Marshall JCM 800 vs 14 guitar amp modelers! (Helix, Axe Fx, Amplitube etc)

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by Guitarjon, Jan 2, 2020.

  1. Guitarjon

    Guitarjon SS.org Regular

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    I got a Marshall JCM 800 Studio (SC20H) recently. It's a great amp and it really delivers that classic JCM 800 tone, without a doubt! I've done a lot of testing and this 'small' amp doesn't sound smaller than it's bigger brother. The amp does have less headroom than a 100w amp obviously so the power tubes will start to break up earlier once you crank it up. I like to run my master volumes at points where the power tubes are just starting to compress the sound, so not super loud so that the tubes start to distort much. This amp is very cool! It's not 'just a small amp that tries to emulate a big one' imho.

    Now, a LOT of modeling platforms have emulations of this amp in their amp roster. Since it's a very classic and relatively simple amp I was very curious to see how close all the modeling platforms come to the real deal. That's why I decided to make this video.

    These are the platforms that are featured this time around:

    Helix Native Brit 2204
    Mercuriall Spark 800
    Axe Fx III Brit 800
    Nembrini MRH 810
    Kuassa Caliburn
    Amplitube 4 Brit 8000
    Guitar Rig 5 Lead 800
    BX Rock Rack Crunch 800
    Studio Devil British Crunch
    Thermionik Marshland 800
    Amplion 800 Lead
    Bias FX British Lead 800
    pod farm Brit J-800
    Poulin Hybrit

    I had to leave a couple well known platforms out unfortunately, like Revalver for example, because it only has a JCM 900 also TH-U because the brit 75 amp seems to be a clean amp (low sensitivity input) and this comparison only has dirty tones. Some of my favorites weren't surprising because they are very often very accurate platforms (Helix is one of those) but others REALLY surprised me! Some also surprised me at how inaccurate they were.

    We have to however keep in mind that there will always be slight tonal variances between amp models and the real amp for a bunch of reasons. One of the main reasons being that there are a lot of different real world iterations of the JCM 800 and the modeling platforms only model one of those versions each. Also things like tube types etc. can play a part. Having said that, I still think this is a good and solid comparison. In short: the results speak for themselves.

    So of course I would love to know which ones you thought sounded the best and/or the most accurate...

    Check it out:

     
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  2. wakjob

    wakjob SS.org Regular

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    Do you think the "inaccuracies" are because each company was using a totally different example of a Marshall?

    I've owned/played DOZENS of JCM 800's...
    They're all a bit different from one to the next.
     
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  3. Guitarjon

    Guitarjon SS.org Regular

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    Good question! To some extent I would say yes, but I think those sort of sonic differences can usually be 'tweaked out' by using the tonestack, gain and master controls plus advanced amp parameters in some cases. If one of the modelers simply can't analog amps well you will definitely still hear that pretty clearly if you listen on good monitors etc.
     
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  4. wakjob

    wakjob SS.org Regular

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    Grabbed an HX Stomp btw...it's your fault! :fawk::lol:

    It'll be here Monday.
     
  5. Guitarjon

    Guitarjon SS.org Regular

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    Haha! That's awesome! Do let me know what you think of it. If you're into metal definitely try the Badonk amp :)
     
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  6. HeHasTheJazzHands

    HeHasTheJazzHands SS.org Regular

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    The Helix sounded most accurate, but I actually like the Axe 3 the most. Even more than the real thing.
     
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  7. Jon Pearson

    Jon Pearson SS.org Regular

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    I agree with this. The Helix was dead on but the Axe III has "more" tone for lack of better words, it just sounds super good.
     
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  8. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    No particular insight here, but this is a super cool comparison, and thanks for making it!
     
