Pick the real amp out from the emulations

Which one is the real amp?


  • Total voters
    16
  • Poll closed .

MirrorProfiles

Shredder
Messages
2,272
Apologies for posting this on that other forum, they get a fair bit of traffic which can be useful for a poll. Genuinely curious to know what people here think (presumably something more in line with my own thoughts).

So after seeing some posts on a facebook audio group (I know....) about how real amps exude a particular sound that emulations don't I had to chime in with a blind test and call out this kind of thing. I really can't stand when people repeat stuff they've read without being prepared to back it up.

The phrase used was that emulations lack "natural sounding dynamics and harmonics". They also said that there was a "night and day" difference with the real amps and emulations.

So I posted some examples, one in here is the real amp and the others are various emulations from most of the big names. I did a 2203 because most companies have emulated it, and by using several emulations it means its not just a 50/50 guess. Having more options also evens out the fact that they'll all sound slightly different (despite my efforts to match as close as possible).



To make the test as fair as possible, I used the same IR, no pedals, and the only processing after the IR loader was normalisation. Each amp was adjusted by ear to minimise the influence of component tolerance as much as possible, but other factors such as the impedance load, bias, valve choices etc means there will always be some slight variation (just as you'd get with the real thing). Regardless, all we are trying to deduce is which amp is real, so in theory they could all be dialled quite different and if the real amp has this elusive "natural sounding dynamics and harmonics" it would reveal itself however its set.

Perhaps some sound better or more accurate to this specific amp to me, but I'm not sure I'd confidently identify the real one without knowing.

It may not come as a shock, but the person in question refuses to guess which example is the real amp and repeatedly tells me that I should have set them all to the same knob position to make the test more "scientific". They refuse to acknowledge that its a fairer test to adjust things by ear to make them. They think I've somehow stacked the deck in favour of a particular result (I'm not even sure how or why I'd manipulate it).

Infuriating, but hopefully this example helps others if they find themselves in a similar situation. This person in question posts a lot of stuff online and is building a youtube channel, so this kind of narrative can really impair things and influence others opinions.

So, which is the real amp? who can hear those delicious natural sounding dynamics and harmonics?

I know I shouldn't rise to it, but its either a case of letting BS manifest online or trying to nip it in the bud. This kind of thing is so easy to demonstrate.
 
Have no idea, but i (barely) preferred the D tone out of all of them. If you removed visual queues it would be impossible for me to tell when one amp ends and the other begins though.

I love cork-sniffers reactions to these comparisons. They always end up bringing up intangibles such as "feel" into the mix :)
 
I love cork-sniffers reactions to these comparisons. They always end up bringing up intangibles such as "feel" into the mix :)

Its quite incredible how the goalposts always move to things that arent relevant to the original question, and how a simple question of "night and day" becomes impossible to answer. Nice one for taking part.
 
Last edited:
I’ll take a listen at home on decent speakers.

Gotta love those moving goal posts!

admit-your.jpg
 
Oh, a JMP 2203... which on'es the Helix?... I have something to say. :p

Joking aside, high gain "matching" blind tests have been done to death, I've said that in the blind test thread we need more "same settings" comparisons re-amped to hear how the modeling differs.
Master = 3, Gain = 4, would reveal a lot more about modeling inaccuracies despite the small component tolerance differences, 12ax7 preamp tube gain and power tube biasing.
 
Last edited:
Have no idea, but i (barely) preferred the D tone out of all of them. If you removed visual queues it would be impossible for me to tell when one amp ends and the other begins though.

I love cork-sniffers reactions to these comparisons. They always end up bringing up intangibles such as "feel" into the mix :)
I don't deny that there is a feel thing going on, but it's just funny how when a certain manufacturer releases a firmware update and the usual people claim that it is a "night and day" difference. Then someone posts a sound clip comparing the previous and the latest firmware and most people say something to the effect of "um, I think I can hear a slight difference, but I'm not sure". Then those people say that it is all in THE FEEL™ and you can't hear feel in a recording :rofl
 
I don't deny that there is a feel thing going on, but it's just funny how when a certain manufacturer releases a firmware update and the usual people claim that it is a "night and day" difference. Then someone posts a sound clip comparing the previous and the latest firmware and most people say something to the effect of "um, I think I can hear a slight difference, but I'm not sure". Then those people say that it is all in THE FEEL™ and you can't hear feel in a recording :rofl
I stopped guessing on these types of things years ago. I don't have "discerning enough" ears and am always listening on some turd of a "monitor" that the exercise is pointless. Fun to speculate for some though.
 
