Last Updated on February 13, 2023.
When it comes to getting great guitar tones, it used to be that you needed to spend a fortune on the guitar itself, the amp, and all the pedals.
Nowadays it’s way easier thanks to Virtual Studio Technology, or VST, because you can emulate amplifiers and even guitars, or other instruments, directly in your DAW and some of them actually sound fantastic!
While you may have to spend a bit in order to get said plugins, it’s way more affordable than buying the real gear, plus the VST plugins are much more versatile.
Some of these plugins are a couple of years old, but I included them in this list because I think that they are still awesome!
BIAS FX II
Best Amp Simulation software in terms of cost-efficiency. Sounds incredibly realistic.
Big Amp suite with multiple amps, cabinets, and effects. Easy to get a good & realistic sound.
Guitar Rig 6
Complete Amp Suite with multiple amps, cabinets, and effects. Needs some tweaking to sound realistic.
What is a Guitar VST?
A guitar VST is a piece of software that can be hosted in another software, such as a DAW (although some of them can also be used in standalone mode) and that is designed to emulate guitars themselves, guitar amps, cabinets, pedals, etc. allowing you to connect your guitar to the computer and play through those virtual amps.
Difference between real amps and VSTs
Software amps simply simulate a real amplifier inside of your computer and, in some cases, they do so quite convincingly.
Nowadays, at least as far as sound goes, there isn’t that big of a difference between the two (although real amps still sound more “real” than simulations).
Where there is a huge difference, however, is in the price and the overall number of features you get, since with a real amp you would need to also purchase different effects, etc. to really control the sound, whereas with a software amp suite you get multiple amps, cabinets, pedals, and more.
What is the best Guitar VST?
There are plenty of software amp simulations out there and they all have their pros & cons. However, full amp suites are generally better than single amp simulations because you get a lot more for the price.
Guitar Rig, Amplitube, Helix Native, BIAS FX, and some others, are all complete Amp suites and allow you to play any genre of music that you desire, but if I had to choose just one, I’d have to go with Amplitube since it’s easier to get a good sound without having to tweak the settings a lot.
Guitar Rig or Amplitube?
The two most popular software amp suites are Guitar Rig and Amplitube and I really like them both and use them from time to time. I have to say, however, that Amplitube feels more realistic to me than Guitar Rig, and I also don’t have to spend too much time trying to make it sound nice since it just seems to work.
With Guitar Rig, on the other hand, it usually takes me a couple of minutes to really dial in the tone.
Note: I’d recommend BIAS FX II over those two.
Are there any free alternatives that sound good?
As a matter of fact, there are! Amplitube and Guitar Rig offer free versions of the software, BIAS FX has a demo version that works for 5 min and then cuts off the sound for 2 or 3 seconds but then you can keep playing without any issues, and there are a lot more.
I will list the freeware guitar VSTs at the end of this post.
Right, let’s get straight into the list of the best Guitar VST plugins!
Best Guitar VST Plugins
Here I will be listing guitar amp simulation software as well as some guitar simulation software, and at the end, I will provide you with a short list of free amp simulators.
Let’s kick things off with…
Bias FX 2 and Bias AMP 2 ($49 to $199)
Best Amp Simulation Software in terms of Cost-Efficiency.
Bias FX 2 and Bias AMP 2 are two great all-rounder guitar VST plugins. BIAS FX II works as a regular amp simulation suite where you have tons of amps, cabinets, and effects to choose from, whereas BIAS AMP II is a dedicated amp tweaking software.
In fact, I think that BIAS AMP 2 is the best Amp simulation VST plugin currently available considering the price, and I’ve never used an Amp sim that gives your so much granular control over every single parameter inside the amp.
Not only that but they also offer a demo version of both BIAS FX and BIAS AMP 2 which should help you decide whether or not you like them.
It’s worth noting, however, that while BIAS FX does come with stompboxes and other features, BIAS AMP doesn’t since it’s strictly designed to let you tweak the amp itself as in-depth as possible.
Luckily, the amps you create in BIAS AMP can be loaded onto BIAS FX, giving you the best of both worlds.
What are its Strengths; BIAS FX is a great all-rounder and BIAS AMP II is the best dedicated amp simulation and amp tweaking software out there.
- Get BIAS FX II here: Pluginboutique, Reverb, Sweetwater.
- Get BIAS Amp II Here: Pluginboutique, Reverb, Sweetwater.
