CS70 wrote: That's one of the "if you have to ask" things. :)
Thanks. I was really talking about the purely technical aspect of the physical/electro-mechanical interaction of the equipment. Does it make a difference if the guitar isn't in the same room as the amp, in terms of the guitar interacting with the amp/cab. I've never completed a guitar track that uses re-amping and certainly never compared the two.
Apologies. Yes it does. The amp moves air producing soundwaves, the soundwaves reach you and their reflection reach you, so you hear a different sound. Whether or not it makes a difference to your playing, depends on you.
I understand this. The main reason I'm not so clued-up on electronics and technical stuff is because I actually trained as a musician, not an engineer except for the basic music technology, effects and processors.
Well then you have it: if you are an instrumentalist, the myriad physical aspects of the instrument should be clear. The electronics are just a way to do things, but you can judge things without needing to know how they work.
CS70 wrote: The only evidence is in the playing. Close your eyes and forget what you're playing- if you feel a difference, there's a difference. If not, there isn't - for you at least. And that's really all the evidence that's needed.
This is true, but cognitive biases are extremely difficult to override, probably near impossible. So I really think there should be far more blind tests than there is.
That's what I meant by "close your eyes". Totally agree on blind tests (and if you have a friend you can set some up), but I think it misses the point a little: it's all good for research, but making music is not research, it's art. Say you have a VST and a physical amp, and one inspires you and the other doesn't. It's completely irrelevant whether or not it's bias, physics or whatever! For the art - it's just a non-issue. That's what I mean when I write that you might be overthinking it. Good music doesn't flow from equipment, good or bad, it flows by someone who is inspired by whatever equipment at hand.
Sure you can spend time questioning the whys but it's a little of a Quixotic endeavour. Even if you find a chain of reasoning, it will hold only for you and as you say, it may simple involve bias. There's no scientific truth.
And without going all Dr. Phil, there is a component of fear.. it's much easier to tinker and experiment with the gear (and occasionally blame it) than actually admit that no good music is coming out because, well, it's not coming out. Creation is like a muscle and the only way to get result is to train it, and accept that when you start training it again it'll take a while to respond well. No excuses. :) Ask writers...
My problem is the cheap quality of (e.g.) metal guitar sounds or sample-based/soft synth-based music which really distracts me from critical, objective listening of example comparisons on Youtube. I could never be a music producer for money because I'd hate most of the stuff I'd been asked to work on that much.
Well then, if your quest is to find something inspiring using the minimal budget and kit, you have already found an answer: these sounds aren't for you. :-) No reason of using more time. Other people may find these sounds very appealing and inspiring and there's absolutely no right or wrong.
If your question is "am I imagining things?" the answer is.. well, probably yes in some parts, no in others. Mind me, we all do. An IR cab played thru headphones doesn't give u the same feel as an actual cab - but it's not the IR, you wouldn't get the same feel even if you were micing a real cab in another room (air movement etc).
If you fixate yourself on the technical aspects, you are creating a bias for yourself: "I cannot make good music without having this guitar, this amp, this mic... " (down to "this preamp", "this cable", "this 24K golden plated connector fused during the sacrifice of a virgin at midnight").
The reality is that you can make good music with anything, and bad music with anything, and the key difference is you - much more than VST versus real amps.
You mean, that it's something that seems like common sense but isn't true? But with the actual physical movement of a speaker within a cab, and with the all the electrical interaction, it would be more far-fetched to assume an IR or virtual simulation would necessarily offer the authenticity of real gear.
Similarly, I'm never that impressed by CGI either, except for the incredible technical achievement of it, I think it looks naff, overall. When they try to do smoke, it looks cartoony, like chalk powder. No actor is going to make it look real. And yet others are blown away by it, perhaps those with a higher threshold for fakeness. I suspect the same is true in the audio world, rather than it being 100% down to playing, some of it just doesn't sound authentic enough for more 'primitive' styles (which shows you how primitive it isn't by exposing this more obviously).
You just said it earlier yourself: "common sense" is very often bias. We can talk and reason until the end of days here, but that won't move you (or me) a iota in finding an appealing sound.. 10 minutes of playing a specific system will tell you more.
With CGI is simple. Can you tell it's fake if you aren't trying? Can you tell it's fake if you are really trying? More importantly, can you tell without knowing in advance? We've gone past the first question way many years ago. Show "Titanic" to a kid and he will not see any CGI. The second.. well, depends a bit on your knowledge, but for many cases the only giveaway is that we know that, for example, Transformers do not really exist or can't physically work as they do in the movies. But a well made CGI of something mundane... I bet any money neither you nor anyone would be able to tell it's not real (as a viewer).
In audio, as a listener, is the same thing: no-freakin'-body will be able to tell in a mix how a sound was made, unless it's mixed colossally wrong. For guitar, that's true since POD times :-) For drums and bass guitar, way before!
As a player, well, you have way more information than a listener and certain physical aspects (such as the amp in the room and its volume, the amp response latency, how it reacts to the specific guitar) can be a giveaway.
I actually got more desirable results in the 90s, using inexpensive keyboard presets through a real Fender Twin than I've ever got from today's far more advanced virtual organs played ITB. It's like there's something too tame about virtual instruments and amps.
A lot of it I suspect it's sheer volume. We don't push monitors the same way we push an amp, and the sound feels weaker.. because it is. Less level, less distortion. :)