I guess I am not the only one who started later in life and with some nostalgia as part of the drive.
Therefore, starting along with my 11 yo, I went for a solid state, beginner level-amp and a beginner guitar, a Shecter Omen 6 for us two to share till we see who wants to keep going :). Within 2 months, it became clear that the cheap Shecter has a lot of production issues that end up benefiting my son due to hand size but not me. So I switched to a Fender Player Plus Telecaster and I love it. I learned two things:
1/ The guitar must be above all comfy and 2/ a good guitar can play anything with modern tech. Meanwhile, I also put a Di Marzio Super Distortion bridge pickup in the Shecter so my son can also enjoy high-quality sounds. I play Enter Sandman with the Telecaster and Van Halen and I think it sounds great. Plus with software you can even alter the profile of your guitar anyway.
2/ The reason I am writing this post, however, is the amplification side of things. When I began I was aware of modellers as well as of the price of the newer high-end models: Not really for somebody who may not keep playing. I had also read about plugins but nostalgia and heroism took over so I first bought an Orange Crush 20 RT and then a Blackstar HT5R tube amp. I had misgivings about mono sound for a solo home player, but I could not resist the temptation of having a 12" speaker tube amp at home.
W-e-e-l-l-l. The Crush 20RT is not terrible, but it sounds 10X better via headphones. And the same is true of the Blackstar. The Blackstar makes for a good Marshall impersonation. The Orange gives a hint of, ahem, an Orange and that’s about it.
Then I bought a Boss Pocket GT. I found the Marshall simulations very disappointing. I am not an expert, sure, but you don’t make a beginner tool for experts, do you? On the positive side, I found many other things to love especially for the 100$ price tag. I loved the 5150 simulation. Regardless of how close it is to the actual thing, it is really saturated and works great for such scenarios. Logically, the Boss Pocket seems to do well the Boss pedals. It is not really a Pocket tool (the Fender Micro would be way better if you want mobility above all). But it offers a range of options all for 100$ or less. And again, stereo sound via headphones.
Next, I got a Revalver 4 plugin which by now is pretty obsolete, especially the interface. BUT boy does this thing rock! Playing with cabinets–for some reason some sound way better than others (prototype 6505 vs standard), it gives a very realistic 5150 (6505) impersonation, a far better Orange one via the Rocker 30 simulation than the Crush 20RT physical thing, and a pretty darn good to my ears JSM 900. I don’t personally need anything else. Any decent clean amp simulation would do for the rare moments I may want a truly clean sound.
Both the Revalver 4 and the Boss Pocket GT can be used with a set of studio monitors (don’t buy stuff that colors the sound). I got Presonus 5.25 BT because I also needed the BT functionality to have the speakers pull triple duty. If you don’t need BT, the Kali 6.5 has great rep as well as the JBLs. If you have to go cheaper, maybe the Mackie 5" are a good option.
So good software + good stereo studio monitors are a fantastic beginner option for home use and if you have to have a physical amp consider the Blackstar ID Core series with stereo.
Starting with software and studio monitors, down the road, you could upgrade to a Fractal or another premium hardware modeller while retaining the monitors.
All you need to start are a comfy guitar with decent pickups, good plugin and good stereo monitors. Then if you start playing with others you will know much better what amp you may want and why.
DO what you please, but know that you don’t need an amp to start at all. The idea that you should spend tons of time and learn things like Ritchie Blackmore did back in the day is all cool for teenagers with serious music aspirations, but if you are working full time and/or have kids, be real, skip the heroics, and make use of all the software available to get straight to the noise you always wanted to make. Sure, the Katanas of the world can model but it is less intuitive than clicking on that Michel ASM 900 picture that happens to look just like a Marshall JSM 900 and do you really want mono?
I am selling both the Orange and the Blackstar.