Amp modellers vs real amps in studio settings

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I had a discussion with a producer regards a future recording project and I mentioned I'd just started working my way through a HX Stomp and wondered what he thought about using modelers in the studio. He just shook his head. He said he uses them now and again but always prefers not to as he just doesn't think they come close to the real thing when under scrutiny in a studio setting.

He does have a very nice collection of amps but I was a bit surprised at how dismissive he was of amp modellers. Is this still a widely held view?
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  • PolarityManPolarityMan Frets: 5479
    I dont think so. I'm a member of some production groups on facebook and the kemper is pretty universally praised and there are hundreds of anecdotes of bands being unable to tell the difference between their own amps and a kemper etc. 
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  • MusicwolfMusicwolf Frets: 1265
    camf said:
     I was a bit surprised at how dismissive he was of amp modellers. Is this still a widely held view?

    Opinions are like haemorrhoids, every asshole has one.

    I’ve read interviews in recording mags where some producers absolutely love Kempers but I’ve never seen a survey done which would tell you how opinion is divided.  If you like to work one way and this producer another then it’s a question as to where the power lies.  Is he a big name and you’re desperate to work with him?  Anyone can call themselves a Producer – what’s their track record?  If I was working with someone who’d had a string of hits and I admired their work then I’d be far more likely to respect their opinion.  If it was the chap up the road from me who runs a small studio and rehearsal space who calls himself a producer but is really the studio owner / house engineer then their opinion would carry far less weight and, should they choose to dig their heels in over a particular way of working, I’d likely take my custom elsewhere.

    Are you happy with the Helix or do you prefer his way?

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  • vasselmeyervasselmeyer Frets: 2990
    Split the signal into an amp and the modeller and record the parts on separate tracks. Get him to do a blind test.
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 27875
    camf said:
    I had a discussion with a producer regards a future recording project and I mentioned I'd just started working my way through a HX Stomp and wondered what he thought about using modelers in the studio. He just shook his head. He said he uses them now and again but always prefers not to as he just doesn't think they come close to the real thing when under scrutiny in a studio setting.

    He does have a very nice collection of amps but I was a bit surprised at how dismissive he was of amp modellers. Is this still a widely held view?
    What genre's does he usually work in?

    In metal using modellers is normal, even more typical than using hardware amps.
    Axe FX II/III and Kemper rule the roost, but Helix is common too.
    Devin Townsend did his last album with the Axe FX III, after having hired in a load of tube amps and then preferring the Axe FX III.

    If you are looking for 'on the edge' not quite clean guitar tones for rock/blues etc then yes I think real amps still have the edge providing you also have a great sounding room, good microphones, preamps and microphone technique- plus you can record at volume without pissing people off endlessly.

    Even still I take a dry out from the guitar for re-amping through a modeller when I need to.

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  • camfcamf Frets: 991
    Well, I'm not going to name names from what was a private conversation, as that would be a bit mean. He wasn't being arsey about it, just expressing his preference for amp and mic. I'm pretty sure he has a Kemper in the studio, but he also has a stellar line up of mics, preamps and a lovely old desk, which I guess affects your thinking on the subject. I was just interested to hear what folk who spent a lot of time in studios might think. I'm so new to using a modeller I don't have an opinion, but I've been impressed with the amp models and IRs I've listen to so far. 
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  • camfcamf Frets: 991
    octatonic said:

    If you are looking for 'on the edge' not quite clean guitar tones for rock/blues etc then yes I think real amps still have the edge providing you also have a great sounding room, good microphones, preamps and microphone technique- plus you can record at volume without pissing people off endlessly.

    Even still I take a dry out from the guitar for re-amping through a modeller when I need to.

    That tends to be the sounds I use, so it may have been said in this context, in reference to my playing style. He does have a really good room and has worked with quite a few big (although not huge) bands/artists. 
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 27875
    camf said:
    octatonic said:

    If you are looking for 'on the edge' not quite clean guitar tones for rock/blues etc then yes I think real amps still have the edge providing you also have a great sounding room, good microphones, preamps and microphone technique- plus you can record at volume without pissing people off endlessly.

