Last week I talked about recording real guitar amps and using a few basic tricks to get a fuller sound. But sometimes you just cannot use an amp and will want to do it all inside your DAW.
Free virtual guitar amps
Below is a list of some of the top guitar amp simulators that you can get for free. I would also suggest reading my previous article on why you should be using free guitar amp software from earlier this year here.
Click on the links in the titles to go straight to where you can download them. I would suggest you try out a whole bunch and experiment with layering, EQ and effects as well. If you need any inspiration then I have also included some demo videos of the virtual amps for you to check out.
Audiffex offers a free version of their AmpLion amp modelling software. One advantage with it over most other free amplifiers is that it can be used as a standalone application without having to use your DAW. They also offer some other free gear, including a bass amp, and a bunch of simulated pedals, cabinets and microphones.
Ignite Amps do some really good free plug-ins and I have mentioned them many times before in previous articles. They have everything from an IR loader, a bass amp, tube amps, pedals, and even a vintage tube equaliser. This is one set of software plug-ins you really should be exploring if you haven’t already.
By installing their AmpliTube Custom Shop software you get access to their free version of AmpliTube 4 that includes four amps, five cabinets, nine stomp boxes, three microphones and two rack effects. The Custom Shop software has just gone 64-bit and if you do have a few spare pounds then you can buy individual amp heads, cabinets and effects as well.
This is one of the guitar amp sims that I mentioned in my previous article earlier this year. It includes simulations of a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, an ENGL Powerball amp, and a Marshall amp. There is also a free IR loader for cabinet simulations but it’s only available in 32-bit.
A good alternative is NadIR from Ignite Amps. Again, I would suggest re-reading my article on Impulse Responses from earlier this year, as this is a great way to get a more natural guitar cabinet sound when using either software or hardware guitar preamps/amplifiers.
The Brainworx V3 Player is the free version of their bx_rockrack V3 amp sim collection. The amps are all presets and you can only adjust the volumes, however, you can always use the EQ and effects in your DAW to get around this limitation. It’s a nice simple plug-and-play setup for those that just want to record their guitar quickly and easily!
The Boogex includes a built-in reverb, a noise gate plus a cabinet IR loader as well as a spectrum analyser. Again, I would seriously suggest getting into IRs, as this particular plug-in can be made to sound huge with the right Impulse Responses loaded. Don’t be put off by its simple user interface, this one is really powerful and has lots of scope for great guitar tones.
Those crazy Russians make some great guitar amp sims and this one is definitely one of them! It’s a completely free version of their U530 amp which is a model of the ENGL E530 preamp. Mercuriall also has other free amp sims, including ones for the Marshall JCM800.
Virtual amps including the ENGL Invader, Marshall JCM800, ENGL E530, Peavey 5150. This one is currently PC only, but is worth mentioning as it sounds pretty sweet in a mix and double tracked!
That’s about it! Any feedback? Let me know in the comments below.