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Topeznor
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199 posts since 18 Jun, 2015

Postby Topeznor; Sat Jul 02, 2016 10:57 am Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

I've been thinking about input trim values and common misconceptions. I'd appreciate your input on the matter (no pun intended :hihi:)

It's a common practice to lower the input gain on VSTs when you're using active pickups to get a cleaner sound. Even VSTs with "learn" function do it. Now, I think that's the opposite of how real amps work. I mean, if I'm playing through my amp with an EMG 57 equipped guitar and a tubescreamer it will get a massive hit in input gain. Lowering the input trim would mean "cancelling" the gain you're actually adding (wasn't that the point in the first place?)

In fact, if you play straight into your audio interface you're gonna get digital clipping if your input is too high so you have an actual ceiling that doesn't exist when playing a real amp. If you use a tubescreamer into your interface, you will have to lower the input until it stops clipping, which will be exactly the same point as the unboosted signal (although the signal will retain the tone benefits of the TS). That means that the signal hitting the virtual amp is exactly the same, boosted or not. If you use lower output pickups, you'll ramp up the input gain to match again the same point. If you switch guitars in real life, obviously the signals fed into the amp are very different.

So after all this mumbling, I think that the million dollar question is: Which pickups were used to "define" the default input gain of Thermionik? That would give a starting point for people wanting to match settings with their real amps. (I know Shane usually plays an EMG 707 equipped guitar but I suppose he used many others to test). This could result in some standard directions that could clear up the input trim functions for some people. Something like: Single Coils -6dB, PAF style humbuckers, 0dB, Hi-gain actives +6dB, etc.
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EvilDragon
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13854 posts since 6 Jan, 2009, from Croatia

Postby EvilDragon; Sat Jul 02, 2016 11:32 am Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

That's a valid point of enquiry, I'd say.
jorismak
KVRist
 
157 posts since 10 Mar, 2014

Postby jorismak; Sat Jul 02, 2016 11:45 am Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

With amp sims you are first getting your signal in your DAW, that's what the input-knobs on your interface are for.

Yes, any kind of level difference in the real world (like low output pickups vs high output pickups) is 'sort of' cancelled in that stage.

If I have vintage pups but I digitize them 'close to clipping' and you have high-output actives and you digitize them 'close to clipping' then yes, both simples appear to be the same level when you start the digital workflow.

This is why analog 'emulations' have an input-level knob, or expect you to know 'a certain level in the DAW means xxxxx certain level in the analog world'.

There are a lot of the free amp sims (for example, Ignite Amps stuff) that interpret a signal going from 1.0 to -1.0 (so using the full 'close to clipping' range) as +1 V and -1V in the analog world, so basically meaning a 2Vpp (peak-to-peak). There are some active pickups that are close to this level in the real world, but most passive pups are lower than that, so lowering the input gain when you have a signal close to clipping is normal here. It depends on how accurate you want the amp sim to behave to your pickups, and how hot the signal is produced by the pickups.

(Remember, there are also a lot of active pickups that produce are more compressed signal, so it sounds louder but looking at the minimum and maximum voltages in the analog world it isn't as hot).

So, in other words: In _most_ amp sims I reduce the input level some for my passive pups, and I reduce the input level _just a tiny amount_ for my active pups.

But every amp sim is different here!! They don't all use the '1.0 to -1.0 means +1V to -1V'-rule. You just got to do it by ear and feel. I don't know what Themionik's input rule is (in other words, if the input trim is left alone / at default, what values of digital-signal are mapped to what values of analog signal). I think I asked Shane this once but didn't get a clear answer AFAIK.
Revalver4 tries to do something with it, by giving both a input-trim knob with auto-function (to get your level close to clipping), and then having a 'pickup signal strength' knob measured in Vrms... which only causes all kinds of people to go ask what the Vrms of their pickups are and how to get the measurement...

to lower the input gain on VSTs when you're using active pickups to get a cleaner sound

Well, if you have problem getting a clean tone (even with the gain knob down a bit) you lower the input-trim. This is the same for active and passive pickups. So to get a 'cleaner' sound, yes you lower the input trim. But if you want some sort of normal emulation, you always have less of a signal going in (by using the input-trim) with passive pickups than with active ones.

