Before you reach for the amp sims and PODS and all other sorts of similar gear, I will ask you to lend me your ears and take some time to think about the following thoughts.
When you walk into a professional facility, one of the things you will probably notice is a myriad of incredible gear. This fact goes unchanged when noticing their musical gear. Studios often have stacks of vintage amps, incredible guitars and basses, pianos and organs of all varieties, drumsets and snares collected over the years, and pedals strewn about. Why? Why is this stuff so important? I will tell you why. It ALL starts with the source.
As musicians get better, they usually (not always) but usually strive for better and better tone--especially the more they learn about the recording world. And yes, there is such a thing as "good tone." We're not just random particles floating in a microcosm where nothing exists and everything is just a subjective matter--if that's what you believe, then please continue--but what I sardonically allude to is this: in every genre there is good tone. Metal, folk, orchestral, rock, indie, pop, there is all "good tone." Tone that is pleasing to the ears, pleasing to audiophiles and consumers alike. Tone that is a staple. A Signature. A voice! You want your voice to sound good.
So that's where this stuff starts to come in. The guitars. The pedals. The amps and cabs and speakers. That stuff happens ALL before it hits the mic and preamp and converter. So before you start jumping over the digital bandwagon and getting amazing recording gear, take a look at your setup. Don't lie to yourself. Look at what you have and really do your homework. In professional situations, here are some common examples:
Drums - (Vintage) Slingerland, Ludwig, Rogers, Pearl (New) Custom drums, DW, Pearl, some others.
Guitars - American Made Fenders, Gibsons, PRS, custom guitars
Basses - American made Fenders, Laklands, Warwick, custom basses
Pianos - Steinway D, Yamaha C7, Fender Rhodes, etc.
Amps - Vintage Marshall and Fender, Vintage Silvertone, Danelectro, Reeves, etc. new Orange, Top Hat, Hiwatt, Matchless, Bad Cat, boutique brands
Pedals - Lovepedal, Xotic, Robert Keeley, Boss, ZVex
Why bother mentioning these? The point is to show you that most of the commonly used amps and instruments are all very good. Expensive, yes. Worth it? Of course! People make all sorts of excuses these days in home or project studio situations. "I can't be loud," or "I don't need to spend that much, I don't play live," blah blah blah. They say their guitar tone or drum tone suffers, yet they say they use XX instrument or XX amp and it's completely sub-par, and they lack the knowledge and fail to do research enough to realize that people just don't use that.
Often a factor that leads guitarists to get better tone is to look at what their favorite guitarists are using in professional bands. This will help them see what the pros use!
Think about tone. More soon.