IK Multimedia Amplitube 5 ($89 to $300)
Easiest Amp Sim to get a good sound with!
Amplitube is the original amp sim that has been around for over a decade now.
IK Multimedia claims that Amplitube 5 has a “Hyper-Realistic Tone”, which is pretty accurate since it really does sound quite realistic.
While I don’t think that any guitar amp emulation software is quite capable of sounding EXACTLY like the real thing, at least not yet, the differences are barely noticeable (maybe some fizz in the higher end, but this is standard in most amp sims).
Amplitube 5 features a total of 9 amplifiers, 10 cabinets, and a set of 29 vintage and modern speaker models, and you can switch them all around however you like.
Additionally, you get 10 different stompboxes with it, as well as 4 microphones, 2 rack effects units, and two tuners.
You can also mic up the cabinet with up to 2 microphones and move them around in a 3D space to give you even more control over your tone.
All of this is huge since you can seriously tailor the tone in a very specific way.
What’s even more impressive about this plugin is that it features an integrated 8-Track recorder/DAW that you can use in standalone mode.
Each track features standard treble, mid and bass eq, pan control, level, mute, solo, and record enable functions.
Lastly, IK Multimedia was kind enough to include some presets which are simply complete rigs that already sound pretty good (some tweaking here and there might be recommended).
The great thing about Amplitube 5 is that if you want more effects, Amps, etc. you can purchase those through their “Custom Shop”. There are loads of them; from Fender, Orange, to Mesa Boogie, and more… You can even get more presets if you like.
What are its Strengths; Great all-rounder.
- Get Amplitube 5 here: Best Service, Reverb, Sweetwater.
Guitar Rig Pro 6 by Native Instruments ($199)
Best-known Amp sim. Comes with loads of features.
Guitar Rig is a complete drag-and-drop amp simulation suite that comes which loads of stompboxes, effects, amp, cabinets, and more.
If there’s one thing Guitar Rig excels at, it is the ease of use; just select the amp, cabinet, or effect that you like, drag it into the chain and that’s it, you’re ready to start making music.
Since it’s got so many different features, you can seriously tweak the tones to your liking;
If you need a heavy rock tone, a super clean and clear sounding tone, a crunchy tone, or even drown your guitar sound in chorus and reverb effects, Guitar Rig has got you covered.
What are its Strengths; Guitar Rig Pro 5 is a great all-rounder.
- Get Guitar Rig Pro 6 here: Native Instruments.
Note: There’s a free demo available called Guitar Rig Player which is a stripped-down version, but it still sounds great!
TH-U Full by Overloud ($269)
An extreme number of features!
I’ve never seen any other amp sim out there that provides so many different amps, cabinets, stompboxes, and other features. Yes, it sounds absolutely fantastic, there’s no doubt about that, but, is it easy to use? And is it worth the money?
As far as the ease of use goes, there’s definitely a learning curve to it, more than with any of the other amp sims on this list actually.
The reason for this is that you can get a bit lost and overwhelmed due to the insane number of options that you have at your disposal.
As far as the price goes even though it might seem a bit steep at first, I think it’s a completely fair price simply because of everything you get with it… plus, it sounds great!
- 89 guitar amplifiers and 4 bass amplifiers
- 50 guitar cabinets and 2 bass cabinets
- 77 pedal and rack effects
- 18 microphone models, with up to four mics on each cabinet
- More than 1000 presets covering all musical styles
Note: You can also download a free demo version of the TH-U.
What are its Strengths; Great all-rounder.
- Get TH-U Full here: Sweetwater.
Helix Native by Line 6 ($399)
Most in-depth amp sim out there.
Helix Native is definitely not geared towards the complete beginner since it comes with way too many features.
I would only recommend this one if you already got some experience with amp simulators under your belt.
If you do, this one can definitely help you improve your tone since the customization options are virtually endless. The clean tones sound fantastic and the heavy metal tones are even more amazing.
Now, is it worth the price?
With other amp sims being so much more affordable, I’d say that only if you feel like you can really take advantage of all its features, then it’s worth the price.
Otherwise, you would be much better off saving a couple of hundred bucks and purchasing BIAS FX II since it offers way more bang for your buck.
What are its Strengths; Extremely Customizable and a great all-rounder.
- Get Helix Native here: Sweetwater.
Related: Best Synth VST plugins available.
Archetype by Neural DSP & Plini ($119)
Best Single Amp for heavier tones!
