We’re currently living in the age of digital audio, and in-the-box mixing within a digital audio workstation is commonplace. With modern technology, we don’t even need to mic up guitar amps to get the best guitar sounds. Instead, it’s completely possible (and perhaps even more cost-affordable) to plug directly into an interface and utilize one of the many superb guitar amp simulator plugins on the market.
In fact, there are so many guitar amp simulation plugins on the market that it can be overwhelming to pick just one to start with (or the next plugin to add to the collection). In this article, we’ll look at what I consider the 11 stand-out guitar amp simulator plugins on the market today.
The top 11 best guitar amp simulator plugins for digital audio workstations are:
- IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 Max
- Line 6 Helix Native
- Positive Grid Bias Amp 2
- Overloud TH-U Full
- Waves GTR3
- Softube Amp Room
- Native Instruments Guitar Rig Pro 6
- Studio Devil Amp Modeler Pro
- Blue Cat’s Axiom
- Audio Media Research/Peavey ReValver 4
- Audified ampLion Pro
It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person’s top 11 to be different than mine but hope that there would be plenty of overlap.
That being said, I believe these plugins to be the best guitar amp simulator plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:
- Sonic performance: how does the guitar amp simulator plugin sound subjectively/objectively?
- Graphic user interface (GUI): how does the guitar amp simulator plugin look when loaded in the DAW?
- Ease-of-use: how user-friendly is the guitar amp simulator plugin?
- Functionality: how many different functions does it serve and/or how many parameters are available for the guitar amp simulator effect?
- Accessibility/compatibility: how easy is it to acquire the guitar amp simulator plugin, and what are the system requirements?
Let’s discuss each of the top 11 best guitar amp simulator plugins in greater detail to learn why they made this list.
IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 Max
The IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 Max (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is a top-rated guitar/bass amp and effects simulator plugin with over 400 of the most sought-after guitar & bass gear ever.
The IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 Max is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and standalone formats.
Developed with top brands and artists, the AmpliTube 5 Max is a super powerful and versatile amp emulation plugin. With proprietary DIM (Direct Impulse Response), DSM (Dynamic Saturation Modeling), VIR (Volumetric Impulse Response) and VRM (Volumetric Response Modeling) technologies, IK Multimedia has modelled hundreds of pieces of audio gear in a way that produces remarkably realistic results. The over 400 gear models include:
- Fender Collection 1 & 2
- AmpliTube SVX 1 & 2
- AmpliTube Orange
- AmpliTube Mesa/Boogie
- AmpliTube Slash
- AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix
- AmpliTube Brian May
- Dimebag Darrell CFH Collection
- AmpliTube Joe Satriani
- Fulltone Collection
- AmpliTube Leslie
This plugin covers the entire signal chain, offering virtual stompboxes, amplifiers, cabinets, rooms and rack effects. Route these devices whichever way you want inside the beautifully intuitive interface. The drag & drop signal chain supports up to 57 simultaneous models with series and parallel routing and DI blending for virtually limitless tonal possibilities.
In addition to the extraordinary sonic flexibility, IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube 5 Max is also its own standalone digital audio workstation (if you choose to use it that way). The software features its own 8-track recorder and a looper, tuner, various practice tools and an impressive set of live performance implementations.
To learn more about loopers, check out my article What Are Looper Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?
Though this software/plugin has everything you’d ever need in an amp simulator, it also offers a custom impulse response loader, allows users to load, tilt and re-size their own impulse responses in place of any cabinet.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the AmpliTube 5 specs at IK Multimedia.
IK Multimedia is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Virtual/Software Instrument Plugin Brands.
Line 6 Helix Native
The Line 6 Helix Native (link to check the price at Sweetwater) brings Line 6’s award-winning HX Modeling technology to a super powerful audio plugin.
The Line 6 Helix Native is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and standalone formats.
Like its hardware counterparts, the Helix Native plugin offers remarkably authentic tones with 60+ vintage and modern amplifiers, 30+ cabinets, 16 microphones (and 23 recording distances), and 100+ effects. Preset compatibility makes it easy to transfer user-defined and stock presets between all devices of the Helix family, including the Helix Floor, Helix Rack, and Helix LT hardware units (link to check them out at Sweetwater).
Workflow is made fast with an intuitive interface. Instant access to the entire signal chain makes dialling in the perfect tone as straightforward as possible.
Like the aforementioned AmpliTube plugin, the Helix Native offers everything you’d need, but in the off chance you need more, the plugin also supports 3rd party impulse responses.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Helix Native user manual.
