For those of you struggling to set up quality amplifiers for recording, or running a pedalboard to your recording session, VSTs may be the thing for you. I’ve rounded up some of the best guitar amp VSTs out there today. Read more to find out.
Overview (Guitar Amp Simulators)
As guitarists, we all want the best tone we could possibly lay our hands on.
When starting out with our tone quest, we are first introduced to a plethora of guitar effects pedals. Whether it be multi-effects units or individual stompboxes, we call can agree that pedals can be fun.
Personally, I favor individual stompboxes. It allows me to opt for certain sounds and units that I think are best for the type of music that I play. There are, of course, cons, to building a pedalboard rig inclusive of individual stompboxes.
If you’re a gigging musician, chances are you will experience the struggles of bringing your entire guitar rig show after show.
This is exactly the reason why some guitarists go for what is known as fly rigs. These are much smaller pedalboards, consisting only of what the players deem necessary.
But before you get all dreamy about what your pedalboard will look like, you should of course consider another piece of important equipment – your amplifier.
I can almost see you shaking your head. Yep. I’ve had my fair share of gigs wherein I had to haul a large amplifier up a couple of stairs just to get to the venue. It just sucks the fun right out of everything, right? By now, you’re probably well aware of the different struggles that a live musician deals with on a day-to-day basis. But the challenges don’t stop there.
One of the most important aspects of being a working musician is the ability to record your individual tracks at home or in the studio.
Yeah, gigging and rehearsing are all fun. But whenever your band decides to get serious and record your original compositions, it often helps to rely on something digital.
Our trusty pedalboard can be useful during live sessions, but there are some musicians who prefer to go digital. Some may even argue that some software sounds better than their physical rig.
But just like anything tied to the electric guitar, there can be a plethora of options. Producers often rely on digital audio workstations (DAW) when recording tracks.
One of the reasons why DAWs are great for recording is that they can be expanded by adding several effects, digital pedals, and digital amplifiers found in plugins, or Virtual Studio Technology (VST). Before you scrunch your forehead, let’s dive deeper into what exactly is a VST, and how it will help you out as a working musician.
Let’s get right into it!
What is a VST?
Virtual Studio Technology (VST) is audio software that incorporates effects units, software synthesizers, and even drum samples into your chosen digital audio workstation. It was developed by Steinberg Media Technologies in 1996.
With the added functionality they provide to your DAW, it creates an expanded library of sounds that you have access to in order to make your music.
It also lets you have access to a lot of virtual instruments, effects, and even amplifiers, which we are going to focus more on in this feature. But when you’re just starting out, it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed with a lot of options out there today.
Let’s take a quick look at the buying guide.
Right off the bat, you’re going to want to start off by considering which types of sounds and effects you are looking for. There are some VSTs that focus on guitar effects, amplifier models, and some have synthesizers. Chasing your desired guitar tones has now been made more easy.
Another thing is your budget. There are some free ones available. There are mid-range options in terms of price and features. And then, of course, there are some made for professional audio engineers and producers.
Lastly, the type of DAW you use will play a major role in making the most out of your chosen VST.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get right into our roundup!
Spearheading our list is one of the most popular options among musicians.
The IK Multimedia Amplitube boasts a plethora of effects units, amps, speakers, cabinets, racks, and even microphones. A lot of musicians and producers also mentioned the interface is user-friendly.
If you’re heavily into high-end amplifiers and you want something in software, this can be the perfect option for you.
The people at Positive Grid let people have the option to tweak their sounds according to their actual preference.
The BIAS Amp 2 takes pride in having some of the best high-gain amp models on the market today. They even pay close attention when it comes to tube details. However, if you’re looking for VSTs with a plethora of effects, you may consider looking for another option.
But if you’re looking for standalone digital amplifiers, then this could be for you.
Coming in at number three is the Waves GTR3.
This has been a popular choice among users who prefer to chase some of the classic-sounding amplifiers. When you think of Fender, Marshall, Vox, and Mesa/Boogie, you think of some of the most iconic tones and riffs.
This is why the GTR3 is found on many virtual instruments.
It also houses custom amplifiers from some of the most respected musicians worldwide.
The people over at Native Instruments crafted a virtual rig for those seeking the ideal tone for their sound.
Continually improving their selection of effects, amps, and interface, Guitar Rig is known to offer a variety of options. From letting you experiment with processing chains, to allowing you to choose from dozens of effects stomps.
What makes them stand out is their Intelligent Circuit Modelling (ICM). This feature aims to reproduce the tendencies and behavior of hardware devices, making their software close to the actual thing.
It offers amps for both electric guitars and bass.
Completing our roundup is something a little bit more flexible. It can be found in an effects unit or even in software
Neural DSP plugins offer a variety of amp models and simulators. They have something for those chasing the ideal clean tone, ala Cory Wong. They also offer something that replicates the original American high-gain tone.
Other than that, they also have ones built to produce ideal tones similar to some of the greats, such as Tosin Abasi and Plini.
To top it all off, they offer something for bassists, too! The Darkglass Ultra promises to be the exact emulation of the Vintage & B7K Ultra bass preamps.
With all of the options available out there, it’s pretty exciting to just go ahead and explore every single feature these VSTs have.
While some offer more than others, it’s best to consider what you will be needing first before you drown yourself with the sounds that this digital equipment can do.
After all, they can do a lot for your music!