Let us walk you through the 11 plugins that we believe are great for making metal music in 2023.
The digital revolution took place in the second half of the 90s when all the physical equipment began to translate into plugins and virtual tools.
Now we’ve reached a point where we have almost everything we need at our disposal: guitar amp emulations, effects, virtual electric guitars, bass guitars, sample libraries, and so on. And the best part is that it’s all still going strong.
But how not get lost in all this diversity? That’s why we have prepared for you an overview of the best plugins that are now available. With them, you can experiment with sounds and copy known tones just for fun.
But the best part is that with these plugins, you can easily create metal music in the digital realm with high-quality results…
The 11 Best Plugins For Making Metal 2023 (Guitars, Drums..)
1. Solemn Tones – The Loki Bass 2
The Loki Bass 2 plugin from Solemn Tones is a real find for those who want to get a modern metal bass’s beefy and massive sound.
Solemn Tones is a company based in Vilvoorde, Belgium, that has already won over metal fans with a wide range of plugins. Their product range includes everything you need for music production: clippers, reverbs, saturators, compressors, MIDI electric guitars and basses, and drum groove libraries.
As for Loki Bass 2, this MIDI plugin is based on samples of the famous Dingwall NG2 Bass, a signature model of Adam Nolly from Periphery. And this already says a lot because the band is one of the founders of Djent. They made a massive impact on the development of modern metal in general.
Solemn Tones created samples of the plugin through a world-class recording chain. You can hear the premium Darkglass B7K and Parallax from Neural DSP on the finished presets. However, Loki Bass 2 will give you a pretty large selection of mix-ready tones as well as the ability to tweak them to your liking.
Also, there is an opportunity to use all the drop tunings. So it is wonderfully useful both for musicians who want to quickly write bass parts and those who do not have the opportunity to get a physical instrument at all. Let’s take a closer look at what advantages the Loki Bass 2 has.
- Play Styles
Loki Bass 2 gives you access to 20 different articulations. The plugin includes slap, thumb slap, finger pluck, muted plucks, and left-handed taps. In addition, there’s fingerpicking, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, slides from-to notes, bends, harmonics, mutes – anything you can ask for a bass. The settings variation is also quite extensive. For example, bend intensity, decay intensity, tune. Also, here you can adjust string noise, left-hand noise, and mute noise, all included with a “Human Error” switcher. It would add some realism to your bass track. The Force Slap knob will give you various mods for slapping.
- Tonal Options
You can choose between clean DI or five mix-ready tones. But if these options don’t suit you either, you can still customize the sound to your taste. Settings include low, mid, high, and air knobs. Overall output along with Enforce – this knob will add a clean low-end to your sound to give you more consistency for mixing.
- Standalone plugin
Many libraries need separate sample players, like Kontakt. Loki Bass 2 doesn’t need any 3rd party software. The developers emphasize that you can only buy the plugin and use it right away in your DAW, making quality metal bass tones at ease.
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.
2. Ample Sound – Ample Metal Hellrazer
The following plugin in our list is an absolute monster in the form of a MIDI instrument that is perfect for Modern Metal guitar riffing. That’s how you can characterize the Ample Sound – it’s Ample Metal Hellrazer.
It is an almost 6 GB sampled library with tons of features and options based on the Schecter Hellraiser 9-string guitar. Many guitarists know this famous USA brand as one of the top electric guitar manufacturers in the world.
The most famous artists using Schecter’s instruments are Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, The Cure, Papa Roach, Seether, Prince, Stone Temple Pilots, Nevermore, and Black Label Society.
Many musicians may be skeptical when it comes to using electric guitars as MIDI instruments. Like, why do it with the variety of Amp Sims and cab IRs that are now available on the market? But the point is that this plugin can really surprise you with the sound quality and how accurately it conveys the instrument’s sounds.
Ample Metal Hellrazer provides #C, #F, B, E, A, D, G, B, E tuning. It can chugs low, making it ideal for metal genres such as Metalcore, Progressive Metal, and Djent. Besides, there is an emulation of guitar amps and cabinets, which will give you a ready sound. But let’s break it all down in order.
- Play Styles
The plugin gives you all possible styles of play that you will need to create metal music includes sustain, palm mute, hammer on and pull off, tapping, legato slide, slide in and out, pop, legato at random length, and pitch & poly. You also can adjust the nuances of the playing technique through articulation parameters. In general, you can create rhythm, solos, and even clean guitar parts, thanks to the plugin. Speaking of technology, here are Poly Legato and Slide Smoother, Multiple Capo Logics, and Grainy – which dodges the grain of the attack and gives the sound a casual humanization.
- AI Generator
AI generator is a new option in Ample Metal Hellrazer. It’s pretty simple to use: choose the key, how many notes you want to be played, and choose an arpeggio or riff. In a blink, the system generates the tune you want. Of course, it may be a little far from what you have in mind. But that’s okay because then you can make your adjustments to the melody and get the best possible part. This feature is ideal for quickly creating riffs and melodies.
