Other Amps

Do I even dare admit this? (modeling content)

1

I've been playing for a while in a second band - one who has wholly embraced technology - IEMs mixable using an app on your phone, ampless on stage, etc. I was the stick in the mud, using my amp, but isolating it so that it didn't pollute the FOH. However, we have been getting gigs in the city of Chicago that aren't conducive to loading and unloading lots of equipment. In fact, I kind of prefer to take the El train to the gigs, with just what I can carry on my person.

Now, I tried the Vox Valvetronix amps in the early 2000s. They were innovative and mostly sounded good. Mostly. But I ended up back in the tube amp realm, where I stayed for almost 20 years - and don't intend to leave. BUT. Since I bought a Line 6 Helix to use with the new band, I thought a good exercise, to relax the learning curve, would be to see how closely I could clone my tube amp and pedalboard gigging rig into it. After all my amp has seen a few thousand gigs now, and the Geoge Ls patch cables on my pedal board are failing. Also, one bar I play at has crappy power, which makes my amp sound bad and my Boss pedals don't switch reliably. Also, most bars are complaining about volume these days, no matter how quiet you try to be. We are in the age of acoustic solos and duos around here. But I digress. So I created a signal path and digitized all of my stuff and got it all sounding good. Real good, in fact. I joked with the members of my own trio about going that route, and they laughed at the joke, knowing what a hard-core old school person I am. As Saturday came around, I thought I might turn the joke on them. But it ended up being on myself, too.

I used an Alto powered PA cabinet (full-range, flat response is what you want as a modeling monitor) as an "amp", and the Helix modeled my Tuner/Compressor/Wah/Blues Driver/SD-1/Klon/Chorus/SpaceEcho/Dotted Eighth Delay/Reverb/Sonic Stomp/Fender amp rig. The things I noticed right away - I could hear my "amp" better than normal, even though I wasn't as loud as normal (small venue with finicky owners). That made it easier to sing. Also, I could capture the tones I needed at the more controlled volume - even high gain tones. My virtual pedals stacked nicer than their real counterparts. Editing amp and pedal settings on the fly was a breeze. You can even do it with your feet.

Although not much more compact than my "real" rig, I feel like it would be more consistent, reliable, and flexible. I will be giving it a second date, and might even male it a "thing".

It feels dirty - but, at this stage in my gigging career, I'm not trying to martyr myself for the sake of absolute purity and authenticity. Technology has given us these gifts. There's no reason to cling to a rotary dial telephone when an iPhone makes life so much easier. My buddy - a Helix "power user" - has a separate preset for every song he plays, with different "snapshots" for Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Solo, etc. In his cover band, he always sounds EXACTLY like the record, which is really cool in that way. When he makes out his setlist, he sets up the flow in his Helix to match. He even emailed some of his patches so that I could dissect and learn from them.

Last night, I set up virtual rigs for my acoustic guitars and bass guitar. They sound fantastic though the Alto TS-312 with its 2,000 watts of headroom.

Forgive me, Father John Ambrose Fleming, for I have sinned.

3

I think it makes a lot of sense these days. At home, or in a studio, it might make a lot of sense to have the gear. But live, if you can get 99% of the way there (and these days, you can, pretty easily) and you can do it with a lightweight, affordable, venue-friendly package? Yeah, that makes sense.

4

I can’t even look at you!

just funnin’

5

YOU DID WHAT?

Just kidding. Hey if works for you then great. Just remember we aint playing that game in Nashville.

I've actually heard some great things about setting up that way and have heard some good results live from guys who do it like that.

6

YOU DID WHAT?

Just kidding. Hey if works for you then great. Just remember we aint playing that game in Nashville.

I've actually heard some great things about setting up that way and have heard some good results live from guys who do it like that.

– Suprdave

I'll report back after a few more gigs this way - especially as I'm tweaking my sounds. I expect it will only get better, as I learn about all of the nooks and crannies. This first foray into gigging came after only five days of Helix ownership. I still have yet to delve into parallel loops, multiple simulated cabs with different virtual mics, Impulse Responses, etc, etc.

