17 Best FREE Guitar VST/AU Plugins that actually sound Great!

Last Updated on September 3, 2020 by Facundo

We all want the best sound, but getting a great guitar, amp, pedals and so on is quite expensive, so why break the bank when you can get some Virtual Instruments that will do the job.

Of course, they will not sound EXACTLY like the real thing, but close enough!

There are many Guitar VST Plugins, most of them are not free and cost up to $200 (some of them are actually worth the money),  but luckily there are some FREE options out there that are quite impressive as well.

The Best FREE Guitar VST Plugins are;

  1. Ample Guitar M Lite
  2. Amplitube 4 Custom Shop
  3. Guitar Rig 5 Player
  4. Amplifikation Lite
  5. Poulin Amp Pack
  6. Emissary by Ignite Amps
  7. TSE 50x v2
  8. Amplion
  9. Ignite Amps NRR-1
  10. Blue Cat
  11. Mercuriall Tube Amp Ultra 530
  12. Amped Roots Free
  13. The Nick Crow Plugins
  14. TSE 808 (Tube Screamer)
  15. Ace Vintage Tube
  16. FREEAMP 3.6
  17. Simulanalog Guitar Suite (only 32 bit, not supported in 64 bit)

I also want to add 3 plugins to the list which are not free, but which are really good, should you choose to invest some money into them.

  1. Guitar Rig 5 ($199)
  2. Amplitube ($149.99)
  3. BIAS FX ( Standard $99 and Pro $199)

Ample Guitar M Lite II

This little plugin surprised me quite a bit, mainly because it’s an acoustic guitar emulator.

These don’t usually sound all that great.

Most of the times they don’t even come close to the sound of an actual acoustic guitar.

But this is not the case with Ample Guitar M Lite.

It sounds absolutely fantastic, while also giving you the option to add some effects. You can even double the guitar with the simple press of a button, which will add width and body to the sound.

I think that everyone should download it. Electric guitar plugins are extremely common, but not acoustic ones and like I said, they tend to sound terrible.

Check it out here: Ample Guitar M Lite.

By the way, you can also download a free bass emulator plugin which sounds terrific, make sure to try it out as well.

Amplitube 4 Custom Shop

One thing I don´t like is that you need to register to be able to download it. (Quite annoying, since it´s free, but hey…still great plugin!)

In this Free Version you get;

  • 3 Amplifiers
  • One Cabinet
  • Tuner
  • Delay
  • Overdrive
  • Compressor
  • Equalizer
  • Wah-Wah
  • Chorus
  • Flanger
  • Tremolo
  • Volume Pedal
  • And a couple more things.

Amplitube can work as a Plugin or as a Standalone program, just like Guitar Rig 5.

It sounds great, a bit better than Guitar Rig in my opinion and when you download the FREE version, you get the full version for 10 days also, which, if you are considering buying the full version of one of these Softwares, is great!

Check it out here: Amplitube 4.

Important Update: Amplitube used to be my favorite amp sim, but after trying our BIAS FX 2 and especially BIAS Amp 2, I have to say that my preferences changed dramatically.

I absolutely love BIAS Amp 2; the clean tones are extremely realistic, which is something that no other amp sim can really do.

If you can spend about $50, then I’d highly recommend the BIAS amp sims, they are just too realistic.

Related: List of the 18 best Free Synth VST Plugins.

Guitar Rig 5 Player

It sounds just as good as the full version, the BIG difference is the amount of cabinets, amplifiers, effects, etc. that you get.

In the Free Version you get;

  • Tuner
  • One Amplifier
  • One Cabinet
  • 2 Delay pedals
  • One tube screamer
  • A limiter and a noise gate
  • Compressor
  • Noise reduction
  • Volume Pedal
  • 2 Equalizers
  • 1 Pro filter
  • Reverb and a couple more effects.

The great thing about this plugin is that it´s really easy to use, very intuitive, and sounds great. With only the tube screamer though, you won´t be able to achieve really heavy sounds.

It can also be used as a standalone program.

One issue that I had while getting this program was that they ask you to register, just like with Amplitube 4…

Then send you an email with a serial key, which you then have to authenticate using the Native Access program, which you need to download separately.

Other than that, it´s a great choice!

Check it out here: Guitar Rig 5 Player.

If you’re struggling to get a good sounding signal to your DAW it might be due to the quality of your audio interface.

Here’s an article I wrote about to very affordable yet great-sounding Audio Interfaces which will get you sounding better in no time.

