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Amp Modeler/Multieffect round up.


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I have lived in apartments for the last few years and have grown to really appreciate modelers for playing at home and recording. Live I still tend to use just a plain ol' amp and maybe a few effects.


Anyway, recently I noticed that there have been some new developments on the modeling front, so I thought hey, perhaps I can upgrade from the Boss GT-8 that I've enjoyed using for the past couple of years. In the last week or two, I've tried the Pod X3, Tonelab LE and Digitech GSP1101. Here are a few thoughts on each of them.






-Definitely the most options in terms of both amp and effect models. Tons of effects that are useful, including a really impressive array of guitar synth type tones you really can't get elsewhere.


-Allows you to configure two completely independent full signal chains, and pan each one however you want. This is a really great feature that nobody else offers, as far as I know.


-Better overall tone than the Pod XT; they seem to have corrected the annoying compressor and noise gate.




-$399 for a device made in China; The X3 Live is $499 for a plastic device made in China.


-The bean version requires you to buy a proprietary board just to use a wah or other pedal effect


-No software editor!


-The amp models still slice off your high end at a musically unnatural level. They sound better than the Pod 2 and XT models, but they still sound distinctively POD-like


Tonelab LE:


This is an overall great unit. The tonelab offers probably the most authentic feeling and authentically responsive amp models out there. I ended up taking this one back because it really isn't much different than the standard tonelab, which is $200. The two big problems with the original Tonelab---the inability to configure the signal chain and the overall lack of headroom---remain on the LE. Also it's $400, uses technology that's been around for a while, and is made in China.


Excellent, easy to use software editor.


Digitech GSP1101




-Overall amp tone is excellent. Not nearly the variety of amp and effect models that the POD offers, but they sound richer and the top end is all there.


-Outstanding chorus, delay and reverb models. These alone sound like the quality you expect from $1000+ rack units.


-Stereo Effects Loop


-Excellent, easy to use software editor that allows you to configure every variable including "system" variables.


-Made in the USA!




-No S/PDIF out. It comes with a driver for USB recording, but if you're not using it with a PC, you're likely out of luck (or, if, in my case, the driver doesn't seem to work with your system, you're stuck not making any clips).

-No instructions/support for the USB drivers anywhere to be found.


-Peculiar arrangement of what effects can be used at the same time. They seem to have taken a step backwards with this one - on the old RP and GNX series you could use chorus with whammy or other effects. On this one, you have to choose one or the other.


-The effect chain is peculiar for direct recording. The compressor is near the front, and it is not stereo.



All told, I am sending each of these back and sticking with the GT-8 for a while. The GT-8 beats all of them in a few respects - it has a metal chassis, made in Taiwan. You can hook up an expression and control pedal without any special proprietary boards or cables. It has a great assortment of effects that actually sound like analog boxes, and a few more out there but musically useful effects. One thing it has on all of the "next gen" units is you can fully configure the signal chain - put any effect/amp/compressor/delay/reverb/noise gate/whatever - anywhere in the chain, including the effect loop. The GT-8 also has more headroom than any of the above.


The GT-8s biggest drawbacks are twofold - none of the amp tones sound good right out of the box, you have to tweak them ad nauseam, which is a pain because there is no software editor. The result is that I only have one or two amp tones that I like. But they'll do for a while longer.

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I've had most of these or their predecessors.


None of them came even close to a Damage Control Demonizer for direct recording. Nothing can beat real tubes. Digital blows, but hey it took me only 3 years of endless fiddling with EQ and FX to figure it out.

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What does lack of headroom for the Tonelab LE mean?



The signal compresses and clips without a very strong input signal. If it were occurring only in the preamp gain and "poweramp" gain sections it would probably be ok, but I suspect that it is not. You hear the artifacts of compression and clipping even on very clean settings.


I actually had the Zoom unit about two years ago. I took it back too but I can't remember enough about it to explain why.


I have a Damage Control Demonizer and a Womanizer. I agree that they are outstanding units and I use them live. But for what I want do do I would need the Damage Control and a mixer and a host of other effects (although a Womanizer + a Magicstomp makes for a great live rig that does just about anything you could want).


Incidentally, I went back and got the POD X3 back. Some, perhaps most, of the amp models have an artificial high end cutoff. But, after spending some time with it, I realize that not all of them do. I've been able to dial in a couple good key amp tones. That makes it worthwhile, because it has some great effects.


I'm strongly contemplating an Axe-FX. It's way too much money for what I will use it for, but it would sure be nice to have every single feature that I want.

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I guess my issue is that in my current super-simple setup:


guitar -> Demonizer -> sound card


I get a far better tone than I ever got with any modelling device I had (and I've gone through a whole truckload of them) and it took me a fraction of the time to get it (I recall with horror the hours I spent twiddling with a Boss GT6 trying to get it to deliver anything resembling a usable distortion).


I would only buy a GT6/GT8/POD X3 to use them for effects and have the Demonizer in the FX loop for the actual distortion. FX is the only thing modellers are great at.

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