Used right, amp modelling plug‑ins can sound almost like the real thing. But it's much more fun to use them wrong!
Amp modelling plug‑ins have some obvious advantages over real guitar amps. They let you record heavy metal guitar solos without antagonising the neighbours. They give you a range of sounds that would take a roomful of hardware to match. And, in the mixed blessings department, they mean you don't have to make up your mind about guitar sounds until the final mix.
Of course, depending on computer code for your guitar tone has its disadvantages. You need a soundcard with low-latency drivers to approach the responsiveness of a real amp, and diehards still complain that the sound doesn't quite capture the magic they get from smouldering valves and clanging reverb tanks. However, there are also a lot of things you can do with plug‑ins that no vintage fire hazard will ever manage. In this article, I'm going to suggest some less obvious uses for software amp emulations.
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An amp modelling plug‑in allows you to use as many virtual amps simultaneously as you like. The applications of this are legion. For instance, many guitarists working with real amps like to use a splitter box to send their signal to two or even more amps simultaneously. The easiest way to do the equivalent in most DAWs is simply to copy the unprocessed guitar part to as many tracks as are required, and insert an amp modelling plug‑in across each one. By experimenting with different settings and panning arrangements, you can conjure some huge guitar...