Amplifikation Lite by Kuassa

Amplifikation Lite is one of the amps that comes with the Amplifikation One guitar simulation software by Kuassa, which incidentally you can also try out for free, but there will be sound played every 40 sec.

Amplifikation Lite features an Amp with three channels; Clean, Rhythm, and Lead, and let me tell you… they sound fantastic.

If you you’re trying to get one of those 80’s and 90’s rock tones, then this amp sim has definitely got you covered.

The thing I like the most, other than the sound quality, is that it’s extremely easy to use and tweak, thanks to the limited number of controls.

Additionally, it comes with a cabinet, so you don’t have to put one in the chain yourself.

The rhythm channel is by far the one I like the most, but all three of them sound terrific.

So, make sure to give it a try!

Check it out here: Amplifikation Lite.

Note: Kuassa also created one of the best-sounding blues Amp Sims that I ever tried called “Matchlock” that you should also check out! (This one is not free, however, but it only sells for about $22).

LePou Amp Pack

Now we are getting to the Hi Gain Amp section!

These plugins are fantastic for really heavy music, they sound great, and it´s extremely easy to make them work on any DAW.

You need to put a cabinet in the chain though, when you download the amplifier you don´t get the cabinets included…

But you can download LeCab right there on the same website, which is a VST for loading cabinet simulator impulses.

You can actually load 6 simultaneous cabinets and mix them to your liking (LeCab is 32 bit though, you won´t be able to run it on a 64 bit system).

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.

Honestly these are the best plugins for heavy tones! Try them out!

You don’t need to register, simply download and copy to VST folder.

Check it out here: LePoulin Amp Pack.

Important Note: I wrote a complete guide on how to make a Guitar Amp Simulator Sound good which should be useful to you since they don’t tend to sound as one would expect right from the start!

Emissary by Ignite Amps

Another extremely good heavy sound amp is the Emissary 2.0.

It still has a clean channel which ranges from clean to slightly overdriven tones and a lead channel that is just insanely good for for any kind of metal tones.

The emissary plug-in bundle also includes the NadIR dual impulse response convolver, which is designed to be used as a cabinet simulator both for guitar and bass pre amplifiers.

Features

  • Three Routing Modes: Mono, Dual Mono and Stereo
  • Automatic high-quality resampling for IRs with different sampling rates
  • High-quality analog shaped filters
  • Selectable delay
  • Continuous morphing control between loaded IRs
  • Global input level and single IR level controls
  • Fully automatable controls

Check it out here: Emissary by Ignite Amps.

If you are someone who records entire songs at home, then I’m sure that you’re also going to be interested in this article I wrote about the best Free Bass Amp VST Plugins.

TSE x50 v2

This one I also really liked, you can get a huge variety of sounds out of this plugin, from crisp clean tones and cool crunchy sounds, all the way to heavy metal tones.

You can also get the Pro version, which I didn’t try since the free one was more than enough for what I needed.

In this FREE version you get;

  • Tuner
  • Equalizer
  • Reverb
  • Delay
  • Phaser
  • Noise Reduction
  • A huge amount of Cabinets
  • 4 Distortion pedals

Try it out, it´s easy to use, really intuitive and simply works great.

Check it out here: TSE x50v2.

Related: I wrote a post about the best free DAWs available right now which I think you are going to like.

AmpLion

Another good option is AmpLion, it works as a Plugin and also works as a standalone program.

It comes with;

  • 5 channel guitar amp
  • 2 cabinets
  • Intelligent metronome
  • Audio player
  • Advanced Recorder

It actually sounds quite nice, you can get great tones out of it!

You can scroll through the presets which all sounds fantastic. Also you have the ability to change the Mic placement on the cabinet.

For being free, you get a lot of variety and control.

Check it out here: AmpLion.

Thinking about building your first home studio? Here’s a list of the essential components that you’ll need.

Ignite Amps NRR-1

The NRR-1 is a digital emulation of an actual three channel tube amp.

It was built for Cristiano Tionfera and it actually resembles the original amp quite a lot.

It’s a fairly simple yet great sounding amp which you should absolutely check out!

Features

  • Ignite Amps 3rd generation triode modeling engine.
  • Three channels: clean, rhythm and lead, each with fully separated controls.
  • Mono / Stereo processing support.
  • Selectable oversampling rate (up to 8x).
  • Global input / output level controls.
  • Double precision (64-bit) floating point mathematical model.
  • Fully automatable controls.
  • Ignite Amps proprietary preset management system with bank file import/export functions.

Check it out here: Ignite Amps NRR-1.

To take full advantage of your Guitar VSTs, it might be very useful to get some great sounding Drum VSTs as well to achieve that amazing sound you’re looking for.

