Oh man.... I could write a very long post here, but I will try to keep it under control LOL.
I started playing guitar as a 12 year old back in Sweden. My whole thing started in Rock, Blues and Metal (specifically the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and the whole 70's and 80's scene with Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads and various lineups of Thin Lizzy being big heroes. As I got older, I started digging backwards in time towards the roots of blues and rock. Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page was a gateway to Buddy Guy, Albert King, BB King, Bukka White, Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson etc.
For myself, I have to this day never found ANY of the amp simulators to be sounding quite right. In fact, I have never played a solid state amp that I liked either. For me, when it comes to electric guitar - it's all about tubes. Tubes, tubes, tubes. Or Valves as they say in England.
I was about 14 when I had saved up enough by doing paper routes, collecting recyclable bottles to get some kind of obscure amp-head (I think it was German, but cannot remember the name of it), paired with a Fender Bassman 2x12" cabinet (might have been 2x15") that had foldable kickstands on the sides. I got this setup from a neighbor at my parent's summer house. Played a cheap SG knockoff by the brand "Duke" through a fuzz-box into it LOUD to the dismay of parents and neighbors, I'm sure.
Then around the age of 16, I got a band going, and it was all about Marshall amps. My first one was a combo amp, then Marshall heads with 4x12 cabinets. In the Eddie Van Halen school of thought (overdrive the pre-amp, overdrive the power amp and overdrive the speaker cone), I didn't like the sound of Distortion pedals, so I had the heads tweaked and swapped out the tubes for ones that were easier to drive. Also got hold of a 60's Marshall speaker cab with 30-watt elements.
Then, later added a 4x12 cab with 25-watt elements. At that point, I was running a rack mount custom built tube pre (built by 2 crazy Swedes that played guitar with Glenn Hughes' band). Ran that through a Stereo tube Power Amp by the name of "Kitty Hawk" to the two 4x12 cabs, with a Rocktron Intellifex adding Chorus / Delay / Reverb to taste for a big sound. I used a Roland Pedal board that was able to switch between the different pre-sets via MIDI, and also could switch between channels on the pre-amp.
Played the (now defunct) Stockholm Water Festival's main stage with that setup, and later shipped it too L.A. once I had decided that I had moved here. Played some shows at the Roxy and The Troubadour with that setup as well. Before deciding to ship this heavy stuff all the way from Sweden, for a while I played a 50-Watt Peavy Classic Combo tweed amp, which was not bad actually - especially for its price point.
For a while, I experimented with, and got good results with connecting the tube-pre to the DAW via interface, and using Impulse Responses of various Amps and speaker cabinets. This is not to be confused with amp simulators, as the tone is actually coming from a real tube pre-amp, and the impulse responses are virtually actual speaker cabinets coloring the sound. There were hundreds of people sampling their amps and cabs and uploading/sharing the files for free for others to use. I simply loaded them into a IR Reverb plug-in, and saved them as presets; Princeton, Vox AC30, Marshall Plexi etc.
Nowadays, I don't play shows anymore, but my favorite amp for recording electric Guitar is a Vox AC4TV. This little thing is amazing. It has an input, a Volume knob, a Tone knob, and a OP Level knob. OP Level switches between 1/4 W, 1 W and 4 W.
- 4 watts is clean, 1 W gets a little bit of breakup when turned up, and 1/4 gets a nice Jimmy Page kind of breakup when cranked. It also has a speaker output, and when hooked up to the 4x12 Marshall cab with 30W elements it sounds amazing. Oh yeah, this little thing gets waaay louder than one would expect from a 4-watt amp. By a lot.