Other guitar-y things

Modelers & Multi-FX: Valentine to the Hotone Ampero, and has anyone…


I know that more of us than openly admit it use modelers, profilers, and multi-fx units. (Even while wearing our Tubes Or Die t-shirts.)

I my pitiful self am a reasonably besotted devotee (or dupe) of these devices, having run through a fair bunch of purported all-in-one do-it-alls over the years. The facts that my pedal disease keeps metastisizing (and super-sizing) - and that I still have more tube amps than pairs of jeans that fit - doesn't mean I don't avidly seek the all-in-one grail at the same time.

I suppose the truth is just that I'm too entertained by all aspects of guitar tech.

In any case, enough excuses for not being able to present as a Rational and Frugal Adult in this arena of rabid consumerist excess.

I have an old POD 2.0 (which I still enjoy), the Boss MS-3, the Line6 Helix, and Kemper Profiler - the last two arguably considered the kingdaddy leaders in the field.

But for the past several months I've been frolicking and gamboling with the amaaaaazing Hotone Ampero. I don't say it's amazing just because it's a quarter of the cost of the big boys and does an awful lot. I say it's amazing because it sounds great to me - in many instances (particularly its models of amps, gain & dirt pedals, and modulation) it frequently, and more easily, sounds better than those things.

(While the Big Two have it all over the Ampero in details of delay and reverb algorithms, the Ampero's are plenty usable for any gig and most recording applications, only coming up short when auditioned critically by themselves, when trying for deep edits of things like the EQ of a reverb tail, or when trying to get wackier than the designers ever intended me to.)

The Ampero does have a few functional deficiencies - like the lack of an effects loop to integrate favorite specialty pedals, less than complete flexibility in assigning any effect to any block/module in its signal chain architecture, and the ability to use the stomps to kick individual effects off in a program.

But when I hear the thing, I forgive those omissions and take the device for what it is. I frequently dial into a great tone and then forget I have a device with bunches of features, and just play through the thing. Sometimes I'll stay on one patch for weeks - meaning the designers' enginearing effort hasn't gone solely into providing lots of options and variety (you know that mode...stepping through patch after patch and endlessly editing). Instead it's gone into the ease of dialing up a good sound, and then inspiring me to play. It's great when the tech gets out of the way.

Which is to me the mark of a great piece of gear, whether guitar, amp, pedal, or digital cornucopia.

The designers and engineers of so many modelers/multi-fx have concentrated on high gain applications. But I'm getting completely satisfying clean sounds out of the Ampero, again (and I keep challenging myself on this claim) fully competitive with Helix and Kemper.

Then I factor in the mighty handsome industrial design, elegant graphics, vault-solid build and attractive, intuitive interface, XLR outs for the soundman, USB recording interface (class-compliance so no Mac driver needed), and a handsome and functional editing application.

Then its diminutive size - 12.75" x 5.5" x 2" (to the top of the knobs) - is kinda the capper. It's SO easy to tote; goes in my backpack along with my laptop (or in the accessory compartment of a rectangular guitar case) and goes anywhere, easily.

But for the wishlist of why-did-they-leave-that-outs, it's nearly perfect.

That it's 499.00 retail - and you can buy it all day long at 399.00 - is just ridiculous. People might take it more seriously if it cost more - but as it is, it's gathering more, and more positive, accolades from those who care about such things.

Short version: t'ain't the do-all be-all end-all, but I really really heart the Ampero.

But. There's a new kid in town - since sometime last summer, though I've been too besotted to notice - in the form of the Mooer GE300. Its features and specs, on paper, include everything the Ampero lacks - fx loop, more freely assignable blocks/modules - and blows past it with more parameters and editing depth for amp and effect models, more flexible stomp-switching, IR loading, a 30-minute stereo looper (vs 2 minutes on the Ampero), and a 3-voice analog synth with seamless tracking.

And, ridiculously, a "Tone Capture" function which purports to "profile" (in Kemper terms) not only your own amps/cabs, but non-time-based effects, and even guitars.

