Best Guitar VST Plugins of 2020 – Ultimate Review

Guitar sound defined modern music history. Many iconic songs are founded upon that 6-string sound and it’s no wonder that modern VST instruments and effects provide you with such a huge offer for live performing or recording. It’s also possible to compose a virtual guitar sound. 

Yes. You heard it correctly.

Comparison of the Best Guitar VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Biggest electric guitar sample library
  • Different pickup option
  • Contains about 2.000 chords
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  • Complete songwriting software for all kinds of metalheads
  • Seven-string guitars and five-string basses
  • Instruments recorded by rockstars of Korn, Billy Idol, and Avril Lavigne
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  • Various acoustic guitar instruments
  • 1250+ rhythm patterns
  • 30 different samples for repeated notes
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  • Comprehensive guitar step sequencer
  • Decent amp simulations and FX
  • Best user interface design
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  • Most advanced acoustic guitar software
  • All articulations captured
  • 12-string guitar, Ukulele, Mandolin, and Guitalele included
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  • Distorted electric rhythm guitar player
  • 100 styles with 1100 riffs
  • Built-in amp and speaker simulator
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  • True simulation of the most iconic guitar amp ever
  • 50 presets made by AC/DC sound engineer
  • Three-channel mixer strip built-in
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  • Complete coverage of guitar and bass sonic spectre
  • Countless choices of guitar equipment
  • Quick Recorded and Super Looper
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  • Huge collection of rock guitar, basses and drums
  • Great dual convolution reverb
  • Complete The Beatles experience
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Are Guitar VST Plugins Hard to Learn?

If you want to use Guitar VST plugins properly the first thing you should do is to try and think like a real guitarist. If you have some musician knowledge about guitar playing, take a listen to pre-made presets and alter them accordingly. But, if you are a complete newbie, don’t experiment too much - even small changes can make it sound unrealistic.

So, the main key is to remain “human” and revise your tracks occasionally. Try to keep it minimal but catchy because it’s easy to get carried away and put in some demanding licks and riffs.

How Do I Choose the Right Guitar VST?

With so many guitar VSTs out there, it’s easy to get confused. Here are some questions that can help you to narrow the available options:

Composing or Performing

The most important question is are you a guitar player? If you are, you probably won’t benefit so much from guitar virtual instruments as a composer would, so you should look more for guitar effects and virtual amps. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use guitar virtual instruments for instant composing or creating a demo when you don’t have a guitar next with you.

Genre 

Depending on the genre that you wish to play some VSTs will work better than the others. Guitar VSTs are heavily dependent on the genre so before you buy one, ask yourself, what kind of music you are about to record? If you know the answer, you have solved most of the puzzle.

Type of Instrument

Certain Guitar VSTs excel in electric guitar sounds. Some specialize even further and provide you with the guitar sound of a certain era. Others are better for acoustic guitars. Just like the genre, it’s up to you to decide what you need as there is no all-in-one solution on the market.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Guitar VST Plugins

With so many guitar VST out there, we have decided to put a focus on guitar virtual instruments and provide you with just a pinch of other guitar VSTs that will be covered completely in a different article:

PROS

  • Easy double-tracking recording mode
  • Slide mode available from every fret position
  • Almost 2.000 chords recorded in up to three different voicings
  • Various playing techniques with numerous articulation captured
  • 8 guitars, each captured with 24,000 samples and 3 pickup options

CONS

  • Steep learning curve
  • Guitar feedback effect is missing

Features and Specifications

This software is made from 8 different guitars that were taken to insane levels of detail. All samples were recorded “clean” by direct input and can be modeled further with built-in amp simulations or your own guitar effects and VSTs.

Thanks to a capable AI system, playing features can be automated just like the real guitarist would do it without thinking about it. And if you want to record it double-tracking is available for every instrument as a separate preset where both tracks are playing the same sound but with the different samples.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is the most advanced guitar VST instrument. It has so many samples that a regular 88 key MIDI controller is unable to capture all the key switches. There are so many scriptings included that it almost matches with artificial intelligence. Humanization is not just a random round-robin, it calculates the most logical options that rely not just upon what was played before but also look ahead to find how to sound as realistic as possible.

