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Lord Super Awesome
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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.... :rofl:
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. :)
 

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In!

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.

Tubes do have a presence & complexity about them
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?

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. :yesway:

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. :wub: :lol:

(I had to say it, you know)
 

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Dream Crusher
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Like I said on Facebook... you bounce back and forth more than Christina Hendricks out for a morning jog.

Glad you've found (another) thing you're awesomely happy with though!
 

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Lord Super Awesome
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Chris,
You're such a cock for being exactly what I am....an SS rack rig guy turned tube amp nut. :lol:

In all seriousness, it's really nice to finally hear the difference. So far, I've used the HK/Mesa rig @ 2 rehearsals & then used it for a 3 hour show last night with the cover band. IMMEDIATELY NOTICEABLE difference. You touched on 2 things that I'm totally getting now more than before.
1. The feel
2. The organicness
The presence of the HK/Mesa setup was unquestionable.
The cleans bloomed. The distortions were thicker.
The solos POPPED & cut through like nothing else I've tried.
Plus, got a lot of compliments on the new rig as people who seen us many times before noted the difference.

And as I stated earlier, the AFX is hands down, the best processor out there. Couple that with the Atomic cabs & it's just freaking deadly. With the current processor offerings, if I ever go back to a rack rig, that's what I will have. But for now, I'm not just enjoying my 1st real foray into the world of high-end, all-analog tube amps...I'M REALLY ENJOYING IT!

The only thing I am missing about preamp/fx processors is the "hit one button & everything changes" convenience. No dancing on the pedals. To compliment the HK for FX, I did pick up a Line 6 M13 stompbox modeler for FX when needed. Both the HK & M13 have midi, so maybe I can find something to run them together. I still need to research that.

Anyway, I'm super content & there no more endless menus to scroll through.
Midi capable. Check.
Real knobs. Check.
Tubes. Check.
M13. Check.
Versatile setup? Roger that!
 

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Real knobs. Check.
This is so important, and overlooked/understated most of the time. I own a fuckload of guitars. When I switch, sometimes I'll need to roll back the presence a little, or add some midrange. When I want to do that, it's so nice to just reach for a knob as opposed to flipping through a menu.
 

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Premium Member
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I'm glad you've both posted this, as they are my exact concerns about the axe-fx. I have absolutely no doubt that they sound incredible. I've heard enough samples and rave reviews to doubt that ability. Very very few reviews, however, seem to mention the feel issue, which for me is what holds modelers back. Even though my DC-5 and HT-5 aren't the best sounding amps out there (though they can sound very good) they just feel so good to play, and I'm afraid that even the incredible tones I might gain with an Axe-fx couldn't outweigh what I'd sacrifice in feel.
But, I've never played one, so I can't say for sure.

Besides, I can't afford one anyway, now or in the foreseeable immediate future lol
 

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Lord Super Awesome
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This is so important, and overlooked/understated most of the time. I own a fuckload of guitars. When I switch, sometimes I'll need to roll back the presence a little, or add some midrange. When I want to do that, it's so nice to just reach for a knob as opposed to flipping through a menu.
Yep. Actually, that's one thing I dug about the GSP1101. Quick gain, eq & level tweaks with real knobs.

With the HK, I basically set up 8 channels for last night's show.
4 rhythms (clean, ac/dc crunch, 80s marshally hi gain, modern darker mesa style hi gain)
4 solo channels (basically, 1 corresponding solo patch for each rhythm patch w/ a touch of chorus, verb & delay).

Everything sounded great, but my crunch patch was a big louder than the rest. It was really great to knock the channel volume down a touch by a simple turn of the ACTUAL volume knob. Took 2 seconds. :yesway:
 

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Lord Super Awesome
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I'm glad you've both posted this, as they are my exact concerns about the axe-fx. I have absolutely no doubt that they sound incredible. I've heard enough samples and rave reviews to doubt that ability. Very very few reviews, however, seem to mention the feel issue, which for me is what holds modelers back. Even though my DC-5 and HT-5 aren't the best sounding amps out there (though they can sound very good) they just feel so good to play, and I'm afraid that even the incredible tones I might gain with an Axe-fx couldn't outweigh what I'd sacrifice in feel.
But, I've never played one, so I can't say for sure.

Besides, I can't afford one anyway, now or in the foreseeable immediate future lol
Well, our comments aren't a knock on AFX in any way. More of just an observation. If you want the ultimate, all-encompassing rack rig that works awesome for live & even better for recording, it's freaking incredible! No doubt about it. We're just noticing the differences & these differences are not only subjective, but very miniscule. The unseasoned gearwhore & player wouldn't even noticed it, but for Chris & I, I think we're happy to actually HEAR it for ourselves.

