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Is FR the only important measurement? Real life testing.

dominikz

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So I've been watching this guys videos for a while, he is an empirical data kind of scientist, and in this video regarding guitar amps he has the holy grail of audiophile terminology, applied to guitar amplifiers, debunked in its entirety.

This is not exactly revelaing anything we didnt know here at ASR, but its a good video to refer to those audiphiles that dont believe in math or data charts since it has empirical listenable data. Its not exactly hifi audio related, but amps are amps, and audiophoolery is audiophoolery, so it kind of overlaps with ASR's ethos. And if anything its an entretaining video to watch on amplification myths.

This is one of the best videos I've seen on Youtube.
Thank you sir! :)
 

pglee

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What’s great about this video is that all of the objectivists here are reacting positively to subjective testing that we are listening to on YouTube. Remember that before you jump ugly with someone on the forum. That said, dude did an excellent job. I think he even changed the order of things during a “blackout“ segment to throw us off. It does bring to mind that both music creators and listeners make themselves available to romantic notions about equipment- probably because we love music. And love is often irrational.
I think objectivists can be just as guilty as subjectivists of not verifying their beliefs as well. An SNR of 120 is objectively better than 80 but you need to test it out on yourself to see if it's really significant - for you. That's what's great with what this musician does. He puts in the work and does it.
 

57gold

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FWIW, I have heard dozens of players hook up amp simulator pedals to PAs and they categorically have sounded pretty miserable - instead of dense and musical tonality with harmonic complexity they have sounded like buzzy noise.

Not talking about expensive, rack mounted units with $$$s of software with high quality patches of classic amps feeding dedicated power amps and cabs.

That being said, few in a club, bar or festivity would care about the guitar tone if the player was decently musical in phrasing, note choice...as they buzzed away.
 
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oleg87

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That being said, few in a club, bar or festivity would care about the guitar tone if the player was decently musical in phrasing, note choice...as they buzzed away.

In my experience, the average live show in the rock genre is so ear-splittingly loud and mixed so poorly that few could conceivably even make out the tone. Always feel bad for the roadies' backs when I see some guy with like $10K's worth of boutique full stacks on stage just producing some anonymous midrange noise you can barely make any melodic sense of.
 

Tom C

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While I have no doubt he could, roaring Marshall plexis are rather the opposite of any ol' piece of junk :)
Have you ever seen his guitar? Literally bolted together leftover bits from various smashed up instruments. It held its tuning, so he could play it.
 
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cheapmessiah

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FWIW, I have heard dozens of players hook up amp simulator pedals to PAs and they categorically have sounded pretty miserable - instead of dense and musical tonality with harmonic complexity they have sounded like buzzy noise.

Not talking about expensive, rack mounted units with $$$s of software with high quality patches of classic amps feeding dedicated power amps and cabs.

That being said, few in a club, bar or festivity would care about the guitar tone if the player was decently musical in phrasing, note choice...as they buzzed away.
That happens a lot when Impulse Response (cab simulation) is not used, as it usually dampens the top end.

There are also bands that don't know how to use EQ to adapt to the venue, and terrible "sound engineers" are also quite common operating mixing boards.
 

kongwee

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It's a very romantic point of view that, for instance, don't apply to classical violinists and classical music critics.
Studies have shown that they do prefer modern instruments over ancient and expensive ones in blind tests.

If they say that a stradivarius sound superb, it's obviously for another reason than the sound and the connection to the audience's ear.

https://www.thestrad.com/blind-test...s-violins-from-modern-instruments/994.article
https://www.science.org/content/article/million-dollar-strads-fall-modern-violins-blind-sound-check
I could only base on experience playing an guqin which is a string wood instrument. Zero knowledge on violin. Stradivarius sound better just base on the wood aged well. I am pretty sure this instrument will wrap and affect the playing. You can get a bad sound on this million dollar instrument not maintaining it. Of course, the speculators will just up its price, not matter how.
 

roog

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Nice video, although I'm not sure that I have the courage to post on my 'home' guitarists form, I suspect I would get the usual hairdryer treatment.
As someone who has had loads of gear but little talent to play the blasted instrument, god man how hard can it be? I have tried and bought lots of different guitar amps and I for one have never understood why people claim to hear the differences they do.

Most of the much sought-after classic amps are all based on a Fender circuit, and that was taken from the RCA book of 'please buy our tubes' tube circuits.
 

solderdude

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For (bass)guitar amps (which is NOT the same as sound reproduction) it clearly is not just FR related but also distortion and above all the combination(s) of those aspects.
 

Yasuo

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He's just a performer, he doesn't know anything about circuits!
 

Multicore

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I've had good luck with the Fender Champion 100. It has most of the classic fender amps preset so you aren't overwhelmed by too many options. Plus, it's very affordable, sturdy, loud, and lightweight.
That's basically a modelling amp, right? If you want a combo guitar amp then that's certainly the way to go these days.

