1. #1
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    Uh oh. When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    This is something I've been thinking for a while, and haven't been able to more clearly articulate. Let's see if I can do it properly.

    I think we can all agree that every piece of technology can have a drastic impact on the industries and workflows it serves at any given time if there is a widespread adoption or it provides "revolutionary" results (interpret that as you will). The music industry has had its share of those over the course of their existence.

    As a musician (and more specifically, as a guitar player), technology is something I tend to keep an eye on. Not for any particular reason except finding things that may help me in my work.
    It has come to my attention that in recent years, something has been happening that could change the landscape in terms of how guitar players "do their stuff" (as in... playing guitar stuff). And that is the seemingly growing presence of "amp/effects modeling units". And for the purpose of the point I'm discussing here, I'll focus on the Fractal AxeFX.
    It seems today, mostly in the "metal" arena, a LOT of bands/players are using these units both in their studios (emphasis on "their"), and live when touring.
    Without getting into a discussion around the practicality or quality of the sound of these units (there is a different purple forum for stuff like that), I was wondering... how long will it take until they become the standard? And I say it because of this...
    Let's take a band called "Unholy Monkeys". Both guitar players play through AxeFX units, showcase them in their YuTub videos, share the patches they have created for them, and you can clearly see them on their racks when they play live.
    You then go to a show with 5 bands, 3 of which also are using these units (I kid you not, I've seen it myself). Then you see more bands and YuTubers using them.
    As an artist getting started ("new player", "my first band", etc),, you might be led then to believe that in order to sound like your heroes (I know... marketing language right there), you must also have/use one of these units. You then go off on a saving spree to be able to get one, and proceed to use it live, make videos with it, etc.

    So, I guess you see what I'm getting at. Without going into a discussion of if you like them or hate them, I was pondering on how long would it take for a piece of technology like this to become the "standard" in any given field (focusing on music recording/producing in this case). That doesn't mean no other options exist. It just means you have a strong enough presence so that all other solutions are seen as probably lesser alternatives (and I include here owning a tube amp, for example).
    As a secondary point, imagining this would come to be (as in, most recordings being done with these units), how would you think this would impact how music is produced/recorded today? How would it impact workflows and budgets? How would it impact perceived quality?

    Seemed like an interesting subject to ponder on (at least, to my now mostly GMO-free fed brain). Discuss.
  2. #2
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    i know a lot of guitar players who switched to PODs... after a year or two they switched to Variax or Valvetronics or other modeling amps on stage.. another year or so and they moved to AxeFX... now I see a lot of Kempers...


    it won't be a "standard" until it either makes a sound completely unique to itself, and that goes on a 'hit' and then others 'have to have'... or until one sticks for a much longer period of time.

    what you're seeing in modeling world remains an arms race.
    newer, and almost unquestionably better, technology and implementation keeps coming down the road.
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    what you're seeing in modeling world remains an arms race.
    newer, and almost unquestionably better, technology and implementation keeps coming down the road.
    For now, but it wouldn't surprise me if, in a decade or three, we see old units and software sims of them being used to get "that naughties sound".

    Just like no-one would have guessed in the early 80's that people would be trying to recreate the old sound chips from computers 30 years later. Though I suppose the games of one's youth have that added nostalgic appeal... but on the other hand, lots of the kids into chip tune sounds are too young to remember what a ZX Spectrum was.
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    the difference is that most of the time these modelers are not trying to be something brand new... they're still "doing" some version of a 'real' amp
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    Good thread.

    You hardly see bands carting around full sized pianos anymore - even though digital pianos never sound anywhere near as good.

    I feel like the guitar modeling thing is the same - it is predicated upon the notion that there is a guitar playing problem that needs to be solved, like having to lug around a piano.... except 100% of venues are set up to accommodate a guitar and even the biggest rigs are smaller than a full sized bass amp.

    I don't personally think it's a BAD thing that there are thousands of variations of tone out there, or that a guitarist might spend half his life chasing 'his sound'. That chase is sort of part of the thrill, and over time it forces you to change. To me, the amp modeling thing, no matter how good it is, is sort of a side-gig to finding that perfect tone.

