For Ex. 4, I switched to Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig amp modeler. Here there’s no need to dial up a neutral-sounding amp stage—the program lets you apply speaker simulation with no amp stage. There’s another new wrinkle: I duplicated the performance on a second track, and then ran each track through a separate speaker model (Photo 4), with the sounds panned slightly in stereo. Using this method, there’s no limit to the number of virtual speakers you can add—but don’t be surprised if you quickly hit the point of diminishing returns.

Photo 4

Let’s put another twist on it, borrowing an idea from last month’s column (How to Prepare a Delicious Amp Sandwich, July 2014). Ex. 5 is identical to Ex. 4, only here I’ve applied the “amp sandwich” approach, filtering all the lows from one track and all the highs from the other, as seen in the EQ curves in Photo 5. The result is airier and less low-mid constipated, and even though I haven’t changed the panning, the stereo spread seems more dramatic. Which version is better? It depends on the context, silly.

Photo 5

School’s out. This hybrid approach isn’t old school or new school—it’s more like a one-room schoolhouse where everything happens at once. This technique lets you capture the color of a favorite analog amp and warp it to taste after it’s been recorded. (Very handy come mix time!) There’s much room for sonic nudging, be it a few degrees to the left, or right over the cliff. And of course, you can record silently day or night, monitoring on headphones.

Parting food for thought: Here we’ve captured authentic analog amp tones without analog speakers. But we can also get there without physical or modeled amps. Consider the trem-sodden tones of Ex. 6:

It’s simply a matter of … ouch! I just fell off the bottom of the frickin’ page. I’ll save the dirty details for an upcoming column. Until then, remember: It depends on the context!