Wellcome to our list of the best Plugin VST products for metal guitar. This is by no far an end-all list, as I am sure you all have your preferences, it is merely an enumeration of must-have tools to have in your arsenal.
One of two virtual instruments on this list, The ample metal hellraiser stands out in its speciality in djent and progressive metal. It’s not often you get virtual instruments designed for such a niche subgenre, but the djent scene has been dominant for some of the past few years and to have such a great virtual instrument dedicated to mimicking these sounds mean that any producer or sound designer looking to get to grips with this technique and how it interacts with the wider components of a track would easily benefit from getting their hands on the Ample Metal Hellraiser.
So, how is it designed? It encompasses literally everything you would need to make an instrumental guitar track with this one single plugin – so, especially if working in genres like shred, it is in some ways pretty all encompassing, though it is also the kind of gear which can be added to simply if you feel like experimenting with how different sounds and plugins can work together. By everything, this means all the things needed to create a great mix such as EQ and other FX such as modulation and many different kinds of distortion as well as all the amps, cabs, and mics needed to fully define your own sound. Then there is the guitar itself – capable of simulating most kinds of technique from tremolo picking to bends, slides, vibrato, legato, and more.
Specifications: Windows 7/8/10, 64-bit only, MacOS 10.9 or higher. VST2, VST3, AU, AAX, or Standalone host
What is the goal of the retro decimator unit? To absolutely crush any sound to the sonic limits of distortion, overdrive, and other ways of altering your music landscape to make it heavier. One of the most ultimate, extreme plugins dedicated to turning every soundwave into a haze of awesomely destructive distortion, Inphonik’s Retro Decimator Unit will guarantee that your songs are never lacking in heavy duty FX again.
What’s so special about it is the fact that it goes above and beyond the normal scope of any plugin. Whilst many models on the market are focussed on providing specific effects such as phaser, overdrive, and so on, the retro decimator is ready to warp the soundwave in literally any way possible. It’s specialism isn’t conventional – instead, the Retro Decimator is out to find every opportunity to push sound design to the edge.
Specifications: VST, AU, and AAX pluginsavailable for Windows, MacOS, and Linux (exact operating systems not listed), Rack Extension for MacOS and Windows, and AUv3/IAA available for iPad and iPhone
There are tons of plugin bundles out there, but there are very few which focus so precisely and distinctively on the needs of metal guitarist beyond simply providing heavy overdrive and ample amounts of distortion. Metal is such a complex genre with an incredible range of different techniques, sounds, and complex mind bending riffs which go into the playing alone, let alone the intricacies of sound design and production required to separate all these complex and intertwined elements.
What other plugins recognise the nuances between doom, thrash, djent, hardcore, and so on. With four discreet amps which can be paired with eight speaker cabinets and any combination of two of eight microphones, the possibilities for mixing, matching, and crossing the boundaries of genre are numerous. And for the metal guitarist who loves to play live, the fact that all these plugins appear just as they would on a real pedalboard means that they are easy to pick up in no time at all.
Specifications: Operating systems not listed, but available as VST, AU, and AAX plugins for any DAW
As opposed to plugins or FX, Shreddage 3 is a full blown virtual guitar. Beyond the expense and technical expertise needed to hire a luthier to create a physical guitar from scratch, this virtual instrument was a change for the creators at Impact Soundworks to really let their minds run wild with the best things they could come up with for sheer metal force.
What really sets this apart is it’s 8 string, drop-E capabilities designed to create the biggest walls of sound imaginable. So much of Shreddage 3 was recorded just for this virtual instrument itself, meaning you can find sounds which won’t be replicated anywhere else. It does all varieties of playing really well, from crushingly heavy to super clean, intricate tones needed for shred guitar.
Specifications: requires version 5.7 or higher of Kontakt Player – a free sampler from Native instruments.Kontakt Player itselfruns on Windows 10 or 11 and MacOS 10.14, 10.15, 11 or 12 (intel) as well as MacOS 11 or 12 (Apple Silicon Macs)
Reverb: that quintessential, all important plugin which no musician or sound designer can do without. Otherwise, unless you want your music sounded flat, dry, dull, and sterile, you can’t exactly avoid adding in the natural echoes and reverberations which would exist in a live studio recording but which get taken away when you work on a DAW. That’s where reverb plugins step in. Nevertheless, reverb for metal guitarists generally is a bit more unique and specialised than it is for pop or the lighter forms of rock. That’s because the complex riffs and techniques used in metal as well as the layers of sound and production which go into a heavy track mean that reverb has to be added carefully so as to prevent muddling of the sounds as well as it sounding unnatural.
For metal and rock a large variety of reverb types is also extremely important and this is where the Reverb V2 really comes into it’s own. This reverb plugin has been used on albums by Slipknot and Tool amongst others, and is unique in its wealth of reverb varieties and ability to emulate the classic atmospheric spaces beloved of reverb designers such as churches – but also for its combination of algorithmic reverb with more traditional reverb types in order to combine flexibility with depth of sound. For the complex layered sounds of metal, it is vital that a producer has plenty of options, and this plugin allows up to six different types of reverb to be in use at a time. In combination with compression, modulation, and extreme amounts of creative control over the timings, distance, and quality of different parts of the reverb, this is one of the most in depth and technical – but therefore indispensable – reverbs on the market for metal and rock guitarists.
Specifications: Not listed on site but predecessors ran on both MacOS and Windows in all formats
So there you have it – a mixed, yet versatile and highly worthwhile bag of some of the most creative plugins for rock and metal guitarists of 2023. These plugins will boost your creativity, have you writing completely different riffs to what you are used to, and change the way you think about music.