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Amp Shootout: Matrix GT800FX vs. VHT 2/90/2

smilefan

Experienced
On this past Saturday Claxor and I met up to do an equipment
shootout I thought might be of interest to this board, so here is
the report.

The mighty VHT 2/90/2 vs. the upstart Matrix GT800FX. Claxor’s
Matrix, and my VHT (loaded with NOS tubes for max performance).
I have read a lot about the Matrix and thought this matchup would
constitute the ultimate amp showdown for Axe players using rack amps
thru guitar cabs.

Hardly a fair matchup really. The VHT has ample tone shaping options for
a power amp. Depth/Presence/voicing options/Full-Half power option.
The Matrix is basically a slave amp with a couple volume pots.

The two sets of ears present were: Claxor, a metal player with a taste
for scooped, tight, precise gain and richly effected cleans and me, Smilefan.
I’m more like the old blues guy on the downtown corner tugging your
pants leg for a quarter. Old school, earthy type player.
We A/B’ed them thru 2 nearly identical open back pine 2x12 cabs
loaded with EVM 12L Classics, wired at 4 ohms each, and panned
back and forth for quick comparison.

We first noticed that each has its own sonic signature regardless of EQ.
Predictably, the Matrix was tighter and had a slight “square wave-y” character
to its attack/decay. The VHT was rounder, warmer but less precise,
and surprisingly, slightly louder (’12 O clock’ on the VHT equaled ‘2 O clock’
on the GT). Matrix seemed better for high gain and highly effected patches,
the VHT excelled at traditional Jazz, Pop, Blues, Classic Rock sounds.

Tweaking brought out the real surprises. With Claxor playing and me programming
we got the Matrix closer and closer to the VHT. To my great surprise I was able
to tweak the Matrix to within 90-95% of the VHT’s sonic package. In fact, at
the end of the session we tried playing both amps at once (each on a stereo side) at
small club volume and could only discern a very slight difference due to the fundamental
characters of the amps. The EQ’s sounded essentially identical. We both agreed that, in a live
band setting, neither of us would have been able to tell which was which.

Quite a shocker for me. I never dreamed the Matrix would fare so well. Our final full stereo test at club volume with a well-tweaked Metal patch into both amps at once produced stunning results.
A sonic mountain of fat, dense, squealy, sticky, skull-cracking ‘chunk’. Staggeringly good tone/feel. I was enraptured. The Matrix stood full shoulder to shoulder with the big bad VHT
(after some determined tweaking).

I am highly impressed. In summation, I say that for those using Gen. 1 Axes I can see why some
may still want a VHT for its instant tweakability. But for those making the jump to Axe II,
with its assignable face knobs, and unprecedented processing power, I see no reason to tolerate
the VHT’s weight, size, and expense (that includes re-tubing, the ‘gift that keeps on taking’).

Since I am moving on to Axe II, I put my money where my mouth is. The VHT is now sold,
and I have ordered one of the second round of Matrix GT production. Hopefully, Claxor
will chime in with his views. He was thinking of moving over to FRFR, but after our
full stereo test thru dual EVM cabs, he may be scarred for life.
 
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yek

Moderator
Moderator
Thanks for the elaborate review!
Especially glad with the outcome because I have a Matrix on order. :))
Your findings seems in line with Paul's earlier comments on the VHT / Matrix comparison.

Can you shed some light on the tweaking you guys did to get the tones close to each other?

Or from another perspective: was the tweaking only necessary to get similar tones, or did you feel that the tweaking did improve the tone of the Matrix anyway?
 
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smilefan

Experienced
Thanks for the elaborate review!
Especially glad with the outcome because I have a Matrix on order. :))
Your findings seems in line with Paul's earlier comments on the VHT / Matrix comparison.

Can you shed some light on the tweaking you guys did to get the tones close to each other?

Or from another perspective: was the tweaking only necessary to get similar tones, or did you feel that the tweaking did improve the tone of the Matrix anyway?
I tweaked to get the Matrix into more 'guitar-y' sounding frequencies. As Paul has noted earlier, the GT is a little flatter than a VHT, which isn't necessarily what you want to hear. The VHT sounds more 'natural' with guitar frequencies. Its close though, but I am picky.

The tweaking I did was in the amp block, cab blocks, and GEQ. The changes I made while A/B'ing
both amps, brought the Matrix's EQ and feel extremely close to the VHT. I cut Bass and Presence,
added Mids and Sag in the amp block. In the cab blocks I created two parallel cabs and did alot of searching thru cab & mic models to find the closest sonic match.
 
