Although every electric guitar player loves the guttural vibrations of their favourite amp and the bombastic sound it gives you when playing live. Have you ever considered using your computer as your guitar amp?
For audiophiles and amp lovers it doesn't sound like the greatest idea, but there are several benefits to using your computer as your amp.
For a start amps are not exactly practical, most good tube amps are usually very heavy and cumbersome. Making them a nightmare to carry around town, especially in a rush hour. When you consider the practicalities of getting around with your amp, the idea of using a computer for practice sessions and small performances becomes much more appealing. You only need a computer, a charger, cables and a quarter-inch to eight-inch adapter.
I am not trying to suggest plugging into a program like Garageband and hitting the stage is a particularly appealing prospect. However, programs such as Axe-Fx II, Guitar Rig 5 and many more similar pieces of software can produce some great results (after experimentation and tweaking).
The usual complaint from guitarists about software amp simulators is the lack of body and tinny sound. No matter what software you use, it remains hard to replicate the analogue nature of the amp. Software and sound synthesis may have come far, but replicating a speaker booming from a wooden box is something that has yet to be mastered.
If you are using your laptop for a gig, a great PA system is essential. It won't make you sound like you're using an amp, but it will make it sound like a pre-recorded version of you playing. If you realise that you won't sound like you're using an amp and are more likely to sound like you're in a recording studio, it is a lot easier to come to terms with for the amp aficionado. This clean and "studio-like" sound could also begin to define you as a musician, it could be built into you or your bands sound, making you stand out from others.
When using your computer as an amp, keeping it simple tone wise is important. A clean tone, with a dirty rhythm tone and a solo tone keeps it straight forward and reliable. Changing presents during a performance can be dangerous, especially if you're not aware of the volume or tone differentiations between them. Matching the tones before leaving the house can save you a lot of time and hassle at the gig. Another thing to remember, which can be easily forgotten, is the input recording volume. Unlike an overdriven amp, a clipping signal does NOT sound good.
Another common question for amp lovers is whether amp dynamics still exist, which they do, depending on your guitars pickups. When using a dirty rhythm channel for examples, the saturation level remained the same regardless of the guitars volume. Surprisingly, it is possible to execute a variety of different techniques and sounds on computer software, that you would think are reliant on having an amp.
Just as the wah pedal must have been odd-sounding to guitar purists of the past, it has been in common use for 50 years now. There is no reason to think this technique will not become a feature or sound used extensively in the future.
In my opinion it is well worth looking at the variety of amp emulation software that is available and working to develop a sound that you like from it.