Long post, tl;dr at the bottom!
Hey there! I've picked up my guitar playing again after a couple years' hiatus, and I'm looking to bring my rig up to date as well as my playing. My rig is outdated and incomplete, and in dire need of some reinforcements... But I don't really know where to start, which is why I need your help!
WHAT I NEED
I'm a recreational guitarist. I mostly play solo at home, playing both cover songs (preferably over a backing track) and writing and recording my own music. That said, even if I'm just a hobbyist, I'm quite serious about my playing - I want to get better as a player, I want to really get to "know" the guitar as an instrument, and I'm willing to put in some work to get there.
Similarly, I also really care about my sound. As I said, I play a lot of cover songs, varying in style between pop/rock, folk, singer-songwriter, blues, hard rock, modern rock, indie rock and a bit of metal. I need my rig to cope well with all these styles - and I also need the ability to produce my own sounds, should I need any in my originals. Apart from that, my rig needs to work in a variety of settings: band rehearsals and (small) stages, low bedroom volumes, and with headphones/studio monitors. Lastly, as I do quite a bit of home recording, I need to be able to do that hassle-free.
This is why I narrowed my rig quest down to the modelling and FRFR speaker route. I know it's a "jack of all trades, master of none" kind of deal with modellers, but in my situation that seems kind of perfect. A good modeller with a good speaker will do all of the things I just summed up - and then some. The problem is, though, it does need to be good gear - and this is where I need your help, because what I own now really isn't.
MY CURRENT RIG
The main issue with my current rig is partly that it's outdated, but mostly that it's incomplete. Here's what I currently own:
A Fender Telecaster Thinline '72 MIM RI (which I recently fixed up a bit after a few years of disuse - check out my recent post about that here!
A Seagull S6 Original (great guitar!) - into which I had a K&K Pure Mini soundboard transducer pickupinstalled (that thing is awesome!).
A Boss GT-8 - or, as the guitar tech in my local dealership described it, "the Commodore 64 of modellers".
An M-Audio Fast Track Pro interface and a SE Electronics X1 mic for my home recordings...
... and no amp or speakers. I currently only own a pair of pretty good Sennheiser HD-something headphones (not sure which model number, I got them about 8 years ago and they're out of Sennheiser's range now).
You see the problem here: I want to build a good modelling/FRFR rig, but I'm stuck with a pretty old and pretty outdated modeller with the GT-8, and no amp/speaker at all.
So, a good modeller and a good amp/speaker what I'm currently in the market for. Problem is, there are so many options that I don't know what to pick, or where to start (what to upgrade first)... So far, after some research, I've narrowed my wishlist down to the following options:
It's between the Line6 Helix and the Fractal AX-8 here - and the choice is tough!
From what I gather, the Line6 Helix has the nicer hardware and is easier to use, which is a major plus for me. I feel the best way to keep myself motivated to play, is to make sure that I can just pick up my guitar at any time and start playing, without too much hassle - which would otherwise easily become a hurdle! The Helix' ease of use would fit that role just perfectly. Not to forget, it produces some great tones...
... but on the other hand, not as great as the Fractal AX-8, which is still the gold standard in modelling! The AX-8 is quite a bit more expensive (especially with the optional but obligatory expression pedal), and quite a lot harder to come by in Europe (there's just one distributor for the whole of Europe). It seems, however, that it's worth the extra money - it's better sounding to begin with, and from the sounds of it, Fractal supports their products like no other, which means the AX-8 would be the most future-proof investment.
So, out of these two options, which do you think would suit my situation best?
Note that I don't care much for rack gear in my rig, I'd like to keep things as nice and simple as possible. The Kemper is basically out as well, as it doesn't exactly suit my needs as well as the Line6 and Fractal options do.
This one's tough as well. To be able to fully appreciate the sheer power of the Helix or AX-8, I need a good amp or speaker that can reproduce their respective tones accurately. I've pretty much decided I want a mid-to-high-tier powered FRFR speaker for that (unless you all drastically change my mind!) - and these are my options:
An Atomic CLR FRFR monitor, pretty much considered to be the gold standard in FRFR amplification for guitar modellers. Problem is, however, that these things are pretty hard to come by in Europe, and they come at a price as well - the Neo version, with VAT/shipping included, is about 1600 euros or something... and that's just too steep.
A similar option is the Dynacord AXM 12A active speaker, which has been mentioned on several modelling forums as "the European alternative for the Atomic CLR" because of its similar design and specs, but better price and availability. For a bit short of 1000â‚¬, you get a 12" speaker with Neo magnets as standard, 3 inputs (one of which is an AUX input, perfect for my backing tracks!), and a true full-range and flat response sound which comes close to the Atomic CLR. I'm quite set on this speaker, but it's still quite an investment at 1000â‚¬...
There are other, cheaper FRFR speakers out there as well, some of which are cheaper and might fit the bill just as well: the Yamaha DXR12, the QSC K12, and the Alto SXM112A or TS112A are a few options that spring to mind. All of these are cheaper (especially the Alto ones), but I lose out on sound quality and/or features with all of them. Anyone have any experience with any of these?
Other than the FRFR options, there's also the slightly more "cab-like" (or "GRFR") options like the Matrix Q12 or Camper 112CX... These will basically limit the tonal possibilities of the Helix/AX-8, as they sound more like traditional guitar cabs themselves and thus eliminate the possibility of using cab/IR modelling... So these options are a bit less attractive to me - unless you can convince me otherwise!
Lastly, there's still the option of getting a "regular" tube amp that works well with the Helix or AX-8. But I'm thinking that, after making a pretty huge investment in a full-featured modeller, it would be a shame to then limit its functionality to effects only, because I'm running it through a tube amp... I'm thinking no on this one.
This is my biggest conundrum right now. If I had unlimited cash, I'd just buy a AX-8 and Dynacord AXM 12A right now, and be done with it. But you see, this is the real world, and I don't - so I'm going to have to build my rig one step at a time, and I can't make my mind up on how to proceed!
If I go modeller first, FRFR speaker later, I immediately get to enjoy the superior tones from a brand-new modeller instead of my GT-8's old twaddle... but only through my headphones. I currently exclusively play on my own, but as I'm considering taking lessons soon and can't exclude the possibility that I might re-join a band in the (near) future, not having a speaker would not be ideal.
I can also go FRFR speaker first, modeller later, which would give me the opportunity to enjoy hearing my current rig played out loud rather than through headphones only. If I got the Dynacord, I could also plug in my phone and play backing tracks into the AUX input, which would be a major plus. A downside to this approach, however, is that I'd be stuck for some time with the best tones the GT-8 can produce - which aren't that great.
Another option is to get a cheaper speaker now (such as the Yamaha or Alto), get the new modeller next, andupgrade my speaker last. This would be the quickest way to get a fully functional rig, with the downside that I'd keep GAS'ing for a "good" speaker until I invest in one for a second time - which is kind of a waste.
I want to build a quality modelling/FRFR rig for home playing, solo recording, and possibly gigging at small venues with a band. I currently own a Boss GT-8 and no amp/speaker. Looking to upgrade, but I have some questions:
I need a good modeller. Line6 Helix or Fractal AX-8?
I also need a good speaker for the modeller. FRFR (Atomic, Dynacord), GRFR (Matrix, Camper) or tube amp?
What order to upgrade my rig in? Buy speaker now, and new modeller later? Upgrade GT-8 first, then get speaker later? Or should I get a "cheap" speaker temporarily?
Thanks in advance for brainstorming with me on this one!