The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

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reggie1979
KVRian
1442 posts since 26 Nov, 2018

Post Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:56 am

The biggest problem I have with Bias is the authorization is wonky. It kicks me out all the time so after trying to deal with support (not the best) I just gave up on it.

Their demoing is shady too. You can't demo the "pro" stuff and so you don't know if you'd like it, you have to cough up the cash and I could have probably lived with the basic. :shrug:

mmann
KVRer
28 posts since 22 Nov, 2015

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:04 am

Line 6 Helix Native
Most times, when I first start using an amp sim, I find it very quick to dial in a sound that I like with only minor adjustments to the presets provided. With the Helix Native, I had great difficulty trying to make any of the presets sound good. For the first time ever, my audio interface levels were not suitable, so I had to create a special preset in Blue Cat's PatchWork that had the input gain set to -16.00 dB and the output gain set to +4.00 dB.

The Interface:
Versatile and powerful but not intuitive, one of the only interfaces that had me reading the manual before I could do much with the signal flow. Lookswise it reminds me of the old SimulAnalog Guitar Suite (the original without the Requietus GUI added). On the plus side it is resizeable and easy to see the parameter values.

The Amps:
Most seem fairly close to what they are based on once I got the audio levels set for Helix Native.

The Effects:
My picks; the pitch shifters were excellent at tracking even on fast passages, Harmonic Tremolo, Searchlights reverb and Multi Pass delay.

In conclusion:
This is an amp sim I use like AmpliTube 4; treating the sim as real gear with traditional pedals and amps. Overall one of the better amp sims but to me it is not my top pick but it could be yours.

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Anderton
KVR Expert
104 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:13 pm

Re the Helix...the level issue seems not right, it's just like the other sims in my computer. Is the problem that you can't set the interface gain high enough, or that the Native input level couldn't be set high enough, or something else?

As to the interface, once you're in an audio path, I think adding and removing effects is as expected. But for features like the frequency splitters and routers, you really do need to read the manual, which you also need to do for all the MIDI features and such. I still need to look up stuff from time to time for features I don't use much.

The big attraction to me is the ability to do multiband processing. There are three free demo presets available online that you can download, and compare single-band and multiband sounds. I hope you get a chance to check them out, to me they represent the Helix Native's unique feature.
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mmann
KVRer
28 posts since 22 Nov, 2015

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 10, 2019 6:24 pm

Anderton wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:13 pm
Is the problem that you can't set the interface gain high enough, or that the Native input level couldn't be set high enough, or something else?
If you look closely at my post you will see a negative sign on the input gain setting, as in negative 16 dB, with a little plus 4 dB gain on output to makeup a little of what I lost on the input (patch dependent, not always required).

If I load an instance of Overloud TH-U and press the Level button on the input, it shows an ideal signal from the audio interface. Load an instance of Helix Native and the signal is too hot by 16 dB! You can lower the input slider in Helix but the next time you create another instance you have to remember to do the same. So I created a preset in Patchwork that has the 16 dB cut with an instance of Helix Native.
Anderton wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:13 pm
The big attraction to me is the ability to do multiband processing.
This I already do with Blue Cat's MB-7 Mixer with up to 7 bands and each frequency band can be processed by other plug-ins, in VST or AU format with two slots pre- and two post-fader per channel.

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Pashkuli
KVRist
34 posts since 9 Sep, 2019

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Wed Sep 11, 2019 12:55 am

Guys, all those "Amp sims" are just a set of tools to produce sounds or manipulate sound. They are not a magic wand.
Music instruments and tools do not have a magic formula to work every time, in every situation, in every genre, for every performer, composer...
Experiment (no one is going to get hurt anyway)! Tips and tricks. And tweaks!

ilmai
KVRist
360 posts since 25 Aug, 2016 from Helsinki, Finland

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:40 am

Really interesting thread! I have never seen an amp sim discussion that covered so much ground.

