Can fake amps really rock? A roundup of amp simulators

Fake amps eliminate basement clutter, thus allowing room for a mini-fridge.
Fake amps eliminate basement clutter, thus allowing room for a mini-fridge.

So you want an amazing guitar amp but don’t want to spend a grand (or more). Do you assemble a crack team and pull off a magnificent heist? No way! Just buy some amp emulators instead. This tech has come a long way in the last several years, plus you’ll stay out of jail.

UAD Softube Vintage Amp Room ($199, 5 globes)
This amp room collects some of the greatest guitar tones of the 1960s. The amps aren’t given names because of lawyers and all that rot, but essentially you are looking at a classic Fender, Marshall and Vox. This plugin looks, controls and, best of all, sounds just like real amps.  They sound so close to the real thing that you are likely to eat an acid tab, start an anti-war protest and then, 15 years later, somehow vote for Ronald Reagan. Keep on rockin’ in the free world.

UAD ENGL Amplifier Bundle ($249, 5 globes)
ENGL is a company that makes high-end tube amps for professional players. In other words, they are really expensive. Now you can experience what all the fuss is about without having to skip a few months of rent. This bundle includes virtual representations of the Retro Tube EV65 head and the limited edition E646. Shredding is the name of the game here, and to that end this collection soars. This is NOT for the folkie in your life.

Waves GTR3 ($140, 4 globes)
The tones here may not be quite as realistic as some of the UAD stuff but you gotta admire the amount of content. GTR3 features simulations of over 30 popular amps, 30 cabs, 25 pedals and a host of effects. This collection is pretty much Guitar Amp 101, if they offered that class in school (maybe at one of those feel-good schools with no grades).

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