    So yeah, unless somebody does something with it that absolutely cannot be re-created with a real amp combination, it's just going to be a really impressive piece of tech. And they really are truly impressive, I believe the Deftones used Axe-FX on their last album and the Kemper profiling amps are absolutely crazy.

    But I don't know that you look at one the same way you look at a Marshall JCM800 and go "yep, that's it".
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    Ultimately, Weedy's assessment is, I think, pretty nail-on-head.

    The amp modeling tech is all about trying to create the best clone of something that still fits into 2U worth of processing gear.

    I'll say this much about it...while it's still not ideal kit, I feel like I can make a record with the current generation of amp sims (I personally run an Eleven Rack in my room) and not have that be the thing that ruins the record. I've used the Axe-FX as well and it sounds totally fine...though, as a total aside, does anyone else hear the 2k bump that EVERY Axe-FX tone seems to have? I've yet to use the Kemper, but the consensus I've heard about that is that if you feed it a great sounding profile, it sounds great.

    For me, it was about removing variables and situations that made it hard for me to make records in a way that local budgets (and even some not-so-local budgets) are FORCING me to work and still be able to make some money at the end of the project. I'd rather record a good amp sim in a good situation than record a GREAT guitar amp in a HORRIBLE situation...because at the end of the day it's as much (if not moreso) about the performance as anything, and if I'm in a one-room situation monitoring in headphones that are blasting because I've got an SLO 100 watt head on 6 punching me in the kidneys, I'm only gonna last for about an hour's worth of tracking before I'm deaf and beaten to a bloody pulp.

    With regard to the OP's OP, I don't know if there will EVER be a standard (as if there was ever a standard guitar amplifier)...but the increasing number of quality options do make the marketplace more interesting.

    And if I were out gigging live...I don't think you could talk me OUT of carrying an Axe FX and a 1x12 wedge cab for some stage volume...All the versatility and tones I would need, all the convenience of scene switching, all the consistency of patching direct into FOH...it does eliminate a TON of variables in a fairly tidy package.
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    the difference is that most of the time these modelers are not trying to be something brand new... they're still "doing" some version of a 'real' amp
    I don't want to argue this point too much, because I do think you're basically right.

    But... those old music chips in computers were absolutely trying to sound as much like real instruments as possible, just like Solinas or Mellotrons or whatever were originally. The amount by which they missed that mark and had their own distinctive sound is what makes people fond of them.
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    It really all comes down to two issues - portability and the ability to more or less duplicate the sound of a loud amp in an urban environment where you have problems with neighbors, either at home or in the increasingly worsening situation where residences are encroaching on clubs and forcing sound level compliance. This also ties in to the increasing incidence of people tracking at home due to being unable to afford proper studio time.

    Portability is a real issue because of the cost and difficulty of hauling around large stage rigs. A metal band that might have needed one or two semis just for band gear can now get by with a large trailer towed behind the bus. For local bands in the city the cost of maintaining automobiles is often prohibitive.

    I really don't think it has anything to do with "new sounds" despite the yammering in the guitar forum at the Purple Place that it does. From what I can tell, all the sounds are directly derivative of real amps, with or without FX.

    On the other issue of "new sounds" becoming "standard" I think that that usually happens right before said new sounds become "dated" and out of favor, which in turn happens about 15 years or so before the "dated" sound becomes something employed to evoke a past historical era. Think gated reverb on the snare.
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    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
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  9. #9
    Obsequious oddball Peggy Guggenheim's bartender
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    I really don't think it has anything to do with "new sounds" despite the yammering in the guitar forum at the Purple Place that it does. From what I can tell, all the sounds are directly derivative of real amps, with or without FX.
    The "new sounds" that all the kiddies are yammering on about are universally shit.

    I'm serious.

    They're fucking awful. All the dynamic range of a chainsaw with none of the charm or function.

    That's not a condemnation of the technology, though.

    Just the idiots wielding it.
    One can kill people with many tools; the best assassins use the best and most appropriate tools to get the job done...

