Best Guitar Amp VST Plugins – 2020 Review

Guitar players love their hardware and are extremely biased against guitar software. But modern VSTs have come a long way from being plain and naive.

We’re about to show you how good they can sound. Trust your ears and you will find out many benefits from investing in such product.

Comparison Chart of the Best Guitar Amp VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Flagship Guitar Amp Sim in plugin format
  • 62 amps, 37 cabinets, and 104 effects
  • Third-party cabinet IR loader support
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  • Over 140 pieces of guitar gear
  • Real amp response and feel
  • SpeedTrainer, Looper and Multi-track recorded included
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  • Affordable guitar rig with all modern features
  • 34 amps, 16 cabinets and 13 effects
  • Bass amp and cabinet included
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  • Built like a real amp with three channels
  • Perfect emulation of Horizon Precision Drive Pedal
  • Ideal for any metal music
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  • Virtual amp designer made for professionals
  • Cabinet IRs officially endorsed by Celestion
  • Amp Match sound cloning feature
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  • Vintage high-end amps
  • 260 sound presets provided
  • Compatible with other Softube plugins
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What Purpose Does a Guitar Amp VST Serve? 

Lets check how can you utilize Guitar Amp the best way:

Tryout

Remember the days when you wanted to try some guitar amp or stompbox but it was unavailable at the local store? Well, the current plugins offer you very faithful emulations of hardware gear. While we can’t say that all will be 100% on the spot, they will at least sound good enough to get some idea what rig or pedalboard setup may work the best for you.

Practicing

With modern laptops and current guitar amp plugins, you can practice literally anytime anywhere. No matter if it’s the dead of the night or you’re on a vacation or road tour, all you’re gonna need is a set of good headphones and some basic audio interface. Many plugins will provide you even with a tuner so you will have everything you need to build your skills a couple of mouse clicks away.

Recording

We won’t get into a debate if the VST can replace real hardware, but no one can deny that recording a demo with VST is a much faster and convenient way to do it. Just remember that one finished song means more to your career than a dozen unfinished ideas.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Guitar Amp VST Plugins

The current offer on the market is very broad, so allow us to narrow it down for you:

Best Overall:
Line 6 Helix Native

PROS

  • 62 amps, 37 cabinets, and 104 effects
  • Third-party cabinet IR loader support
  • Line 6 best amp sim now available in plugin format
  • 16 microphones captured at 23 recording distances
  • Presets fully compatible with Helix hardware versions

CONS

  • Expensive for non-professional users
  • Single mic presets are not so convincing

Features and Specifications

This is a plugin version of HX Modeling technology. It provides you with more than a hundred effects and over sixty amps and thirty cabs. Cabinets are using advanced technology that halves the DSP resource while delivering the same quality as before. It also provides you with an option to load your own IR files.

Microphones were recorded at various distances so you can position them at twenty-three distances.

Effects experienced the biggest upgrade and we can say that Helix captured the best vintage effects behavior so far thanks to some insanely accurate modeling.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Line 6 started their success 18 years ago. They were the pioneers of the hardware amp simulators and it has been only a matter of time when their latest hardware would enter the software world. 

Helix is their flagship technology and it’s not just that you should expect the same quality found in their pedalboards, you can actually swap the presets around. This might be the winning combo for active musicians as they can have the same sound in both studio and live performances. Line 6 went a step ahead and offered a huge discount if you own any Helix pedalboard.

PROS

  • Real amp response and feel
  • The largest guitar amp simulator on the market
  • More guitar equipment available for purchase in Custom Shop
  • Over 140 pieces of gear with an enormous collection of presets
  • Many additional features included such as SpeedTrainer or Looper

CONS

  • No external IR loader available
  • Multitrack recorder doesn’t export tracks individually

Features and Specifications

This plugin is made from dozens of stompboxes, amplifiers, cabinets, microphones, and rack effects all available up to 96kHz sampling frequency. Presets collection is enormous so advanced search allows you to narrow it down by using tags, keywords, or even matching a rig visualization.

It’s organized in six modules with dedicated panels and every preset can store up to twelve stompboxes, two Amp heads, and Cabs with a double cab and room mics and eight rack effects. Microphones can be repositioned and there is an option to replace speakers in Cabs.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Amplitube is considered as the first guitar amp plugin that made a significant difference in the VST world. This version is their current flagship. While this is the largest guitar equipment collection on the market you can upgrade it even further in Custom Shop. So, if you can’t find the sound you want here, then it’s probably not a guitar sound you’re looking for.

