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Ten of the best guitar amp simulation plug-ins

Ten of the best guitar amp simulation plug-ins
by The Press Desk 2 weeks ago

Ten of the best guitar amp simulation plug-ins

We all love guitar amps, they’re marvelously enjoyable inventions, but as everything in life they also have their downsides - namely size and volume - and some also cost a small fortune. Despite the fact that the feeling of blasting a guitar amp LOUD can’t ever be replicated inside a computer, plug-ins can more than adequate when it comes to the end result. We asked our users what they are rocking 'in the box', and here are ten of their favourite amp simulation plug-ins (in alphabetical order):



Blue Cat Audio Destructor

Blue Cat Audio’s Destructor doesn’t look like an amp simulator, but let’s not make the mistake of underestimating the immense scope of this plug-in: Destructor is all about distortion in the broadest possible sense, and that includes guitar amplifiers - basically all of them ever! From clean tones to mild overdrive to ultra high-gain, Destructor is equipped with all the tools necessary to deliver tones from across the board. It ships with over a hundred presets which serve as starting points that can be fully tweaked to the user’s taste, and to ease the experience many presets have real-world gear as a reference which should make the tone-finding process much easier. It’s also equipped with an input gate/compressor, input/output filters, a brick wall limiter at the output and visualisation tools including a real time frequency analyser. Destructor is also extremely well optimised and free of any latency, great for playing through it and monitoring the processed signal in real-time while recording. Look no further if you’re after a new and refreshing approach to the amp simulation game.


IK Multimedia Amplitube 4

Amplitube is not just a guitar amp simulator - it simulates literally everything that can possibly go after a guitar cable, offering a plethora of pedals, amp heads, cabinets, effects and many mic options that arguably makes Amplitube one of the most (if not the most) comprehensive guitar rig plug-ins today - and it’s not just a plug-in as IKM also offer it up in mobile and desktop apps. Amplitube brings some of the best gear from recognisable (and licensed) names including Fender, Orange, Fulltone, Soldano, Mesa/Boogie, Seymour Duncan and many others. It also offers different packing and delivery options, with IK Multimedia selling not only the 'regular' plug-in version - but also a 'Deluxe' version which comes with over 20 amps, 25 cabinets and much more - and also making all that virtual gear available through the Amplitube Custom Shop, where users can buy modules a-la-carte according to their tastes and needs. Amplitube is an excellent solution for almost any guitar amplification needs and offers options for "on the go" use at any time with their mobile apps and related products such as the iRig mobile interfaces.


Kazrog Thermionik

Kazrog Thermionik emulates basically any amplifier you can think of, but unlike solutions such as Amplitube which are based on a single “platform” plug-in, Thermionik offers literally dozens of plug-ins, each with its own amp emulation -but all sharing virtually the same interface layout and visual identity. As of right now there are no less than 30 models available ranging from clean to highly distorted and vintage to modern, all fairly priced and also available in discounted bundles. Keep in mind that Thermionik only models the amp head, so it’s meant to be used alongside something like the Recabinet IR loader cabinet emulation plug-in, but it can also be used with your own virtual cabinet solution if you prefer something else. Definitely a great choice if you want total flexibility without burning a hole in your pocket.


Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5 Pro

Guitar Rig is what we can call a 'veteran' plug-in, with over 10 years of reputable service to producers everywhere, and thanks to Native Instruments’ continued efforts it keeps up with times and manages to stay relevant. Guitar Rig also slots in the “one plug-in to rule them all” category, offering no less than 17 amps & 27 cabinets with many microphone options (that can be blended with each other too), and over 50 effects. With all this, GR should supply more than enough to deliver everything required for sculpting great guitar tones. It’s also highly intuitive to use, with a slick interface that shouldn’t present any obstacles towards achieving the desired result. Also available as a part of the Komplete series bundles. Read our user reviews.


Plugin Alliance Brainworx bx_megadual

The bx_megadual brings a fierce virtual amp plug-in largely based the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, a widely used high gain amp that's great for seriously distorted tones and perfect for heavier genres. This plug-in offers three different channels (each one 'heavier' than the previous), two tone modes (bold/spongy) and two signal path options (tube and solid-state), which are more than enough to deliver great rock/metal guitars (or anywhere else you might want high gain). Cabinets are provided through 64 “recording chains”, which bring not only the microphone choices but also some other tricks from producer and Brainworx founder Dirk Ulrich. Moreover, it features an input gate, pre/post filters (HP and LP), virtual 'power-soak' settings for the power amp, a configurable delay and amp/cabinet bypass switches. A classy choice if you’re taking the high gain road.


