New vs old tech for your amp

I’m just wondering.
I seem to be the odd man out.
I have old technology amps.

What I mean by this old tech is.
I have a solid state amp (that tries to emulate a tube amp, though no particular amp other than a tube amp in general) (best I know it has no computer chips in it).
I got a 2 tube amp that I suspect is a hybrid of solid state with 1 preamp tube and one amp tube.
And lastly, I got what I consider a real tube amp. It has 7 tubes in it.

When I read here, it seems near everyone has a modeler type amp w/computer chips in them that simulate all kinds of different amps, generally tube amps of some kind. They also have all the different kinds of effects built into them. Along w/ headphone jack, usb ports, connectivity to a computer, which it seems most of these types of amps are mainly controlled by a computer.

Then there’s the guitar profiler amps that don’t have any cab at all. I don’t even know what ya plug them into as far as a speaker goes. These amps do everything that modelers do + likely more.

So am I just old.
The longer I play, the further back in time I go for my amp.
I started with my solid state amp, then went to the SS + a couple of tubes, and then to the real tube amp.

I get that these new styles of amp seem to be all about connectivity. How many amps it simulates and how many pedals they have built into them.

Like I say, I feel like the odd man out. Now that I have the real tube amp I’ve not had any GAS what so ever to get anything else. It makes my guitar sound like ‘my’ guitar. I feel in touch with my amps. They only do what they’re supposed to do, amplify with there own particular flavor.

I don’t get having a computer control my sound.
Is it really that much better? Is it really what I got to have to connect?

Just wondering if it’s just the new way to do rock and roll in 2024?

fwiw, I do have a couple of pedals. 5 that alter my sound. While I sometimes think about a new pedal for a different tone. I’ve not done anything about it (for at least 2 years) for having more tones.

Myself, I just wanna sound like I’m playing a electric guitar, not alter my electric guitar to have all these different tones and effects, nor have all this connectivity. I just wanna play my guitar. If I wanna connect, I’ll get a microphone. If I want distortion, I’ll turn it up till the tubes are starting to naturally overdrive.
I do like the two general effects that are in most tube amps. Reverb and tremolo. But that seems to be all I require.
Will also say the pedals I use mostly is delay and tremolo (for the two amps that I have that don’t have tremolo)…
About the only effect that I don’t think I could do w/o is reverb for my electric guitar.

Lastly, I don’t want to read a book to know how to control my amp. I want to plug in and play. I can figure out how to adj. the vol. and tone controls w/o a book.
The amps I have were purchased in technology reverse order. The SS first amp, the 2 tube amp second, the all tube amp last. Most liked in reverse order too. Old tech 1st. All tube best (tube driven spring reverb and tube driven tremolo) , tube hybrid 2nd best (spring reverb, no tremolo), solid state third best (still spring reverb, still no tremolo).
And I do like the tones I get out of all three. But they just do what they’re supposed to do. Amplify my electric guitar w/o high tech modification.

I feel old!
I feel technology overwhelmed!

What are your feelings about this new tech vs the old tech?

4 Likes

That’s all that matters. Most tone comes from the player and the more effects you add the less of the player’s personality come out.

2 Likes

I really want to love the old tech, but I find myself using it rarely. I have three main ‘amps’, the Mesa, the Quad Cortex and the Spark mini.

I almost always play with no effects - not even reverb, mostly clean perhaps a hint of break up.

These days I play the Spark 80% of the time it’s super quick to power up and ridiculously portable and small - this is really handy as I tend to play in different places around the house depending of what’s going on.

I’ve got every possible effect with the Quad cortex, and I’ve got my looper hooked up with that (the cortex had a looper built in, but you can’t save loops). Like I say, I rarely use effects but if I ever get tempted by some Andertons video then usually that will scratch the itch.

I love the Mesa but to really make it worthwhile it needs to be loud, I rarely have the house to myself and with a new puppy it’s really not practical right now.

If I’m honest, I’m happy with the sound from all three … if I could keep only one it would probably be the Quad cortex as it it the best balance of practicality, sound quality and versitility.

