With thousands of amp sims on the market it’s hard to figure out which one’s right for you.
So to help you find the perfect fit, We’ve put together this list: The 15 Best Amp Sims of 2021!
Contents Having the right tools is important, but they won’t help if you don’t know how to use them. That’s why Musician on a Mission has created this new free workshop for people who want the entire framework for making radio-ready music at home. Inside are the only 7 steps you need to go through if you want your mixes to sound professional. So, if you just want a shortcut to pro-quality mixes, watch this free training now:
Want to Make Incredible Music?
Having the right tools is important, but they won’t help if you don’t know how to use them.
That’s why Musician on a Mission has created this new free workshop for people who want the entire framework for making radio-ready music at home.
Inside are the only 7 steps you need to go through if you want your mixes to sound professional.
So, if you just want a shortcut to pro-quality mixes, watch this free training now:
But if you just want to learn all about Amp Sims specifically, keep reading.
Amps Vs. Amp Sims
An amp simulator (amp sim for short) is a plugin that imitates the sound of a guitar amp.
Run your guitar through one of these plugins and you’ll have hundreds of iconic guitar tones at your fingertips. As you can imagine, a good amp sim can save you tons of time and money.
Who likes saving time and money? Show of hands?
Before we look at today’s top amp sims, you should figure out if amp sims are right for you in the first place.
If you’re already familiar with them, I’m sure you’ve heard a hundred different opinions on amps vs. sims.
“They sound like crap. They’ll never sound real.”
“I need software because I can’t make noise at home and now guitar amp simulators sound as good as the real thing.”
There are plenty of different opinions out there, but what do the pros really think about amp sims?
To help you figure out what’s right for you, I set out to get REAL data about this ongoing battle. By interviewing 447 different musicians, I’ve honed in on what the pros have to say about amps vs. sims.
Check it out…
So… Who Wins?
The debate generally goes something like this…
“Could simulators ever sound like real amplifiers?”
But that completely misses the point.
There will never be a definitive answer as to which is ‘best’.
After all, they are just tools. They both have their uses, depending on the situation.
Regardless of the answer to this question, there is one important truth…
Using software is the better choice in a home studio.
Why? Four reasons.
1) You don’t have to worry about room acoustics.
2) You don’t need a microphone.
3) You don’t have to worry about noise.
4) If time is a constraint, you have a wide range of tones available in a matter of SECONDS.
For me, that’s the biggie.
It takes a good guitarist years to build a versatile collection of amplifiers and find their tone.
Add to that the range of microphones you would need, and the time spent learning how to record guitar to a studio level…
And it becomes clear which is the more efficient option.
Of course, you don’t have to stick to just one approach.
You can have amplifier software, and real amplifiers. Each have their use.
However, if time and cost are important to you, I recommend getting started with amp sims as soon as possible.
Countless guitarists swear by simulation, like Tyler from Music is Win:
Are you ready to get started with simulators?
I have compiled a list of the best free and paid guitar amp simulators available in 2021. Keep reading…
The Best Amp Sims of 2021
I can help you filter through the list to find the amp sim that works best for you.
Check it out:
What price range are you looking for?
Want to see the most popular amp sims in our survey?
Amp Designer (Free with Logic Pro X)
While not technically free for all DAW users, users of Logic Pro X should feel proud to have this plugin in their arsenal.
In our survey, we asked what plugin people preferred to use.
Amp Designer was mentioned almost as much as AmpliTube, which costs $149
Learn more about Amp Designer and Logic Pro here: Apple Logic Pro X
BIAS Amp (Free Version) – We Recommend!
We’ll cover this in more detail later, but here’s the short…
This is the plugin I recommend to most people. And they have a free version.
It’s a no-brainer.
AmpliTube 4 (Free Version)
If you’re just figuring out what kind of guitar tones you like, this is a great place to start!
The free version of Amplitube comes with 24 pieces of gear at no cost.
Plenty to play around with and figure out what sounds good.
STL Ignite Emissary 2.0 (Free, Fully Featured)
The guitar scientists at Ignite Amps have built a few free sims that sound terrific.
Anyone writing heavier music should definitely check out The Emissary.
It’s easy for really distorted guitars to sound flat, but The Emissary breathes plenty of life into recordings.
Make sure you download the newest version: Emissary 2.0.
With the 2.0 update, the Emissary has gotten a complete tech overhaul. Without getting into the nitty gritty details, it now sounds even livelier than it did before.
The tube saturation has also been improved, and you can save and share presets you create.
LePou Plugins (Free, Fully Featured)
Beloved by fans of indie developers, this collection of free simulators packs a punch.
Kuassa Matchlock ($49)
The folks at Kuassa have some great sims under their belt. But their newest one, Matchlock, is absolutely stunning.
Matchlock imitates early Fender amps making it perfect for blues lovers looking for a full bodied tone with plenty of bite.
BIAS Amp 2 & FX 2 (Starts at $99) – We Recommend!
My personal favorite!
Despite being highly affordable, this plugin is an absolute joy to use – and it sounds great.