The only input-level 'learn' function I know of that makes distinction between active and passive pickups is TSE X50v2. If you have a signal as close to clipping as possible, X50 interprets that as a signal roughly on par with EMG's 81/85 (as stated in their manual or forum somewhere, I've read this somewhere). So for passive pickup users, you want your signal to be a bit lower than 'close-to-clipping'. So the 'learn' function has an active mode and a passive mode. With 'active' mode it normalizes your signal to be as close to clipping as possible (1.0 to -1.0), while in passive mode it normalizes your signal to be close to 0.75 to -0.75 or something like that.

I also know that there are interfaces around in which you can't set any recording level. Line6 interfaces for instance just 'give' a signal that is around 12 dB lower than 'close to clipping'. A user of that interface would typically raise the input level in most amp sims, no matter what his pickups are... because the signal is just very soft. My Yamaha THR10 does the same thing, it just has a preset input-level.

My feeling is that my signal is pretty close to clipping, and in most if not all Thermionik sims, the signal feels 'too hot' if I don't lower the input trim. But for every amp it seems to be a different value where I want it, so I still wonder what Thermionik's input-level-interpretation is.

So, in short: Pickup-output-level in the analog world has _no_ meaning with amp sims. You digitize it, and then you have to 'tell' the analog emulation how hot that signal is supposed to be / represent. I can make my passive vintage pickups hot as hell by cranking the input level (or using a clean volume plugin before Thermionik and raising it, same thing), I can make my active pickups as low as I want them to be by lowering it.
The only (real) way I know how to find out the correct level is by using your ears and feel and experiment what you want and expect out of your guitar / amp-sim. And remember that Shane did some tweaks to the response and range of the gain knobs in Thermionik (the whole tweaking with 5.0.1 / 5.0.2 / 5.0.2r2 :)) so you can't compare the position of the gain knob to the real-life amp anyway.
Every amp-sim can (and does) have a different input-interpretation so how much you have to lower or raise the input level depends entirely on your guitar, your amp-sim, your interface (and or the strength/loudness of the DI file) and your expectations of the amp-sim :).

One guy has a DI signal that is pretty much clipping all the time and expects 'the' amp-sim to be crunchy / slightly overdriven with the gain knob at 5, the other guy has a soft recorded DI signal but expects the amp-sim to be quite saturated with the gain-knob at 5 (because his real amp does this). You'll see that both these guys will have real different settings of their input-level knobs, even if they would have the same guitar :P.

(And remember there are more differences between active/passive pickups than output level alone. Transient response / compressed-or-dynamic / EQ curve to name a few)
musicalwarmth812
KVRer
 
22 posts since 13 May, 2011

Postby musicalwarmth812; Sun Dec 04, 2016 9:13 pm Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

EvilDragon wrote:50W, I think Thermionik's Psycho C emulates the 100W version, so that one would have much more headroom (it wouldn't distort as soon as 50W version), wouldn't it?


Yes, it does emulate the 100w head. However - we are not talking about power amp distortion here, or clean headroom. Any and all versions of a 5150/6505 primarily derive their distortion from the preamp section (and let's get real here for a moment, so do all modern high gain amps). If you were talking about a clean channel distorting sooner with amp volume being pushed, this statement would have some merit. There is an EVH 5150 iii 100 watt with an identical blue channel, and not sure if this has already been mentioned in this thread, and that is/was the EVH 5150 III Stealth. The blue channel on those two amps is identical, and no, headroom is not a factor.

