The late 2010s brought an era of the software guitar amp plugins – both custom designed or based on famous industry models. Today we are writing about the top 10 best guitar amp plugins of 2021.
Many music producers, guitar players, and bands use amp emulators for recording a demo, re-amp references, or even the actual albums. The advance of technology is making the production process much easier and affordable, also much less time-consuming. With it came innovative music styles and advances in processing guitar amp modulations. With the fine ax and little mixing skills, one can achieve (almost) industry-standard tone.
Let us help you to rock by diving into the top 10 list of guitar amp emulator plugins.
Top 10 Guitar Amp Plugins 2021
1. Nembrini Audio – MRH810 v2 Review
The re-designed MRH810 has brought to the digital form the famous classic British tone we all love.
Based on the iconic Marshall JCM800, the Nembrini Audio came pretty close to the same well-known tone texture and response the hardware one has. Even the visual design is almost the same. As aspected, the plugin has two channels: Lead Channel and Clean Channel, and it’s driven by four also emulated 12AX7 and four EL34 tubes. There is a cleaner included with a usual noise gate to clean up some rumbling or harsh frequencies at the end of the line.
The MRH810 is a complete guitar software that will provide everything you need to get your guitar tone ready here and now. It’s very versatile and easy to use. Let’s take a closer look at this plugin from a beautiful Italian company.
- 2 channels
Iconic half-century-old tone heard in everyone’s favorites. If you want to rock the famous ‘British Steel’ and thrash some classic Metal, then Lead Channel is the way to go. On the other hand, Clean Channel lets you bring to life a well-known glassy clean tone and allow you to crunch it well to make a solid foundation for your favorite tube screamer pedal. Both channels had their many times seen EQ knobs, with Master Channel that includes a Presence knob for that bright high end and also a reverb knob.
- 6 different amp cabinets with 4 mic emulations
It’s possible to choose from 6 complete recording chain emulations of the famous amp cabinets: MHR 4x12 G12, MB Rect 4x12 V30, Orange 4x12 V30, BG 2x12 V30, Tweed 4x10 P10Q, and MHR 4x12 T75. It all goes with the four different microphone emulations, with up to two attached simultaneously, and its various characteristics: from dynamic to ribbon mic. Further, you can change the microphones’ positions and distance and blend two mics using the provided mixing features.
- Impulses response loader
If you don’t want to use the stock cabinet impulses, you have an option to load your ones, with a good browser added to the plugin interface – so you can search them from your hard drive.
- Practicality and good old tone for a low price
Just a few clicks and your famous shredding British 800 tone is in your practice room or studio. And you will not have to spend a lot of money on it because the plugin’s price is quite affordable.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
MRH810 is a great tool to jam to your favorite rock classics, record your demo, or reference your tones for the later re-amping. And even with a few tweaks and add-ons, you are good to publish your music without any other amp.
Another advantage is that the MRH810 plugin has everything you need to get a mix-ready guitar tone. That is, you don’t need to use any other guitar software. Everything you need is here. Although, that’s up to you.
2. Chandler Limited GAV19T Review
The Chandler Limited GAV19T is another British monster that lets you get the authentic sound of a full tube amp completely in your DAW.
This plugin is based on the Chandler GAV19T amp head, inspired by gear from the legendary Selmer, Vox, and Marshall. We can use GAV19T thanks to a cooperation between Chandler Ltd. and Brainworx companies. And it’s worth saying that it came out versatile and good sounding.
The Chandler Limited GAV19T is a two-channel guitar amplifier that can achieve both classic slightly overdriven guitar tone and near-high gain sound. On the one hand, the interface is quite simple and concise, but you still have many options for achieving the desired guitar tone. The most important thing about this will be the massive number of impulses based on the most famous types of cabinets and speakers. In addition, you will be able to change the character of your guitar sound thanks to the different bias options. Let’s take a closer look at the features of this plugin.
