Digital Effects: Possibilities, advantages and my story
Author: Bruno Gonçalves
The big question “Analog Vs Digital” will probably always be around, but today I will share with you some personal experiences and why I think the digital is gaining even more ground. We’ll talk about the advantages and why it made me sell most of my analog gear.
I played analog gear for almost 8 years: Amplifiers and pedalboard with 8 to 10 pedals. Back then, I kept failing to achieve the tone I really wanted because either my gear couldn´t get to it or I could not dial it in with precision. After lots of shows and many problems (mostly PSU and cables), my patience was running out. I had a USB Interface lying around that I bought to start recording videos, so I begin messing around with some guitar software and using some reverb, cabinet simulators and delay effects from my laptop in addition to my gear on some gigs and lessons with my students.
Fast forward a few years when I recognized the potential and the tones I could achieve with my guitars, I don’t even need to say that I fell in love instantly when I met the Boss Katana: a 100% digital amplifier with a power attenuator. I came home that same day, posted an ad to sell my big 2x12” 160w amplifier, and bought the 1x12” 100w Katana on the following week.
After a few days making my way through the software to achieve the tones I had in my mind, I started to dial in some sick tones (with the help of the built-in noise gate, of course, haha). It was not too long until I had 6 presets, all ready to rock at live shows and with different kinds of reverbs that could fit most of the venues I play in.
I started doing some gigs plugging the guitar straight in the new amplifier. It worked great. After some time, I realized one thing: I had no use for most of my pedals anymore. I sold all of them, except one: my wah-wah (I love that thing).
One thing that I find funny to think about is there was a point in my life where I had 2 amplifiers: one 60w that I used for practice and the big 160w I used for shows. The big one had a good set of speakers, but it was TOO loud to play at home. Nowadays I have the 100w Katana, a small GT-1 unit (to play smaller stages or for when I need to bring in compact gear) and an usb interface that I use at home.
Not to mention all the work I do nowadays using my USB Interface to teach, record, write songs and practice. It blows everything out of the water: you can record then re-do your tone after it if it does not fit the track. You can record without worrying about external noise ruining your takes and you can achieve incredible guitar tones with a small number of plugins (EQ, amp sim and reverb are the ones I use most). It is very practical, as you can leave it on a corner of your PC desk and just plug the guitar whenever you like, then you’re all set.
Digital effects and units are killing the game since Kemper and Axe-Fx made their case on the guitar market. Even Megadeth’s touring gear is composed of 2 Axe-Fx II for the guitars (as said by Kiko Loureiro himself) and it is pretty common to spot a Kemper amp on the stage at a concert. As the digital effects brutally increased quality, lowered weight and became smaller, a lot of guitarists are leaving their valve amps and 4x12” cabs at home to plug straight in the PA system using digital amps or multi-effects unit.
To be fair, I never had expensive gear in any sense. All my guitars, amps and pedals I bought with the “get most value for the price” mindset. I have so much gear I want to buy (including plugins) that it doesn’t make any sense to spend big money on one piece of gear only, be it an amplifier or a guitar.
In the last three years, I have been using exclusively digital gear, and I can say I am more than pleased with the results. Recording is straightforward, I have no trouble putting my ideas together and creating my own songs, as well as making killer tones to do videos or improvise. With a cheap setup you can buy yourself a USB interface, a good pair of headphones and get started in this incredible world as you don’t need to have a PC powerhouse to do it (In most cases not, anyway). My live playing gear is lighter and smaller than ever and I can choose to bring a small 1x12” amp or an even smaller GT1 multi-effects unit and plug straight into the PA system.
With all my stories, I think it is easy to see why I switched all my gear in a short period. I now consider myself a digital effects enthusiast, fan of the cutting-edge modern guitar plugins and of the new innovative ideas that are coming out of this market.
If you feel that you’re running out of patience to try new pedals, amps, speakers or guitars to find the dream tone, fret no more: try going digital. Like I said above, it is pretty simple and cheap to buy a USB interface and try out free guitar plugins. It’s a limitless universe, with new possibilities and physical gear being launched all the time, and it is definitely the future of the guitar. Even if you don’t change your live gear, it makes a great tool to have at home and explore a whole new set of possibilities.
About the author: Bruno Gonçalves is a full-time guitar teacher, pro musician and digital effects enthusiast from Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. To find out more about his work and read more articles, you can visit www.bgsmusical.com.br