Best Cab Impulses of 2020 – Complete Review

In the last couple of years, the world of guitar VSTs has finally made a significant breakthrough. The same technology used for recreating convolution reverbs has been finally applied for recreating cabinet sound and made guitar recording even easier. 

Let’s check out what makes Cab Impulses such a big game-changer.

Our Top Picks for Cab Impulses

  • Over 200 IR files
  • Bass cab IR files included
  • Ideal for heavy music
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  • 29 Amps with Amp Match
  • 45 Cabs with Dual Mics
  • 15 Celestion speakers IRs
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  • 8 guitar cabinet models
  • Dozens of mic combinations
  • Endorsed by Marshall
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Comparison of the Best Cab Impulses

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Over 200 Impulse Response files
  • Provides you with bass cab IR files, too
  • Ideal for heavy music
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  • 29 Amp models with 100 Amp Match presets
  • 45 Cabinets Module with Dual Mics setup
  • 15 Official Celestion speakers IRs included
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  • Officially licensed cabinet collection by Marshall
  • 8 guitar cabinet models
  • 6 single and 6 unique microphone combinations
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  • 16 cabinets with multiple microphone options
  • 260 presets of many genres and styles
  • Bass amp and cabinets also included
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  • 3 rare and great sounding PRS amps
  • 8 speaker cabinet IRs with custom loading support
  • Audition cabinets with auto-cycling feature
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  • The most advanced IR Loader on the market
  • 8 cabinet IRs and 10 factory presets
  • Blend sound up to 8 IRs in Cartesian Mixer
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  • Bass speaker with the dedicated cabinet IR
  • Smooth and warm tone with extended mid-range
  • Official Celestion product
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  • Guitar sound made for modern metal
  • 6 microphone available in dual editable setup
  • Works in stand-alone mode
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What is an Impulse Response? 

An impulse response (also known as IR) is an audio file that contains “a snapshot” of the sonic characteristics for a certain piece of gear, system or room’s acoustic. 

It captures a bunch of relevant information that occurs between the moment you play and the moment when the sound is generated. The gap between those two moments is stored within a single IR file that once loaded into any IR loader software faithfully replicated a complete sound processing signal. Those files can be used in both hardware and software units that support IR format.

What Does Cab Impulse Do? 

Cabinets are a very important chain in making a guitar sound. It actually defines the sound we all like.

Cab Impulse, or Cab IR, or as some people like to call it Cab Simulator is a digital version of the guitar speaker cabinet. It creates the same sound as you would get from a physical guitar cabinet in ideal studio conditions. 

Cab Impulse allows you to have hundreds of guitar setups at your disposal in less than 1 GB of storage space. They provide you with different cabinets or different microphone options while using the same cabinet.

Are Cab Impulses Hard to Use? 

While the complete process sounds like rocket science (and that’s because it is science-based, though), it’s not that hard to use them, because companies have provided a simple set-and-forget approach. So, in most situations, all you have to do is pick the one that suits you the best and load it using any IR loader software out there.

But, fine-tuning the IR sound may get tiresome at some point and it’s heavily based on what features the IR loader provides you with. The more detailed the IR loader is, the more music production skills are required from you.

When Would I Use a Cab Impulse? 

Here are some of the ideas:

Studio Recording

Not so long ago people went to the studio, picked a guitar gear they wanted for their album, and recorded it. In case they wanted to change anything, they would have to redo the recording session and waste more time and money.

With technology such as Cab Impulse, you can change the cabinets models on the fly. This way you can focus on songwriting and not the boring technical aspects.

Equipment Checking

Not so sure what cabinet you’re going to use live? You’ve heard that some speakers or microphones may work better with your setup?

Thanks to the cab IRs, now you can test it all out at your home before buying and it is much cheaper than before. 

Practice Anytime

Playing on a real guitar cabinet can be very loud. It also may require that you go to the studio or find a place in your apartment for it. And you probably know that the amp behaves differently when you play on volume 2 instead of a 9.

