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Do modeling amps get "lost in the mix"

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  • Do modeling amps get "lost in the mix"

    I've heard for years that modeling amps may sound good in isolation but once you get them into a band situation they get utterly lost. I am wondering if this is something that you have experienced, and if it was for certain sounds but not others. I have been messing around lately with an ancient Line 6 AX2 212 and really like some of the sounds I can get with it. I think some of the high gain sounds lose articulation (the preset Rectifier to me sounds like a kazoo) and those would get lost easily, but do cleaner or crunchy sounds get lost as well?

  • #2
    I don't have a modeling amp, but I think I may have some insight. I believe there's a tendency by both players and builders of less expensive amplifiers with many convenient features to adress bedroom level and digital home studio playing conditions over live conditions. That isn't to say that digital amps don't have watts. I think it's more about the preset EQ parameters and the amps being idealized in this aspect for quieter playing rather than louder playing. Imagine that mid scooped tone that fills up more range in your ears at lower playing volumes.

    Ok, I'll just say it out loud. The digital amp genre does sort of cater to bedroom wanker tone. And yes, that EQ balance is easily swallowed up in a live band mix. You can try turning up the midrange if it's even in a suitable band for a more natural sound. I had 50W (called a 60 actually, but you know...) Peavey tube combo that sounded great at bedroom levels but just couldn't cut through the mix in a live setting. It was definitely geared more toward the uber gain preamp bedroom wanker tones and I imagine the trouble with digital modeler combos could be similar.

    Also, I wouldn't be surprised if most of the stock speakers used in these amps aren't as efficient as the ones we buy for out tube amps. Since modelers need a more flexible and balanced pallet of frequencies to get good results from all the digital images I would expect less pronounced peaks and resonance characteristics. You might get more useful live tones for many digital patches by changing to a standard high end guitar speaker rather than the stock one deemed more suitable for modeling. Though you may not like it with all the offered patches.

    JM2C without the benefit of much actual experience.
    "Take two placebos, works twice as well." Enzo

    "Now get off my lawn with your silicooties and boom-chucka speakers and computers masquerading as amplifiers" Justin Thomas

    "Being born on third base and thinking that you must have hit a triple is pure delusion!" Steve A

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    • #3
      Not about modeling gear, but "lost in the mix" was a problem for our band even with tube amps mic'ed to mixer/PA and later,
      with analog pedal board direct to mixer/PA.

      We found that "EQ is everything" esp at the mixer/PA end.

      As one of two guitars in our band, I could dial up a great sound on my pedal board thru the PA,
      but as soon as the whole show started, my rhythm sound was lost in the mix.
      Lead guitar had the same problem.

      Tweaking EQ at the mix board made all the difference.
      I don't know exactly what was done as far as the EQ'ing as I don't run the mix board,
      but I think mainly boosting mids and hi freq.

      I now have a HeadRush modeling pedal board but have not used it in the band context yet.

      We are on summer hiatus but might get a jam or 2 in, in the next month or so.

      I'm eager to try out the HR with the band.
      If it ain't broke I'll fix it until it is...

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      • #4
        Most problems voicing a band are solved by filtering out the redundant, out of phase frequencies. This is the main reason instruments get "lost in the mix" when they sound fine on their own. It's tricky to do if you aren't aware of each instrument sonic profile. Good sound engineers keep a record of the instruments in the bands they mix. Saves time.

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        • #5
          In playing with this AX2 some more I think the comments about EQing (and general parameter tweaking) may be a major factor. I noticed that many of the presets for Fender or blues amp sounds use a "dark" setting for the distortion pedal model. It makes it sound like there is a blanket over the speakers. Switching to the medium or bright model for the distortion box makes it come to life. But if someone shows up at band practice everyone gets upset if you want to spend 20 minutes playing with all the different settings in the amp, maybe even having to break out the manual to figure it out. About then is when you might start hearing the "why did you get that piece of crap" comments.

          The speakers on these are definitely not as peaky or bright as some others. I had a JC120 and the speakers were getting serviced so I put the AX2 speakers in it, since JC amps supposedly also want a broad band flat speaker. It didn't sound bad with them, but I had to flip the bright switch on just to get it to normal JC120 sound. Maybe not quite as loud as the stock speakers, but still pretty loud.

          I've also found some of my favorite sounds are using totally non-intuitive guitar settings. For example I like using the bridge pickup on my strat but with the its volume turned way down, almost as far down as it goes, and then the bright boost setting, and a high gain amp model. Turning down the volume on the guitar should cut some high frequencies, and cutting out some overtones seems to reduce some of the digital-y sound. This is pretty much the opposite of what the manual would tell you, which is to max the signal from the guitar.

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          • #6
            Excellent comments so far, so I will be 'short' - (correction : not shot, thanks g1) and try not to repeat anyone.

            There's also an advantage a tube amp has in handling picked or strummed transients that is lacking in modeling amp setups as they seem much flatter, with a primary emphasis on frequency content overall, and not in handling live dynamics and non-linear tonal shifts and amplitude correctly.

            I think it's a function of both the type of speaker being used, and the insufficiency of a 'real true' modeling of all types of responses to playing dynamics, pickups, and other voltage / current related behavior that make tube amps do what they do, in response to a user input.

            It's very complex, but I believe that modeling has gotten a lot better, it's just that they can't rest on their laurels if they want to compete directly with the amp in the room in a live setting.

            It's just not that simple to model tube amps, and anyone who says it is, is either lying or in the dark about the dynamics and multiple variables that need to be addressed. Like some giant econometric or weather model, you come close, but still always seem to fall short...