7

Hah! Welcome to the dark side, brother.

For several years I've been using completely virtual rigs in the iPad through phones or small speakers for hotel diversion/practice/writing when traveling for my job. Dozens of amp models, including pretty nifty build-your-own-amp simulations, hundreds and hundreds of virtual pedals (with incredibly easy re-patching, and no signal-loss, ground, phase, or noise issues). As stereo as I wannabe, with no penalty in cost, weight, or hassle. I have a great interface that lets me line the iPad out for recording or gigging - and it works well.

But I'm a hardware guy at heart, and an admitted pedal junkie who probably needs an intervention. So for the last year, while going through, accumulating, and deploying pedals at a ridiculous rate, I've also gone both Helix AND Kemper. (Because nothing exceeds like excess.)

Both have fully "aired" and "cab-simmed" outputs (in multiple pairs, as you know) for easy headphoning or outing to recording or PA, which makes them seamlessly multi-function, portable, and silent to others. I haven't by any means exhausted the potential of the built-in goodies in either platform; I do use some of their effects - both for simple utility/convenience and for a few tricks I haven't heard in any pedal. But the Kemper's effects, while impressive, fall short of the Helix's variety - and I've built some rigs in the Helix which maxed out its processing before I was done exceeding.

So I'm also integrating pedal board(s) both in front of the Helix/KPA, and in their (sometimes multiple) effects loops.

At least so far, my interest and my emphasis have not been in the ease of reproducibility they offer through patches, snapshots, switching, etc, nor even - yet - their plausibility as central MIDI controllers for external pedals. They're both designed for that kind of instant recall and switching between very different setups, obviously not only handy for gigging - but sometimes crucial for getting one's own recorded tone. (The Kemper in particular - as it allows you to profile your own amps set up for your preferred tone, with effects in place if you want, then store them in the box for later exact reproduction of the original setup. It's no secret that many many pros are using them for just that and taking their studio tones on the road with them.)

My direction has been purely experimental, to use the Helix and KPA as environments in which to embed pedals and pedals and more pedals - in order to find sounds and textures more easily (and more quietly and less annoyingly to others) than I could with amps.

The amp models/profiles themselves, of course, are part of the package with either device, making the color, response, texture, and gain structure of different amps and cabs (and mics) as easy to switch as a pedal.

In physical actuality, I have maybe a dozen amps: are they all always in tip-top tune, with no issues? And how easy is it to change from one amp (or, in my case, pair of amps) to another - and could it be done between parts of a song? Can I even use them at room level? (No, not, no, and no.) Can I revoice them, change their bias, adjust the sag, switch out cabinets, add gain stages at will? (No.)

In the Helix and Kemper there are dozens of amps, pretty satisfyingly rendered (good enough to fool tube amp zealots in blind listening/playing tests) - and the answers to all of the above are yes yes yes yes yes and yes.

What you get in either the Helix or the Kemper alone would have been the starship rig of anyone's dreams not long ago - and pure sci-fi fantasy to a kid who was lucky to have a department-store electric guitar, a Silvertone amp, and a Lafayette fuzz pedal in 1970.

But when used as the operating environment in pedal-land, they facilitate opening doors to tones and textures and sounds I couldn't even have imagined without their capabilities. My setup is by no means convenient - it's more like a science lab than a gig rig - but it makes all these noises far more accessible (or just possible) than they would otherwise be. I generally take the Helix with me when traveling, and a few pedals (always something new I'm learning) for the effects loops. In the studioffice at home, I use the Kemper (which has a smaller footprint) as the amps-and-output home base for, like, 6 pedalboards full of nutty toys.

Kid in candystore, boys and toys, erector sets and rockets and electric trains.

I'm gradually getting the pedalboards sorted out to the point that I could take the whole rig to any kind of unimaginable gig where I would provide experimental ambient dissonant floaty spacey industrial melodic hurdy gurdy waltz noise. And if the results of that ever got structured enough that I needed to make quick changes (rather than pressing buttons and twisting dials on a dozen pedals and re-patching half a dozen cables in the patch bays), I know the Helix could handle at least all the MIDI-able pedals.

