The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

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Tj Shredder
KVRAF
3172 posts since 6 Jan, 2017 from Outer Space

Post Fri Sep 13, 2019 6:39 am

Real amps rattle, sims don‘t... I bet its mechanical, they shake the floor you are standing on and they are dirty as hell. Studio speakers don‘t do that. You don‘t want to simulate that. You can‘t sim a real Bösendorfer either and you don‘t want to.
But we talk about sims here, and its a dream for the recording engineer. He would rather find a musician who‘d be socialized with sims than record real amps. Someone who is able to get into the good mood with sims...
I get into a good mood already with Trash 2... Which doesn‘t even pretend to be a good sim...

reggie1979
KVRAF
1691 posts since 26 Nov, 2018

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Sep 13, 2019 2:14 pm

That's the thing. The physical nature of the amp and how it gets to your ears (or even a mic) simply can't be reproduced.

They are a tool, again in a mix, most people can't tell the difference and as long as there is low latency, it feels fine to me.

Even if I could use a real amp, why would I want all the hassle of setting up mics and dealing with the neighbors/police :lol:

mmann
KVRist
33 posts since 22 Nov, 2015

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Fri Sep 13, 2019 5:55 pm

The next two mini reviews cover the same two Positive Grid products that Craig Anderton included in his one comprehensive review. I decided to separate the two in case you were only interested in one but not the other. This will be my last mini review until Craig includes another of his superlative major reviews.

Positive Grid BIAS FX 2
The Interface:
Quite a nice layout with 3 different window size options; the knobs numerical position is shown when moving the knob.

The Amps:
Excellent variety but uneven quality when compared to the amp they are based on. The clean amps (called Low Gain) are clean; the Crunch and Hi Gain sound like you would imagine if not always perfectly matched to the real amp.
Not so good; all the amps have the same set of knobs; contrast this with AmpliTube 4's licensed products which often model every appropriate knob and feature.

The Effects:
My picks; Another Moon (Delay), Jet Flange (Modulation), PainKiller (Distortion) all sound good (in my opinion) and the Poly Octaver (Pitch/Filter) tracks great.
Not so good; Mutron (Pitch/Filter) sounds absolutely nothing like the Mutron III it is based on, not even close.

In conclusion:
Versatile, with lots of gear; just don't expect all the controls to react like its real world equivalent.

BIAS Amp 2
The Interface:
No window size options and the knobs numerical position is not shown when moving the knob.

The Amps:
It has the same set of amp knobs as FX 2; but with way more versatility in changing amp parameters (Preamp, Tone Stack, Power Amp and Transformer).

The Effects:
Only a Noise Gate and Reverb are provided; if you need more, you need BIAS FX 2.

In conclusion:
Mainly sounds quite good, but don't look for a perfect sound match if the amp it is based on has a spring reverb or a complicated front panel (like a Mesa Boogie Mark IV).

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Blue Cat Audio
KVRAF
4034 posts since 8 Sep, 2004 from Paris (France)

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Mon Sep 16, 2019 1:21 am

Dewdman42 wrote:
Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:16 am
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 [...]

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.
That was one of the reasons for us building Destructor and then Axiom - getting inspired is indeed not only a matter of tone, but also how the tone changes depending on what & how you play.

However, whatever the technology of the amp sim, you cannot expect to get this "loud tube amp" feeling when playing on headphones or tiny desktop monitors. You cannot fool your ears and your brain so much. So you should be prepared to invest in at least larger monitors, or better a dedicated guitar FRFR speaker. Then you get the best of both worlds: a great feeling while recording (go thru the speaker), and the flexibility and easiness of amp simulation in the box (please do not tell me you would want to mike your FRFR speaker! :lol: )
reggie1979 wrote:That's the thing. The physical nature of the amp and how it gets to your ears (or even a mic) simply can't be reproduced.
Well, it can, if you choose the right monitoring solution: unless we end up bypassing ears by connecting computers directly to the brain, I don't see the point of trying to "emulate" that in software.

Dewdman42
KVRAF
1681 posts since 14 Mar, 2006

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:38 am

The feel of the sound coming into your chest is certainly part of playing in front of a cab, but the aspect I'm talking is not that, it has more to do with the way tubes react.. If Axiom is nailing that then I will have to give that a demo soon.