            Frequency response is probably the most important aspect, but the available dynamic range and handling of transients in playing are equally so. Then there's the insufficiency of modeling an open back amp in the actual way it reacts on stage or in any room. A tall order task indeed.
            Last edited by HaroldBrooks; 06-24-2019, 10:28 PM.
            " Things change, not always for the better. " - Leo_Gnardo

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by HaroldBrooks View Post
              Excellent comments so far, so I will be shot
              Well at least try not to get killed, ok?
              "Everything is better with a tube. I have a customer with an all-tube pacemaker. His heartbeat is steady, reassuring and dependable, not like a modern heartbeat. And if it goes wrong he can fix it himself. You can't do that with SMD." - Mick Bailey

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by g1 View Post
                Well at least try not to get killed, ok?
                LOL, yes I will be short, as I don't want to be shot ! I have to start proof reading I think.

                I drank a little last night, but I am reasonably sober now, one would think anyway.
                " Things change, not always for the better. " - Leo_Gnardo

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                • #9
                  What chuck h said, period.
                  To please bedroom wankers playing alone (and this is the key word) typical trick to get a "huge" sound is to apply a "Smiley" curve, meaning boosy highs and lows and *murder* midrange.
                  Even worse: too much of that, to compensate for strong bedroom level Fletcher Munson effect which makes ear insensitive to highs and lows.


                  Check the blue curves, 100Hz level as example, what is basically flat at 100dB SPL (same level as 1kHz)) needs some 10dB boost at 60 dB SPL (bedroom level)
                  Which means exact same preset becomes mush in 2 ways: too much bass makes distortion (and even clean sound) farty mushy, and too little midrange pushes you a mile back in tbhe mix.
                  Couple that to typical synthetic distortion kludge of killing treble "so it sounds warm tubey" and you have a perfect storm.

                  While classic amps which have its tone polished by DECADES of tweaking to get good Live sound do exact opposite.

                  In fact they *cut* bass, to the tune of "everything below 700Hz" typical of VOX to "everything below 150 Hz" typical of Marshall.

                  I often mention my every weekend experience with bands which play live , say, 2 times a year, carrying HUGE pedalboards or an almost as large multipurpose simulator, wah/expression pedal included, and plugging that monstrosity into a guitar amp *input* ... the slightly more enlightened ones plugging into Loop return.

                  In any case sound is a ball of mushy pink noise.

                  When I ask them to ditch it and straight plug into the amp, they look at me in horror and say: "but ... but ... MY sound is in there"
                  Juan Manuel Fahey

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                  • #10
                    Agree with the above. I'll add: There is typically more compression in a modeling amp to avoid digital clipping in the signal chain. This also adds to the sound getting lost in the mix. Much of the "peak" information is lost.
                    "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have never had an experience with a modeling amp in a band situation that I didn't hate. I just can't stand them, period.
                      It's weird, because it WAS working fine.....

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by The Dude View Post
                        Agree with the above. I'll add: There is typically more compression in a modeling amp to avoid digital clipping in the signal chain. This also adds to the sound getting lost in the mix. Much of the "peak" information is lost.
                        THIS!!^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

                        This has been my argument against digital amps forever. With a digital amp you're not even hearing your guitar (per se') but a vague simulacrum in the EQ and average voltage output. The patches are "told" what to send to the amplifiers as your guitar "triggers" it. And of course there's high and low limits on what works with the patches (in both EQ and voltage dynamics), which is that compression The Dude mentions, as well as a tiny delay and a small amount of encoding noise that sounds like an odd harmonic with multiple triggers. THIS IS THE REASON THEY DEVELOPED VELOCITY SENSITIVE ELECTRONIC KEYBOARDS!!! Piano players didn't like the way piano "patches" on electronic keyboards didn't have the touch sensitivity they were use to from acoustic instruments. Digital amps are getting better, and they're kind of ok for uber gain tones now, but they're a long way from capturing the proper feel and tonality of the amps they claim to replicate. Especially in the "feel" part of the matter. They never "feel" right to me. When I play my tube amps it's like looking in a mirror. When I play through a digital amp it's like I'm doing a mime bit with another person mimicking my moves AS IF I were looking in a mirror. If that makes sense.
                        "Take two placebos, works twice as well." Enzo

                        "Now get off my lawn with your silicooties and boom-chucka speakers and computers masquerading as amplifiers" Justin Thomas

                        "Being born on third base and thinking that you must have hit a triple is pure delusion!" Steve A

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Randall View Post
                          I have never had an experience with a modeling amp in a band situation that I didn't hate. I just can't stand them, period.
                          Please multiply my thumb up by an insane quantity. I hate those things...

                          Justin
                          "Wow it's red! That doesn't look like the standard Marshall red. It's more like hooker lipstick/clown nose/poodle pecker red." - Chuck H. -
                          "Of course that means playing **LOUD** , best but useless solution to modern sissy snowflake players." - J.M. Fahey -
                          "All I ever managed to do with that amp was... kill small rodents within a 50 yard radius of my practice building." - Tone Meister -

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            And to add to what Chuck said,

                            I do not care how many "famous artists" are switching over to digital/modeling/profiling/whatever from their old standby rigs. They all sound like crap since they did, to my ears.

                            I will give digital amps one thing: if you are writing club music that is heavily synthesized anyway, it's a natural habitat for a digital amp to be in. But that's it.

                            Justin
                            "Wow it's red! That doesn't look like the standard Marshall red. It's more like hooker lipstick/clown nose/poodle pecker red." - Chuck H. -
                            "Of course that means playing **LOUD** , best but useless solution to modern sissy snowflake players." - J.M. Fahey -
                            "All I ever managed to do with that amp was... kill small rodents within a 50 yard radius of my practice building." - Tone Meister -

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              A large part of the modeling craze can be answered with a question.

                              How many people under 30 have ever heard a completely analog recording?
                              "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

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