Amp sims with real cabinet?

Just curious if anyone has tried using amp sims/modellers with a physical speaker cab? If so, what did you think of it? :slight_smile:

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A real cab is hard to beat, but I have a Fractal and I’ll never look back. I play it through Kali IN5s. I considered going the route you’re talking about but decided against it after a lot of discussions. I had a vision of Bogner 1x12”s in each corner… might still do that if they make an FrFr. The market for those is kind of small so hopefully some of the greatest amp makers will join in.

I think the power amp that’s selected will have to be a bigger consideration. That will be a big factor in the tone coloring.

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It would seem to me that one should either drink ALL of the KoolAid (all digital), or none of it (tubes + real speakers); drinking half seems to have very limited benefits and is likely worse than either extreme.

I have an Axe-FX 3, and pretty much it connects to my laptop (Logic Studio), and that just goes to whatever amp I have nearby (powered studio monitors, etc.).

If one uses real guitar speakers, one needs an actual power amp, and now the modeling device acts like some kind of preamp, but not really, in the sense that I’m not sure what voltages are necessary to help overdrive the power amp. One still has to figure out microphones and their placement in order to record!

I would definitely suggest asking about something like this on the message board of your favorite modeling company, because they’ll DEFINITELY have people that have done what you’re thinking of, and they’ll surely have a long list of pros and cons.

Fractal’s forum is great for this. That’s what steered me towards what I ended up getting.

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The speaker itself has a huge impact on tone. From one speaker to another, it’s like night and day. Back in the day we used to do speaker shootouts in the studio. Nerding out over this stuff interested me, at the time.

Nowadays I use a kemper, but I don’t use a cab. The only time I do is when I don’t have to the option to connect directly to a p.a, for some stupid reason.

Keep in mind you can’t just connect to a cab from a modeller, unless it has a built in power amp. You will need a power amp and cab. Tbh it’s a lot of hassle and gets very expensive. Also defeating the ease of just dialling in your tone quickly via a modeller.

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Fundamentally these things are designed to be recording tools. The sims are designed to sound like the mic’d versions of the amps they are simulating, and trying to run one into a guitar 4x12 is a bit troublesome for the best result. It would work much better through something relatively flat like a front of house PA system.

First, you wouldn’t want to do this unless you can ditch the internal cab sim/impulse. You would also need an external poweramp so more money. You also run into the fact that most modelers are modeling the poweramp section too, so you would want to run it into something pretty clean and flat/neutral…… but that still doesn’t give you the response of the dedicated amplifier into that cabinet because that solid state poweramp is going to be able to drive that cabinet much more ideally than a tube amplifier will, and that is a huge part of the guitar amp sound. so at that point for the best result you would have to find a way to bypass the modeled poweramp (some modelers do that) use the modeled preamp into a tube poweramp into the cabinet. It starts adding up pretty stupidly if you want the best results out of a guitar 4x12 cab, and then you lose the ability for your modeler to model other poweramps and cabinets, so you lose the versatility of it.

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Lots of people use guitar cabs with modelers. Just disable the cab section on the digital amp and out to a cab. Unless you’re using something like a powered Kemper, you’ll need a power amp to drive the cab, of course.

The thing a real cab does that modelers (in general) don’t do well is producing the amp-in-the-room sound. That is - the sound of a guitar speaker without a microphone in the chain, coloring things.

Kemper’s Kone and Kabinet is built specifically to provide this, but only works with Kemper Profilers.

Line6 has their PowerCab as well.

You can also use any of these solutions as a monitor, but still send a complete digital signal to FOH and get the best of both. This is what I do with a Kemper Kabinet.


I sometimes use an L6 hxStomp with a L6 Powercab - pretty cool actually. I used it with a Boss GT1000 as well and I enjoyed that also. My favourite is my pedalboard either into an amplifier, or into a Strymon Iridium direct to interface. Sounds pretty good, and feels nice to play.

I’d like to try a ToneX, and see just how good it is! I have to say, I am absolutely impressed with how good guitar and music tech is these days; plugins in a laptop kick ass! lol (I like amps though…)

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Two questions:

  • What is the advantage of the “amp in the room” sound, as it can’t be saved?