    Even still I take a dry out from the guitar for re-amping through a modeller when I need to.

    That tends to be the sounds I use, so it may have been said in this context, in reference to my playing style. He does have a really good room and has worked with quite a few big (although not huge) bands/artists. 
    If you like his way of working then go for it.
    My production style is to work with the band the way they want to work.

    I'm not invalidating his way of working- we all have different preferences and perspectives and if you get the best mix from him working that way then job done.
    Certainly recording with tube amps is more fun too.
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  • camfcamf Frets: 991
    edited July 28
    @octatonic Yep, this discussion got too specific. I was really more interested in the general question of whether or not people think modellers hold up to the scrutiny of studio quality monitors and professional ears that listen these things day in day out. I guess it's pretty clear from the replies so far, that people think modellers stand up just fine.

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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 27875
    camf said:
    @octatonic Yep, this discussion got too specific. I was really more interested in the general question of whether or not people think modellers hold up to the scrutiny of studio quality monitors and professional ears that listen these things day in day out. I guess it's pretty clear from the replies so far, that people think modellers stand up just fine.

    Most people do.
    There is often a difference but it isn't always clear as to whether one sounds better or just different.
    http://uptheoctave.com
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  • andy_kandy_k Frets: 241
    Surely these days there is the option of doing both, with unlimited track counts.
    I would always get a DI of the guitar track anyway, the adage 'it is better to have it and not need it' is a very easy thing these days.
    I can understand having to choose if there are limited channels, and the workflow may suit this, but I don't think many people are limited to 16,24, 48 track recordings these days.
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  • mrleon83mrleon83 Frets: 111
    I think aside from the sound it’s the player interaction with an amp. I record direct using modelling but (IMO) I play better with an amp and I think it’s to do with the interaction and feel, maybe also that my monitors are 5inch the speaker in the guitar amp is 12.. naturally there’s more bottom end (a fair chunk would probably be removed I know).

    So my point is that modellers don’t nail the feel of an amp for me personally. Recorded, does really matter if the performance is decent (prob not as fun)  though ... 
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 919
    Most of the serious guitarists and producers I know love the Kemper but they see its role a bit differently. They'll get sounds and do the initial tracking by miking up great amps in a great room, and then when they've got the sound exactly as they want it, they'll profile it so that it's available within the Kemper, either for later overdubs or for live use.
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  • camfcamf Frets: 991
    Stuckfast said:
    Most of the serious guitarists and producers I know love the Kemper but they see its role a bit differently. They'll get sounds and do the initial tracking by miking up great amps in a great room, and then when they've got the sound exactly as they want it, they'll profile it so that it's available within the Kemper, either for later overdubs or for live use.
    Interesting. So far the worst thing about the HX Stomp is that it’s got me determined to get a Matchless or Bad Cat, knowing I don’t need to drag it out for every rehearsal.
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  • spark240spark240 Frets: 1483
    As the artist the producer should really use the sounds you are comfortable with whatever the source...if things arent working he can suggest other routes, ...maybe try a mix of both , ?


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  • PolarityManPolarityMan Frets: 5479
    octatonic said:
    camf said:
    @octatonic Yep, this discussion got too specific. I was really more interested in the general question of whether or not people think modellers hold up to the scrutiny of studio quality monitors and professional ears that listen these things day in day out. I guess it's pretty clear from the replies so far, that people think modellers stand up just fine.

    Most people do.
    There is often a difference but it isn't always clear as to whether one sounds better or just different.
    the original pod was all over commercial recordings so yeah i reckon the current gen modellers are just fine :)
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 11054
    I think some of it comes from people recording using modellers while listening on headphones.

    It says in the AxeFX manual specifically not to do this. 

    I think you do lose something by not having the acoustic coupling of the amp and guitar, but you can still do that with a modeller you just don't put a mic on the speaker.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 27875
    octatonic said:
    camf said:
    @octatonic Yep, this discussion got too specific. I was really more interested in the general question of whether or not people think modellers hold up to the scrutiny of studio quality monitors and professional ears that listen these things day in day out. I guess it's pretty clear from the replies so far, that people think modellers stand up just fine.

