A comparison of the top 3 amp modeling devices on the market and how they stack up
A couple of years ago I wrote an article on the 3 different Modelers out at the time. Things have changed a little in the world or music but two of the brands featured in the first article are still hanging in, the heavy weight Line 6 and its German little brother Behringer. This time we have a new entry even though it comes from one the oldest and trusted brands on the market, Vox.
Vox Tonelab: Vox Valve Reactor (using a 12AX7/ECC83 dual triode as a power amp tube) circuit delivers the sound and feel of actual tube power
Line 6 PODxt: 32 All New Amp Models based on award-winning Vetta technology
Behringer V-Amp Pro: 32 authentic virtual amp models can be combined with any of the 15 speaker cabinet simulations, noise gate, compressor, wah-wah, modulation effects, delay and reverb
Upgrade and support
All 3 company claim to have support for each product via online support or 1800 #. Line 6 seems to have the best support and upgrade options. Line 6 has an extensive online user group that has patches and pre-sets that you can swap and share for free. Vox has a few patch libraries but not as extensive. Behringer would come in 2nd for user base but you have to download there programs from there site and the programs can be a bit sketchy at times. Line 6 also has periodic up grades to amp models and programs that they post on there web site to download for free to users. Line 6 also offers 3 model packs for the Pod line; you have to pay for the upgrade.
This is where things have gotten better IMO. The PODxT has headphone, MIDI, stereo ľĒ (left and right) as well as a USB out ( the USB works good for transferring files and what not) with the XT you donít need a sound interface for your PC, but I would still recommend it . I tend to record with the ľ outs plugged into my sound card. The Vamp Pro has an over abundance of inís and outís, most people wonít need or know where to begin. Iím just going to focus on the S/PDIF out and the ľ and XLR outs, connecting with the S/PDIF is one of best things about this rack mounted box. If you can go digital to digital it is strongly recommended, less signal to noise. If youíre using the V-Amp for live applications this thing gives you all the in/outs as you need, if you go amp or no amp, or just into your PA. The Tonelab has 1/4Ē in, headphone out, stereo ľĒ out, MIDI, and S/PDIF. Again having the S/PDIF ranks high in my book. Line 6 has the PODxT Pro which has almost all the same specs as the desktop unit but it has the extra I/Oís like S/PDIF and stereo XLR out, but it runs over twice as much.
Even though the main use of these units is recording you may and have great results using them live. The PODxt has a foot controller that has an assortment of very sturdy buttons and two expression peddles for around 250.00 USD. The V amp comes with a cheesy little two button (up and down) controller that you can use but it causes more frustration with users than good. The ToneLab has a few options on foot controllers like line 6, theirs is about 200 USD. Line 6 also offers the XT live which is about 150 USD more and it is built as a floor board model. Vox has the Tonelab LE that is the same way and price.
Probably the most important point about these little boxes and the biggest deciding factor for most, thatís why I saved it for the end. I love how versatile the PODxt is, you have so many amps and cabs to choose from as well as mic models and mic placement, which is a cool idea. You can get wrapped up with all the POD has to offer trying to get a good sound. Most of the presets are not that great (as most things go) but as far as quality of sounds I would say Iíd above average, the cleans are warm to glassy, the mild distorted amps are less desirable and the high gain ďinsaneĒ(which is a name of one of the line 6 amps) are full and over the top. Answering the question;Ēdo the amps sound like the amps that are being modeled?Ē yes and no is the short answer. Some of the high gain amps introduce a bit of noise but so would the real amps; you have to tinker a bit. The PODxt is great for coming up with nice original sounds that you couldnít do with the real thing. The Vamp has a lot of the same characteristics as the XT but some of the amp models sound completely different , an example is the Marshall JCM 800 , the POD sound more like the real deal, the V-Amp has more of a muddy sound, like a lot of there high gain amps. Iíd also like to state that the V amp has some great sounds to it but they are not 24 bit more like 20 (if that matters to you) , plus the model I had, had the internal clock and power supply go bad after 6 months. The ToneLab has the most realistic amp models out of the lot IMO. It also has the fewest, but you personally donít need that many with this sucker. The POD has the most features and flexibility when it comes to tone crafting, the Behringer has many of the same tricks in its bag, but for less and the Vox has that nice tube sound only a tub can give.
So who wins , well this isnít win or loose itís about whatís right for the application , the XT rocks on almost all fronts and is a killer deal , but it can lack the warmth and organic qualities that some of the classic tub amps have to offer ,thatís where the Tonelab takes the lead. The V amp is kind of in the shadows since Behringer hasnít changed there modeling tech since my last article 4 years ago. I have owned all 3, and I currently have two left the XT and Tonelab, I find one can work better for one project than the other; it all depends on what youíre doing. As any new investment you should try and find a music store like Guitar Center that has them all on display and try them out to see which one fits.
All 3 or worth every penny and with the Tonelab and the PODXT at 300 USD and the V-Amp Pro 170 USD.
A personal note, Iím not trying to slam any of the three companies, I own gear from all three and I believe they all make wonderful gear. Behringer has been a hit or miss company for me, Iíve had pieces that have been a god send and have lasted years. My V-Amp unfortunately was one product that didnít and Iíve read a few reviews that have said the same, but there are others out there that have not had a problem, so you may get a fully functional unit. Good luck and I hope this has help or just been fun to read.
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Oct 25, 2006 05:26 pm
A good read, I'm a Line6 guy. I guess the Toneport at $199 is a lower price option for non live playing and the XT Live is only $100 more new but still a great summary.
May 19, 2009 11:49 am
it's 2009 . V-amp died in 2003 , tonelab was sold and the the PODxt was the only one left.
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