That being said, yes the EVH 5150 III 50 watt blue channel, does inherently have more gain than the (regular) 100 watt. That was a design decision though, and not due to the differences in wattage/power amp section. I have tried Shane's EVH 5150 III emulation. I think it definitely nails some of the character of that amp (I am primarily interested in the blue channel here), but it misses others. One thing that struck me, I tried the Thermionik JCM 800 emulation (which is supposedly based on a stock JCM 800) and it had more gain than the EVH 5150 III blue channel. Now, anyone who has played both amps, knows that A. No way in hell any stock JCM 800 has that much gain (at least none that I have played), and B. No way in hell a stock JCM 800 has more gain than an EVH 5150 III blue channel.

Now that I have that out of the way, I have to say, I am impressed with Shane's work. I think he has done some great amp emulations here. I know he has manipulated the physical relativity of the controls and amp layout on some/all of his emulations. I can't say that is always the best approach. I personally think he should model the amps 1 for 1, rather than optimizing clean channels, or whatever compromises/improvements come to mind. My personal plea though, is that Shane does an EVH 5150 III 50 watt (and the EVH 5150 III Stealth EL34!) 1:1 emulation, no adjustments or creative interpretations. I also think the Soldano and Arrredondo 800 mods are totally sweet.
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EvilDragon
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13854 posts since 6 Jan, 2009, from Croatia

Postby EvilDragon; Mon Dec 05, 2016 1:21 am Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

Re: gain on JCM800 stock... perhaps you had your input gain set too hot?

And I suppose this is where Shane's extending the ranges of controls have a factor, too...
egbert
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3847 posts since 20 Oct, 2001, from my bolthole in the south pacific

Postby egbert; Mon Dec 05, 2016 3:27 am Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

EvilDragon wrote:Re: gain on JCM800 stock... perhaps you had your input gain set too hot?

And I suppose this is where Shane's extending the ranges of controls have a factor, too...

This last would seem to be the relevant point. Gain controls go from passive (0 -1x signal level) to active in the model Shane has applied. This gives more flexibility but now the amp has - potentially - more gain than the circuit it derives from. It literally goes up to eleven.
musicalwarmth812
KVRer
 
22 posts since 13 May, 2011

Postby musicalwarmth812; Mon Dec 05, 2016 11:11 am Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

EvilDragon wrote:Re: gain on JCM800 stock... perhaps you had your input gain set too hot?

And I suppose this is where Shane's extending the ranges of controls have a factor, too...


ED, that's a negative. Try these amps side by side, 800 & psycho c blue channel. With identical
input settings, the 800 has more gain.
musicalwarmth812
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22 posts since 13 May, 2011

Postby musicalwarmth812; Mon Dec 05, 2016 12:43 pm Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

egbert wrote:
EvilDragon wrote:Re: gain on JCM800 stock... perhaps you had your input gain set too hot?

And I suppose this is where Shane's extending the ranges of controls have a factor, too...

This last would seem to be the relevant point. Gain controls go from passive (0 -1x signal level) to active in the model Shane has applied. This gives more flexibility but now the amp has - potentially - more gain than the circuit it derives from. It literally goes up to eleven.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he has referring to the character of the amp kicking in at a certain point, not from passive to active. Maybe this is exactly what you are referring to here. Why would this manipulation add more gain (potentially). Unless physical mods were done to the amp, you can't add what is not there (I'm not referring to the manipulation of the input voltage here, which in itself is a powerful tool on most amp sims).
egbert
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3847 posts since 20 Oct, 2001, from my bolthole in the south pacific

Postby egbert; Mon Dec 05, 2016 6:57 pm Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

Duplicate.
Last edited by egbert on Mon Dec 05, 2016 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
egbert
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3847 posts since 20 Oct, 2001, from my bolthole in the south pacific

Postby egbert; Mon Dec 05, 2016 7:05 pm Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

Shane has explicitly said here that his models are not constrained by the limitations of the circuit when it comes to gain. The gain pots go above unity gain and that allows for new possibilities - no doubt. I was surprised also as this is a departure from the whole "modelling" mindset.
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Kazrog
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767 posts since 24 Oct, 2009

Postby Kazrog; Mon Dec 05, 2016 9:15 pm Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

egbert wrote:Shane has explicitly said here that his models are not constrained by the limitations of the circuit when it comes to gain. The gain pots go above unity gain and that allows for new possibilities - no doubt. I was surprised also as this is a departure from the whole "modelling" mindset.