Built-in AMP System is another feature that makes the plugin great. There are six classic amp models: Metal Double (based on the legendary Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier), Metal Treble (Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier), Lead 800 (Marshall JCM800), Jazz 120 (Roland JC120), 65 Twang (Fender 65 Twin Reverb) and 57 Delight (Fender 57 Deluxe). Cabinet section includes 7 items: 1×12 57D, 2×12 65T, 2×12 120, 4×12 60A, 4×12 60B, 4×12 Ro and 4×12 Ri. You also get 8-band EQ with intuitive control of frequency response, 2-Line Compressor, 6-Tap Echo, and IR Reverb with Room, Studio, Hall, and Larger Hall options.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats, and as a Standalone host.
3. Neural DSP – Archetype: Gojira
A collaboration between one of the leading amp sim companies and one of today’s top metal bands. What else could be better for those who need a quality heavy guitar tone? It is Archetype: Gojira by Neural DSP.
Neural DSP is a Finnish amp sim company founded in 2017. In recent years they have become one of the major players in these products on the market, providing software of very high sound quality.
Neural has become very popular thanks to their collaborations on plugins with artists like Adam Nolly (Periphery), Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders), Plini Roessler-Holgate, and Cory Wong. They also created other amp sims that immediately won the hearts of producers and guitarists – the Omega Ampworks Granophyre, the Fortin lineup, and more.
The release of the Archetype: Gojira plugin in early 2021 was a tangible furor, both among fans of this French metal band, musicians, and metal producers alike. This software got three amplifiers and three cabinets that you can combine.
But the real trick is the effects that you can activate both at the beginning of the guitar chain and the end of it. The developers also made sure that the plugin could be used not only by those engaged in recording music. That’s why they provide it as a standalone version as well.
- Amp section
Among the number of amplifier emulations available, Clean is the first. It was based on a vintage tube amplifier, both with clean tones and the ability to get a natural tube saturation. Second on the list is Rust, a crunch amp featuring one of the most significant gain sweeps Neural DSP has ever worked on. The last amp is the high gain Hot. It is the main one and will give you that most famous Gojira metal guitar tone.
The cabinets emulation section of the Archetype: Gojira plugin, which includes three units, is the well-known Adam Nolly from Periphery. It contains seven virtual microphones, which can be easily placed on the speakers. In addition to the hundreds of IRs, you also can load your impulse responses.
Archetype: Gojira is equipped with Pitch Effects, including Wow, a MIDI-programmable pitch shifter pedal with three different modes, and Oct, a polyphonic Octaver pedal capable of adding two independent octaves. The Pre Effects section has an Overdrive pedal, Distortion, Phaser, and Chorus that you can adjust to your liking. There are also Time Effects with Delay, and Reverb, and a 9-band graphical EQ.
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.
4. Ample Sound – Ample Metal Ray5
Want the classic Nu Metal bass sound in midi format? Stop here because this is the Ample Metal Ray5 from Ample Sound. This plugin will give you everything you need for a powerful low-end.
Ample Sound is a Chinese company known for its wide selection of string midi instruments. They offer more than two dozen plugins that include everything from folk instruments to heavy guitars and basses.
Ample Metal Ray5 is a sample library of the famous Stingray 5 bass guitar from Earnie Ball Music Man, released in 2009. This bass has its characteristic aggressive tone and volume, which makes it perfect for metal music.
The characteristics of the virtual instrument, which have been ideally sampled, are good, but the emulation section of the amplifiers and cabinets add even more consistency to the plugin. It gives you the ability to get a “mix-ready” sound for your songs at ease.
Plus, it has all the necessary play articulation adjustments you need to create a classic Nu Metal song. What defines precisely the sound of a Nu Metal bass guitar, you may ask. Of course, it is a low tuning and the slap technique. And this all includes the Ample Metal Ray5. Let’s take a closer look at its characteristics.
- Play Style
Ample Metal Ray5 lets you choose your bass tuning from standard E to low A. That is, it has all the necessary techniques for Nu Metal. The plugin library, which is 3.3 GB, includes seven velocity layers that trigger slapped notes, soft fingerpick, hard fingerpick, medium slap, hard slap, and hard pop. There are settings such as sustain, palm mute, hammer-on and pull-off, legato slide, and more regarding articulation. The plugin also has a Pick Attack Accentuation feature that can configure to simulate the sound of a pick, creating more variation and realism. Multiple Capo Logics will give you a variety of automatic fingering logics for different types of performance, such as solo, chorus, and so on.
You are provided with built-in amplifier and cabinet emulations to get the most realistic “production-ready” bass guitar sound. Besides, you can choose between Vintage-15, Bass-500, Bass-Pro amp models. The range of cabinets includes 1×15, 2×10, 4×10, 8×10 Four cabinets. Each cabinet has four mic options: U87, C414, MD421, and SM57 and room mics. If you want to dive more into sound manipulation, you have an 8-bend EQ, 2-Line Compressor, 6-Tap Echo, and IR Reverb in your arsenal of instruments. The latter provides types such as Room, Studio, Hall, and Larger Hall and 3D visualization of the IR spectrum.
