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Best Guitar Amp VSTs & Amp Simulator Plugins

reviews Jul 22, 2020

Looking to have your guitar gently weep like a pro from the comfort of your home studio? Then it's time to embrace the full range of modern technology available.  This article is a review of the best guitar amp VSTs & amp simulator plugins, so you can quickly get up and recording, no matter your budget!

There's no denying that a guitar amp VST is a handy tool for any musician or sound engineer. The technology is efficient, cost-effective and most importantly, sounds amazing. You may not have the means or desire to buy a full vintage Marshall tube amp stack, but you can buy a clever piece of technology that gives you that signature tone for a fraction of the cost without the headaches of storing and lugging heavy equipment. And your neighbors will thank you!

In this article, we will explore the best guitar amp VST on the market today.

Best Value All-in-One Guitar Amp VST Packs

These guitar amp simulator packs offer home studio guitarists a great deal. They include multiple different guitar amplifier heads, cabinets, effects pedals, microphone choices, and more. While some specialized guitar amp VSTs may sound even better for a specific choice, there's no denying that taking a Swiss army knife style approach to your tone will be the best value. 

Just imagine quickly being able to dial in the sound of a Fender twin for your rhythm guitar while running your solos through a cranked Marshall half stack. The sonic possibilities of these amp simulator packs are endless!

Note: This article may contain affiliate links, meaning I would receive a commission - at no cost to you - for any products you purchase.

Bias Amp Pro 2

The Bias Amp Pro 2 from Positive Grid is a versatile, effective and downright awesome software for any musician. Positive Grid has collaborated with world class engineers and session musicians to create both amp-matched models and custom guitar rigs made in the world’s top studios to bundle into this tidy software.

This is the company’s flagship product and for good reason; it offers incredibly accurate tube amp modeling, a wide range of custom options and one of the most dynamic tone engines on the market. You have the ability to download thousands of amp models from their specialized ToneCloud and tweak them all to your liking.

You can even get the tone of your favorite artists with their signature Featured Artists Amp Match presets!

Lastly, you can mix and match microphone and cabinet settings including the positioning and tone. Overall, the Bias Amp Pro 2 is an unbelievable product which should be included in any serious musician’s wishlist.

Pros of Bias Amp 2

  • Endless tweaking
  • Great tone
  • Beautiful Interface
  • Good value
  • Great presets
  • Expandable

Cons of Bias Amp 2

  • None

Amp Room by Softube

Amplify your guitar or bass to absolute perfection with Amp Room by Softube. Softube has a reputation for modeling vintage analog gear with painstaking detail and accuracy.

Now, with the Amp Room plugin, you can access the best equipment in the world to create the highest quality guitar and bass sounds.

If you’re a producer, consider yourself the master of puppets with so much gear at your fingertips.

Amp Room is THE solution if you’re a guitarist that loves Marshall amps. Softube has a long-standing partnership with Marshall, and has access to all of the best Marshall pieces which have been recorded with every beautiful nuance that encompasses the legendary Marshall sound.

The plugin comes fully equipped with amps, cabinets, mics, FX and the rest. Overall, this is a fantastic solution for any passionate guitar player who wants to take their recordings to the next level without having to buy a full Marshall (or many other companies) stack.

Pros of Amp Room

  • Great sound
  • Great price
  • Expandable

Cons of Amp Room

  • Base package includes fewer options than most other amp plugins

AmpliTube 4 Deluxe

If you’re like most guitarists, you’re looking for a guitar amp VST with the most hyper realistic tone and flexibility.

AmpliTube 4 Deluxe gives you exactly that - and more. With a whopping total of 140 pieces of gear, AmpliTube 4 Deluxe will take your recordings to the next level. It comes fully equipped with amps, cabinets, rack effects, stompboxes and much more.

For instance, there are 25 amp models, 33 stompbox models, 29 cabinets and 29 vintage/modern speaker models.

Even cooler, the acoustic simulator stompbox can give your electric guitar an acoustic sound while you explore endless variability with chorus, flanger, overdrive and wah pedal stompboxes.

And if this isn’t enough for your greedy little frets, you can browse IK Multimedia’s custom shop where you can purchase additional tools for your arsenal.

Pros of Amplitube 4

  • Tons of included options
  • Upgradable
  • Acoustic Simulator 
  • Own DAW

Cons of Amplitube 4

  • More expensive than some options

Guitar Rig 5

Guitar Rig 5 by Native Instruments is truly one of the best guitar amp VST on the market. It tends to be one of my go-to amp simulators, because I find it so easy to quickly dial in the exact sound I'm looking for. And it comes included with Komplete, which is an insane bundle full of value!

You can create the perfect custom tone by selecting from one of 17 amps, 54 effects and 27 cabinets. Whether you are a guitarist, bassist or sound engineer, you will achieve the height of your potential by the customization options available to you with Guitar Rig 5.

