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Tube and solid state on a professional recording

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  • Tube and solid state on a professional recording

    I'm new to tube amps and the theory behind it all. I have really been digging deep lately and listening to many different guitar tones on recordings.

    I have a friend who is set on using a line 6 pod on all of his stuff in his studio. When I record there I always use one of his old Marshall 50 watt heads. I know I can really tell a difference between my recordings and his. His guitar almost always sounds very bland? Maybe even sometimes dry. I'm pretty sure he runs it straight. No pre amps.

    My question is: does this mean I'm developing an ear for this kind of thing? Can you typically notice differences between solid state and tube amps? I know maybe in the studio might be a different story due to production and what not but what about in a live setting? Is it a pretty noticeable difference wether something is tube or not?

  • #2
    Can O Worms.
    Tubes compress the signal when overdriven.
    Solid state will get raspy.
    On a clean signal (ie: Jazzy) & at low volumes I think you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

    Comment


    • #3
      Is it a pretty noticeable difference wether something is tube or not?
      No. It's not.

      What you are hearing is more likely
      - differences between two more or less dissimilar amps/cabs. You'd hear this even with only tube amps or only solid-state amps in use.
      - differences between two different players, their touch, technique, EQ preferences, perhaps different guitars and pickups too
      - differences between two different approaches to recording, e.g. mic placements, mics, mic preamps, perhaps plain directly-in approach and so on.
      - and so on.

      Too many variables.

      Throughout history plenty of professional guitarists have recorded many classic and influental guitar albums with solid-state amps. People "hear" solid-state or tube tone only if it's pointed out to them.

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      • #4
        Thanks

        Ok cool. Thanks guys. Any thoughts on the line 6 pod in studio application?

        Comment


        • #5
          ^Which one?

          It's a great tool and several professional musicians (e.g. Jerry Cantrel, The Edge, Meshuggah's guitarists to name a few examples) have used the more "pro" versions of the POD (XT or Pro) in their rigs both live and studio.

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          • #6
            For the most part, the POD or software-based stuff like Amp Farm, Amplitube, etc. will work in most application for recording. Sometimes guitar tracks are even virtually re-amped using them, even though they may have been recorded with an amp. A lot depends on the engineer too. I never thought I'd hear my own brother, who is a die-hard, old-school engineer with guitar-rock street-cred, say that he doesn't even bother miking amps anymore, in many cases.
            John R. Frondelli
            dBm Pro Audio Services, New York, NY

            "Mediocre is the new 'Good' "

            Comment


            • #7
              I run an original Marshall JMP 50watt head for live and recording. I've had it for about 30 years now and really know its sound. In the studio I've used POD's for overdubs and bits of double tracking and I could barely tell the difference. The only real difference I could find was that you can't realy do controlled feedback on a pod. For general playing in the studio pods are great, way more flexible than an amp.
              Live they suck.

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              • #8
                I've had similar experiences, the digital stuff works great for recording and reamping, in fact it can be a lifesaver if you don't have anywhere to crank a real amp and mic it. I remember helping some friends to record an album, for some guitar parts we used a few of my amps mic'd up, and others were added later with Amplitube. The Amplitube ones sounded better. I guess it is possible that my amps and/or mic technique suck. We adjusted the amps to sound good in the room, and they sounded too dark on tape, they didn't have enough fizz and buzz for the punk rock we were doing.

                But it's not as gratifying to play live as a tube amp. Many people blame this on latency. I know that is the reason why you can't do controlled feedback, but people also complain that the digital stuff feels dead or doesn't cut through the mix like a tube amp does, and I have no idea why that is or even if it is true.
                "Enzo, I see that you replied parasitic oscillations. Is that a hypothesis? Or is that your amazing metal band I should check out?"

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                • #9
                  well, i dunno about you tin ears, but *I* can hear a difference in the tracks...

                  one has no mic bleed and amp hum, and the other does.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have to agree with Steve on this. There's just no substitute for tube amps.

                    Or is there?

                    For me, the issue is more digital vs. analog. There have been some crazy-good analog solid-state amps on the market, and continue to be. Tech 21 is a great example, with the SansAmp circuit.

                    When the Pod was THE hot thing, my friend Andrew Barta, owner and designer at Tech 21 and I sat in his office/lab and compared tubes, Sansamp and modeling on a test rig. As it turns out, the issue is not so much the modeling as it is the incorrect time arrival of harmonics. You are taking a complex analog signal, digitizing and streaming it as serial data to the DSP, and then reassembling it using D/A converters to output parallel data again. Time arrival/phasing of harmonics is what suffers. This is why harmonically-rich modeling patches (e.g. distortion) often sound "wrong", or have odd interval notes fighting/beating with each other that would otherwise be a piece of cake for a pure tube amp.