Presets are another cool feature of the plugin. Let’s say you want to create a cover of a famous nu Metal song from the 90s or early 2000s, but you don’t have time to research the characteristics of what the musicians used back then to get the proper tone. Ample Sound has created blanks for you based on the type of songs you know. For example, there is an emulation of the sound of the legendary For Whom The Bells Tolls by Metallica. But still, most of the presets are related explicitly to Nu Metal. There are Did My Time, Divine, Freak on a Leash, Got The Life by Korn. And for Limp Bizkit fans, the developers prepared presets like Hot Dog, My Generation, My Way.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats, and as a Standalone host.
5. Ugritone KVLT Drums 2
Many producers and fans of heavy music complain that modern metal production in recent years has become very polished and even generic.
What if we told you that you could quickly get a raw, underground metal sound by making music at home? Ugritone KVLT Drums 2 is just the right plugin to bring that to your music.
Ugritone is a company created by two Finnish guys Ron D. Rock and Toni Kauko. They create plugins, virtual instruments, and sound packs for music producers at pretty affordable prices. Their goal is not to develop perfect-sounding software but to make it as exciting and new to customers as possible.
The assortment of drum samples and VST plugins on their website includes six items: the first and second versions of KVLT Drums and RIOT Drums, Dieswitch Drums, and Northern Artillery Drums. Also, there are many drum MIDI packs of any style, such as Skate Punk, Grindcore, Deathcore, Melodeath, Metalcore, Thrash Metal, Industrial, Progressive, Nu Metal, and many more.
The developers claim that KVLT Drums 2 is a drum sample library created to cover all 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s underground metal drum sounds. The samples have an unpolished beauty and a raw, natural sound. So this is what makes it an excellent alternative to the industry standard of drum samples libraries.
- Sampler Engine
The plugin features an advanced sample engine that includes many Round Robins and Velocity layers. It will give you the most realistic virtual drumming experience. The Ugritone Drums Plugin also makes use of modern scripts combined with dynamic sampling techniques. It means that you won’t get any robotic sound, but just the opposite – as close to the actual playing as possible. If we talk about sampling, it’s worth mentioning that it was recorded from drum kit pieces of Mapex, Ludwig, Sabian, Ziljdian, and Wuhan brands.
- Interface & Mixing
You will control settings such as Gain, Pan, and individual Microphone Levels of each part of the drum kit. The interface will allow you to do this both in groups or individually. With these features, you’ll be able to choose the perfect mics combination for you and adjust the overdrive levels, room, and effects channels. In addition, the plugin can mix the IR’s of different rooms. It also has built-in EQ, Compressor, Delay, and Saturation control.
- Kit Presets
This feature comes in handy if you have no experience in crafting your drums sound in the box. Or if you just don’t have the time to do it. Ugritone has your back with a wide range of presets. Their names speak for themselves: MetalFinland2002, NorwegianChickenShack, Seattle1991, St.Ranger, Thrash1989, MysteriousSatan, etc.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST, AU and AAX formats.
6. United Plugins – QuickBass
Let’s say you have a bass line already recorded, and you want to process it as quickly as possible with all the necessary tools for musical production. In that case, QuickBass is the perfect solution for you.
QuickBass is a relatively new product from United Plugins, whose creators include JMG Sound, FireSonic, SounDevice Digital, and MeldaProduction. It is the second plugin in a series from the Instant Audio Team that gives you a one-stop shop for specific instruments.
The fact is that QuickBass here is not just a pretty name. Thanks to its interface and features, the plugin is an all-in-one solution for working as fast as possible.
The design can seem a little embarrassing: it’s in the form of a guitar body with all the settings on it. All that is just hitting you in the face. But that’s what makes the plugin very fast to use if you understand the settings well and know what you want for your bass part.
In this case, you will not be confused by the number of tabs and will have everything at your fingertips. It also means that you do not need to use different plugins. In addition, the plugin also includes a fairly extensive number of presets. And the CPU usage of the QuickBass is very low.
- All-in-one solution
The first thing that catches your eye on the main panel of the plugin is the EQ section with Low Cut, Bass, Deswamp, Mids, Highs, and High Cut knobs. Here, you can tune everything manually and choose presets based on your playing style – Finger, Slap, Millerize, and Pick. Next, we see a compressor with Vari Mu, Opto, and Fet mixing capabilities. There is also the Sub Bass enhance knob, Saturation, and Doubler.
According to the creators of the plug-in, it was developed by bass players for bass players. So, in addition to being able to configure everything yourself, you can use presets. In general, there are three folders of presets: in the root folder, you will find those standard ones like Deep Pick, Double Finger, March of the Picks, Rock Pick, Saturated Pick, and many others. But besides that, there are two other folders of presets by Colin Edwin from Porcupine Tree and the producer and composer Nick Bassett.
Intelligent sleep on silence
Another advantage of the plugin is that it automatically detects when it is necessary to activate processes. It means that if there is nothing for the perform, it turns on the sleep mode. Therefore, the plugin will save the computer’s CPU for other processes. It would come in handy if your machine is a bit old and can’t boast high performance.
The plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
7. Three-Body Technology – Heavier7Strings
Heavier7Strings by Three-Body Technology is another guitar MIDI plugin that can come in handy for creating metal songs or demos. It’s all thanks to its powerful sound and a vast number of settings.
The plugin was released in 2017. The development itself was four years. This 7-string virtual instrument includes full effects rack, a library of patterns in all styles of metal. All in all, there were 10,000 samples recorded on quality equipment.
