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RE: direct to board

For electric guitar, I use a BBE 2+1 preamp.  Not as good as a
SansAmp, but not bad.  It also has nice analog footswitching and a
generally clean, quiet sound.  But these days, I hardly touch
electric guitar anyway.  For acoustic, I have a Fishman Blender, which
does preamp and mixer duties for my two-pickup system (piezo and
internal mic).  I'm not happy with the Blender... it generates lots of
hiss.  But it also has separate EQ and effects loops, phase switch,
and other useful features, so I use it anyway.  Maybe one of these
days I'll build a nice tube preamp for acoustic use.

I think very highly of the SansAmp.  It doesn't sound *quite* as good
as a nice Marshall, Boogie, or other top-quality amp turned way up,
but it's very close (close enough to be better than most amps, imho).

The beauty of the SansAmp and other good emulators is recording.
Unless you have a really good studio, and good microphones, you
probably won't be able to beat the sound of a SansAmp by the time it
gets to tape.  Plus there's no complex setup time and tweaking to deal
with.  And unlike microphones, SansAmps don't pick up the sound of
passing airplanes and other environmental noise.  But best of all,
there's no worry that your neighbors will call the cops or your wife
will file for divorce because you have a Marshall stack in the
bathtub!  :}

Another thing I really like about emulators which is highly applicable
to people on this list, is effects handling.  With most guitar amps,
you're running your effects through a mono effects loop, then
distorted output tubes, and finally into an awful speaker that dies
above 5khz.  Yes, the speaker is essential for that pure electric
guitar tone, but it absolutely sucks for reproducing your ethereal
panned cloud chamber phased chorus loops from your Vortex!  That's why
I don't use guitar amps at all anymore.  The emulator gets a pretty
decent simulation of an overdriven amp tone, without all the problems
of actually having an overdriven amp in the room.  Then I can run it
into my stereo effects and tweak the sound to my heart's delight, then
take the processed loops straight into a tape recorder or hi-fi stereo
monitoring system.  


By "beauty," I mean that which seems complete.
Obversely, that the incomplete, or the mutilated, is the ugly. 
Venus De Milo.
To a child she is ugly.       /* dstagner@icarus.net */
   -Charles Fort