If there’s one thing we know about bass guitar, it’s that getting the right tone on your recordings is probably going to take more than recording the instrument directly into your audio interface and using a generic compressor VST plugin to tame the dynamics. That’s not going to get you a killer tone.
This is where bass amp VST plugins come in. These amp sims can do most of the heavy lifting for you, giving you the foundational tone characteristics, you need for your bass to sound like a bass. And in some cases, they come with all the effects and frills necessary to get that bass pumping and thumping to the max.
In this guide, we look at the best free bass amp VST plugins.
SHB-1 by Ignite Amps
Kicking off this list is a classic. Ignite Amps is well known for producing professional quality hardware gear with devasting tones for the heaviest of genres. Generously, they offer many software VST plugin solutions for guitarists and bassists, entirely for free!
If you happen to be looking for guitar amp VST plugins, virtual power amps, effects, and Impulse Response (IR) loaders, you can stock up on them while you’re visiting the Ignite Amps website.
Anyway. the SHB-1 VST plugin is tailor-made for bassists. There’s not a whole lot we could say about this simple beauty that hasn’t already been said (it’s been around that long), but here’s an overview anyway.
This nicely designed VST bass amp takes after the real hardware bass head, appropriately called the SHB-1 “Extreme Bass Head.” Yes, there’s a hardware counterpart to this plugin!
SHB-1 is a capable solution for on the stage and in the studio, with mono / stereo processing, selectable oversampling (up to 8x), input / output controls, double precision floating point mathematical model, and automatable controls.
Is the dynamic 12AX7 / ECC83 coupled triode stages analog modeling up to snuff? Well, that’s for you to decide, but if extreme bass tones are what you need for your projects, we’re not sure you’re going to find a better solution for free. Try it on your next hard rock or metal production.
Download: Ignite Amps
Bass Deluxe by Lostin70s Audio
This explosive entry often tops the list of free bass amp VSTs, and it’s not hard to understand why. Bass Deluxe has been designed as a versatile, Swiss army knife solution for recorded bass tones. Here’s what I mean:
Bass Deluxe comes with two independent and identical channels with nine-band equalization, drive, and compression controls, a pedalboard with six effects, a beatbox with a looper and several beat styles for jamming and practicing, an adjustable boost, and four models of bass cabinets.
No wonder this behemoth is called Bass Deluxe. Sure, you can find premium solutions with dozens if not hundreds of heads, cabs, and effects you can mix and match until the cows come home, all in one place. But there is something to be said for decision paralysis. For free, you’ll be begging for the features included here.
Maybe Bass Deluxe will float your boat, maybe it won’t. But there are plenty of people who like it. You may as well give it a whirl because you’ve got nothing to lose.
Download: Lostin70s Audio
TSE BOD v3.0.0 by TSE Audio
Here’s another classic that has fortunately seen multiple updates through the years.
This Sansamp-style bass guitar processor called TSE BOD (Bass OverDrive) is simple but effective. As its hardware counterpart would suggest, the processor has been designed to be used without an amp. Of course, you can still use Impulse Responses (IR) if you find it enhances your tone and experience. There are no rules against that!
TSE BOD’s design is simple enough that any bass player should be able to figure it out. You’ve got controls for level, drive, low, high, presence, and blend. Sometimes, the simple solutions are the best ones.
For quick and dirty bass tones, TSE BOD more than does the trick. Since you can use it to get rid of higher-end clank, push the attack, give the bass more presence, and more, I think this DI-style plugin is sick! In the absence of better solutions, TSE BOD will help you get to where you need to go.
TSE BOD is available for Windows and Mac.
Download: TSE Audio
Amplitube 5 CS by IK Multimedia
Advanced virtual guitar multi-effects and workstation solutions have progressed to a surprising extent in recent years, with in-depth fine-tuning controls, thousands of factory, custom, and user presets in the cloud, guitar match functionality, and more.
An array of selectable and customizable amps, cabs, speakers, effects, racks, tubes, and mics is practically a given now.
