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Tubes versus Modeling Caged Death Match

  I am a big fan of both tubes and modeling. That being said, the modeling
amp I use, a Pod Pro, took many hours of dialing in to get close to the
sound I want. Key word "close".  It suffered the same thing that most
off-the-shelf multi-effect/ modeling amps do, namely, that all the presets
were designed to impress a much younger, more shred and grunge oriented
demographic. I had to systematically go in and tame every parameter till I
got something musical to my ears. I also use an old school rig for my non
looping gigs, made up of a handful of excellent boutique pedals, feeding a
stereo amp rig of an old vox ac10 and either an old fender deluxe reverb or
Princeton reverb. I love the sound of this rig, noise and all. There is
something more vibrant and visceral about it than the pod rig. Its partly a
sound thing, but even more so a feel and dynamics difference. If I could
successfully integrate this rig in to my looping rig I probably would.
However, the thing that appealed to me about the pod was its ability to be
versatile and sound convincing through a full range system, and the fact
that it has some decent quality effects built in, eliminating the need for
an additional stomp box pedal board. Because I use both electric and
acoustic instruments, in my solo playing, the idea of bringing both the
tube rig and the full range rig to a gig is somewhat daunting. I did that a
few weeks ago on a gig backing my lovely common law love and local Santa
Cruz singer-songwriter, Nancy Levan. About half the set required looping
and the other half was with a rhythm section. The set up and tear down for
me took more than twice as long as the 45 minute set. The tech guys at the
venue were waiting around for me to finish loading out! I don't think I'll
be trying that again.
 The fact is that modeling is getting better and better, which is kind of a
drag because guys like me are starting to think their 3-4 year old gear is
soon to be obsolete, replaced by models that both sound and feel better.
Remember when amp companies came out with the same model, year in and year
out (see fender)? Modern amp manufacturers seem to expect turnover
equivalent to the fashion industry. Line 6's new flextone 3 amps do sound
and feel better, but does that really mean my older pod is now worthless? I
can understand the mistrust some people have toward these new technologies,
particularly when what was the latest and greatest last year is swept away
in favor of the new latest and greatest.
 I always try to keep in mind something I read by Steve Lukather about Jeff
Beck. He says he saw Beck in a studio, sit down and play "Where Were You"
though a little roland keyboard amp and sound amazing. The song I refer to
is off the CD "Guitar Shop" and is a truly breathtaking homage to Bulgarian
vocal music. I think what Steve was trying to say is that it didn't matter
what Beck was playing through, it was about the content of what he was
playing and the conviction he was playing with. The first time I saw my
friend, Lyle Workman play, he was using a Peavey special 130 powering a
Marshall cabinet, and burning the place down, with great ideas ,prodigious
technique and great sound. He currently owns a bunch of great amps both
modern and vintage, yet he tells me that many of the studio dates he does,
wind up being done with amp farm or pod, simply because of ease and speed,
and also because the nature of the LA studio scene has changed from big to
little studios over the last 20 years.. I think there is enough room in the
universe for tubes and modeling. Modeling offers an option for guys who
want some versatility but don't have the money to go out and buy a bunch of
tube amps. I can understand some tube snobbery, but I do think that people
who dismiss amp modeling outright are missing the point. Modeling amps
aren't here like some alien invasion, to conquer the planet and rid the
world of tube amps. They represent an option of tonal flexibility to those
who might not otherwise have one.