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Lightningboy

Experienced
Great review and I'm happy people are finding the same results over and over. Give the Matrix some time to itself without A/B'ing against tubes and I'll wager you'll never miss them! It's a big step for anyone to get rid of the tubes in their life (hell look at the furor the Axe FX creates) but I'm glad (as Dada would say) you're following the white rabbit!
 

paulmapp8306

Fractal Fanatic
My VHT 2:50:2 is up for sale as of yesterday :) Im totally happy with the GT - and it means I can fund an AFX2.

Its a little odd in the fact that while I did the same with sag and mids, i actuall increased the bass and prescence !! - however I did that with the global graphic not in the amp blocks, and as I use a V30/G12H loaded traditional cab that may account for some of the differences.
 

DADA

Experienced
Independent unbiased praise for the GT800FX

Smilefan and Claxor
Great work. Great feedback. U guys just put a great smile on my face. Unbiased praise of an amp that loads of people thought (and find) was (is) impossible.

I am soooo proud I took the telephone contacting Andy and Matt back in October to start this Matrix adventure which resulted in the GT800FX and the GT2000. And thanks to Andy and Matt our search, finding the perfect companion for the Axe-Fx, is definitive over!

So if you want an amp for your standard, Ultra or II, 11R or POD here it is right in front of you. For both the FRFR and traditional cab solutions. And with awesome friendly good service!

Follow that white rabbit! And know that DADA inititated this and invented the GT in the name. Sorry to brag a bit but I feel soooooooo f€€&@ing proud!

Lightningboy
How was your gig last weekend with the GT800FX

Regards
 

acbarros

Inspired
Many thanks for this review, smliefan!

And you put a smile in my face again, because this weekend I did a shootout myself with the GT800 and the Rocktron Velicity 300 and after 2.5h decided that the Velocity gave me a tone closer to my reference ( KRK Rockit 8 ) than GT. But I also discovered that tweaking the Axe EQ a bit things start getting better and better for the GT. I didn´t have time to continue and was wondering about the real power of the GT.

A/B test: Ultra -> Velocity 300 | Gt 800 FX -> 1x12 cab (EVM 12L Classic) ... cab sim ON

Reference: Ultra -> Rockit 8
 

qingcong

Inspired
Many thanks for this review, smliefan!

And you put a smile in my face again, because this weekend I did a shootout myself with the GT800 and the Rocktron Velicity 300 and after 2.5h decided that the Velocity gave me a tone closer to my reference ( KRK Rockit 8 ) than GT. But I also discovered that tweaking the Axe EQ a bit things start getting better and better for the GT. I didn´t have time to continue and was wondering about the real power of the GT.

A/B test: Ultra -> Velocity 300 | Gt 800 FX -> 1x12 cab (EVM 12L Classic) ... cab sim ON

Reference: Ultra -> Rockit 8

That's good to hear. I've got a V300 going into a 1x12 sealed cab with Eminence EVM12L clones and love the sound.
 

rsf1977

Fractal Fanatic
that's great news. I cant wait to AB my carvin 3000DCML with the new GT2000RF that's going to be shipping out pretty soon. I'm really excited to see how the matrix stacks up against one of the biggest lower end solid state power amp companies. I cant wait to boot it out the door lol.
 

Jay Mitchell

Fractal Fanatic
The VHT was rounder, warmer but less precise,
and surprisingly, slightly more powerful (’12 O clock’ on the VHT equaled ‘2 O clock’
on the GT).
You are confusing voltage gain with power. The two are completely independent of each other. Being "louder" at a given level setting is not the same as having more power. Indeed, the louder one is just as often the less-powerful one.
 

Avenyr

Inspired
Do they have any intentions on finding dealers in North America? From my calculations, one of those Matrix would cost more delivered to Canada than finding a used VHT around here.

I would definitely love to give this poweramp a try. I'll stick to my ART SLA-2 until they become more affordable or accessible.
 

DADA

Experienced
I had a dream

Dreaming: Maybe Cliff and Andy should put their heads together for a new business model. Man...two of the best engineers in their field developing the best state of the art equipement and sharing their sale model with G66. That would be the greatest consumer oriented company ever with the best product available.

But it is a dream.........

Now we only need a consumer oriented speaker engineer who is willing to develop cabinets and wedges which are flat and full of response and can handle the power of the Matrix and is as cost effective as the Matrix stuff.

