33 Best Free Guitar VST Plugins 2001 – Essential For Any Producer

33 Best Free Guitar VST Plugins 2021 – Essential For Any Producer

Last Updated on May 3, 2021

There are so many ways to record guitar these days.

You can go “old school” and mic up an amp (or even multiple amps).

You can take a line out of an amp.

You can record directly through a DI or multi-effects processor.

You can record a guitar direct, and “re-amp” it later to achieve your ideal tone.

You can even do a combination of the above!

But it’s never been more popular to do your recording “inside the box,” which is exactly what free guitar VST plugins allow you to do.

Using these, you can shape your tones during recording and even after recording, right from inside your DAW.

Let’s look at the best free guitar VST plugins. Every producer needs these!

Standalone Amp Simulators & Effects

There are a few types of guitar VST plugins, and the first kind we’ll be looking at are standalone amp simulators and effects (Impulse Response or IR loaders inclusive).

A standalone amp sim is just that. A VST that simulates a specific guitar amp, usually one that already exists. But there are original creations as well.

And then we have effects pedal VSTs. These are separate from effects suites (which we will be looking at later) for obvious reasons – you only get one effect!

So, with that, here are the best free standalone amp sims and effects.

IGNITE AMPS Emissary

IGNITE AMPS Emissary

The legendary Emissary is a metal machine. Honestly, it’s hard to believe it’s free.

And it isn’t just a “made up” amp. It was modeled after its hardware equivalent, originally created for Ryan Huthnance (The Seer, Gaped, Chrome Bison, Emissary Studios) in 2014.

Sure, it’s a bit of a one trick pony (good for heavy genres). But the results you get will still depend a lot on the guitar you use, the effects you apply, the impulse responses, and most importantly, the player.

The graphical user interface looks just like a real amp head, so guitarists should feel right at home.

In addition to the typical EQ and gain controls for the two channels (clean and lead), you also get switches for bright, deep, and shape for additional tone tweaking, as well as depth and presence for more tonal possibilities. Everything you could want in a heavy, beautiful amp sim.

If that wasn’t enough, the VST also comes with selectable power tubes with individual bias controls.

It’s kind of too good to be free, so this would qualify as an instant download in my books.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

IGNITE AMPS NRR-1

IGNITE AMPS NRR-1

Two channels not enough for you? Then the NRR-1 might be right down your alley.

This VST emulates a three-channel tube preamp and was based on its hardware counterpart created for Fleshgod Apocalypse guitarist Cristiano Trionfera.

The clean, rhythm, and lead channels come with your typical EQ as well as gain and volume controls. The clean channel also comes with a bright switch, the rhythm channel with a bright and boost switch, and the lead channel with a bright and shape switch.

Now, I wouldn’t exactly call this a versatile amp. The three channels do make it a little more flexible than the Emissary. But it’s great for heavier genres, as you would expect. Its sounds are gnarly and relatively realistic too.

If a dirty, heavy, midrange enhanced sound is what you need, you should have a look at the NRR-1.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

IGNITE AMPS The Anvil

IGNITE AMPS The Anvil

The Anvil is yet another digital emulation of a three-channel tube preamp and was based on the hardware counterpart designed by Andy Zeugs.

And, as you would expect, this is another metal machine. To me, though, it sounds like one of the more versatile IGNITE AMPS VSTs.

As with the NRR-1, you get three channels – clean, rhythm, and lead. Along with the typical EQ, gain and volume controls, the clean and rhythm channels come with a bright switch, and the lead channel with a bright and shape switch, as well as a presence knob.

The clean was inspired by classic Californian circuits, the rhythm channel a hot-rodded British sound, and the lead channel for tight metal tones. That goes a long way towards explaining why I like it.

I find the knobs to be quite responsive, so you can achieve a variety of tones with this VST. Can’t argue with free either!

Download: IGNITE AMPS

IGNITE AMPS TPA-1

IGNITE AMPS TPA-1

What kind of guitar amp is this!?

Might be your first thought looking at the TPA-1, which is a digital emulation of a class AB tube power amp with only a few knobs (on the front, on the back there are more).

Now, the characteristics of tubes are a little challenging to replicate, but surprisingly, the TPA-1 does a good job.

This VST is meant to be paired with a preamp, so for best results, use this in tandem with any of the preamps already introduced, or something else on this list.

This VST features analog modeling for dynamic EL34 / 6L6GC / KT88 pentodes/tetrodes (push-pull stage) as well as dynamic ECC83 / 12AX7 triode (phase inverter stage).

Try experimenting with this alongside a guitar preamp VST. You might just be amazed at the results.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

IGNITE AMPS Libra

IGNITE AMPS Libra

The Libra is not an amp sim. But it’s still a monster.

This is an eight-channel IR convolver, which works as a cabinet simulator for guitar and bass.

With its Cartesian Mixer, you can combine and mix up to eight IRs simultaneously, with visualization.

If one cab isn’t enough, and two just aren’t doing it… Well, you can load up eight IRs using Libra. So, you can easily combine and fuse the best of your favorite tones in one.