3 Likes

It’s true that digital modelling has come a very long way in the last 20 years or so … and I’ve been having way too much fun lately with my Spark amps, and headphoned up at night through my interface, playing through BiasFX … but I’ve always had a soft spot for my old Laney LC15R. It’s a pure valve amp, loaded with a 10" Celestion Vintage 30 speaker and JJ Tesla tubes. I play it through a 12" Vintage 30 cab usually, though. A boost pedal to tickle it, a little bit of reverb, and a little overdrive… and that bugger sings.

Rick is absolutely right, though … whatever you play through … if it sounds good … it’s good. Every amp and guitar setup has dynamics that can be dragged from them through skill and technique. There’s a subtlety involved in that… that has to come from the player … and too many effects, too much tweaking … can drown that out.

The Spark GO is a ridiculously usable bit of kit too, Paul. I got mine cheap with pre launch discount, so it was a case of why not?

Bloody great to plink away on in the garden :grin:

1 Like

Yeah, the best kit is the stuff that actually gets used

1 Like

I think, especially for learners and “bedroom players” which, I suspect, makes up a large number of the members of this community, it’s about convenience and capabilities.

Can be configured by a computer, but not necessarily have to be although some, in my experience, are difficult to use without some sort of app.

That’s fine but a lot of people are after greater flexibility or, possibly more likely, haven’t found a specific sound they gravitate to. They also want to have multiple tones, without having multiple amps.

Also, people do want to experiment with effects which may be as straightforward as a drive pedal or some reverb.

But it’s not uncommon to use effects in modern (or even old) rock music. Artists like David Gilmour, Slash, Foo Fighters, Prince, Nile Rogers, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and many, many more used effects extensively and if you are fans of these artists and their music, it’s likely you’ll want to use some of these effects.

With an “old technology” amp, you need to buy extra kit for that, and deal with cabling, organisation, power and configuration. And, even before that, you have the minefield of what pedals to buy in a market that is rife with marketing BS and snobbery.

Of course, some people love all that, but many do not.

With a new technology amp, you can pick one from the app (or, on some amps, just by using a knob on the front panel: no additional expenditure, and you can audition several types of effect to see how they work and which is for you. Or in most cases, you can find pre-built patches which can get you close to the sound you want “on the cloud”.

Of course, for many who are not good with technology, even dealing with this is stressful. But there are amps where there’s a bunch of common, great effects at your fingertips without connecting a computer or dealing with apps.

For many of us also, it’s about having portable, convenient practice tools we can use including support for backing tracks, headphone outputs with decent quality, and the ability to play at sensible household volumes whilst still sounding great. None of which most “old technology” amps do very well.

And for many, it’s about “lifestyle” and not wanting cables and bits of kit everywhere. With the right bit of kit, you can be inspired to play or practice more, without annoying other family members too much, and without too much frustration. Take the following video as an example:

But, at the end of the day, if you are happy and satisfied with what you have, and the way you achieve it, then why fret about others whose requirements, desires, and ways of working are different?

Cheers,

Keith

2 Likes

Hauling the tube tube amp to the garden keeps you strong!

I love tubes and would choose a tube stereo amp over a SS amp any day. I have built a few. There is something about tubes and if I was playing amplified, I eventually would lean in the tube direction. It is a personal bias based in nothing except my internal metric of what I like, but there just seem to be tube people in the world.

The major downsides are weight, warm up time and that they are sooooo loud. Not the best for casual and quiet home play. Or schlepping to the garden…

I love the old valve amps would have a pile of them but they’d never get played because they are too loud.

And yes there are ways round that but by then why not just use a modeler.

1 Like

@HappyCat
Jim, you explained beautifully all the reasons for old school tube amp. I agree 100%. However, they need to be played loud. I don’t have a big tube amp, but I played through two of them and I perfectly get the hook - that loud “moving air” feeling. I simply can’t do that at home (too loud) and modelling amps are the best option for me.

@mathsjunky
I love that rig with QC, the only thing I would probably go with is a different FRFR speaker (EV PXM-12mp or QSC K series). That is the combination I am looking for in the future. For now, Spark 40 works perfectly for me.