Blue Cat

This guitar amp simulation plugin offers three different amp models;

  • Classic clean
  • Classic drive
  • Modern drive

This is a great sounding plugin which covers a wide range of tones; from clean vintage sounds from the early days all the way to the high-gain heavy sounding metal tones.

They say that this is a plug n’ play amp sim, meaning that once it’s running you’re ready to go…

I found that I needed to fiddle around with the controls a bit to get it to sound quite to my liking.

Still, it’s fantastic, it’s free…

What’s not to like?

Check it out here: Blue Cat free amp sim.

Mercuriall Tube Amp Ultra 530

This would be the Plugin version of the ENGL E530 Preamp. It has a two channel design, Clean and Lead.

You can get all kinds of tones out of it, from crisp cleans, all through crunch to really heavy metal tones. I think it´s best suited for heavy tones though!

It has its limitations (specially the free version) but it is still very useful.

Free version limitations:

  • Modeled Triodes – one Tung-Sol.
  • Allowed Samplerates – only 44.1 kHz.
  • Allowed Oversamplings – Fixed in the X2 state.
  • Computing engines – Fixed in the Fast state.
  • Allowed Cabinets – 4×12 Modern V30 cabinet.
  • Restrictions of tweaking – The change of many parameters was restricted.
  • Processing precision – 32-bit (lower precision).

Check it out here: Mercuriall Tube Amp Ultra 530.

Amped Roots Free by ML Sound Lab

Here is another guitar amp sim designed specifically for metal/heavy tones.

Amped Roots free is, basically, the free version of Sound Lab’s software bundle and it comes with one amp: The “5034 Fluff”.

However, to get three more amps: the “5151 Fluff”, the “Freeman Fluff” and the “Mega Fluff”, you need to purchase Amped Roots Full License.

Additionally, it also features a cabinet simulator and two pedals; A Noise Gate and a Drive.

The whole point behind this free amp simulation plugin is to be as simple as possible and to sound perfect right out of the box, and I think they nailed it.

I can absolutely recommend it to anyone who is interested in getting realistic heavy guitar tones out of their guitar.

Amped Roots and the Emissary are probably my top recommendations as far as heavy sounding amps go.

Check it out here: Amped Roots Free.

Nick Crow Plugins

Nick Crow has got some great amp simulators which are mostly really high gain.

I don´t think I would use these to get a clean or a  bluesy tone. But if you’re into metal, you will probably find them to be quite useful!

You also need to run them through a VST cabinet, otherwise they will sound horrific, like all amps that you don´t run through cabs!

These are only plugins, no standalone version sadly!

You can download these four from the main site;

  • Tube Driver v1.3 (Tube amplifier emulator plugin).
  • Nick Crow 8505 Lead v.1.2.
  • Nick Crow 7170 Lead v.1.2.
  • Wagner Sharp (Tube guitar preamp emulation plugin).

Check it out here: Nick Crow Plugins.

Want some Drum VST Plugins? Here’s my List of the 14 best Free Drum VST Plugins which will take your songs to a whole new level!

TSE 808 Tube Screamer

Yes, this is not a whole program or plugin set, it´s just one Tube Screamer pedal and man is it great! It also comes with the TSE x50 v2, listed above.

It sounds great, you can use it for all kinds of music, to get a blues tone, to make those rock sounds have that little extra bite to them.

I absolutely recommend this one, just fantastic plugin!

Check it out here: TSE 808 Tube Screamer.

Ace Vintage Tube

Ace is a digital emulation of the 1950s, American, all tube, tweed, 5Wamp.

They added to the model two of the most common amplifier mods: Adjustment of the amount of feedback and addition of grid stopper resistors. They both can be turned off if you want to get the original amp sound.

After trying it out for quite a while I thought it sounded great.

You can get a really warm clean tone. It’s not really that useful for heavy rock music but you could try running some distortion pedals through it as well and seeing what happens.

Check it out here: Ace Vintage Tube.

Other essential plugins are the orchestral ones. Here’s my list which includes 20 Free Orchestral VST Plugins which sound fantastic!

FREEAMP 3.6

This isn’t your typical guitar plugin…

While it does come with the traditional effects, it does have a very distinct and unique sound to it.

I would absolutely recommend downloading it since it’s so different from all the other plugins on this list.

Not only that, but it has a wide variety of tones that can be achieved which can be edited a lot as well.

I comes with a huge array of pedal effects such as overdrive, compressor, delay, etc. which all sound great and very unique!

Check it out here: FREEAMP 3.6.