And if I had to, I could probably manage with JUST the Helix or the Kemper and a small(ish) pedalboard - and still get pretty strange.

But at this point, I just love playing with the toys.


So, yeah. I mean, obviously here on the GDP we're not going to be early adopters of these technologies, and the argument could be made that if we're finally getting the news, it must be time for something else to develop. But the stuff sure suits my interests perfectly: it helps facilitate the sonic wonderland I like to wander in, and it can be far more compact and practical for gigs.

I'm pretty sure we're far from the only ones here. I don't know that it's entirely safe to come out of the digital closet with the loving support and tolerance of our peers, so we oughtn't to brag about it. Your confessional tone is probably appropriate. But those of us who've gone over can at least admit it and pretend we're OK. You have my absolution, anyway.

8

Why did I fully expect to open this thread and discover that you had launched a new career in the fashion industry? (Not that there would be anything wrong with that.)

9

Blasphemer! Heretic! Anarchist!

Nah, whatever works for you. I've gone over to the Dark Side with my keyboard rig. Korg instead of Hammond, and RT-30 pedal instead of a Leslie. Easier on my back, easier on my wallet, and it sounds pretty good as well. Given all of the considerations, you've made a good choice.

I still have a tube guitar amp. There are some things that must be kept pure.

10

Modeling amps are like Chevys - they’re crap, but a lot of people like them - oh wait, wrong thread!

12

I had thoughts about doing that but then had bad dreams about being replaced by a better looking guitar-playing robot who played much faster than me and didn't need to take breaks.

13

I own a Fender Cybertwin. I don't apologize. And never will.

Lee

14

I've gone part way by using a Blues Cube Artist to gig with. And I still get to use all my analog pedals.

BUT, my band has also recently gone to IEMs and MAN has that been a revelation! No more monitor wedges and I can actually hear every band member in great detail without any inclination to "turn it up". It also saves my hearing because I have full control over my monitor volume and the earbuds protect my ears from any loud ambient sound levels. I strongly encourage anyone who gigs with a band to consider investing in IEMs.

15

No lucrative Ford's agency contract for me, Bob. Sadly.

I realize I'm probably late to the party - but I also like to think that the technology is just now maturing to the point that even a snob like me can be placated. A few years ago, I was going to ride out the rest of my gigging years (which may not be very many, the way the "scene" is going around here) with my regular rig serving all of my needs.

But the new virtual rig is also causing me to experiment, practice, stretch out, and take more interest in guitar playing again.

It'll be a long time before I trade in my 6120 for a Variax. That's for SURE.

Tim, I was hoping that you would offer your perspective - and it's exactly what I had hoped for. Erector Sets for certain! (my favorite toy as a kid - the other was an electronics project kit)

16

I also like to think that the technology is just now maturing to the point that even a snob like me can be placated.

There's something to that - I think the Helix is where Line6's tech really came of age, crossed the threshold of the uncanny valley and started to sound and feel "real" (but polished). I say that, but on the other hand, I still have my chrome POD2.0 from...20 years ago? A couple months ago, for the first time, I took direct outs from it into the effects returns on my Classic 30s - so, feeding the power amps and leaving the preamps out of the equation - and it sounded astonishingly good. I had previously used it into the front end of an amp, and at a couple of gigs direct to the PA. Neither was fully satisfying. This was. So I dunno.

And I'm way late getting on board with the Kemper Profiler. It's been around, essentially unchanged, since 2012. If anything, the amp "emulations" feel realer than the Helix's. I haven't profiled one of my own amps yet, but if I get good iterations of, say, my Silvertone Twin Twelve, the Ampeg Portaflex 2-12, even the Bandmaster with JBLs, I'll be tempted to sell those off. The KPA doesn't have quite the delightfully complete patchbay and in/out complete solution offered by the Helix, but it's not much short of it.

It'll be a long time before I trade in my 6120 for a Variax.