FWIW, I don't even like playing through FRFR because I think that doesn't really nail it either..it just kind of makes it louder and you feel the vibrations of the sound in your body sure..and some people might argue that it could contribute to sustain in the guitar (which is also generally lacking in most sims BTW). But still....I just hear a more focused, sustained and valve-dynamic sound when I run my sim through a tube power amp like the 20/20 or 2:90 and into a pair of celestions, its just not even funny how much more fun it is to play, though tone wise, I feel I can get the a great tone without that.

Anyway I'll give Axiom a go one of these days.
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Anderton
KVR Expert
128 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:00 am

Blue Cat Audio wrote:
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.
Blue Cat does indeed do all kinds of cool software solutions :) But an important point about Helix Native is that you can load the presets into the Helix floor unit and Helix LT. If you don't want to take a laptop on stage, that's a huge feature! Traditionally, Helix Native has "throttled back" the CPU so that if a preset worked in Native, you knew it would work in the floor multieffects. You can remove that restriction in the latest version of Native, but I still leave it enabled.

[Also FYI - Studio One has a splitter module that can do up to five bands of frequency splits, so that usually covers what I need when working in a DAW.]

As to cab simulations in parallel, they work fine. There are some presets where there isn't enough CPU for four cabs, and in that case, I usually have to use three cabs and sum two of the paths through one of them. However, I find having separate cabs can really make a difference in the preset because of being able to tweak each one for its own path.
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Anderton
KVR Expert
128 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:02 am

mmann wrote:
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.
Couldn't agree more, great summary! FWIW those GTR3 stomps are based on the same algorithms as Waves' big-bucks plug-ins...that's why they sound so good.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:07 am

mmann wrote:
Fri Sep 13, 2019 5:55 pm
This will be my last mini review until Craig includes another of his superlative major reviews.
I appreciate your taking up the slack! My computer is happy now, and I'm rebuilding it the C: drive...I'll be installing the amp sims soon.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:11 am

Sustain: A lot of people say you can't get sustain from sims, but there are two workarounds.

* Split the guitar into an amp while you're recording. Get the sustain from that, and your audio will include the sustain when you use the amp sim.
* For single-note solos, sometimes I'll copy a note, transpose it up 19 semitones, and fade it in over the main note as it sustains. It's surprising how much this can sound like feedback. I've used it a lot in my latest songs on youTube.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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Pashkuli
KVRist
46 posts since 9 Sep, 2019

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:23 am

Where can we post samples, I mean real samples for the actual plugins output, not a mixed song to evaluate the sound of each amp sim + (IR + mic) nothing else. Words are meaningless.

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

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Mon Sep 16, 2019 12:26 pm

Pashkuli wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:23 am
Where can we post samples, I mean real samples for the actual plugins output, not a mixed song to evaluate the sound of each amp sim + (IR + mic) nothing else. Words are meaningless.
I don't think KVR can host files. You would need to use SoundCloud, YouTube, etc.

As to words being meaningless, I don't agree - because you can download demo versions of everything we've covered so far, and find out for yourself what they sound like. The words can help you decide which ones are most appropriate for what you do. For example, two people have now said the PRS SuperModels nail the sound of PRS amps. If you like PRS amps, then you know it's worth taking the time to download the demos and see what you think. If you don't like PRS amps, then you know to move along.

Besides, any sound will depend on the pickups, guitar body, playing style, and so many variables. I think two players could post samples with the same presets from the same amp sims, and still sound different.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Mon Sep 16, 2019 12:28 pm

I had a very interesting conversation with Johnny A., whose solo act has nothing organic about it - Bose PA, AXE FX III, Ditto X4 looper. Yet it sounds highly organic. Something he said stuck in my mind..."if you approach sound with analog ears, then that’s the sound you’ll obtain."
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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Blue Cat Audio
KVRAF
4034 posts since 8 Sep, 2004 from Paris (France)

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Mon Sep 16, 2019 11:57 pm

Dewdman42 wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:38 am
The feel of the sound coming into your chest is certainly part of playing in front of a cab, but the aspect I'm talking is not that, it has more to do with the way tubes react.. If Axiom is nailing that then I will have to give that a demo soon.