Oh, a JMP 2203... which on'es the Helix?... I have something to say. :p
It’s the one without the bright cap 😬

I agree about the high gain comparisons. They’re easier in a way because they’re basically exclusively close mic’d and with lower poweramp distortion. When I mic a champ, I’m usually backing off WAY more and getting more room tone in there. Speaker farting also becomes a factor in how I might dial things in 😂

But often it’s not possible to adjust impedance load, bias, valve type and component tolerance/drift (and things like tapers) so it means that even master volume is just better to adjust by ear (for now at least). As you’ve posted before, often the emulations don’t have all the channel volumes, so again there’s some detective work to get things set up like for like.

And I suppose there’s different wall voltages, 50hz vs 60hz and god knows what else at play….
 
I favor D and F which are similar and more crunchy than the others to my ear.
A,B,C,G are similar with A being my least favorite.
E - has sub-sonic oomph going on, not sure I like it.

As to telling which one's the tube amp, forget about it.
 
I don't deny that there is a feel thing going on, but it's just funny how when a certain manufacturer releases a firmware update and the usual people claim that it is a "night and day" difference. Then someone posts a sound clip comparing the previous and the latest firmware and most people say something to the effect of "um, I think I can hear a slight difference, but I'm not sure". Then those people say that it is all in THE FEEL™ and you can't hear feel in a recording :rofl

Yeah, I roll my eyes with the “more realer now” and “night and day” regularly, that said, I’m starting to understand how people come to use these terms, I’m gonna try not to write a book-

Regularly you read about people tweaking for hours and not getting the tone they want, especially in Fractal Land with so many adjustable parameters. For me, the end goal tones have been the same the whole time, the updates have only changed how quickly I get to them. Fortunately, I have a good idea what I need to do to tweak my way to those tones; pre-Cygnus it was parametric EQ’s and multi-band compression, post Cygnus it was adjust some impedance curves and maybe a couple other advanced parameters, Cygnus 2 has pretty much ended everything but tweaking the Tone menu (actual amp’s controls).

So in that sense, it got “more realer” for me because when I dial in a real amp, I’m only adjusting the front panel, which I’m now doing in Fractal land. If I posted a comparison clip of pre-Cygnus, Cygnus, then Cygnus 2, you’d be really hard pressed to hear a difference in them because all it’s changed for me is how long it takes to hit the end goal tone.

But that’s me; I know where to tweak something if I’m not liking what I’m hearing, but for those who simply don’t know, I’d have to imagine they’re just arbitrarily tweaking the advanced parameters hoping to stumble upon the thing that’ll get them there (which I believe in 99% of cases is the wrong IR to begin with) and probably dialing themselves further away from the end goal tone in the process. So when Cliff puts out an update that reduces the steps to get to the end tone and people are starting to dial in tones that are more similar to the amps they know IRL, to them it’s getting “more realer” because what they were dialing in before wasn’t there yet.

I’ve seen a few times people have said “I’m finally able to dial in the tone I hear in my head!” and I think those statements back up what I wrote above. Even experienced guitarists are so used to dialing in an amp for how it sounds in the room and they have a hard time hearing what it sounds like close-mic’d, so I can totally imagine newer/intermediate guitarists who don’t have a lot of experience with recording/hearing a close-mic’d amp getting totally lost with it and how the updates make it “more realer” because they’re able to tweak their way to the end goal tone by just tweaking an amp model the same way they would a real amp.


(and I wrote that before these edibles kicked in, be glad I didn’t wait until 30 minutes from now)
 
Yeah, I roll my eyes with the “more realer now” and “night and day” regularly, that said, I’m starting to understand how people come to use these terms, I’m gonna try not to write a book-

Regularly you read about people tweaking for hours and not getting the tone they want, especially in Fractal Land with so many adjustable parameters. For me, the end goal tones have been the same the whole time, the updates have only changed how quickly I get to them. Fortunately, I have a good idea what I need to do to tweak my way to those tones; pre-Cygnus it was parametric EQ’s and multi-band compression, post Cygnus it was adjust some impedance curves and maybe a couple other advanced parameters, Cygnus 2 has pretty much ended everything but tweaking the Tone menu (actual amp’s controls).

So in that sense, it got “more realer” for me because when I dial in a real amp, I’m only adjusting the front panel, which I’m now doing in Fractal land. If I posted a comparison clip of pre-Cygnus, Cygnus, then Cygnus 2, you’d be really hard pressed to hear a difference in them because all it’s changed for me is how long it takes to hit the end goal tone.

But that’s me; I know where to tweak something if I’m not liking what I’m hearing, but for those who simply don’t know, I’d have to imagine they’re just arbitrarily tweaking the advanced parameters hoping to stumble upon the thing that’ll get them there (which I believe in 99% of cases is the wrong IR to begin with) and probably dialing themselves further away from the end goal tone in the process. So when Cliff puts out an update that reduces the steps to get to the end tone and people are starting to dial in tones that are more similar to the amps they know IRL, to them it’s getting “more realer” because what they were dialing in before wasn’t there yet.