No, and I haven't made the leap to modeled guitars myself. I'm really not inclined to - and not just because Steve Howe looks so silly waltzing up to a Variax to play imitation sitar and acoustic guitar. More because I have that wall of guitars next to me at all times, and if I want a particular instrumental voice...I'm apt to have it in the woodflesh close at hand.

Even sitar, in the EHX Ravish pedal and not-horrible synth versions in the Roland G-30 I still hook up sometimes to my one guitar with hex output.

Frank G has explored all those avenues though - the Roland V-guitar tech included. He'll no doubt make an appearance and download his datapoints.

17

There are some instance when even the most tweaky vintage tube amp purist will cave to The Modern World. It just makes sense for some situations. Only place where I get off the oblivion express to aforementioned Modern World is modeling. It's someone's idea of certain tube amp sounds... but I don't want dogmeat like 'British crunch' '50s tweed' and these names they come up with.

19

Absolute and unambiguous sacrilege.

Richie Castillo of Blue Oyster Cult tours with a Helix and has posted extensively online regarding his patches.

20

My entire collection of effect foot pedals was stolen in a burgurlary, in 2011. It was an extensive lifelong collection and I was absolutely devastated. I had two choices, either try to replace what was lost, or take advantage of the new technology multi effects.

Replacing everything would have been a gargantuan effort and expense, since the bulk of my collection was early 80's Japanese Boss effects. Many of them had crossed over to the vintage market, and had appreciated in value. I ended up choosing to do both, the modern technology route with a few select pedals.

I began with the Line 6 pod HD500 (resently upgraded to the HD500X), and last year I bought a new Boss Katana 100 watt 2x12 amplifier, that has on board (downloadable) Boss effects. I've supplemented my rig with a few different pedals, mostly for convenience. I just resently bought a Boss RC-3 Loop Station to make things even more interesting.

The Line 6 pod had a pretty big learning curve, trying to program it via the unit itself, was overly burdensome. But hooked up to a computer made programming dramatically easier. The Boss Katana amplifier had a much easier learning curve, it was far more intuitive than the Line 6 pod.

Overall, I'm very happy with the new technology. I can even go directly to the sound board from the HD500X, excluding the need for an amplifier all together. I do miss the simplicity of a foot pedal board, and the fulfillment of my gadget lust. It's kind of cool having a large collection of effects pedals, but I think I did the right thing. I'm in many ways far better off than I was, with access to many times more effects than I had, with even a very large collection of pedal effects. I don't need a huge gig bag, or even an amplifier for that matter. It's the 21st century so "when in Slobovia, do as the other Slobs do"!

22

We’re getting older and wiser and the technology has improved. You’re being smart not lugging stuff around.

23

I also like to think that the technology is just now maturing to the point that even a snob like me can be placated.

There's something to that - I think the Helix is where Line6's tech really came of age, crossed the threshold of the uncanny valley and started to sound and feel "real" (but polished). I say that, but on the other hand, I still have my chrome POD2.0 from...20 years ago? A couple months ago, for the first time, I took direct outs from it into the effects returns on my Classic 30s - so, feeding the power amps and leaving the preamps out of the equation - and it sounded astonishingly good. I had previously used it into the front end of an amp, and at a couple of gigs direct to the PA. Neither was fully satisfying. This was. So I dunno.

And I'm way late getting on board with the Kemper Profiler. It's been around, essentially unchanged, since 2012. If anything, the amp "emulations" feel realer than the Helix's. I haven't profiled one of my own amps yet, but if I get good iterations of, say, my Silvertone Twin Twelve, the Ampeg Portaflex 2-12, even the Bandmaster with JBLs, I'll be tempted to sell those off. The KPA doesn't have quite the delightfully complete patchbay and in/out complete solution offered by the Helix, but it's not much short of it.

It'll be a long time before I trade in my 6120 for a Variax.

No, and I haven't made the leap to modeled guitars myself. I'm really not inclined to - and not just because Steve Howe looks so silly waltzing up to a Variax to play imitation sitar and acoustic guitar. More because I have that wall of guitars next to me at all times, and if I want a particular instrumental voice...I'm apt to have it in the woodflesh close at hand.