- Shape Switch
This switch is located on the front of the amplifier and will give you the ability to change the sound’s character dramatically. The Intense Shape position will take away a lot of the low midrange and make it sound more aggressive, while Normal will bring you a smoother sound.
- Drive options
You get several options to “warm-up” your amp with overdrive at once. There are two knobs in this section – Boost and Tone. The first influences the amount of drive, while the second influence its character. For example, there are Treble boost, Thick and Aggressive options.
- Different biases
One of the most exciting things about the plugin is the different biases. Position 1 is slightly over-biased, 2 is similar to a Marshall bias, 3 is identical to a Selmer, 4 and 5 are under-biased and adds sustain and character. By adjusting them, you also affect the character of the sound, as there is a shift between emulation of different tubes of the power amp.
- FX Rack & The Record Chain
This panel has everything that will give you a finished guitar tone. Here is the Noise Gate, the frequency filters, the Delay, and the IR loader. The latter has over 70 different IRs, making it possible to achieve guitar tone for any taste. In addition, you can upload your impulses here as well.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
The Chandler Limited GAV19T is an excellent plugin for getting everyone’s favorite British guitar tone with many opportunities for experimentation. You have all the options you need to change the character of your sound, and over 70 built-in impulses will allow you to dive into mining your tone even more.
The plugin will be perfect for both country and blues sounds and the more biting AC/DC tone. You can even try to use it for something around metal, but the rock genre will still suit it best.
3. Brainworx Friedman BE-100 Review
The Brainworx’s Friedman BE-100 is an actual piece of rock and metal history in an amp sim plugin. It’s got everything you need, both a raging and a singing Plexi sound.
Friedman BE-100 guitar amplifiers have long been legendary because of their rich sound, used in the arsenal of the world’s top rock and metal bands. For example, Alice in Chains, Pink, Bon Jovi, The Cult, and Foo Fighters, to name a couple. And the nice thing about it is that the Friedman BE-100 plugin perfectly emulates the sound of this piece of guitar gear.
It is a two-channel plugin that emulates the growl of 100 watts, all amplified by EL34 tubes. You will get a punchy and dynamic tone that can cut through the mix. The Clean Channel, on the other hand, lets you get a nice and clean tone where you need it. Speaking of settings, like in other Brainworx plugins, everything you need for a ready guitar tone is available here, including many impulses.
- Plexi controls
On the front panel of the plugin, you will see all the typical Plexi settings. In addition to the clean and high gain channel switch, you can control Presence, Bass, Middle, Master, Gain, and Clean Volume here. There are also tiny switches that allow you to influence the character of the sound even more. For example, Fat control will thicken up your low-end, C-45 will affect midrange, and Saturation scoops things out.
- FX Rack
As in other Brainworkx plugins, this section contains Noise Gate with settings and Tight and Smooth controls, which stands for the high and low-pass filters. In addition, you get a Delay with tempo tapping and knobs like Feedback and Lo-Fi.
- Recording Chain
The number of built-in impulses in the plugin is enormous. You will find more than a hundred of all kinds of IRs with different combinations of guitar cabinets and microphones. In addition, there is an information window function that tells you what kind of equipment is present in a particular IR.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you want the legendary Plexi sound of a Friedman BE-100 guitar amplifier, this plugin will be the perfect solution for you. You’ll get all the control you need to make it even “on steroids” thanks to the Fat, C-45, and Saturation controls. And over 100 cabinet impulses will send you on a journey to dial the guitar tone that suits you best.
4. Mercuriall Audio Software – Spark Review
The Spark plugin from Mercuriall Audio Software will be a real find for fans of Marshall guitar heads. It has quality sound and lots of good production options.
Mercuriall Audio is a Russian brand that has already gained an audience among quality amp sim plugins. The company is the creator of such hit software as Reaxis, Euphoria, and SS-11X. One of their most popular products is Spark.
This plugin contains four different guitar amps based on legendary heads: the JCM 800, AFD Slash Signature Head, JMP Super Lead, and JMP Super Bass. Each has its unique sound, as close as possible to the physical prototype. It is also possible to use effects, different cabinets, and microphone impulses. Besides, almost all have two channels each.