Heavier7Strings includes its sampler, so you don’t need any third-party players. This software also boasts a built-in DSP Engine called THRASH (Tonal/Harmonic Reconstruction and Shaping). It provides different tone adjusting functions that affect the guitar doubling, pitch modulation to give as much reality to the sound as possible.
Despite the plugin’s rather rugged design and character, you can use it to create guitar parts for metal, rock, and pop music. All thanks to the extensive library of patterns and sound variations. Also, one of the crucial things is that Heavier7Strings is equipped with a massive number of amplifier emulations, cabinets, and presets. Let’s take a closer look at it all.
- Play Styles
In Heavier7Strings, you will find all the styles of play you need. Samples include Infinite sustain, Palm-mute, Hammer-on & pull-off, Legato slide in/out, Gliss, Pinch harmonics, Tremolo, Polyphonic legato, Up/down picking, and more. There’s also Strumming – deduce complete chords from part of composing notes. Overall, the plugin is loaded with 300 factory MIDI patterns. Sound styles include metal, rock, and pop, along with non-rhythmic noise and ambient.
- FX rack
A fully equipped effects rack is probably the tremendous pride of the plugin, besides the number of recorded samples. This feature is most responsible for the finished guitar tone. Here you will find 31 effects like Screamer, EQ12, AMP, Flanger, Wah, Ping-Pong delay, etc. Also, there are 16 amp emulations from clean to high gain distortion and another 66 cabinet pulses. But that’s not all. The plugin also has 200 factory presets, along with a separate preset manager. By the way, you can create your own presets as well.
- True doubling
Let’s say you want to create a song with the classic guitar dubbing technique, where two identical rhythm parts are split into right and left channels. Heavier7Strings will allow you to get two individual parts that have particular random note delay and RR selection. It will let them sit well in the mix and give you a powerful stereo sound.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher (both 32 and 64-bit), and macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
8. Audiority Klirrton Grindstein
If you are also tired of generic and boring guitar metal tone – Mr. Kristian Kohle and Audiority have prepared a Klirrton Grindstein plugin for you. It will be the dirtiest, most brutal, and sinister you’ve ever heard in your life.
Kristian Kohle is a well-known German metal producer and musician. A few years ago, he and Klirrton company developed the real physical Grindstein guitar preamp. It is a two-channel unit, where you can mix classic old-school Swedish HM2 tones and more modern ones.
However, later Kohle cooperated with the Italian plugin manufacturer Audiority to create a digital version of this preamp. All to make these sounds available to users who like the digital field and just those who can’t afford a physical copy.
The development of this software took a year and a half. All in all, it went through more than 50 revisions, which made it the most fantastic sounding.
This plugin can give you everything you need, from vintage Swedish Death metal, through Florida Death metal tones, all the variety of fuzz guitar tones, to something that sounds more modern. But still, it will be dirty and exciting.
And the best part is that it’s all in full digital format. By the way, the plugin is also equipped with many presets with names with a sense of humor, like Kohle Modern Grind, Kohle Very Swedish, Kohle Deadly Mids, Kohle Pure HM2, Kohle Dark Doomy Fuzz, etc.
With the Grindstein plugin, you get a complete guitar rig. All you have to do is plug your guitar into your audio interface, and you’re good to go. The heart of the software is the preamp section. Next, you have Gate – it’s a digital emulation of the Clear Tone Schnauzer pedal.
It gives you the ability to get the signal quiet in between playing, regardless of the amount of distortion it can provide. It also has a volume booster in the Noise Gate.
In addition, the plugin has an EQ and a cabinet section. The latter has 7 IRs, which Kristian created with different cabinets and microphones. Still, you can disable the IR section and use your impulse responses. But Kohle claims that his ones will make you very happy anyway.
- Grindstein preamp
This section has a Mix knob in the middle that allows you to blend two channels. On the left side – the lower channel, which is called “the bottom shaker channel.” If you go to the right side, you will only hear the upper channel, the “chainsaw” based on a legendary Boss HM2 pedal. Also, we have here a Boost knob for both channels. And finally, we have a Master. One more cool feature here is the FX loop. You can send any signal into your Grindstein from another plugin in your DAW, and it will blend it with a Chainsaw channel.
Kristian calls this section “most idiot-proof EQ you will ever see.” Here we have Chainsaw knob, Blade, which is more like a presence knob on a power amp and adjusts grindy highs of the tone. There is also a Dozer knob that controls low-end, Cleansing, and Scoop knobs, bringing you more to the 90’s metal tone. All of them go just in one direction, which means that you can only cut or boost. In addition to the names of the knobs, the design of the EQ is also quite evil. We can see here a butcher pig with a giant cleaver.
- Cab section
The seven IRs here give us everything we need for a brutal guitar tone of different variations. In the middle, you will see Modern gore, which is the most “normal” sounding. The more you go left or right, the more extreme your sound will become. Here we have Modern disgust, emphasizing the middle frequencies, a little bit of honky, but still aggressive. More gore gives us a very underground sound. Filth and slime are more direct and aggressive. Other impulses are called Bloodpath, Wolverine, and Northwards and provide more Swedish sound.
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, and AAX formats.