1 Like

Especially if you want to record into a DAW. Recording a modeller in high quality is often almost trivially easy. Recording a conventional amp to a similar quality is a lot of faff and requires at least a couple of hundred bucks of additional kit (mic and AI).

Of course, you can record anything with a decent cellphone and, depending on the use-case, that might be all you need.

Cheers,

Keith

If you’re modeling and using a daw/pc just run software and go in dry anyhow

1 Like

Well, that depends on whether you want to use plugins or if you are happy with the tones from the modeller. The nice thing is, you have a choice. On a lot of kit (Boss Katana, Nux, etc.) you can record both wet and dry into separate DAW channels, giving you the choice. Another win for modellers.

Although, I would encourage a GIRATS† approach.

Cheers,

Keith

† Get It Right At The Source

Nothing wrong with being old :wink:
Paul McCartney wrote a song about your upcoming birthday. I’m hot on your heels :rofl:

1 Like

No, just valves and transistors. BTW you control the computer and the sound not the other way round.

Its fine if you want to old school it but technology moves on otherwise we’d still be using these

image

For some reason in the guitar world a large part of it is still strongly stuck in the past.

2 Likes

I would love to play through a tube amp. I do not need to have the volume up loud and that is where one of the modeler big benefits is. I am aware of attenuators reduce the volume of an amp, but I still think my modeler is good enough.

another problem with individual amps is the space to keep them. I am set up in the living room - yes - the living room. If I try to have 3 or 4 amps there, it won’t go well with my wife. This is a second really big benefit of the modeler.

My experience with modeler amps is

  1. Spark 40 which I didn’t like the sound of.
  2. Headphone amp that sounds ok but is for headphones and doesn’t seem to remember settings, so I need to ‘fix’ it every time I turn it on.
  3. Helix LT and PowerCab that I would replace if anything ever happened to it. I really enjoy listening to this thing.
  4. MacBook with GarageBand and headset which is very portable for the back yard or hotel.

I find I really like the sound of a bigger speaker. I also have a 5W Hotone pedal-sized amp that sits on my desk with 12-inch speaker cab under the desk. This sounds so much better than I can make the Spark sound with its 4 inch speakers and overly-muddy general feel. I tend to find speaker selection to be a critical part of the whole and it doesn’t get much discussion.

1 Like

One of the best arguments for the new stuff (and this mostly applies to people who play in front of audiences) is that it sounds the same every single time. It’s not subject to temperature, humidity or just having an off day like the old stuff can be.

And what exactly does an electric guitar sound like? You already use pedals, a lot of the new stuff is just more convenient than carrying pedals round, dealing with cables and power supplies etc

For me personally the main downside is they’re a distraction because I can spend more time tweaking than playing. That said, this is my problem, not a fault of the gear because you always could put a line of pedals into your rig with endless possibilities and I’m sure that’s what I would do.

Distractions aside I’ll take new over old every single time. You have the option how deep you immerse yourself in it

1 Like

Lol, I went to the Milton Keynes Museum last week with some colleagues and we were nerding out on old Strowger, and TXE2 exchanges, as well as switchboards and stuff.

Amazing engineering, but we’ve moved on.

Cheers,.

Keith

Been watching the recent Scot Manley videos about some guys space history museum and the engineering is incredible , todays engineering surpasses all this but its just so small and works like magic we cant comprehend it.

1 Like

Yeah, I didn’t like the Spark. My Spark 40 was muddy sounding and sounded good with the gain cranked, but seemed to have no dynamics and wasn’t great at high volumes. The other models of Spark are supposed to be better with the EQ, but still quite lacking in the dynamics. Probably OK for practice.

I disliked it enough that I gave it away.

I have the Nux MP-3 and it’s really good, but it just doesn’t seem to have the dynamics of the Boss Katana Go that I recently picked up.

I have a Bugera Infinium G5 tube amp and it sounds really nice, but within a fairly narrow window of tones. I actually think my old Katana mk1 often had a better feel, especially at higher gains though.

Cheers,

Keith