I’ve seen a few times people have said “I’m finally able to dial in the tone I hear in my head!” and I think those statements back up what I wrote above. Even experienced guitarists are so used to dialing in an amp for how it sounds in the room and they have a hard time hearing what it sounds like close-mic’d, so I can totally imagine newer/intermediate guitarists who don’t have a lot of experience with recording/hearing a close-mic’d amp getting totally lost with it and how the updates make it “more realer” because they’re able to tweak their way to the end goal tone by just tweaking an amp model the same way they would a real amp.


(and I wrote that before these edibles kicked in, be glad I didn’t wait until 30 minutes from now)
I think you bring up a good point. I bought an Axe II not too long after the release, I could never get along with it, I just couldn't dial in the tones I was looking for. Years later I bought the AX8 and was able to get usable tones in a few days, after a few weeks I stopped tweaking and to this day I still use those same presets.
 
Yeah, I roll my eyes with the “more realer now” and “night and day” regularly, that said, I’m starting to understand how people come to use these terms, I’m gonna try not to write a book-

Regularly you read about people tweaking for hours and not getting the tone they want, especially in Fractal Land with so many adjustable parameters. For me, the end goal tones have been the same the whole time, the updates have only changed how quickly I get to them. Fortunately, I have a good idea what I need to do to tweak my way to those tones; pre-Cygnus it was parametric EQ’s and multi-band compression, post Cygnus it was adjust some impedance curves and maybe a couple other advanced parameters, Cygnus 2 has pretty much ended everything but tweaking the Tone menu (actual amp’s controls).

So in that sense, it got “more realer” for me because when I dial in a real amp, I’m only adjusting the front panel, which I’m now doing in Fractal land. If I posted a comparison clip of pre-Cygnus, Cygnus, then Cygnus 2, you’d be really hard pressed to hear a difference in them because all it’s changed for me is how long it takes to hit the end goal tone.

But that’s me; I know where to tweak something if I’m not liking what I’m hearing, but for those who simply don’t know, I’d have to imagine they’re just arbitrarily tweaking the advanced parameters hoping to stumble upon the thing that’ll get them there (which I believe in 99% of cases is the wrong IR to begin with) and probably dialing themselves further away from the end goal tone in the process. So when Cliff puts out an update that reduces the steps to get to the end tone and people are starting to dial in tones that are more similar to the amps they know IRL, to them it’s getting “more realer” because what they were dialing in before wasn’t there yet.

I’ve seen a few times people have said “I’m finally able to dial in the tone I hear in my head!” and I think those statements back up what I wrote above. Even experienced guitarists are so used to dialing in an amp for how it sounds in the room and they have a hard time hearing what it sounds like close-mic’d, so I can totally imagine newer/intermediate guitarists who don’t have a lot of experience with recording/hearing a close-mic’d amp getting totally lost with it and how the updates make it “more realer” because they’re able to tweak their way to the end goal tone by just tweaking an amp model the same way they would a real amp.


(and I wrote that before these edibles kicked in, be glad I didn’t wait until 30 minutes from now)
Funnily enough, I was just chatting to a mate about CLA mixing on a console and how fast and intuitive his moves are. When he works in the box, he gets the same result eventually, but it’s slower, a lot more searching around, indecision, thinking etc,

I think how we interact with gear is such an overlooked aspect, and it’s why certain boring things should be taken care of (like calibration and input load) so the actual dialling in part is more lifelike. With modelling, we essentially have to create the conditions we’re using the gear in - not just picking the gear, but ensuring the technical interactions are correct. It can be quite overwhelming to think about, especially when we’re used to just plugging in and those things being done automatically.

I agree totally on the Fractal stuff - I’m a relatively new user, but even since I bought my FM-3 the workflow improvements have helped me a ton as far as getting where I want to go. Massively agree on most people’s issues being related to using the wrong IR (forcing one to work rather than using another), or by adjusting the wrong parameter (understandable when there are so many, and they’re all given an equal prominence/importance in the interface). I think Fractal is closest to giving the optimal balance in user control that modelling SHOULD offer, but the interface has a lot further to catch up than the rest of their software.
 
Yeah, I roll my eyes with the “more realer now” and “night and day” regularly, that said, I’m starting to understand how people come to use these terms, I’m gonna try not to write a book-

Regularly you read about people tweaking for hours and not getting the tone they want, especially in Fractal Land with so many adjustable parameters. For me, the end goal tones have been the same the whole time, the updates have only changed how quickly I get to them. Fortunately, I have a good idea what I need to do to tweak my way to those tones; pre-Cygnus it was parametric EQ’s and multi-band compression, post Cygnus it was adjust some impedance curves and maybe a couple other advanced parameters, Cygnus 2 has pretty much ended everything but tweaking the Tone menu (actual amp’s controls).