Absolutely correct. Also, exactly *nothing* is done to the raw input signal before it hits the amp modeling in Thermionik unless you adjust the input trim on the options tab. The problem with existing "learn" functions in other modelers is that all they care about is the max peak level - there are so many other variables to consider, many of which bring us into highly subjective territory. It's much easier to simply let users adjust things by ear - it's what you should be doing anyway. :phones:
Shane McFee
CEO/CTO - Kazrog LLC
musicalwarmth812
KVRer
 
22 posts since 13 May, 2011

Postby musicalwarmth812; Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:07 pm Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

egbert wrote:Shane has explicitly said here that his models are not constrained by the limitations of the circuit when it comes to gain. The gain pots go above unity gain and that allows for new possibilities - no doubt. I was surprised also as this is a departure from the whole "modelling" mindset.


Ah, I wasn't fully aware of this aspect of Thermionik. Well, that would explain the monstrous amount of gain on the 800 model. However, I still am not comprehending how the 800, when compared to the Psycho C Blue Channel, when set to the same input Voltage - has way more gain? This is still amp modeling, so there should still be some real world relativity when comparing these amps side by side.
egbert
KVRAF
 
3847 posts since 20 Oct, 2001, from my bolthole in the south pacific

Postby egbert; Tue Dec 06, 2016 6:30 pm Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

musicalwarmth812 wrote:
egbert wrote:Shane has explicitly said here that his models are not constrained by the limitations of the circuit when it comes to gain. The gain pots go above unity gain and that allows for new possibilities - no doubt. I was surprised also as this is a departure from the whole "modelling" mindset.


Ah, I wasn't fully aware of this aspect of Thermionik. Well, that would explain the monstrous amount of gain on the 800 model. However, I still am not comprehending how the 800, when compared to the Psycho C Blue Channel, when set to the same input Voltage - has way more gain? This is still amp modeling, so there should still be some real world relativity when comparing these amps side by side.

Normally, gain occurs in amplification stages - pre-amp or power amp tubes - and it is attenuated by passive tone or volume controls. This approach to circuit modelling alters this by allowing extra transparent gain at the upper end of the volume and gain pots.

Bear in mind not all 12AX7s are identical - some deliver more gain than others. You could think of this as installing a hotter (imaginary) brand of pre-amp tubes in the existing amp but keeping some of the existing saturation properties. As I said above, you are correct in your perception that this is a departure from the usual modelling mindset.

If you think about all the hot-rodded marshalls out there - some of which have become famous through artists' use of them on albums - like Slash on AFD - these were mods cooked up by amp techs who came up with extra gain stages etc for the legion of guitarists who came to them wanting MORE! I can see the advantage of preserving the sound of the stock amp when gain is not maxed out and - just by turning up the existing controls - getting extra juice. You have the stock sounds and can change the sound progressively, moving into the realm of (some) modded amps -- and this is available from the same circuit without the discrete jumps involved in switching to a more complex model (eg adding whole extra stages which bring other characteristics with them).
StateOE
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17 posts since 1 May, 2010

Postby StateOE; Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:33 pm Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