I initially opted for BIAS FX, which includes a ton of stomp boxes as well as a range of amplifiers and cabs.
But if you want the full range of models, grab BIAS Amp 2.
This was mentioned A LOT in the survey, and I have seen this software praised on a range of forums.
All in all, a great first purchase.
Blue Cat’s Destructor ($99)
Don’t let the name fool you, “Destructor” comes with countless creative possibilities.
The amp and cab emulations that Blue Cat offers are super high quality. But the “tone map” is even more exciting.
The tone map allows you to easily mix and match the sounds of different amps. Can’t decide between a twangy clean amp or a crunchy distortion? You can have both.
Simply move the tone map’s cursor in-between sounds you like and it will combine them.
Destructor’s tone map makes homing in on the right sound quick and easy. I highly recommend it for anyone who thinks they’ll be working in a variety of styles.
Softube Vintage Amp Room Bundle ($119)
This one’s for the retro tone lovers.
The Vintage Amp Room Bundle is based on vintage Marshall, Fender, and Vox amps.
Those who love the classic tones of 60’s and 70’s rock hits will want to check out the Vintage Amp Room Bundle.
Scuffham S-Gear ($129)
A lot of people swear by Scuffham’s S-Gear. It was even in the top 4 of my survey, and for good reason!
The S-Gear is chock full of incredible sounds.
With crystal clear clean sounds and crunchy distorted ones, there’s a good chance S-Gear has the amp sound you’re looking for!
Waves PRS SuperModels ($129)
I love Waves, but I wasn’t too impressed with their last amp sim bundle.
So I was thrilled when they announced the PRS SuperModels, and I’m happy to say they sound great!
Don’t let the fact that there are only 3 amps fool you, you can get a ton of different tones for all sorts of genres out of them.
AmpliTube 4 ($149.99) – We Recommend!
Arguably the most widely-used plugin of the bunch, IK Multimedia were pioneers in this area.
Native Instruments Guitar Rig Pro 6 ($199)
I’ll be honest, I’m not personally blown away by the sounds I’ve gotten with Guitar Rig.
But with 21 amps and cabinets, and tons of effects to choose from, it certainly offers a lot of variety. Plenty of people love it, so while it’s not for me you may find that you love it!
Overloud THU Full ($300)
This plugin boasts the worlds largest collection of amps, with 203 models and over 1000 presets.
I like the tones in TH-U a bit more than in Guitar Rig, but I have to say the sheer quantity of options can be a bit overwhelming.
But if you’re looking for an amp sim with plenty of options, this TH-U might be right for you!
Line 6 Helix Native ($399)
Line 6 is known for making incredible modeling amps and with Helix Native they bring those same tones into the software realm. This is a really powerful program.
But I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who’s just getting started. If you’re new to these plugins you’re better off starting with a free or budget version.
If you’ve already got plenty of practice with amp sims and want to take your tones to the next level, Helix Native can do some incredible stuff!
Bonus Tip: Impulse Responses
Want more options for great tone? Impulse responses are another way to turn your recordings up a notch.
Impulse responses record the sound of a cabinet’s speaker. Some people use them instead of amp sims, others combine the two to get huge, full sounds.
You’ll also need a plugin that can load the responses. Pulse is a great option and it’s free.
Here’s the thing… You could have all the right gear still end up with music that sounds amateur if you’re missing a crucial step. There is SO MUCH that goes into a good song and a professional mix. It’s actually pretty overwhelming. But what if I told you that you don’t have to be an expert (with years of experience) to make radio-ready music at home? Well… That’s the truth. It’s likely that you’ve already wasted time, money and effort on the wrong things. Most of us do. We waste years focusing on the wrong things. So, what should you focus on if you want fast results? Inside this new free training, you’ll learn the secret to making radio-ready music at home. With this new approach, you’ll know exactly where to spend your time and energy. You’ll no longer feel confused and overwhelmed by the recording and mixing process. So, if you want to learn the *exact* steps that will take your mixes to a professional standard in under a year… Watch this free workshop now:
7 Steps to Pro Mixes at Home
Here’s the thing…
You could have all the right gear still end up with music that sounds amateur if you’re missing a crucial step.
There is SO MUCH that goes into a good song and a professional mix. It’s actually pretty overwhelming.
But what if I told you that you don’t have to be an expert (with years of experience) to make radio-ready music at home?
That’s the truth.
It’s likely that you’ve already wasted time, money and effort on the wrong things. Most of us do. We waste years focusing on the wrong things.
So, what should you focus on if you want fast results?
Inside this new free training, you’ll learn the secret to making radio-ready music at home.
With this new approach, you’ll know exactly where to spend your time and energy. You’ll no longer feel confused and overwhelmed by the recording and mixing process.
So, if you want to learn the *exact* steps that will take your mixes to a professional standard in under a year…
Watch this free workshop now:
P.S. Sadly, two of the rock icons mentioned in this article passed away in recent years (Malcolm Young and Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister). They will be forever missed.
Audio professional, musician and founder of Musician on a Mission.