I’ve tried quite a bit of different amp sims... started with Reason’s internal amps, briefly tried to use Bias but it was too buggy so I bailed. After that I bought the entire Kazrog Thermionik collection, so much quality stuff there that I ended up using it exclusively for a couple of years. The biggest problem for me always was that there were so many individual plugins and I had to go through many of them to find a great sound for every situation. I tried to prune my collection a bit, select a couple of go-to favorites, but decided to demo some new amp sims while I was at it. Ended up liking Mercuriall ReAxis the most for all the different kinds of sounds I use, and it replaced everything else in my amp sim collection, becoming my default choice for all amp sim duties. Anyway that’s my story.

If anything, this thread is making me demo Blue Cat’s Destructor and Axiom, since I can _really_ get behind the design philosophy of going for quality sounds first without necessarily trying to emulate anything specific. ...also I really love sound design. Again, good stuff, I will keep reading!

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Blue Cat Audio
KVRAF
3995 posts since 8 Sep, 2004 from Paris (France)

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:29 am

mmann wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 6:24 pm
Anderton wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:13 pm
The big attraction to me is the ability to do multiband processing.
This I already do with Blue Cat's MB-7 Mixer with up to 7 bands and each frequency band can be processed by other plug-ins, in VST or AU format with two slots pre- and two post-fader per channel.
I would actually be very interested in hearing what @Anderton would be able to achieve with the MB-7 Mixer!

Regarding multiband amp sim usage in general, do you keep the cab simulations for each amp used in parallel? I have often had odd results due to interferences around the crossover frequencies when not bypassing individual cab simulations and was more successful using a single cab/filter after summation, but maybe it's just a matter of choosing the right combination of crossover points and simulations.

mmann
KVRer
28 posts since 22 Nov, 2015

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:09 pm

PRS SuperModel Amps
If you are looking for the sound of real amps, in this case PRS amps, you are in luck! If your only previous introduction to a PRS/Waves collaboration was Waves GTR3, you will find PRS SuperModels are light-years ahead in sounding like the real deal; just don't throw away those Waves GTR3 Stomps.

The Interface:
Nice clean layout but with a recommended screen resolution of 1280x1024 / 1600x1024 those working with higher resolutions might be wishing for a resizeable interface.

The Amps:
In a word, fantastic. I couldn't pick just one as a farourite, they all get used.

The Effects:
Nothing to see here, move along folks.

In conclusion:
From a PRS amp sound standpoint, you can't get much better than this. The other option is spending considerably more money buying an actual PRS amp.

reggie1979
KVRian
1442 posts since 26 Nov, 2018

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:39 pm

Some days, I love amp sims. Some days I just hate them :lol:

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Pashkuli
KVRist
34 posts since 9 Sep, 2019

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Wed Sep 11, 2019 3:18 pm

I think machine learning applied for audio processing and "profile matching" will eventually be able to reproduce 1:1 the real amps, maybe in the following couple of years (maybe sooner).
For now IRs (Impulse Responses) are the best approach to get the correct sound in the recording phase.

I would really like to see some video (+audio, of course) demos of VST amp sims directly plugged to a real cab and mics, compared to real amp (maybe has been tried already). I do not know.
Different tests comparing "identically setup" VST+IR against Amp+cab/mic show some spectral mismatches and the virtual setup is somehow "flat", "narrow" + the infamous shrilling harshness (no spatial FX applied!) of high-gain amp sims.

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The Noodlist
KVRian
1008 posts since 16 Aug, 2017 from UK

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Wed Sep 11, 2019 3:53 pm

Pashkuli wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 3:18 pm
I think machine learning applied for audio processing and "profile matching" will eventually be able to reproduce 1:1 the real amps, maybe in the following couple of years (maybe sooner).
For now IRs (Impulse Responses) are the best approach to get the correct sound in the recording phase.
To many variables and individual components, with tolerances and interaction between each other. Ballpark, maybe.
I agree with on the "pushing air" theory, a sim through a cab, or similar.
Image
Not a sim, but a pedal.
Currently trying to turn noise into music. :neutral:

lajosuti
KVRist
127 posts since 25 Jan, 2014

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:04 am

Why do you say "ballpark maybe"? I thought that phase is passed already, sims are in the ballpark.

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The Noodlist
KVRian
1008 posts since 16 Aug, 2017 from UK

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:26 am

lajosuti wrote:
Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:04 am
Why do you say "ballpark maybe"? I thought that phase is passed already, sims are in the ballpark.
The realism when playing that inspires, like an amp responding in it's unique way.
Currently trying to turn noise into music. :neutral:

Dewdman42
KVRAF
1623 posts since 14 Mar, 2006

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:16 am

what a great thread with great Reviews and comments by all.

