This article is for VST plugins that are to be used with your guitar. If you are looking to simulate guitars using midi click here for our reviews.
This is our pick for the best guitar VST for a number of reasons. The most important of these is it has so many features and actually sounds like real guitar gear.
The standout feature for Bias FX 2 is its ‘Guitar Match’. This emulates sought after famous guitar tones by using your guitar. This is awesome if you own one guitar but want to use a different tone while playing. You could get your budget Stratocaster copy to sound like a Fender or even like a Gibson Les Paul.
This sim gives you access to so many presets. The list of presets is ever-growing due to the booming popularity of the Spark amp. This amp uses the same presets so you will have access to thousands of user presets. You will be able to find the perfect tone without making changes. You also have complete control over every parameter if you do decide to tweak the settings.
Bias FX is available at three different levels. $99 for Standard, $199 for Professional, and $299 for Elite.
The main difference between these packages is the included amount of effects. For example, Elite comes with 18 guitar match instruments while Standard only has 2.
You can dip your toes in with the standard package and upgrade later but this may end up costing you extra. If you catch the Elite package on special we highly recommend buying it straight up. Even if it is not on special it is still the best package by far and is worth the extra cost.
This VST only just missed out as being our best overall pick. It has fantastic realism and a crazy amount of features. The only negative thing we can say about this simulator is that it may be overwhelming for some users.
You can completely customize your tone to the smallest degree with Amplitube 4. Want to swap out individual speakers on your simulated cabinet? Sure. How about moving the mic placement for that cabinet too? Easy. You can even set a virtual room in which your amp will sit. With these features and a few others, it’s easy to see how this is the most versatile Guitar VST on the market.
There are so many effects included in this package its almost impossible to list them all. One of my favorites is the acoustic guitar simulator. This changes your electric signal into a fantastic sounding acoustic. How fun to shred on your electric with an acoustic tone pouring out at the other end.
Another incredible feature in this package is a built-in 8 track recorder. Perfect to use if you don’t have a DAW already. There is also a looper to practice your soloing chops or to help you write songs.
Amplitube has easy integration with many different types of controllers. IK Multimedia has its own controllers known as iRig. Therefore, Amplitube has seamless integration with the iRig Stomp I/O. This makes this VST great for gigging if you trust yourself not to step on your laptop or iPad.
Amplitude 4 is perfect if you love having total control over your tone. If you aren’t afraid to work your way around the features, this is likely the best choice for you.
This is a real competitor for the Bias FX 2. This is especially true if you can forgo the Guitar Match feature of the Positive Grid simulator.
This VST is a free version of the more versatile Guitar Rig 6 Pro. GR6 Pro is one of the newest and best amp simulators available. Player is a much lighter VST than the paid version. There are many features in the pro version missing from this one. That is not to say that this does not come loaded with enough bells and whistles to get you started.
This VST simulates a single amp type. They call this amp ‘Jump’ which you can tell straight away is based on Marshall JMP amplifiers.
The amp sim sounds great on its own but this free VST also comes with several effects.
It comes with ‘Skreamer’ distortion which emulates an Ibanez Tube Screamer well. It also has modulation, delay, reverb, eq, and dynamic control.
Buying the physical versions of all you get in this package would cost thousands of dollars. It is so good to see you can get an emulated version for free. If you try this out and you like it you can upgrade to Guitar Rig 6 Pro with even more inclusions.
This VST is also part of the Komplete Start package. This package includes most of Native Instruments’ free plugins. The paid version of this package is the Komplete 13 package. We highly recommend you look into this if you are serious about music production and have the budget.
It is nice to see a guitar amp simulator that actually has the name of the real amplifier in its title. This is because Waves partnered with Paul Reed Smith to create these amp simulators. They emulate three of their most popular amps.
The more expensive amp modelers may be as good at emulating metal tones. However, this is our pick for metal tones as many of the factory presets are dedicated to heavy tones. There are signature tones from Megadeth’s producer and others such as Devin Townsend.
This VST is also plenty capable of covering other genres too. You are sure to find a similar tone to your favorite artist especially if you know they use PRS amplifiers.
The three included amp simulators are:
PRS Archon - This is the sim for aggressive overdriven tones. The harder you push it the more delightful distortion you can expect. With its smooth but heavy gain, it is perfect for crunchy rhythm or soaring lead. The clean channel is bright and well balanced too.
PRS Blue Sierra/V9 - This is a rare amplifier that was the original format for the PRS J-MOD 100. It is similar to other American boutique amps. It has brilliant clean tones and is perfect for medium-gain overdrive.
PRS Dallas - Sounds like an American classic reverb amp. It emulates tube amplifiers so has massive sounding cleans with a sparkling reverb. This is the case even with overdriven settings. Luscious highs coupled with meaty mids and formidable lows.
This is the plugin version of the popular Kemper amplifier. It sounds great and has a pretty intuitive user interface.
Having the support of thousands of presets saved from Kemper amplifiers is a nice touch. There is sure to be a tone already out there that matches exactly what you are looking for.
There are packs you can buy that specifically emulate the sound of famous guitarists. This is amazing especially if you are covering that artist. However, the added cost of buying these packs to emulate multiple artists can add up quickly. Before you know it you could have spent thousands.
Given that these costs can add up so easily it is hard to recommend this plugin over buying a Kemper amplifier. You can use the amp as your interface to record. Sure it’s more in outright cost but if you’re looking to spend a lot then you might as well have the real deal.
This is an older style VST guitar amp simulator from waves. You can get some pretty good tones out of it but it doesn't sound as good as some of the newer amp sims in our top picks.
There are over 30 simulated amplifiers and 30 simulated speaker cabinets included. This coupled with 25 stompboxes means there is a huge variety of tones available to you. If you are good at tweaking some of the presets you can meddle with some settings to create great tones.
Waves often do have sales and if you can pick this up cheap it is definitely worth it. Yet, it’s hard to recommend this simulator when compared to the others if you’re paying a similar price.