The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

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Mats Eriksson
KVRist
67 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:59 am

telecode wrote:
Tue Aug 13, 2019 2:43 am
Sorry, can you explain what does this mean?
Obfuscation = bewilderment, confusion, obstruction, to cover up, hide something else, strutting about something else that doesn't really matters, and general smokes and mirrors.

I would make an analogy to Guitar Rig 4 when it came out. Huge amount of Room miking and placement and 6-8 fader mixers of 6-8 different mics in the same room at different angles, and wow.... spent some weekend with that. Then when put together with a dense band mix, and tried to overdub and track solos, it was all ending up a mere "pfft" anyway. So one went down the rabbit hole again, and tried and tried to get EQ working, different mic placing again for the uptenth time, spent definitely more time fiddling and tinkering and less than 10 percent playing. And one marveled at all the options and that anal retentive detail of every aspect of the sound. What a major feat, they've come up with. Then I put just a Shure mike in front of my 1x12 Peavey Bandit (I kid you not) at mild levels, and got the sound within a split second. Then it came to me "Why bother?".

I e in like this: If you have a well articulate sound from guitar and fingers from the start on, and record through a real amp/cab, chances are that you will dabble with all post-processing much less. I did.

All these options steals a lot of time, and in the end, when you've tried it all, all of the settings and possibilities is but a cul de sac. It doesn't get actually better, just different. I remember one at the Guitar Rig Forum once asked the question "Doesn't it all has some kind of sameness to it?" and he took a lot of flak and heat. But deep down, I kind of, agreed with him. There's a certain overall flavor to each of each manufacturers amp sims. That shines through after a while. Whether one can cope with this or not, is a personal preference. I don't mind it though, but wouldn't solely rely on it all of the time, 100 percent. I've discovered less listening fatigue creeping in with real amps, than amp sims.

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
67 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:10 am

Anderton wrote:
Tue Aug 13, 2019 9:21 am
I think there is an inherent difference between an amp and a model. An amp derives its sound from physical elements, whereas the amp depends on electronic elements.
:? :ud: :roll:
So a real amp hasn't got any electronic elements?
So you can have electronics without having electricity?
Or electricity without having electronics?

Please, educate me, it's definitely something I've missed. I you mean that electrical and electronic engineering may sound different, but they are not that very different. The main difference between electrical and electronic circuits is that electrical circuits have no decision making (processing) capability, whilst electronic circuits do. An electric circuit simply powers machines with electricity. But lo and behold electronics doesn't work without electricity. But as you seem to have forgotten the amp SIM (the SIM word you left out) I am still in limbo, and confused of which one of them you meant.

User avatar
Anderton
KVR Expert
94 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:13 am

reggie1979 wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 12:31 pm
I like the Kuassa stuff (RE's here) but they require oversampling to not have horrible aliasing and can get a little CPU intensive with that setting.
Here's a tip. Oversampling is pretty much equivalent to starting a project at a higher sample rate, like 96 or 192 kHz. However, higher sample rates have their own limitations, like stressing out your computer more and/or allowing you to stream less audio. So we often need to record at 44.1 kHz.

However it's possible to obtain the benefits of high sample rates at 44.1 kHz. Export the guitar track and save the sim preset. Open a project at 96 or 192 kHz. Import the track, insert the amp sim, and choose the preset.

Render the audio at the higher sample rate. Now you have an audio file that's free of aliasing because the amp sim sound has been converted to audio at the oversampled rate. Most modern DAWs will sample-rate-convert the file when you bring it into a 44.1 kHz project, or you can convert the sample rate externally prior to importing. Because you're no longer dependent on generating the guitar sound "in the box," it won't generate harmonics that cause aliasing.

This can affect more than just aliasing. In one amp sim, the reverb image "wandered" at 44.1 kHz. Rendering it at 96 kHz anchored the image properly in the stereo field.

If you're interested in high-resolution audio, there's a video of a seminar I did on the subject that touches on why sometimes higher sample rates matter, but most of the time, they don't.

https://youtu.be/1yHjEoQrIhQ
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

guitarzan
KVRian
1148 posts since 3 Sep, 2005 from Outer Bongolia

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:16 am

Anderton wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:57 am
I stopped using guitar amps in 1968 and went over to keyboard amps. At the time, tube quality was going downhill. But also, I was concentrating more and more on getting "my sound" independent of the amp, which is something I've continued to refine over the years.
Ah, well there you go. There's nothing that behaves more not-like-a-guitar-amp than an amp modeler. Perfect tool for you! So Helix has six bands of no-power-amp you say?