9. IK Multimedia AmpliTube Metal
A collection of top-of-the-line virtual metal guitar gear with which you can get the sound of the industry standard. That’s exactly what is possible with AmpliTube Metal from IK Multimedia.
When we talk about IK Multimedia, it is impossible not to pay tribute to these guys’ contribution to the development of music production in the digital environment. The company was founded in 1996 in Modena, Italy, and was among the pioneers in the emulation of amplifiers, guitar effects pedals, and other equipment.
They were also the creators of the famous iRig, which allowed us to connect guitars to iPhones and iPads. Today, the company produces both physical and virtual musical equipment.
The first AmpliTube plugin was released back in 2002 and created a furor among musicians because it allowed you to get the sound of your amplifiers and cabinets right on your computer. Of course, the sound quality was far from what we have today.
Still, it was the hard road to perfection that IK Multimedia started. Now version 5 of the AmpliTube plugin is available, an extensive hub of all the necessary guitar equipment. AmpliTube’s Metal series is a true “metalhead guitarist’s dream.”
It includes 13 effects pedals, five classic and modern amplifiers, five cabinets, and three reek effects. The creators claim that among them are rare Japanese originals, classic British and American essentials, including models based on the Electro-Harmonix, Digitech, BOSS, Randall, Peavey, and Mesa Boogie gear.
- Amps & Cabs
AmpliTube Metal includes Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier emulations – green and red channels. Also available here is the Metal Lead V model, which is based on the no less legendary Peavey 5150 guitar head. In addition, you can get pure metal mayhem thanks to the Randall Warhead 300 emulation. And fans of classic rock and metal will do Vintage Metal Lead, based on Marshall JMP100. All cabinets in the series are 4×12. Here you will find IRs from Fender, Mesa Boogie, Peavey, and Marshall.
- Stomp Effects
The collection of guitar effects pedals here is extensive. You get everything you need for a meta sound, such as an overdrive pedal in front of an amplifier. Also, there are four distortions, among them emulations of the legendary HM2 and Big Muff. You can also experiment with flangers, wah, and Wharmonator, based on Whammy by DigiTech. And the ten band graphic EQ will help you polish the frequency spectrum even more.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of building your guitar circuit, that’s no problem. IK Multimedia has prepared several presets for you, which you can search by keywords and attributes. All thanks to the advanced built-in preset browser. You can also create and save your settings separately. And the Preset XChange service allows you to post and share the presets you’ve created with the community of AmpliTube users.
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, and AAX formats.
10. Mercuriall – ReAxis
During the incredible development in recent years, the creators of amp sim plugins have taken tube guitar heads and cabinets and programmable preamplifiers as their foundation. That’s how Mercuriall’s Reaxis was made.
This plugin is based on Mesa Boogie’s famous programmable preamp called Triaxis. At one time, it became a game-changer, as it made it possible to use all of Mesa’s heritage of guitar tones as a unit that easily fits into a rack. Among the musicians who have used this equipment are James Hetfield of Metallica and John Petrucci of Dream Theater.
Russian company Mercuriall has created some wonderful plugins that have not left musicians and producers indifferent in recent years. For example, you can find emulations of ENGL E530 preamp, Bogner Ecstasy 101B, Marshall tube amps, and others. In addition, Mercuriall provides some plugins for free, which is a great credit to them.
The ReAxis looks very similar to its physical Triaxis ancestor. The same digital EQ and selection of mods are highlighted in green, yellow, and red. There we have two clean channels, three with medium gain and three with high gain. In the center, we see a tab where we can visually select cabinet emulation and microphones. And in the tabs on the sides, we have the pre and post effects.
- Pre FX
The first in the chain of pre-effects is Noice Gate. Next, we see the Wah-Wah pedal, which is based on the Dunlop Crybaby 535. The last one is the overdrive. We choose between pedals based on Ibanez TS, Boss Super Overdrive, and Grid Slammer from Mesa Boogie.
- Amp & Cab
In this section of the plugin, you can choose between different cabinet models and speakers. All 4×12 cabinets are divided into Modern and Vintage types with speakers such as V30, T-75, G12M, and K1205. You can experiment with sound even more by moving virtual microphones around the speakers. There’s also a power amp section where you can choose between 6l6 and EL34 tubes and thus influence the character of the tone.
- Post FX
The post effects section gives you control over Chorus, Reverb, and Delay. Chorus will provide you with the ability to use an excellent stereo widening effect and feel the spirit of 80’s rock. In Reverb, we have all the necessary settings: Room, Chamber, Spring and Hall, Stadium, Caterpillar. The Delay has fewer settings such as Roomy Slapback, Echo Space, Huge and more.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
11. Positive Grid – Bias FX 2 Pro
Suppose you are constantly experimenting with sounds and want access to many virtual amps, cabinets, speakers, pedals, and rack effects. In that case, Positive Grid’s Bias FX 2 is the perfect solution for you. It’s a true All-In-One Guitar Powerhouse.
Positive Grid was a pioneer in amp sim software that you can use on your mobile devices. In addition to plugins, this Californian company, with satellites in Italy, Germany, and Taiwan, also produces physical hardware.
