digital guitar tone part 2

Digital Guitar Tone – Part 2

By Erick Gerber
In May 17, 2017

In the previous article, ‘Digital Guitar Tone – Part 1 we spoke about how ‘going digital’ has made our lives as guitarists more convenient in many ways. We also spoke about the downside, and how some would argue that the quality of sound still isn’t on par with the traditional ‘analogue’ gear used by all the top dogs. If this were 2-5 years ago, I would have to agree. However, with the introduction of amp modelling and profiling, the game has changed in terms of “Digital Guitar”

What Is Amp Modelling Technology?

With technology advancing as rapidly as it is, the disadvantage of weaker tone in digital amps and units won’t be the case for much longer. In fact, there are already a select few digital products that have finally matched, if not surpassed, the quality of sound of the traditional analogue gear. This is done by replicating the exact tone they produce and optimising it further. This is called ‘amp modelling’ or “profiling”.

What does this mean? It means that you can now get all the exact tones of your favourite songs from the 50’s, 60’s or even last year’s best-selling album, all in one unit and for a fraction of the price. This is because of how accurately they are now able to digitally replicate an analogue sound on a digital guitar unit. Let’s look at some of the top brands in digital amp modelling.

Top Amps for Digital Guitar Tone

The Axe FX by Fractal Audio is a multi-effects guitar processor that allows you to get all the guitar tones and effects that you’ve always dreamed of. All conveniently built into one unit. These units are renowned for their great tone quality and vast audio capabilities. Some big new bands like Periphery have even preferred the sound of these units for recording their album with. This is opposed to using one of the analogue equivalents that they are modelled after. Check out this video where they explain why they prefer using Axe FX over ‘real’ amps.

Another new unit called the Kemper Profiling Amp takes the concept of amp modelling a step further. Besides for the built-in presets that this unit comes with, you can now take a specific combination of any real analogue head and cab. They capture that exact sound so accurately, that even the top music producers in the industry like Andy Sneap can’t even tell the difference between the captured tone and the real thing. Click here to watch a video of Andy talking about the Kemper. Be sure to also check out Rob Chapman’s video where they do a tone test and try to tell the difference between a valve amp the Kemper.

Another honourable mention is the Line 6 Helix. It has also been a very popular guitar processor among guitarists and is definitely worth checking out.

The best part: one of these units would probably cost you around the same price as a top of the range analogue amp. However, you get the benefit of having 100s of different amp sounds in one. Thus making it well worth the money.

More Possibilities With Amp Modelling Software

With the newest recording software plugins like BIAS by Positive Grid and Amplitube 4 by IK Multimedia, you can now customise your guitar tone down to the finest details like the types of tubes. This can give you the tube configuration in your virtual amp head, or the speakers in your virtual cabinet. This will give you more freedom and versatility than ever before. Tone newbies can also learn more about these different elements and how they affect your tone. This can be put to use when using an analogue setup as well.

What’s more, you can create new and interesting effects and make your guitar sound like anything you want – even an alien spaceship. Guitarists’ creativity is now more ‘amped up’ than ever before (excuse the pun). The software industry hasn’t quite caught up to the hardware units like Axe FX or Kemper, but it’s well on its way there. Some predict that soon, hardware as a whole will become obsolete in the guitar and recording industry, and everything will be software-based.

Bottom line? Grab a digital unit today, and enjoy the endless benefits and possibilities!


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Profile photo of Erick Gerber

Plays for “Red Helen” and “Truth and It’s Burden”. Can make his guitar sound like an accelerating car. Currently doing his BMus Honours degree with the University of Chichester. Sucks at Guitar Hero. Can solo behind his head. Has gigged extensively throughout South Africa.

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