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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    when i started playing, i had a p.o.s acoustic that i literally found on my street on garbage day. i was lead to believe that i had to learn how to be a better player and work my way up to a better guitar.

    when i got better, i was lead to believe that i needed to learn from better players and practice in order to get a better sound.

    mind you, this was all before youtube, etc, so i suppose things are different now. seems like the up-and-comers are more influenced by the gadgets that will get 'that sound' faster, rather than taking the long road of learning, practicing, and graduating as a player in order to get it.

    fwiw, i still have the same amp, same guitar, and the same pedals (with the addition of a couple over the years) that i had when i graduated from p.o.s acoustic to decent kit. I've found no need for anything else. instead, I'm more concerned about how i can get my own decent sound with what i have.

    i wonder if that would have been different if i started playing today.
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    Thanks a lot for your ideas everyone. I didn't want to specifically address the pro's/con's of amp modeling because... well, that's kinda endless, and depending on which side of the boat you're on, opinions might differ.
    I guess I was wondering something along the lines of... will there ever be a day where playing/recording through a modeling unit will be the standard, and hauling a heavy tube-based combo (or head/cabs) be seen as the odd thing to do ("he's one of these purists"... "you play with your grandpa's gear?").
    I personally have been recording almost exclusively through UAD's amps for their platform for a while, and I recently got a Helix, so for me, there are clear reasons for using this technology. But for gigs, I still prefer to haul my amp and pedals (although I'm going to be experimenting with just running the Helix and a few pedals to the amp).

    Anyway... it's a trend (evolution?)I find very interesting. I think John was very accurate in his observations of what's driving this trend. There seems to be some room for creativity here (versus, say, all the plugin companies coming up with emulations of LA2A's and SSL channel strips... although I guess the same can be said for all the guitar modeling companies selling emulations of Fender Tweeds and Marshall Plexis).

    Cheers all!!

    P.S. Hey McLights!! Nice to see you again! Long time no... email?
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    If there is - maybe it will be like this: A degree of standardization occurs because its the best way to get paid.

    Lets say you're in competition to record/write something for the next JJ Abrams mega-monster. And lets say that one of the things that a music supervisor really values is that you can quickly accomodate whatever high pressure/last second edits or needs or inspiration or client reactions may come along.

    It might not be the best tool (Alsihad?) but I could see how a producer for a film company might have a great experience with "the Auto-farter 3000" (saved his ass with a temperamental client) and so he told all of his friends that it was a must have; the true test of any session guitarist for film work, blah blah blah. Or someone convinces them that there is a greater opportunity for "monetization of digital content".

    I'm not saying I like it... just that it does remind me of some things I've seen elsewhere.
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    I guess I was wondering something along the lines of... will there ever be a day where playing/recording through a modeling unit will be the standard, and hauling a heavy tube-based combo (or head/cabs) be seen as the odd thing to do ("he's one of these purists"... "you play with your grandpa's gear?").
    My guess is that it will follow John's logic; so they will be more common than modular Moog or Hammond players, more common than Juno players or Fairchild users, but if manufacture of real amps declines, they will become more rare.

    In short, I think it depends on what amp manufacturers predictions for sales figures are, based on current fads.

    It's all up in the air, basically, until amp sims sound close enough to the real thing that convenience trumps the difference in convenience/price vs. sound.

    Unless they suddenly create their own sound, which I doubt, as marketing departments are not known for their neophilia.
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    If there is - maybe it will be like this: A degree of standardization occurs because its the best way to get paid.

    Lets say you're in competition to record/write something for the next JJ Abrams mega-monster. And lets say that one of the things that a music supervisor really values is that you can quickly accomodate whatever high pressure/last second edits or needs or inspiration or client reactions may come along.

    It might not be the best tool (Alsihad?) but I could see how a producer for a film company might have a great experience with "the Auto-farter 3000" (saved his ass with a temperamental client) and so he told all of his friends that it was a must have; the true test of any session guitarist for film work, blah blah blah. Or someone convinces them that there is a greater opportunity for "monetization of digital content".

    I'm not saying I like it... just that it does remind me of some things I've seen elsewhere.
    Er, not exactly, at least not in this case (and many others)

    Actually, the degree of (illusory, temporary) "standardization" occurs because SOMEBODY ELSE found it a great way to get paid and everybody else tries to jump on the bandwagon.

    The "Alsihad" analogy doesn't really apply because that was based almost entirely on inter-studio compatibility.

    Bands don't need to be inter-compatible with each others equipment. Hell, even the members of the SAME band don't need to be inter-compatible with each others equipment.

