Last Updated on December 15, 2020.
There are literally hundreds of guitar amp simulators out there, which obviously means that making a choice can be quite difficult.
In this post I will list 10 of the best Guitar amp simulators that sound amazing, both free and paid.
Just one quick tip before we get into the list…
Try the Demo/Free Trial first
Most of the amp sims on this list actually offer free trials, where you get full access to the software for a couple days, or a demo version with some limitations (two or three seconds of noise in most cases).
Even though I’m going to give you my recommendation at the end of the post, I think that you shouldn’t just go ahead and buy before you try them out; test every plugin and see which one fits your needs.
Let’s get into the list!
Best Guitar Amp Simulators for Metal
In this section I will be listing the best paid plugins.
If you’re interested in checking out the free guitar amp sim section, then click this link.
1. Archetype Plini by Neural DSP
Plini teamed up with Neural DPS to work together on an amp sim that sounds absolutely amazing!
Archetype features three different amps: A Clean-, Crunchy-, and Lead one… and they all sound fantastic!
A compressor and booster/overdrive pedal are included to provide additional flexibility and adaptability to different styles and instruments, as well as a 9-band EQ, and some Reverb and Delay effects.
Lastly, it includes a cab sim.
And that’s really it…
It’s a super simple amp simulation plugin that comes with a very clean and clear interface, making everything super intuitive… and the sound is just absurdly good!
Not only that but you can try it for free, since they offer a free 14-day trial.
Note: Neural DSP created a lot of other amp sims that you should also check out.
Now, I know that you could get something like Amplitube 4, Guitar Rig Pro 5, BIAS FX, etc. for the same price, or even less…
While those might offer more amps, cabinets, effects, and more features in general, Archetype Plini is designed to just do a handful of things the right way.
So, this is up to you; if you want one amp sim that doesn’t offer huge versatility but sounds phenomenal, get on the Archetype Plini free trial and see what you think.
Otherwise, keep on reading!
Find out more about Archetype Plini here.
2. BIAS FX II ($54 – $164)
Even though BIAS FX II isn’t strictly a metal amp simulation software since it comes with dozens of different amps that range from clean all the way to high gain, it definitely has a lot to offer in the metal department.
What I like about this software is that first of all, it sounds good right out of the box, which isn’t the case with other amp sims such as Guitar Rig.
Second, it’s quite easy to use since you can simply select the amp, the cabinet, the speakers inside the cabinet, and then add effects to the chain.
Additionally, BIAS FX lets you choose the microphones you want to use as well as the position of the mics in front of the speakers.
Lastly, one cool feature about this amp sim is that it lets you split the signal into two different amps and add effects to those two signal paths separately and then blend them together again.
All of this makes BIAS FX II very flexible and gives you a lot of control over the tone itself.
The one complaint I have is that the interface is a bit “laggy”, or “clunky” for lack of a better word; it doesn’t run as smooth as all the other amp sims I tried.
Also, it’s quite CPU intensive.
Now, not only does BIAS FX sound great, but it’s also a very affordable plugin since you can get the standard version for $54, and upgrading is quite easy as well.
However, you can download the demo version which will make a high-pitched sound every 5 minutes, but you can use it for free without any time restrictions.
Find out more about BIAS FX II here.
3. BIAS AMP II ($54 – $164)
BIAS Amp II has been my go-to amp sim for clean tones lately, simply because it sounds absolutely amazing and you get full control over each single component inside of the amp which really lets you customize the sound in-depth.
As far as metal goes, yes, it does sound fantastic as well.
The issue is that you don’t get any effects with it, which definitely isn’t ideal for metal.
Of course, you could add those effects later in the DAW, but there’s a huge difference when recording with and without effects.
Now, the good news is that both BIAS Amp II and BIAS FX II are designed to work together; You can customize an amp in BIAS Amp and then use it with BIAS FX to get the best out of both plugins.
The only con to this is that you would need to purchase a copy of each of software, and this will cost twice as much.
Still, both combined are much more affordable than Amplitube 4 or Guitar Rig 5 Pro.
Now, remember how I mentioned that the interface in BIAS FX was a bit slow/clunky? Well, this isn’t the case with BIAS Amp; Everything works smoothly and the software itself is much less CPU intensive.
Find out more about BIAS Amp II here.
4. Toneforge by JST
Toneforge by Joey Sturgis Tones is a line of amp simulators that are mainly focused on metal and other high-gain tones.
All of the amps are original designs which, contrary to most other amp simulators out there, means that they aren’t emulating any of the classic amplifiers out there.
The sound quality is outstanding and the tones you can get out of them are also excellent!
Some of its signature amps are by Jason Richardson, Misha Mansoor, and more, and their prices range from $59 up to $129.
The only downside is that there doesn’t seem to be any demo/free trial version of any of the amps for you to try out.
Still, these amps are definitely worth getting if you’re into metal, djent, or any other heavy rock-type music.
Find out more about Toneforge here.
5. Amplitube 4 (From $149)
I always liked Amplitube, especially their high-gain amps, although the clean ones also sound damn impressive.
It’s designed to suit all needs, which means that you will get a couple different amps and cabinets, loads of effects, different speaker models, etc. when you purchase the standard version.