If you’re going to be downloading guitar sims, you should certainly have an IR loader on hand. It just so happens that Libra is one of the most  powerful ones available.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

IGNITE AMPS NadIR

IGNITE AMPS NadIR

Let’s face it. The Libra is super cool and all, but it can be a lot of power. And sometimes you don’t need to be able to combine eight tones into one.

NadIR is what most IRs are like. It’s a dual IR convovler that acts as a cab sim for guitar and bass.

So, you can still combine the sound of a couple of your favorite cabs – just not eight of them.

Plus, NadIR comes with a lot of cool features, like high-quality analog shaped filters, selectable delay for phase interactions between loaded IRs, resonance for power-amp/speaker interaction control, algorithmic room reverb for far mic simulation, and more.

You could get NadIR, you could get Libra, you could even get both for added flexibility. The point is to make sure you have an IR loader, because some VST preamps sound terrible without IRs.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

IGNITE AMPS ProF.E.T.

IGNITE AMPS ProF.E.T.

The ProF.E.T. falls under the category of standalone effect.

Let’s face it – guitarists love their compact effects pedals. And when it comes to distortion pedals like the ProF.E.T., it can take a guitar sim over the top or give it an extra kick.

This VST was based on its hardware counterpart, of course, originally designed in 2018.

It gives you a ton of tube-like saturation with its JFET based gain stages and filters.

Its controls are standard – bass, lo mids, hi mids, treble, gain, and volume. You also get a shape switch.

You can use the ProF.E.T. as your preamp or set it in front of a separate preamp. You can even combine it with another standalone effect pedal style VST. It works any which way!

Download: IGNITE AMPS

IGNITE AMPS TSB-1 Tyrant Screamer

IGNITE AMPS TSB-1 Tyrant Screamer

Here’s another standalone effect for guitar, and it was inspired by everyone’s favorite green “808” overdrive pedal (need I say more)?

Every guitarist should have one in their collection, and it’s a must-have as a metal guitarist too.

Now, the inspiration for the TSB-1 Tyrant Screamer should be clear, but its features have been extended to increase versatility and make it usable with down tuned guitars.

This pedal is perfect for adding a bit of dirt to clean tones, or even for tightening up lead tones.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, the TSB-1 was based on the real pedal, originally created for guitarists Hadi Sarieddine and Mohammed Gad of Benevolent.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

IGNITE AMPS TS-999 SubScreamer

IGNITE AMPS TS-999 SubScreamer

The TS-999 SubScreamer is a digital emulation of an overdrive pedal built for Subhuman guitarists Matteo Buti and Elia Murgia in 2010.

Which pedal is it emulating you might ask? The same as the TSB-1 (a certain green overdrive). That said, this one isn’t identical to the Tyrant Screamer, of course.

The TS-999 comes with op-amp saturation analog modeling, symmetric/asymmetric clipping mode, normal/fat bass response mode, mono/stereo processing, and more.

This baby can cook and can give your tone a serious boost.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

Lepou HyBrit

Lepou HyBrit

Moving onto Lepou/Poulin now, this is another creator with a range of free amp sims on offer.

The HyBrit is basically two Marshalls in one. The MCJ channel emulates a JCM800, while the PLS channel emulates a Plexi Super Lead 100. So, you could say it’s the best of both worlds.

I’ve played with most preamps on this list. While I haven’t used all of them on recordings, I have used the HyBrit on some, and I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Sure, the HyBrit might not sound exactly like a tube Marshall head (digital emulation will only get you so close), you can do a lot with IRs, layering, and standalone effects pedals (like the ones already introduced) to cook up a guitar storm.

This one is worth adding to your plugin library.

Download: Grebz

Lepou LE456

Lepou LE456

The Lepou LE456 emulates an Engl Powerball amplifier, a monstrous four-channel tube preamp with insane power and tones.

And what Lepou has been able to achieve here is beyond what anyone might expect from an amp sim. The LE456 does, in fact, sound quite close to the Engl Powerball.

Its graphical user interface is a little different than the real thing, but it still boasts close to the same functionality and level of versatility.

This thing does crunch. It does heavy. And you can dial in a variety of tones just by messing around with the knobs. It’s up to you.

Truly an impressive work.

Download: Grebz

Lepou Lecto

Lepou Lecto

The Lepou Lecto emulates… what else? The Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier.

I used to own a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, and while it wasn’t my all-time favorite amp, it would easily go on my top five list.

So, was Lepou successful in recreating the transparent, versatile sound of a Dual Rectifier?

Well, let’s just say Lepou did a more than adequate job. It’s not 100% on the nose. But the thing is, even the Dual Rectifier didn’t always sound perfect without giving it some serious juice volume wise. With the Lecto, you can capture some of the best parts of the Dual Rectifier without hurting your neighbor’s ears.

So, it can’t hurt to have in your VST library at all (even though there are other VSTs emulating the same amp… it is popular, after all).

Download: Grebz

Lepou Legion

Lepou Legion

Okay, the Legion is emulating… What exactly?

