Real Amps vs. Guitar Sims
[Update] Months after I posted this, I just came across a great article by a true expert on the subject, you can read it here.
Yet more things to think about… Even with a cheapo Marshall (transistor too the horror) or a Vox Valvetronix combo, it is just quicker to get a usable sound than fussing around with the guitar sims on the computer. Many online complain about the sims as “plastic” or “lifeless” sounding vs. the real thing, I am not sure how the tests were done, or what the various gears were used, but there seems to be a consensus among guitarists that real amps especially tube ones driving real speaker cabinet is still the way to go after all that’s what they were designed for!!
For the guitar sims to sound good, there seem to be some options such as driving them with some OD or other effects ahead of the soundcard, use IR cabinet sims (instead of the stock ones in the sims themselves or just use the amp sim output and send the signal back out to a real amp/speaker. May be worth trying out later…
There is also an issue with the sound level, as we know, that the “tone” of amps, especially tube ones are only apparent when they are driven hard – where tube and speaker saturation and power supply sag kick in but that means playing very loud levels – a problem for most people playing at home. The Vox does have a output soaker to retain the distortion at low volume, so that helps.
In one of the online discussion group, someone made an astute observation, without unfortunately actual test results to back it up though, but intuitively it makes sense, what he said was that the guitar sims all fail at simulating non-linear distortion, while it is easy to simulate time-based effects like chorus, phase, delay, etc. Non-linear distortion generated by the tube and speaker combo is very hard to achieve in software, they come close but just never quite getting there due to precisely the non-linear, random nature of the distortion involved.
The learning continues…