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.
Without further ado, here are the best Guitar VST/AU plugins.
Emissary by Ignite Amps (Free)
The Emissary is one of those plugins which could easily be sold at a premium fee, yet they decided to give it away absolutely for free.
While it’s not really designed for clean- or even crunchy-sounding tones, you will still be able to get a pretty good sounding clean signal out of it.
However, where the Emissary really shines is the Lead Channel.
The heavy tones that this amp is capable of creating are just unreal; From heavy metal to djent, heavy rock, or any other kind of genre which requires such heavy tones, the Emissary has got you covered.
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.
What are its Strengths; Excellent for achieving heavy tones.
Find out more about the Emissary here.
Are you in need of a good DAW? Here’s a list of the best ones available.
Guitar Rig Pro 5 by Native Instruments ($199)
Guitar Rig is a drag-and-drop amp simulator which comes which loads of stompboxes, effects, amp, cabinets, and more.
If there’s one thing Guitar Rig excels at it’s ease of use; just select the effect/amp etc. 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 effects, amps, etc. you can seriously tweak the tones to your liking;
If you need a heavy rock tone, or 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.
Find out more about Guitar Rig Pro 5 here.
Note: There’s a free version called Guitar Rig Player which is a stripped-down version, but it still sounds great!
Archetype by Neural DSP & Plini ($119)
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.
Find out more about Archetype here.
If you’re looking for Free Guitar VSTs, then check out this post I wrote.
Matchlock by Kuassa ($50)
Kuassa have 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…
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 super 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… 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.
Find out more about Matchlock here.
Toneforge by JST (Starting at $59)
Toneforge by Joey Sturgis Tones is a line of amp simulators which are mainly focused on the 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.
Find out more about the Toneforge Amps here.
TH-U Full by Overloud ($269)
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.
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 huge number of options that you have at your disposal.
As far as the price goes…
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.
Find out more about TH-U Full here.
Bias FX 2 and Bias AMP 2 ($49 to $149)
Just like Guitar Rig, Bias FX 2 and Bias AMP 2 are two great all-rounder guitar vst plugins.
Featuring loads of different amps, cabinets, stompboxes, and other features, both of these plugins are capable of almost any kind of tone you could think of.
In fact, I think that BIAS AMP 2 is the best guitar vst plugin currently available considering the price, since you can get the Professional version for about $100 (Depending on if it’s on sale or not).
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.
What are its Strengths; Both BIAS FX and AMP 2 are great all-rounders.
IK Multimedia Amplitube 4 ($99)
Amplitube is the original amp sim which has been around for over a decade now.
IK Multimedia claims that Amplitube 4 has a “Hyper-Realistic Tone”, which is pretty accurate.
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.
Amplitube 4 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, which 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.
This is always a good place to start and then simply go from there.
The great thing about Amplitube 4 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.
Find out more about Amplitube 4 here.
Helix Native by Line 6 ($399)
Helix Native is definitely not geared towards the complete beginner since it’s comes with so 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 just insane.
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 hundred bucks and purchasing something cheaper since you won’t utilize all the features.
What are its Strengths; Extremely Customizable and a great all-rounder.
Find out more about Helix Native here.
Ample Sound Guitar M II Lite (Free)
Guitar M II Lite emulates the sound of an acoustic guitar and it gives you the option to add effects, change the width of the sound, make it sound strummed or finger-picked, and more.
It’s probably the only plugin out there that truly sounds like an acoustic guitar, since most of them sound nothing like it.
Guitar M Lite is very easy to use and it won’t take you too long to get it sounding how you want it to.
And best of all, it’s FREE!
What are its Strengths; Free synthetic acoustic guitar emulation that doesn’t require a lot of tweaking to sound right.
Find out more about Guitar M II Lite here.
Related: Best Synth VST plugins available.
Vir2 Instruments Acou6tics ($299)
This is another acoustic guitar emulator that sounds pretty damn awesome.
Like I mentioned, 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 sound a bit too synthesized, but it is doable.
Both Acou6tics and Guitar M II Lite are fantastic acoustic guitar simulations that you should definitely pick up, however Acou6tics isn’t free.
What are its Strengths; 6 different synthetic guitar emulations.
Find out more about Acou6tics here.
TSE x50 v2 (Freemium)
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.
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.
What are its Strengths; Great all-rounder with an excellent free version.
Find out more about the TSE x50 v2 here.
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 the real amps.
All you need to do is turn a couple 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.
Find out more about Vintage Amp Room here.
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 tight 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.
Find out more about Metal Amp Room here.
Note: Softube also released the Bass Amp Room which emulates bass amps.
Amplion Pro by Audified ($99)
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, audio player, and a recorder.
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.
Find out more about Amplion here.
GTR3 by Waves ($129)
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.
Find out more about GTR3 here.
Le Pou Amps (Free)
This is another excellent freebie which includes a couple different amps that are all based on real amplifiers like Marshall, Mesa/Boogie, Engl, and more.
Each amp has its own set of controls like EQ, multiple channels and built-in drive, reverb, and more, depending on the model.
The amps have to be downloaded individually, since it’s not a whole amp suite like most other plugins.
Even though these plugins are quite old now, they have achieved a cult-like status and are still being used a lot to this day.
They sound absolutely phenomenal and best of all, they are free!
And just like with the Metal Amp Room by Softube, these are extremely easy to use; You don’t get dozens of stompboxes and effects which makes them ideal for beginners.
Note: They are all extremely high-gain amps, which means that they are best suited for metal, djent, and other heavy rock music.
Also, you will need to add cabinet simulation to the chain. You can use LeCab, but this one is only 32bit.
I would recommend downloading NadIR by Ignite Amps and use that one as a cab sim.
What are its Strengths; Excellent Free high-gain simulation.
Find out more about Le Pou Amps here.
PRS SuperModels by Waves ($39)
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.
Find out more about the PRS Supermodels here.
Shreddage 3 by Impact Soundworks ($90-$136)
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).
Find out more about Shreddage 3 here.
Fortin Nameless Suite ($99)
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 for practice of live shows.
What are its Strengths; Some of the best heavy sounding tones out there.
Find out more about Fortin Nameless Suite here.
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!
I've worked in a music studio a couple of years back and now I mostly record at home and try to learn as much as I can about producing music and about the gear that is required to do so.
This is something I really enjoy doing.
The whole point of this Website is to help you and others learn more about how to produce music, especially from home.
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