Are Amp Simulators Any Good?

You can get usable tones from an amp simulator like Amplitube.

I know that this is a sacrilege, but it is possible to get a nice guitar sound from an amp sim.  While my first inclination is always to mic up my amp, and I’d rather just do that if I am working on a very sparse mix where every little detail of the amp can be heard, guitar amp simulators like Amplitube are definitely useable.

What are the advantages of using an amp simulator?

  1. You can tweak to your heart’s content.  Once you record an amp, that’s the sound that you’re going to have.  If you are using a sim, you can switch up amps, change cabinets, play with mic placement, and do any number of things to change the guitar’s sound.
  2. You can set it up quickly. Placing mics up on the amp is a lot more time-consuming and allows for much more error than plugging into your interface and pulling up a sim.
  3. You can just use it to monitor.  When I’m in a rush, I like to track my guitar with Amplitube, then once I’m done editing everything, re-amping the track.  I turn off the sim, route the guitar through an output on my interface and into my amp, then mic up the amp and record.  It sounds exactly like it would should I have cut the track with the amp in the first place, and is much easier to edit (especially if I want to use the amp’s spring reverb.
  4. No bleed into vocal or drum mics.

What are the disadvantages of using an amp simulator?

  1. When used improperly, they can sound horrible.  I’ve had sessions that were started with scratch tracks using Amplitube and the guitars sounded terrible.  The only way around this is to have a nice bank of presets that go to as soon as you launch it.
  2. They will use some CPU resources.
  3. Snobs.  You’ll get purists that will turn their noses up at you and claim that your guitar sounds like crap without even listening to it.  Again, people listening with their eyes instead of their ears.


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