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I've tried to emulate guitar amps and pedals on Line 6 Pod Farm, Amplitube and Guitar Rig but I've never heard the sound I desired.
Days ago a friend of mine told me about hardware emulators as Line 6 Pod X3, Line 6 Pod HD Pro X that should perform better than the softwares.
Is software emulation better than hardware emulation or vice-versa?

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The "hardware emulation" boxes really use software running on a specialized processor (a DSP). So, no. They're both using software, and while you don't have a DSP in your PC or Mac, your processor is more than up to the job. –  Jamie Hanrahan Sep 3 at 23:14

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Currently I own a Line 6 Pod X3 Live and I owned a Pod XT before that. Over the last 8-10 years I used both of them extensively, both for recording and on stage. Although X3 is supposed to have a higher sampling rate, I can't tell the difference between XT and X3 (other than the fact that X3 can process two channels at once). I never did an A/B test but after transferring my tones to my new processor, I didn't notice any change. Same is true between Pod Farm software and Pod X3 Live. This time I confirmed it with many A/B tests.

The main problem with the pre-HD Line 6 devices is that they don't include a power amp stage distortion simulation. For some sounds it's OK. But for many others, newest generation software simulators (including some free ones) sound much better to my ears. As far as I understand, Pod HD series do have power amp stage distortion simulation but I didn't have a chance to give them a real try.

If the quality/latency of your sound interface is indeed the problem like others have predicted, you can use your Line 6 device as a sound interface. I use my X3 Live and I record the "dry" (i.e. non processed) signal. I dial in a good enough tone and I monitor through that tone but only record the dry signal. Afterwards I put my favorite software sim and fine tune to taste. It's not 100% ideal because what I hear during recording is different than the end result but at least I don't have latency problems, which can be very annoying because I record on 96 kHz.

Apart from the latency issues, many sound interfaces, including my otherwise awesome MOTU 8-pre, claim to have instrument inputs but those inputs have way too low input impedances. It causes a high frequency loss in the guitar signal. Guitar inputs of PODs have correct impedance. A buffer pedal (any analog pedal with no true bypass on bypass mode or a neutral pedal, like an eq pedal with flat settings) can solve impedance problems.

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so with Pod HD products I should have no crappy distortion problems? –  kamauz Sep 3 at 19:09
That would point to Dave's answer as being valid, though you never mentioned it in your original question... "It is possible that the limiting factor in your current setup is your audio interface" –  Tetsujin Sep 3 at 19:14
@kamauz You need to give details about what you mean by "crappy distortion". –  cyco130 Sep 3 at 20:35
@cyco130 In all my records I use distortion effects and amp and I never get a good sound quality.. you said that pre-HD version have no "power amp stage distortion simulation" so the interfaces can't manage distortion power properly? Buying a Pod HD should be a solution? I've already tried 2 different kind of audio interfaces (Line 6 UX2 and Lexicon Lambda) –  kamauz Sep 3 at 20:40
I don't think you understand what power amp distortion is. Real guitar amps produce (at least) 3 types of distortion: preamp, power amp and speaker. Preamp distortion is easy to simulate and that's the only distortion stage that older Pods simulate. But the power amp distortion is very important for many guitar sounds. I personally don't like the speaker distortion but it's a matter of taste. Now, can you get a good tone from a real amp with your guitar? If not, maybe that's the problem. –  cyco130 Sep 3 at 20:45

I think this all might get a bit subjective, but in theory, Pod Farm is the same as a hardware Pod; the main difference being possibly the apparent latency [the time between you hitting a note & actually hearing it] which may be much lower in a hardware device.

I have used an old hardware Pod2 extensively, & also Guitar Rig [from v1 through v5]
Though I do like the immediacy of the Pod, I have actually developed a taste for Guitar Rig - though it does require me to really knock my computer's latency down whilst recording - because it gives me the opportunity to keep tweaking the amp sound right up until the final mix; or bounce the sound to disk to save on some processing power, once I'm happy.
I also think I prefer the sound of Guitar Rig, but that again is very subjective - it does what I want it to do, which may not be the same as what you want it to do.
Amplitube, I've used, but not enough to really have an opinion.

Objectively, I would say 'they are the same', within acceptable parameters.

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Latency depends mostly on your hardware and software configuration, and you can get it down to something like, say, 3ms (equivalent of being 3 feet away from the speaker) on a computer, which would be not noticeable. –  Peteris Sep 3 at 20:02
Depends on how many other plugins you have running, & whether you can bypass the very high latency ones for recording - but yes, sure, that's exactly what I do. –  Tetsujin Sep 3 at 20:07

The Line 6 hardware devices have essentially^* the same software models as the Pod Farm software, provided that you are comparing versions of the same generation. There should be no difference in the digital modeling between them running on your PC vs. running the Line 6 dedicated hardware; however the Line 6 software has evolved over time, so if you're currently using older versions of the software newer versions might help.

It is possible that the limiting factor in your current setup is your audio interface: i.e. the device that converts the analog electrical signals into digital. If your running into problems with clipping, or latency or timing errors, or in general getting poor sound quality due to low quality A/D converters removing it from your signal chain may help. In this case, getting a hardware unit that can also serve as an audio interface (I believe most of the Line 6 products nowadays provide USB audio capabilities) may provide you with a better experience. However, just changing out your audio interface may provide the same advantages.

This is a case where you need to examine your entire signal chain, including the software models, and assess what is the weak link in the chain. If you can, to your own satisfaction, verify that it is indeed the software models that are letting you down then getting a dedicated unit (Pod or similar) won't provide much added value.

A little more discussion: All of the Line 6 Pod products, and the computer hosted models are doing digital modeling of the amps/effects; thus I would not consider a Line 6 Pod to be a "hardware emulator". The only company that I'm aware of doing hardware mdoeling is Tech 21, who design analog circuits with an eye towards recreating the sound of other amps.

^* Note: there are various versions of Line 6 Pods, and related software and thus the actual software may have changed, but at a given time, and up to date Pod should have the same software models as an up to date version of the Pod Farm software.

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now I'm using a Line 6 UX2 interface and the sound is poor even if I send a real marshall 100 watt amp signal into the input. My guitar is a Jackson made in India, should it be a problem? The Pod hardware solution would not help me if I'd decide to test this possibility? Thanks –  kamauz Sep 3 at 18:56
Are you using the line out of the real amp? They sound pretty bad in general. –  cyco130 Sep 3 at 20:38
@cyco130 pfff... some people told me to proceed in this way. Anyway I can't get a sound that I like neither on my marshall 100 watt cabinet.. I guess it could be a guitar problem.. it's made in india –  kamauz Sep 3 at 21:04
@kamauz Even cheap guitars are made OK nowadays. But there may be a problem with your guitar of course. Maybe you want to check this thread to learn a few things about dialing guitar tones. –  cyco130 Sep 3 at 21:21
I've tried different times to change eq settings. I'll try again.. thanks for support @cyco130 anyway :) –  kamauz Sep 3 at 21:46

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