I am so happy that Jim Lil did this work and made the video. It proves that modern tube amp design is mostly unscientific and their marketing is bafflegab that gear heads lap up.

I have three rigs at the moment:
  1. Joyo American Sound. A $40 pedal that affords decent sound and controls when using a PA or clean guitar amp (e.g. an acoustic guitar amp). Has 9V battery too.
  2. Positive Grid Spark, marketed as a practice amp but it's an impressive performer. Control the amp modeling and effects chain from a mobile phone.
  3. Headrush Gigboard, which at home I play through my desktop audio gear, ultimately either Genelec monitors or headphones. Away from home I can either rent a powered PA cab or plug into whatever and adjust the Gigboard's global EQ settings. It has a switch for using full-range vs guitar amp speakers.
All use the same design principle that Jim Lil ended up with: shape the sound and then send it to a big linear and flat amp/cab. The same design principle that I adopted decades ago without understanding it and now, in the age of modelers and now Jim Lil videos, feel vindicated in.
 
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Multicore

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It is an incredible "labor of love" that puts my testing to shame. :) I could not believe how many options he found to have an A/B switch to test an effect.
I don't think comparing of your work to his is very informative. You provide standardized reports of measurements that allow us to compare things. Jim Lill made a documentary film about his attempts to inform himself with research and debunk some of the baffle-gab of the electric guitar equipment market.

The film is an extraordinary achievement. Think about who he is trying to persuade and of what. And in the end he convincingly debunked a central myth of the electric guitar business: that there's magic in these ancient designs. Even modern tube guitar amp builders rely on that myth. And builders of modern digital gear rely on it too, to justify the amazing technical sophistication (and cost) of their profilers and modelers from Kemper to QuadCortex. Jim Lill showed that with a handful of industry-standard solid-state gain, eq, and overdrive pedals, suitably sequenced and adjusted, does the same. There is no amp magic. There is only gain, eq, and overdrive. Communicating that to the electric guitar community is not easy. Hats off to Jim!

Naturally enough, he's simplifying. For example, power supply sag and ringing in guitar amps can be demonstrated to have a very apparent compression effect that modelers include in their processing. The AB comparison demos in are extremely quick. etc. But that's fine because the message in the end is: don't be fooled by the stories people like to repeat about the gear, go figure out how to control your sound yourself.

That reminds me about how Robert Fripp was never into gear like gear heads are into gear. He was quite dismissive of them in fact, saying that if you know how to use the equipment properly then you can get what you need from any of it. I'm not sure I go that far myself but it's good to be reminded to not spend all your time on gear when there's music to be composed, practiced, performed, improvised.
 

anmpr1

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It's nothing new that 'tone' can be duplicated. Josh Scott (JHS pedals) has some YT videos showing how experienced players can't reliably tell the difference among cheap 'clones' and multi thousand dollar original boxes.

But in a way, for musicians, that is beside the point. In his 'history of the electric guitar' series Josh mentions a Les Paul anecdote. Les somewhere said that people 'listen with their eyes'. He recalled how he took his Epiphone 'log' creation to a gig, and no one like it. Because it looked weird. It didn't look like what they called a guitar. So he went back to the factory, added some 'fake' wings to the log (so it looked recognizable) and people immediately changed their opinion. What had changed?

If a '59 'burst' plugged into a Dumble makes Joe Bonamassa play better, it's because of the 'vibe' or 'coolness' of the gear. Not because that combo has a special sound that can't be duplicated. Playing half a million dollars worth of guitar and amp, both having a 'legacy', becomes an emotional/tactile thing. You're 'plugged in' to history, and you 'feel' it (and hence express it) differently. Not necessarily a 'sound' thing. I suppose the same is true for any instrument and accomplished player--such as the Stradivarius v. modern.

Personal anecdote: my favorite guitar is a low-end (ugly, to tell you the truth) Schecter I bought for two hundred bucks and a trade, then sanded and refinished the neck myself. It always makes me play better, because of my emotional link to it. My guess is that Joe could make it sound as good as his '59 LP, if he wanted. LOL

The world of electric guitars can be as weird as hi-fi.
 
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The guitar amplifier became part of the instrument by creating a new timbre for it.
First thing out of the way: Where does tone come from (at least, the most important component of it)? Your fingers.

Meh. The electric guitar has its own timbre and tone, many actually. Depending on the particular tone and timbre itself that is what inspires composers and players to play in certain ways.

That's why many guitarist chase after certain tone and timbre to play or compose something in particular.
 

617

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Maybe someone already does this, I'm not in the guitar world, but if someone makes a digital front end for a clean amp, and you have DSP plug ins like plenty of DAW software and recording hardware has to emulate hardware classics, it would be a highly valuable product, if you convince guitar players of the truth of it.

OTOH, I think as an art, picking your poison and working with it, learning to make it work, learning to get a result despite limitations has value too. If you can dial up anything from a menu list, I'm not sure you will stick with a particular sound to make artistic headway to any depth. In all sorts of human pursuits having best of everything can kill creativity, art, and enjoyment vs imperfect tools or less than utopian conditions.

