Digital Modeling Amplifiers for Beginner Musicians

In today’s performance culture, guitar sales have increased over the last five consecutive years. Along with each of the guitars is the need for an amplifier, with the primary three choices being digital modeling, tube, and solid-state amps. It can be difficult to know where to start, especially with music gear so customizable and niche that there’s a seemingly unlimited supply of tools, gadgets, and modifications that you can use for your rig setup. Whether a musician intends to be performing live, recording, or just playing along to their favorite tunes, proper sound will always be one of the most important parts of music. To that end, let’s look at one of the most dominant choices in the guitar amp market: the digital modeling amplifier.

What is it?

A digital modeling amplifier – modeling amp, as it’s most commonly called – is one of the three most common types of amplifiers in use today. Along with it are the options of solid-state and tube amps. Modeling amps are capable of adding in digital effects, processes, and sounds to produce a different sound entirely. Many amp purists have been against modeling amps, with some arguing that they water down sound, some arguing that they simply sound worse, and dozens of other arguments in the mix. Despite this, they’ve found popularity among iconic musicians like Devin Townsend, John Petrucci, and Keith Urban.

Why use a digital amp? 

Now that we know what separates a digital modeling amp from a solid-state or tube amp, what makes it better than those choices? For starters, the level of maintenance required for them is drastically lower. Tube amps need to have the fragile glass tubes within them cared for and can eventually fade and change the sound of the music. They also have directions that should be followed to prolong life. Still, all tools need maintenance, so make sure you’re using appropriate cleaning materials to ensure that your amp keeps peak performance.

Furthermore, the array of sounds and effects being offered makes the modeling amp much more versatile than traditional amps. They can be altered to produce nearly any type of sound – not quite in the way that a soundboard works but rather in that they can sound like any sort of amplifier or other such equipment. In some cases, this can eliminate the need to have a set up of several amps, and may even help to slim down on costs and carry weight by removing other bits of gear such as pedals.

They’re also remarkably lightweight, as they’re based more on compact chips and computer systems. This contrasts the rather bulky systems of tubing or a hefty system of diodes and transistors. Combined with their ability to render other equipment unnecessary, this trait makes them extremely useful for touring musicians with limited transport space, or who simply want to minimize everything they have to haul on and off the stage.

So why avoid them? 

Honestly, there aren’t a lot of cons to digital amps. It’s worth mentioning that they’re more expensive on average, but there are plenty of affordable choices for rockers on a budget. They’re more complicated to operate than the simple two-switch system or knobs that other amps utilize, but are comfortable once a musician grows used to them. Maybe the biggest con is their relative lack of popularity in comparison to their counterparts, and that’s easy enough to look past.

Ultimately, the best amp is going to be the one with the sound a musician prefers. The same is true for all instruments and musical gadgets and aids that one might find. Trying out multiple different amps of varied builds and systems can help the musician decide which amp is best for them, whether it be digital modeling, solid-state, or tube.

(Guest post from Jess Walters)

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