Guitar and Audio technology blog

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Digital guitar amplification modelling: Proposal

There is a current trend amongst not only guitarists but general audiophiles to use older vacuum tube technology for amplifiers rather than more modern 'solid state' transistor amplifiers. Often their argument is that although more expensive and far less reliable than transistor amplifiers they supply a 'warmth' that only analogue circuitry can provide.

Digital modelling of guitar amplifiers, an alternative to more traditional guitar amplification, has in the past decade become more realisable with advancements in DSP technology both on custom chip sets and on personal computers. The major advantage of using a modelling program for amplification is the range of different amplifiers, cabinets, effects and studio conditions that can be recreated from a click of a button. The other major advantage of using such software is also cost, with amplification modellers costing much less than a single tube amplifier it is no surprise that modelling programs are becoming so popular, especially with the newer generation of guitarists. Currently there are several major guitar amplifier modelling programs, major names worth mentioning include Native instruments Guitar rig, IK Multimedia Amplitube and Line 6's POD/Gear box range.

The argument against the current range of modelling options is that they do not reproduce the same 'warmth' that a physical tube circuit creates. This is all down to perception however as 'warmth' cannot be scientifically calculated. In theory reproducing the exact output waveform of a tube amplifier should create an exact model of the physical amplification system.  It is proposed that a VST plug-in is to be created, digitally modelling a physical tube guitar amplifier. More specifically a Laney Cub 10, a small 10 watt class A/B tube amplifier. The project aims to gain a deeper insight into the characteristics of tube amplifiers and the different ways in which digital modelling of these charactersitics can be achieved.  There is real market relevance in this area as the ideal end product would be a commercially viable piece of software.  The current commercial market for the project will also be investigated as well as the theoretical research.