So in that sense, it got “more realer” for me because when I dial in a real amp, I’m only adjusting the front panel, which I’m now doing in Fractal land. If I posted a comparison clip of pre-Cygnus, Cygnus, then Cygnus 2, you’d be really hard pressed to hear a difference in them because all it’s changed for me is how long it takes to hit the end goal tone.

But that’s me; I know where to tweak something if I’m not liking what I’m hearing, but for those who simply don’t know, I’d have to imagine they’re just arbitrarily tweaking the advanced parameters hoping to stumble upon the thing that’ll get them there (which I believe in 99% of cases is the wrong IR to begin with) and probably dialing themselves further away from the end goal tone in the process. So when Cliff puts out an update that reduces the steps to get to the end tone and people are starting to dial in tones that are more similar to the amps they know IRL, to them it’s getting “more realer” because what they were dialing in before wasn’t there yet.

I’ve seen a few times people have said “I’m finally able to dial in the tone I hear in my head!” and I think those statements back up what I wrote above. Even experienced guitarists are so used to dialing in an amp for how it sounds in the room and they have a hard time hearing what it sounds like close-mic’d, so I can totally imagine newer/intermediate guitarists who don’t have a lot of experience with recording/hearing a close-mic’d amp getting totally lost with it and how the updates make it “more realer” because they’re able to tweak their way to the end goal tone by just tweaking an amp model the same way they would a real amp.


(and I wrote that before these edibles kicked in, be glad I didn’t wait until 30 minutes from now)
Agreed and that’s probably the best compliment I can give Cygnus 2.0
It’s does not require the work to get rid of boomy lows or cut fizz
If you are familiar with the Amp let’s say 5153 for example if you match the impedance curve and pick the matching cab your like 99% there
You have a tone that has the character of the amp then you just tweak one or 2 small things for you playback system but you don’t really have to even do that usually
 
A - good
B - good
C - not so good
D - good
E - good
F - not so good
G - good, and real amp
H - almost good
 
Then those people say that it is all in THE FEEL™ and you can't hear feel in a recording :rofl
I don’t know the content/context of the other discussions or how the other people commenting define feel. However I do think someone is going to have to play through the various rigs live to evaluate dynamics and whatever differences may occur for those attributes in a meaningful way.
 
Apologies for posting this on that other forum, they get a fair bit of traffic which can be useful for a poll. Genuinely curious to know what people here think (presumably something more in line with my own thoughts).

So after seeing some posts on a facebook audio group (I know....) about how real amps exude a particular sound that emulations don't I had to chime in with a blind test and call out this kind of thing. I really can't stand when people repeat stuff they've read without being prepared to back it up.

The phrase used was that emulations lack "natural sounding dynamics and harmonics". They also said that there was a "night and day" difference with the real amps and emulations.

So I posted some examples, one in here is the real amp and the others are various emulations from most of the big names. I did a 2203 because most companies have emulated it, and by using several emulations it means its not just a 50/50 guess. Having more options also evens out the fact that they'll all sound slightly different (despite my efforts to match as close as possible).



To make the test as fair as possible, I used the same IR, no pedals, and the only processing after the IR loader was normalisation. Each amp was adjusted by ear to minimise the influence of component tolerance as much as possible, but other factors such as the impedance load, bias, valve choices etc means there will always be some slight variation (just as you'd get with the real thing). Regardless, all we are trying to deduce is which amp is real, so in theory they could all be dialled quite different and if the real amp has this elusive "natural sounding dynamics and harmonics" it would reveal itself however its set.

Perhaps some sound better or more accurate to this specific amp to me, but I'm not sure I'd confidently identify the real one without knowing.

It may not come as a shock, but the person in question refuses to guess which example is the real amp and repeatedly tells me that I should have set them all to the same knob position to make the test more "scientific". They refuse to acknowledge that its a fairer test to adjust things by ear to make them. They think I've somehow stacked the deck in favour of a particular result (I'm not even sure how or why I'd manipulate it).

Infuriating, but hopefully this example helps others if they find themselves in a similar situation. This person in question posts a lot of stuff online and is building a youtube channel, so this kind of narrative can really impair things and influence others opinions.

So, which is the real amp? who can hear those delicious natural sounding dynamics and harmonics?

I know I shouldn't rise to it, but its either a case of letting BS manifest online or trying to nip it in the bud. This kind of thing is so easy to demonstrate.

I didnt listen I just picked A
 
I stopped guessing on these types of things years ago. I don't have "discerning enough" ears and am always listening on some turd of a "monitor" that the exercise is pointless. Fun to speculate for some though.
Today digital can get it done 100% versus a tube amp for recording applications at this point. These type of listening comparisons are fun, but pretty meaningless on the verge of 2023–even with just plugins.

However that’s not to say people aren’t going to have their own preferences.
 
Back
Top