FWIW, I don't even like playing through FRFR because I think that doesn't really nail it either..it just kind of makes it louder and you feel the vibrations of the sound in your body sure..and some people might argue that it could contribute to sustain in the guitar (which is also generally lacking in most sims BTW).
I guess it indeed depends on the combination of the amp sim (I'd rather call it "guitar tone software" btw) and the speaker, and also the way you play.

I have personally dropped my old rig that consisted in a stereo tube power amp (that added this particular "punch that was missing in preamps and multi effects of all sorts that I have been using for years) and a regular guitar cab, for an amplified FRFR coax speaker (coax makes a big difference in terms of high end) with a laptop (running Axiom of course), and it just works so well for my playing that I cannot imagine going back.

But hey, we are all different and guitar tone is so personal it's hard to give any advice to others. I tend to agree with @Anderton that judging on samples is pretty much impossible (both because tones will be different with your own playing, AND because you have to play the actual thing to feel it and see if it fits).

By the way have you ever compared what you hear while playing the instrument and when listening to the same thing after it has been recorded? (not in the mix, but just the raw sound of the guitar, thru the exact same amp / speakers etc.) In many cases it will be completely different: your brain does not focus on the same things when playing guitar and when listening to it in a more passive way.

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

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 17, 2019 7:45 am

Speaking of "how tubes react" and guitar tone being so "personal"...the characteristic that some people find desirable can be the same characteristic other people want to avoid. For example, another point Johnny A. made about the amps he uses for his solo gig is that he loves handwired Marshall JTM 45s and was planning on using those. But he found that when feeding in multiple layers of sound (e.g., synched echoes) the KT66 tubes don't recover fast enough--he felt it made the sound smaller, not bigger. So that "sag" and pushback that some people want so badly was something he wanted to eliminate.
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Pashkuli
KVRist
46 posts since 9 Sep, 2019

Re: The Big Guitar Amp Sim Roundup + Review

Post Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:03 am

Blue Cat Audio wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 11:57 pm
I have personally dropped my old rig that consisted in a stereo tube power amp (that added this particular "punch that was missing in preamps and multi effects of all sorts that I have been using for years) and a regular guitar cab...
I tend to agree with @Anderton that judging on samples is pretty much impossible (both because tones will be different with your own playing, AND because you have to play the actual thing to feel it and see if it fits).
By the way have you ever compared what you hear while playing the instrument and when listening to the same thing after it has been recorded? (not in the mix, but just the raw sound of the guitar, thru the exact same amp / speakers etc.) In many cases it will be completely different: your brain does not focus on the same things when playing guitar and when listening to it in a more passive way.
Oh, like hearing your own voice recorded... Of course they will be different. Mixing is an art-form, not just playing things together. But that is completely different subject.

Please, ignore the following as it is based on absolutely subjective experience, assumptions and is not based on any technical or engineering knowledge, which otherwise might prove it even wrong and misleading!
I always had that feeling with real amps (tube/valve/lamp mainly) that those Bass, Mid, Treble knobs cause it to react more like multi-band EQ splitter (3 in this case) and that the Gain section/stages applies different type/amount of "distortion" to them. That is based purely on "feeling" though and most likely is a misconception! Nothing to do with high volumes, though we all know tube amps work best when cranked-up!
I think in the recent years that is what players have been trying to achieve in the "modern" digital era of VST amp sims.
I know little about gain stages of a real amp and what it actually does (or even mean) but there is something based on pure physical level as to how strings vibrate when being long (open strings), muted (muffled) with heavy attack from the pick (that is how I test for maximum peak/rms levels in pre-recording stage in a DAW: low body freq with high velocity guitar pick attack).

The developer who can "make" such an emulation in a amp-sim will be gaining a lot of customers. Yes, I have tried high-gain amp-sims but they all sound flat and not dynamic.
I usually have to play a lot with EQ combinations of IRs (a lot of phasing issues involved, fixing them) to make a decent "pseudo-dynamic" response when I hit the string (not talking about latency at all here!).
Based on feel, I must say that the real amp reacts to the strings like they are in a real physical tension (well, they actually are). Switching to high gain for solos or crunchy for rhythm gives me the same flat vibe in any amp sim.
I guess non-VST emulations like Kemper probably have reached that stage of emulation, but we are talking only about VSTs (never tried Kemper, can not say anything).
Last edited by Pashkuli on Tue Sep 17, 2019 11:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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