Rejection of digital emulations - just arrogant behaviour?

This is a theory I believe in for quite some time now.

Often, when talking to musicians, I get opinions like “oh no, I don’t like amp modelling, because it sounds so unnatural” or “a VST synthesizer never sounds as good as the original”.

…and I totally and strongly disagree.

To me this is just pointless conservativism, fear of change, arrogance.

What do you think?

Well, I guess it is not that easy. Sure, you can recreate the sound of analog stuff
digitally by now. And it sounds a lot like the original.
The difference is the handling. A guitar player that stands next to
a huge loud amp has a whole different feeling compared to the situation when he/she
sits next to a monitor speaker. Plus he has some more sonic possibilities
(creating a feedback is essentially for heavy guitar stuff for example).
It might also be a lot more fun for a keyboarder to twist the knobs of an
analog synth instead of using the mouse or controllers.
So I’d say it depends. Sure, the sound is on an equal level by now.
But is it as much fun and inspiration for the musician?

Why even ask? Who cares? That is an old, old, old argument that goes way, way, way back. In the early days of synthesis, people complained that synths would put “real” musicians out of work. The status quo always challenges and complains about shifts in paradigms. Prog rock musos complained that punk/grunge ruined their careers. Before that, rock-and-roll musicians complained that disco was ruining music (okay, they were probably right :wink: ).

Use whatever you want. Use one of the many splendid synthetic symphony orchestras if it serves your Muse. Let the naysayers stick to their lofty principles. And when they can’t afford to hire a real symphony orchestra for their opus, and instead do a kazoo orchestra (using authentic kazoos, not sampled ones), you can present your synthetic work and see which piece listeners gravitate (and groove-itate) to. Don’t want to shell out tens-of-thousands-of-$$$$$ for “authentic” analog Moogs? Get the emulations, and don’t tell anyone. “They” can’t really hear any difference, especially not in a mix.

Just do the best you can, with what you can reasonably afford. Carry on.

I totally agree, swamptone!

What I believe is that the more “old skool” guys are just afraid that “nowadays it is so much easier to get things done”.

Recording an electric guitar before modelling was almost impossible in acceptable quality for a home studio owner, for example…

Yeah - but the problem is, today, sample libraries HAVE put many musicians out of work.

“oh no, I don’t like amp modelling, because it sounds so unnatural”

Agreed - does not sound like the real thing.

“a VST synthesizer never sounds as good as the original”.

Depends on what you trying to emulate. If you are trying to emulate a synth, then I disagree. If you are trying to emulate real musicians, then I strongly agree.


Well, there will always be a place for really good session musicians. Many bands, also in my genre, prefer to work with symphony orchestras instead of sample libraries (for example).

Problem here for the session musicians: session musicians are not accessible for hobbyists and even semi pros - but sample libraries are.

Doesn’t matter in the mix, seriously. Actually I have even heard from producers that, silently and secretly, they prefer modelling even soundwise (not only from a workflow perspective!), because they are “a bit easier to integrate”.

I don’t know about that, though. I haven’t recorded a guitar amp myself, because it is prohibitively expensive to do so in a home studio setting, when one wants to achieve a level of quality that even remotely reminds one of what even a cheap modelling plugin does almost effortlessly.

Right - and here I even KNOW FIRSTHAND that in mixes it makes no difference.

I tried recording an Andromeda A6 once - and while this is a great synthesizer (the best I have ever played, if I may say so!) - in the mix it didn’t make ANY difference.

Yes, playing it satisified my playfulness and my narcissm - but when it came to mixing, Arturias Prophet V and Minimoog V did the job equally well.

its not relay any easier i can still spend hours prating about with amp sims ,years ago pre processor days if need be you would just go direct or direct through a drive pedal and just mess with tones ,big names in the late 60s early 70s all did this and also came direct out of the back of amps experimenting ,im sure some guitarists still try all these different methods in search of sounds. you make it sound as if its a new problem its been around as long as guitar leads(chords)

True enough. But I’d wager the attorneys sent out by ASCAP and BMI to beat up club owners with litigation threats unless they pay for expensive royalty licenses hurt more musicians than all the synths in the world combined. So, there are many factors leading to the demise of the record business.

The record business is dead; long live the record business! :wink:

Totally agree…

Absolutely agree with “swamptone”. We have to learn to adapt to changes whether we like it or not. That’s life today.

There are some competing factors in these arguments. Just use whatever works.