So, the bottom line is - when you learn how to program it and still get complaints from your guitar friend it doesn’t sound realistic, be sure that’s their ego talking.

PROS

  • Improved drum kits samples
  • Huge modern guitar sound library
  • Seven-string guitars and five-string bass included
  • Dual-channel output available for guitar sound editing
  • Sound recorded by rock stars from KoRn, Billy Idol and Avril Lavigne

CONS

  • Pre-made riffs and lick patterns would be awesome
  • Lead guitars vibrato articulation are not so convincing

Features and Specifications

This is the second EastWest virtual guitar library that has improved many features along and this time they included several rockstars to capture the pure heavy metal energy. Pitch-bending is working flawlessly this time and the drum sounds are much more convincing.

6 guitars, 8 basses, and 3 drum kits with several snares and cymbals were captured this time all with round-robin features while a guitar can seriously benefit from having a dual-channel output so that you can combine amp and direct out to your personal taste.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Rock and metal guitars were always one of the most “hard to simulate” sounds. It’s not just about the sound, but expressiveness as well. This plugin captures it quite well and this is especially heard on clean guitar sounds so that sound gets more driven if you increase the playing velocity.

Anyway, this one excels in heavier sound that’s even suitable for composing hardcore music thanks to five-string bass and seven-string guitars found among available instruments. Drum sounds are excellent so you actually have all the tools for creating a heavy metal anthem without using any real instrument.

Best for the Money:
MusicLab RealGuitar 5

PROS

  • Affordable virtual acoustic guitar instrument
  • Up to 30 different samples for repeated notes
  • Advanced Song Mode with an integrated looper
  • Standard and Baritone guitars available in various string format
  • Guitar Rhythm Pattern provides you with more than 1250 rhythms

CONS

  • Effects panel could be improved
  • Very complex VST with too many options

Features and Specifications

MusicLab RealGuitar 5 provides you with various sounds of acoustic guitars in different string settings so you can pick either from Standard and Baritone versions with not just six but twelve and fourteen strings as well. On top of that, the steel-string guitar sample set is also added.

Realtime playing is handled by Floating Fret Position technology so you can utilize 103 frets using a regular 49 MIDI controller. Many playing techniques are available, with highly sampled strumming repetition of the same note. Even stop slap or strum and bottleneck slide are included.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Guitar Rhythm Pattern provides you with thousands of realistic rhythms from the MusicLab Guitar Pattern Library. Combine it with the Song Mode or import chords by copying it directly from the web, add a pinch of Humanize feature to make it less stiff and you have a perfect backing track of acoustic guitar with you in a couple of minutes.

And the sound is just spot on - this is a perfect songwriting plugin either you need to sketch a demo or produce a studio recording. And if you want to have some fun - you can even use Guitar Hero controller thanks to Struminator mode.

Best Electric Guitar VST:
Sugar Bytes Guitarist

PROS

  • Excellent learning curve
  • Strums, chords, slides, vibratos and much more
  • 2000+ samples of four electric guitar instruments
  • Decent amp simulations and FX including wah and talk mode 
  • One of the most innovative designs we’ve seen on VST instruments

CONS

  • Doubling needs to be done manually
  • Sonic difference between guitars isn’t so notable

Features and Specifications

This software was designed like an electric guitar step sequencer. It excels in creating rhythm patterns and provides you with the huge customization options in a very comprehensive song-oriented way. Sequences can be exported directly to the DAW as a MIDI so you could layer them with additional unison sounds.

Guitar sound derives dual output so you can blend amp and DI sound to your personal taste. There are four guitars available at the moment and each contains thousands of samples with various playing techniques.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We really love the design of the user interface. It’s very unique and gets you really into that “working on a blueprint” vibe. This plugin made a guitar world comprehensive even for users who never played guitar before so you will feel motivated to get more into it.

It’s also one of the rare software that actually provides you with talk mode (It’s My Life, anyone?)

With several upgrades announced regarding more instruments, this software is something you should invest in.

