Amplifier Modeling: How Does It Work Exactly?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 26, 2022

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Amplifier modeling (also known as amp modeling or amp emulation) is the process of emulating a physical amplifier such as a guitar amplifier. Amplifier modeling often seeks to recreate the sound of one or more specific models of vacuum tube amplifiers and sometimes also solid state amplifiers.

What is a modeling amplifier


Amplifier modeling is the process of simulating the characteristics of timeless analog amplifier designs on powered, digital modeling amps. With amplifier modeling, musicians and sound engineers are able to recreate the sound and feel of classic amplifiers without needing to lug around heavy and expensive traditional amps.

Amplifier modeling is accomplished by means of advanced technology that requires a combination of sophisticated electronic circuitry, powerful software programs and complex topology. Through this combination, an amp modeler can accurately recreate tubes, pre-amps, tone stacks, speaker components and other effects found in a classic analog amplifier; creating an accurate representation that produces lifelike guitar tones.

An advantage to amp modelers is portability; they are smaller than the traditional amplifiers they simulate and are generally easier to transport from one location to another. Amp modelers also have additional benefits such as:

  • Adjustable flexibility for sound tweaking
  • Features like “direct out” capabilities for running a signal directly from the amp through a mixing board or recording interface
  • Access to downloadable sounds from various makers
  • And much more.

What is an Amplifier Model?

An amplifier model, also referred to as a Digital Amp Modeler (DAM) is a type of software that allows you to replicate the sound of various types of guitar amplifiers. These models work by simulating the electronics of different amps, capturing and processing the sounds of the amp and applying them to any given source. Generally, amplifier modeling can help you achieve the tone of a classic amp, or create completely unique sounds.

Now let’s take a look at how amplifier modeling works:

Types of Amplifier Models

Amplifier modeling, which is also sometimes called amp modeling or amp-modeling is a type of digital processing used to simulate the sound of various types of equipment. Amplifiers are used in a multitude of musical genres and the ability to model these amplifiers can reduce the time and money necessary to find new tones.

At its most basic level, an amplifier modeler will take the original signal (from an instrument), simulate the other parts of the signal chain such as preamps, crossovers and equalizers and then output it through virtual speakers. This process allows you to achieve tones from different amplifiers without having to go through physical hardware setup.

There are several types of amplifier models available on different platforms, such as:

  • Hard-modeled: The computer does all of the work for you in recreating classic sounds. It analyzes your inputted sound waves and then uses mathematical equations to replicate them electronically.
  • Hybrid: This involves combining physical hardware with virtual simulation software to create new sounds or refine existing sounds.
  • Software Modeled: This involves generating sounds within software programs, permitting you to recreate analog tone without having to incur any physical costs associated with trying out various amps at retail stores.

Benefits of Amplifier Modeling

Amplifier modeling is a newly popular option for guitar players. By digitally simulating different types of amplifiers and speaker cabinets, amplifier modeling gives guitarists the ability to easily switch between different amplifiers without changing equipment or making manual adjustments to the amp knobs. This can be a great time-saver and make live performances much smoother.

Using amplifier modeling can be incredibly convenient, but there are other benefits as well. Amplifier modeling allows guitarists to explore different types of sounds and tones without spending money on multiple setups or having to dedicate an entire rig just for a particular sound. It also makes it easier for players who suffer from cramped stage conditions, such as bass players who might want to use their old combo amp but limited space prevents them from installing multiple cabs around them. Finally, amplifier modeling increases flexibility in terms of getting creative with sounds because you can use an unlimited number of combinations of amps and cabinets that give you unprecedented variation in tone quality.

How Does Amplifier Modeling Work?

Amplifier modeling is a very popular way for guitarists to get different sounds out of their hardware. This technology digitally recreates the sound of acoustic instruments, effect pedals and amplifiers, allowing players to easily switch between different tones and sound settings with the touch of a button.

In this article, we will look at how amplifier modeling works and the benefits it provides to guitar players.

Digital Signal Processing

In order to simulate the sound of an amplifier without actually having one, you need to use digital signal processing (DSP). It works today much as it did in 2003, when Line 6 released their first hardware amp-modeling device, the POD.

Digital signal processing uses mathematical algorithms to replicate analog processes, in this case emulating the sound of classic amplifiers. It involves algorithms that try to accurately mimic the development of an analog circuit and all its components by calculating values like current, voltage and tone stacks. The output is then converted into digital audio which can be sent to an amplifier or powered speaker.

The basic process involves taking a digital audio waveform (like those produced with a keyboard or guitar pickup), transforming it with multiple stages of DSP filters and mixing it up for different ‘cab styles’ and microphone simulations. Signal chains can get quite complex allowing users to craft unique sounds through combinations of cabs, mics and pedals as well as amp parameters like gain and EQ settings.

Even though modeling technology has come a long way since 2003 there are still many improvements that could be made such as providing access to more classic models from iconic amplifiers throughout history as well as more accurate replications of those models. Despite this modeling technology is incredibly popular amongst guitarists due to its convenience, affordability, tonal possibilities and flexibility over traditional amps – giving players unprecedented control over their playing experience.

Modeling Algorithms

Amplifier modeling is a method of digitally recreating the sound of an amplifier using a mathematical model. It is commonly used in modern digital amplifiers and modeling pedal units to create the sound of traditional analog tube amps from electric guitar.

The process involves analyzing the signal from an actual amplifier and then translating it into a control algorithm that is able to represent its sonic characteristics. This algorithm, which is also known as a “model,” is then incorporated into a digital device’s programming that can manipulate wave forms or oscillations to recreate sounds within the range of an amp or other effects device. The resulting sounds are programmed to match one or more specific wave forms that accurately reproduce the sound of an amplifier with numerous gain levels, tone stacks, equalizers and settings.

The majority of amplifier modeling devices use technology known as FFT (Fast Fourier Transform), which utilizes digital algorithms to create real-time performance simulations based on several types of signal inputs such as direct input and microphone captures. The models then compare each signal they capture with their mathematical formula to generate reproductions accurate to the original amplifiers and can even take into account such factors as:

  • Vacuum tubes
  • Speaker type
  • Cabinet size
  • Room acoustics

when producing simulations.

Amplifier Emulation

Amplifier emulation is an important part of modern audio amplifiers. It allows for the distortion, compression, and other effects of multiple amplifiers to be replicated without actually having to bring in all the amps.

The technology behind amplifier emulation is based on digital signal processing (DSP). The idea is that you take a signal, start by simulating a virtual amplifier and then tailor it according to the desired sound. By doing this, you can get a range of different tones and effects, such as crunchy distortion or deeper reverb and delay.

This is possible because of a combination of working parameters that are built into each amplifier emulator such as drive, power output level, tone shaping capabilities and more. These settings are controlled through a user friendly interface on most modelers providing access to amp sounds from different eras, styles and brands.

Various techniques are also employed for approximating recorded sound which include hardware or software-based low-pass filters or equalizers as well as scanning algorithms that attempt to identify the main characteristics of an amplifier setting from previously recorded audio samples taken from real amps. This allows for unique reactions between the lows, mids and highs within the input available for users to take advantage of when crafting their desired sound.


To sum it up, amplifier modeling is an advanced effects pedal technique that emulates the sound of various classic guitar amplifiers. By using a combination of digital signal processing algorithms and the latest hardware technology, the user can control their tone, gain structure and even change different parts of the amplifier such as preamps or tubes to get their desired sound.

If you’re looking for a way to expand your tonal options without having to invest in buying multiple amps, then amplifier modeling may be right for you. With so many options available these days, there’s no limit to what you can create!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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