  • When you’re playing with your band, don’t you prefer in-ear monitoring with a custom mix vs. monitors?

  1. I’m not sure what you mean. The cabinet is the same each time. With the Kemper Profiler, the speaker type is saved on a per-Rig basis. The only variation is the room - which is true of any speaker.

Standing in front of an amp, with no mic-pre, microphone or anything else in the signal (to me) is a more inspiring sound than always listening to a ‘polished’ sound.

  1. Everything is a tradeoff. I believe the use of IEMs, while pervasive, is overstated. Compared to the alternative, it’s both expensive and complex. Its essentially a mini-PA with its own list of possible pain-in-the-rear issues.

Players do not always prefer it. Even with proper room mics (something that gets overlooked/ignored at least as much as it doesn’t) to give some ambience, in-ears can sound/feel isolating to a player. It’s a disconnect from the other members, the room and the audience.

There are times I enjoy IEMs and times where I don’t want to mess with it. I always like having a guitar speaker pointed at me.

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It’s what I live for and is a huge part of why I love playing electric guitar! It’s for the guitarist’s own personal enjoyment. I’ve never heard guitar tone through anything, be it the FOH system or studio monitors or a personal FRFR monitor, that sounds as good as standing in front of a 4x12 with a tube power amp. The crowd, and the at home listener, gets a mere approximation of what it’s like to be “in the diver’s seat”. Now, if we’re just talking about recording, modelers can sound just as good, imo, but in my day to day, or at a gig, the tone from a real amp is what gets me goin’.


There are ways to tweak setting to get a very nice “amp in a room” feel from an FrFr. It will obviously never feel the same but still. There are also ways to use a modeler and a power amp/ cabinet and get that same feel. It just takes some different kind off tweaking. I don’t know what kind but I’m guessing starting with turning off the cab sims and IRs is the first step. Even without doing that, you still getting the “feel” but perhaps not the sound. But no reason the sound can’t be great or better.

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You would have to bypass both the IR/cab sims, and the poweramp modeling for each modeled amp, which you can’t really do on some. You would then have to run the modeled preamp only into a tube power amp, then into a real cab. That is the only way you are going to be able “really” produce the complex interaction between the power amp and speaker cab that a real tube amp has because it is in fact that. That interaction is a huge part of everything tube amp.

It just goes back to what the real question is. “Can I use a guitar 4x12 with a modeler, tweak and get a decent sound?” Or “how can I get the most convincing real tube amp to speaker cab interaction with a 4x12 and a modeler?”

They are two different questions really.

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Very true. I use a Fractal and studio monitors and I’ve never been happier. To be honest, I wonder if I was ever truly happy with my tone aside from my rhythm sound in the early 2ks. Modded JCM 900 for most but a Dual Recto snuck in there, blended about 75/25. Or I could’ve just got a VHT Pitbull lol

I’ve always thought that if the player is happy, then that gets translated into a better performance that can be picked up by the audience. There’s no substitute for a real tube amp and cab, just my personal opinion.

But having said that, FRFR tones can be great too, my plexi blew it’s tubes a year ago and I thought I’d take the opportunity to check out the FRFR digital path, very impressed with the state of modeling, fired up s-gear and got a few essential cab packs from OwnHammer, good enough, but then I also started playing a lot less, but that’s probably not the cause of it, parly maybe.

So now I’m back to missing the amp and cab, finally got around to ordering a Metro zero loss effects loop and I should have the amp up and running sometime next month. Looking forward to that.

To the OP as others have said, it’s going to be a compromise, but if you have the cab you like and a suitable power amp, you could get away with some class D solid state pedal format things, and enjoy a great tone at lower volumes. It would be hard to beat especially if you have the right cab you want in the first place. If your using modelers etc, you can enjoy a nice wet mix into the cab. You will not feel the immediacy of an all analog and tube driven primary chain but you will enjoy it I think, unless your cab and or the loaded speakers are not what you’re looking for.

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