I use amp sims. I also have an all tube amp. My pref is to put a 57 and 421 in front of the real amp. Doesn’t mean I won’t use sims, just a preference.

In terms of synths, I like the hardware. Yes, it’s more a pain to maintain and it takes up more space. However, it doesn’t become obsolete or unuseable when an operating system changes or a company is taken over by another. I could use any vsti synth I want to, but I still use a Supernova 2, two Roland XV-3080s, my Kurzweil PC88, some Korg keyboards, Yammy DX7 and DX100. I will use a vsti every now and then. But I like fiddle at a keyboard. It’s more enjoyable for me.

However, i just bought the Arturia Sparkle. vsti with a controller. I love it.

My point is - it doesn’t really matter what you use as long as it works for you.


If i let musicians hear what nowadays emulation vsti’s can they almost unanimously say “it sounds way better then the original”. It is bigger, brighter, broader then the original. But that is the “sound” aspect of it.

If you even want to compete with the real life instrument in terms of expression, then the minimum should be an equal approach to handle/play the instrument. If not, there is no sensible comparison possible, and the digital counterparts are way behind the real thing.

Also there is imho a huge difference between the controllerscales which most of the times are only divided in 127 or even less steps. So nuances are often limited with emulations. And not only the scales are limited when talking about emulations. THe source is most of the time also limited in the number of f.e. velocity layers, and indeed crossfading helps a lot, but actually, couldn’t hardly be compared to the nuances a live musician can do.

But to make it complete. A decent technician-composer with good skills, can outperform many mediocre live musicians (as i am counting myself to the latter) :slight_smile:

kind regards,

Only addressing VST synths and not amp modeling here:

You realize this issue has been covered in Gearslutz (Electronic forum) hundreds of times and often painfully goes in endless cycles correct? Not to mention dozens of other forums?

What has changed is faster CPU’s, and better code over the years. There are still and always will be hardware hold-out-elitists but they are shrinking in numbers as their tools become museum pieces. Besides…let them live and love what motivates them to create. For some including myself, it’s mostly a thing about physical knobs vs. a monitor…not the sound! Hardware is just more fun for myself. It’s really a futile topic. Generally in forums I think there is too much time being Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre or coveting Vince Clarks toy room, when Kesha is begging for things that get results…like cool unique synth patchs or when that doesn’t work, do as Dr. Luke did and get the toy keyboard.

I seem to encounter musicians and many clients who…when you really start asking them the right questions, are portraying concepts that are totally outdated or quotes from famous engineers or musicians who are simply wrong. For example Bob Olhsson is a source of excellent recording wisdom based on a lifetime of recording some great records. But if you read his comments about current DAW technology he clearly steps out of his realm of knowledge making incorrect statements unless it’s about Pro Tools.

Clients and especially musicians want to impress by repeating things read and heard, but this is a never ending industry of change and unless you stay current, doing this will make you look foolish.

To me, some of the drums are sounding pretty good in emulation, keyboards work pretty well, and that’s all I would use. Maybe if I was working in that genre I would find orchestral instruments to sound good, but I doubt it - it’s too hard to emulate an orchestra. But people do, and do it very well. There aren’t any other instruments I dare use in emulation, generally; they have to be keyboard-based (I say the drums fit into this category). I do like to use synths, and I don’t see any reason not too. The real ones are just noisier, but many were digital inside anyway.

Guitar amp emulation is on a different level in that somebody is actually playing something, and not just a keyboard. I have done both miked amps and emulations, and I am pretty happy with Guitar Rig, and prefer it to my own amp with a mic for my recordings, because I have so much control, and I think I can get it to sound better than the real amp. I know that’s heresy. If you listen to my album, it’s all Guitar Rig. And it’s an actual player; me! So is the bass.

Amp sims bend over for amps. Then the cow and amp have their way with it. ---->>>>

I disagree here, seriously.

You may have more fun playing the real amp, but in a mix it doesn’t matter.

Udderly true! :laughing:

Umm, yeah it does. :exclamation: :nerd:

Your ability to discern the difference is where we most likely differ.

I put up a ribbon mic and a dynamic mic, throw a blanket over the amp and mic’s and record. Instant good sound and way easier to refine and sits in the mix. Amp sims I have to fight to sit in the mix. For me it’s a time issue, I work faster recording the real thing. Not that I really care if it’s real or simulated, whatever works FOR ME. :slight_smile: