Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
hideout

Random, Sample, Hold

Recommended Posts

So...

 

I have quite a few tube snob friends who wax poetic about the "randomness" of tubes. Prattling on about how that's what's missing in modeling technology and that this randomness is what gives tubes their sound and character. One of my brothers goes on and on about "calculated' distortion also as one of the downfalls of modeling.

 

I've always looked for consistency in my tone.  I don't want my tone and the feel of my amp to change as the night progresses. 

 

Thoughts? DI?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've used valve amps for more years than I'd like to admit!

I'm not missing them! I find a bit of sag puts back any lack of sponginess that you might get from old amps. And that's for people who like old school sounds. I find that some of the amp models actually do behave with natural wildness when pushed especially with overdrive and distortion, and in general I think that's all perish crap!

But each to their own. You and I know they are missing out. Even Nevil Martin from Guitarist magazine, a respected player and reviewer, famous for his skill in reproducing classic guitar tone has gone Helix.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Aside from during the initial warm up when you fire them up, I haven't known tube amps to "drift" tonally over the course of a night unless something is wrong. However one set of identical tubes can sound very different from another, and tube amps of the same make and model can also sound very different. That's kind of a blessing and a curse with the modeling. If the unit they model is one that behaves like you want, you're set. If not, you don't have the option of rolling tubes to find your holy grail combination (yet?).

 

I love tube amps, I really do. For a very long time I wasn't interested in modeling because it always felt cold and sterile. Till Helix. I don't know the nuts and bolts of it but it seems to have made a real jump in capturing the guitar/amp interaction that defines tubes for me and previously had been missing from modelers that I'd played with. It reacts right when you back off, it reacts right when you dig in, it's all there. My tube amps are collecting dust.

 

That said, I certainly don't knock tube purists. I still have tubes (and a turntable!) in my home stereo. I do, however, feel that if someone feels the need to relentlessly criticize your gear choices because they differ from their gear choices, well that someone is just showing their a$$.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always been amused by the "subjective science" of tube purists to rationalize their choice.  If it sounds better to you and you like playing through it don't make stuff up or use subjective terms like "warmth" or "character" that only means something to you.

 

The fact is most of these guys would fail a double blind test in which they had to pick out which audio clip is the actual amp and which is the modeler.  They fail consistently on tests such as these on YouTube.

 

Here's an actual fact.  Whatever subjective tube behavior they'd like the believe is happening, in actuality that sound is being caputured by a mic, and amplified through the FOH system through a DIGITAL Class-D amp in the vast majority of cases.  No "tube warmth" there....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Note also that a lot of these guys touting the virtues of tube amps often use SOLID STATE Overdrive and Distortion pedals to get their sound. 😂

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Here's an actual fact.  Whatever subjective tube behavior they'd like the believe is happening, in actuality that sound is being caputured by a mic, and amplified through the FOH system through a DIGITAL Class-D amp in the vast majority of cases.  No "tube warmth" there....

 

Agreed, but starting from a good source can make all the difference.

 

Truth is, the variability in tubes, especially given their availability these days, isn't necessarily a feature. You can have to re-tube your amp and it might never be the same. These things wear out and aren't being built they way the use to.

 

To some extent this is the same as the analog/digital argument. Turntables and records sound warmer than digital. That indeed use to be true when D/A converters were poorly designed and constructed. But its hard to make that argument today.

 

Regarding modeling, it should be possible to model any characteristic of a tube you can measure. The only limits are the ability to measure and the complexity of the resulting code. The models will be an approximation of the analog source, but should be close. As DSPs get faster and cheaper, it will be easier to squeeze more code into the same space/time and models will get better.

 

But the other thing you can do with models is create things that can't exist in the real world. That's the next step for modeling instruments and amplifiers - to create new instruments, not just duplicate the ones we have now.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think there is some irony in this discussion. There have certainly been enough people who have turned their noses up at modeling over the years in favor of tube/analog technology. Now the discussion seems to be tilting in the other direction with people taking a poke at analog technology. Like others here I love both a great old tube amp with vintage effects and a high-end modeler. I think it takes a bit more effort and know-how to get a great sound out of a modeler than a great tube amp. A great tube amp is more plug and play although they take a bit of knowledge to optimize as well. 