We like how IK Multimedia made this software to be like some sort of Guitar World instead of just an amp simulator. You have some additional features that you couldn’t find anywhere else such as SpeedTrainer, Looper, or 8-track recorder.

Best for the Money:
Presonus Ampire

PROS

  • Versatile bass amp included, too
  • Complete and affordable modern guitar rig
  • 16 cabinets including custom IR load support
  • 34 amps including 5 State Space amplifier models
  • 13 stompbox effects available as a separate plugin

CONS

  • Presets could be more versatile
  • Limited options for mic re-positioning

Features and Specifications

Amps are organized into two groups. You can pick between 29 Classic amps that cover all vintage and modern genres or 5 new State Space modeled amps that have been designed to bring you analog flavor when needed.

Regarding cabinets, there are sixteen in offer and all were emulated thanks to impulse response technology that supports loading user IR files as well.

Speaking about effects, they are organized within the Pedalboard section that contains thirteen stompboxes which will cover all usual modulation, distortion, and overdrive effects.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Presonus is a very famous company that made some game-changing products in the audio interface and mixer world. The biggest push was the creation of the FAT channel feature and they used the same engine here to create those amp models.

We also find a great call to leave a Pedalboard an independent plugin is a great call as it broadens the use of the plugin as you could use it with other VSTs or even apply it to other instruments or vocals. Same goes for including bass amp and cabinets just in case you need to record some bass tracks along.

Best Metal Amp VST:
JST Toneforge Misha Mansoor

PROS

  • 4 multi-effect pedals
  • Infinity gain 3-stage knob feature
  • IR loader allows you to load external files
  • Perfect emulation of Horizon Precision Drive Pedal
  • VST made in the shape of three-channel Guitar Amp

CONS

  • No standalone version
  • High price for a single amp model

Features and Specifications

This software provides you with a single amp organized in three-channel guitar layout - clean, crunch, and lead. Besides the usual 3-band EQ, there are additional three knobs so you can fine-tune the overall playing experience.

Infinity gain knob is the center of this software - it contains a three-stage knob that morphs the tone stack in levels as you increase the gain.

It also brings you an excellent VST emulation of Horizon Drive Pedal and with IR loader you can load any other cabinet you may have in your collection already.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Metal fans will definitely know the name of Misha Mansoor and it’s safe to say that this plugin won’t fail you if you need any kind of extreme guitar sound. But, rest assured that this plugin is capable of producing studio-quality guitar sound for any rock-oriented genre.

We really dig the user interface layout. It was designed and organized like a real guitar amp that will feel logical to any guitar player. Drive pedal is excellent, it gets you enough presence to stand out in a crowded mix while tweak amp options allow you to tune in your personal signature sound easily.

Best Vintage Amp VST:
Softube Amp Room

PROS

  • Bass amp and cabinets included
  • Fully compatible with other Softube plugins
  • Bunch of microphones and stompboxes included
  • 6 amplifiers and 16 cabinets packed in 260 presets
  • Faithful emulation of many vintage high-end amps

CONS

  • Doesn’t support 32-bit systems
  • Not the best cabinet simulations we heard

Features and Specifications

It contains emulation of several vintage amps including the legendary Marshall JCM800. Regarding cabinets, there are several Marshall models from 1960 with distinctive sonic differences. It also comes with an amp and a pair of cabinets for bass guitar recording.

Pedalboard contains all the typical stompboxes that a guitar player may need at some point including compressor and wonderful Marshall Guv’nor dist pedal.

Microphones used for cabs are mostly editable either regarding position or mic combinations used on the cabinet. Cabinets with “Revisited” in the name description will provide you with the most mic options.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Softube put a lot of effort to match these emulations to the real-life counterparts, so, the Amp Room will find its way in any rock-oriented genre. It will work the best for hard rock and traditional heavy metal though and with the provided presets you will definitely find the one that suits your song properly.

And the best part we like about it is its compatibility with other Softube plugins as they can be loaded directly into Amp Room. As they said this compatibility will follow future plugins as well it might be a decent good investment in the long run.

