Golden Ears

Hearing differences between a digital profile and tubes from recordings.

  • Yes I can

  • No I can't

Results are only viewable after voting.


Active member
Golden Ears is when someone claims they can tell the difference between a modeler and tubes just from recordings.

The problem is that a Pepsi challenge blind-test results in patterns that are consistent with random guesswork.

Furthermore identifying the right amp is also just as subject to the same randomness patterns but improves if signature tones are used.

It is possible to recognize the amp model or combo but even then to tell the difference between a modeler version and the real deal version is subject to random guesswork.

Top modelers have the processing power and algorithms to meet replicating standards that can fool human hearing.

It is all a matter of spending time with your modeler to dial in the tone you want. You can even do direct comparisons with a real deal amp if your modeler happens to be a profiler. Profilers can capture your real amps sound by recording frequency bursts from them and processing that into a rig file preset to build upon.

A cab with speakers influences an amp's tone. The microphone type and position radically alter the frequencies and volumes of sounds captured from micing a cab. Modelers typically use Impulse Response (IRs) files which are speaker cab simulation profiles involving this microphone type and placement selection. An expansive IR package will have the same model cab and speaker setup with numerous files of different microphone types and placements to select from.

Leading brands of speaker manufacturers even provide their own selection of IRs to choose from.

This poll is based on the thread at which developed from

Here you will see an example of a well-known guitarist playing rigs and a sound engineer doing the profiling for him and switching back and forth.

I use valve amps and real pedals. I have modelers. I use both. I would never claim I could identify the differences from recordings at that level of high fidelity profiling. I would be like that guitarist and sound engineer. They are the same. We can all dial-in bad tube tones if we want or bad profiling ones. However, we can replicate good ones which just takes a little know-how and time like in that video.


Active member
There isn't really much to say about that difference except any can be matched by tweaking both rigs.

Only in certain circumstances where a guitarist uses a stack on stage will they be able to feel the volume of air and sound directionally coming at them and around them. FRFR or monitor speakers are wider spreading. That means the feeling of air moving can be a little different. You can imagine standing and closing your eyes to different types of airflow systems matching some sounds basically. However, if you are gigging with the need for 2x12 or 4x12 guitar speaker cabinets then chances are the venue will want loudspeakers of more wattage than your rig. These will be FRFR speakers onto the audience. That is what they will hear because it is louder than your rig.

The distance between you and that system matters also. If that was aimed at you then you would be getting feedback. Your strings would be picking up resonance from those monitors. Even with musician front monitors. Even a profiler on stage if played through a guitar FFRFR speaker cab system like a Mission or Friedman can feedback the same way.

  • Frequency Range: 50Hz - 20kHz
  • Frequency Response: 58Hz -18kHz


The Line6 Powercab happens to be a power amp in a cab for modelers.

I am not saying these are like the airflow from tube combos or 4x12 stacks.

Do you ever see that 1x12 or 2x12 rectangular floor combo used by some bands since forever in among bigger speakers and other gear to supplement the tone? Usually, that smaller system is producing the tones in the in-ear monitors of the guitarist. Modern examples include the Mesa Boogie Mark V combos or head turned up loud. A profiler can do this also. Fender custom tweed deluxe amps are another example of that small system being the real tone among the touring rig up on stage for guitarists. Vox AC30 is another popular combo for this. Sometimes they might even be off stage or behind a rig wall. U2 decided on a larger visual performance being stage gear minimalists. They basically have a bunker. In that bunker, the amps being microphoned up are there on the floor with their amp engineer maintaining it all.



Well-known member
I can tell an ever so slight difference. I'd say it's within a 5% tolerance. It's close enough not to matter at all.

So hows the feel? Does it feel right, does it inspire?

Seems logical if you like/own nice tube amps, better start stock piling enough tubes to last you a lifetime.


Well-known member
In the room - I was able to tell "back in the day"... Been a while since I've bothered A/B'ing it but Cliff Chase and I went toe-to-toe a few times (I'm sure the arguments are still searchable on their forum, with Scott Peterson(sp??) also jabbing at grudges here, this was AGES ago) when I was calling out tones, he said I was using a scope, and I was just able to hear some weird artifacts in the modeller (in this case the Axe-FX and Ultra) versus the artifacts I found in tubes. That was recorded; but in the room - absolutely - easy. But that's the deal, we tend to hear our fave tones as music recorded - not in the room - I know modellers have come a LONG way since then. I gave up working with them after the 3rd or 4th iteration of the Axe unit.... Just never got me "there". Only thing that's dropped my pants since have been the new TN CaptorX units - I love these. They sound epic.