 

Words like 'feel' or 'warmth' may be subjective but sound and the feeling of playing a guitar are difficult things to describe, quantify, and qualify. I actually think many people who have been around long enough to use analog equipment and then be part of the digital revolution do have a general consensus as to what these adjectives mean in the context of sound. I think we generally know what others mean when they describe a guitar sound with words like muddy, sparkling, dark, bright, sterile, searing, brittle, ice-pick, etc..  Everyone may get a slightly different impression when hearing those cliches but they can give us a ballpark concept of what the sound is like. I remember the first CD players to come on the market and their low sampling rate meant that they did not yet do a very good job of emulating the nuance in a sound wave produced by a good stereo and a quality record player. People described the old records as sounding 'warmer' and everyone with decent ears knew what they meant even if there was a technical reason underlying the difference in the sound that only the more nerdy understood. 

 

Tube amps have a certain 'feel' and 'warmth' that has been difficult to attain until recently in the digital realm.  Unless you really took the time to learn how to program them they simply were not as easy to get a good sound from 'fresh out of the box' as a tube amp and pedal. 'Feel' probably has more to do with things like sag, impedance, responsiveness (lack of latency), sound wave reflections from the walls, ceiling, floor, and back, front and sides of the cabinet, as well as the actual air being pushed by the cabinet in your general direction. Warmth speaks primarily to the 'detail' (sample rate, complexity) of the sound, how it is EQ'd, and to some extent some would argue its variability which many think makes it sound more 'organic' (another cliche that does have the underlying implication of a certain random factor). We humans tend to rebel when things sound too 'orderly' or 'digital'; in short, too perfect. It is sort of like the old argument between fans of the 'Rolling Stones' versus 'Yes'. How much grit and flaws do you like/need in your rock & roll?

 

Modeling has finally gotten to the point where I believe it does a very good job of being able to get the feel and warmth of a tube amp without some of the attendant problems of constant repairs and maintenance, tube replacement, vulnerability to shocks and vibration, temperature and humidity changes, etc.. A modeler also has the benefit of predictably reproducing the same basic sound every time it is plugged in, affected of course by the room just like analog equipment, but the source sound remains more constant with digital equipment. Most of all digital has the huge benefit of the sheer amount of effects and virtual amps that can be carried around in a light package at a lower cost; not to speak of the potential for speedy innovation.

 

I would agree many people cannot tell the difference on Youtube videos between a recorded tube amp and a modeler. I don't really think that is a fair test. By the time the amp and modeler are miked up, run through a DAW, and then played through computer speakers, the differences between the two are vastly diminished. A much more valid test is to have people turn their back in a blind test where they are actually in a room with the equipment. The differences between how tube amps and modelers/FRFRs tend to generate sound are much more audible then. Those differences can be even more evident when you are not just listening but actually playing through the equipment such that the elusive element 'feel' comes into play. I don't put much stock in these sort of comparison videos anyway there is such a huge array of variables that must be set properly to compare things apples to apples. With that said, modelers are getting so good that the advantages of modelers simply have begun to outweigh the benefits of tube amp and analog pedalboard setups for many players. Device makers like Fractal and Line6 are modeling feel (amp parameters like 'sag', etc.) as well as providing myriad tools to get the 'warmth' and even flaws or variability associated with tube amps' and vintage effects' sounds. These methods include various EQ's, IRs, and digital effects that can emulate elements like tape warble or the light bulb flicker in a Univibe, etc..  The sampling rates are plenty high now too and that means a more contiguous and complex sound wave can be created/emulated.

 

I really like amsdenj's comment about the next step forward being to create amps and effects that don't exist in the analog world. Of course that is exactly what the analog amp and pedal makers were trying to do but they did not have the far vaster array at their disposal of digital virtual 'circuits' and processing to play with which can be quickly and easily reconfigured without having to solder capacitors and transistors, design and manufacture circuit boards, or find just the right material for the cone and coil for a speaker.