Plini is one of today’s best guitar players out there and he 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 fantastic 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 which you should also check out.
What are its Strengths; Great all-rounder without too many effects.
- Get Archetype here: Neural DSP.
If you’re looking for Free Guitar VSTs, then check out this post I wrote.
Matchlock by Kuassa ($50)
Designed for Blues (SRV-style)
Kuassa has been in the amp simulation business for quite some time now and their latest amp sim, the Matchlock, is absolutely fantastic.
Now, it’s not an amp designed to achieve heavy rock tones or anything like that, but it’s actually modeled around the earlier Fender amps, which means that the blues tones it can crank out are just insane.
Just listen to this short demo of it and you’ll see what I mean;
The great thing is that it’s also quite affordable, only setting you back about $50 to get the whole thing.
Note: It’s usually on sale on Pluginboutique, so check to see if you can get it for even less.
Even better than this is that you can actually download it for completely free and use every single thing without limitations.
However, there will be noise being generated every 40 seconds until you purchase the license key, but at least you get to try out the tones before having to buy it.
If you are looking for an amp sim that has an amazing blues sound, then look no further!
What are its Strengths; Excellent blues- and SRV-style tones.
- Get Matchlock here: Pluginboutique, Reverb.
Toneforge by JST (Starting at $59)
Excellent for Metal!
Toneforge by Joey Sturgis Tones is a line of amp simulators that are mainly focused on heavier 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.
What are its Strengths; Great for heavy-sounding tones.
- Get Toneforge here: Pluginboutique, Reverb.
TSE x50 v2 ($69)
Amp Sim Suite with the best Impulse Responses!
If you are looking for an amp sim that is capable of creating a huge variety of sounds, then this one might be for you.
You can get the free version or the premium one depending on your needs, and to be honest, the free one is pretty good already, so you probably won’t have the need to upgrade.
The free version comes with a Tuner, EQ, Reverb, Delay, Phaser, Noise Reduction, loads of cabinets, and 4 distortion pedals.
The only problem with the free version is that it introduces an annoying sound every now and then to remind you to buy the premium one.
If you find yourself needing more features, then the upgrade will set you back about $69.
I would highly recommend it to beginners simply because of its ease of use and because you can get the free version which already should be enough for most people.
Lastly, the IR’s this amp sim has to offer are, at least in my opinion, better than the ones all other amp sims at this price point have to offer.
What are its Strengths; Great all-rounder.
- Get TSE x50 v2 here: TSE Audio.
Softube Vintage Amp Room ($99)
Vintage Amp Room emulates three classic guitar amps in a studio setting where you can choose the mic position in any way you like.
It’s the opposite of those huge amp simulation plugins like Helix Native, Amplitube 4, and others, in the sense that with Vintage Amp Room you only get three amps emulations.
They are straightforward and easy to use, just like real amps.
All you need to do is turn a couple of knobs and play… that’s it!
Sadly, the amps are not named, but they clearly are a Marshall stack, Fender Twin, and a VOX AC30.
With the Marshall you will be able to get great lead- and distorted sounds, while Fender will provide you with some extremely nice cleans.
The VOX can handle clean, crunchy, and distorted sounds.
The sound quality is very accurate and it doesn’t take too long to get any of the amps to sound pleasing.
However, if you want additional effects you will have to add some extra plugins or add them later on in your DAW.
If you are a fan of the sound of a Marshall Stack, Fender Twin, or VOX AC30, then this plugin is definitely for you.
What are its Strengths; Excellent Vintage Sound.
- Get Vintage Amp Room here: Pluginboutique.
Softube Metal Amp Room ($59)
Just like with the Vintage Amp Room, this one is also just an emulation of a couple of amps, two to be precise, and nothing more…
No effects, no stompboxes, nothing!
Again, you can set the microphones up however you want. You can even use a single one for a tightly focused sound, or use two panned microphones to take up the entire stereo width.
And that’s really it; no extras… which is both good and bad.
If you like great-sounding metal amps and want a simple setup that will sound great in a matter of seconds, then Metal Amp Room might be a good fit.
What are its Strengths; Great for heavy rock/metal tones and very easy to use.
- Get Metal Amp Room here: Pluginboutique.
Note: Softube also released the Bass Amp Room which emulates bass amps.
Amplion Pro 2 by Audified ($99)
Amp Simulation Suite for few features!
