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An elusive quality

Guitar.com has a very short interview with Steve Morse, where he weights in on the digital vs analogue amp debate:

With any digital amp, I’m not able to get the interaction between reducing the level of the guitar in the input and having the tone change from distorted to slightly distorted to smoother and to clean, like I can with the ENGL. That and maybe the clinical tiny little artefacts of digital distortion that I still can hear when I interact with it and do a lot of changes.

However, if you were to do a set part where you’re just chugging along, hardly anybody would be able to tell if you were playing through a digital amp or not. However, if I were to be soloing and playing a super-saturated sound and then switch pickups and bring down the volume to about three out of ten, you would hear that it’s not the same roundness, or full. It’s an elusive quality that hasn’t really been captured by modelling amps.

When I play gigs, it’s always me using my ENGL tube amp. And I do carry it myself sometimes, but on tour the road crew carries it. But mostly, they just lift it into a case, and it just wheels onto a truck in a case. On these dates, I’m going to be bringing the ENGL.

Thanks to Guitar.com for the quotes.

7 Comments to “An elusive quality”:

  1. 1
    Gregster says:


    Solid advice & guidance for sure. And these matters can only be heard in-the-flesh, recordings never deliver 100% what you actually hear in real life.

    That said, not everyone is able own a Tube-amp, yet alone crank-it-up to volume levels where the real beauty of the tubes gets to shine, so there’s plenty of good reason to have the digital-modeling imo. Both serve needs & purposes.

    Thanks Steve !

    Peace !

  2. 2
    Uwe Hornung says:

    OMG, guitarists and their obsession about amplification, say no more! 🙄 Why dontcha just play the friggin’ thing like we bassists do? There is only one important criterion for amplification and that is: Does it work reliably?

    Everything else is fancy pants-equipmentism, as if we wouldn’t recognize Steve’s playing from a mile away and if he used his iPhone to amp the guitar.

    Rant over. 😂

  3. 3
    Paulo Glover says:

    I think the amps and cabinets digital simulations are here to stay, more and more. It’s common to see videos on Youtube without any stage amplification at all. For sure, at least some people like a lot that: carriers and roadies 😀

  4. 4
    Svante Axbacke says:

    @4: Just because you don’t see any amplification on stage doesn’t mean they’re not there. Many people keep them backstage to keep down stage volume.

  5. 5
    Paulo Glover says:

    @3 Yes, Svante I agree, but some people use those multi-effects with simulated amps and cabinets, and they really use them as a primary source of their sound.

  6. 6
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Modern day Whitesnake used props looking like amps on stage while the signals were all coming from state-of-the- art little modelling gadgets.

    I don’t mind people using those, I just think it silly to hide it.

  7. 7
    Gregster says:

    @2 said…

    qt.”OMG, guitarists and their obsession about amplification, say no more! 🙄 Why dontcha just play the friggin’ thing like we bassists do? There is only one important criterion for amplification and that is: Does it work reliably”?…

    *Tube amps are very reliable, & as mentioned, the sound has to be heard in-person, not on a recording to be appreciated…And generally speaking, they are about twice as loud as any similarly-spec’d alternative amp. And natural tube overdrive is to be revered, appreciated & respected as Steve indicates.

    What Steve’s bottom-line is, is that with a tube amp, (& the right tubes in there), he can roll his guitars volume-dial from 3, which is near perfectly clean, to 10, which is tube saturation over-drive & sustain nirvana, but with not necessarily having too much difference in volume…The sound at 3 will be loud but clean, & at 10 it’s stand-back & listen to that roar !!! And only tubes deliver this quality…

    Recommended tubes that you can grab on e-bay or wherever that deliver this quality, & sound just like early Mk-II DP are the Russian “Vostok Rocket 6n-2p-ev”…There’s plenty from the 1960’s,70’s, & 80’s available, & are sublime 12-AX7 replacements.

    The industry standard that is a design minimum criteria, is that a tube must survive for 5,000 hrs use, & /or 2,000 heat cycles ( turn on & off’s ). Or if you rather, about 5.5 years, when played daily for around 2.5 hrs. Not all tubes can manage this, so look for Military Grade specification, if you want long life. The above mentioned Vostok Rocket is a military grade tube, & has 85-110% gain rating. Other military tube types that are 12-AX7 replacements will have a “5751” designation, & will sound great too, though typically a 70% gain rating. This means that they’ll not go as loud, but still offer great tube-sag when pushed, & sound awesome…I’ve tried a lot of tubes…If you must purchase newly made tubes, “JJ’s” offer wide variety, reliability, sound rich & colourful & are priced very affordably…

    Older amps may need a full retubing, & this is costly…Don’t replace 1 x faulty tube, replace all-of-them, & know that you have gained / paid for the 5,000 hr life-cycle.

    Peace !

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