Positive Grid BIAS AMP Desktop

Positive Grid presents an ambitious line of products with the Bias series. Bias Amp presents itself both as an amp “modeler” and a “designer”, relying on its proprietary matching technology to accurately emulate real-world amps but also allowing the user to mix different amp heads, power amps, cabinets and effects to built their own custom virtual guitar amplifier. Bias currently delivers over 30 ready-to-use amps and a myriad of presets, which can be shared with the community through the 'Tone Cloud', a service that allows users to download settings and greatly expands your tone possibilities. If you want the full ticket then Bias also offers the “Pedal”, which deploys the same approach of the amp i.e. model and design your favourite stompbox or use one of the many available models. Bias Amp & Pedal are also available as iOS apps.


Scuffham Amps S-Gear

Created by former Marshall Amps product designer Mike Scuffham, S-Gear is arguably the most recommended guitar amp plug-in in the Gearslutz community, and with good reason. S-Gear brings five amp simulations to the table, none of which are direct “1:1” emulations, but instead offering Mike’s particular take on famous amp designs (with a few extra tricks to hand) but without sacrificing tonal authenticity. The amps offered here go from vintage to modern and are able to tackle pretty much any style, with the only notable exception being high-gain amps (they simply aren’t yet available - Scuffham has added more amps and other features to S-Gear since its release, so all hope is not lost). Cabinet simulation is handled by a custom impulse response (IR) loader with its own set of tweaks and a great library of IRs are provided to cover the most common/favoured speaker configurations. Additionally, it provides a configurable input gate, an effects rack with reverb, delay and chorus/flanger modulation and last but not least a standalone app for "DAW-less" use.


Softube Vintage Amp Room

Softube’s Vintage Amp Room delivers three guitar amps in all their raw and gritty glory. Although the inspiration for the amp models are not disclosed and only named in the software after their colour (brown, green and white), there are strong hints that we’re dealing with a Marshall stack (white), a Fender combo (brown) and a Vox AC30 (green). As the name suggests, this plug-in mimics a studio environment, with the amps presented on the interface for the user to select so it’s just a matter of choosing the desired amp, dial in your settings and then play with the intuitive click-and-drag microphone positioning - finding the desired sounds should be an effortless operation. Amps and cabinets can be bypassed, allowing you to use this plug-in with your other amp/cabinet simulators too. A great choice if you’re classic vibey tones and great ease of use. Also available on the UAD2 platform.


TSE Audio X50

TSE Audio has made an impact with their X50V2 guitar suite, becoming one of the most recommended plug-ins when it comes to high-gain, über-distorted tones. The X50 brings two amp models - the X50 and X30, inspired by the Peavey 5150 and the ENGL E530 respectively. Along with the two mighty amps comes a pedal board with a Tube Screamer, a gate and a fuzz, a two-channel impulse response loader (packed with fine IRs from some of the best IR creators) and two power amp options. To wrap it up the X50V2 provides an easy to use gain-staging system to make sure you’re hitting the sweet spot, an effect rack with delay & reverb, a three-band EQ with HP/LP filters and a handy tuner. It’s also very affordable, which makes it a no-brainer if you’re doing heavier strains of rock and metal. Read our user reviews.


Universal Audio Fender ’55 Tweed Deluxe

Universal Audio brings the classic Fender ‘55 Tweed Deluxe to the UAD2-powered systems with an amazing plug-in that not only gives you one of the greatest amps ever but also three speaker choices - with some common 'mods' available as well. It also offers two mic spots with five great mic choices, on/off-axis positioning and 'panorama' settings, making it easy to deliver mix-ready stereo guitars. Needless to say that Universal Audio plumbed the absolute depths of this amp to model each nuance in painstaking detail. If you have an Apollo audio interface the deal gets even sweeter, as you can record with this plug-in in real time through the latency-free Unison preamps.

