As a teen addicted to music, I spent nearly twenty years searching for my first real amp modeler. At the time, this was a huge undertaking. Now, let me be totally honest - a great amp modeler is like finding a needle in a haystack. They're out there, but they are (at least in my case) elusive.
My teenage years were the golden age of music. We listened to everything, and I am positive that at least some of that was pirate sound. But, to be fair, I had my share of amp modelers. In fact, this all stemmed from my love of vintage guitars and the DIY knowledge I had gained from my high school musical project. By the time I left school, my musical tastes were established. And like many before me, I wanted an amp modeler.
As a total gear Nerd with a heart for old equipment, the natural position would be the later. Sticking lovingly to vintage AC30, first seen in the local music store as a bargain turntable, I viewed amp modelers almost as a signal of modern technology stripping away the very essence of music itself. This was especially true when looking for guitar amplifier tones. No tube amps, please.
So then, it became clear. These days, we all want great tone - and we all need a great amp modeler. For one thing, these new tube amps don't sound like their brothers from decades ago. Sure, they come with great speakers and an amazing cover, but... What good is a great tone if the player can't play the note accurately?
The beauty of amp modeling is that you can have the best of both worlds. You can get the best of the real tube audio circuitry and the great preamp sound. You can accomplish this by using various tools that have recently been made available by software companies such as Fruity Loops and Pro Tools. These computer programs are called "time-based effects," They allow the user to record their performance or their daily work environment and then use those sounds as amp simulation chips within their newly purchased virtual instruments.
This is simple to explain: When you plug in an audio signal, Fruity Loops " digitizes" it and saves it as a PCM file. It then "spits" that information out through the speaker on the audio interface. You can load your virtual amp up with just a few samples of your sound and process them into custom sounds that will be exactly like what you recorded. It's as easy as that. This is just one example of how you can achieve the same thing with your own electronic music production software... but it illustrates the point nicely - when you're looking for a way to add more life and depth to your music, you may need to go one step further. Instead of using a simple compressor or an envelope follower, you might want to use amp modeling.
When you've got a nice set of virtual studio headphones (or perhaps an amp simulation pedal) working with your audio software, you can run your newly created sounds through an amp simulation. That way, every single sample sounds like it was actually played through an amp. So now you can put on your headphones and listen to all of your latest beats through one setup in your own home studio.
One of my favorite demos of this type of thing is "Oxamp vs. kemper." I was listening to "Oxamp" during our interview, and I was blown away by the level of quality that this company produces. If you haven't heard of the band, Oxamp is basically some guys that started playing around the same time as Nine Inch Nails and The Killers. Their pedals are some of the most impressive, and the quality of their sound is simply outstanding!