 

Anyway, I took the plunge, I rarely ever use tube amp and effects any more. To me the advantages of modeling technology direct to the PA simply outweigh my older methods.  I know we are on a forum dedicated to the use of modeling equipment and as such the perspective is bound to be skewed towards a digital approach but I do think we are finally starting to see a genuine sea change in what equipment will be used going forward. This applies not only in the studio but particularly for live performance where light, dependable, and flexible are of utmost importance unless you have a crew of roadies and techs at your constant disposal.

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My biggest complaint with tube amps was that if you had a two channel amp, you had two sounds. You had to go back and turn knobs (or buy and dance on more pedals) to alter basic tonality. Flexibility is somewhat limited. Helix is much more flexible in this regard.

 

Lately, I have been looking into the Hughes and Kettner amps (Tube amps with midi control) and just happened to see this morning that Mesa Boogie have announced the Triple Crown with midi control as well.

 

I might have to check this one out. Helix and midi control of all amp parameters with messages sent from the helix to the amp. Tube amps and midi have been around a long time, and until recently, no one was putting the two together. Recent shifts / advancements in modeling technology may well have brought on this kind of thinking. After all, no company wants to lose market share that they have worked so long to create.

 

Best of both worlds? Maybe.

 

My point is that manufacturers are working on things right now that we are unaware of. Who knows what the near future will bring. I personally look forward to what will come next...

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...

 

My point is that manufacturers are working on things right now that we are unaware of. Who knows what the near future will bring. I personally look forward to what will come next...

 

Audience members please place your electrodes on so the band can telepathically broadcast the show directly to your frontal lobes...  :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Truth is, the variability in tubes, especially given their availability these days, isn't necessarily a feature. You can have to re-tube your amp and it might never be the same. These things wear out and aren't being built they way the use to.

 

 

 

 

Absolutely.  I experienced this recently with a Laney Cub 10 - an amp which I really quite liked.  The new tubes were awful and noisy while the old tubes sounded great but were steadily becoming more microphonic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Absolutely.  I experienced this recently with a Laney Cub 10 - an amp which I really quite liked.  The new tubes were awful and noisy while the old tubes sounded great but were steadily becoming more microphonic.

 

The capacitors tend to go after many years as well, pots gets scratchy, etc.. Amps definitely require more maintenance to stay dependable. Love the way an an old worn in speaker can sound however. Not worrying about any of that with the Helix these days though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My biggest complaint with tube amps was that if you had a two channel amp, you had two sounds. You had to go back and turn knobs (or buy and dance on more pedals) to alter basic tonality. Flexibility is somewhat limited. Helix is much more flexible in this regard.

 

...

 

I agree and neglected to mention this. The reduced tap-dancing is a huge benefit to modelers/MFX; not to speak of the number of I/O options, the external amp switching, and the MIDI functionality that allows many other devices and a DAW to be controlled simultaneously with a single footswitch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 Love the way an an old worn in speaker can sound however. Not worrying about any of that with the Helix these days though.

 

 

I think that this is the big limitation with IRs. They're static.  They don't capture the way speaker cones flex and the way their sound changes at the extremities of their excursions. They sound different when you're driving them gently than when you're playing at full tilt.  I really think that dynamic speaker modeling is the next step in achieving more realism.  This might even allow for a mic-less cab model.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that this is the big limitation with IRs. They're static.  They don't capture the way speaker cones flex and the way their sound changes at the extremities of their excursions. They sound different when you're driving them gently than when you're playing at full tilt.  I really think that dynamic speaker modeling is the next step in achieving more realism.  This might even allow for a mic-less cab model.

 

Phenomenal idea!! I think you are probably right. Sort of a convolution IR approach to cab modeling. Let's start a company. First we need to get Line6 to support convolution IRs though.  :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Phenomenal idea!! I think you are probably right. Sort of a convolution IR approach to cab modeling. Let's start a company. First we need to get Line6 to support convolution IRs though. :)

I am honored.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry...but I just don't buy it.

