One thing that's obviously taken off in the past few years is the use of software plugins to get guitar effects sounds, also amp sounds, even as far as scenarios, for example different miking techniques or different microphones. You can simulate different microphones being used on different amps or amp cabinets in different rooms, right in in the box of your computer.
The benefit of that is that you can record direct into your computer interface and get a dry signal, and since it's a plug-in it's added on as a layer after the fact, which means that you could layer guitar tracks and sounds, and decide later after it's been recorded, that you want to change the amp. That's something that in the past has been impossible. Once you record with an amp, you've recorded it. It's set in stone.
Also, the ease of use is great. You don't have to worry about miking in an amp. You don't have to worry about hooking up all of your pedals. You don't even have to worry about what room you're recording in. You can plug right into your computer or interface, and you can add all of the amps and effects that you want, after the fact or during and change them as you please. So in that way software is great.
In the past it sounded pretty digital and artificial. They've gotten a lot better with that. Where that has gotten better, has actually in my opinion not been through the software, it's been through the hardware. What interface are you plugging into? What converters are inside the interface, because your guitar signal is really only going to be as good, as the hardware that you're plugging into, it all comes down to hardware.
It's just that over the years, what they've been able to do is separate the actual effect or amp sound from the hardware, so now you might be plugging into an interface with great converters and great sample rate, and all of that with really high-quality hardware. And then the software is generating the sounds or emulating or modulating the amps sounds. It doesn't sound digital and that to me is what separates the good stuff from the cheaper stuff. Is what sounds digital and what sounds realistic.