Amp Simulators – Is There Any Point?

If we were to believe the spiel we read from companies like Line 6, Native Instruments and IK Multimedia, we would think that finding and building our dream backline is about as easy as finding a prostitute in Amsterdam or a “Ping-Pong show” in Thailand (if you catch my drift), just cheaper.

But are amp simulators really that good?

Or is it just a gimmick that will fade in time?

Soft vs hard – which is best?

hardware-versus-softwareThe reality is that any form of software will never beat real hardware.

An Amplitube Marshall JCM 800 will never sound or react in the same way as a real Marshall JCM800.

However, a lot of people can’t afford an original Marshall JCM800 so settling for software would be a good option.

Although software is definitely not the best option if you are planning on gigging, why not buy the best amplifier you can afford and make the best out of that?

This dilemma is much the same as finding a girlfriend.

Many people spend hours glued to a computer mesmerized by the webcams of women they would never be able to actually get in real life, let alone speak to.

Put yourself in that situation, would you rather spend your life speaking to women who might show you a quick flash of their tits in exchange for your credit card number, or actually go out and get a real girlfriend and actually get laid?

Granted, you may have to settle for someone who does not look quite as attractive as the women you can find on the internet, but she will probably cost you less money (which means you can save up for that boutique Fender amp you saw at the guitar shop last week!) and speak to you about things other than “expiry dates” and “3 digit security codes”, as well as actually give you a life.

You will also save yourself from incredible right arm/wrist fatigue allowing you to reach those alternate picking speed goals you set for yourself on New Year’s Eve!

Physical Amp Simulators

line6However, there is a bit of a spanner thrown into the works in the form of physical amp simulators.

Line 6 started the ball rolling with its POD series.

These were kidney shaped boxes that modeled classic guitar amps and allowed you to mix up different cabinets and add effects with virtual stomp boxes.

Over the course of time, these simulators have improved greatly and more companies have jumped on the bandwagon.

Hardware like this definitely reacts and feels much better when compared to their software counterparts.

Kempers Profiling Amp is in a league of its own and does feel like you are playing a real amplifier.

For around £1,300 you can find lifelike simulations of almost any amp you can dream of.

Having your favourite amps just a few clicks of a button away is fantastic, especially when working in the studio where you can require a fair few sounds at your fingertips.

But if gigging is your thing, faffing about with changing amp models in between songs can be a major drag, especially on the audience who are waiting for you.

Look to the stars

brian_mayLets have a look at two of the greatest guitarists of all time – Jimmy Page and Slash.

Although both have dabbled with a few amps in the studio every now and then, it is their wall of Marshalls that have given them their signature tone that we all know and love.

The same applies to Brian May and his Vox AC30s.

Having a lot of different sounding amp sims at your disposal is all well and good, but remember, the greatest guitarists of all time have an identity in their tone that, more often than not, stems from one specific guitar and one specific amplifier.

And let’s be honest, will the girl at the bar who has been eyeing you up all night really give a shit that you were able to use a virtual Fender Deluxe in your quiet sections before flicking to a Mesa Boogie in the choruses?

Probably not!


Ultimately guitar amp simulators, both software and hardware forms, are great if you need a few tones at your disposal when layering up recorded guitar parts.

But when playing live they can become a hindrance and prevent you from finding your voice as a guitarist.

As we discovered with our previous analogy, spending too much time on your computer trying to nail Eddie Van Halen’s “Brown Sound” on Guitar Rig won’t get you laid, and wont attract any groupies.

It will also put a serious dent in your practice time.

So, my advice is to find the best amp you can afford, work with it every day and get to know it to find your tone.

Stop clicking… get picking.

Rant over!

Do you agree or disagree?

Lets here your thoughts…