Coffee Time #6 – Modelling Amp Tests & ‘We Will Rock You’ Solo Video

In the blog I have yet to to touch upon modelling amps so this week I thought I’d dive in and discuss my personal loves and dislikes in modelling amps.

I’m of the generation that saw the rise of the original Line 6 Pod which was one of the first reasonably affordable modelling units. I still believe this device has shaped peoples perceptions of the technology and drew the battle lines that still stand today.

Before this point there was only really two amplifier options (and a handful of hybrids). It was either the expensive valve amps of myth and legend or there cheaper but reasonably fun and serviceable solid-state siblings. Then as if powered by dreams and the hopes of brighter, less expensive future the modelling technology promised loads of classic amps, effects and even speaker cabs stored into its small kidney shaped exterior. Initially the press and many guitarists rejoiced at this but the reality was sadly different. There have been a number of strong tracks recorded with this but when I got my hands on one I was disappointed.  It suffered from thin, dry cleans, buzzy empty mid range gain sounds and fizzy, high gain sounds. Like many I sighed and returned to my long established amps of choice and it was sold on.

Thankfully between that first generation and the latest amp modelling options so much has changed. This is thanks to a number of developers that persevered. There are now a range of high end modellers (such as the Fractal Axe-FX and the Kempler Amp Profiler) and VST plug-ins that boast hyper realistic amp simulations that I wager to the average player and listener sound pretty much spot on. In particular the high-gain and cleans now have more warmth and natural compression which means it feels right when you play. The one area I always think reveals the shortcomings of any modelling system is the British Vox voiced tones. Unlike a high gain amp these sounds clean up which volume knobs and pick attack meaning the amp feels very responsive. The lack of compression in these circuits forces you to play differently and interact with the amps valve break up.

My current amp, the Yamaha THR10, that I use for work has converted me to digital modelling for home and occasionally for studio use. No midi displays to track through and a clear set off usable sounds make this extremely user friendly. So I thought I’d record a quick performance of the iconic Brian May solo from ‘We Will Rock You’ to test this amps ability to capture at least the essence of those Vox tones.

I think it does a pretty good job thanks to the ability to crank the simulated master volume to give you that bass end that comes from a cranked valve amp. It still has that quality where you have to play with spot on technique otherwise it will let you know. Any questions about the amp or if you want to see it tackle another sound then please leave a comment below and I’ll make it over the coming weeks.

Antony

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4 thoughts on “Coffee Time #6 – Modelling Amp Tests & ‘We Will Rock You’ Solo Video

  1. I have used a Roland VG-88 for over 10 years now, and I have been very satisfied with it for the most part. I’ll admit though, it took me several years to realize the best tones were achieved by mixing my natural guitar sound with the V-Guitar sounds…I found that for live performance, my patches required some tweaking to get a “punch” to them live, though in a recording situation they were awesome…if you or any of your readers have any current Pod products, I am including a link to Lincoln Brewster’s site…he uses the X-Pod live and gets some great tones, he offers his patches for free downloads…enjoy! …Good post Anthony! http://lincolnbrewster.com/pages/pod-patches

    • I’ve never got my hands on a VG-88, it looks an interesting beast. Steve Vai’s endorsement is a surprise. I’ve been meaning to get one of the newer Line 6 PODs for a review, especially one of the rackmount models for the studio. Thanks for the link I might put it on my useful links page for other readers.

      • It has been a very reliable unit and the sounds are truly top notch..the amp models are very good…one downside is that to use any of the v-guitars you have to use heir 13 pin cable with a midi pick-up, even to access the stomp box models…plus, it came out before usb downloads were commonplace so no upgrades are available in terms of firmware etc…I’ll be posting some samples later on and the will include some of the sounds…

  2. I look forward to hearing them. I’ve always had a soft spot for Roland products and collect vintage Japanese Boss pedals. It’s strange you need the pick-up to use the pedals is it an aftermarket pick-up? I remember a friend of mine using a Line 6 Variax a few years ago, he always wanted to rip the electronics out and put them in a telecaster for playability.

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