IK Multimedia’s Amplitube 5 CS (Custom Shop) is one such powerhouse workstation and best of all, you can use the included (limited) feature set indefinitely.
Amplitube 5 CS starts you off with 42 amps, cabs, speakers, pedals, mics, and rack FX you can mix and match. And if you want to extend its functionality, you can pay for just the features you need, without having to commit to the full version of the product (which honestly wouldn’t be much of a loss).
While Amplitube 5 CS was designed for guitar, and it’s not exclusively for bass, there are enough features loaded into it that bass guitarists should find usable settings for an array of styles and recording situations. You can see exactly what I mean in the video demo below.
If you want to turn your desktop into a guitar and bass workstation, Amplitube 5 CS is a cool option to explore.
Download: IK Multimedia
GK Amplification 2 LE by Audified
The name Gallien-Krueger should be familiar to any experienced bassist. Sure, there are a few other notable bass amp brands out there, like Ampeg or Fender. But thanks to their superb out-of-the-box tone, Gallien-Krueger amps are much sought-after.
From Flea to Duff McKagan, various big names have been seen on stage with GK amps.
GK Amplification 2 LE takes after the Gallien Krueger MB150 amp microphoned up with an Audix D6. Per Audified, it’s very authentic sounding too.
This plugin comes with a built-in advanced track player. You can use this to learn and play along to your favorite songs. It comes with handy features like “slow down” and even “speed up.” There’s also an onboard recorder, so you can capture your inspiration before it’s gone.
GK Amplification 2 LE can also be used in the studio and on the stage. If you want to skip hauling around heavy bass amps and cabs to your gig, you could give this baby a try at your next gig and see how it works for you (test it first, though, because software can introduce unknown quantities to your live setup).
The video below doesn’t exactly make GK Amplification 2 LE look like the best thing since sliced bread, but it’s certainly got potential, and you never know when it might end up working for your projects.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to track down GK Amplification 3 LE somewhere online too, but Audified only made it available for download for a limited time, so it’s not easy to find.
Download: KVR Audio Software
VeeBassAmp BS Edition by Viper ITB
Experienced bass players should recognize the name Billy Sheehan. He is known best as the flashy bassist of legendary hard rock band Mr. Big, but his talent has also been on display with the likes of Steve Vai and Winery Dogs, among others.
Fans of Billy Sheehan will also know that his bass setup is kind of unique. This is not a surprise knowing what kind of player he is. His playing is almost like that of a rhythm, and sometimes, a lead guitarist. No wonder Mr. Big never needed another guitar player besides the equally virtuosic Paul Gilbert.
VeeBassAMP BS Edition was inspired by Sheehan’s approach to the instrument. It may not give you his exact tone (especially without his hands or technique), but the principles behind the setup are effectively the same.
Sheehan has two pickups – one for high frequencies (running through distortion) and one for sub-frequencies. Both signals are treated differently, with different signal chains, but are then combined at the output stage.
The idea is that you can drive the top end as hard as you want without losing any low end. Further, you can blend signals if you want a more traditional “backbone” bass tone.
This explanation should help you understand the method behind the madness, and how you might go about utilizing it in your own productions.
While it doesn’t look like much, I think you’ll agree the concept is great, the execution is good, and VeeBassAMP BS Edition also sounds awesome.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
BIG by AcmeBarGig
Does the Windows-only BIG bass amp VST plugin live up to its name?
Well, we’ll leave the judging to you. But BIG, like Bass Deluxe, is a bass amp and effects suite combo, featuring a tone stack EQ, two crossovers and filters, a compressor, a noise gate, a cabinet shaper (which you can turn on or off), and a preset manager.
BIG also features twin 12AX7 preamp tubes which you can bypass individually. This gives you access to more tonal possibilities.