PROS

  • Revolutionary Amp Match feature
  • Cabinet IRs officially endorsed by Celestion
  • Virtual amp designer made for professionals
  • Modern and visually appealing user interface
  • Thousands of presets available at ToneCloud service

CONS

  • Requires additional effect processing
  • Sound design options might be too much for beginners

Features and Specifications

Bias Amp is an advanced guitar amp simulator that allows you to customize amp completely in a way it won’t be so easy on real hardware. You can change tubes, power amps, transformers, tone stacks on the fly. Regarding cabinets, Bias FX cabs are officially endorsed by Celestion speakers, a company that is more than just famous in the guitar world.

ToneCloud is also a feature worth mentioning as it is a very active online community that will provide you with extra amps and thousands of presets made by other artists.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We really loved how Amp Match works. All you have to do is to load a guitar sample of the tone you want to achieve and it will clone it for you. This will make workflow easier for beginners who may feel the available options overwhelming.

Sonic possibilities for every part of this software are endless. Bias Amp is capable of replicating virtually any amp to the smallest details so it’s only up to you to pick if you want either a warm or a crisp sound, either will definitely be studio-ready no matter what genre you’re recording.

Guitar Amp VST vs. Real Amp

This is a quite endless debate, that’s for sure. But, lets try to put some reason behind biases:

Affordable

The idea of having a decent VST guitar rig for a price of a single stompbox can’t be anything else but appealing for any guitar player. Or, lets put it this way - for a price of a mediocre amp, you can have high-end simulations of guitar gear that would easily go over $100k if bought separately.

Flexibility

Is there anything better than recording a perfect take and fine-tune the sound later? Guitar Amp VST allows you to completely change the amps, cabinets, pedals without harming your original take. This way you can improve your workflow as you don’t have to worry too much about the sound while composing.

However...

Plugins have a limited dynamic range. No matter how good they are, plugins are just simulations that may work at certain songs, not all the time. Professional players may notice the difference in attack behavior and may lack a certain warmth that a real tube can create. 

Needless to say, real amps are “bug-free” so you won’t need to worry if it’s going to fail during the live performance.

Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Using Guitar Amp VST Plugins

Here are some of the most usual mistakes people tend to do while recording:

The Gain (Drive) Knob

You would be surprised how often the guitar sound can flourish if you turn the gain or drive knob down. You would get more transparency and attack and in case you need more grit, try increasing your playing velocity first and use those knobs only as a last resort.

Sound EQ

Guitar sounds the best when it’s in the mix with other elements, so don’t push it too far. There is no need to go down into bass frequencies (you have a bass guitar for that) and rhythm guitars shouldn’t be as loud as vocals. Remember that song mixing shouldn’t be a matter of competition but collaboration, so, use your EQ to make room for other instruments.

It’s All About the Hand

No matter what sound or software you pick, always remember that most of the guitar tone comes from your hands. You need to sound firm and precise to get that kind of clarity and punch you’re hearing in professional recordings. Don’t expect software to make up your lack of practice (or new strings!). It will work best if it teams up with you, not cover up your flaws.

Conclusion 

The days when the guitar amp VSTs sounded cheesy and not so convincing are long gone now. With so many wonderful products out there it would be such a shame to not have one in your arsenal as you never know when it may be handy.

People Also Ask 

With the breakthrough of modern technology, there are certain doubts if we should rely on the Guitar Amps VST while we’re learning to play guitar and do we need anything else if we want to use it. Also, you probably heard it often, but we’re going to reveal what IR actually means:

Can I Learn to Play Electric Guitar With Guitar Amp VST?

Definitely. We would strongly advise you to not waste your money on cheap hardware amps. As a matter of fact, if you’re a complete beginner we would recommend you some less advanced software first that will be both affordable and not so complicated to navigate. 

What is Impulse Response (IR)?

Simply put, Impulse Response is a special generated audio signal that can be loaded by a certain device (usually called IR Loader) and that system will create a digital image with the same traits. Speaking of guitar amps, it’s often used to emulate speakers' frequency response and behavior faithfully.

Can I Play my Guitar Amp VST Directly With the Electric Guitar?

Because of the pickup-generated signal, the overall input volume of the guitar will be very low. You will need some kind of audio interface that has Hi-Z inputs. 

If your plugin doesn’t have a standalone version, you would need a DAW software to load it up. Luckily, any free version will work just fine.