 

My first amp was a Supro back in 1965.  Since then I've gone through an array of Fenders, Magnatone, Kustom, Marshall, Vox, and a few others I can't recall.  I can't say I was displeased with any of them at the time, I do CLEARLY recall the almost constant problems with noise/buzzing, inconsistencies in volume, inconsistencies in tone, and general lack of clarity in comparison to recorded studio material.  Not to mention of course the maintenance issues.  If you guys want to reminisce and call that "tube warmth" I'm personally glad to be unshackled from it.

 

The other thing I clearly remember was back in 1979 getting my hands on the Ry Cooder album "Bop Till You Drop" which was my first exposure to a digital recording.  I bought the Japanese pressing which used much thicker base vinyl which allowed for fuller response without "track kissing" along with greater durability and it was amazing in comparison to everything I'd been listening to over the years not only in terms of clarity, presence, dynamic range, and yes...even warmth and it served as a revelation to me about what could be possible with the emerging technologies.

 

I recognize that people have a natural tendency to long for the "good old days", but they also tend to forget the bad things about the "good old days" when they do it.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry...but I just don't buy it.

 

My first amp was a Supro back in 1965.  Since then I've gone through an array of Fenders, Magnatone, Kustom, Marshall, Vox, and a few others I can't recall.  I can't say I was displeased with any of them at the time, I do CLEARLY recall the almost constant problems with noise/buzzing, inconsistencies in volume, inconsistencies in tone, and general lack of clarity in comparison to recorded studio material.  Not to mention of course the maintenance issues.  If you guys want to reminisce and call that "tube warmth" I'm personally glad to be unshackled from it.

 

The other thing I clearly remember was back in 1979 getting my hands on the Ry Cooder album "Bop Till You Drop" which was my first exposure to a digital recording.  I bought the Japanese pressing which used much thicker base vinyl which allowed for fuller response without "track kissing" along with greater durability and it was amazing in comparison to everything I'd been listening to over the years not only in terms of clarity, presence, dynamic range, and yes...even warmth and it served as a revelation to me about what could be possible with the emerging technologies.

 

I recognize that people have a natural tendency to long for the "good old days", but they also tend to forget the bad things about the "good old days" when they do it.

 

No one who isn't playing in a hardcore punk or noise band is equating "tube warmth" to "noise/buzzing, inconsistencies in volume, inconsistencies in tone, and general lack of clarity in comparison to recorded studio material". Those are definitely all the issues that have been recognized here already as what people don't miss or prefer about tube amps. Tube amps and analog effects do also have their virtues and you are right about people forgetting the negative elements of the "good old days" but they don't have to reminisce about those days as analog amps and effects are still quite popular, used by discerning musicians everywhere, and can sound great. I do prefer gigging with the Helix these days and not lugging around hundreds of pounds of potential problems as you so correctly point out. Not quite sure I am quite ready to relegate tube amps and analog effects to the same category as the Edsel and the 1950's era avocado green refrigerator down at the city dump although I can understand why some people look at them that way and respect the fact that you feel their time has passed, maybe it has.

 

I hate using car analogies on the forum but just because you buy a new hybrid with Bluetooth, built in WIFI, and advanced safety features doesn't mean you can't also appreciate some aspects of an old Porsche or Corvette; even if you have no intention of running out and buying one because the mileage sucks and they spend half their time in the shop. They also have a lot of power and are way fun to drive. I just want to retain the power and joy of driving elements without the negative aspects in my new equipment. There have been some amazing tube amps and analog effects made along the way as well as newer fairly innovative tube amp and analog effect designs that are even being produced now. I don't think recognizing their attributes and wanting some of them to transfer to the newer technology translates as false memories of older technology or to not appreciating or not understanding new digital technology.  It certainly doesn't in my case, I embrace new technology and spend a lot of time thinking about where it will go and how it can be improved. Appreciation and recognition of technological advances is one of the reasons I think many of us bought a Helix in the first place.

