Guitar amps and cabinets are expensive and take up space. They’re worthwhile, but guitar amp VSTs are a viable solution for many guitar players.

Forget about saving up for a guitar amplifier and cabinet – digital audio lets you play with an abundance of amp & cab emulations on your computer! After all, not many of us have the funds or contacts with access to vintage or otherwise premium equipment.

So let’s talk about what we think are the best guitar amp VSTs that let you build a signal chain and control the tone of your sound. Some of these guitar plugins give you more technical controls than others, but not everyone wants that.

  1. Amplitube 5
  2. BIAS AMP 2 & BIAS FX 2
  3. Amp Room
  4. Guitar Rig
  5. TH-U
  6. CLA Guitars
  7. Axiom

1. IK Multimedia Amplitube 5 ($599) – the best virtual guitar amp

Image Credit: IK Multimedia

Amplitube 5 has been around for 20 years, so it’s no surprise that IK Multimedia know what they’re doing with amp emulations and effects software.

While the software does feature popular amps from major brands, Amplitube 5 also includes amps from smaller makers too. In fact, a number of the amps from the likes of Orange, Fender, and Mesa are officially licensed. Therefore the amp emulations in Amplitube 5 should be the best on the market.

You’ll find amp emulations of equipment such as:

  1. PRS Archon
  2. Friedman Pink Taco
  3. Bogner XTC
  4. Diezel VH4

Furthermore, you can run more than one cabinet at once and build complex, nearly ‘impossible’ rigs. The drag-and-drop signal chain interface lets you build a powerful sound by combining amps and stompboxes into one chain.

Amplitube 5 also gives you a lot of creative control while creating your tone. For example, you can utilize its precise virtual microphone placement to shape your sound before inserting any amps into your signal chain.

The Amplitube software includes a wealth of not only amplifiers but effects too. Both the amp and effect modules are the main selling points, but Amplitube also features writing and performance tools too.

There are a number of payment tiers available, but the Max version isn’t cheap. But there is a free tier that features 41 models for you to play with.

2. Positive Grid – BIAS AMP 2 & BIAS FX 2 ($299) – the best guitar amp VST under $100

Image Credit: Positive Grid

Now on their second iteration, Positive Grid’s BIAS AMP 2 & BIAS FX 2 are also amp emulation software at the forefront of the market. While AMP 2 doesn’t include any effects other than a basic reverb, FX – a separate package – offers a lot.

AMP 2 give you lets you make precise tweaks to every setting in Amp modelers, while Bias FX 2 gives you an entire suite of 43 pedal effects and amps with fewer advanced controls.

Image Credit: Positive Grid

In practice, you can change the type of tube, adjust transformers, and a lot more in AMP 2. Excellent microphone placement control gives you creative control over tonal shaping, while the ability to switch valves lets you get as technical as you like.

In short, you can adjust every individual component in the signal chain of an amp or just replace it entirely. Despite the lack of effects in AMP 2, the inclusion of an Amp Match feature lets you simulate the sound of any amp tone.

For example, you can play the sound of an amp either by playing live or playing an audio file. Then the software will use a multitude of variables in an attempt to match the tone of the amp – often with good results.

3. Softube Amp Room ($329) – the best amp VST for customization

Image Credit: Softube

Softube’s Amp Room emulates some of the best hardware with overwhelming accuracy.

The latest edition of the Amp Room suite gives you access to officially modeled Marshall amps, cabinets, pedals, microphones, and more vintage equipment like Softube’s American Class-A.

In fact, Amp Room lets you play with digital emulations of world-famous EQs, compressors and more so you can work like a professional in your home studio! You can even audition amps and cabinets before you use them, and you can personalize your sound with advanced microphone placement settings.

Furthermore, you’ll find 6 highly detailed Amp models such as the infamous JCM 800, 16 cabinets with different microphone settings, up to 3 post-FX modules, and over 250 presets that give you the sound of the 1950s onward.

You can create interesting signal chains while mixing and matching different modules however you like. Amp Room’s user interface makes signal chain building easy, and you can insert all Softube plugins in Amp Room too.

Amp Room’s utility modules let you adjust the input gain, output level, channel panning, gating, filtering, phase alignment, frequency-splitting, and more with ease! Additionally, Amp Room’s Headphones Mode adds subtle room ambiance to emulate a space when you’re wearing headphones.