Line 6 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Positive Grid Bias Amp 2
The Positive Grid Bias Amp 2 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a fan favourite fully customizable virtual amplifier designer with versatility in design that extends right down to the component level.
The Positive Grid Bias Amp 2 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and standalone formats.
The advanced modelling of the Positive Grid Bias Amp 2 takes things well beyond a wide range of impulse responses. This super customizable plugin allows users to swap out virtual vacuum tubes and tailor preamps, power amps, transformers, and tone stacks to their exact liking.
Send the signal through open/closed-back virtual cabinets choose from a variety of virtual mics (with different mic placement) to achieve limitless sonic possibilities.
This intelligent plugin can even match the tone of any miked amp or recorded audio signal. Use the Bias Amp 2 to recapture the magic from sessions past or even improve upon what would otherwise be the best tone from your hardware amp.
Download and share tone within Positive Grid’s online ToneCloud community. Offer your own masterful setting or opt to use custom virtual amps created by world-renowned artists, session players and guitarists.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Bias Amp 2 specs at Positive Grid.
Overloud TH-U Full
The Overloud TH-U Full (link to check the price at PluginFox) is a superb amp simulation plugin that includes both the amp modeling and capturing technologies to capture the entire sonic performance of a real-world guitar rig.
The Overloud TH-U Full is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and standalone formats.
Overloud’s TH-U Full models an impressive 89 guitar amplifiers and 4 bass amplifiers, 50 guitar cabinets and 2 bass cabinets, 77 pedal and rack effects and 18 microphone models, with up to four mics on each cabinet. With authorized modelling (45 fully authorized models in total) from brands such as Randall, DVmark, Brunetti and THD, it’s no wonder this plugin sounds so amazing.
The cabinet modelling technology is particularly spectacular. Fluid Convolution functionality offers a full matrix of 4 microphones, which can be placed anywhere in the virtual 3D space in front and even behind the cabinet for a superb stereo response. Additionally, ReSPiRe 2 technology allows users to choose between the real response of the cabinet and a processed version optimized to fit into the mix.
Though not as meticulous as the Bias Amp 2, this Overloud plugin does allow customization of its preamp and power amp tube models.
More than 8000 rigs are made available in Overloud’s massive library, and the TH-U can use any of the TH3 user presets. Choose the best presets for your sound and further refine each preset with Scenes functionality, which instantly recalls different model configurations within any given preset.
The impulse response loader of the TH-U Full allows users to load two different IRs and blend them for even greater tonal variety. Moving beyond standalone and plugin versions, the TH-U also comes in a mobile app.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the TH-U user manual.
The Waves GTR3 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is somewhat of a gold standard guitar amp simulator plugin that also works tremendously well as a standalone software thanks to the host-free Standalone ToolRack.
The Waves GTR3 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST, AudioSuite and standalone formats.
Waves Audio is a big name in the plugin game. The GTR3 ups the ante, bringing in other huge names such Fender, Marshall, Mesa/Boogie and Vox. With expertly modelled versions of the finest vintage and contemporary amps from these brands and more, the GTR3 earns its spot on this list of the best guitar amp simulator plugins.
Fender, Marshall, Mea/Boogie and Vox are all featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar Amplifier Brands In The World. Fender and Mea/Boogie are also featured in the Top 11 Best Bass Guitar Amplifier Brands In The World.
This outstanding plugin models 32 Amps, 30 Cabs, and 25 Stompboxes. Sure, these may seem like small numbers compared to the previous plugins mentioned in this article. However, 87 ultra-realistic models are still superb. Waves combines quantity with quality in this stunning guitar amp plugin.
Less is more when it comes to this plugin. Having fewer high-quality options is often better than scrolling through hundreds of settings you’ll never use. Speaking of superb workflow, the GTR3 is super user-friendly, with all controls laid out in a straightforward interface.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the GTR3 tech specs at Waves.
Waves Audio is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.
Softube Amp Room
The Softube Amp Room (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is more than just an amplifier simulation plugin. It offers a full professional studio’s worth of virtual processors.
The Softube Amp Room is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
In addition to a wide variety of classic Marshall amps and cabinets, pedals, and mics, Softube’s Amp Room provides emulations of legendary compressors and EQs. It’s everything you need and more to get the optimal guitar or bass guitar tones in any application.
Softube has made a name for itself, emulating top-level hardware with superior precision. The Tube-Tech and Trident processors included in Amp Room are exemplary of this faithfulness. It’s no surprise, then, that upon teaming up with the legendary amp manufacturer Marshall, that Softube’s amp simulations are among the best in the world.
