good for jazz use - it sounds quite Fender Twin-ish to my ears. I could use it for gigs, but it's a little bigger and less portable than the other two, so I thinking I'll have it permanently set up in my practice room, when I get that sorted out.

    I don't deny the benefits of a good valve amp, but convenience tends to steer me towards solid state stuff, and for jazz there are some great-sounding solid state amps out there anyway.

  • SmartySmarty Posts: 403Member

    Depends on what sort of tone you're after I guess. Jazz and Country - I'd probably favour solid state, for anything else - valve tends to sound nicer. 

    I've yet to play any modelling amp that actually sounded like a valve amp. 

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 781Member

    I haven't played through a modelling amp seriously for over a decade now, so I'm probably a bit behind with how the technology has progressed.  I had a Line 6 Flextone II XL way back in the day, which I'd traded my Peavey Classic 30 for, but I was never truly happy with it.  it didn't seem to have enough dynamic range to really cut through.  It was as if the sound was very compressed.  So I slunk back under my stone to my valves and never came out again!

    My lad is always talking about a thing called a Kemper which apparently clones any amp set up you have.  I guess it's connected in parallel to the amp rig and then "learns" the algorithm.  But is seems to me that if you have the set-up then just use it.  I guess if you're a session man or playing live with an artist them you may need more rigs than you really care to take on tour, but still .....

    I think the big advantage with modelling amps is that you can get such a huge range of sounds out of one little box, and couple that with the fact that most modelling amps also have a shed load of FX on board as well makes it a pretty attractive proposition, especially for beginners who really have no idea initially what sort of sound they want.

    Me, I'm so analogue it hurts .....

  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    If you're a session man most decent studios will have a whole range of house amps anyway.

    I've got a bunch of amp modelling on my recording set-up.  I've never even been tempted to enter the top level menu.  I've said this on previous threads that covers the subject of sound - It's my belief that 70-80% of a guitarist's sound come from the fingers and phrasing, not the sound reinforcement.  Put Clapton on Jimmy Page's guitar and rig and Clapton will still sound like Clapton.  And vice versa.

    Cheers, Reg.

  • SteerSteer Posts: 132Member

    You could get a valve amp with a clean and dirty channel. Use the clean channel for pedal driven amp sims, and the dirty channel for traditional onboard valve sounds.

  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 949Member

    I have used all sorts, once recorded it's hard to tell an overdrive guitar in digital from an overdriven valve amp once it's in the mix. That's also true in the mic'd up live world.

    BUT a great valve amp (not all of them by any stretch of the imagination) will have a dynamic and an extra dimension to the sound that just doesn't exist in digital. A great clean, or crunch valve amp cannot be replicated imho. The players response and feedback is just so much more. Until you experience it you can't know.

    Last week we did a one day session in a great studio that cares about the sound. As they mic'd up my vintage valve amp they did all the precautions to negate a crap sound and I told them they didn't need to do that the sound itself would be wonderful. We blew through a track to get levels and they came back in and took away all the paraphernalia leaving just a single mic on the 1x10" cab, no compression or anything. They said it's the easiest guitar mic job ever, I smiled because it has happened so many times before.

    An amplifier is well over half the tone of an electric guitar, select carefully and you will know the difference.

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 781Member
    Reg Sox posted:

    - It's my belief that 70-80% of a guitarist's sound come from the fingers and phrasing, not the sound reinforcement.  Put Clapton on Jimmy Page's guitar and rig and Clapton will still sound like Clapton.  And vice versa.

    Cheers, Reg.

    I couldn't agree more.  I personally think that for live work the overall groove of the song is the important thing, and it bugs me when guitarists keep changing guitar every other song - I remember seen Spandau Ballet and Gary Kemp had a different guitar for just about every song, but he still sounded rubbish!  Just find a good gigging guitar and a couple of good tones and go out and play.  Save the multiple guitar/amp set-ups for the studio.  You'll still sound like you!

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,190Member
    ESBlonde posted:

    BUT a great valve amp (not all of them by any stretch of the imagination) will have a dynamic and an extra dimension to the sound that just doesn't exist in digital. A great clean, or crunch valve amp cannot be replicated imho. The players response and feedback is just so much more. Until you experience it you can't know.

    Playing devil's advocate, I have to ask is there any reason in principle why a modelling amp couldn't manage to replicate that valve response you're talking about? I would have thought if the digital representation is fine/detailed enough, then it should be possible. Digital modelling is only going to keep improving - I haven't tried them, so I don't know how good the latest top-line modelling thingies like the Line 6 Helix, AxeFX etc. are. They do seem to have got to the stage where quite a few players are persuaded enough to be going that way, judging by threads on thefretboard.co.uk forum.

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 781Member

    I think the problem is that you can't measure any rig's response to all possible nuances of playing style, so it's always going to be a bit of a compromise.  I personally think that modelling amps are a long way off from being able to reproduce that "touch sensitivity" that a valve amp does, but I could be wrong.  It'd be interesting to do a blind test to see if I really could tell the difference.  I certainly wouldn't bet the farm on the outcome ....