    Granted, there's a whole huge Kemper based "sound sharing" scene right now but that doesn't really have anything whatsoever to do with making music - it's just another form of cyber-hoarding. None of those kids are going to do squat with 99.9% of all those Kemper profiles they download except maybe play with them for a couple of minutes. Most probably don't do music seriously at any level anyway, they just like toys, but the small number who do are almost certainly going to use a very small number of profiles, and if what I'm been told by a few name guys who use the K is at all true, most of those profiles will be self-generated anyway, from gear they have on hand but don't want to (pay to) have hauled all over the map.

    Meanwhile, the monkeys play. Monkey See, Monkey Do, until the next fad comes along.

    They can delude themselves into believing that if they have Joe Blow's EXACT KEMPER PROFILE that their playing and music will sound like Joe's.
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    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    I think we can abstract from the modelling/vs real stuff for a bit and look a little bit into how trends go nowadays.
    IMO there always was a big dose of fashion and fans following their heroes as far as how sertain gear became famous and over time ubiquitous. Certainly, there has to be some inherent quality in a piece of gear but a lot of it just "Jonny X from band XYZ plays this amp and this guitar, I gotta have it".
    What I strongly feel and probably said here somewhere is that now the cycle of the trend exploding and collapsing is very fast.
    So amp modelling in general already has its place on the guitar scene and it is likely to grow a bit before it reaches the equilibrium, but as far as individual PODs, Axe-FX Is and IIs and Kempers they will come and go with a faster rate than real amps did (and only partly because of the nature of the technology).
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    They can delude themselves into believing that if they have Joe Blow's EXACT KEMPER PROFILE that their playing and music will sound like Joe's.
    The Axe FX kids are no better with their presets.

    it's funny...I've spend 2 and a half years building up a library of presets for my Eleven Rack and only recently am I finding out how to really make the damn thing run.

    ...and then some other guy comes in, and plays MY GUITAR...through the preset that I MADE MYSELF and DEEMED TO BE GOOD...

    ...and it sounds like a trainwreck. Just complete ass. So I gotta go in and tweak...which is FINE. It's what I expect, actually. I'm just giving myself a starting point.

    The Axe FX/Kemper kids will learn these lessons slowly and painfully, as always.
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    It is with a certain small amusement that I'm now seeing threads pop up at the Purple Place with titles like "Suggestions for Small Tube Amp? (Goodbye Kemper!)"
    http://www.johnnyoklahoma.com/

    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    The appropriate role for science is the study of observed phenomena to gain an understanding. It is not dictating what people ought or ought not to be observing.
    Hey, if I'm Grumpy, where the hell is Snow White????
  18. #18
    Obsequious oddball Peggy Guggenheim's bartender
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    Another analogy...

    Is there a STANDARD digital hardware sampling synthesizer?

    I think the correlation there is damn near perfect.
    One can kill people with many tools; the best assassins use the best and most appropriate tools to get the job done...

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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    i guess it all comes down to too many options, IMO. someone else sound profile isn't going to make you better.

    if you can get a decent sound with what you already have, who gives a fuck about what the other guys sound like... unless, of course, your goal is to sound like everyone else. seems to me thats whats driving the sales of these boxes. slightly akin to trading cards where the whole goal is to have all the coveted ones.

    for me, it seems to pull the focus away from excelling as a player and lean more towards the collection of sound profiles. many of which, depending on your playing, are kinda unusable.

    also comes down to the hardware vs plugin argument. you don't need to upgrade a hardware piece. what happens when these digital amps go on the fritz? i seriously doubt any repair tech at a guitar shop is gonna be able to fix these things. enjoy them while they last!

    ps, toonman! whats up buddy! long time indeed! pm'd ya
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    Default Re: When aspiration drives standardization... (or, when does a sound become the standard?)

    "When marketing drives complacency - what then?"

    OR

    " When technology drives stagnation..."

    OR

    "When 'innovation' fosters homogeneity..."


    When "innovation" is just a poor copy of the same old, same old.....Welcome to the future!
    Individuality doesn't come in a box.
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    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    The appropriate role for science is the study of observed phenomena to gain an understanding. It is not dictating what people ought or ought not to be observing.
    Hey, if I'm Grumpy, where the hell is Snow White????

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