If you need different amps, effects, etc. you can always purchase more on their Custom Shop, just know that it can get pricy.
Basically, it’s a jack of all trades type of software, but without too many downsides.
The feature that sets Amplitube 4 apart from all the other amp sims is the “Cab Room”.
The Cab Room lets you customize every aspect of how the cabinet sounds; from 3D mic placement and choosing the microphone types, to being able to swap each individual speaker inside of the cabinet, as well as selecting the room the cabinet is recorded in, and much more.
I honestly love Amplitube, but the price tag is definitely a big issue in my opinion, especially when you can get BIAS FX for a third of the price, and they are quite similar both in quality and overall number of features they come with.
Find out more about Amplitube 4 here.
Best Free Guitar Amp Simulators for Metal
All of these amp sims are 100% free to use with no restrictions whatsoever.
If you want to read more about free guitar VSTs, then check this post I wrote.
6. Amped Roots Free
Amped Roots Free is the absolute best free amp simulation software for metal I have ever tried… download it and you will see why.
It’s the only amp sim I have ever played through that sounds perfect right out of the box, even with all the knobs at 12 o’clock.
It also comes with a couple presets that again, sound great, and in many cases I would even recommend this one over any paid plugin.
So, make sure to give it a try and also check out all the other amps that Amped Roots have to offer.
Find out more about Amped Roots Free here.
7. LePou Amp Pack
These amp sims have been around for a while now and they have often been praised as being the best free high-gain alternatives out there.
While I don’t think that they sound as good as Amped Roots Free, they actually are fantastic.
Now, these amps don’t come with a built-in impulse-response/cabinet, so you could either download the LeCab2, which is also by LePou but only works on 32-bit, or you could try out NadIR by Ignite Amps.
A couple of the amps you get are;
- LeCto which is based on a Mesa Boogie’s dual rectifier.
- Le456 based on Engl Powerball
- LeGion, which is not based on any amp. It’s an Original of LePou.
There are definitely more of them , so give them a try and see if they fit your needs!
Download the LePou Amps here.
8. Emissary by Ignite Amps
The Emissary features a clean channel, which sounds pretty damn good, and a High-Gain channel, which is one of the best sounding heavy amps I’ve tried so far.
Now, you only get the amp when you download the Emissary and it doesn’t feature a built-in cabinet, so you will need to get NadIR, a cabinet simulator, just like with the LePou amps.
The NadIR Impulse Response loader lets you choose from a variety of mics and blend them together, which gives you a lot of control over the tone.
The Emissary is quite similar to the Amped Roots Free amp in the sense that it sounds astonishingly good, especially considering that it’s free.
You will need to play around with the settings a bit more than with the Amped Roots amp in order to get a great tone, but it’s definitely worth getting.
You can download the Emissary here.
9. Amplifikation Lite by Kuassa
I’ve always been a fan of Kuassa, especially since I was able to try out their Matchlock plugin.
Even though most of their plugins are premium, they released the Amplifikation Lite amp simulator that you can use completely for free without any restrictions.
It features three channels; Clean, Overdrive and Lead.
All three of them sound quite good, especially the Overdrive and Lead ones, and it’s definitely a great amp to use for heavy rhythm playing.
I didn’t like the sound of it on lead guitar that much, but that’s just my taste.
This one does come with a built-in cabinet simulation that you can turn off if you have another one that you prefer using.
Lastly, it’s lightweight and not very CPU intensive, which means that you can have many instances of the software running at the same time without getting any annoying clicks or pops.
You can download Amplifikation Lite here.
10. NRR-1 by Ignite Amps
If one amp (the Emissary) wasn’t enough, Ignite Amps came out with another freebie; the NRR-1.
This amp consists of three channels: Clean, Rhythm and Lead.
The lead channel is great for metal, both for rhythm and lead parts, while the rhythm channel doesn’t have enough gain for metal, at least in my opinion.
However, you could put an overdrive like the TS 808 in front of the amp to drive it harder, which will get you excellent results.
The three channels come with the traditional Treble, Mid and Bass controls, and the lead channel also features a presence control.
Overall, the NRR-1 is another great freeware plugin to have; it sounds great, it’s lightweight, and it’s free.
Note: Just like the Emissary, you will need to also download NadIR to act as a cabinet, otherwise it will sound terrible on its own.
Download the NRR-1 here.
My top recommendations
Definitely try out Amped Roots Free; it’s a fantastic guitar VST for metal.
Another excellent free alternative is the Emissary by Ignite Amps; just remember to get the NadIR cabinet simulation with it.
Now, as far as the paid plugins go, I have two recommendations; Archetype Plini and BIAS FX II, and here are the reasons why:
Archetype Plini sounds phenomenal and is probably the best sounding amp simulator out there for heavier tones; just remember that it isn’t as versatile as some of the other ones I listed and it does sell for $129.
BIAS FX II not only sounds great, but it’s extremely affordable; at $54 for the standard edition that already comes with over twice the number of features that Amplitube 4 has, I think it’s quite the deal.
Remember to try all the free plugins, especially the Emissary and Amped Roots Free.
Other than that, I hope you have fun recording and producing music with these guitar amp sims.
Have a nice day!