Even sitar, in the EHX Ravish pedal and not-horrible synth versions in the Roland G-30 I still hook up sometimes to my one guitar with hex output.

Frank G has explored all those avenues though - the Roland V-guitar tech included. He'll no doubt make an appearance and download his datapoints.

– Proteus

I didn't know that you had gone to the Kemper dark side!

I love mine...not selling my DRRI or the Genz Benz Black Pearl ... yet....but I really love my Kemper. Mine is hooked up to a Yamaha DXR10 and also two little bitty Genlec 8010 monitors...it sounds great!

I doubt I will ever attempt profiling my amps...but, I have experimented with a few of the commercial folks who sell 'em...and, I really, I mean...REALLY like the Tone Junkie profiles...you should try some.

I'll be keeping an eye out for any future comments you have regarding the Kemper...I know you will dig far deeper and understand it way more than I ever will.

24

The reason why.....I expect VERY few of us have been able to play all varieties of Marshalls, Vox, Fenders etc at full volume through loads of different cabs. If you've had that experience, Don't look down on lesser mortals who's only taste of such flavours is through amp sims

25

Frank G has explored all those avenues though - the Roland V-guitar tech included. -- Proteus

Well now, there's an understatement.

I'll spare you the details (for brevity's sake, I just deleted several paragraphs of this post detailing my history with this stuff; no need to thank me, it was the right thing to do), but I've been playing with these modeled sounds since the first iteration of Roland's "TubeLogic" precursor to COSM, in their GC405 and GC408 amps. But not in the kind of depth or to the degree that Herr Proteus has. My need for modeling is driven by sounds I want to make while gigging. On stage, there isn't time to switch guitars between songs, and I need a fairly wide variety of sounds.

Why? Because here in L.A. there are plenty of guitar players in country cover bands who can play better than me, so I try to be a little truer to the tone of the songs we're covering. The intro to "Head Over Boots?" Yeah, that's a Martin model chunking away on the rhythm. The first section of "Copperhead Road?" Yup, Drop-D acoustic tuning with one pedal-press, switching to overdriven electric in Drop-D with another stomp when we get to the second part. Electric 12-string for "Brokenheartsville?" No problem, that's patch #33. Acoustic 12 for "Tequila Sunrise?" #26 with the 12-string model turned on. Tune it up a half-step for "Write This Down," down a step for "My Maria," Baritone for "Should've Been a Cowboy," down a half-step for "I Can Take It From There," I don't know of anyone in town who's bothering to do that. And it's all made easy with a Boss GP-10 guitar processor. To get the most out of it, you need to add a GK-3 hexaphonic pickup to your guitar, (or find one with a GK or GraphTech GHOST system built into it). But it's little, easy to set up at a gig, and its modeled sounds are better than the Roland VG-99's (I have one of those, too, and gig with it once in a while).

My biggest challenge has been amplifying it convincingly, with some versatility for different venues. I have a variety of QSC and JBL powered speakers from my PA system that I've experimented with, but I've never really liked the results. I may have it worked out now, though. Just the GP-10, into a Quilter InterBlock 45 amp, with one Boss FS-8 for a couple of extra stompable parameters. It all fits in one of those little Roadrunner pedalboards ($40 from GC, Link ). Speakers are optional. The biggest part of the rig is the extension cord. Through the amp's DI, it's as good as any venue's PA, and if I want to have a speaker or two, I've been running it into a closed-back 15" Eminence Big Ben, sitting atop an Aguilar SL112 bass cab. Together, those two sound big and full, with 45 real watts of "hey, turn that down!" to go with it. And if carrying 2 cabs becomes too much physical volume (the weight's not bad, that Aguilar cab is extremely light), I can use the Quilter 12" MicroPro extension cab and sound almost as good.

I've now got 13 different "hexed" guitars but only one is a Gretsch.

To keep from offending the Rockabilly Police, I went on to build a mostly-analog boutiquey pedalboard (which has since evolved into the Rackabilly) for use with the Lizards. I may start sneaking the little GP-10 rig to Lizards gigs, though, even if it's just for the sitar part in Wanda Jackson's "Funnel of Love."


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