Luckily, with Cab Impulses, you can simply plug your headphones to the desktop or laptop and play any time you want without disturbing anyone around you.

Review of the Best Cab Impulses 

It was not so easy to find a software pack that offers only Cab Impulses, so we have also included several guitar plugins that excels in cabinet segment:

PROS

  • Ideal for heavy music
  • Raw and mixed format included
  • Over 200 Impulse Response files
  • Provides you with bass cab IR files, too
  • Bunch of flagship cabs and mics combinations

CONS

  • Doesn’t come with IR loader
  • Might be a bit too much metal-oriented 

Features and Specifications

This plugin bundle is made out of four IR packs and it comes with dozens of cabs, preamps, heads, and microphone IR files. 

Heads IRs are based on Marshall 6100, Peavey 6505 models, while cab collection covers a wide range of models starting from mild Orange PPC112 and Bogner 212C up to the big Mesa Rectifier and Marshall 412 cabs mostly equipped with the Celestion V30s or Greenbacks speakers.

Microphone IR covers the typical gear used in studio recordings such as dynamic Shure SM57 and Sennheiser MD421 and condenser like Neumann TLM103. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The number of files you are getting at this price is awesome. You will get a bunch of premium metal-oriented IRs that can be loaded into any software or gear that supports IR loading. Besides cabs, you will also get a bunch of amp IR files that can be combined with any other cab impulse collection you may already have. 

Unlike other bundles, besides typical 4x12, you will also get smaller cabs such as 2x12 and 1x12 which may suit better in case you’re recording a song that requires less-extreme sound setup. And there are some bass guitar IR files included, too.

PROS

  • Nine built-in reverb effects
  • 15 Official Celestion speakers IRs included
  • 29 Amp models with 100 Amp Match presets
  • Complete guitar sound chain from preamp to cabinet
  • 45 Cabinets Module with Dual Mics and open and closed-back emulations

CONS

  • Reverb could also come with IR loader
  • Dual mic setting lacks panning options

Features and Specifications

This plugin handles the whole guitar sound creation chain providing you with 29 preamps and 45 cabinets packed in one, two, or four speakers format and including 6 cabinets and 6 preamps dedicated for bass guitar.  Other hardware such as šoweramp, tone stack, and transformers are also faithfully modeled.

The elite version goes further and provides you with the custom Celestion’s virtual amp cab that comes with 15 official Celestion speakers IRs and there is a straightforward IR loader that allows you to load your files as well.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The only reason why this ain’t best overall is that it’s so much more than just a cab impulse collection. But, the IRs provided in this software were so good, we couldn’t resist and let you remind you of it. 

It also supports third-party cabinet impulses so in case you have some collection you may use it within this software while utilizing all other features this VST comes with.

Also, Amp Match technology may be very useful if you’re looking to nail your sound to perfection, but you don’t have sound sculpting skills required for such a task yet.

PROS

  • 8 guitar cabinet models
  • Ideal for vintage and hi-gain sound
  • Works the best with hard rock-oriented music
  • Officially licensed cabinet collection by Marshall
  • 6 single and 6 unique microphone combinations per cabinet

CONS

  • Exclusively available Softube Amp Room
  • Might not work the best for modern metal music

Features and Specifications

Marshall Cabinet Collection is Amp Room exclusive expansion, an audio guitar, and a bass platform. Those cabs can be used with any amplifier from this software. 

All the sounds were captured at Dugout Productions studio by Daniel Bergstrand, producer well known for his work with Behemoth, Meshuggah, In Flames.

There are 8 different cabs included including 4x12, 2x12 and 1x12 models that cover both high-gain and retro sound. Every cabinet was recorded with 6 single and 6 unique mix-ready microphone combinations tailored for track doubling. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Most of the IR files are oriented towards modern metal sounds as it’s the one that is somewhat the hardest to get it right. But, in case you’re looking for an older and more vintage sound, Softube made this pack for you.