    Most people do.
    There is often a difference but it isn't always clear as to whether one sounds better or just different.
    the original pod was all over commercial recordings so yeah i reckon the current gen modellers are just fine :)
    Yeah agree- I did several records with the Pod Pro XT.
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  • camfcamf Frets: 991
    I think some of it comes from people recording using modellers while listening on headphones.

    It says in the AxeFX manual specifically not to do this. 

    I think you do lose something by not having the acoustic coupling of the amp and guitar, but you can still do that with a modeller you just don't put a mic on the speaker.
    So you have the amp in the room but take the signal direct from your modeller? Is that what you mean?
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 11054
    camf said:
    I think some of it comes from people recording using modellers while listening on headphones.

    It says in the AxeFX manual specifically not to do this. 

    I think you do lose something by not having the acoustic coupling of the amp and guitar, but you can still do that with a modeller you just don't put a mic on the speaker.
    So you have the amp in the room but take the signal direct from your modeller? Is that what you mean?

    The AxeFX manual suggests using studio monitors pointing at the guitar, but I've done it by recording DI guitar while playing through an amp before. I actually really like that way of working as I don't fart about trying to get tones when I just want to do a take.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • KeefyKeefy Frets: 828
    I think if you can achieve and record a sound that makes you want to play, go for it, however you do it.
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  • I think you can get great record sounds from pretty much any solution these days.

    Our first album was my Laney VH100R and Amplitube 2 - because the other guitarists DSL broke two days before our recording schedule.

    Our second album was Laney VH100R and Fryette Sig X. The recorded tones are okay, but they needed a lot of work to sit in the mix. I did some overdubs with Amplitube again, and no-one has ever noticed.

    Our third album was the same combo. But some of the cleans were again Amplitube 2 - no one has ever noticed.

    The upcoming album I went tits-to-the-walls. Other guitarist had his Diezel Hagen and my Diezel VH4 for some tones. Plugged into his Mesa 4x12. I had my VH4 and SigX plugged into his Mesa 4x12 and my Egnater 4x12 - both with V30's. We profiled the shit out of the setups too; to go with the other 100+ profiles we made of all of my other amps.

    Something happened in one of the projects where I lost all of the cleans for one song - DI's too - I think hard disk failure, but really not sure. So I re-recorded the DI's and sent them to my production mate who reamped them through the Kemper. They sound fantastic. You'd never know which song uses Kemper for cleans and which ones didn't.

    For studio work - after endless A/Bing and too-ing and fro-ing - I'm completely over the distinction. As long as it sounds good.

    I'm not quite there for live yet. I do still think real amps sound better. But the best I've heard so far was a Kemper running my own "amp only" profiles into a Seymour Duncan Powerstage 700. It was definitely usable. But that combo would make a formidable live touring setup. Use the backline cabs for stage monitoring, send a cab'd up signal to FOH for the mains.

    I am very interested in going that way for live.
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  • A related topic - the Digitech FreqOut - feedback/sustain emulation pedal. It's not real. Sounds fucking good though!! Used that a lot on the new album too.
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  • BarnezyBarnezy Frets: 1307
    edited July 29
    He clearly hasn't used a Line6 Spider. 

    Modelers are just trying to recreate the real thing. If you can use the real thing, why wouldn't you? 