One of the essential features is changing the tube type of preamp and power amp. So it will be a fantastic opportunity to influence the character of your sound down to the most precise details. It is also worth noting that the plugin uses simulation with the custom technology of Neural Networks.
- Stomp Boxes
If you don’t have enough power from your virtual amplifier, use the pedal overdrive emulation. It will allow you to strengthen the low end of your guitar tone or warm-up its overall character. In general, the plugin includes emulation of famous pedals such as TS808, 808Mod, TS HOT, and Mesa/Boogie Tube Slammer.
- Cab section
The creators of Spark have prepared for you a section of cabinets, where you can choose between two good-sounding 4x12 cabs – the first is based on Bogner Uber, the second – Marshall 1960 BE. You have a choice of speakers between 7-75, V30, JBL K120, and Greenbacks.
You will have everything you need to adjust your Chorus, Reverb, and Delay on the effects control page. By the way, In Spark, you can use them in parallel to get a more expressive effect without extra routing.
The plugin is available for Windows Vista or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, AAX formats, and as a standalone host.
Four legendary guitar amp types in one amp sim plugin with great sound tuning possibilities – that’s precisely how you can sum up the Spark software from Mercuriall Audio Software. The creators have done an incredible job of making the sound as close to the real thing as possible. Therefore, you can forget that you are using a plugin and not an actual amplifier during the playing.
In addition, you can immerse yourself in finding your tone even more with the emulation of guitar cabinets and microphones. And the effects section lets you experiment and get the sound you want.
5. Softube Marshall Plexi Super Lead 1959 Review
This legendary head needs no introduction. The Marshall Plexi Super Lead was at the forefront of rock music. Now you can use it as an amp sim plugin from Softube.
The Super Lead guitar head is perhaps the most significant piece of gear in the history of rock ‘n’ roll and the evolution of guitar tone. Especially when Angus Young, Jimmy Page, Graham Coxon, Johnny Ramone, John Frusciante, Slash, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix were among those who used it. It’s hard to get a hold of this vintage piece these days. But luckily, we can enjoy the legendary tone now in plugin form.
Softube created this software by borrowing an authentic Plexi Super Lead 1959 (a model number, not a year) from the Marshall Museum. In addition, the company called the legendary engineer Tony Platt, who worked with AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and a lot of other famous bands. In cooperation with him, were created the cabinet impulses of this plugin. And it is not strange, because thanks to his experience Tony Platt know how to get the perfect sound of this amp.
- Detailed and versatile tone
Marshall Plexi Super Lead 1959 has two channels – lead and rhythm. Each has two inputs – high and low gain. What adds to the versatility of sound production is that you can combine these channels using patches.
- Cab & Mics
The IR of this plugin was based on the era-appropriate 1960BHW cabinet. Softube and Tony Platt captured the impulses with three vintage microphones – FET, Valve, and Dynamic. All can be panned and tweaked on the side of the plugin.
The channel strip section has an EQ that will give you even more control over the sound. The low end can work as a cut and a shelf, and the high end only as a shelf.
The plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
The Marshall Plexi Super Lead 1959 from Softube will give you the perfect opportunity to experience a classic guitar tone in your DAW environment. It is the sound that created legendary rock masterpieces. In addition, you can be sure that the guitar tone will be perfect, as AC/DC engineer Tony Platt, who helped create the premium cabinets impulses, has personally taken care of it.
6. Neural DSP – Fortin NTS Suite Review
If you want a real high gain monster in the form of an amp sim plugin, the next one on our list is what you need. It is the brutal Fortin NTS Suite from Neural DSP.
Finnish company Neural DSP is one of the top producers of amp sim plugins. Their list includes Archetype: Gojira, Archetype: Nolly, Archetype: Tim Henson, and many others. A few years ago, they decided to team up with Fortin to get one of the demon heads in plugin form.