Tube-Tech is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World while Trident is featured in the Top 10 Best Studio Recording/Mixing Console Brands.
The Softube Amp Room comes with the following features:
- 6 amplifiers, component modelled to perfection
- 16 cabinets with multiple microphone options
- 10 effect pedals from distortion to delay and reverb
- 3 studio effects as modules
- 8 utility modules, such as short delay for phase aligning
- 260 presets in many different genres and styles
Mix and match in whatever way you like via the stunning user interface to achieve the perfect tonal results. All Softube amplifier plug-ins can be loaded in Amp Room with heads and cabinets as separate modules.
The comprehensive utility modules make it easy to adjust gain, volume, pan, phase alignment and frequency-splitting. It also offers filters and mute options. There is a built-in gate. The Headphones Mode of the plugin adds subtle room ambience in stereo when you’re working with headphones.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out Vintage Amp Room at Softube.
Softube is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World
• Top 11 Best DAW Control Surface Brands In The World
Native Instruments Guitar Rig Pro 6
The Native Instruments Guitar Rig Pro 6 (link to check the price at Native Instruments) is a big name in the amplifier simulation/virtual guitar effects world and for good reason.
The Native Instruments Guitar Rig Pro 6 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and standalone formats.
This super powerful software is available in the plugin and standalone versions. It’s highly customizable and offers an incredible amount of processes. More specifically, the NI Guitar Rig comes with the following number of modules:
- 21 amplifiers
- 4 cabinets
- 7 delay/echo effects
- 15 distortion effects
- 12 dynamics effects
- 5 EQs
- 10 filter effects
- 12 modulation effects
- 5 pitch effects
- 12 reverb effects
- 7 special effects
Additionally, the Legacy Cabinets and Mics model various cabinets, the type and position of the microphone, and the room response from previous Guitar Rig versions. On that note, 54 of the original world-class effects have been brought forward to this most recent edition.
This inspiring plugin offers the best of the best effects and virtual amps. There are numerous presets to choose from as well if you don’t want to fall down the rabbit hole of this deeply versatile software.
But if you do want to customize your tone, the intuitive drag and drop interface makes it easy to select and route modules as needed. On top of that, each module itself offers its own controllable parameters. All in all, this plugin has limitless sonic potential worth exploring.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Guitar Rig Pro 6 user manual.
Native Instruments is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top 11 Best Virtual/Software Instrument Plugin Brands
• Top 11 Best MIDI Controller Brands In The World
Studio Devil Amp Modeler Pro
The Studio Devil Amp Modeler Pro (link to check the price at Musician’s Friend) is a compact guitar amp simulation plugin with a straightforward interface and remarkably great sound.
The Studio Devil Amp Modeler Pro is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in RTAS, AU, VST and standalone formats.
Using Studio Devil’s proprietary ToneBrain digital vacuum tube modeling technology, this software models amp hardware to provide an authentic sound. The interface is super straightforward with practically all parameters in a single window, making it somewhat limited in tonal variety but superb at what it does offer.
The Studio Devil Amp Modeler Pro offers the following features (I’ve included links to in-depth articles on the processes/effects when applicable):
- 15 Preamp Models
- Authentic Tone Controls (Gain, Bass, Mids, Treble, and Presence)
- Boost, Deep, and Bright Switches
- 3 Power Amp Models with Drive Control
- Impulse Modeler / Cabinet Processor (import your own IR)
- 32 Studio Devil Cabinets plus 58 ReCabinet modles
- 7-Band Graphic-EQ with Master Level, 3 Modes, and Pre/Post Switch
- Sweepable Parametric EQ
- Wah-Wah Effect
- Compressor / Sustainer
- Echo / Delay Modeler
- Reverb (Room, Club, and Hall)
- Noise Gate
- Chromatic Tuner
- Level Meters
- Master Volume
- Import and Export Presets and Banks via XML
Looks are deceiving with this plugin. Check it out for yourself and marvel at the surprising versatility of this superb amp simulation plugin.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Amp Modeler Pro user manual.
Blue Cat’s Axiom
The Blue Cat’s Axiom (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a powerful multi-effect/amp simulation modeling software.
The Blue Cat’s Destructor is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats. It is also available as a standalone application.
This powerful amp simulator offers virtually endless options for bass and guitar tone. Axiom includes 32 module slots that can host any of the 44 superb built-in effects or third part AU or VST plugins. There are even 3 dedicated slots for virtual instruments (cue the metronome, drum machine, sequencer, or whatever else you like).
