22 posts since 1 May, 2010
I completely disagree with regard to gain staging. To me, the Thermionik gear is like the Idealized version of each piece, in that each piece can recreate it's real world counterpart, but go way way way beyond that. I mean, with physical gear we guitarists are endlessly tweaking and pining after new gear to get that little aspect of tone we're missing, and discerning ears can do this to a fault. I mean, Amplitube, for what it's worth, more or less seems to attempt that kind of warts and all re-creation, but I grew really to hate their amps sims after discovering Thermionik. What Shane has written about the inherent problems of simulator input gain from your audio interface is so right. This point has been exhausted in various forums online, whether the load to your pickups changes things or anything, it really does come back to your ears.
I think a bigger point, and way more important, is that all the best tones are created from ears primarily and not gear, and it really does take a bunch of tweaking no matter what. A few episodes of Pensado's Place's Into the Lair preview a bit of the level of tweaking that actually ends up making the sound for which one may pine, all after the guitar gear itself. Just the way great audio engineering is primarily comes down to good ears and craft, then access to tools by which to accomplish design, great tone starts just with your feeling and your ability to engineer your own tone, and no matter what you go for with physical gear, I think Thermionik's expansion of that gear is a huge improvement. Soldano said essentially that pedals should be superfluous with modern amps, and while I disagree there, I think he's getting at this very idea, that a single piece of gear can handle so much of the heavy work of tone sculpting. When your amp turns into some crazy chain you could only easily create in a DAW, more power to you; in the end, it's just about appeasing the inner tone hound so you can get to the real work. To me, the real work completely depends upon the tone, so I end up changing my playing style all the time to match the gear. I so prefer to have these pedals and amps that can really do anything at all I want. To me, that particular aspect has completely changed my life as a guitarist. I mean, I find not a bunch of saturation that sounds reminiscent of the finest gear here, but every array of completely useful and gargantuan tone.
I think you have to embrace your own tweaking nature and learn these pieces like they're new gear. I used to think about particular amps and conceive of how to phrase licks depending on which to which I'd have access, but none of that think applies at all any more. Now it's just a matter of flavor.
This is not meant to produce a big back and forth on tone philosophy, just my two cents. I also feel weird being so gung-ho over a piece of gear, but I can't get over what it's done for me. I'm going to back out slowly and quietly now.