The Fortin NTS Suite plugin is based on the famous Natas guitar amplifier. The name speaks for itself if you read it backward. Still, the software has absorbed all the power and fury of the physical prototype. It’s a two-channel amp with additional gain settings, a pedal booster, and an excellent cab sim. In short, everything you need to get an aggressive metal sound.
- 6RIND & 6IRTH Controls
You will see these knobs on the front of the amplifier. These frequency selective gain controls interact with the 6AIN knob to control the saturation and distortion characteristics. With them, you can get a tight crunch or a complete high gain distortion.
- Grind, Zuul & Hexdrive
These are the pedals that are located in the chain before the amplifier. Zuul will give you Noice Gate, Hexdrive will act as an overdrive pedal, and Grind will add an amount of clarity and articulation to the sound, making every note defined and present, even when highly distorted.
The cabinet emulation in the plugin is very comprehensive and adaptive. In addition to good-sounding speakers, you can choose between six virtual microphones, which can be positioned around the speakers. In addition, you can load your impulses or disable this section altogether.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST, AU, AAX formats, and as a standalone host.
The Fortin NTS Suite from Neural DSP would be fabulous for those who want the most brutal yet clean and transparent guitar sound. Although, this amp sim is versatile and can also serve for dirty tones. It is where the 6RIND and 6IRTH controls help you. Also, a good attraction of this plugin is the pedals for even more expressive distortion and the fantastic cabinet emulation section.
7. Overloud – T-HU Review
Imagine that you have many guitar amplifiers, effects pedals, and cabinets at your disposal. The TH-U plugin from Overloud will be just such a hub for you.
Overloud Audio Tools is an Italian company specializing in creating music production software, including amp sim plugins. In 2019, they introduced the T-HU plugin, which intends to be one place where you can build a ready-made guitar sound with lots of options.
First, the plugin has both amp modeling and capturing technology. In general, the creators included 239 models of different guitar amps. That’s 89 amps, which contains items officially approved by brands like Randall, DVmark, Brunetti, and THD. Regarding effects, there are pedals as well as emulation of studio rig. And, of course, you can apply 18 different models of microphones to the cabs impulses. You will have a 3D model of the cabinets to move the mics on the speakers.
- Amp tweak pannel
This function allows you to change the tube models of the preamp and the power amp. It means that you can take any guitar amp in the plugin and affect the character of its sound to your liking. Such tube models are presented as 12AX7, 12AT7, D.SILICON, D.GERMAN, 6L6, EL34, KT88, and 5881.
- 3D cab simulation
In general, the plugin has 50 guitar cabinets. Thanks to the matrix of 4 microphones, you can place them anywhere on the speaker, change the angle and pan in the stereo field. A dual IR looper also allows you to load and mix IRs with the cab microphones.
- Creative effects
The developers of this software assure you that you can change your guitar tone however you want, thanks to the built-in effects. For example, turn it into an organ tone with the organ-tone-maker or create synth-like tones with the ring modulator.
The plugin is available for Windows Vista or higher (32 and 64-bit) and macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST, AU, and AAX64 formats.
Overloud’s T-HU is a beautiful plugin with almost unlimited possibilities with experimentation on sound. The developers have done everything necessary to fill it with as many virtual guitar heads, cabinets, and effects possible. The plugin will come in handy for those who like to dig into presets with well-known guitar tones and create their own.
8. IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 Review
If you choose between giant hubs of virtual amps, cabinets, and effects, you should check out the AmpliTube 5 from IK Multimedia.
The Italian company IK Multimedia has been in business for quite some time – over 20 years. They produced both hard and software and were among the first to translate amp modeling to portable devices, thanks to iRig. Their first version of AmpliTube, released in 2002, was the first guitar amp and effect plugin that simulates an entire rig. And now this software has received version 5, which has just an incredible number of different features.
