Editor’s Note: In this article, we will go into the best amp simulator VST plugins in the market as of 2021. If you’re looking for the summarised version, check out the table below, for a full breakdown, read on. Please keep in mind that this article is constantly updated so make sure you bookmark it for future reference.
If you are on a mobile device, this table might seem broken. Make sure you scroll to the right to see all the products and scroll inside the cells to see all the contents in them.
Whatever musical direction you’re taking, there’s a high chance you’ll be using at least some distortion. This effect was popularized back in the old days by blues and rock ‘n’ roll guitar players, who sometimes even damaged their equipment to get this tone.
Luckily for us today, achieving distortion is not that hard, and there are plenty of safe and affordable ways of doing it. Of course, the first association is often the guitar-oriented music, but great-sounding distortion can be found even in electronic music.
Even EDM musicians resort to using Amp Simlator VSTs, actual distortion pedals or guitar-related gear.
But if we’re talking about music production, mixing, and working in any DAW, it’s definitely easier and way more practical to rely on plugins. Sometimes, you can get some pretty great guitar tones, for whatever purposes, by using some great amplifier simulation plugins.
Whether you’re a guitar player, bassist, DJ, instrumentalist, or even a vocalist – here are the best amp sims for you to check out. Although mostly focused on guitar-oriented music, you’re always free to experiment and use them for other purposes as well. Here it goes.
A new amp simulator by Positive Grid, the Bias FX 2 amp sim brings a whole universe of options in creating one’s tone. On the other hand, the best thing here is the price. Sure, it’s the cheapest offering in the list, but it’s the best because it can do just about everything that the others can do for a fraction of the price.
The Positive Grid Bias FX 2 Amp Simulator VST is not a product focused on limited types of tones and musicians.
The newest in the Bias amp series brings an abundance of different amps, cabinet simulations, pedals, and microphones, all extremely realistically representing the respective models that they’re imitating.
There’s a wide variety of high gain amps for our metalhead readers, as well as a bunch of experimental effects to get your creative juices flowing.
Talking about amps and cabinets, Positive Grid teamed up with Celestion to bring digital replicas of the legendary speakers found in many of the prestigious cabinets. You can check the full list of amps here.
Overall, the Bias FX 2 brings some pretty advanced stuff with a surprisingly simple operation, making our favorite amp sim in the market right now. It comes as a great option for any level of playing and musicianship. Even beginners will find it easy to use, and the Bias amp can be a great way for them to get acquainted with the world of guitar amps and pedals.
It also provides a free demo if you are not sure you want to switch to a paid Amp Simulator VST.
Overloud’s TH3 amp simulator and plugin works in a similar way compared to the Bias, with a bunch of amp, cabinet, pedal, and mic models.
When it comes to guitars, there are 89 different amps, as well as 50 cabinets. Bass players, however, don’t have that many options, since there are only 4 bass amplifier models and 2 bass cabinet models.
Going over to the pedals and other effects, there are 77 different emulations to choose from. The choice of microphones is decent, with 18 different models and the possibility to choose up to 4 mics per one cabinet.
In total, the Overloud TH3 puts 1000 different presets on the table that will help you get great amp simulations right out of the box.
What’s more, Overloud collaborated with some of the famous amp brands, including Randall, to recreate their guitar tones.
Ignite Amps have a few interesting solutions for amp simulators, all of them giving some really solid tones, both for Clean and Distorted situations. The one we found worth mentioning on this list is the Emissary plugin, a super fun high gain amp.
Although focusing on just one amp model, the Ignite Amps – Emissary still provides a solid amount of possibilities and great tube-oriented modern metal tones.
The physical amp that it replicates is also called Emissary and was made by Ignite for Ryan Huthnance. It may not be as versatile as some of the other plugins here, but its strength lies in a very realistic representation of this tube amp.
It has two channels, Clean and Drive, along with standard controls and some additional switches for additional EQ shaping. And the best part?
Made by IK Multimedia, AmpliTube has been around for quite some time now. The fifth instalment in the series takes things to a whole new level, with some of the modern guitar heroes expressing their admiration for this plugin. They also did a major overhaul of the user interface, making it scalable now and optimised for Retina displays. Also you can now do parallel processing.
Amplitube 5 Amp Simulator VST brings an abundance of great amps of all the different eras of modern music, stompbox models, cabinet models, mic models, as well as possibilities to create intricate and non-linear signal chains.
Things get pretty interesting with the virtual microphone and cabinet placement, providing some very realistic-sounding amplifier tones. You can place microphones in virtual 3D settings, which is a pretty exciting feature.
Now, this plugin is a little different. First off, it focuses on just one amp which, expectedly, limits its versatility and leaves you with not many options. However, this was actually Universal Audio’s intention, to have just one amp and recreate it as realistically as possible.
The piece in question is Fender’s good old vintage gem, the ’55 Tweed Deluxe. This plugin was done in collaboration with Fender, who helped them out in digitally recreating this amp’s legendary circuitry. It may have somewhat of a narrow use, mostly those who are looking for those sparkly vintage-oriented blues tone.
But the recreation is just astoundingly realistic, coming very close to the original. Take the good old Tweed Deluxe and mic it up with different microphone simulations.
Studio Devil – Amp Modeler Pro VST
Although intended for guitars, the Amp Modeler
Pro by Studio Devil will also give great amp models, distortions, and other
effects for electronic music makers as well.
There are about 15 different preamps that come with it, 32 cabinets, plenty of different pedals and rack-mounted effects, as well as different controls and elaborate EQs.
It’s a somewhat cheaper option compared to the other entries on this list, although it definitely manages to convincingly reproduce classic and modern amplifier tones.
October 2020 update: Native Instruments just announced the new version of Guitar Rig 6. Guitar Rig 6 comes with a new interface, pictured below, more effects, and new AI tech. It’s been almost 5 years since the latest update to guitar rig, so the expectations were high within the music production community, and in our opinion, the new version lives up to the hype.
The first thing you’ll notice with Guitar Rig 6 is it’s brand new interface. It’s looking way cleaner and simpler to use. In addition, 16 new effects were added, including the following softube amps: RC24, RC48, CV2A, VC2A, VC76, and CC160.
All in all, Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 is one of the most diverse guitar amp simulators at the moment, with a great workflow and a very nice sound.
At the same time, it’s very accessible and is one of the best options for beginners who want to learn more about amplifiers, cabinets, pedals, and other effects and units.
Comparable to AmpliTube and Bias products, there’s a fair amount of amp and cabinet simulations with more than 50 effects and an option to use up to 8 different microphone models on one cabinet at the same time.
Last but not least, we have the Line 6’s Helix Native.
This is a great model to get that vintage rock sound, perhaps even the best amp simulator on this list. It’s priced on the high-end though and not exactly beginner friendly, so unless you have some experience under your belt, we’d recommend trying out an easier to use guitar amplifier simulator such as the Bias FX 2.
However, if you do know what you’re doing, the Line 6 is a great piece of software. It includes over 100 effects and 60 amps, including some of the legendary amps used by Hendrix et al (Mesa Boogie, etc).
If you’d like to have a go at the Helix Native Amp Simulator VST, Line 6 does offer a 15 day free version.
Final Thoughts and Overall Winner
And there you have it, the very best amp simulator available for purchase right now. Combined, they represent thousands of amps, cabinets, and stompboxes.
So take your time, read about the amps offered by each, and make your decision. If you’re looking for an expert opinion we’d go with the Positive Grid Bias FX 2 because you’re just getting A LOT for what it costs. Still, you are good with any of the Amp Simulator VST products listed in this article.