Behringer V-AMP3 Next-Generation Virtual Guitar Amplifier, $108.99 from Amazon.
IMHO this thing beats any software modeler and competes directly with much higher priced hardware from Line6.
It has balanced outputs too, I like that, injects right into the patch bay. I've never used ANY of the stock presets, I always just jump in and create my own.
I have eleven Mesa amplifiers (including 3 dual rectifier
heads) so I'm a bit of a tone freak for guitar. I know it's just shameful here on GS to mention Behringer for anything useful but the V-amp line is quite an impressive bit of hardware and software.
I have five V-Amps scattered between our two studios and we rely on them for all sorts of guitar tones. I like the LED ring around each knob to show you where the knob is set at the moment, this is a killer feature and makes it intuitive to operate like a real tube amp. Much better than squinting at tiny knobs on an LCD display IMHO.
Incidentally the price above (which I just got of Amazon) includes an external 16-bit stereo USB audio interface and some recording software. I threw the software away and gave the interface to one of the kids in an apt building near me but you could probably sell the interface on ebay for $20 and recoup a bit more of your investment.
You really need to read the manual to get the most out of these modelers. I wish it was easier/more straight-forward to activate the cab simulation. You also need to dive into software and set the reverb to a good type. After you do these things you'll be amazed by these boxes if you give them a chance. The reverb and effects are quite good regardless of price.
Don't jump to a conclusion this is a copy of a Pod
. I've had several Line6 Pod
gadgets and I like the user interface on the V-Amp much better.
A modeling preamp will never replace a REAL tube amp but these do a good job when you need a modeler and the price is extraordinary.
For a little bit more money you could get the Behringer V-Amp for Bass which also has quite a number of guitar amp models in it. That way you can record guitar and bass. Some of the bass presets are VERY good (but I will never tell what track I used them on :-)
The rack mount V-Amp Pro regularly sells on ebay for around $130 used. I got one at GC for $70 used, incredible deal. That was my first exposure to Behringer V-Amp technology, I bought it because it was so cheap. I bought all the others because I liked the first one so much.
I've had a lot of friends play through V-Amps in the studio and they were amazed and impressed at how good these boxes sound.
Best of luck in your tone quest, good music to all.