I think the idea of making the knobs useful from 0 to 10 is just competely inspired. To me, absolutely nothing feels like the Kazrog models. I think it's tangentially akin to Scuffham's approach. Whereas Scuffham just creates or mods his favorite amps to his taste to make great takes on well known tones, McFee is simply making already existing amps far more versatile, making regular awesome amps into super amps, far more than the originals in every respect, and that in itself is incredible. It's like unlocking the door to limitless tone. To me, it's by far the most interesting approach. I've written about it before on this forum, but really any of these amps can be whatever the hell you want them to be, and that's just unbelievable. I think there would be a shortcoming if you really just couldn't get a good tone for some reason, but I can't imagine that being the case with Thermionik, no matter who you are as a player. How many players who owned an 800 just wanted more of the same gain, but had to mod or drive it? Now you can actually have more of the same gain from the preamp section; how goddamn cool! Personally, I think Shane has also eliminated the need for pedals at all with the insane input level versatility, and of course the kind addition of bright switches where they don't exist in the real world. I totally understand desiring a 1:1 knob emulation, and maybe there could be a "1:1 Mode" for a future iteration of Thermionik for those who desire it, but as far as I'm concerned, it's tonally perfect as is! I mean, personally I've never felt such tonal freedom. A 1:1 emulation is only going to sound as accurate as your input signal, and I don't at all know how that would work. If no VST guitar amp has yet had an overarching solution to this issue, I concede to Shane's advice simply to use your ears; VSTs are about freedom anyway.

I know that Revalver has their interesting solution for matching pickup RMS in that, if you've measured yours you can dial it in, but for me Revalver has just never quite done it tonally, regardless. This is all so damn subjective, I'm hesitant even to weigh in because I think it's all superfluous compared to the direct result of your playing and your ears.

I feel like there is such a dripping of harmonic fullness in my Thermionik tones, it's just like I can't go wrong with any setting; it's just what flavor I want at the moment, and it just begs me to play, which is exactly what I want from any amp. Anyway, that's where I come out; take it with a grain of salt.
musicalwarmth812
KVRer
 
22 posts since 13 May, 2011

Postby musicalwarmth812; Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:36 pm Re: Thermionik 5 - Emulation Philosophy and Input Trim Tips

egbert wrote:
musicalwarmth812 wrote:
egbert wrote:Shane has explicitly said here that his models are not constrained by the limitations of the circuit when it comes to gain. The gain pots go above unity gain and that allows for new possibilities - no doubt. I was surprised also as this is a departure from the whole "modelling" mindset.


Ah, I wasn't fully aware of this aspect of Thermionik. Well, that would explain the monstrous amount of gain on the 800 model. However, I still am not comprehending how the 800, when compared to the Psycho C Blue Channel, when set to the same input Voltage - has way more gain? This is still amp modeling, so there should still be some real world relativity when comparing these amps side by side.

Normally, gain occurs in amplification stages - pre-amp or power amp tubes - and it is attenuated by passive tone or volume controls. This approach to circuit modelling alters this by allowing extra transparent gain at the upper end of the volume and gain pots.

Bear in mind not all 12AX7s are identical - some deliver more gain than others. You could think of this as installing a hotter (imaginary) brand of pre-amp tubes in the existing amp but keeping some of the existing saturation properties. As I said above, you are correct in your perception that this is a departure from the usual modelling mindset.

If you think about all the hot-rodded marshalls out there - some of which have become famous through artists' use of them on albums - like Slash on AFD - these were mods cooked up by amp techs who came up with extra gain stages etc for the legion of guitarists who came to them wanting MORE! I can see the advantage of preserving the sound of the stock amp when gain is not maxed out and - just by turning up the existing controls - getting extra juice. You have the stock sounds and can change the sound progressively, moving into the realm of (some) modded amps -- and this is available from the same circuit without the discrete jumps involved in switching to a more complex model (eg adding whole extra stages which bring other characteristics with them).


Thanks, but I am aware how amplification and gain stages work. Sure, not all 12AX7's are identical - different brands, NOS, etc. - but maybe you are trying to say a 12AT7, etc., is not a 12AX7.

You lost me with your last paragraph. Thermionik contains two modded JCM800 models, those two amps are not what I am referring to. I am referring to the stock 800 and the blue channel of Psycho C. You put those two amps side by side and A/B, there is no way the 800 has more gain. So even the Stock 800 is essentially modded here, I get it. Still doesn't explain how, at the same input voltage, that stock 800 has more gain than the Psycho C blue channel.
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