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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Interview: Onqel of TSE AUDIO




Hello and welcome to this week's interview! 
This time we had a chat with John A. Johansen, a.k.a. Onqel, Ceo/Lead developer of Tse Audio, one of the most interesting guitar and bass amp simulation developer around, which offers top quality free and paid products. He is also one of the most respected users of the Ultimate Metal / Andy Sneap forum, due to his proficiency in the vst developing field.


GuitarNerdingBlog: Hi! Can you give us some detail on how Tse audio was born?

J.A.J.: TSE Audio was born back in 2009 when I decided to take a dive into amp simulations myself.
I wanted a simulation of the Engl E530 since there was no software at that time simulating that kind of amps, and eventually the X30 was born.
It started out as a hobby, and it still is exactly that :)


GNG: What do you think about the digital amp modeling business nowadays?
J.A.J.: I think the digital amp modeling business has come a far way the last 5 years or so, but there's still parts of amp simulations that are considered more or less "impossible" to do in real-time with todays techniques without simplifying the circuit in one way or another.
at the same time I also feel the market has become more or less flooded with "hype" marketing schemes/slogans that I feel doesn't really represent what they actually delivers to their customers in terms of the progress of new technology. It's a shame but it's reality, it's a tough market out there so I guess some people doesn't really care wether or not to put some extra icing on the cake just to make more people taste it.
We have a freeware software background and is a lot more humble in that area I believe. 
We are not afraid to let the customer make their own decisions without us throwing in a pitch how good we think it is, we have a demo version of the X50 and that's it. What you see/hear is what you get! :)





GNG: What does the design and production process of a Tse Plugin is like?

J.A.J.:The X50v2 started out as a IPlug plugin (Cockos Inc.) but as the project got bigger it just got messy and hard to work on, we recently switched to the JUCE framework to make GUI implementations etc easier and more flexible without making it too complex.
We have a fantastic small group of very dedicated beta testers that has sticked with us from the idea is created up to the product is released, even after the product has been released they are hanging around to make sure we don't miss anything when the updates are made :)
The actual modeling process depends on the complexity of the circuit we're looking at, it is mainly analysis of the target circuits and turning them into a set of equations that represents the electrical and
(discrete) dynamic response of the system. in the end the model ends up looking like a SPICE simulator optimized to process oversampled audio signal at fixed time steps.

When we feel the response of the resulting model is meeting our expectations the work is then handed over to our graphics designer.
From that point we are mainly looking for bugs to make sure there are no negative surprises when our customers takes it for a spin at home or in a live/jamming session.


GNG: What is the philosophy behind your software: analog modeling, black box approach or else?

J.A.J.: We do analog modeling wherever it is possible.
So far we haven't needed any black box approach, but if it's absolutely needed to make the job done we are open for it.
Lately I have been interested in checking out the use of Artificial Neural Networks as a MIMO (multi input multi output) approach to replace large lookup tables that can eat up the memory for even smaller circuits. The biggest downside of this approach is that ANNs needs to be "trained" beforehand to know what they should do and that is a very time-consuming process with a lot of trials and errors.


GNG: What have been your career highlights so far?

J.A.J.: My biggest highlight so far has been the release of X50 v2.4 where I finally got the chance to bring back to life the X30 model inside a environment that I had been working on what felt like forever. 
The choice of not exclusively working on freeware projects anymore was also a big decision to make that I had been postponing for a couple of years. 
I'm not excluding the possibility of maybe releasing something free in the future though :)


GNG: What do you think the future of analog and digital amps and stompboxes will look like?

J.A.J.: I think we will see a lot of new software in the next new years as new simulation strategies/technology are developed.
There are many new and original analog amps and stompboxes being made every day by small one-man companies etc and I hope people will continue to support these guys. 
Personally I think it is still cooler to see a man crank up the volume knob on his analog amp rather than seing someone sweeping his fingers over a iPad screen ;)


GNG: The interview is over! Thank you for your time and give us one last message for our readers!

J.A.J.: Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions! 
I have a message to the readers too :)
When it comes to purchasing new digital software I would highly recommend to get hold of a couple of demo versions of interest and actually compare them against eachother before making a final decision. 
Software is rarely a cheap investment, do what you would do when going to a store to buy a new TV or deciding between a couple of guitars to buy, take a moment to compare them yourself instead of
blindly trusting the salesman, you might have a different opinion than him after a while :) YouTube reviews are also a big business where the smaller companies usually aren't represented simply because of the ridiculous high fees set by the guys doing the reviews that only a big corporation can afford to pay. I think that is unfair to both customers and small businesses and it gives a one-sided view of the (big) market which has a lot more to offer than 2-3 programs.


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