The reviews for this plugin are outstanding all across the internet. The cherry on top is that Native Instruments partnered with Redwirez for this plugin to have cabinet impulses which take the GT5 to the next level. This plugin is a must check out for anyone looking for a high quality guitar amp VST.

Pros of Guitar Rig 5

  • Available as part of Komplete, for an insane value of sound and synthesis
  • Lots of variety
  • Really easy to use
  • Low computer load

Cons of Guitar Rig 5

  • Not as much customization
  • Not as nuanced as some simulations

Best Free Guitar Amp VST

AmpliTube 4 Free

If you’re new to the world of plugins and you don’t know where to start, the free Amplitude 4 plugin is perfect for you! No need to waste your money on high quality plugins if you don’t have an idea of which tones, stacks and models are important to you.

This free plugin comes with 24 pieces of gear completely free, and it’s a very simple interface to use. You will receive a fully functional standalone app with an embedded two-track recorder plus the plugin version for your DAW (both Mac and Windows are covered).

You also have access to AmpliTube’s Custom Shop where you can purchase specific models and even test drive them for a few days before buying them. It's a really affordable way to ultimately build an entire custom suite for an extremely low cost, bit by bit. This is a fantastic solution for both beginners and experts who are trying to get the most bang for their buck.

Other Alternatives for free Guitar Amp Plugins

Some DAWs include great guitar amp plugins. Even free software such as GarageBand comes with a slew of different guitar amp plugins, thought they aren’t quite the caliber of the plugins mentioned in this article. Still, they are decent enough to get a good sound or at the very least get experience with so you know what to look for when buying a high quality guitar amp plugin.

Some guitar VSTs include amps or are already amped. Many VSTs have a wide range of amps to choose from like Marshalls, Fenders, Oranges, etc. Even the default tone might be through the VST’s signature amp.

If you've got an amp and a mic sitting around home, you can also try mic’ing your own amp. To get one of the most classic sounds in music, all you need is the very affordable SM57.

Many of the guitar amp VSTs come with buy up options if you want to get a different tone that isn’t included in the embedded catalogue. Why not try to use your existing rig? You already know the ins and outs of your current amp so why not give it a shot? That said, mic'ing guitar amps can be quite challenging, because of the reflections the amp makes in your room.

While these plugins are extremely accurate nowadays, there’s nothing quite like mic’ing up your own rig to create your own custom tone.

Conclusion

Whether you're just getting started with recording guitar or you're looking expand your tool kit, I think these all-in-one amp VST packages are the ideal place to start. They provide a ton of value - and you can even run soft synths through them or use the effects pedals on vocals and other instruments! My top two recommendations are Bias 2 and Amp Room. They both have great sounding components, and are expandable to grow with your creativity! Plus they are really good values!

FAQ & Tips

Why Get a Guitar Amp Simulator?

Most of you know that a guitar amp simulator (amp sim) is a plugin that emulates a certain guitar amp. The benefits of using an amp sim are endless for sound engineers and musicians. This tool allows you to recreate the sound of thousands of types of amps without the need to physically have one. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a classic Marshall amp when you can spend a few hundred and get a very close emulation of its signature sound? Amp sims are cheaper, don’t take up any space, don’t require maintenance and offer you extreme flexibility in the types of sounds you can create.

Get Your Guitar Settings Right Before Hitting Record

The best amp simulator in the world is worthless if your guitar is out of tune. For the better results, when recording guitar be sure to use fresh strings that are in tune! Be sure to dial in your sound on your guitar first - select the best pick up and tone choices for the song!

Be sure to Use Real Guitar Pedals First

Guitar amp VST is amazing, no doubt. However, don’t feel like you absolutely need one to get a high quality studio sound. Why not try to use a real guitar pedal? You can simply use your existing guitar pedal to record an amazing guitar sound into your audio interface (here's my list of the best audio interfaces). The biggest advantage here is that you’re probably already very familiar and comfortable with using your guitar pedal. Therefore, you don’t need to learn a new piece of technology which can save you a lot of time. Plus, this helps you create your own signature sound - a combination of plugins and real hardware!

Using a DI or HI-Z Input

For those who are unfamiliar, ‘DI’ stands for Direct Inject. The ‘Z’ in HI-Z is an abbreviation for impedance which is the amount of resistance (measured in ohms) of a device or circuit to an AC. Therefore, HI-Z ultimately stands for hi-impedance which refers to the input or output impedance of a device. Guitars and guitar pickups have a natural impedance mismatch with some sensitive studio electronics. The purpose of DI and HI-Z is to take an unbalanced impedance signal and make it balanced. This will allow you to hook up your guitar directly to the mic preamp or send the signal over extended cables without losing its volume and tone.

Practice Makes Perfect!

Be sure to consistently practice your guitar. And be sure to avoid these common practice mistakes!

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