If you’re an emerging artist just getting started on your musical journey, experimenting with different instruments and sounds, or you simply don’t have the room or the budget to buy professional equipment, you’re in luck. Nowadays, there are digital resources that enable you to get results that are just as high quality and professional-sounding as you would in a professional, fully-equipped recording studio.
The same goes for guitarists: if you don’t have enough room or enough financial resources to invest in top-quality, professional guitar amplifiers, you can rest assured, because there are some amazing plugins out there that will allow you to get the sound you’re looking for. Sure, a seasoned guitarist might be able to tell the difference between a tune recorded through a real amplifier or a digital VST, but the average listener won’t be able to tell the difference. And if the resulting sound is incredibly close to what you get from a real amp, why not give it a try and experiment with different plugins to expand your musical skills and range?
We’re going to go through our top picks for guitar VSTs in 2023, to help you make an informed decision and pick the right product for your specific musical needs. The list is definitely not exhaustive, but these VSTs stand out from the crowd and are great options for emerging musicians looking to experiment and explore new sounds without breaking the bank.
What is a VST plugin, exactly and why do you need one?
VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology, and it’s basically a type of software used in digital audio workstations (DAWs) and other types of software used for music production. A VST plugin can enable an artist to add different audio effects and instruments during the music production process, to enhance melodies and chords. Using a VST enables artists to expand the functionalities of a DAW and add new features, effects, sounds, that ultimately enhance a song.
What are the benefits of using guitar VST plugins?
When it comes to using a VST plugin as a guitarist, there are various benefits to consider. These plugins offer a wide range of effects and sounds, allowing you to play around and experiment with different sounds, both electric and acoustic, without the need for an extensive physical gear collection. If you’re recording in a small home studio, you might not have enough room for different amplifiers and gear, so using a digital product is incredibly advantageous.
VSTs also provide post-production flexibility and capabilities, so you can make adjustments and tweaks during the mastering process. You can also integrate VSTs with MIDI controllers, which gives you even more room for experimentation and enables you to practice and hone your skills as an instrumentalist. VSTs are not just for emerging or beginner guitarists; they’re a great way to play around with different sounds and effects on the go, without having to spend a lot of money and make space for expensive physical amplifiers and pedals.
Which are the best guitar VST plugins in 2023?
There are countless VST guitar plugins and software products to choose from nowadays, and it can be hard to filter and pick one that fits all of your needs. That’s why we want to make it easier for you and recommend some best-in-class VST plugins that will help you take your guitar skills to the next level.
1. IK Multimedia Amplitube 5
One of the best guitar VSTs on the market right now, IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube 5 offers a wide range of virtual guitar amplifiers, effects, pedals, cabinets, and studio tools. It’s regarded as one of the most accurate and realistic plugins that creates sounds almost identical to real physical amplifiers, so if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s a great choice. It also boasts an intuitive user interface, and it can be easily paired with other software products to unlock full creative potential and expand the capabilities of your DAW during the music production process.
2. Positive Grid BIAS AMP 2
The BIAS AMP 2 by Positive Grid is another solid option for a guitar VST, especially if you’re looking for something that’s highly customizable. It allows users to design and personalize the virtual amplifier circuits and interface, creating an accurate replica of real tube amplifiers. You can customize and play around with virtually every setting, from tube types, bias settings, to transformers and tone stacks and more. If you’re looking for a plugin that allows you to customize basically every setting in high detail, then the BIAS AMP 2 is a worthy choice.
3. Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 Pro
Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 6 Pro is a guitar VST focused on sound design and creative expression, and less on the technical side of emulation, so it’s a great option for musicians and producers looking to hone their skills and experiment. There are loads of sounds and effects to choose from and play around with, all integrated within an intuitive, customizable, and fast interface. The plugin offers numerous sounds, effects, and modules, for every genre or style you can think of, as well as options for reverbs, compressors, cabinets, and much, much more.