Trendy are its Bias FX products, which are a set of virtual guitar equipment with many possibilities. Bias FX 2, which came out a few years ago, has many new features, unlike its previous versions.
The plugin uses a new higher-resolution DSP engine with hundreds of improvements to deliver the ultimate responsive, detailed, and varied guitar tones. There’s also an incredible collection of amps and effects, where the whole guitar circuit is entirely at your disposal.
You can even experiment with the sound of different speakers. And the icing on the cake is the hyper-realistic Guitar Match feature.
Bias FX 2 has thousands of effects pedals. It has everything you could ever need: overdrives, delays, reverbs, noise gates, compressors, EQ, and much, much more. The cool thing is that you can expand foot pedals by downloading thousands of shared, custom foot pedals from ToneCloud, Positive Grid’s worldwide social network of players, engineers, and producers.
- Guitar Match
The second version of Bias FX Positive Grid introduced a brand new Guitar Matching Technology. The system analyzes your sound and suggests which guitars you can emulate. For example, it means that with a Fender Stratocaster, you can sound like a Gibson Les Paul. And it’s just unbelievable.
- Speaker Selection
Positive Grid has collaborated with Celestion, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of guitar speakers. It means that Bias FX 2 has a massive selection of World-Class Cabs. Their impulse responses (IRs) are the favorites of guitarists ranging from Pete Thorn and Scott Henderson to George Lynch.
The plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher (32 or 64-bit), and macOS 10.12 or higher. It comes in VST2, AU, AAX formats, and as a Standalone host.
The 4 Best Free Plugins For Metal Music 2023
1. NaLex – Crunchman 3 Amp & Preamp
More Info & Download
NaLex plugins are the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about free guitar software. And it’s one of the best things you can find on the Internet without spending any money.
You can find NaLex Software plugins on the Blogspot page of the same name. You can download them for free. And if you want to thank the author – there are links for donations. They have more than a dozen plugins now, including guitar amp sims based on Mesa/Boogie, Diesel, etc.
It is important to note that the NaLex’s amp sim plugins only emulate the amp itself. That is, you have to build a complete guitar circuit yourself to make it work. You can start with any Noice Gate, then an overdrive pedal plugin (if you need an amp boost), then the NaLex plugin itself and IR loader after it.
It may be difficult for people who have no work experience in DAW, but it will be pretty easy for others. As for the Crunchman plugin alone, it is based on the legendary Friedman BE100 head. It is a 100-watt monster with a British basis in sound.
It was used by such bands as Alice in Chains, Pink, Bon Jovi, The Cult, and Foo Fighters.
The plugin has two channels – BE (Brown Eye) and HBE (Hairy Brown Eye). With BE, you get less gain and more crunch. And if you drive the gain knob down, you will get a cleaner sound. The HBE channel refers to the high gain. It will give us everything we need for a heavy and aggressive guitar metal tone.
- Power Amp
The virtual amplifier also has a Power Amp knob. The more you turn it up, the more you get the warm and saturated sound of a tube amp. The middle position will help you get a more articulate, crisp sound, ideal for fast riffs of modern metal.
The EQ section of the plugin is the same as its physical prototype. Here we have Bass, Middle, Treble, and Presence. These knobs are pretty sensitive and have a good effect on the sound you want to achieve.
The plugin is available for Windows XP or higher (both 32 or 64 bit), and macOS 10.5 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST and AU formats.
2. Mercuriall Audio MT-A Metal Area
Many remember the legendary Boss Metal Zone pedal. It was one of the most affordable distortions and brought up more than one generation of metal guitarists. This sound is available in the form of the MT-A Metal Area plugin from Mercuriall entirely for free.
The MT-2 metal zone is one of Boss’ most popular pedals that was introduced in 1991. With its enormous mid and low frequencies and ultra-saturated sound, this stompbox can give you some of the most overdriven, insane distortion tones. With this, you can get a guitar tone suitable for both rhythm parts and solos.
You can download the MT-A Metal Area plugin from the Russian company Mercuriall entirely for free on their website. However, it is worth noting that this plugin can only provide you with a bare distorted sound of your guitar.
It means that to use the software for your mixes fully, you need to finish the guitar chain with your impulse response loader and noise gate.
The plugin has virtually the same EQ as its physical prototype. Here we see treble, low, middle knob that boosts or cuts the frequencies, and another Mid freq knob that sets the frequency of the midrange knob from 200 Hz to 5 kHz. All these settings have a very similar effect on the sound as they would have on an actual Boss Metal Zone pedal.
- Dist knob
This knob, like the original pedal, is responsible for the amount of overdrive on your signal. The more you turn it to the right, the dirtier and more compressed the sound becomes. Perfect for the most brutal genres of music.
In addition to the fact that the plugin is free, Mercuriall also decided to give you a couple of presets so that you do not waste time turning pedal knobs. There are such ready-made settings as Hard Rock, Over Drive, Heavy Metal, British Rock, Rock & Roll, Fuzz, Rock One, and Rock Two.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher. It comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
3. TSE BOD 3 Bass Overdrive
Many bass players are familiar with Tech 21’s famous SansAmp preamp, which provides various tones for both stage and recording. But not many know that this preamp is also available as a small plugin for free. It is the BOD 3 Bass Overdrive by TSE.