User avatar
telecode
KVRian
1012 posts since 24 Mar, 2015 from Toronto, Canada

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:23 am

Mats Eriksson wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:59 am
telecode wrote:
Tue Aug 13, 2019 2:43 am
Sorry, can you explain what does this mean?
Obfuscation = bewilderment, confusion, obstruction, to cover up, hide something else, strutting about something else that doesn't really matters, and general smokes and mirrors.

I would make an analogy to Guitar Rig 4 when it came out. Huge amount of Room miking and placement and 6-8 fader mixers of 6-8 different mics in the same room at different angles, and wow.... spent some weekend with that. Then when put together with a dense band mix, and tried to overdub and track solos, it was all ending up a mere "pfft" anyway. So one went down the rabbit hole again, and tried and tried to get EQ working, different mic placing again for the uptenth time, spent definitely more time fiddling and tinkering and less than 10 percent playing. And one marveled at all the options and that anal retentive detail of every aspect of the sound. What a major feat, they've come up with. Then I put just a Shure mike in front of my 1x12 Peavey Bandit (I kid you not) at mild levels, and got the sound within a split second. Then it came to me "Why bother?".

I e in like this: If you have a well articulate sound from guitar and fingers from the start on, and record through a real amp/cab, chances are that you will dabble with all post-processing much less. I did.

All these options steals a lot of time, and in the end, when you've tried it all, all of the settings and possibilities is but a cul de sac. It doesn't get actually better, just different. I remember one at the Guitar Rig Forum once asked the question "Doesn't it all has some kind of sameness to it?" and he took a lot of flak and heat. But deep down, I kind of, agreed with him. There's a certain overall flavor to each of each manufacturers amp sims. That shines through after a while. Whether one can cope with this or not, is a personal preference. I don't mind it though, but wouldn't solely rely on it all of the time, 100 percent. I've discovered less listening fatigue creeping in with real amps, than amp sims.
I agree with the sameness comment. I will even say there seems to be sameness in amp sims between different vendors . I can hear a difference, but it's very slight. I think someone who doesn't play guitar won't be able to tell the difference at all. I suspect, once you put that electric guitar sound into a mix with other instruments, it becomes quite hard to tell a difference.
Just a keep on a goin' a forward, without a single ounce of fear

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Anderton
KVR Expert
94 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:40 am

Mats Eriksson wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:10 am
Anderton wrote:
Tue Aug 13, 2019 9:21 am
I think there is an inherent difference between an amp and a model. An amp derives its sound from physical elements, whereas the amp depends on electronic elements.
:? :ud: :roll:
So a real amp hasn't got any electronic elements?
So you can have electronics without having electricity?
Or electricity without having electronics?

Please, educate me, it's definitely something I've missed. I you mean that electrical and electronic engineering may sound different, but they are not that very different. The main difference between electrical and electronic circuits is that electrical circuits have no decision making (processing) capability, whilst electronic circuits do. An electric circuit simply powers machines with electricity. But lo and behold electronics doesn't work without electricity. But as you seem to have forgotten the amp SIM (the SIM word you left out) I am still in limbo, and confused of which one of them you meant.
Well first of all, no wonder you're confused...I meant to say "I think there is an inherent difference between an amp and a model. An amp derives its sound from physical elements, whereas the model depends on electronic elements." To clarify...by "deriving its sound from physical elements," I'm referring to aspects like the cabinet (basically a very complex passive filter), tubes (characteristics like the Miller effect due to physical limitations), the response of transformers, etc. All of these physical components have attributes that are very complex, and although manufacturers might disagree, I feel those attributes are currently beyond the capabilities of the algorithms and computing power needed to model these effects exactly.

The Miller effect is a good example. The parasitic capacitance between an active device's output and input changes at different signal levels, and limits high frequency response at higher gains. Of course it's not impossible to model this, but the variables involved are challenging if you want to create an exact software analog to a physical device.

Another good example is the input transformers on mixing consoles. If you analyze the way they distort at low frequencies, and the midrange ringing inductors contribute, it's extremely complex. Some "console emulators" capture a snapshot of the transformer's characteristics, but have a difficult time changing based on input levels and such. Physical devices like rotating speakers are far more complex than any rotating speaker processor.

