I only ever play small venues - usually metal. I need a cost-effective live solution for my Quad Cortex that doesn’t require me to hope that the board at the venue works and the sound guy knows what he’s doing. I know my two main options are going to be a FRFR or a power amp and a cab.
Here’s my understanding:
FRFR: Has the advantage of letting me use IRs - not a huge deal since I only ever use one and I can get a speaker cab that I like. I’ve asked around about Headrush and people seem to think that they’re cheap and not very good. Something like the Laney FR212 is going to run me a little less than a power amp and a good cabinet but not by much.
Power Amp: Means I can use a real cab which is always a great time but less flexible. I’m looking at something like the SD Power Stage 170 and an Orange 212 but that will end up being rather expensive.
I don’t really care about “feel” - I’m just as happy playing a real amp as I am playing plugins through studio monitors. All I care about live is sounding good and being able to hear myself. What do you all recommend? Headrush? Expensive FRFR? Power Amp? FX Return of a combo? Something else?
Laney LFR - that’s what I did & couldn’t be happier.
Reading your post, I feel like you answered your question yourself already.
Similar to a modeler, an FRFR is very versatile, but never quite as good as the original. So generally speaking, the less you spent, the further you are away from the real deal. If your goal is to be very versatile and sound is secondary, go for a cheap FRFR. If you also want very good sound, go for a more expensive one.
But because you wrote:
I feel like you would be better off with a real amp + cab or a combo that you like and go from there. I would go for one with a send and return, so you can use it as a power amp only or other things like the 4CM.
About the sound for the soundguy and front of house: you can still use a row or two of the QC with IRs to feed the soundguy exactly the sound you want via DI.
I liked the small Headrush actually, I found it surprisingly detailed and loud, and the weight was absolutely fantastic. THE issue with it in my books is way too much bass, With a 6-string and on a stand it was bearable, but kinda unusable as a wedge without a high pass filter (it doesn’t have an EQ), but as the QC still lacks a global EQ, you’d have to add a separate EQ to every preset which is a pain.
An alternative would’ve been to stick an EQ in between the QC and the Headrush but for some reason I didn’t think of it at the time. Instead I ended up with a QSC K10.2. It’s definitely a class above in terms of clarity (though as I said, I found the Headrush more than OK in that respect considering the price), and has a built-in EQ. But cost-effective it is not, LOL, I could’ve gotten a pair of used Headrush speakers for half the price of the QSC. It’s also twice the weight. If/when the QC gets a gobal EQ, I’d consider getting a Headrush (or maybe a JBL 108) just for the portability.
I have 12 inch Headrush units for practice, but I do not use them to gig. For that we go straight into the PA. I feel that if the PA ever quit functioning, I could the Headrushes no problem. I think I got them for $349 each, they’re light and so far very reliable. To my ear they sound great.
Another vote for the Laney LFR212. Been using mine well over a year live now and it does exactly what I need to. Enough volume to give some stage volume for others in the band not on IEM’s and looks the most amp-like of all the FRFR speakers.