This pedal was and is the best friend of many bassists. You can hear SansAmp tones on hundreds, if not thousands, of albums. All because it can provide you with vintage tube tones, bright modern sounds, gnarly distortions, and everything in between.
SansAmp capabilities are now available in the form of digital software as well. All these thanks to TSE Audio’s company, which put a completely free version of the BOD 3 Bass Overdrive on their website.
This plug-in can be applied to already ready-made DI bass guitar parts, or you can record them with it enabled. The main advantage of this software is that you’ll get a bass tone that will cut through the mix with ease. In other words, this pedal is everything you need to get a finished bass guitar tone.
- Easy to use
The plugin interface is just an activation button, six knobs, an Input, and Output adjustment. You won’t find anything else here. But this is precisely the kind of simplicity you need to get the right bass guitar tone as quickly as possible without getting bogged down with many options.
- Two-channel EQ
The equalizer in the plugin consists of two knobs – you can only adjust the bass and treble. And that’s only what you need since it’s enough to add body to your bass parts or cut them more through the mix.
The Blend knob will be helpful to adjust exactly how much of the signal from the virtual preamp will be used on your bass line. For example, you can mix a clean DI into your overdriven signal and thus adjust what ratio will be ideal for your mix.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 32 and 64-bit. It comes in VST, VST2, AU, and AAX formats.
4. ML Sound Lab – Amped Roots Free
When this plugin came out, it was hard to believe that you could free use such a quality guitar tone. But it turned out to be very real. Here is Amped Roots Free from ML Sound Lab.
ML Sound Lab, led by its creator Mikko, is a Finnish company that is one of the top producers of amp sim plugins. It already has more than a dozen different software based on some of the most popular guitar amplifiers.
The most popular products are the Amped ML5, Amped ML800, Amped Super Duper, Amped Dual, and Amped Flagship plugins. In addition, ML Sound Lab produces packages with excellent IR, both top cabinets and rare ones.
In 2020, the company collaborated with the famous American blogger Ryan “Fluff” Bruce and created an amp sim plugin based on four amps from his collection. First on the list is Fluff 5034 – the model, based on the EVH 5150, became completely free.
It provides a high gain guitar tone, perfect for modern metal chugs. In addition, the Fluff 5034 is equipped with a built-in IR and pedalboard.
The interface of the plugin is simple and exactly like a guitar head. Here we have two controls Input and Output, Gain, Low, Mid, High, Presence, and Volume knobs. We also have FX and IR Switch. Creators say they wanted everyone to experience the amplifier’s simulation quality and Plug’n’Play type design. Therefore, precisely as with real amplifiers, users will not spend much time setting this up.
If you don’t want to set up the amp sim yourself in any way, ML Sound Lab and Fluff have prepared you several presets for certain styles. On the list, you can find Dad Rock, Punk Rock, Alternative Rock, Thrash Metal, Nu Metal, Djent Kid, Metal Core, and Fluff’s Preset – almost anything that can satisfy a fan of both classic and modern metal.
Another cool feature of this free plugin is the presence of a Pedalboard. Here we can activate the Noise Gate and Drive – if you need to “warm-up” your head a bit, in the same analogy as they do with the physical equipment. There’s also Delay and Reverb, which allows you to experiment more and get even ambient sounds.
The plugin is available for Windows, and macOS. It comes in VST3, AU, AAX (mac only) formats, and as a Standalone host.
1. UJAM Virtual Drummer BRUTE
We couldn’t help mentioning this plugin, as it will be a real boon for those who want to get a powerful drum sound for metal very quickly. It is the Brute Virtual Drummer by Ujam.
Ujam is a German company that produces virtual instruments and effects plugins. They have enough plugins that have already gained confidence among musicians with their excellent quality, simplicity, and at the same time, versatility.
The company’s products are suitable for fans of electronic music and rock, metal, and less extreme genres. For example, they have software for beatmakers, virtual guitars, bass guitars, drums, groove libraries, and stuff like that.
Virtual Drummer Brute came out fairly recently – about a month ago. This plugin is suitable for hard-and-heavy music genres in loud, wild, edgy drum styles and cutting through the mix. It can give you all the drum sounds you need from early 90’s grunge to early noughties Nu Metal.
You get drum sets for five genres and six mix presets 31 playing styles, each with 23 phrases. With the plugin, you can program MIDI drums manually or use ready-made grooves separated by tempo, style, and categories like intro, verse, chorus, breakdowns, specials, and endings.
- Drum Kits
You can choose between 6 drum kits based on different styles, which means they will cover a wide area of different aesthetics. The Dirty kit will be perfect for Punk rock. Prime will give you the broad, unleashed sound of the ’90s. And the Noble kit is designed if you need a vintage drum sound. The Tight one will also provide you mini snare and a deep but dry bass drum. And the Dark kit would be perfect for dirty but organic and natural at the same time underground drum sound.
- Mix Presets
You can apply a specific sound style to each drum kit, thanks to the Mix Preset section. Gentle will be polished and enjoyable, perfect for ballads and pop music. If you want a garage sound that is Pumping & cranked with lots of compression, the Slam preset will help achieve that. Bite stands for less bass, more midrange, and correspondingly aggression – suitable for fast punk rock. Also on the list are Crush, Bounce and Wide presets.