A final example is the LED-based transient control circuit I use on guitars to limit peaks going into digital devices, or as distortion elements. True, an LED is an "electronic" device but in these contexts, it's basically passive - its characteristics are extremely complex, and that's what produces the desired effect. For example, the junction capacitance changes depending on how much current you're pushing through it. When Steinberg did the plug-in version of my Quadrafuzz, they spent a huge amount of effort not just emulating the clipping characteristics of LEDs, they also created "virtual LED" characteristics of LEDs that didn't exist in the physical world (which was pretty cool).

Again, I'm not saying it's impossible to model these variables. But to model all the variables introduced by physical systems is daunting, because effects produced by physical means are inherently extremely complex.

Does that make more sense now?
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

User avatar
Anderton
KVR Expert
94 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:49 am

guitarzan wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:16 am
Anderton wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:57 am
I stopped using guitar amps in 1968 and went over to keyboard amps. At the time, tube quality was going downhill. But also, I was concentrating more and more on getting "my sound" independent of the amp, which is something I've continued to refine over the years.
Ah, well there you go. There's nothing that behaves more not-like-a-guitar-amp than an amp modeler. Perfect tool for you! So Helix has six bands of no-power-amp you say?
Four bands, not six.

As I've said before, but I suppose it bears repeating...I have amps. I have tubes. I use them when I want a standard guitar amp sound. I use modelers to get sounds that are difficult, or impossible, to obtain otherwise. And frankly, I like many of them more than the sound of traditional amps.

And yes, in that context, the Helix is the most suitable amp sim for the "CGI guitar" sounds I'm trying to obtain. However, there are also sims that I feel are more nuanced in how they emulate traditional amps, and I'll be covering those as well. I use all this stuff...just as each amp is different, so is each amp sim.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
67 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:49 am

yes more sense thank you...

User avatar
Anderton
KVR Expert
94 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:59 am

Mats Eriksson wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:49 am
yes more sense thank you...
Well you're a smart guy, so I appreciate the dialog. :) I'll try to preview my drafts better in the future!
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

User avatar
Anderton
KVR Expert
94 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 9:05 am

My last post for today...this isn't directed at anyone in particular, but relates to general forum comments I've seen about plug-ins.

Technology has limits, and there are tradeoffs. I've seen so many comments about virtual instruments along the lines of "It sounds great, but I can't run more than one instance before my computer gives up." Well, the two are related...

So I'm not going to shame any amp sim manufacturers because something doesn't sound or feel exactly like an amp. They're doing the best they can with the tools that are available, and dealing with a very competitive market. Instead, I'll compliment them for providing us with an amazing set of tools that opens up many possibilities for guitarists who want to go beyond traditional sounds. It's not like for every amp sim sold, a tube amp dies :) I think they actually get along quite well.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

guitarzan
KVRian
1148 posts since 3 Sep, 2005 from Outer Bongolia

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 9:33 am

Anderton wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:40 am
Again, I'm not saying it's impossible to model these variables. But to model all the variables introduced by physical systems is daunting, because effects produced by physical means are inherently extremely complex.
I don't think it's necessary to model every detail — but twenty years in and there is still basically no representation of the output dynamics of a tube amp seems just plain lazy to me. They are supposed to be amp sims, but they are really just pre-amp-plus sims. IR's have been a good to great placeholder for a true dynamic speaker simulation - but just letting the signal go flat squarewave against the rails is no simulation at all of the way a vintage tube power amp works (and yes, many of us luddites go on with the expectation that an amp sim is intended to simulate an amp).
Last edited by guitarzan on Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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telecode
KVRian
1012 posts since 24 Mar, 2015 from Toronto, Canada

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:51 am

My own personal take on this, it's a sim and a piece of software. Not a real amp . So its a different tool as far as I am concerned. just like a drum machine is a different tool than a set of gretsch drums. The tool can does different things but can in some respects replicate what the drum set can do, but it's not really the same thing.

I use the amp sims because they are convenient and handy to use.
Just a keep on a goin' a forward, without a single ounce of fear

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guitarzan
KVRian
1148 posts since 3 Sep, 2005 from Outer Bongolia

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:12 pm

telecode wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:51 am
My own personal take on this, it's a sim and a piece of software. Not a real amp . So its a different tool as far as I am concerned. just like a drum machine is a different tool than a set of gretsch drums. The tool can does different things but can in some respects replicate what the drum set can do, but it's not really the same thing.

