Traditionally, the guitar amplifier was really an extension of the electric guitar. The amplifier was as much a part of a guitarist’s tone as was the selection of guitar body, fingerboard and pickups. Over the years, guitar amplifier designs have been offered in multiple flavors, each offering the guitarist a different sonic signature with which to create his or her perfect sound. Pedals and other effects enhanced, colored and distorted the tone further to create an even wider range of options.
However, in recent years, the adoption of amplifier modeling technology has grown.
Between the various modeling amps, preamps, pods, apps and plug-ins, the modern guitarist now has more control over the desired sound than at any time before. Once the perfect sound has been dialed in, it can be stored and recalled as needed. Added to this new paradigm is the ability to embed all the effects into the modeling processor, providing even greater recall flexibility on the fly, and significantly lower signal-to-noise due to the elimination of patch cables. A great example of this technology is the Fractal Axe-FXII, which is used by a growing list of major artists.
Of course, amplifier modeling technology does present one major challenge for the modern guitarist: how to amplify his or her modeling processor on stage. Many guitarists are discovering that their traditional guitar amplifier is completely unsuited to this task, since it adds its own coloration and characteristics to the modeled replication of another amplifier. It’s like taking a recording of the guitar amp being modeled, and then playing it back through another guitar amp. Let’s face it: Guitar amplifiers are great at being guitar amplifiers, but they were never designed to reproduce an audio input accurately. Rather, they are designed to bring their own unique colorations and characteristics to the sound.
The other limitation with a traditional guitar amplifier—something that is almost never considered—is the fact that the full-range woofer cone of a guitar amp has its own inherent coverage pattern. What this means is that, as the frequency gets higher (treble), the sound starts to narrow or beam; this behavior is even worse with duo and quad cabinets, which are extremely directional (both mid and treble). This is why many guitarists are forced to prop up their guitar amplifier to aim directly at their ears; if they stand or move anywhere off axis, then they are effectively outside the coverage pattern of the speaker at higher frequencies, resulting in loss of clarity and brightness. Thus, the rest of the band might never hear the guitarist, but the FOH engineer is cursing him for being too loud.
So, what is the solution? What is really needed to take full advantage of a modeling processor is a loudspeaker system designed for accurate audio reproduction, high output, ruggedness and smooth off-axis response. Curiously, many guitarists have discovered that their modeling processor sounds fantastic through a stereo pair of high quality reference studio monit ors, where the wide stereo imaging and sonic accuracy reproduce every nuance of the performance. Although a pair of high quality studio monitors might be the perfect solution for the confines of the studio, they are completely unsuited to the rigorous demands of live performance. The modern guitarist requires stage amplification that not only offers true and accurate sound reproduction, but also has enough total output level to project across stage while making a convincing musical statement when called on.
Guitarists who are discerning are increasingly discovering products like QSC’s K Family of loudspeakers. They not only offer studio-quality fidelity but also, with 1,000 watts of pure Class D power per cabinet, are quite capable of playing at volumes that keep up with the other instruments on stage, while punching through on leads and solos. Furthermore, extremely flat off-axis response is achieved using DMT Technology; this results in more intelligible sound for the other musicians on stage, and wider stereo imaging when employed as a stereo pair.
At kformusicians.com, you can learn more about how artists are using the K Series to amplify their modeling processors.