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For my electric guitar, I use a digital effects pedal (Zoom G3) and want to use no [traditional] amp for both home practice and stage playing. However, my tones tend to sound a lot different on stage than at home.

I believed this was due to the compression of using my little G-Dec junior amp as a monitor, so I ditched that and went ahead and sprung for a compact mixer and some KRK Rokit 5 studio monitors. The idea is to remove any compression that I didn't intentionally add, and to better represent the wedge monitor on stage. Also the mixer allows me to practice against a recording with my guitar coming through the same speakers.

Unfortunately, while the monitors sound amazing on their own, my guitar just sounds "muddy," especially if I'm playing over a recording. It's really hard to pick out "the details" of what I'm playing.

So while the songs sound the same through the KRK monitors vs. a good pair of headphones, somehow I lose a lot through the monitors on guitar, but can hear what I want to through headphones. My only guess was that the studio monitors are very directional, so I sat in just the right spot and played. It's a little better, but not much.

What gives? How do I get closer to the stage sound? If the answer is "just get a stage monitor," why is there such a big difference (especially versus headphones)?

At this point I may just set up for headphones through the mixer, as that's working pretty well, but if I'm going to keep or return $300 worth of studio monitors, I'd like to know why.

  • I could never even match a loud practice space to a stage very well. Basically, I found what I had to do was practice loud as much as I could and also develop an ear and flexibility to be able to adjust to the room on the fly. Having a boost pedal and knowing your levels really well helps a lot. Also gigging a lot is good practice for gigging. – Todd Wilcox Sep 7 '16 at 3:58
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You will never get a room in a house to simulate the acoustics of a stage and auditorium. The two are just so different, both in size, obviously, but also in the way they allow sound to be produced and heard. Even a sound check in an empty room will be very different from the sound perceived when the audience is in.

I used to get fed up with finding a great sound using pedals/board at home and using the same effect at a gig, only to realise it was nowhere near at the gig. Due to all sorts - proximity of speaker to me on stage, acoustics, rest of the band's sound, etc., etc.

The only way would be to use headphones or in-ear monitors at home and gigs. That way, you'd hear what you want. Would the audience be hearing what you want them to, though...Best keep the two rooms as they are - separate entities, with separate sound capabilities.

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I suspect that the problem is the room: with the speakers you are getting reverberation within the room, with the headphones you don't have this problem since the sound is just inside the headphones. In particular for small rooms that don't have much acoustic damping, the room modes can live in the low-midrange occupied by guitar (on stage the room is large enough that the modes of the concert-hall don't lead to muddiness).

Figuring out what/how to install appropriate acoustic treatments is an art and a science itself; some aspects of it are still under contention. A widely held point of view for small bedroom-as-studio type of problems (i.e. not large professional grade studios) is that you primarily want to deaden the room, with a focus on the low end of the spectrum as much as is feasible by installing broad spectrum absorbers first in the corners, then if space/budget permit along some of the walls (or ceilings).

I also suspect that you hadn't seen this problem before since the practice amp is much less efficient at putting out low-mid frequencies than the monitors.

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