SimulAnalog Guitar Suite

SimulAnalog Guitar Suite is a free software that contains a couple of amplifiers and some pedals.

Right of the bat I have to say that this plugin is 32bit only, won´t work on 64bit Systems.

The interface is a bit rough but the sound is great and you can achieve quite a variety of them.

This plugin contains;

  • Fender Twin 1969 (Amplifier)
  • Marshall JCM900 Dual Reverb (Amplifier)
  • Boss ds-1 (Distortion)
  • Boss SD-1 (Super Overdrive)
  • Tube Screamer (Overdrive)
  • Oberheim PS-1 (Phaser)
  • Univox Univibe (Modulation)

Check it out here: SimulAnalog Guitar Suite.

That concludes the list of the Free Guitar Plugins. Just as an extra I’m going to list 3 Plugins / programs that are not free but that are really the best, should you decide to invest your money into something like this.

Important Note: I wrote a complete guide on how to make a Guitar Amp Simulator Sound good which should be useful to you since they don’t tend to sound as one would expect right from the start!

Check it out!

3 Best Premium Guitar VST Plugins:

Related: I also put together a list of the best Guitar VSTs, not just the free ones. If you’re interested you can check that article out here.

Guitar Rig 5 Pro

Yes, this one costs $200 but if you are seriously considering using plugins to record, then this one will definitely be a great choice.

It comes with 17 amps, 27 cabinets and over 50 effect, you can edit everything, from shaping the tone to choosing the mic placement.

Guitar Rig is one of the, or probably THEE most popular guitar amp simulation plugin around today for the simple fact that it’s so versatile, plus it sounds great.

It can take you some time to get the tone you desire since right out of the box the sound quality won’t be what you expect; some tweaking is definitely required.

Check it out Here: Guitar Rig 5 Pro

Amplitube 4

The great thing about downloading the free version, is that get get to try the full version for a couple of days, so you can see if it is worth it.

The difference is that you get way more Amps, Cabinets, Effects, and so on.

Is it worth the money? About $150? I think so, yes. If you plan on really using it.

Check it out Here: Amplitube 4

BIAS FX II and BIAS AMP II

BIAS FX also has a free version, and it’s definitely worth giving a try since it will let you decide whether or not you like it or not..

However, in the free version, every ten seconds or so you get a message saying that you have the demo version and it stops processing your signal for a second, then goes back to reproducing it with all the effects that you assigned to it…which is really annoying!

BUT the full version is actually great. I’ve heard of people having issues with it, like crashing and not working, but for me it works just fine!

You can buy two version, the standard ($100) and the Pro one ($199).

The standard version comes with 12 Amps and 30 effects, while the Pro version comes with 32 amps and 64 effects, plus 10 Studio Rack Processors.

Check it out Here:BIAS FX II and BIAS AMP II.

Learning to Play the Guitar

In order to really be able to record music with these amp sims, you’re going to need to play as good as possible, and I say this because recording is very different to just playing; for some reason, as soon as you press the record button, you feel as if you can’t play anymore!

I’ve been using this website called GuitarTricks for a while now, and they teach you everything there is to know about playing the guitar.

I know that most of you searching for amp sims already know exactly how to play, but if you’re looking for affordable ways to improve, then this is definitely one of them.

I also wrote an entire post on the best websites to learn to play the guitar online, in case you’re looking for a genre-specific course.

Conclusion:

If you really need a good sounding plugin for professional recordings, maybe buying a Pro one would be in your best interest, but the free ones sound quite nice and they are, well, FREE!

Just download them all and see which one fits your needs!

I hope this was helpful! Have a great day!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a guitar plug in?

Guitar plugins are often classed as ‘VST‘ pluginsVST stands for ‘Virtual Studio Technology’ and refers to audio plugins that use digital signal processing to simulate hardware and create extremely realistic guitar sounds.

What is a VST host?

VST plugins generally run within a digital audio workstation (DAW) which works as a host, however a few standalone plugin hosts exist which support VST.

What are VST effects?

VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology and there are three different types of VSTs;
VST instruments: These plug-ins generate audio and are either virtual synthesizers or samplers that emulate how the original hardware sounds.
VST effects: Effects process audio instead of generating it. These effects are; Reverb, Relay, etc.
VST MIDI effects: MIDI plug-ins process MIDI messages and send MIDI data to other VST instruments and hardware.

8 thoughts on “17 Best FREE Guitar VST/AU Plugins that actually sound Great!”

  1. Pingback: Best 20 Free Synth VST/AU Plugins of 2020! - The Home Recordings

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