How many people out there tried amp sims years ago, didn’t like them and didn’t come back? How many guitarists and bass players do we all know that still haven’t tried amp sims? Maybe they don’t know they exist, maybe they are resistant or perhaps the old loyalty to analog gear.
After several years in this community of amp sim users, what I see right now is a number of companies feverishly competing for the same very small demographic. That demographic is for the most part modern metal / djent players between the ages of 18-25. How many plugins can be sold to the same people? With the technology getting better and better, things need to spread out.
The time has never been better to grow the tech to new demographics and also change the minds of players that were once unimpressed. Over the last three years, amp sim development has hit a serious boom that has brought many new developers, loads of great sounding new products and a general level of quality that soars above where the tech once stood.
Winning people over however is more than just busting out what we ourselves deem to be the “latest and greatest”. For example, I love Neural DSP’s Nameless Suite but if I am trying to sell a blues rock player, I think I will suggest something more geared to their style and so on. To me, it’s very important to present things in the best way possible. This part is all about putting the player in their comfort zone gear wise.
We get a ton of emails and messages from these types of users all the time. My first question for players in these cases is always to ask them what their favorite amps, pedals and cabs in the analog world are. The follow up to that would be what bands / artists / albums have the tones they desire. This all helps to set the table properly. If the initial experience is ideal with any piece of gear, it’s going to be that much more attractive.
Simply giving someone a list of plugins to check out might not be enough. That usually works for people that are already interested but for those on the fence, I like to get started with some links to products that may fit their style. I make sure these links are to content made by people that make the plugins sound great. Nothing over-processed, just solid content because a bad piece of content is not going to sell anyone, much less those on the fence.
The Digital vs Analog Debate
Another important note to make here is that the whole “digital vs. analog” argument needs to go, it’s a stone-age mindset that does nothing but create limitations. We all need to start seeing the two options as they are; TWO COMPLETELY SEPARATE TOOLS. Both can be invariably handy on a number of levels as they sort of fill in each other’s weaknesses. For players to see it as one vs. the other is just a wasteful way of thinking.
Let players know the level of quality and convenience being poured into every product by the best developers in the world. The amount of developers has gone through the roof the last few years thus providing a monster selection of products. Conveying the at-home and on-the-go comfort that plugins provide to users is key in this debate because plugins now feature a whole lot more than just an amp. Now there are highly accurate cabinet sections, effects and a lot more.
Some players will never switch to plugins for recording purposes and there’s no point on fighting that. If conditions are ideal and experience is involved, analog gear can definitely have it’s sound advantages. Without the ideal conditions, space, time and experience however, recording with only analog gear can provide challenges and sub-par results. Plugins give players an opportunity to play, write, demo and record almost anywhere so the convenience is very much a factor to showcase.
We can however chip away and the key to that is impulse responses. Many analog players have switched to load boxes for home and recording purposes. It makes so much sense for volume reasons alone but if players are willing to invite that digital component into their lives, amp sims and pedal plugins aren’t such a stretch.
Impulse response / IR development is another area of the guitar/bass software market that has improved and grown to another level. No longer do 2-3 companies sit atop the mountain, these days, it seems like the top of the mountain might be a pretty packed place. The options are endless and there really is something for everyone and every application.
With freeware being better than it has ever been and most of the top developers offering unrestricted free trials for their products, it makes the process easier than ever to try out. There’s literally no commitment to buy anything but an interface really.
Oddly enough there’s one more group that has been tough to convince. Many players that choose hardware modelers like the Kemper Profiling Amp, Fractal AxeFx units, Line 6 units and many others are also resistant to amp sims. I find they see them as a downgrade from their modelers and to a point, they aren’t wrong. However, we come back to convenience.
Hardware modelers can be a bit bulky for a simplistic demo/recording set up being used on the fly or for travel. It’s not always possible to pull a rack case out every time you want to lay down some riffs for a new demo or just to simply jam, write, practice etc. Having a simple interface, a pair of headphones, a laptop and a plugin or two can really make for a handy and affordable setup that can be accessed at almost any time, anywhere. Users could sit in a library full of people and track a full album with almost no sound to those around them. Can that be done with an analog amp?
In closing, there is a way to approach every guitarist or bass player when it comes to trying to grow amp sim technology to new demographics. I’m not saying go door to door with information panflits asking people if they have heard the word of amp sims but we all know and interact with many different players that could be firing up amp sims in mere minutes for absolutely FREE. Developers worldwide are standing by with their creations ready to impress!