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, with several good free amp sim options listed at the end!
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 one of these clever guitar amp simulators 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!
Note: This article may contain affiliate links, meaning I would receive a commission - at no cost to you - for any products you purchase.
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! At the end of the day they may be slightly less expressive than real amps, but the flexibility and value of a virtual amp makes up for the limited sound quality differences.
Bias Amp Pro 2
The Bias Amp Pro 2 from Positive Grid is a versatile, effective and downright awesome software for most guitar players. 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. Often it sounds just like the real thing, and the interface makes it effortless to dial in the perfect tone.
If you want the same great tone and quality, but are looking for a more streamlined system, you may want to consider Positive Grids other great offering, Bias FX.
And if you're looking for something super flexible to use in the real world at live gig, your best choice may be the Positive Grid Bias Amp, which features most of the flexibility of Positive Grid is known for, in a road-ready amp.
Pros of Bias Amp 2
- Endless tweaking
- Great guitar tone
- Beautiful Interface
- Good value
- Great presets
Cons of Bias Amp 2
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, and have created one of the best amp sims out there.
Now, with the Amp Room plugin, you can access the most legendary guitar amplifiers in the world to create the highest quality guitar and bass sounds in a super-intuitive user interface.
Amp Room is incredibly flexible, creative, and affordable - oh and it sounds great too! But it has one big downside... it comes in 4 versions. Standing by themselves, they are an affordable entry way into the world of virtual guitar amps. But if you were to buy them all you'd be out a pretty penny.
Amp Room Vintage Suite
Amp Room Vintage Suite is ideal for productions that require eternal guitar tones. The included vintage hardware sims deliver everything needed for pop or rock productions with vibes from clean vintage sounds to modern tones. Vintage Suite comes with four legendary guitar amplifiers from the US and the UK.
- An Amp Room suite for timeless guitar tones that can take your production from retro to modern
- Includes the Amp Room platform, four classic amps, five matched cabs, 11 stompboxes, 13 effects and utilities, microphone options, presets, and more
- Featuring cabinet Impulse Responses captures with moveable microphones, plus a parametric equalizer for added tone shaping
Amp Room Marshall Suite
If you’re a producer, consider yourself the master of puppets with so much gear at your fingertips. It's been my go-to amp simulator for several years, and is an excellent choice for just about any producer. I will note that Amp Room Marshal Suite is a little more focused on hard rock and blues, with a slew of Marshall speaker cabinets that sound amazing placed after Marshall's classic drive tube amps.
This version of 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, meaning you can open Amp Room in your favorite digital audio workstation and start shredding!
It also includes emulations of legendary pedals like the Tube Screamer and Rat.
Amp Room Metal Suite
Calling all metalheads! Amp Room Metal Suite is the best option for epic heavy metal. Key pieces of kit include the Vildsint 50W 6L6, the Higain 100W 6L6, the American Mainstayer 100W, and the Marshall JCM800 Lead Series amps, with pedals, cabinets, and effects to round out this robust and raucous collection.
- An Amp Room suite stacked with cabs, pedals, effects, and ampswith names like Marshall, Vildsint, Higain & American Mainstayer
- Includes the Amp Room platform, four amp heads, seven cabs, ten stompboxes, 13 effects and utilities, microphone options, presets, and more
- Featuring cabinet IR captures with moveable microphones, plus a parametric equalizer for added tone shaping
One of the best things about every version of Amp Room is that it lets you endlessly tweak your signal chain, creating parallel paths for super fat tones. 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
Cons of Amp Room
- Base package includes fewer options than most other amp plugins
- The built-in effects pedals are mediocre
If you’re like most guitarists, you’re looking for a guitar amp VST with the most hyper realistic tone and flexibility from your virtual guitar amps. That's where IK Multimedia Amplitube comes in.
AmpliTube 5 gives you exactly that - and more. With over of 176 pieces of gear, AmpliTube 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 37 amp models, 47 stompbox models, 27 cabinets, 36 racks, 11 microphones, 8 rooms, and 13 speaker models. You now get the ability to create your custom signal chain, custom impulse responses and a powerful builtin mixer.
In other words, endless possibilities to combine different amps, cabinets, rooms and different effects to create the unique sound you crave.
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
- Acoustic Simulator
- Own DAW
Cons of Amplitube 4
- More expensive than some options
Guitar Rig 7
Guitar Rig 7 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 Guitar Rig 6 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 7.
Guitar Rig 7 Pro goes beyond guitars and basses, offering inspiration to all producers and sound designers with new effects, now excelling at lo-fi clean tones. It now includes:
- Noise Machine is a lo-fi effect that creates various noises inspired by classic gear like cassette tapes, VHS tapes, electrical hum, and vinyl. Each noise is derived from a short recording, and the playback algorithm seamlessly extends it without sounding looped.
- Vintage Vibrato recreates the chorus/vibrato sections of a vintage rock organ: a rare and sought after circuit.
- Tape Wobble emulates the “warbling” effect from improperly adjusted analog tape machines, providing an easy way for the user to achieve a classic lo-fi effect: especially on sustained notes, pads, and melodic content.
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 it to the next level. This plugin is a must check out for anyone looking for a high quality guitar amp VST.
While the flexibility of Guitar Rig is unparalleled, the ease of use of this plugin is slightly worse than with the others.
Pros of Guitar Rig
- Optionally 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
- Not as much customization
- Not as nuanced as some simulations
Best Low-Latency Guitar Amp Sims
Universal Audio makes a slew of phenomenal-sounding guitar amp sims that feature nearly instantaneous, low-latency monitoring.
But they have one big drawback, which is that they require a UAD audio interface to run. Thankfully, the audio interfaces come with lots of classic plugins, including a tasty model of a classic Marshall Plexi.
Once you have a UAD Audio Interface, you can choose from great emulations of amps by:
- Marshall amps
- A '55 Fender Tweed Deluxe
- And more
Playing through these emulations with zero latency is really an amazing feeling, and is how I track a good chunk of my recordings. The downside, aside from the required hardware, is that it really lacks a lot of the flexibility of VSTs like Amp Room when it comes to building out a signal chain, switching cabinets, mics, rooms and more.
Best Free Guitar Amp VST
If you're looking for a free version of a good guitar amp simulator, there are a few solid choices available.
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.
Nick Crow Lab 8505 Lead
The Nick Crow Lab 8505 is an incredible free guitar amp VST for metal and other heavy sounds. The only major downside to this amp simulator is that it is Windows only!
Other Alternatives for Guitar Amp Plugins
One of the great things about computer music these days is that many 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.
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.
You could also try out amp simulation pedals, which have improved dramatically since the red Pods of the 90s! Basically, they are just computers in a rugged shell with even more control options.
Some of the best guitar amp pedals include:
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!
From a Frustrated Producer in a Ragtag Bedroom Studio to Major Placements on TV Earning $1,000s!
My name is Evan, and I've been making music since around 3rd grade. I'm from San Diego, California, but I've lived in Washington, DC for the last 20 years.
While I still have a full-time day job, I have created systems that have allowed me to produce dozens of songs a year in my spare time.
My songs have been on Netflix, TV shows like the 90 Day Fiance, an award-winning indie film, and NPR’s “All Thing Considered.” They've also been streamed millions of times.
In addition to being a music producer, I am passionate about teaching people how they can make professional-sounding music and earn money licensing it, all in their spare time.
Thousands of musicians, like yourself, have trusted me to guide their musical journey. My YouTube videos have been watched nearly a million times. And my story has been in Forbes, Side Hustle Nation, and the Side Hustle School.