Honourable mentions to Ignite Amps Emissary, Kuassa Amplifikation Creme, Mercuriall U530 and Peavey Revalver. We should also mention that many of our users are using custom impulse responses for their cabinet simulations, and in this regard the names of Rosen Digital, Ownhammer and Redwirez are often mentioned as trusted IR providers.

Now it's your turn to tell us about your setup - have you opted for a one-stop solution to handle everything or are you using different plug-ins for each particular situation or even component? Please share your methods!

For more on plug-ins, please visit: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/

For more on guitars & (real) amps: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-m...o-little-time/
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Here for the gear
 
bobco631's Avatar
 

Wow . Incredibly off the mark .
Overloud TH3 not even mentioned.
scuffham is great, and really the only competition here, all the rest are just buzzy phasey garbage.
I actually play guitar, a lot , like over 40 years, of JUST guitar playing .
TH3 TH3 TH3!
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 
andersmv's Avatar
 

I can't believe the SansAmp plugin is not on there... I bet it's been used on more recordings than you could shake a stick at. Before the SoundToys decapitator came out, it got used on almost every single mix I did (ironically not on electric guitar most of the time though). I still find myself using it for bass guitar a lot.

In the early stages of digital distortion and amps, it was above and beyond anything else for years!
Old 6 days ago
  #4
Gear Guru
 
DanDan's Avatar
Wavey

Waves GTR is pretty impressive too.
DD
Old 6 days ago
  #5
Gear Head
 
SilverCrucifix's Avatar
 

I haven't heard any positive reviews about the Blue Cat plugin yet, seems weird that it would be on the top. I also think that Guitar Rig, Softube Amp Room and the Brainworx plugins are pretty bad by today's standards. Kuassa's or Mercurial's products should certainly take their place.
Old 6 days ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 

The brainworx amps are very good actually. They've been updated over the years and at least all the ones I have at this moment are what I'd call "at the very top" of emulation.

Amplitube is the one I just don't understand. It's horrible and has always been horrible. Very weak sounding and has massive issues in the 2-4kHz range, as it has always had.
Old 5 days ago
  #7
Here for the gear
 
bobco631's Avatar
 

+1 for Amplitube being horrible .
Gets so much praise but you can't get a decent sound out of it , there's always some weird aliasing high frequency detail that sounds totally synthesized, never breaks up like a real amp.
but the TH3 on the other hand !!
Man! The Rock 64 amp model!
Has so much depth and character !
You can get soooo much out of just that one model! I can't say enough about how great the new TH3 is !
Old 4 days ago
  #8
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Jerrick's Avatar
 

That's the odd thing with amp sims, they are very personal. You can get a usable tone with pretty much all of them, but what makes them click for some is very subjective.

Right now my favorites are the 3 free amps from Mercuriall. Those are the most organic sounding ones. Something in how the low end moves is just like a real amp to me.

Right behind them are the Mesa, Orange, and Marshall models from Amplitube. Killer sounds from those. I don't use the cabs from Amplitube. Favorite IRs are from Gods Cab, and they have been working for everything right now.

I was really impressed with Schuffam, but for some reason never kept using it.

Then I group Lepou, TSE, and Joey Sturgis sims all together. Lepou used to be some of my favorites actually. But they all seem a little static compared to the others.

Gonna give that Blue Cat plugin a shot. Seems interesting.
Old 4 days ago
  #9
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobco631 View Post
Wow . Incredibly off the mark .
Overloud TH3 not even mentioned.
scuffham is great, and really the only competition here, all the rest are just buzzy phasey garbage.
I actually play guitar, a lot , like over 40 years, of JUST guitar playing .
TH3 TH3 TH3!
Wow I seriously don't know what you've been playing. I would think this is so unlikely since you seem to know what you're doing, but I can't help but wonder if something's wrong with the way it's performing on your computer. I can get some AMAZING sounds from Amplitube 4.

If you want an example, I have a real Mesa Boogie Mark IV and V. I also have the Mark IV within Amplitube. I'm telling you, when I record both rhythm and lead tracks, I would be very surprised if you could tell the difference in a blind test.

You may notice there are some slight differences, but you're not going to be able to guess which one is the real thing. I'm serious. I know it being licensed doesn't always mean it's good, but in this case, Mesa Boogie DOES NOT put their name on stuff they don't truly get behind. And in this case, I can see why they were comfortable doing this deal with IK Multimedia.