4. Spitfire LABS Electric Guitars
Spitfire Audio’s LABS series, which stands for ‘Let’s All Be Something,’ is a free series of high-quality virtual instruments for musicians and producers. Its LABS Electric Guitars series provides various electric guitar sounds, from clean and mellow tones to more experimental, progressive, and raw, distorted tones. The user interface is fast, reliable, and intuitive, making it easy to use by both beginners and experienced guitarists. The plugin is free and works with both Windows and iOS devices, as well as with most DAW software products on the market.
5. Steinberg Guitar Harmonics Essential
The Guitar Harmonics Essential is a free VST guitar plugin created by Steinberg and Cinematique Instruments. It focuses on the so-called ‘flageolet notes’ or harmonics, creating incredibly pure and natural electric guitar sounds that mimic a high-quality amplifier. There are endless options and features to experiment with as a guitarist, and the plugin allows you to adjust things like note length control, tone control, cabinet and rotary, and reverb and delay. This way you can create guitar sounds, string notes, and even warm e-piano notes. This plugin can be used with Steinberg’s HALion samples, which is often used in Cubase.
6. Amp Room by Softube
A professional-grade option for musicians or producers looking to expand their guitar skills is Amp Room by Softube. It provides a wide array of virtual amps, effects pedals, distortions, and cabinets that can cover every genre, from classic rock to modern and contemporary styles, like indie, pop-rock, heavy metal, or prog rock. This VST manages to capture the dynamic sound of real physical amplifiers, while also boasting an easy-to-use interface and speedy processing. The results are so realistic that Softube has partnered with Marshall to recreate their effects, so if you love the sound of Marshall amplifiers, this will be right up your alley.
7. Neural DSP Tone King Imperial MKII
If you’re a fan of vintage-sounding guitar riffs and melodies, then the Neural DSP Tone King Imperial MKII plugin is a great option to try out. It does an amazing job at replicating natural guitar sounds, and you get a lot of features and customization options to play around with. From EQ controls, channels, reverb and tremolo options, as well as different pedal effects, this VST from Neural provides awesome versatility. It’s also a great software tool to add other effects to and mix things up, and if you throw in a quality microphone and speaker, you can achieve one of the cleanest, most accurate guitar tones we’ve heard.
8. Line 6 Helix Native
A powerful guitar VST for both beginners and experienced users, Line 6 Helix Native replicates the Helix hardware series, but in a digital format. It was developed by Line 6 and offers various amplifiers, cabinets, effects pedals, and signal processors that emulate the natural, clean sound of a guitar. Using the software is easy and intuitive, and a drag-and-drop feature makes it easy to import sounds and start the mixing and editing process. Luckily, it’s compatible with both Windows and Mac and works either as a standalone product or with DAWs that support VST, AU, or AAX formats.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I only recreate amp sounds with a guitar VST?
No, guitar VST plugins offer more than just amp sounds; they provide a wide range of functionalities including emulating different guitar types, effects pedals, cabinets, and more. These plugins enable you to replicate an entire chain of guitar-related elements, offering the ability to create diverse tones, experiment with effects, and shape your sound to suit various musical styles.
Can I get a good guitar tone without a VST?
Yes, you can achieve a good guitar tone without using a VST plugin. A good guitar tone primarily relies on factors such as the quality of your guitar, the amplifier you're using, the effects pedals, and your playing technique. By selecting the right combination of gear, adjusting settings, and optimizing your signal chain, you can achieve a pleasing and professional guitar tone that suits your musical preferences and production needs.
What about pedals and effects with VST?
VST plugins that emulate pedals and effects offer a versatile way to incorporate a wide range of sonic textures and creative elements into your guitar tones. These VST effects can simulate classic and modern pedals, providing you with the ability to experiment with various effects like distortion, delay, reverb, modulation, and more, all within your digital audio workstation. This integration of virtual pedals and effects with VST amp and instrument plugins allows for flexible sound shaping and customization, enhancing your guitar tones and overall music production.
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