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  9. Guitarjon

    Guitarjon SS.org Regular

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    What was it about the Axe Fx that you liked so much over the real amp? It does have more 'definition' sorta, but with the Axe Fx to me it always feels a little too direct and harsh/hollow. Of course that's just personal taste but once I started to notice that sort of 'sonic signature' of the Fractal I started to dislike it more. Before I had my real amps I wasn't really aware of this though. It started when I compared my real amps to it basically.

    Thanks! :)
     
  10. Metropolis

    Metropolis SS.org Regular

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    I liked Mercuriall Spark more than a real thing :shrug: Axe III has really good definition, but it's not my favourite. Helix has that artificial sounding sizzle in decayed notes which I don't still like, but it sounds good in a mix, just like Studio Devil and Thermionik. Amplitube 4 was surprisingly good sounding, but was still bit lifeless compared to ones mentioned before.
     
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  11. MASS DEFECT

    MASS DEFECT SS.ORG Infiltrator

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    Helix had more presence hence it sounded better mixed? But the Fractal sounded bigger.
     
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  12. OverTonez

    OverTonez SS.org Regular

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    Amazing work in this comparison. The differences are so small in most I might never tell in a blind test. One theory I have though is that the very subtle differences give you a very subtle overall feel to the music. I might subconsciously prefer one over the other without actually knowing.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2020
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  13. OverTonez

    OverTonez SS.org Regular

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    Giving the back to back clips a listen, the Helix does sound really damn close, but I wonder if that's just because the EQ got dialed in closest, not because the gain/saturation characteristics are the most identical? Tough to say. For me, the whole thing about EL34 tube amps is the soft transition between clean and distorted. When I listen to modelers, that's the first thing I try to listen for. It's like, does it sound natural in that transition zone...
     
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  14. Guitarjon

    Guitarjon SS.org Regular

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    I really did my best to dial them all in as close as I could without resorting to anything other than the amp controls, fwiw. So not just with the Helix.
     
  15. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    The real surprise to me is the older and crappier Guitar Rig 5 and POD Farm stuff. Guess good cab modeling does go a long way.

    If you want another fun experiment, try running some tube amp's preamps from the fx loop send into a poweramp sim like the Ignite amps TPA-1 or the Wall of Sound plugin poweramps. You might be surprised how good that can also sound.

    I've decided to just skip the whole load boxes and tube amps thing and for direct recording just use Helix Native. It's just simpler and sounds just as good for that purpose to my ears. For listening to an amp in the room, that's where I like the real gear best.
     
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  16. Guitarjon

    Guitarjon SS.org Regular

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    That's not a bad idea! I have a couple of pre-amp pedals on the way, the Diezel VH4-2 being one of them. I could also try that TPA-1 plugin with those. Interesting idea, Thanks!
     
  17. OverTonez

    OverTonez SS.org Regular

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    Another interesting thing to me with the ones that were really close, like with the Helix or Mercuriall, the sound difference going to the modeler was extremely subtle, but then when it went back to the JCM800 things sounded squishier and more musical. The Pod Farm was nowhere close in my opinion, it had no squish/compression/depth.
     
  18. Guitarjon

    Guitarjon SS.org Regular

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    The real amp definitely sounds a bit more airy in most cases and there is string definition but in a natural way. With some of the platforms (the Axe Fx and Mercuriall) the definition feels a little too 'forced' or something. Hard to explain what I'm hearing.
     
  19. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    It's also worth mentioning that loadboxes are not perfect. The best ones approximate the impedance curve of a speaker well but will not react 100% the same as a speaker. It's probably not feasible due to the volume involved but it would be interesting to see what results you get if you were to run one output of the amp into a real guitar speaker and the other through the loadbox. Or using the speaker thru on the Fractal loadbox.
     
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  20. Mr_Marty

    Mr_Marty SS.org Regular

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    Fractal sounded great although a bit less bass. I noticed the bass knob on it's model is set lower than the amp. Helix sounded very accurate from an EQ standpoint but still has that Helix fake sizzle thing going on. Was suprised at how good the Poulin sounded. Some of the others were surprisingly off.
     

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