- Amount & Smack faders
Need to add more power to your drums? That’s where the Amount fader helps you. It controls the level of parallel compression and saturation. On the other hand, the Smack fader will give a maximum transient response and attack. As the developers say, it is a more organic alternative to using envelopers. For example, you have a ready-mix, but the sound of the drums is a bit drowned out by the guitars. The Smack fader will bring back balance and an organic sound.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST, AU 2, and AAX formats.
2. Audio Assault – Hellbeast
What if we told you that you could get a real aggressive, diabolical amp sim at a very affordable price? That’s exactly what the Hellbeast from Audio Assault is.
Audio Assault is a Mexican company that produces affordable amp sim plugins, effects, IR loaders, and packs. The software on their website is available at a lower price than the more significant players on the market. In general, they have plugins based on famous guitar heads such as EVH and Revv. It’s worth noting that the design of the software itself is pretty good.
As for Hellbeast, this is the second version of this plugin available from Audio Assault. This guitar head has three channels. The first one is high gain and is based on the famous Randall Satan amp. Crunchy channel based on the Fortin Natas amplifier – is the second one.
And the third channel is just a clean one. The plugin has all the functionality you need to get the sound ready for your mixes. You can experiment with IRs, boost your tone, and add effects.
In addition to the head, you have three stompboxes at your disposal, through which you can refine your tone. There is Noise Gate, Boost, which can push the lows and tops, and Drive. The last one acts similarly to the Tube Screamer, enhances the amp’s front end, gives it more saturation, and helps control the muddiness in the low end. It will be indispensable for use in more modern genres of metal.
- Dual IR Loader
One of the main features of the new plugin version is that the IR loader here is now double. You can use the default cabs here or your own and blend them. There is also a function of moving the microphone over the speaker in the loader. In addition – a high and low pass filter, a pan, and a level knob.
- FX Rack
A 9-bend graphic EQ is available in this section of the plugin. It will be an excellent tool to tailor the sound even more after the amp. In addition, there are Delay with mile-second settings, BPM sync, Feedback, Width, and Mix knobs. Also, you can add Reverb to your sound with size, decay, tone, pre-delay, and mix settings.
The plugin is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, all 64-bit only. It comes in VST, VS3, AU, RTAS, and AAX formats.
3. Audiority – Heavy Pedal mkII
Audiority’s Heavy Pedal mkII is another legendary guitar pedal in plugin form. Attention all fans of classic Swedish Death Metal, this software is based on the famous Boss HM-2.
Boss released the HM-2 distortion pedal in 1983. Even though it was not very popular in those years, it has become a target for many collectors. That’s because it was pretty affordable and defined the main sound of Scandinavian Black and Death Metal. Yes, it was the same sound that started to be called “chainsaw.”
Now you can get this sound in the Heavy Pedal mkII plugin from the Italian company Audiority at a very affordable price. This virtual pedal is straightforward to use and even more so for those who have experience with its physical copy.
It is worth noting that this software is only a distortion effect. It means that there are two ways to use it: the pedal in front of the clean or lead channels of your amp sim. A clean channel will give you a more normal distorted guitar tone. At the same time, a combination with a lead one will bring you precisely those chainsaw sound.
All that because the Heavy Pedal mkII will work in the same way as Tube Screamer does, as an extra boost for your tone. You will need some IR loader in your guitar chain as well.
The plugin interface is as simple as possible and has only a few knobs, like Level, L and H Color Mixes, and Dist. The last control is the main one to make your sound nastier, more compressed, and aggressive. At the bottom of the pedal, there is a selection of mods, Gate, In, Out and Mix knobs..
The Heavy Pedal mkII has many mods that can help you achieve exactly the sound you want. For example, MJI Japan, Filth, FX 56, SMM-1, SWEDE!, Wampler, and Zed mods are available here. Each one has a different sound character. Just experiment with them and see what it can give you.
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, and AAX formats.
As you can see, the variety of plugins is extensive. You can get almost any instrument and create a finished song or an entire album. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re an amateur musician, a beginner, or a professional metal producer.
To help you choose a particular plugin, we can advise you to decide on a budget first. Some options are free. But you need to understand that sound quality is always worth paying. Still, there are budget options that will do the job just fine.
For example, if you need an amp sim but are on a low budget, you can safely try the free Amped Roots from ML Sound Lab. If you like it, you can eventually buy the full version of the plugin with three more amps, which costs €59.
If you want a premium amp sim and are on a budget, Archetype: Gojira by Neural DSP would be a good solution. As for the drums – the ideal budget solution would be Ugritone KVLT Drums 2. If you need a MIDI programmable bass – The Loki Bass 2 will do the job well.
And you can process the ready bass parts quickly and easily, thanks to the QuickBass plugin.
We also advise you to figure out precisely what kind of sound you are looking for. Will it be classical or modern metal? Maybe alternative or hardcore? Or perhaps you want to get the raw underground tones? Either way, all of the plug-ins we’ve featured on our list can do the trick. Then it’s up to you. Experiment, listen and create your masterpieces.
Ilarion Ivanenko is a remote mixing and mastering engineer from Ukraine, 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