With AmpliTube, you have complete freedom to create a signal circuit. And you can make it as easy as possible – by drag-and-drop, all the necessary elements from stompboxes to amps, cabinets, studio effects, and even the room. By the way, the number of units in the plugin is vast. For example, in addition to the previous ones, the new version of AmpliTube got 130 new models, 23 new rack FX, and over 100 wholly re-captured cabinets. Notably, IK Multimedia created many of the plugin’s amps in official collaboration with Fender, Mesa/Boogie, Orange, Slash, Brian May, Joe Satriani, and many more.
- Realistic tones
AmpliTube 5 uses DIM and VIR technologies. It allowed the developers to capture as accurately as possible all the details of the sound of the equipment and translate it into digital form. As a result, you get even more realistic-sounding guitar tones.
- New mixer
The plugin features a new mixer that gives you complete freedom to mix different elements of your guitar circuit. Here you can experiment with the sound of different cabinets, mics, DI signals, and effects, including some from T-RackS 5, which allows you to add studio brilliance to your sound.
- Volumetric Impulse Response
The creators have added the Volumetric Impulse Response feature to the new version of AmpliTube. It allows you to radically transform over hundreds of cabinets in 143,000 impulse response measurements.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, AAX formats, and as a standalone host.
If you were satisfied with the previous versions of AmpliTube, the fifth version would please you even more. You’ll be surprised by the realistic sound quality, and the number of available gyrations will blow your mind. The plugin will be helpful for those who want to get the sound of the world’s premium equipment in their DAW, try out ready-made presets of famous musicians, and experiment with new sounds.
9. Positive Grid BIAS Amp 2 Professional Review
Imagine designing an amplifier and picking out minor details of the sound yourself to sharpen the guitar tone the way you want it. It is what will be possible with the BIAS Amp 2 plugin from Positive Grid.
California-based Positive Grit has already made a name for itself among musicians and prosumers with its versatile owt. For example, Bias FX 2 allows you to use many different virtual amplifiers, effects, and cabinets. The developers went even further and introduced the Bias Amp 2 plugin, which will be an absolute dream for anyone who wants to influence the minor details of their guitar tone.
Bias Amp 2 is a virtual guitar amp designer. Thanks to a Guitar Amp Modeler & Builder, you can swap preamps and power amps, tubes and transformers, tone stacks and filters, and speakers and mics in search of the ideal tone. The developers studied the behavior of many boutique tube amplifiers, which allowed them to create dynamic tone control. It completely emulates the sound of a tube amplifier and gives you the most realistic tone.
- Cabinet module
Positive Grid has teamed up with renowned guitar speaker manufacturers Celestion to give their users the best guitar cab impulses. You’ll have access to IRs from stars like Pete Thorn and Scott Henderson to George Lynch. Other than that, you can forget about downloading individual files. Choose a custom Celestion’s virtual amp cab and start moving the mics around – Bias AMP 2 does the rest.
- Amp Match
This feature is suitable for those who do not want to spend a lot of time in the amplifier’s settings. You can ask Bias Amp 2 to match an approximate guitar circuit based on an audio file. You need to specify the desired genre, and the plugin will do all the work for you.
Working with Bias AMP will be even more convenient for you if you already use the BIAS FX plugin. The fact is that there is a direct integration between the software. It means that the guitar amps that you create with BIAS AMP 2 will be automatically available in Bias FX, providing the basis for your perfect finished tone.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS 10.10.5 or higher. It comes in VST2, AU, and AAX formats.
The BIAS Amp 2 from Positive Grid will allow you to create personal and customized guitar tones. In addition to influencing almost every amplifier component, you’ll have access to premium cab impulses from Celestion. And if you don’t want to delve too deeply into amp settings, use Realistic Amp Match to get the sound you want.
10. Brainworx bx_rockrack V3 Review
What if we told you that you could get eight different guitar amps from crystal clear to high gain raging monsters in just one plugin? It is bx_rockrack V3 by Brainworx and Plugin Alliance.
The German company Brainworx became popular with its UAD-2 emulation amplifiers of relatively high quality. Not only do their plugins sound like tube amps, but they feel the same when you play them. The company especially delighted many of their fans with their bx_rockrack software, which includes eight amps and excellent guitar tone capabilities.