So the new objective is to find a speaker engineer and manufacturer here in Europe who thinks in solutions, is willing to listen to us, and thinks in new approaches. Maybe I have a small call with B&C. There is definetly a market for these guys. And mine German is quite good :)
 

smilefan

Experienced
You are confusing voltage gain with power. The two are completely independent of each other. Being "louder" at a given level setting is not the same as having more power. Indeed, the louder one is just as often the less-powerful one.
Right you are. I should have chosen my words more carefully. The VHT was slightly 'louder'.
 

smilefan

Experienced
Great review and I'm happy people are finding the same results over and over. Give the Matrix some time to itself without A/B'ing against tubes and I'll wager you'll never miss them! It's a big step for anyone to get rid of the tubes in their life (hell look at the furor the Axe FX creates) but I'm glad (as Dada would say) you're following the white rabbit!
I am a tube lover, so hanging on to tubes somewhere in my signal path suits me. BUT, trying
to haul a 40 lbs. VHT thru airports does not. I am really looking forward to the convenience of
the Matrix.
 

Jay Mitchell

Fractal Fanatic
Right you are. I should have chosen my words more carefully. The VHT was slightly 'louder'.
Which only means it has more voltage gain, and that is not necessarily a positive. You could easily level the volumes by adjusting the level controls. This - matched volumes - is the condition under which you should always compare two different pieces of electronic gear. Otherwise, you will tend to prefer the louder one due to differences in human hearing response with level. Stereo salesmen have understood this for decades and use it to sell the piece of gear on which they will get the highest commissions.
 

smilefan

Experienced
Which only means it has more voltage gain, and that is not necessarily a positive. You could easily level the volumes by adjusting the level controls. This - matched volumes - is the condition under which you should always compare two different pieces of electronic gear. Otherwise, you will tend to prefer the louder one due to differences in human hearing response with level. Stereo salesmen have understood this for decades and use it to sell the piece of gear on which they will get the highest commissions.
We did level out the volumes of the two amps, irrespective of volume pot settings. I wouldn't conduct
a tone test any other way.
 

claxor

Power User
Probably the most interesting thing I learned in this shootout was the cab IRs with EVL12's: For my tastes and interests, I preferred the EVL12's with no cab IR more than with the stock cab IR's. Smilefan had to really get creative with the stock cab IR's and mics to get something close to what I heard without the stock cab IR's. For me, it certainly was an argument for the development of third-party IR's. Unfortunately, I still can't load in my AxeFx any third-party IR's.
 
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smilefan

Experienced
Probably the most interesting thing I learned in this shootout was the cab IRs with EVL12's: For my tastes and interests, I preferred the EVL12's with no cab IR more than with the stock cab IR's. Smilefan had to really get creative with the stock cab IR's and mics to get something close to what I heard with the stock cab IR's. For me, it certainly was an argument for the development of third-party IR's. Unfortunately, I still can't load in my AxeFx any third-party IR's.
In my opinion, state-of-the-art 3rd party IR's are pivotal to being able to use cab IR's live without
mushing out. It looks like Axe II has come fully up to speed now with its internal IR package.
 

claxor

Power User
I most say... watching Smilefan sit with his guitar and playing, I enjoyed listening to his comments as he progressed. I felt more like I was at a private wine-tasting than just two guitar guys messin' with new toys! He has a much more mature ear than I do. (regardless of musical taste) He noticed things that I (at first) had no clue what he was talking about. Including when I was playing high-gain tone.

Smilefan's tones that he was experimenting with were very nuancey, classic rock, bluesy-ethereal... subtle.

My tones were much more like an San Andreas, CA earthquake, studio-produced and polished, punch-in-groin.... not so subtle.

As I tip my hat to my mentor (Smilefan) in this experiment, I would say that to my ears, the Matrix is the way to go. Especially if you don't need presence and depth knob controls on your power amp, and can dial them in on the AxeFx.
 

Sixstring

Axe-Master
With Claxor playing and me programming
we got the Matrix closer and closer to the VHT. To my great surprise I was able
to tweak the Matrix to within 90-95% of the VHT’s sonic package. In fact, at
the end of the session we tried playing both amps at once (each on a stereo side) at
small club volume and could only discern a very slight difference due to the fundamental
characters of the amps.
So with that said is it worth the 700+ to get it to the U.S.? I'm not knocking the Matrix but I was able to do this with the ART.
 
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