Bumblefoot Says All Digital Amps Today Are Good: ’I Can Do Things That I Couldn’t With Analog Gear’

Former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, also known for his bands Art of Anarchy and Sons of Apollo, discussed the issue of modern digital amps, explaining how “they can all do the same thing.”

This might feel like a tricky topic to discuss. But on the other hand, there’s all sorts of stuff on the market these days, and, to be fair, it all does a fairly good job of getting a realistic-sounding guitar amp tone. Of course, there’s variety in many aspects, both sonic and functional, but it seems that the stiff market competition only helped — there’s hardly any chance you can go wrong with amp sims.

Bumblefoot jamming to 'Gnaahh' [from Joe Satriani backing tracks StrippedXThree]

While recently speaking to Ultimate Guitar, Bumblefoot discussed some of the gear that he’s using and focused on some of the digital stuff that he got into, namely the Line 6 Helix.

“I use my Helix pedal, and I am so happy with the sound I get from it,” he said. “I found that it was so easy to use that I could dig really deep into the parameters and get the sound that I wanted to get.”

Going more into it, Bumblefoot made a point that all of these exciting modeling units are equally great. It just comes down to what works best for you as a performer. He continued:

“That’s the main thing with all those types of pedals. Find the one that is easiest, most intuitive for you to use, and you’ll get farthest with it because they can all do the same thing.”

Bumblefoot demonstrates Line6 Helix presets for song Planetary Lockdown

“Really, one is not better than the other at this point,” Bumblefoot added. “They’re not. You couldn’t do a blind taste test and tell one from the other.”

“It’s about which one you are most comfortable with. And for me, I just looked at the Helix and was able to just start using it without even reading a manual. I tried Kemper, I tried Axe FX, and they’re both great.”

Comparing this choice to a “litter of puppies” and calling Line 6 Helix “my puppy,” Ron pointed out how having such a tool allows him to do things he never could with conventional gear.

“I could get really, really deep with it and do things that I couldn’t do with analog gear,” he explained. “There’s routing that would be impossible with analog gear.”

“I like that you can take it farther than you could in the past. That’s the idea of technology. You want to be able to do things that you couldn’t do before. And I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed sound quality in any way, not at this point.”

Of course, Thal is far from being the first professional guitar player to praise the improvement in sound quality. If it was the early 2010s, maybe this would be a very controversial thing to say. But these days, things are on a whole new level.

Line6 Helix preset where one pedal controls multiple FX functions

Reflecting on how things changed, Ron also remembered the good old Line 6 POD. Although it might feel like a toy these days, there’s a noticeable improvement in a fairly short period of time with these modelers. So much so that he feels that, in some cases, it’s impossible to tell the difference between digital and tube-driven realms. He continued:

“Years ago, maybe the POD 2.0 didn’t quite match up to a good classic tube amp in the room with four Celestions. But now they have really nailed the technology to the point that when I went out and I played, I just had the Helix just go direct out into front-of-house and people saw all the ENGL amps behind me that the keyboardist was using.”

“They were saying, ‘Man, I love your tone. It was fantastic. Which ENGLs were you using?’ I was like, ‘I was just using a Helix direct out.’ And they couldn’t believe it. But I do use the ENGL clone in the Helix because I’m an ENGL guy, I love ENGLs. The ENGL Invader was my absolute go-to, that-or-nothing head.”

ENGL Amps w/Bumblefoot: NAMM 2012 Product Showcase

As of this moment, Bumblefoot is promoting his new album with Art of Anarchy. Titled “Let There Be Anarchy” and released on February 16, this marks the supergroup’s first record featuring Jeff Scott Soto on vocals. The lineup also features Jon Votta on the guitar, Vince Votta behind the drum kit, and Tony Dickinson on bass.

Photo: Ch Villa (Ron Thal 2013)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.