Amplion Pro features a simulation of 9 guitar amps, 7 cabinets, 12 speakers, 8 microphones, and 30 effects.
This basically means that you have loads of choices and ways of affecting your tone so that you can tailor it to your liking.
It can also be downloaded as a free stripped-down version which features 5 guitar amps, 2 cabinets, a metronome, an audio player, and a recorder.
However, the free version isn’t really that great, at least to me!
One Pro is that it can be used as a standalone program, which simply means that you won’t have to load it up in your DAW in order to be able to use it.
What are its Strengths; Good All-rounder.
- Get Amplion here: Pluginboutique, Reverb.
GTR3 by Waves ($129)
Amp Simulation Suite (more affordable than the rest)!
GTR3 features 25 stompboxes, 30 cabinets, and 30 amps (Clean, drive, and High Gain).
The amps were inspired by real Fender-, Marshall-, Mesa/Boogie-, Vox- amps, and more, and they all sound absolutely fantastic.
The stompboxes can be dragged and dropped into the effects chain, making it super easy to set up.
Like most other amp simulation plugins I listed so far, GTR3 brings a lot of versatility to the table since it’s designed to be able to sound however you like.
With all the amps, effects, and cabinets you get, you should be able to get almost any kind of sound out of it.
What are its Strengths; Good All-rounder.
- Gett GTR3 here: Waves, Sweetwater.
PRS SuperModels by Waves ($39)
Versatile, simple to use, and affordable!
The PRS SuperModels were created by Waves in collaboration with Paul Reed Smith.
Even though you only get three amps, they are actually quite versatile… allowing you to achieve loads of different tones which should fit in perfectly in nearly every mix.
The three amps you get are; The Dallas, Archon, and Blue Sierra/V9.
The Dallas and V9 are for more laid-back styles of playing, while the Archon is designed completely for metal and other heavy styles.
I actually like the V9 a lot for rock/metal guitar solos as well… the tone is just killer!
This plugin bundle is super affordable, setting you back only about $39 (at the time of writing this article).
What are its Strengths; Simple to use yet versatile.
- Get the PRS Supermodels here: Waves, Reverb, Sweetwater.
Fortin Nameless Suite ($99)
Excellent for Heavy Guitar Tones!
Mike Fortin is the mastermind behind some of the most aggressive sounding amplifiers in recent history, and his precisely engineered brutality has become a staple to some of the industry’s most legendary names.
Along with the amp you also get the GRIND pedal which adds gain, clarity, and articulation to the sound, making every note defined.
Another pedal that comes included is the ZUUL pedal, which is basically a noise-gate.
Lastly, you also get the HEXDRIVE pedal which works as an overdrive.
The Nameless Suite can be loaded up in any DAW, but it can also be used as a standalone program which is very useful for both practice and live shows.
What are its Strengths; Some of the best heavy-sounding tones out there.
- Gett Fortin Nameless Suite here: NeuralDSP.
Shreddage 3 by Impact Soundworks ($90-$136)
Electric Guitar Simulation (Virtual instrument)
Shreddage 3 is a virtual guitar emulation software that sounds absolutely phenomenal and that is capable of emulation various guitar models and even a bass right in the box.
It sounds incredibly close to the real thing, especially if you take your time to tweak everything.
Shreddage 3 can do anything from crispy clean sounds to heavy rock tones, arpeggios, strumming, and even amazing lead solos with vibrato, bends, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and more…
What are its Strengths; Excellent electric guitar emulation (Clean, crunch, high-gain, solos, and more).
- Get Shreddage 3 here: Best Service, Reverb.
Vir2 Instruments Acou6tics ($299)
Acoustic Guitar Simulation.
This is an acoustic guitar emulator that sounds pretty damn amazing.
Acoustic guitars are extremely hard to emulate, which is why most of these plugins never sound like the real thing.
However, Acou6tics manages to bring out a pretty convincing acoustic guitar sound; It features 6 different acoustic guitar sounds and many articulations which will help you achieve a much more realistic sound overall.
You will need to tweak things here and there to get it to sound real, since right out of the box it tends to be a bit too synthesized, but it is doable.
Acou6tics is a fantastic acoustic guitar simulation that you should definitely pick up.
What are its Strengths; 6 different synthetic guitar emulations.
- Get Acou6tics here: Pluginboutique, Sweetwater.
If you want a free alternative, check out Ample Guitar M Lite.