    A modeler will never be as "real" as the real thing. Doesn't mean they don't sound good though. But then again, is good tone about sounding good, or is it sounding familiar with what we're used to? 
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  • camfcamf Frets: 991
    I've been enjoying reading all this and it's been very helpful, but I should have mentioned this was in the context of clean or edge-of-breakup tones. I think most people who use heavier sounds don't need any convincing that modelling offers lots of options to them, but there still seems to be a bit less enthusiasm regarding cleaner sounds. Or is that all in the past now?
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  • John_PJohn_P Frets: 2523
    camf said:
    I've been enjoying reading all this and it's been very helpful, but I should have mentioned this was in the context of clean or edge-of-breakup tones. I think most people who use heavier sounds don't need any convincing that modelling offers lots of options to them, but there still seems to be a bit less enthusiasm regarding cleaner sounds. Or is that all in the past now?
    I would say with the latest generation of modellers from the big brands, it's fine.  I've been happy with the clean and edgy sounds I was getting from a fractal and wouldn't have said that from a pod xt, although even that wasn't horrific and probably fine in a mix or live. 
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  • Barnezy said:
    A modeler will never be as "real" as the real thing. 
    If the modeller in question uses component based modelling, then it's as real as the real thing. It just processes audio in a different domain.
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  • CirrusCirrus Frets: 5004
    I got a Helix on the basis of the AC30 sounds being just as good as recordings I'd made of my actual AC30, and the Fender tweed model is all over stuff I'm mixing at the moment. It's just my opinion, but I think it does the job fine. Everything sounds and feels different to the player, but at the end of it all the only thing that matters is that it lets you get the results you want.
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  • BarnezyBarnezy Frets: 1307
    Barnezy said:
    A modeler will never be as "real" as the real thing. 
    If the modeller in question uses component based modelling, then it's as real as the real thing. It just processes audio in a different domain.
    How can it be as real as the real thing? Digital is limited by its bit rate, am amp is full sound. Are we saying digital is now the full sound spectrum. 

    It reminds me of the move to CD's and then back to vinyl. Why, when we're told there is no audible difference... humans don't hear those frequencies, etc? CD's are 16bit, as is a Helix, but vinyl is full frequency. Are we sure there is no audible difference or is it that we've got use to hearing lower quality sound, since digital music was introduced? 



    Not saying digital is not great and we all know it's very convenient and cheap, but how can it be as real as a real amp?

    My point wasn't for either or, just why wouldn't you us the real thing, if you can? 
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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 17635
    edited July 30
    Barnezy said:
    Barnezy said:
    A modeler will never be as "real" as the real thing. 
    If the modeller in question uses component based modelling, then it's as real as the real thing. It just processes audio in a different domain.
    How can it be as real as the real thing? Digital is limited by its bit rate, am amp is full sound. Are we saying digital is now the full sound spectrum. 

    It reminds me of the move to CD's and then back to vinyl. Why, when we're told there is no audible difference... humans don't hear those frequencies, etc? CD's are 16bit, as is a Helix, but vinyl is full frequency. Are we sure there is no audible difference or is it that we've got use to hearing lower quality sound, since digital music was introduced? 



    Not saying digital is not great and we all know it's very convenient and cheap, but how can it be as real as a real amp?

    My point wasn't for either or, just why wouldn't you us the real thing, if you can? 
    I don't have the link to hand, but I seem to recall that folk experimentally showed that traditionally-manufactured vinyl records have an equivalent bit depth of 10-15bit and a sample rate of 30kHz-50kHz. So...that translates into a lower dynamic range and a maximum of around the same frequency ceiling as CDs. In other words...CDs represent a more accurate reproduction of the original sound than vinyl records do.

    The perceived difference is because the functional difference between CDs and vinyl is not in the resolution, it's mainly in the way the recorded media is processed to turn it back into sound. Digital has a hard ceiling at 0dB by definition, beyond which everything sounds positively awful. When recorded vinyl media hits its amplitude ceiling, it kinda distorts nicely.

    At least, that's my understanding of it.
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 4776
    Barnezy said:
    Barnezy said:
    A modeler will never be as "real" as the real thing. 
    If the modeller in question uses component based modelling, then it's as real as the real thing. It just processes audio in a different domain.
    How can it be as real as the real thing? Digital is limited by its bit rate, am amp is full sound. Are we saying digital is now the full sound spectrum. 

    It reminds me of the move to CD's and then back to vinyl. Why, when we're told there is no audible difference... humans don't hear those frequencies, etc? CD's are 16bit, as is a Helix, but vinyl is full frequency. Are we sure there is no audible difference or is it that we've got use to hearing lower quality sound, since digital music was introduced? 



    Not saying digital is not great and we all know it's very convenient and cheap, but how can it be as real as a real amp?

    My point wasn't for either or, just why wouldn't you us the real thing, if you can? 
    There are so many assumptions and false logic in those images you supplied that I don't even know where to start in correcting you.
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