This flexible routing features 2 parallel amp simulation channels with effects along with input and master sections. The integrated precision tuner and brickwall limiter make this software even better.
To learn more about limiters, check out my article What Is The Difference Between Audio Compression & Limiting?
Whether you decide to tinker in the amp edition to build your own custom tone or search for the perfect sound within the hundreds of loadable presets, this excellent zero-latency amp simulator will not disappoint.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Blue Cat’s Destructor user manual.
Audio Media Research/Peavey ReValver 4
The Audio Media Research ReValver 4 (link to check the price at Audio Media Research) is a top-of-the-line amp simulator offering exquisitely component-modelled guitar amplifiers, stompboxes and effects.
The Audio Media Research/Peavey ReValver 4 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and standalone formats. It is also available as a standalone application.
ReValver provides unmatched realism, dynamics and tone in a super intuitive software package. The proprietary RIR 2 Cabinet Modeling technology takes convolution cabinet modeling to a whole new level. The trademarked ACT (Audio Cloning Technology) provides precise instrument modeling at the input and perfect tone matching at the output. ACT can clone the sound of instruments, speaker cabinets, amps and even recorded tracks and mixes.
Create and load amp clones in the ReValver ACT Combo module and host your favourite third-party AU or VST plugins directly in the software. Thanks to full MIDI control and GIG Mode, the ReValver is equally at home as a studio plugin and on the road.
Whatever guitar tone you’re after, you can make it happen with the excellent ReValver 4 amp simulator.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out ReValver 4 at Audio Media Research.
Audified ampLion Pro
The Audified ampLion Pro (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is an ultra-precise amp simulation plugin/software with an intuitive interface and stunning tonal opportunities.
The Audified ampLion Pro is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and standalone formats. It is also available as a standalone application.
Audified’s ampLion Pro offers mixing and matching of 9 guitar preamps, 7 power amps, 12 speakers, 8 microphones and 30 effects. With meticulous modelling of world-class amps, this software provides tones indistinguishable from the variety of top-level hardware.
These emulated hardware preamplifiers include such big names as:
- Fender Super Reverb
- Fender Deluxe Reverb
- Fender Bassman ’59
- Marshall JCM800
- Marshall JCM900
- Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier
- Engl Ritchie Blackmore Signature
- Engl Tube Preamp 530 (Lead mode)
- Engl Tube Preamp 530 (Clean mode)
And power amplifiers such as:
- Mesa/Boogie Dual Rect (solid state)
- Mesa/Boogie Dual Rect (tube)
- Fender Bassman
- Fender Super Reverb
- Marshall 100W
- Marshall 50W
- Fender Deluxe Reverb
The virtual amplifier output signal can be split and processed by 2 independent speakers. Cabinets are miked by 7 different microphone types with the simulation of distance, position and axis.
Chose up to 8 virtual stompboxes in the pedalboard to unleash effects from subtle to extraordinary.
To learn more about pedals and pedalboards, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
• Ultimate Guide To Setting Up A Guitar Effects Pedalboard
• How Many Guitar Effect Pedals Is Too Many?
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the ampLion Pro at Audified’s downloads webpage.
Other Guitar Amp Simulator Plugin Options
Other amp simulator plugins to consider are:
- Amp Designer [Logic Pro X stock plugin] (link to check the price at Apple)
- Black Rooster Audio Cypress TT-15 (link to check it out at Black Rooster Audio)
- Blue Cat Audio Blue Cat’s Re-Guitar (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique)
- Brainworx ENGL Amps (link to check them out at Plugin Alliance)
- Ignite Amps Amp Simulation Plugins (link to check them out at Ignite Amps)
- JST Toneforge (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique)
- Kuassa Amplifikation 360 Bundle (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique)
- LePou Amp Sims (link to check them out at Grebz)
- Line 6 POD Farm 2.5 Platinum (link to check the price at Line 6)
- Nembrini Audio Amp Simulation Plugins (link to check them out at Nembrini Audio)
- Neural DSP Amp Simulation Plugins (link to check them out at Neural DSP)
- Scuffham S-Gear (link to check the price at Scuffham Amps)
- Shattered Glass Audio Ace (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique)
- SimulAnalog Guitar Suite (link to check the price at SimulAnalog)
- ToneLib GFX (link to check it out at ToneLib)
- Universal Audio Fender ’55 Tweed Deluxe (link to check the price at Universal Audio)
- Voxengo Boogex (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique)
- Waves PRS SuperModels (link to check the price at Waves)