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Modelling (pre)amps: gimmick or useful?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Rockin John, Nov 5, 2003.

  1. Good afternoon, folks.

    For 3 or 4 months I've been considering a preamp. I checked out all manner of things and, eventually, I drifted towards the idea of building something up from Behringer modules. That is, straight tone shaping with no effects (effects aren't my bag, anyway).

    Then I saw the new Korg Ampworks Bass in the Korg mag. It looks quite good. Then I looked at varous modelling units from other companies, including the Behringer V Amp Bass Pro. That also looks as though it should be good.

    There seem definite advantages in a modelling unit as a preamp, including price. They seem, on the whole, to provide as much ordinary tone shaping as I'd ever need + I could, if desired, make my bass sound similar to it being played through just about any amp / cab combination ever made: useful or not, I dont know?

    So I wondered, to repeat the heading. Gimmick or useful?

    Wisdom always appeciated.


  2. j_sun23


    Feb 24, 2003
    Baton Rouge LA
    The only way to know is to try one out and see if you like it.

    I suggest ordering your modeler of choice from Musician's Fiend or some other online retailer. You'll get the best price, and if you don't like it you have 30-45 days to return it for whatever reason.

    Best advice I can give.

    Also, I've tried a Behringer Bass V-amp. On paper it looked fantastic. More features than the pod for almost a third of the price. I got it, and it was pretty sweet, a little fragile, sounded real nice through headphones, less nice through my amp. After a while I decided I didn't really like it enough to use as a live preamp, but it would make a good headphone practice tool, and a decent computer recorder. I let my brother borrow it to use for his guitar. It has now developed all sorts of weird problems. Some effects don't work, some channels work intermitently, and a few other things I can't recall. He's taken pretty good care of it, so I don't think it has anything to do with him. I don't know. You really do get what you pay for. I've learned that.

    I'd try the V-amp out just because it's such a great value at $130. If you don't like it, send that sucker back and try another.

    Good luck. Have fun.
  3. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    Good idea for recording, particularly if you're doing solo stuff and are playing all the instruments yourself. Not such a good idea for live work or if you're particularly keen to develop your own personal sound. I wouldn't use them for bass but when I'm putting guitar tracks down I'd definitely consider a Pod.

    I think you're much more likely to get a great bass sound with the simple combo of good bass, good amp (or preamp/power amp rig) and good cab.

    One other thing to consider - digital gear depreciates very fast compared to analogue music equipment, so further down the line if you decide you've bought the wrong thing you will lose more money.

    I'm not at all enarmoured with Behringer due to their unethical approach to R&D. I'd rather buy the original that they've liberated their design from despite the price premium.

  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Modelling is based on the premise that there are certain desirable "classic" amp sounds and being able to get all of them out of one rig is a good thing. You have to decide for yourself if that is true.

    I like playing through an SVT well enough, but when I'm playing through other amps I don't find myself wishing they sounded like an SVT.

    Amplifiers color the tone of your bass. What your bass sounds like can best be heard by using a good DI box into a good monitoring setup, like in a recording studio. Speakers do the most to color the tone, although the amplifier itself does contribute. Modellers try to recreate both colorations. They are very useful for direct recording when you want the SOUND of a miked amp.

    For live use, it's up to you. Think about your playing TODAY. How often do you make radical shifts in tone from song to song, from gig to gig? How often do you compromise on what amp you use because the one that has the best sound ofr the gigs is impractical to use for some reason? How often do you need to gig without any amp, just DIed into a PA system? If you answered YES to one or more, then a modeller starts making a lot of sense.
  5. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Argh, it's hard to resist jumping into these discussions...

    Here's my 2c worth: gimmick? Yes. Useful? Yes. Sometimes.

    With the current state of modeling technology, IMHO it's "not quite there yet".

    When they get to a faithful P-bass-through-SVT sound (known and loved by millions the world over), I'll probably buy one.

    Till then, it's okay to spend a few bucks to get a used one on eBay (the markdown is significant on the secondary market), just to goof around at home, but I wouldn't be caught dead with one of those things in the studio (at least not in the studios I visit, I'd probably get laughed out of the place, not to mention losing my job).

    I hang around with a lot of old fogies who appreciate vintage gear, and to anyone who digs the sound of a vintage Fender or Marshall, the modeling amps are little more than toys. They don't even come close to the real thing, "in the studio". In other words, for the people who've spent entire lifetimes studying the art of how to faithfully capture the sound of a Fender Twin or a Marshall Super Lead in the studio, the sound of a modeling amp will be "instantly" noticed. If you A/B a couple of tracks on a good set of speakers, they're so far apart it's not even funny.

    HOWEVER, for those of us who like to experiment with new and interesting sounds, IMHO the modeling technology has something to offer. I think if you take those devices out of the context of "emulating some other amp", and consider them as just having a "sound of their own" (or "many" sounds), it's possible to find some "useful" settings.
  6. rygelxvi


    Jan 6, 2003
    Some are toys and some are pro gear. I'm going to assume the Ampworks uses the same brains as the pandora, in which case i'd say its ok in the studio but less usefull live. Its more of a toy IMHO. The Vamp is ok in the studio but nothing fantastic, esspeccially live, I'm calling it a toy. The original POD ranks slightly higher but not by much, certianly not an extra 130$ worth, barely pro gear in the studio. The Boss GT6B is more of an FX unit with some better than average modeling, I'd say its pro gear but barely. The sansamp stuff, awsome pro gear that works better in a live situation than in the studio, but definatly pro gear. Finnaly all hail the new PODxt. I've owned all the above gear and tried the zoom and digitech (toys) stuff. The new PODxt not only blows away the original but is far superior to most gear out there. It has great models. Nothing will ever be the real thing, but this thing just sounds awsome even if not a perfect replica of the modeled sound. Even if your not into FX this unit has many good comps as well as semi-parametric EQ. If you are into FX, behold some incredible stuff from nice modulation stuff, to some of the best distortions and amazing synths. I've used it Live (just direct) and in the sudio and have no complaints. well except maybe the price, but hey you get what you pay for (most of the time). If your serious about good tone I recomend the PODxt or a Sansamp.
  7. ItchyBass


    Oct 12, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    I can say that I would not trade my Bass Pod for anything…

    While working on a current recording project I spent hours (hours and hours and hours) messing with my $1300 amp, and $1200 worth of cabinets. Microphones or direct, I could not get the tone I wanted no matter how hard I tried. Finally I gave up, plugged in my Pod, set it to its default settings for my exact amp, and… BINGO! That was it.

    My live rig is the exact tone I want live – therefore there is no reason for me to plug in my Pod. I toyed with it in the effects loop for signal processing, but like you Rockin John, effects aren’t my bag.

    So, I give two sides of the story, as everybody else seems to have as well. If you are looking for a specific live tone, like me, get yourself a specific amp/cab setup. If you are looking to record, the modelers are great. Which will you be doing more of? Maybe, like me, you need both.

    I didn’t help at all did
  8. Hmm. Well. Interesting.

    As a bass player I'm no more than a hobbyist, really. My playing is, more or less, strictly for the fun of playing (= rehersing) I do a gig 2 or 3 times a year and I've never set foot anywhere near a recording studio:eek:

    I own the most basic of gear - none of it branded and most of it home brew - but own a couple of nice (IMHO) Yamaha basses: a 5er and a fretless.

    My basic need, therefore, is to be able to switch (pre)amp sounds for both basses. I'd originally considered this Behringer product:-


    I can get it through the electronics trade @ a good price from a firm who looks after it's customers. But Behringer's taken a fair-old bashing on these boards, and on a number of fronts. That puts me off, big time, especially the reliability thing.

    Brianrost, I answer, "No" to all your questions
    :bawl: . I've no real interest in modelled amp sounds, especially if they don't really sound like the amps they're supposed to model!!!


  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think you've answered your own questions - but from previous experience, my thoughts on seeing this thread were :

    Rockin John + digital modelling preamp


    Does not compute!! ;)
  10. Yes, Bruce, you're right.

    But I had to flirt with the idea.;)

    All that remains, now, is whether or not to seriously consider the previously mentioned Behringer parametric thingy as a serious preamp.

    Perhaps pop over to Recording gear with that one......

    Thanks for the input gear, folks

    :D :D

  11. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Okay, I get it. That looks like a nice parametric. So, the difference between that and a modeler is, that the parametric is more or less a "simple" EQ. In other words, you'll be boosting or cutting a "range" of frequencies centered on a well defined midpoint. The modeler works a little differently, it applies a "digital transform" to the input to get "some other output". The transform can be quite complex, much more so than the bell curve associated with a typical parametric EQ. With a digital transform, you can tweak the harmonic content, and the way the notes interact when you play a chord, and you can even introduce signal-dependent dynamics. It's a much more sophsiticated concept, but IMHO it's a bit of overkill for most purposes.

    In my equation (for tone), I use a parametric under two conditions. First, when I'm playing someplace that has a funky acoustic design, to compensate for the "sound" of the room. Second, when I'm unable to achieve the exact tone I want with any combination of tone settings on the bass and the amplifier. There's a caveat on this last one, because you're not going to change the basic sound of your bass by using a parametric. In other words, if your bass has lousy string balance (the E is much louder than the G, or some such thing), you can't really compensate for that with a parametric (well you can, to a certain extent, but the resulting sound will probably not be something you enjoy).

    Here's a specific example. I have a Roscoe that sounds "different" from some other basses. When I play it through an SWR rig, I need a parametric to get rid of a nasty high-mid component right around 1.5 kHz. I think this comes from some combination of the SWR preamp and the active electronics inside the bass, I'm not really sure, but it's easy to tweak it out with a parametric. But the Roscoe still sounds like a Roscoe, it's got the same "flavor" to the sound, even with the missing (or greatly diminished) string noise.

    One last thing (sorry to be so lengthy), I wouldn't spend a lot of money on a parametric, at least at first, till you figure out what you can do with it and whether that's what you need. You can get a nice Rane PE-15 on eBay for around 60 or 70 bucks, something in that price range would seem to be reasonable to begin with. Then if you decide the parametric is what you need (if it does everything you want it to do), you can always trade up. That's better than spending a lot of money on a new piece of gear and then deciding that it doesn't do what you need it to (and then having to take a hit on resale).
  12. Thanks for the input, Non'.

    I'm not certain whether the Behringer is so good. :eek: Not from personal experience, you understand, but so many people have negative things to say about their products that I may just keep my ££ in my pocket. A response to my questions on that product over in Recording said the tubes were reported as being noisy and for little more than show.

    I have to be honest, and it's a little off thread, but I'm genuinely surprised Behringer gear regularly gets neg reports. Still, if that's how users find it then so be it.


  13. Jim Dombrowski

    Jim Dombrowski Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I have a friend who has owned several pieces of gear that do amp and cabinet modeling, and they all sound cheesey to me. I'm a tube guy, and I don't think you can re-create the true sound of a tube amp using a digital process. And how you digitally model the "sound" of a cabinet is beyond me. Pretty soon someone will be selling digitally modeled sex that is "just like the real thing".

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