This plugin is the only cab collection that is officially licensed by Marshall. It covers a couple of very loud beasts such as the Marshall 1960B 4x12 with the incredibly huge 300W sound but it also goes towards a more subtle option so a 20W Marshall 1974CX may also come handy for clean guitar sounds.

Best Cab Simulator:
Softube Amp Room

PROS

  • 10 effect pedals and 3 studio effects 
  • Bass amp and cabinets also included 
  • 260 presets of many genres and styles
  • 16 cabinets with multiple microphone options
  • Professional guitar platform with record-ready sound

CONS

​Features and Specifications

Amp Room is the modern guitar platform that gives you everything you need to create an authentic and realistic sound of electric guitar and bass. There are 6 amps and 16 cabinets at your disposal and in case you need several add-on packs available for purchase with the announcement of more coming up soon.

Besides amps and cabinets, Amp Room also provides you with the 10 virtual effects pedals emulating some of the legendary pedals such as Tube Screamer, for example.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This might be a very nice alternative for all users that are on a budget.

The number of cabinets is fine for our taste. It feels like it’s optimized so there is plenty to cover enough different solutions, but not overwhelm you in a way you will be losing hours trying out all the models available. 

We also like the fact that it handles the bass guitar needs as well and that it wasn’t made just for quick demo sketching. Instead, it shares the same quality as the rest of the guitar gear found.

Best Amp Simulator:
Waves PRS SuperModels

PROS

  • 3 rare and great sounding PRS amps
  • Artist presets made by Devin Townsend
  • Unique tone-shaping boost and auto-gain control
  • 8 speaker cabinet IRs with custom IR loading support
  • Audition cabinet combinations with auto-cycling feature

CONS

  • Could be better CPU-optimized
  • Some basic stompboxes would be nice

Features and Specifications

This plugin provides you with a collection of three rare PRS amplifiers - Archon, Dallas, and Blue Sierra/v9, an early original prototype of PRS J-MOD 100 paired with the IR collection of eight cabinet speakers captured at the home studio of Paul Reed Smith.

All amps come with a virtual tone-shaping boost, a digital tuner for extended-range guitars, and a smart noise gate. There is also an option to load custom IRs as well and the Phase and Time Fix will automatically correct any phase or latency issues between the different IRs.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This plugin should cover all your vintage cravings for Marshall and Fender-like sounds and we had a good time using this plugin in stand-alone mode.

The Archon is our favorite choice from this plugin. It is made for metal sounds thanks to warm and saturated sounds. It will go pretty well for both rhythm and lead parts. The Dallas manages to resemble Fender amps' brightness, especially in high-gain setup.

There is also a unique and very useful option to audition cabinet combinations through the auto-cycle feature. This way you can keep on playing and the sound will change on its own after a predefined period.

Best IR Loader:
STL Ignite Libra

PROS

  • 10 factory presets provided
  • The most advanced IR Loader on the market
  • IR auto-resampling for different sample rates
  • Graphical morph your sound between 8 IRs in Cartesian Mixer
  • 8 cab IRs included such as Mesa OS, Mesa Std, Engl Pro & Marshall 1960.

CONS

  • Small collection of IRs and presets
  • You may lose hours experimenting with the possibilities

Features and Specifications

Libra is a zero-latency IR loader software that allows you to load up to 8 different IRs at once. Each IR has its controls for Level, Phase Selection, Resonance, and high-quality dual filters. Delay can be also altered in case you want to prevent or cause some phasing interactions between cabinets.

In case the sample rate is different, Libra will resample the problematic IR automatically. Besides the IR browser page, it provides you with the Cartesian Mixer that will show you graphically how you’re mixing the sound coming from the loaded IRs.

Why it Stands Out to Us

STL Ignite got famous by creating wonderful guitar software and Libra is no different. Try to imagine playing your guitar up to 8 different cabinets simultaneously and then blend the sound any way you want.

Once you’re satisfied with the sound, it allows you to merge cab IRs into single brand new IR. And then you can stack it with once again! And again! Just kidding, but that’s exactly what Libra allows you to do and if that doesn’t sound appealing, then we don’t know what may impress you. Maybe the fact that it also recognizes and automatically flips negative phase IRs.