The bx_rockrack V3 amp is based on such legendary pieces of equipment as the Marshall JCM 800, ENGL 530 preamp, and Mesa Boogie Record-o-Verb. There is also a custom Brainworx metal amp. Each has its character of a sound, which will fit from jazz to death metal. In addition, you get 40 impulse responses recorded through Brainworx’s NEVE VXS72 console in Germany. Like other plugins from this company, it has everything you need to get a finished guitar tone – namely, noise gate, high and low-pass filters, delay, and more.
- Graphic EQ
On the front panel of each amplifier, in addition to the usual knobs, there is also a graphic equalizer. It will allow you to immerse yourself even more into your sound production and sharpen your guitar tone.
- FX Rack
Here you can customize the Noise Gate as you like it. Also available to you is the Delay with tap and tune function for mix, feedback, and lo-fi levels. And high and low-pass filters help bring the sound closer to mix-ready.
- Recording Chain
Implied here is the possibility of choosing different cabs and mics impulses. There are a large number of them per amplifier. For example, Brainworx created an IR based on such famous cabinets as Diezel, Orange, Engl, and many others.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
The bx_rockrack V3 plugin will give you the incredible ability to use different guitar amps in the form of only one software. With them, you can choose everything from clean and crunchy guitar tone to brutal and massive. What’s unique here will be the high-end pulses of the cabinets and mics. So you’ll have a lot to choose from to get what you need.
The 5 Best Free Guitar Amp Plugins 2021
1. Audiority L12X Solid State Amplifier Review
If you remember that little but growling transistor head from Marshall called the Lead 12, know that you can get it as an amp sim plugin entirely for free. It is the L12X Solid State Amplifier from Audiority.
Marshall created the Lead 12 Solid State Amplifier in the late 1980s. It was a small head that could surprise with the amount of gain and push cabinets up to 4×12 and could easily sound like a JCM. Now this famous amplifier is available in amp sim plugin form from Italian company Audiority.
The plugin almost wholly replicates the appearance of the actual head. The creators slightly modified the chain by adding a Contour knob to get a more scooped tone and additional Boost overdrive stage. In addition to that – a built-in Marshall cabinet impulse with Celestion V30 speakers.
- Contour control
This knob is present in most guitar amplifiers. It allows you to scoop up the mids and make your tone more biting and aggressive.
- Boost mode
If you don’t have enough power in your guitar tone, the boost button always comes to the rescue. Turn it on, and it will give you more gain.
- Cab sim
The cabinet impulse is built-in here. It sounds pretty good and was designed by Seacow Cabs. But if you want to apply your own IR, that’s not a problem since you can disable the built-in impulse at any time.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, AAX formats, and as a standalone host.
If you’re new to the world of amp sims or don’t have the budget, the Audiority L12X Solid State Amplifier has you covered. It’s excellent free software from which you can get different guitar tones, both slightly overdriven and heavily distorted. The plugin exactly replicates the sound of the Marshall Lead 12 head and has a pretty good built-in cabinet impulse.
2. Nalex – Amplex 4 Review (Guitar Tube Multi amp)
It’s hard to believe that the following plugin on our list is free, as it can emulate almost any guitar amp. It is Amplex 4 by NaLex.
Those of you interested in the no-cost amp sim plugins have heard of the software from NaLex. This guy provides his products for free on his blog page. Among the number of plugins, there are some based on Freedman, Mesa/Boogie, Diezel, and many other brands. Among them is Amplex, a Multiamp that can be all these heads at once.
This virtual amplifier comes with a folder with text documents with the code, which you can load into the plugin. These are the emulations of different guitar amplifiers – a total of more than 20. The list includes amps based on Peavey 5150, Engl Savage, Orange OR120, Mesa Mark II, Diezel VH4, Randall Satan, Marshall JCM800, Bogner Ubershall, and Soldano SLO.
It is important to remember that NaLex software only comes as an amp sim head. It means that you will need to use your own IR loader and a noise gate to get the finished guitar sound.