This thread is not a slight about AFX, but about SS/processor guys seeing the light when it comes to tube amps. In the same regard, there are many seasoned players here who went from tube amps to AFX, so you really just need to hear both & determine what's right for you.
 

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Premium Member
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Well, our comments aren't a knock on AFX in any way. More of just an observation. If you want the ultimate, all-encompassing rack rig that works awesome for live & even better for recording, it's freaking incredible! No doubt about it. We're just noticing the differences & these differences are not only subjective, but very miniscule. The unseasoned gearwhore & player wouldn't even noticed it, but for Chris & I, I think we're happy to actually HEAR it for ourselves.

This thread is not a slight about AFX, but about SS/processor guys seeing the light when it comes to tube amps. In the same regard, there are many seasoned players here who went from tube amps to AFX, so you really just need to hear both & determine what's right for you.
Oh, I know, I completely understand. It doesn't come off as such. In fact, the fact that you'd even compare and have trouble choosing between the Axe and the amps you chose is an incredible testament to the power of the Axe. I'm just saying that I'm glad you're even talking about the feel issue, because that is usually missing from most reviews, and to me, it's just as important as the actual sounds coming out of the thing.
 

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Lord Super Awesome
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Oh, I know, I completely understand. It doesn't come off as such. In fact, the fact that you'd even compare and have trouble choosing between the Axe and the amps you chose is an incredible testament to the power of the Axe. I'm just saying that I'm glad you're even talking about the feel issue, because that is usually missing from most reviews, and to me, it's just as important as the actual sounds coming out of the thing.
Some chose to use a tube poweramp with the AFX (Vince uses a Mesa 290), although I never tried it that way. I'm sure that would spice up the feel & organicness that Chris & I brought up.

For my application, I DIed from the back of the AFX to the PA & then also used an SS poweramp to power my Atomic cabs. This made sure that the AFX was completely uncolored & my DI and the cabs sounded identical. This is what I wanted.
 

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Dook dook dook
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This is so important, and overlooked/understated most of the time. I own a fuckload of guitars. When I switch, sometimes I'll need to roll back the presence a little, or add some midrange. When I want to do that, it's so nice to just reach for a knob as opposed to flipping through a menu.
How cool would it be to control the AFX EQ and whatnot over bluetooth using an iPhone or Android phone. have a UI set up to quickly tweak various settings on one screen...
 

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How cool would it be to control the AFX EQ and whatnot over bluetooth using an iPhone or Android phone. have a UI set up to quickly tweak various settings on one screen...
That may be a bit rough to tweak while playing, but it's still a cool idea. :lol: I guess I could get one of those old LG Chocolate phones and use it as a slide!
 

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NSLALP
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Shannon, this is hilarious, because you and I are having polar opposite experiences today. :lol:

Not that I disagree with you about the tube amp being more real. Look: model anything you want, until you get to ridiculous levels of model complexity, it's just not enough to call it "as good as the real thing." Take HD video for instance - true film equivalent is 4x the linear resolution of the HD we watch today. HD still looks real, but it's not film. I've owned enough tube amps to know that you are right - there's a little sum-sumthin' that even the Axe-Fx doesn't capture. The magic is only 98% there.

BUT.

I marched into rehearsal today with the boys and after they had an eyeful of blinkin' lights, I let rip the basic 5150 patch I rigged up in 30 minutes this morning - and they all about dropped their breakfast into their pants. Everybody said it's flat-out the best tone I've had, the Reactor cab spreads to the whole band really well, and I had plenty of presence and "air" to lock into the band and stand out with solos. I was really on cloud 9 with my experience today and can't wait to get my MidiMate hooked up.

P.S. One of our local band-friends runs an H&K Switchblade, and it's an amazing amp. Excellent choice with the Coreblade. :yesway:
 

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I'm convinced that the difference is about 80% dynamics. Tube amps react much more intensely to the subtle variations in our picking techniques than modeling amps do, including the Axe-FX. I think that's what we perceive as "feel" when we play. I love using my Axe-FX for recording, but no question I'd get my tones from a blasting tube amp if I had the mega-bucks to have a proper studio.
 

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NSLALP
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I'm convinced that the difference is about 80% dynamics. Tube amps react much more intensely to the subtle variations in our picking techniques than modeling amps do, including the Axe-FX. I think that's what we perceive as "feel" when we play. I love using my Axe-FX for recording, but no question I'd get my tones from a blasting tube amp if I had the mega-bucks to have a proper studio.
:agreed: However, I actually forgot I was playing a modeler today for a while because that damn box is such a good copy. I really thought I was plugged into my XXX and that it just sounded more awesome than usual. :lol:
 
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