Also, even the cleaner tones, like with the different Fender Reverbs, sound pretty damn good. Of course they don't just 100% like the real things, no plugin does when it comes to those clean Fender tones. But it's definitely good enough, if you're going to be using a plugin that is.

But alas, I would love for you to give me some specific examples that I could try so I can see what you're talking about. If you can convince me I'm wrong, that will only mean I can find something better and improve my tone. But I've been playing Mesa Boogies for almost 10 years, and so far, Amplitube 4 has the best Mesa plugin I've ever tried or heard.
Old 4 days ago
  #10
Lives for gear
 
GeneHall's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobco631 View Post
Wow . Incredibly off the mark .
Overloud TH3 not even mentioned.
scuffham is great, and really the only competition here, all the rest are just buzzy phasey garbage.
I actually play guitar, a lot , like over 40 years, of JUST guitar playing .
TH3 TH3 TH3!
Completely agree..I'm absolutely shocked by this list. I have probably half the listed sims and I would not even recommend most of them to an enemy..



TH3 is far and away the only recommendable guitar amp sim.

Please expose the compilist' who put this together for immediate public ridicule.

Old 4 days ago
  #11
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeneHall View Post
Completely agree..I'm absolutely shocked by this list. I have probably half the listed sims and I would not even recommend most of them to an enemy..



TH3 is far and away the only recommendable guitar amp sim.

Please expose the compilist' who put this together for immediate public ridicule.

Clearly I need to try TH3! But I will say, some of the amps in Amplitube 4 are simply amazing. I should have pointed out I can only speak for the ones I use within Amplitube 4, which are mainly the Mesa Boogie Mark IV, a few Marshalls, and a couple Fender Reverb amps. A few of the pedals as well. All of these are the best plugins for these particular amps I've tried so far.

But when it comes to the Mesa Boogie Mark IV in Amplitube, it literally blew me away. I have a real Mesa Mark IV and a Mark V, and I'm telling you, no plugin comes close to how good Amplitube does it. I was so amazed at how much of the real character they captured, because the Mark IV has a very distinct sound on every channel.

It could be that some of the other amps within Amplitube don't sound that good. Maybe those have left people with a bad impression. I don't really use them so I honestly don't know. But if you want to get it just for the Mesa and the Marshall's, I can stand behind that decision 100%. It's definitely worth it just for those two or three amps alone.
Old 3 days ago
  #12
Glad to see that the UAD Fender Tweed made the list! That is by far the best amp sim plugin I've heard. Certainly up there with the Kemper! And it's such a versatile tone beast despite its simplicity. I hope they keep up with that quality in their future amp sims.

I certainly wouldn't say that Amplitube is "horrible". I do think the models are a bit of hit or miss, and they all have a common character to them. They should have spent more time with each model instead of trying to make so many.
I feel that most of the models really benefit from a good third party impulse response instead of the built in cab modeler. But you can get a lot of perfectly good guitar sounds out of that thing. It's not as realistic, organic and responsive as the UAD Tweed however, which makes it less fun to play with for me. Still a really good value for money in my opinion.
Old 3 days ago
  #13
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PassionFlower View Post
Glad to see that the UAD Fender Tweed made the list! That is by far the best amp sim plugin I've heard. Certainly up there with the Kemper! And it's such a versatile tone beast despite its simplicity. I hope they keep up with that quality in their future amp sims.

I certainly wouldn't say that Amplitube is "horrible". I do think the models are a bit of hit or miss, and they all have a common character to them. They should have spent more time with each model instead of trying to make so many.
I feel that most of the models really benefit from a good third party impulse response instead of the built in cab modeler. But you can get a lot of perfectly good guitar sounds out of that thing. It's not as realistic, organic and responsive as the UAD Tweed however, which makes it less fun to play with for me. Still a really good value for money in my opinion.
Hmm... maybe I'll have to try the Fender Tweed as well.

You mentioned using other IR's for the cabs in Amplitube. I actually think this is why many people get a bad impression from Amplitube 4. For some reason, many of the amps sound much better with the Ampliube 4 matching cabs, not other IR's. I know the opposite is the case with many other plugins.
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