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,190Member

    I don't like the word "can't" for things like this Dave - a valve amp is a limited system, so in theory it could be approximated digitally, and if that approximation is close enough, then it would be indistinguishable - or so it seems to me. I'm happy to concede we may still be some way off that point. Like you, I'd be interested to do some kind of back to back bling testing, with top notch gear from both camps. Not about to spend several grand on gear to find out though... image

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,190Member

    Of course I mean't to type "blind" testing above, but thought I'd leave the typo as I found it a bit amusing...

  • AlidoreAlidore Posts: 528Member
    Pete.

    “There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't.”
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 781Member
    Megi posted:

    I don't like the word "can't" for things like this Dave - a valve amp is a limited system, so in theory it could be approximated digitally, and if that approximation is close enough, then it would be indistinguishable - or so it seems to me. I'm happy to concede we may still be some way off that point. Like you, I'd be interested to do some kind of back to back bling testing, with top notch gear from both camps. Not about to spend several grand on gear to find out though...

    I agree with you in principal.  From an audience's point of view the sound would be indistinguishable.  Sadly, when my band plays live there ain't one person out there gives a hoot about my guitar tone: they're listening to the overall vibe and the feel of the song.  But I think modelling amps feel very different to play and that's what I think would be very hard to recreate, and that's what I'd be interested in testing.  If my boy ever gets his Kemper I'll get it to "recreate" my rig and then do a blindfold test to see if I can tell the difference - I'll report back in a few years' time!

  • LesterLester Posts: 1,679Member, Moderator
    Megi posted:

    ... is there any reason in principle why a modelling amp couldn't manage to replicate that valve response ...?

    I just happen to be studying Philip Newell's book Recording Studio Design. Chapter 19 is discussing the sound from monitors, ie. speakers and amplifliers. Mr. Newell says that valves tend to produce even-order harmonics which are more musical because they are fifths and octaves of the sound. However, because musical instruments produce their own harmonics and usually more than one note is being played, harmonics are produced as a sum of and also the difference between the frequencies of the notes. These are called inter-modulation frequencies and get more complicated as the musical intervals can be 2nds, 4ths and more in addition to 5ths and octaves.

    To address Megi's question, it seems that a number of people have been studying and measuring sound for long enough that we are increasing our understanding and ablity to recreate situations. From my reading of this book and others I get the impression that products like Kemper and modelling amps are a good way down the right road but we do not have enough understanding for them to do what the adverts try to lead us to believe. Come back in a year or two or ten and the level of knowledge and ability of solid-state amps will have improved and be ever getting closer to that of a valve amp.

    It seems to have been such a wonderful blessing that valves, such an old-fashioned technology, just happens to naturally compress sounds in a most pleasing way and then when they do distort they tend to produce harmonic (ie. complementary sounding) distortion.

  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    I'd observe that being an analogue device valves have no latency and smooth response curves up until final breakdown.  The more digital stuff you put into system the more delay that gets introduced, from both A to D and D to A conversion, and the actual signal processing.  An additional factor is that if you try to keep it all digital as far as possible, as you move between different pieces of kit bit loss will occur while the equipment synchs on the signal - I'm assuming here that lower cost kit of the sort of stuff we'd generally use doesn't have a master clock generator - apologies if I've got that a bit cock-eyed as my signal processing theory comes out of a working life spent in telecommunications rather than music processing.

    I know the theory says that with a high enough sampling rate the human ear can't tell the difference between digitally and analogue processed sound.  In fact analogue is likely to generate slightly more background noise.  However, there's enough subjective evidence to suggest that at the subconscious level many people just prefer analogue.  I know myself that if I play an old analog recorded piece of vinyl and then play the same thing digitally remastered on CD the old vinyl sounds better even if it does have hiss, farts, and buzzes.  I can't tell you exactly why, but it just always seems to have more auditory "space"  I can't explain it better than that, or more quantitatively.  Maybe it's what Lester is talking about.  Digital is binary.  It's on or off, and as you get into the reaches of the higher harmonics perhaps digital just doesn't capture it, but with analogue sound the subconscious does.

    I guess that lack of quantification is what always leads to accusations of music listening snobbery.  As someone with more of a scientific rather than artistic leaning I feel I really should be able to quantify the difference in terms of clear measurement, but I can't and it frustrates the hell out of me!

    Cheers, Reg.

  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,314Member

    I enjoyed reading through all this thread, if only to be happy that with my current minimal amount of electric guitar playing it doesn't cause me any worries or GAS pangs! Hooray!

    The best sort of amp is one that results in you playing most creatively. It doesn't matter whether it's solid state, modelling or valve - if it makes you play and create better it'll work better on a musical level.

    The amp that makes you play most creatively will presumably be strongly influenced by the type of music you play and the way you play the guitar. It will also depend on where you play. Having been through a few valve amps I would agree they have a reactive quality that is a big plus if you have the skill to make it sound good, but if you're not gigging or playing somewhere that volume is an issue they lose any special edge and can become a liability. Have become a liability in fact.

    Maybe it's just me but I've found that modelling amps and pedals towards the lower end of the price range seem to be getting worse rather than better, while the top level ones apparently keep improving. Probably because I don't like playing heavily distorted an fx laden guitar. Get the impression that's the target audience for the gear manufacturers.

