1.) They've gotten much better, but they're not quite 100% there yet. Ironically, the Mesa patches on the J-Station I used to own are still the most natural sounding and feeling I've heard.
I think it mainly depends on what brand you use.
Zoom has always had a very natural feel to it that I really like. The notes really jump off the guitar when you play.
Line6 also has quite a nice feel.
Boss is completely different, I don't like their modeling. The guitar doesn't seem to respond the way I want it.
2.) the focus of modeling technology seems to be on recreating existing tones. That's all well and good, but I think modeling will really become more than just a bedroom recording technology the day they start using it to create sounds that physically would not be possible from tubes. I'm sure it's possible, but no one's really trying to do anything more with the technology than build the best Marshall clone they can.
I know at least Line6 and Zoom are doing exactly this. Sure, the focus is still on existing amp models, but both brands have quite a collection of sounds that don't model an actual amp, but rather are 'fantasy' amps.
Line6 has the insane distortion for example, with well, insane amounts of distortion
Or the Spinal Puppet, which is pretty much a Marshall that is 'virtually' hotrodded to well, caricature-like characteristics.
And Zoom offers a weird new digital fuzz model... their Z-Stack, and their ExtremeDistortion. They also have some extremely clean and shimmering amp, and perhaps more, which I forgot.
I really liked the ExtremeDistortion, because it gives you an articulate shred-sound with low noise, which is so incredibly tight and focused... I don't think any tube amp can do that.
Here's an example of a song I recorded with that particular distortion: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page...songID=4074338
And that's with the gain set at a mild setting of about 60%
It's also really effective for palmmuted arpeggio's. I used that in the rhythm playing here: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page...songID=5038245
Funny enough even my old Zoom 8080 had a similarly 'focused' hi-gain sound: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page...songID=3106793
That one uses an analog transistor circuit instead of digital modeling though... And that has the gain running flatout.
3.) The biggie... Every single bad cover band with a Vetta II and three different singers, and a patch on the amp for each cover they do and a vocalist chosen to sound as much like the original as possible. The result isn't a band - it's a human jukebox. I HATE that. Sometimes, less options forces you to try to sound like yourself in ways that unlimited options wouldn't.
I totally agree there. I suppose because I grew up with multifx that did have patches, but didn't yet have accurate models of actual guitar amps, I grew into the idea of making my own patches the way I wanted them. I still approach modelers the same way. I try to make my own sounds, not trying to sound as close to an actual artist as possible. But perhaps that's because I'm already quite an experienced guitarist who has already found his own sound before modeling.