Amp Modeling II :The Amp Modeling war continues

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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.

Features

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

  • Amp Models: 16 types
  • Cabinet Models: 10 types
  • Effects: 22 types (Drive:10 types, Modulation: 5 types, Delay: 3 types, Reverb: 3 types,
  • Noise Reduction: 1 type
  • Programs: 96 (24 Bank x 4 Channel)
  • In/Outputs: Guitar Input, 2 x Output (1/4" Phone Jack), 1 x Digital Out (S/P DIF) - ToneLab only, 1 x VOX Bus, 1 x Headphone Out (ToneLab only), MIDI IN/OUT
  • Tuner Measurement Range: 27.5 Hz-2,093 Hz (A0-C7)
  • Calibration: A = 438-445 Hz
  • Signal Processing: A/D Conversion 20bit, D/A Conversion 20bit, Sampling Frequency 44.1KHz

Line 6 PODxt: 32 All New Amp Models based on award-winning Vetta technology

  • More than 35 Classic Models of Stomp box and studio effects
  • USB support for Digital Audio In/Out
  • A.I.R. II adds Mic Models and allows Mix 'n Match Amps and Cabs
  • 64 Presets, Tap Tempo, and Full MIDI control
  • Easy to use ó No obtuse features. This product design seeks to maximize ease of use while increasing capabilities. The focus is on immediacy of control.
  • Downloadable Model and Effects capabilities ó expandable up to 64 Amp models and 32 effect models.
  • Tap Tempo support for Modulation and Delay Effects with Note divisions
  • Tone Transfer with libraries that are existing at POD XT's FCS
  • "Digital Out" recording via USB into 3rd party applications
  • Compatibility with FBV and FBC
  • Built-in Chromatic Tuner
  • Mix 'n Match Amps 'n Cabs
  • Customizable Amp and Effect Models
  • Manual Mode for WYSIWYG operation
  • 64 user preset locations
  • Full MIDI Implementation
  • Flash based memory allows for operating system upgrades

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

  • 125 memory locations, divided into 25 banks of 5 presets each
  • Facilitates direct recording without an amp for professional guitar tones
  • Comprehensive LEDs show all current settings
  • 15 rear panel connectors allow comprehensive routing and suit virtually every conceivable application
  • Additional unparalleled authentic cabinet simulation with sound designed by Juergen Rath
  • Stereo headphones output with adjustable volume
  • Adjustable auto-chromatic tuner
  • Internal power supply unit
  • Extremely low-noise instrument input ensures maximum guitar signal integrity
  • Pre DSP send/return for dry recording and wet monitoring
  • Stereo 1/4 in. line outputs controlled by master volume for live use as guitar preamp
  • Balanced stereo XLR DI out with ground lift and switchable Ultra-G cabinet simulation
  • Post DSP stereo inserts for connection of external effects
  • Phones output on front panel for easy access
  • BNC wordclock input for external sample rate synchronization up to 96 kHz
  • AES/EBU and S/PDIF connectors allow usage as an all-purpose A/D converter with 24-bit/96 kHz digital output
  • MIDI In, Out, Thru

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.

Connectivity

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.

Live

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.

Sound

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.

Budget

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.

For more info on:
www.behringer.com
www.line6.com
www.voxamps.co.uk

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User-submitted comments


tonyoci
Oct 25, 2006 05:26 pm
Great Review
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.

Tony
www.homemadehitshow.com


Geoff
May 19, 2009 11:49 am
update
it's 2009 . V-amp died in 2003 , tonelab was sold and the the PODxt was the only one left.


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