Free Guitar VSTs
Guitar Rig 6 Player
The newly released version of Guitar Rig (Guitar Rig 6) comes with a whole new-looking user interface as well as some cool improvements over the previous Guitar Rig 5 and of course, there’s a stripped-down version of this software for you to try out for free that lasts forever, it’s not a free 14-day trial or anything!
Guitar Rig 6 Player is the free version of Guitar Rig 6 Pro that comes with a lot fewer features, such as amps, cabinets, pedals, and other effects, but it’s free and you can use it indefinitely without any restrictions.
I’d still highly recommend giving Guitar Rig 6 Pro a try since it’s a monster of an Amp Suite VST that offers loads of amps, cabinets, stompboxes, and more.
It includes a British-style tube amp with a matched cabinet, 13 effects, such as Delay, Reverb, Distortion, EQ, and more, as well as 50 presets.
Guitar Rig features a drag-and-drop interface which makes this amp simulator ideal for beginners since it’s so easy to use!
Guitar Rig 6 Clean Guitar:
Check it out here: Guitar Rig 6 Player.
Amplitube 5 Custom Shop
Amplitube 5 Custom Shop is very similar to Guitar Rig in almost every way since it also features a drag and drop interface, it doesn’t come with any limitations, such as working for 5 minutes and then needing to close- and open it back again, etc.
In fact, once you download it you will have access to the pro version of the software for a 10-day period where you can try all the different features.
Once the 10-day trial is up, only a couple of the features will remain active, which are; 5 amplifiers with matching cabinets, 6 cabinets, a Tuner, about 10 effect pedals, and some other simple features like being able to change the mic placement.
Just like Guitar Rig, Amplitube works as a standalone software, which means that you don’t necessarily need a DAW to run it, and in terms of the sound quality, it really does sound fantastic!
In fact, I generally prefer using Amplitube over Guitar Rig, something about it just sounds a bit more realistic to me.
Check it out here: Amplitube 5 CS.
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., however, this is not the case with Amplifikation Lite, which is why I recommend it.
Amplifikation Lite features an Amp with three channels; Clean, Rhythm, and Lead, and let me tell you… they sound great.
If you’re trying to get one of those 80s 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 pretty darn good.
So, make sure to give it a try!
Check it out here: Amplifikation Lite.
Emissary by Ignite Amps
One of my all-time favorite heavy-sounding guitar amp simulators is the Emissary 2.0.
It still has a clean channel which ranges from clean to slightly overdriven tones, but where I think this plugin shines is in the lead channel since it’s just insanely good 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 preamplifiers and which allows you to blend different microphones together to achieve the heaviest of tones.
Check it out here: Emissary by Ignite Amps.
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.
No matter what preset you use, or how far right or left you turn the knobs, this amp sim makes your guitar tone sound insanely well (of course, clean tones aren’t even possible since it’s a high-gain amp).
Amped Roots and the Emissary are my top recommendations as far as heavy-sounding amps go. However, this one is far easier to use than the Emissary and it’s designed to sound great no matter what.
Check it out here: Amped Roots Free.
Every single plugin on this list is extremely good, whether you choose an amp sim or an acoustic-/electric guitar simulator, you will be getting a great sounding one.
Make sure to try out the ones that offer a free demo first before purchasing.
I hope this information was useful.
Have a great day!
4 thoughts on “22+ Best Guitar VST Plugins & Amp Sims: Updated 2023!”
Any reason why you didn’t include Scuffham S-Gear ($129) on the list? About a month ago I completed a fairly thorough evaluation of all the major amp sims in the market. For my personal taste, S-Gear came out on top, and by a considerable margin I might add. Surprised it didn’t even make your list. For anyone looking for an amp that covers the “non-metal” genre, I really encourage you to check it out.
Hey Matt, thanks for the comment! I haven’t tried that one out.
I will do that some time in the future and consider it!
Thanks for the input!
Where and how can i get the free version of the tse x50?
I know there’s a free demo version available on the tse website, but with that there wil be a silence every several seconds.
I did find an older version somewhere, but that one only includes the amp and no cabinets or effects…
You are saying:
The free version comes with a Tuner, EQ, Reverb, Delay, Phaser, Noise Reduction, loads of cabinets, and 4 distortion pedals.
Where and how tot get that?
Hey Arie! I remember downloading it here: https://www.tseaudio.com/software/x50v2.
I hope this helps!