    I've gone off expensive gear - only any use if you're good enough to get the benefit from it!

    Very difficult to lump all valve amps, or modelling amps, or solid state amps together as a generic good/bad, better/worse comparison. I've had chalk and cheese good and awful solid state amps. I had and have again a humble Fender Super Champ XD modeller. In between, due to a fault and a warranty replacement , I had a Super Champ X2, billed as an upgrade and better than the XD. Loved the XD, and the later XD, and absolutely hated the X2 with a passion - very similar controls and types of amps modelled but the X2 sounded cheap and harsh and the build also seemed cheap. The X2 had the wonder of Fuse Software to tweak the modelling too as a selling point, but whatever I did it still sounded awful.

  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 949Member

    One of the aspects that makes valve amps sound and feel different is their interaction with the loudspeaker load. On a valve amp this has to be via an output transformer. It is possible to create solid state without an output transformer and therefore save weight and significant cost, so nearly all of them are like this. There are some solid state amps that do have the more organic sound and reputation like the Roland JC120 or the Gibson/Moog LAB series among others (I had the pleasure of using a very rare early Burnham solid state combo in the early 70s that was very lively).

    And just because an amplifier has valves and an output transformer doesn't guarantee it will sound sweet and organic and growl and sing, to my ears many don't. However this might be because they are biased too hot or too cold or they obtain the overdrive in a particular part of the circuit. The Bias can be fixed of some amps by a good tech.

    It was also noted above that the harmonic distortion in valves has a more natural sound to it rather than the 'edgy' harshness of solid state. That edgy harshness is a very usable sound (like the fuzz in the carpenters Goodbye to Love or many of the early 70s teeny pop hits). Many of the early 'Rock' sounds we like to think of as Les Paul driving a Marshall stack turn out to be a Strat, overdrive pedal and fender combo (Think things like Bad Co Can't get enough).

    Can digital emulate valve? The advances in our understanding of sound and the leaps in digital technology have been stunning over the last 20 years or so, the cost keeps coming down. I believe the 'sound' of a digital guitar within the mix can sound good enough and even to those with 'golden ears' hard to distinguish. But digital doesn't yet do nice clean electric guitar that stands up to scrutiny, luckily most country, pop or even jazz incorporates a small amount of clip type distortion so for many it might be a none issue. There are however a number of boutique amplifier makers supplying a demand for that certain something (I'm not convinced they have all found it mind you). To my ears digital guitar amplification does cause listening fatigue, but just about every modern PA/sound system in use today uses digital processing and that doesn't seem to have the same effect, they are after all looking for absolute clarity whereas the guitar amp simms are not.

    In the end the array of sounds available are wide and should be drawn on to create YOUR sound, Don't be dictated to by the manufacturers and current trends (unless you are a covers/tribute band), and surround yourself with the tools you like to define your sound. Remember you can always take away the sweet open dynamics of a 'good' valve amp with a fuzz box and further compression but you can't add it into an already sterile mush. You pays ya money n' takes ya choice.

    And rest!

     

  • merlinmerlin Posts: 92Member

    My concern about modelling amps is that they seem to discourage players from really finding their own sound. One of the biggest selling points of these type of digital contraptions (note the disparaging tone in my typing) is that you can sound like anyone playing anything. Press preset 1 for a Stevie Wonder song, preset 2 for Led Zeppelin cover etc etc. And they seem to be designed for those wanting to play in covers bands and wanting to emulate other players. 

    I try to find my own path and my own sound. That doesn't mean I'm right, it simply means that I play Music for a different reason than sounding like all the others. 

    So I love the sound of my Vox AC15, and I love single coils through it. Not because X or Y does, but because that's what I dig. I love it when people take bold steps to be themselves in a World where emulation and conventionalism seem to be paramount.  If I could get the sound and feel and growl and twang and bite and poke from a light-weight modelling amp, then I probably would...sadly I haven't found it yet. 

    I'm willing to be convinced though! 

  • LesterLester Posts: 1,679Member, Moderator

    Merlin, I'm with you but I also remember when I was a pre-teenager just starting out and at that time all I wanted to do was to sound like every guitar player that inspired me. In time I found my own voice but I can well understand that amp manufacturers probably make a lot of their revenues from selling a ton of gear suitable for use in a bedroom and lightweight modelling combos fit the bill. I think they are a great stepping stone.

  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 781Member

    I'm 100% with you on the "Stepping Stone" front, Lester.  I think modelling amps and digital effects with vast arrays of sounds are great for players of whatever level to try lots of sounds out, find the one that suits their style, and then go about refining their gear to improve that sound.  I guess if the sound you like is based on a Fender Champ with a 10" speaker then the next best move is to try out the real thing and see how you like that ...

  • waylonwaylon Posts: 44Member

    I like hybryd amps like this vox
    https://gb.muzyczny.pl/162206_...ic-guitar-combo.html
    But if i must choose, then i choose valve amps. Especially this one
    http://www.gear4music.com/Guit...-Amp-With-Reverb/EKI

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