Best Bass Cab Impulses:
Celestion Digital BN15-400X

PROS

  • Official Celestion product
  • Three individual mixes captured
  • Various playing techniques captured
  • Bass speaker with the dedicated cabinet IR 
  • Smooth and warm tone with extended mid-range

CONS

  • Requires IR loader
  • More cabinet options would be welcomed

Features and Specifications

The BN15-400X is an official Celestion bass speaker impulse response in the form of 1×15 cabinet IR. It provides you with several Playing Style and three mixes that provide you with the different sound definition. You can choose from Finger basic or warmth detail, Pick basic and aggressive, and Slap style.

This speaker has a nice definition bump in the high end which results in having a more extended mid-range and brighter sound while having all the qualities of the typical 15” low-end range.

Why it Stands Out to Us

You know that IR technology is getting serious when companies such as Celestion go digital. If you need a heavy but warm and smooth bass tone, BN15-400X is probably your best choice.

It will cover all your playing techniques regardless if you’re playing with pick, finger or you apply slap technique a lot. That’s why it may be more than suitable not just hard rock and pop music but funk music as well.

Thanks to that extra brightness it could provide enough definition for metal music but we would recommend applying certain compressors and other third-party effects.

PROS

  • Works in stand-alone mode
  • Guitar sound made for modern metal
  • Grind, Zuul, and Hexdrive virtual stompboxes
  • Comprehensive and adaptive cabinet simulation module
  • 6 microphone available in the dual setup with adjustable positioning 

CONS

  • Only one cabinet simulation with a single set of speakers
  • Considering the shortage of options might feel a little bit expensive 

Features and Specifications

The nameless suite is made from an amp, cabinet, and three virtual stompbox pedals that can be used as a separate plugin. Amp provides you with two gain knob controls, master volume and the usual 4-band EQ found on many guitar amps.

Cabinet can be used in a stereo dual microphone environment with independent volume and panning. You can pick between 3 most famous dynamic microphones, condenser, and two ribbon mics with an option to load a custom IR profile. Mics can be positioned manually all around the speaker and also includes phase invert switches.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Many guitar sims can deliver you a lot of sounds but they all lack two very important things - character and response. Luckily Nameless excels in these areas so much that it may tempt you to completely switch your hardware with the software for studio recording.

This is probably one of the most complete resources for guitar sound. The sound you can get with it will be suitable for any kind of heavy music, but, unlike the others, it excels for extreme modern metal riffing where you need to utilize direct and isolated speaker sound with minimal ambiance.

Cab Impulse Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Success

Here are some useful general tips about using the Cab Impulses:

Check Microphone Characteristics

If you’re unfamiliar with the microphones, audition them in solo first before you decide to change position. There is no point in trying to nail the right position before you get into how a specific microphone works in general.

Blend Microphones Carefully

Using a second microphone is not mandatory. If you’re satisfied with the sound, don’t use it just because you can. Let your ears decide, not eyes. Start with adding up the Mic Level slowly. Try to memorize what microphones go in pairs for your taste.

Section-Related IRs

Some IRs may work for fast picking, while others will excel in open string playing. There is no reason why you shouldn’t utilize modern computers and automate such changes according to the song playing style.

Reference Track

Always audition reference tracks. Ears can get tired so besides resting, a quick comparison of what you want to achieve is always welcomed. Think of it as a road map.

Mix in Song, Not Solo

No matter how good your guitar sounds in solo, always think as a team player and try to integrate that sound to the song, not the opposite way. After all, your audience will be listening to the complete song and you will sound as good as your overall mix is.

Matter of Taste

In the end, remember that a guitar sound is always a matter of taste. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t worry if someone else uses quite different settings.

If you would like to watch those tips instead, check out the video link below:

Conclusion 

Guitar players are probably the most loyal musicians to old hardware technology. We hope that articles like these will show you that there is a very capable world of guitar software out there that can work for you as good as the good old cabinet you’re using live.