Finally, you can get official expansion packs that include amplifier models from other manufacturers too.

4. Native Instruments Guitar Rig ($199) – the easiest guitar amp VST to use

Image Credit: Native Instruments

Native Instruments’s Guitar Rig simulator software is highly customizable, gives you a huge array of tools, and it’s one of the easier simulator interfaces to work with.

Guitar Rig Pro is Native Instruments’s flagship guitar amp simulator while Guitar Rig Player is its free, stripped-back version which is still pretty versatile.

As with other NI software like Kontakt and Reaktor, Guitar Rig has a top-down signal chain with a drag & drop workflow. Each module gives you controllable parameters, you’ll find up to 27 amps in Pro with hardware emulations of Marshall, Fender, Orange, Peavey, and Mesa Boogie.

Generally, Guitar Rig gives you a big selection of heavy-sounding amps with a large variety of effects including granular processors. In any case, Guitar Rig offers matched cabinets that sound great out of the gate if you want to jump right in and avoid getting technical.

However, the stunning graphics of Guitar Rig put a lot of pressure on the CPU so running multiple instances may not be a good idea. But Guitar Rig does give you some of the best effects and virtual amps in this space. In addition to these, you get a variety of presets!

Legacy Cabinets and Mics model various cabinets, the microphone’s type, and position, 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.

5. Overloud – TH-U ($269) – the best genre-specific virtual guitar amp software

Image Credit: Overloud

Overloud’s offering of amp & cabinet emulations are some of the most realistic out there. And their TH-U software is no different!

Inside the software, you’ll find both modern and old-school classic amplifiers, some that aren’t so conventional, and everything in between. In total, 89 guitar amps, four bass amps, 52 cabinets, 77 pedals, and rack effects await you!

Amps from Fender, Marshall, Mesa-Boogie, Hiwatt, Vox, and, more await you while 18 microphones let you get creative and technical as you shape your tone.

But if you don’t need quite so much content, you can utilize TH-U’s separate packages that are tailored toward certain genres. For example, TH-U Metal features 19 guitar amp models with 44 cabinet emulations and 16 effects.

But other packages such as Rock and Funk are available too. Ultimately, TH-U gives you everything you’ll need to achieve the tone of your favorite guitar player.

6. Waves CLA Guitars ($99) – the most affordable guitar amp plugin

Image Credit: Waves

Despite CLA Guiatars’ limited functionality compared to others on our list, rock guitar players will find Waves’s guitar amp plugin to be something special. And with Chris Lord-Alge who’s thought to be one of the best mix engineers in rock music behind it, you know you’re getting a quality plugin.

For example, its “Reamplify” gives you CLAs radio-ready rock sounds that countless platinum-winning records have utilized.

Waves CLA Guitars gives you 5 parameters to play with, and three ‘channels’ which dictate the type of processing and how heavy the sound will be. The channels include “Clean”, “Crunch”, and “Heavy”, while a small variety of effects let you add further processing.

Okay, so, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room as there is with the other simulators on our list. But Waves CLA Guitars deserves to be on our list because it sounds amazing! Couple that with its ease of use and you have a pretty dope plugin.

7. Blue Cat Axiom ($199) – the best guitar amp VST for functionality that doesn’t tax your computer

Image Credit: Blue Cat

Finally, Axiom by Blue Cat is unlike the other guitar amp simulators. For example, its interface is skewed towards effects and tone manipulation rather than building big signal chains. All the while Axiom also gives you a built-in drum machine!

Axiom’s two parallel amp simulation channels give you 12 pre and post-effect slots that you can blend together for interesting tones. And you can insert external VST effect plugins too!

Meanwhile, Axiom isn’t all that hungry for processing power either. And Blue Cat’s modular approach to tonal shaping first appeared in their Destructor amp plugin. Now, Destructor actually sits at the heart of Axiom!

Final thoughts

Though some have access to many fantastic-sounding amplifiers & cabinets, most of us don’t. That’s why we thank our lucky stars for amp & cab simulators!

This list of guitar amp VSTs gives you everything you need to start molding amazing tones with your guitar, all without touching a real amp or cabinet. Although some may take up a bit of hard drive space or processing power, you don’t have to worry about how much space you have left in your room.

So, which guitar amp VST is the one for you?

Why not browse hundreds of guitar samples on RouteNote Create? You can listen to, download, and keep royalty-free guitar sounds and subscribe for as little as $2.99!