Overall, BIG is a potential all-in-one solution for crafting the perfect bass tones. That said, the video demo below doesn’t do the plugin much justice. If you want to see what this thing can do, you’ll want to download it and experiment with it yourself.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
Doctor BASS by DamyFx
Doctor BASS is a virtual tube-style bass amp and cab sim, with four speaker models to choose from.
It is very simple in appearance and functionality, but that’s not a bad thing, because it makes it easy to use. Plus, it doesn’t sound half bad. The direct sound of a bass can be okay, but Doctor BASS can certainly tighten up your raw sounds for you while offering some basic tone-shaping functionality.
Doctor BASS is only available for Windows, and you can download it at PLUGINS 4 FREE.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
Bass Grinder Free by Audio Assault
Sometimes you need a much heavier, weightier bass tone. Bass Grinder Free was designed as a virtual metal bass amp for those headbangers out there.
Simplicity is the name of the game here. There are some standard tweakable controls onboard, like gain, bass, mid, treble, depth, and crush. Amazingly, though, it also comes with two amp heads and three cabinet models you can mix and match to your heart’s content.
Ignite Amps’ SHB-1 may well be the ultimate virtual metal bass amp, but Bass Grinder Free is quite decent too.
Bass Grinder Free has decent reviews, and it’s available for Windows and Mac.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
Bass Preamp by Ronald Passion
Ronald Passion’s Bass Preamp is a simple, virtual analog-style tube bass preamp. And it certainly smells of “legacy.”
Most of the tweaking on Bass Preamp can be done using seven parameters – drive in, shaping, tone, bass, mid, hi, and volume. But you’ve also got controls for on / off, hard / soft, X-TRA Hi, X-TRA Lo, tube (solo or dual), and cabinet.
Unfortunately, the video demo doesn’t do the plugin much justice. It can add quite a bit of presence to the bass, which is probably something you’ll gather from the demo, but that’s not all it can do. This is another one of those cases where you’ll need to download it and try it out for yourself.
This virtual bass amp is available for Windows only.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
Slap Passion by Ronald Passion
There’s nothing fancy about Ronald Passion’s Slap Passion. This virtual tube bass preamp comes with your standard tone shaping controls like volume, hi, freq, mid, bass, and input.
If you want to hear how this amp sounds, you’ll have to download it and try it out for yourself.
Slap Passion is only available for Windows.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
ATK Bass Preamp by Audio ToolKit
Audio ToolKit created ATK Bass Preamp as a Fender Bassman style preamp with tube analog modeling.
As you might know, the Bassman was originally created as a bass amp, but it ended up being co-opted by guitarists, who found it a goldmine of warm and pristine tonal possibilities.
Famous axemen like John Fogerty, Brian Setzer, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Mike Campbell, and many others, are all known to have leaned on the sound of a Bassman for shorter or longer periods. The amp takes very well to effects pedals as well.
Either way, ATK Bass Preamp may not look anything like the original (the UI design is quite generic), but it features the essence of the inverter input stage of a Fender Bassman and its tone stack. That would be its main appeal.
The controls could not be much simpler – you’ve got gain, low, middle, high, volume, and dry / wet parameters you can tweak to suit your tonal needs.
You can find ATK Bass Preamp for Windows and Mac.
Download: Audio ToolKit
Guitar Amp 2 Free Edition by Plektron
Per Plektron, Guitar Amp 2 Free Edition is an amp and virtual effect rack suitable to guitar and bass alike.
And for a freebie, its scope is impressive. It includes nine “modules” – guitar amp, bass amp, cab sim, fuzz, compressor, vintage reverb, tuner, input, and master.
The British module (or guitar amp) was obviously inspired by Orange Amps, and it’s a vintage British amp with EQ, four curves, and tone control. It has clean and overdrive modes as well.
The BassVox module is a bass guitar amp with EQ, compression, and a cab sim.
The Cabinet module is just as it sounds – it’s a cab sim with multiple presets for different tonal possibilities.
The Fuzz module offers a classic fuzz-style distortion, like a square wave output. It was popular in the 60s and 70s and thanks to proponents like Jimi Hendrix and David Gilmour, it hasn’t ever fully fallen out of fashion.