I use the amp sims because they are convenient and handy to use.
But the only reason there is no power amp dynamics in amp sims is because they have not even tried to model the power amp in a serious way. There is nothing there but smoke, mirrors, and a bit of compression (on the better modelers — many have no dynamics for the power amp, no power amp basically). I put many hours and even years into trying to get somebody to do this because I know it would take modeled amps to a much higher level. This is not a subtlety — overdriven vintage power amp dynamics are seriously AFU in the greatest way possible....and to have control over the nature of those kinds of dynamics would open up the guitar to a whole new world. I've been whipping this horse for many years now, but I'm still not ready to call it dead.

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donkey tugger
Boss Lovin' DR
6074 posts since 15 Mar, 2002 from the grimness of yorkshire

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:55 pm

Is it a blues rock/widdler/metel thing? I've somehow managed to go 35 years without knowing me preamp from me power amp. Probably doing it wrong. :scared:

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audiojunkie
KVRAF
2871 posts since 19 Apr, 2002 from Utah

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:56 pm

Anderton wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:57 am
audiojunkie wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:51 pm
So as a little bump to my comment:
Also, as far as modeling goes, what speakers/cabs is everyone using? Personally, I'm of the opinion that FRFR is not really an accurate term. Full Range makes sense, but flat response doesn't. Nothing is truly flat, and many manufacturers claim to have their FRFR "tuned" for guitar, or they have a contour button in the back (most speakers do). That says right there that they aren't really flat response. And yet, manufacturers claim that people shouldn't use PA speakers. Now, I understand that some PA speakers can be contoured for DJs with heaving bass and top end, but with a speaker with a "somewhat" flat contour, it should work just as well as any of these FRFR speakers. The same goes with keyboard amps or acoustic instrument amps. I had been thinking seriously about picking up a Roland KC-400 for simple small room performances (It's full range and has a built-in 4 channel mixer) and to use it as my modeling speaker as well. In the end, I decided to get the Headrush FRFR-112, because it bypasses the mic preamp that the sister speaker (Alto TS312) uses, and mixer preamps the KC-400 uses--which will give my modeled preamps a less colored sound. But it all comes back to the inaccuracy of the term FRFR. Since there are pretty much no amps that are truly flat response, the term should really be something different and more meaningful, such as Full Range, Uncolored Response or Full Range, Uncolored & Contoured for Guitar Response, etc. So, what is everyone using?
I'd love to hear people's opinions on this....
Well, you asked... :)

I stopped using guitar amps in 1968 and went over to keyboard amps. At the time, tube quality was going downhill. But also, I was concentrating more and more on getting "my sound" independent of the amp, which is something I've continued to refine over the years.

While it's true that no amp is truly flat, the reality is that today's portable PA systems (e.g., QSC, JBL, Cerwin-Vega, etc.) have internal DSP that tunes the system to match the cabinet. The response is about as close to flat as you can get in the real world, and that's what I want...the advantage of a flat system is that your sound will be the same in the studio or live. Check out the frequency response graphs for QSC CP speakers, they're pretty darn close to flat.

As to the term FRFR, technically it's true that no powered speaker is going to be ruler-flat, but it states the design goal and what a company is trying to accomplish. I've used PA speakers with sims, if you choose the right speaker (i.e., not designed to hype certain frequencies) they're fine. But, it does place the entire responsibility for getting your sound within the amp sim.

I have some guitar amps for recording, but rarely use them. I visited Michael Wagener a while ago, and he was selling most of his amps because a Kemper did what he needed in the studio. But for live use, I'll take a powered speaker any time. That way I know the sound I got in the studio will be the same sound I'll get live.

Frankly I'm not very particular about what I use, because almost anything can be tweaked to get the sound I want eventually. But if I start with a flat response system, I'll be able to get the sound I want much faster - the only compensation needs to be for any variations among systems. And there are other considerations...for example in my "power duo" with Public Enemy bandleader Brian Hardgroove, I used a Bose L1 because I could hold the guitar parallel to the column, and get great feedback effects...and send the line outs to the FOH mixer. Fun times!
You make excellent points! Thank you for your response! :)
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