Best Acoustic Guitar VST:
Big Fish Audio Acou6tics

PROS

  • Additional instruments available
  • Up to 8.000 samples per instrument
  • All articulations available on all strings, all frets
  • Most advanced acoustic guitar software on the market
  • Many guitar chords available up to 50 different voicings

CONS

  • Requires a lot of time to master it
  • Pre-recorded MIDI pattern library would come great

Features and Specifications

Highly detailed nylon and steel string guitar sound are the key features of this software. All major articulations are captured with both finger and picking techniques.

However, it also provides you with the sound of 12-string guitar, Ukulele, Mandolin, and Guitalele with all the suitable playing techniques for those instruments. They even included sympathetic resonance modeling, a feature that’s unique to acoustic guitar and piano and paid special attention to the strumming engine.

All presets provide you with the stereo recordings including additional DI channel.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is the largest software library of acoustic guitars. Details and articulations captured in this plugin are out of this world and it’s very easy to trick not just listeners but also professional musicians that your tracks were recorded by real guitarists thanks to very good virtual room ambiance simulation.

This is especially audible if you would like to apply any guitar chord - Big Fish system registered about 25.000 different chords available to you. The AI system also decides for you the ideal string and fretboard position and allows you to alter it manually if needed.

Best Metal Guitar VST:
Virtual Guitarist IRON

PROS

  • Beginners and CPU friendly
  • Ideal for any kind of heavy music
  • Built-in amp simulation and FX panel
  • More than 1100 Phrases in 100 different Styles
  • Comprehensive pattern-based rock guitar sound library

CONS

  • Phrases can’t be edited
  • Sound coming from a single guitar model

Features and Specifications

This software is made as a pattern player especially oriented towards rhythm guitars of punk, hard rock, and metal. Thousands of phrases are available for many styles so it’s up to you to pick the one you prefer. 

While you can’t change the phrases, sound can be edited thanks to the built-in amp simulator and effects panel. Everything is organized in a very modern and beginners’ friendly user interface that uses a typical key switching model so it’s up for you to trigger a specific riff that will be tempo-synced with your project instantly.

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you’re a metal fan, newbie to music production and you’re still learning how to play a guitar, this software can buy you some time. Patterns provided are more than decent and can even give you instant inspiration for a new song and who knows, maybe that specific song will make a difference for your music career.

And the best part is that the user interface is very easy to understand so you can come up with some new ideas within an hour. With so many complex guitar VST it’s such a breeze to see something as comprehensive as UJAM Iron.

Best Marshall Amp Simulator:
Softube Marshall Plexi Super Lead 1959

PROS

  • 50 professional presets provided
  • Authentic vintage rock ‘n’ roll sound
  • Sound derived from three microphones
  • Great emulation of the most iconic Marshall Amplifier and speaker cabinet
  • Cabinet responses are taken by legendary AC/DC sound engineer, Tony Platt

CONS

  • Expensive for a single amp model
  • Some built-in effects could be nice

Features and Specifications

This faithful tribute to the Plexi Super Lead 1959 used modeling and impulse response technology to recreate the sound. Sound production was handed to Tony Platt, the AC/DC sound engineer from the Highway to Hell and Back in Black albums. Along that process, he granted us with 50 rock ‘n’ roll presets for an instant head start.

Like the original it has two channels - lead and rhythm and sound can be balanced from three sources. Two close mics were used to get both on and “off the grill” sound and additional room mic captured the room ambiance.

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you think about guitar gear, Marshall is probably one of the first names you would think of. It has a legendary sound and definitely made a serious impact on rock’n’roll history and this is one of the most popular amplifiers they have ever made. It’s a dream gear for every guitarist no matter what genre they are playing.

While it’s not fair to make such a comparison, we can say that it has the same vintage vibe so it can satisfy your needs until you save enough money to buy a real one.

Best Guitar Amp Simulator:
IK Multimedia Amplitube 4 Deluxe

PROS

  • Complete guitar sonic specter covered
  • Free microphone movement and replaceable speakers
  • 140 pieces of various guitar and bass equipment inside
  • Minimalistic 8-track Recorded and 4-track Super Looper
  • Massive community with numerous presets available for download

CONS

  • Bass sound is nothing special
  • Many presets are not record-ready

Features and Specifications

It comes with so many guitar options - dozens of amplifiers, speakers, cabinets, microphones, rack effects, and stompbox effects all based upon legendary guitar gear such as Mesa Boogie amps, Marshall preamps, and cabinets, Fender combos or Shure dynamic microphones.