Nother words, a more complete and compelling set of features and functions than Kemper, Helix, or Headrush (though they go further in implementing some of the stuff they do have).

Physically, the GE300 is larger than the Ampero - but considerably more compact than Helix, Headrush, or Kemper Floor - and while it's not quite as handsome as either Ampero or Helix, it's far from ugly.

At 749.00, it's less of an impulse purchase than the 400.00-street Ampero. But it's still half the money of the big boxes.

So...no-brainer for a guitar gear junkie?

Maybe maybe not. It doesn't seem to have attracted a very large user base yet. And what buzz I'm able to pick up in the forums dedicated to such things is that the Hotone simply sounds better.

There's also some forum backlash against Mooer based on the intellectual property piracy case Mike Matthews of Electro Harmonix won against the company when he found not only the digital code for E-H products in some of Mooer's products - but even the E-H copyright notices, and the production notes of his engineers.

I'm not insensitive to that. In the world of the guitar and its technology, where the lines between originating and building onto, engineering and reverse-engineering, cloning / replicating / modeling / profiling are all vanishingly thin, it's clear Mooer managed to cross them. (And if anyone had at least a translucent if not utterly clear moral right to call them on it, it's Matthews - as E-H has been longer, and more often, an originator than a duplicator.)

Still - when every pedal builder and every peddler of digital modeling (either forthrightly or with a wink and nod of clevercute naming) identifies the original sources for that which is ... uh ... flattered by imitation? - where are the lines?

In any case, after being called out by the law (Chinese law no less!) for the error of their ways, maybe Mooer will be IP-cleaner going forward (or at least more careful). The GE300, as their latest and greatest, certainly incorporates and acknowledges the types and tropes of the electric guitar's tech-historical legacy. But its particular combination of features, as implemented in its own architecture and OS, represents considerable original work by Mooer.

Because however obviously any modeler or multi-fx in 2020 owes a considerable debt to the origin of the species in Boss multis and the Line 6 POD (and all the other makers who've followed on) - and whatever detail of code is hiding down in the guts - the whole GE300 package is an evolutionary variation on all of the above, and not a direct copy of anything.

My previous experiences with Mooer have been positive: of all the Chinese mini-pedals I curiously auditioned over the past few years, all that remain are the Mooer Trellicopter and Rumble Drive.

I also had the Red Truck for a short period last year, and found it one of the most capable analog-ish all-stomp-button-and-knob all-in-ones. Ultimately it didn't satisfy, because I wanted more of everything, but it was competently and uniquely what it was.

All of which means I'm willing to give the GE300 a listen.

Aaaaand, at long last, that's why I've invited you here. Just wondering if any of y'all happen to have experience with the GE300. I know, I know. The GDP is not the most obvious place to ask about such gear, but the GDP turns out to be the best source of experienced opinion on even unlikely subjects.

SO: Mooer GE300 vs Hotone Ampero. Anyone been there? Or Mooer GE300 vs any other modeler/multi-fx?

Curious by-products of my search for Mooer info

I picked up on various forums that the Joyo and Mooer companies (and maybe Hotone) are related by family - as in biological family. And that Ammoon and Harley Benton are made by/rebranded Joyos - while Donner, Xvive, Rowin, Mighty Sound, Tomsline, and others are Mooer under the hood.

Meaning, #1, that the invasion of Chinese mini-pedals over the past several years in reality has only a few sources. And #B, that we might expect the OS, models, and features of these more sophisticated devices to overlap among those brands.

Specifically, I've seen speculation (grounded or not I don't know) that the Ampero and GE300 are very closely related. But based on what I know of what's under the hood on the two...I don't see it.

Also, so far I can't find any intelligible direct comparison of Ampero and the GE300 which clearly A-Bees identical models on each, in a shootout format and into a recording chain I can trust. Aaaaand, most demos of these devices concentrate on high-gain amps, which is not my interest.

Which is why I've asked here.

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