NO LAW SAYS THAT YOU HAVE TO USE ONLY
virtual amps or physical amps—you can get
some great sounds by mixing and matching the
two technologies. We mentioned this briefly in
the first column, but now we’ll dig a little deeper.
With Native Instruments’ GuitarRig, note that the amp is in play,but the cabinet is bypassed (theenable button, circled in red forclarity, is off). This lets you feeda clean power amp to preservethe virtual amp’s sound, and then drive a cab.
Amp and effects simulators as pedalboards.You
love the sound of your amp, but dragging
around all those effects, power supplies, and
cables is a hassle. So, use your laptop’s sim
software only for its effects, bypass the virtual
amp/cabinet, and feed your trusty amplifier
from your laptop’s audio interface. You can also
use a foot controller with your “virtual pedalboard.”
General-purpose MIDI controllers can
do the job, but you’re probably better off choosing
one specifically designed for your software
(e.g., Rig Kontrol for Guitar Rig, Stomp I/O
for IK’s AmpliTube, Ground Control for Waves
GTR, etc.). Caution, though: Check your levels.
Your amp wants to see a guitar level signal,
so you may need to dial back the audio
output from your laptop. Or not—maybe you
can get a cool overdrive effect by overloading
your amp’s input stage. Experiment!
Using a real cabinet.Some guitarists love the
concept of amp sims, but want to feel an actual
speaker pushing air rather than going direct
into a mixer or P.A. In this application you’ll
bypass the virtual cabinet simulation, and you’ll
need a physical power amp to drive the
speaker(s). If you’re using a standard guitar
amp, you may be able to go into an effects loop
return and bypass the preamp stage completely.
However, odds are the amp will still influence
the sound, which may or may not be a good
thing. It might be better to choose a simple,
accurate power amp, like the kind used to drive
non-powered speakers. This will reproduce the
characteristics of whatever amp you’ve chosen
in your amp sim as faithfully as possible.
Waves’ GTR Solo has individual bypassswitches (circled in red for clarity) for theamp section and cabinet.
Using your amp’s preamp.Similarly, if you like
the sound of your amp’s preamp but want the
flexibility of using your sim’s amp and cabinet,
you can take a post-preamp effects send,
feed it into your computer’s audio interface,
and run the signal through your sim’s amp and
cabinet. If you want to use effects, they can be
inserted between the effects send and the audio
Double your pleasure.Yet another option is
to split your guitar into two paths, then drive
both a guitar amp and an amp sim setup. For
example, I often use a Peavey Windsor amp
with its “power soak” and emulated out features
to reinforce amp sims. Not only can this
type of setup give wonderful stereo effects,
you can also create a richer, more complex
Line 6’s POD Farm is setup in stand-alone modeas a “virtual pedalboard.”There’s no amp or cabinet;the laptop’s audiointerface feeds a physical guitar amp.