I just want to say, I'm with guitarzan on his plea for more feel in amp modeling. I think the sound from guitar modeling became perfectly realistic enough a long long time ago, more than decade already, and there is not much need for yet another improvement in terms of the sound they provide or yet another modeler. There are already too many choices, all of them very competitive and often very similar sounding, depending on which IR's you use, etc..

But they have not come close at all to catching the wonderful feel of playing through tube amps. To me its like if I was an olympic runner and they expected me to run the race in ski boots. Or if I had to play a great piano piece on a non-weighted midi keyboard. Sure I can get the job done and a lot of people might not hear the difference, but I would know as I was playing it that it was not the inspired performance that it could have been because my feel was less then optimal.

So it is with current modelers.

I think I can lay down tracks in my DAW and they will sound fine, nobody will know the difference in what they hear, except for how my performance was impacted by the lack of feel...and it will be impacted, you can be sure. I will know the difference and I will not enjoy the experience of playing it nearly as much either.

After reading this thread, I am more convinced then ever that modeling is not going to bother with that stuff because the vast majority of the voices on this thread did not even seem to really get what guitarzan was trying to say. If there is no demand, there will be no improvements in this area, sadly.

The only modeler I have ever played that captured that feel to some degree was the Vox ToneLab, played into a MesaBoogie 2:90 amp feeding into a pair of V30's. The Tonelab had the valvetronix tube in there which was not used as a preamp tube, it was used to emulate power amp feel..exactly what guitarzan has been talking about. But even that still didn't have enough sag and feel for me until I ran it through a real tube amp to real guitar speakers. And even that frankenstein setup was not the same as end-to-end analog from guitar through preamp to amp to speakers...which creates the push pull dynamics that guitarzan has been talking about and i agree with him...

all the focus with modeling has been on the sound, and not enough attention to the feel and touch of an electric guitar through tube amps. The dynamic nature. Maybe it can't be done I don't know. Maybe it would be too much CPU, sure maybe, but what I hear mostly is that most people don't even seem to be aware of what they are missing. And I don't think the software makers are too concerned about addressing that because there is not a widespread "concern". I think the real challenge is justifying development funds.

With modelers I also always feel like I can't really control the dynamics through my playing enough. Everything is the same tone, grit and level no matter how soft or hard I rattle the strings. Tube amps don't work that way.

So.... I'm getting old now... I don't think we'll see it in my life time; when I'm still young enough to care.
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Pashkuli
KVRist
34 posts since 9 Sep, 2019

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Sep 13, 2019 2:50 am

Dewdman42 wrote:
Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:16 am
Attention to the feel and touch of an electric guitar through tube amps. The dynamic nature. Maybe it can't be done I don't know. Maybe it would be too much CPU, sure maybe, but what I hear mostly is that most people don't even seem to be aware of what they are missing. And I don't think the software makers are too concerned about addressing that because there is not a widespread "concern".

I'm getting old now... I don't think we'll see it in my life time; when I'm still young enough to care.
Yes, times are different now. Today most of 15~20 up to 30 year old players probably have never played through a real tube amp, or only occasionally (at a shop, recording sessions in a studio). The majority of the players use VST amp sims, cab, IRs and they will get used to that sound and how to tweak it. Too much hassle to handle a real amp at home (loudness, setup, acoustics, miking, etc.). I know, I do not use them.

I remember in my late teen years playing through a real Marshall amp. What a blast! Recording it though was an art form... it sounded like sh¡t trough a SM57 just on its own.
Because it will never be as the way we hear it with our both ears - spatial sound, binaural, multi-mike placements for room, volume.

The final sound is a combination of proper mike techniques and mixing tactics and tweaks.
You can do that with VST amp sims. Yes, it might take more time, or more preliminary knowledge... but you would have needed that knowledge anyway with real amp, real, mikes, real cabs, mike placement, EQ...

VST amp sims can get only better and better. I am sure in the next couple of years they will surpass the "real amp" sound.

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