Modelling, profiling and the like have really come to the fore in the last few years. And I mean REALLY made themselves present. Check on a big touring gig, festival, studio or home enthusiast and there’s a strong chance something from this digital realm will be present. Kemper, Fractal, Helix, Neural, Mooer, Boss, Postivie Grid, Amplitube, Headrush and many more have moved into serious sounding tools that work both live and in the studio.
The main knock on modelling and profiling is that “it’s digital, and not the same as a valve amp”. This statement is true and I get the fact that some players still prefer the sound and feel of a tube amp. No problems at all here! It’s then interesting to delve a little deeper… Yes, it isn’t the same as a cranked AC30/Marshall/Deluxe Reverb/5150, but how many players out there get to play their amps seriously cranked though? Probably not a lot. And then for those players that do get to play super loud (which I presume is on big gigs or recording) how much difference is there from an amp to a modeller/profiler? It might be closer than you think...
I think the key is getting out of the mindset that it’s going to sound/feel exactly like the real amp equivalent and to focus on the positives. Here are some possible scenarios and general thoughts.
Amp with pedalboard:
A classic guitar setup, a combo with plenty of volume saves on space/size and paired with a pedalboard you’ve got plenty of tones to boot.
Amp with modeller:
For this setup the modeller can be just utilised for effects giving you lots of options and still retaining your ‘valve amp’ sound.
The modeller/profiler can handle amp sounds and effects meaning the power amp supplies the grunt and you get the real feeling and sound of a guitar cab to help colour your sound. Of course you can then use a range of cabs for different tones along the lines of pairing an amp with a cab.
Modeller with PA Speaker and/or direct to FOH:
In this scenario the modeller/profiler is doing it all – amp sound, cab sound and effects. The speaker is typically very flat and just reproducing your sounds without adding colour. Furthermore, many players in this situation will then send their tones direct to FOH without the need for mic’ing amps etc.
Firstly the use of a modeller/profiler as a starting point actually gives you these options. I know lots of players are overwhelmed by the possibilities but I’ve increasingly enjoyed the ‘all in one’ aspect of having everything in single box and then being able to use cabs/power amps to suit as needed. I also love the ability to use these for recording as well as live. Then add the sheer amount of tonal possibilities to mix (tweaking, editing, sharing of profiles, purchasing of profiles and so on) and you can go plug and play preset style or get super involved.
So, will I use modelling/profiling for everything? No. I still love taking a guitar, small board and combo to a gig. Do I use modelling/profiling often though? Yes, and once I’ve learnt how to use it I feel that it makes everything easier and sounds really good. Will modelling/profiling suit everyone? No, there will always be players that don’t need it or don’t want to try it. That’s cool and that’s also the beauty or guitar playing. We never seem to be completely happy with our sound and love to keep searching for that illusive tone. I don’t think vintage gear, modelling/profiling and whatever comes next will make everybody happy but for now I’m super impressed with what’s available – try giving a Fractal, Kemper, Line 6 or the like a spin…you might be surprised!
Revisit last month's guitar column here.