Re-amping is great but has problems both “technical” and “mental”. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot and now I can draw it up clear enough.
The purest signal path is a cable from your guitar to an amp as good and as short as it possible. So any other solution degrades and alternates the signal. The question is only “how much”. But we are lucky. Modern gear can be clean, neutral and not so expensive. I know guys who have had a bad experience with the subject using cheap “home studio” equipment. It was predictable because of its quality, and I am not sure they did it the right way either. I’ve run lots of blind tests in my studio using professional gear (Radial JDV, JDI, JX44, JCR; custom-made discrete preamps, different professional converters) so I can say it works fine.
Noise is the absolute evil and you cannot avoid it replacing the cable with a significant quantity of gear. The minimum is DI unit, ADC, DAC (some companies can package everything in one box but it doesn’t change the chain). Every piece adds self-noise and distortion, so re-amped guitars are always noisier than recorded directly. However, if you use good equipment, additional noise won’t be sufficient. Thus, the difference in the noise level is often indistinguishable in blind tests from the direct recording except high-gain.
You’ll get the ultimate digital buffer when you re-amp your signal, so the impedance of your amp won’t virtually affect your sound. Losing “pickups-amp” connection could be a big deal in certain situations. Imagine you always have a buffer pedal after your guitar. Sound alterations may be significant, for good or for worse. Some “dark” amps may become brighter than desirable.
3. Level matching
I have a guitar which is hot as Hell and easily cranks every amp. But my two re-amp units, Radial JCR and JX44, both can’t reproduce the same insane level of the signal for re-amping. The possibility of compensation for it with the gain knob depends on the amp schematic but it is rare to get the matched sound. So the hottest guitars will lose their heat except you have a custom re-amp box which doesn’t attenuate the line signal so much. But you’ll be able to make soft guitars hotter.
Even the cleanest equipment has its “color”. I’ve used a few mastering-grade DACs, and they didn’t sound the same, even replacing the output driver in the same device noticeably changes the sound. Some alterations are inevitable. However, they are not so drastic.
Our ultimate buffer loses more signal than a short piece of a good cable, it is not the ultimate chain for purists. How much? A long or poor quality cable loses more.
Correct monitoring with the natural response is critical. It is especially important for low and mid-gain sounds because every amp cranks differently. A guitarist has to control it with his hands which impossible to achieve with re-amping. Some people prefer to play in the same room with cabinets, despite their loudness.
7. Not the purest approach
Purists can’t sleep if they haven’t completed the task the best way possible.
What is critical for you? It is your decision, but I’ll try to make a better sense according to my experience in the next post.