The Compressor module comes with standard compressor controls for dynamic compression and limiting functionality.
The Vintage Reverb module serves up a classic reverb effect for adding space to a track.
The Tuner module is a chromatic tuner that can be used to ensure your axe is in tune.
The Input module cannot be turned on or off, and it’s for selecting your input source. Similarly, the Master module cannot be turned on or off; it lets you monitor your audio output.
Guitar Amp 2 Free Edition is compatible with Windows, and it has a relatively good rating on Plugin Boutique.
Download: Plugin Boutique
Helian Bass by Fretted Synth
Here’s a promising looking if largely overlooked bass amp VST plugin for Windows.
Fretted Synth’s Helian Bass features a simple but bass amp like interface that’s easy to understand and use. Your primary controls are input, output, drive, low, mid, high, and volume.
What might not be obvious from the outside looking in is the fact that it’s essentially five amps in one. You can choose the flavor that matches the nature of your project. More tonal possibilities is generally a good thing, because what works in one recording might not work in another.
The video demo is unfortunately useless, as it shows the plugin being used with non-bass sounds. With free plugins, you basically never know unless you try. So, give Helian Bass a try, and see if it works for you.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
Cypress TT-15 by Black Rooster Audio
In searching for a viable bass amp VST plugin, you might not even think to turn to virtual guitar amps. But there is the occasional guitar amp sim that, if you tweak it just right, will work very nicely for bass guitars too.
Black Rooster Audio’s Cypress TT-15 is just one such Mac and Windows compatible entry.
One look and you’ll probably recognize it as a versatile Orange Amps (Tiny Terror) style amp sim. But it doesn’t get much simpler than this, with power, output, and cabinet switches, as well as gain, tone, and volume knobs. Yes, those are all the parameters!
Since it is a guitar amp, it can do clean, dirty, distorted, and everything in between. As a bonus, it includes a 2×12 cabinet sim. If you like to tweak and customize your sounds, though, you can bypass the built-in cab and use your own hardware or software gear, like an IR loader.
Behind the scenes, the Cypress TT-15 features authentic circuit emulation, SSE2 optimized code, auto oversampling, as well as high pixel density / retina support. Classy!
Download: Black Rooster Audio
Bassprofessor MarkII by Sonic Anomaly
Developer Sonic Anomaly describes Bassprofessor MarkII as a “bass guitar enhancer.” For those who find the direct sound of bass guitar a little dull and stale (and many do), this handy tool can take your direct signal and make it sound more like an amped signal.
There are several handy onboard tools that can help you get the job done, too – EQ, dynamics processing, and an overdrive that’s been optimized for bass.
This Windows only VST plugin delivers on what it says it does, and for tone shaping purposes, it’s very capable.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
Voxengo LF Max Punch by Voxengo
Voxengo LF Max Punch isn’t a bass amp per se. But it was made with bass frequencies in mind, and it works as an enhancer, saturator, dynamics booster, and sub-harmonic synthesizer too.
If you’re looking to add thump, punch, and even some distortion to your bass sounds, this baby should come in handy. This plugin was designed for modern music, which often features heavy bass, so you know developer Voxengo wasn’t messing around here.
Voxengo LF Max Punch even gives you the ability to mix the processed signal with the dry one. It even has a built-in compression tool you can enable.
Voxengo says you can use this enhancer on bass, drums, even on the master. Best of all, you can get it for Mac or Windows.
This could be a very handy plugin to have on tap indeed.
With the above tools in your arsenal, you should be able to come infinitely closer to the thick, rich, deep, hard-hitting, impactful, thumping bass tones you’ve been desiring.
Will the above give you everything you need? Perhaps. But there may be situations where you can’t quite nail your favorite tones without premium plugins and/or hardware. It all depends on what you’re after.
But there you have it – multiple free bass amp VST plugins you can download, install, and start using today. Have fun!