- Power Amp control
The Amp Sim got an extra Power Amp knob. Thanks to it, you can rock your virtual amplifier more and get additional saturation.
- Low-end control
In addition to the Bass knob, you also have the Low-end knob. It gives you extra control over the low end, which is very important for fast guitar riffs with palm mutes.
The plugin is available for Windows XP or higher (32 or 64 bit), and macOS 10.5 or higher (32 or 64 bit). It comes in VST, VST3, and AU formats.
Amplex 4 by NaLex will be a real gift for fans of free software or those who do not have the budget for a fancy amp sim plugin. Here you can feel the character of the sound of the top guitar heads free and use them for your music production. By the way, if you want to thank NaLex for such products, there are donation links on his page.
3. SoftAmp – PSA Review
If you are a fan of virtual preamps like the legendary SansAmp, this one will pleasantly surprise you. It is the SoftAmp PSA, and it’s completely free.
SoftAmp’s PSA is a virtual-analog guitar preamp, which, unfortunately, is only available for Windows. This plugin has five stages of distortion, complete with a noise gate and compressor. In short, everything you need to get an expressive guitar tone that shines through in the mix.
It is noteworthy that each overdrive stage in the plugin has a specific frequency shaping according to their names. For example, Buzz is responsible for low-end overdrive, Punch for mids, and Crunch overdrives the high frequencies. In addition to the main controls, two more knobs are accountable for the speaker parameters simulator – Shape and Rolloff. If both are set to 0, the speaker simulator is completely bypassed.
Asymmetric and Soft-Clip
These buttons give you even more control over the gain structure. Asymmetric saturates the signal with harmonics, and Soft-Clip makes the distortion less sharp and helps fading notes sound smoother.
The PSI Denoiser is a noise gate with adaptive release time. It is equipped with the Learn function. It means that without playing anything on your guitar, it will detect the noise level itself and provide the appropriate threshold.
Squeezo Range compressor
This compressor is not linear but a musically sounding one. You can use it as both an upward and downward compressor depending on the gain and bias setting.
The plugin is available for Windows XP or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST format.
It is a great free plugin if you are a Windows user and want something similar to the famous SansAmp. The obvious advantage will be the different stages of distortion, which are responsible for different frequency spectrum ranges. Also, here there are such good things as an adaptive noise gate and compressor. This software is suitable for working with both guitar and bass.
4. EXE Consulting – Classic Thirty Review
The following free plugin on our list is quite simple but has pretty extensive functionality. It is Classic Thirty by EXE Consulting.
Classic Thirty is also available for Windows users only and emulates the famous Vox AC30 combo amp. This plugin has many effects, a speaker section, a compressor, a separate graphic EQ, and more.
It’s an all-in-one plugin that can provide you with a great classical guitar tone for free. And we’re talking about both clean and overdriven sounds. In the developer’s words, the plugin has accurate circuit modeling and stereo capability, but it uses some CPU.
This knob allows you to increase the stereo width of the sound field dramatically. You can quickly get dubbing of the left and right rhythm sections from a single DI recording with the width control.
The number of effects in this plugin is awe-inspiring. Among them are Phazer, Flanger, Chorus, Vibrato, Delay, Reverb, and Tremolo. And each one has extensive settings.
The plugin is available for Windows 64-bit only. It comes in VST format.
If you want to get a pretty good emulation of a Vox AC30 combo with lots of effects and features for free, this plugin can serve you well. It has everything you need to get a finished guitar sound. But the disadvantage will be its use only for Windows and the limited number of available formats.
5. GuitarML – Chameleon Review
You can also pay attention to this free plugin, Chameleon from GuitarML, as it is straightforward and has three channels.
The Chameleon is a virtual vintage-style amp type head that has three channels. Green will give you a clean tone, and Gold means crunch and Red for a heavier distortion. The interface here is as simple as possible. On the left are the channel selector and the gain control. Then you will see all the usual knobs like Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence, and Master.
