There has been much debate between guitarists regarding the common uses of amplification.
Which is better to use? Analogue amplifiers or digital amp simulators?
The fact of the matter is that there are so many guitarists out there who often criticise the usage of digital amp modelling simulators, primarily because it is not the original sound they’ve grown to love, whilst not considering to hear why digital amps may make their lives easier.
So… why use digital amp simulation? How can it possibly be better than a good, classic analog amplifier?
Whenever working on a project, it is always ideal to work at a quick pace to be as productive as possible. Therefore regarding workflow, the usage of amp simulators is quite straightforward for a variety of different reasons. Firstly, guitarists can save a particular amp setting (equalisation, sends and effects etc) and use it again for future purposes.
In analogue amplifiers, a lot of button pressing and knob turning is required to recreate specific amp settings used in the past.
Therefore with amp simulators, the process is much simpler and a lot less time consuming as guitarists can simply select their saved settings and have their desired sound. Also for recording and tracking, amp simulation users can simply plug their guitar in an audio interface and select an amp model and they are ready to go. However, preparing an analogue amplifier for recording takes a lot more time and effort as the room, microphone types/positioning will need to be taken into account to achieve a good sound.
Amp simulators can be used in any place at any time due to the facility of easily transporting them around. For example, having one laptop with amp simulator software installed or carrying around an effects pedal providing numerous amp models is far more convenient in my opinion than carrying around a range of big bulky amplifiers.
Wouldn’t it be better for them to have all of them in one? Also regarding the quality of sound, some amp simulators even provide parameters to emulate rooms sounds, therefore your guitar tone doesn’t need to be dependent on the environment.
There are innumerable possibilities within digital amp simulators. A wide range of distinctive tones that closely emulate the tones of many different amplifiers such as Marshall, Fender and Orange amps are available as one piece of hardware and software.
You can potentially carry around hundreds of different amplifier as a single unit. Not to mention that there a substantial amount of different cabinet speaker settings available including the ability to adjust the mic positioning around the speaker. This goes to show that users have the luxury and facility to adjust the parameters as much as possible.
It is always crucial that guitarists are made fully aware of how much money they spend on gear. With regards to amplification, popular amplifier brands such as Marshall, VOX and Fender can cost a fortune depending on the Cabinet model.
Therefore, it is essential to take as many measures as possible to save money. Why not purchase a single unit that provides over a hundred amplifier sounds for the fraction of the price? There are even amp simulator plug-ins that are free to download in DAW software.
The truth is there is no “better option”. It’s purely based on the type of guitarist you are and the scenario you are based in at that time.
As a guitarist, you may be set on your analogue guitar amplifier and there’s no problem with that. However, if saving costs, easier transportation and endless possibilities of tones is intriguing to you then it may be worth considering the digital route.
Whilst an analog amplifier sound is harder to recreate digitally (and analogue may still be the best studio recording option without fail) the benefits of digital amp simulation in a live scenario for the experimental guitarist may be seen to outweigh those of an analog guitar amp.
With technology improving all the time and getting ever closer to bridging the gap between the analogue and digital amplifier sound it’s certainly worth looking into at your next local music store visit.
Now you’ve got the gear, get recording! Find producers to work with and musicians to collaborate by posting a project for our global community to see.