                    Tubes are a voltage-based system. Solid-state (analog or digital) is current-based (except for FET's, which STILL don't sound exactly like tubes). Digital is, well.....digital. It's three distinctly different systems that, in an A-B-C comparison, don't perfectly mimic each other. The issue that remains is: how does it sound in context? This question has been asked about a lot of things in this industry: amps, synths, e-drums, etc. ad nauseum. But it's really the only thing that counts.
                    John R. Frondelli
                    dBm Pro Audio Services, New York, NY

                    "Mediocre is the new 'Good' "

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Digital modelling gear almost universally uses sigma-delta ADCs and DACs. I don't know of any that uses any other kind. These have aggressive digital anti-alias filters that are often accused (mainly by audiophiles in the CD vs. Vinyl debate) of messing up high-frequency transient information. Maybe this has something to do with John's arrival times of harmonics.

                      But the filters are supposed to be linear phase, which means not disturbing the relative phases of things. And not only that, the accepted model of the human ear is a kind of spectrum analyser, that can't detect the relative phases of the harmonics, just their amplitudes.

                      I sometimes wonder whether the real problem with modelling amps is that the programmers don't gig them enough, and so don't understand what a good amp for live work has to do. The ZT Club is one digital amp that apparently does work in a live situation, and as far as I know it was designed by an old bearded wizard with lots of tube amp experience. I briefly played one in a guitar store and was impressed enough that I wanted to take it apart.
                      "Enzo, I see that you replied parasitic oscillations. Is that a hypothesis? Or is that your amazing metal band I should check out?"

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        For me a lot of the difference is in the response to dynamics in your playing. I play a lot of blues stuff live, where my guitar volume is on 8 or 9 and the amps just on the edge of breaking up. By changing my playing slightly or rolling a tiny bit of volume on I can get from a really clean sound through to a warm sustaining solo. Digital just doesn't do that....yet. I've also found digital stuff doesn't work too well with my collection of trusty pedals.
                        Like I said in my last post though, digital is great in the studio where a lot of the dynamics get processed out and you're not likely to be playing rhythm and solo parts on the same take.

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                        • #13
                          the problem with modeling amps is that they fall apart at high SPL.

                          that's because their crappy power amps come into the picture!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kg View Post
                            the problem with modeling amps is that they fall apart at high SPL.

                            that's because their crappy power amps come into the picture!
                            I tend to agree with this as well. The lower damping factor of typical tube guitar amps makes the amp sound "bigger", as the speaker cone tends to overshoot and ring more. Line 6 did a relatively decent job of countering this with the Spider Valve, and it does sound pretty good, though the staleness of digital modeling still peeks through at high preamp gain settings.

                            It's the distortion patches generated by digital modeling amps that annoy me more than anything else. When recording at home, I'll use the Pod for amp modeling, but never for distortion. I've got analog stomp boxes that do a much better job.

                            A fine example of this was last week, when my 15 year-old son, who can play the livin' shit out of guitar, was in a Battle Of The Bands at his high school. Out of four bands, he was the only one of three guitarists using a tube amp, and the OTHER guitarist in his band uses a Line 6 Spider. The modeling amps just got buried in these band settings. Now, of course, it could be just the patches that were being used. Listen, I work a lot around NYC and the surrounding area as a drummer, so I get to hear a lot of different guitar rigs. I've heard modeling rigs that sounded good, and tube rigs that sounded bad. What it really comes down to is, like acoustic drums vs. e-drums, you can't use the same techniques on a modeling amp as you would on a tube amp. The simple aforementioned act of turning down to clean up your sound usually doesn't work in a modeling setting.
                            John R. Frondelli
                            dBm Pro Audio Services, New York, NY

                            "Mediocre is the new 'Good' "

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Of course neither's a POD but...



                              I've seen plenty of people gig with modelling amps and those who understand to dial the tone patches at loud volumes and in a bandmix never have had trouble cutting through and sounding good. Those who do not understand that the patch that sounds good at conversation levels in a 4x4m bedroom falls apart at loud volumes in a crowded bar or practice room always sounded poor.

                              It's as simple as that whether it's a $100 modelling rig or a $2K modelling rig.

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