It is essential to know that this is only an emulation of the guitar head. Therefore, you will need to use your own IR loader and a noise gate to get the finished guitar sound.
- RTNeural engine
The core of the Chameleon plugin sound is a neural network engine that allows the plugin to masquerade as a high-end tube amplifier. This software uses the modern RTNeural engine, which reduces CPU usage.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher (32 or 64-bit), and macOS 10.11 or higher. It comes in VST3, AU formats, and as a standalone host.
A vintage virtual head with three channels is how you can characterize this plugin. It is as easy to use as possible but requires additional software to get the sound ready. So if you’re new to building your guitar circuit, it can get a little tricky to use.
Mercuriall Audio Software – Tube Amp U530 Review
Another excellent work from Mercuriall that we decided to put as a bonus on our list. It is the Tube Amp Ultra 530.
The Russian company Mercuriall Audio Software constantly surprises you with its products of incredible quality. The U530 is no exception here. This plugin is based on the famous sound studio preamp ENGL E530 and has a wide range of tones. It means you can go from powerful hi-gain to bright crunch and crystal clear tone.
Mercuriall used the most realistic modeling here. The Tube Amp Ultra 530 is a complete digital replica of the E530 preamp. It means that no waveshapers or equalizers were used in its construction. In addition, the U530 has additional features like a stereo chorus and a cabinet section.
- Preamp section
Here, you will choose between the Clean, Crunch, Soft Lead, and Heavy Lead channels. You also have a 3-band EQ for Clean and Crunch and a 4-band EQ for Soft and Heavy Lead. Plus, you can switch between 12AX7-RCA, 12AX7 Tung-Sol, and 12AX7-RSD tubes.
- Amp section
This Class A tube amplifier is based on a 6V6 pentode with a feedback loop and Presence control. A remarkable feature here is that the power amplifier section considers the cabinet’s resonance properties. It means that if the cabinet simulation is disabled, the power amplifier section operates in neutral mode, allowing you to use your own IRs.
- Cab section
The IRs here are assembled from the world’s top-notch cabinets. For example, the plugin uses Bogner Uberkab 412, Marshall 1960B, and MESA/BOOGIE 412 RECTIFIER based responses with CelestionV30, JBL K120, and Greenback speakers. Mercuriall used a Shure SM57 microphone to capture all these impulses.
The plugin is available for Windows Vista or higher, and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Tube Amp U530 is an excellent amp sim plugin, which can boast an extraordinary sound quality. You can get almost any guitar tone out of it, from clean to high-gain distortion. A nice bonus is the Chorus, which lets you add depth to your guitar parts.
As you can see, the variety of guitar amp plugins these days is incredible. You can get almost any sound and experiment with it, making it unique. It all depends on your taste, what kind of distortion or overdrive you prefer.
If you want to have a premium plugin in your arsenal, perfect for the heaviest metal subgenres – number 6, the Fortin NTS Suite from Neural DSP will be the ideal solution for you. Or maybe you’re a fan of the legendary Friedman BE-100 tone? In that case, you’ll love the #3 plugin on our list, which is the Brainworx Friedman BE-100. We also can’t help but think of number 5 from Softube, based on the famous vintage Marshall Plexi Super Lead 1959.
For those who like to have as much virtual equipment as possible in the form of just one plugin, options such as #7 T-HU from Overloud and #8 AmpliTube 5 from IK Multimedia will do. And if you do not have a budget at all for amp sim plugins – download units from our list of free plugins – these are #1 Audiority L12X Solid State Amplifier and #2 Amplex 4 from NaLex.
To know what kind of plugin you need, try to figure out the purpose of using it and the musical genre. Depart first and foremost from what tone you have in your head or your favorite guitar amps. That will help. Then experiment and have fun. Good luck!
Ilarion Ivanenko is a remote mixing and mastering engineer, a musician with more than 15 years of experience. Specializes in rock, metal, progressive and the other genres. He can’t imagine his life without music, as it is the biggest passion in his life