Your “recording gear” can be made from a double amp and cabs setup captured by two microphones each. You can also chain up to 12 stomp boxes and 8 rack effects all routed independently if needed. Microphones can also be placed in virtual space to your specific taste.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Amplitube was one of the first guitar amp simulators on the market and this is their 4th version. They have proven the quality every time and have listened to users’ feedback and got back every time with an improved offer. This time, we can say that they have covered everything - they even provided you with a step slicer and acoustic sim stompbox.

We also had real fun playing with Super Looper. It’s straight-forward and may help you in the songwriting process because it contains 4 tracks. In case that’s not enough, a standalone version provides you with the practical 8-track mini-DAW environment.

PROS

  • Delay and convolution reverb available
  • Huge collection of rock guitar, basses, and drums
  • Fab Four instrument for complete The Beatles experience
  • Outstanding articulation quality captured in 24-bit resolution
  • Clean and distorted guitars available, including seven-string guitars

CONS

  • Drums sound a little bit artificial
  • Clean guitars are not so realistic

Features and Specifications

This is the EastWest virtual guitarist pioneer. They implemented a new sample engine for this purpose called PLAY and it is capable of creating amazing rhythm guitars. You can pick between different strums and strokes and even implement auto-legato that can help your lead parts sound more realistic

While having a heavy seven-string guitar instrument, first Ministry of Rock is still more oriented towards rock music focusing especially on the sound of The Beatles bundled in the Fab Four presets. Even a sitar and mellotron for Strawberry Fields are included!

Why it Stands Out to Us

Ministry of Rock is such a wonderful software so it would be a real pity if we didn’t review the first pack. This program, if treated carefully, can also trick even some pro guitar players, especially if you’re not pulling all cards on a guitar sound and the same could apply for the bass sounds.

It will come handy to all film and game composers that need an instant heavy electric guitar sound solution. Also, in case you feel Ministry of Rock 2 is too heavy for your taste, this library might be just right for you.

Types of Guitar VST Plugins 

Guitar VSTs can be organized into 3 categories:

Amp Simulator

Can amp simulators sound like real hardware? Well, this is a never-ending debate. But, one thing is for sure, they can be useful and they definitely made a breakthrough for all other types of guitar VSTs. We also have a hunch that thanks to the impulse response technology it’s only a matter of time when they will surpass hardware amplifiers.

Pattern (Phrase) Player

Just like groovebox machines that generate instant rhythm for you, some software will do a similar thing for guitars. While they might not be top-class professionals regarding sound and realism, they have a certain place in the VST world as they can help you a lot for recording a quick but proper demo track or even give you a couple of alternative ideas. 

Virtual Instruments

It was considered almost impossible to simulate a guitar properly because of so many different playing characters and very expressive sound, especially rock electric guitar. However, modern technology found a way of using advanced scripting and even AI technology so that everyone can have a guitarist in-the-box these days. So regardless if you need roaring riffs or that warm acoustic strum, you can have them both these days.

Benefits of Investing in a Quality Guitar VST 

Here are our thoughts about investing in a quality guitar VST:

Price

If you take any proper Guitar VST and write down all the amps, pedals and effects you’re using in a chain and then try to find a hardware counterpart for all of it. Even if you manage to find them all, you would still pass over the five-figure number. 

Luckily, even the best Guitar VSTs have only three.

Mobility & Versatility

If you have a real amp with a cabinet, you know how heavy it can be. Sometimes you may even need a friend to carry it around. And when you plug it in, you know the real sound doesn’t come until you turn the knob over 12. And, boy, it does sound great but ask either your neighbors what they think about it. 

With proper guitar VST, even if you don’t want to use headphones at least your back will be grateful.

Practice & Inspiration

You can’t deny that it’s wonderful that you can play the guitar anywhere. These days, even mobiles have plugins where you can record song ideas properly. Try to explain that to your rock legends from the 70’s and 80’s - they would kill for such an opportunity!

Conclusion 

No matter what guitar genre you’re about to record, we believe that these products can at least buy you some extra time before you find a proper guitarist or real guitar rig. And we can bet that so many people around you would ask you who played those sick riffs.