Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Re-Revisiting: Head-to-Head

Not trusting my impressions of GR4 compared to Pod Farm I went back today and pulled up a fairly basic go-to tone on my Pod Farm that I call 'A Bit Beckish' that has a chain of noise reduction into a Tube Screamer clone dialed just behind 5 with the tone rolled back into a JCM 800 clone with the gain at 6 and bass 4 mid 6 treble 7 running through a matched 4X12 miked dead on using a SM 57 with a bit of air and with the signal going through a reverb set to model a medium room. Pretty much any sim software you buy is going to have these units modeled.

I dialed in identical settings on the Pod Farm, the Guitar Rig 4 and the ReValver Mk II. Not that I was expecting them to sound the same with identical settings. Even real amps and stomp boxes sound different from each other with the same settings. Nor does the comparison imply that I could not get each piece of software to create nearly the same sounds by tweaking each a bit and comparing the range of tweakability present in each model. Mostly I just wanted to compare my impressions of all three as a baseline for what characteristics they present.

I played the Pod Farm first, then dialed in the Guitar Rig and played it, went back to the Pod Farm, turned on the ReValver and dialed it in and played it, then went back to the Pod Farm.

Impressions...the Pod Farm is the buzziest of the three both in terms of hum from gain and in general tone. Compared to the other two it sounds like the Pod Farm has a fuzz unit in the mix as well. I know that the Pod can do nice, sparkly cleans so it's either the Screamer or the JCM model that kicks up the fuzz factor. I found myself looking for a bit more articulation and midrange roundness to give the guitar some character. The ReValver, meanwhile, was very round, but also flatter and less cutting than the other two. It sounded like a cab going into a single mic with little or no air and the reverb never really felt like it added much depth, just a little wetness to the mix. It picked up the least variation in string response as well. The Guitar Rig was very present and deep and articulate with very little background noise or fuzz. The guitar sounded very alive and I could hear the difference in response based on my picking, which, if I were trying to dial something in rather than just comparing would mean a lot less tweaking and a lot more playing.

I'm really impressed with Native Instruments modeling. It's just such a solid overall package. If you have the money and plan on using it for recording or playing out it would definitely be worth the extra. I'm sure that a tech could get them all to sound great in a mix, but the GR4 sounds great even without a tech in sight.

****ETA 10Jun2010****

One thing I discovered a couple months back that I hadn't noticed before is that the ReValver gives you the option of outputting through your computer's soundcard rather than resending it to the USB interface output. This lets you play through your computer speakers like it's an amp. In Pod Farm you have to run it all through Garage Band or another DAW which is doable, but adds another layer of latency issues and memory suck into the equation.

Being able to output to your speakers is handy for sharing ideas or just playing for a friend/spouse.

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