Well, it's time to fess up. I sold the "Fractal Audio / Atomic" setup to my bandmate a few weeks back. That combo is the absolute best "modeling processor full range setup" on the market...hands down. If I ever go back to a rack rig, that's what I will go back to, but I will add a tube poweramp.
My backstory for the decision:
I've been doing the digital/modeling processer thing for 10 yrs now, mostly with SS poweramps, but a few Mesa tube poweramps have snuck in there too. Prior to that, it was mainly cheap SS amps & one shitty Marshall SL-X tube head that I promptly got rid of. With that in mind, I haven't had the $$$ to get give high-end tube amps a proper go other than just tinkering with friend's amps or at the local music store. And of course, it's just painful to hear some local band playing through nice gear & they had no concept of how the fucking knobs work. Terrible tones on rather good gear.
So I decided that now that I've tried the best in the world of processors, it's time to really check out high-end tube amps now that I can afford them. It was time to see if I was really missing out on anything.
And yep, i was! I tried out numerous tube amps in the $1400-2700 range & the clear winner for that price range in terms of flexibility, reliability, tone & all the features I wanted was the HUGHES & KETTNER COREBLADE. All analog, all tube tone w/ midi preset capabilities & the abilities to experiment with different power tubes & even MIXING them! I'm using my Ground Control Pro midi pedal to control the amp. I've paired the amp with two Mesa widebody 1x12 cabs loaded with Eminence swamp thang speakers.
Here's where the tubes snobs rejoice....
Tubes do have a presence & complexity about them & the tone really cuts through in the mix for live applications.
I'm not dismissing processors in any way because they do serve a specific application & seem to be getting better & better over time. Hell, the average audience member wouldn't know or care if you used a modeler processor or amp head. While Fractal Audio is the closest yet in getting that comparable tube tone, I still think the real thing still edges out. I can't wait to see where all the modeling companies are in 5 more years.
Anyway, I'm pretty damn happy & everyone who's been dying for it, you can say "I told ya so."
Dave, you're first.
Edit: And now that I can edit this, here's my take. So far, I really, really like the AFX. It has two big appeals to me that I was looking for:
1. It doesn't color my tone in the loop.
2. I can record direct with it with the amp/cab sims on.
I know it's "not a modeler" blah blah, and the amp tones that it dials in are very, very, very good. It destroys every other thing in it's class that I've ever used by a long shot. Here's the rub, though, and again it's all just subjective. I was able to dial in an almost spot-on Roadster tone with it in about an hour of fiddling. I mean, ridiculously close. If I switched back and forth for someone not familiar with it, you'd say "wow, they sound the same!".
The thing is, I know my amp. I said this to Drew and it's really the only way that I can describe it - they sound the same, but the Roadster "feels" different, it's like it's more organic. I honestly think that a Roadster with the AFX in the loop is the absolute best setup out there for me. I love the sound of my amp, and I'm a big effects guy and the AFX is hands down fucking fantastic as an effects processor. That's not to say that it's not a great standalone rig, it certainly is, but to me it was just missing something when I went A/B from the tube head to the modeled tone.
You are so right on. I'm fortunate enough that I can toss the AFX models on a clean channel on the Roadster if I feel the need to dial in Powerball/JCM/Younameit tone, because I have both. Shit, I'm fortunate enough to have an AFX and a Roadster, but this is our hobby, and we work hard, so why the fuck not right?Tubes do have a presence & complexity about them
For recording, the AFX is perfect for me because I CAN dial in that Roadster tone and do it at 2 in the morning with headphones on if I want to. But for everyday playing, I love the sound of my tube head as the core. Toss an AFX in the loop for it's brilliantly done processing and effects, and it's pretty much perfect. I'm not trying to downplay/fanboy the AFX. It really is all sorts of awesome, and the fact that it's both the perfect looped effects unit AND the perfect direct unit for recording makes it a double-whammy of "I'm glad I bought it". But I love the Roadster. It's the best sounding amp I've ever used, and hopefully you'll feel the same way about the HK in a few months the way I do about the Mesa.
I've already taken my "told you so's", but really I continue to eat my words every day.
Nutshell: You'll switch setups in 2 months, Shannon, but I'm glad you're happy with it right now.
(I had to say it, you know)