 

From what I can see the Helix was designed to emulate the best of the equipment that came before it and build on that tradition and create something even better or at the very least different. I don't feel like I have to spit on great older equipment (which is an electrocution hazard anyway, a lot of that stuff is not properly grounded) to love the new stuff.  ;)

 

Note: I find it interesting that the example you provide as your revelation to the possibilities of emerging technology was a high quality vinyl record of a digital recording of Ry Cooder (great player!). I could not have come up with a more perfect example of hybrid technologies combining the old and the new had I tried.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

I hate using car analogies on the forum but just because you buy a new hybrid with Bluetooth, built in WIFI, and advanced safety features doesn't mean you can't also appreciate some aspects of an old Porsche or Corvette; even if you have no intention of running out and buying one because the mileage sucks and they spend half their time in the shop. They also have a lot of power and are way fun to drive. I just want to retain the power and joy of driving elements without the negative aspects in my new equipment. There have been some amazing tube amps and analog effects made along the way as well as newer fairly innovative tube amp and analog effect designs that are even being produced now. I don't think recognizing their strengths translates to not appreciating or hating new digital technology.  It certainly doesn't in my case, I embrace new technology and spend a lot of time thinking about where it will go and how it can be improved. Appreciation and recognition of technological advances is one of the reasons I think many of us bought a Helix in the first place.

 

 

Don't get me wrong, I don't HATE any of the older technology.  And I'm okay with car or transportation analogies because I think that helps capture where I'm at.

 

My first "real" motorcycle was a 1951 pan head Harley when I was 16.  I loved that bike, and I still have fond memories of riding it.  I've owned may bikes including more modern Harley's over the years and I've enjoyed them.  But there comes a point where I can no longer be satisfied with the deficiencies of the "vintage" design.  It's not that I dislike them, but they can no longer satisfy my expectations for how a motorcycle should perform.  So I got rid of my last Harley for more modern engineering in a Victory motorcycle.  That doesn't mean I hate Harleys.  I recognize that in making decisions about something whether it be music gear or motorcycles for many people it's about non-quantifiable things such as image or the "feel" of something.  But I'm just not that type of person.  For me, once I've taken the next step forward I can still look back with fondness on those things, but I personally recognize I could never recapture that thrill because, in my mind, it's lacking the things I've now become accustomed to.  I fully realize that's not the case for everyone and I can appreciate it.  But it's simply not for me.

 

Maybe it's the engineer in me that can't forget the problems that were overcome by moving on to the newer design that increased efficiency and resolved many of the old issues.  That's why "vintage" has never been much of a selling point to me.  But I'm okay with people that feel differently, as long as they don't try to convince me it's raining when all they're doing is peeing on my shoe.   ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...

Maybe it's the engineer in me that can't forget the problems that were overcome by moving on to the newer design that increased efficiency and resolved many of the old issues.  That's why "vintage" has never been much of a selling point to me.  But I'm okay with people that feel differently, as long as they don't try to convince me it's raining when all they're doing is peeing on my shoe.   ;)

 

LOL, and on that note, whatever someone's sentiments may be towards them, I definitely recommend unplugging it before peeing on a tube amp.  ;)

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...it's equivalent to not driving a new car because you like the inconsistencies and randomness of a carbureted engines with a manual choke. 

 

Is a 1961 Corvette awesome and fun to drive...YES!

Is an old Marshall Plexi awesome and fun to crank...YES!

 

Neither will be my every day driver though. There is a place for the old and new technology. You just have to use what is right for the situation. 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...it's equivalent to not driving a new car because you like the inconsistencies and randomness of a carbureted engines with a manual choke.

 

Is a 1961 Corvette awesome and fun to drive...YES!

Is an old Marshall Plexi awesome and fun to crank...YES!

 

Neither will be my every day driver though. There is a place for the old and new technology. You just have to use what is right for the situation.

I have relegated my Princeton to the studio and do use it on occasion for recording. Like when I'm too lazy to go get the Helix or my Ethos Overdrive pedal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing we can't forget about tube amps is they gave us the tones we want to model!

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×