A cliche: Music is art, and audio is engineering is true. However, electric guitars and amps are another of those intersections where it is a bit of both. I would assume originally, electric guitars and the amps were intending to sound like an acoustic guitar only louder. Apparently that didn't last long as quite quickly electrics had their own sound. Distortion and tone were just more tools in the palette of an artist to work with. If we approach guitar amps like some do hifi, the best amp and guitar body would be one that sounded most like a clean acoustic guitar of quality.
Not only do they have this, they have hardware units that can accept a recording of a distorted guitar as input, and then emulate the distortion on your live guitar signal. This stuff is pretty mainstream now.
 

57gold

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IMHO there is a lot less "marketing mumbo jumbo" in the guitar amp world than in home audio.

A few basic circuits - the Western Electric one that Leo Fender adapted for his line that was then copied by Jim Marshall for his first hardwired amps (but using UK tubes like KT66s and EL 34s instead of 6V6s and 6L6 variants that US base Leo used), Vox introduced its amp based around a unique tone stack and EL84s. The "fork in the road" came @1969 when amp mods created by Randall Smith adding another gain channel resulted in the Mesa Boogie of Carlos Santana fame and others modified Marshalls and Fender Circuits with added gain circuits and master volumes - Jose Arredondo, Howard Dumble, Mike Soldano...everything else is a spin on this stuff.

The mumbo jumbo gets jumbo with the effects pedals. Folks seem to think if one plays the same pedal as for example David Gilmour or (fill in the blank), they are going to play/sound like them, which is BS. Gilmour has used plenty of effects, but it is his lyricism and technique that make him sound like him. Own a bunch of pedals myself and have reduced down to a gain, distortion, modulator and delay/reverb and also need a wah wah if Jimi is on the play list. But it kills me when I see players lined up with several gain/distortion pedals in series into crappy little SS amps...buzzy crap, typically poorly played. The pedals homogenize the tone and veil the poor playing. Then there is the Klon, $40 worth of electronics selling used for $2-5K...repros abound for $100-200.

The second fork in the road for guitar amps are the modeling and solid state amps. Many just suck and the better ones are close, but no cigar. Just last week, played with a group of talented pros. One fellow, a world class blues player, think Bonamassa with better swing and feel, joined us. He has a seriously bad back and turned to a solid state/modeling Fender combo that looks like a Deluxe Reverb but weighs half as much. He sounded OK, but not as good as players with good tube amps cranked. What was missing was the vocal quality the one gets when a tube amp compresses and reacts to the players' touch...and this guys touch and taste are supremely good (the modelers and SS amp circuits haven't perfected that element of tonal response). So, to save his back, he was sacrificing 10-15% of his magic.

Agree with anmpr1, the vintage guitar stuff is about emotion and history. I got the bug back in the 1980s when newly built Fenders and Gibsons generally sucked versus the 1950 and 1960s available as used guitars. Heavy, dead woods, poor execution, heavy tone killing finishes...both companies had been taken over by large corporations who let the cost accountants and production engineers take over. Their failures started a new wave of builders, guys like PRS, John Suhr, Anderson, Dean... In the acoustic world, Martin's and Gibsons 1970-80s dip in quality got folks like Santa Cruz and Colllings started with better built classic designs. Today, I generally take out great modern instruments like Collings, Bartlett (builds a better LP than Gibson), Gustavsson... versus the vintage instruments I still own. The new builds, which are carefully built with superior woods and great pickups, sound just as good and generally play better than the vintage ones.
 
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lashto

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So I've been watching this guys videos for a while, he is an empirical data kind of scientist, and in this video regarding guitar amps he has the holy grail of audiophile terminology, applied to guitar amplifiers, debunked in its entirety.
....
as others mentioned, the video is quite amazing. That amount diligence is most unusual for a "curious amateur". Not to mention that it was done ~perfectly. If most of us did at least 10% of that, the world will be a much better place ... or not :)

And a few nitpicks:
  • the thread's title "Is FR the only important measurement" sounds quite misleading to me. Yes, one can do tone control by manipulating the FR but most "guitar effects" are actually distortion-based. The 'sound' of the (hard)rock guitar is basically the sound of >100% THD and clipping (usually tube-clipping).
  • The term tone used in the video title is a pretty confusing mix of pitch/volume/timbre/etc. A guitar's player tone/style/sound is mostly a matter of timbre. It comes from a (more or less) unique combo of strumming techniques plus 'effect pedals' (which ~translates into timbre envelope plus timbre harmonics). But then, a few also use pitch-altering techniques and volume is very important in some cases (e.g. AC/DC's 'tone' does not make much sense at low volume). Anyway, even musical experts often disagree about terms like tone/timbre and we cannot expect a "curious amateur" to do any better. And this might be the tiniest and most useless nitpick of the month :)
 
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