Actually, the Legion isn’t based on a real amp. This is an original creation with some serious power and surprise, surprise, it’s ideally suited to heavier genres.

This amp sim comes with knobs for input, drive, low, mid, high, contour, presence, and volume. There are also switches for channel (red and green), mode (lead and rhythm), tone stack, routing (stereo or mono), and quality (high or low).

If you’re fond of heavier genres, you should certainly give this one a try.

Download: Grebz

Lepou Lextac

Lepou Lextac

The Lepou Lextac is an amp sim of the Bogner Ecstasy XTC amp.

This VST has got some serious warmth and roundness to it, which can make it great for heavier genres, but highly usable for rock and blues too.

Again, what Lepou has been able to accomplish here is impressive to say the least. It’s not a perfect emulation of the Bogner Ecstasy XTC, but it gives an approximation that can certainly fool the ear.

With tones like this, there’s no reason not to add it to your stable of VSTs.

Download: Grebz

Lepou Solo C

Lepou Solo C

Lepou’s first ever amp sim is the Lepou Solo C, emulating the infamous Soldano SLO-100 amp.

The Solo C has got controls for clean and crunch on the normal channel, and drive and boost for the “odrive” channel. It has a bright switch, and knobs for crunch, overdrive, contour, bass, middle, high, power, and master. LowQ/HighQ and Momo/Stereo controls are also included.

To my ears, this thing sounds great, and it’s perfect for heavier genres besides.

Download: Grebz

TSE Audio TSE X30

TSE Audio TSE X30

The TSE X30 emulates a high gain German preamp. It is, however, a little outdated, even by TSE Audio’s own admission. The fact that it’s 32-bit and not 64-bit compatible says a lot. They say they plan to upgrade it but we have no indication of when that’s going to happen.

Despite its basic user interface, it will still have a certain appeal to home recordists. This thing doesn’t sound bad at all, and with some tweaking inside your favorite DAW, you can achieve some positively heavy tones.

It has knobs for input, drive, bass, lomid, himid, treble, and output, as well as switches for contour, gain (lo/hi), stereo, and trafo.

Download: TSE Audio

TSE Audio TSE 808

TSE Audio TSE 808

You’re probably starting to get the sense that there isn’t a shortage of VSTs emulating everyone’s favorite green overdrive. This one is perhaps a little more on the nose, though, at least in terms of design.

If you’ve been a guitarist for any length of time, then you already know that this overdrive can add a bit of crunch to clean tones and give your dirty tones a needed midrange boost.

If you don’t already have a tube screamer, then the TSE 808 could certainly work as a stand in.

Download: TSE Audio

TSE Audio TSE R47

TSE Audio TSE R47

The TSE R47 is an emulating of everyone’s favorite “rodent” distortion. Even its design is quite close, with its three-knob setup – drive, filter, and volume. The stereo on/off and quality hi/lo switches can’t be found on the hardware counterpart though.

As with the TSE 808, the R47 is perfect for enhancing the tone you’ve already got, but you can also dial in quite a bit of gain and use it as your preamp if you so desire.

There are some great tones coming out of this VST, and quite frankly, I’m thoroughly impressed.

Download: TSE Audio

Blue Cat’s Free Amp

Blue Cat's Free Amp

Blue Cat’s Free Amp isn’t just an amp – it’s three amps in one! It includes three amps labeled classic clean, classic drive, and modern drive.

The classic clean is a lot like a Fender, the classic drive like a Marshall, and the modern drive somewhere between a Dual Rectifier and 5150.

To me, the clean sounds excellent. The classic drive is surprisingly versatile, and with it you can get everything from classic rock crunch all the way to saturated lead tones. The modern drive is quite heavy as you would expect, even without cranking the drive to 10.

Lots of possibilities here.

Download: Blue Cat Audio

Nick Crow Lab TubeDriver

Nick Crow Lab TubeDriver

It’s time to have a look at a few Nick Crow Lab plugins.

The TubeDriver is a tube amp emulation plugin for Windows and Mac and is quite basic in its design.

It doesn’t do a whole lot on its own, and like the TPA-1, I suspect it’s best combined with amp sims.

That said, it can help you shape your existing tones to the nth degree.

Download: Nick Crow Lab

Nick Crow Lab 8505 Lead

Nick Crow Lab 8505 Lead

There’s no mistaking the 8505. You should be able to tell what amp it’s emulating from its name alone.

And while it’s a metal guitarist favorite, I have found it to be relatively versatile for any genre requiring some warm saturation.

Download: Nick Crow Lab

Nick Crow Lab 7170 Lead

Nick Crow Lab 7170 Lead

If one 5150 sim from Nick Crow Lab wasn’t enough, you can get a second one in the form of 7170.

You get controls for drive, low, mid, sweep, high, power amp, and volume.

It basically sounds like a slightly warmer 8505. Perfect for heavy music.

Download: Nick Crow Lab

Nick Crow Lab Wagner Sharp

Nick Crow Lab Wagner Sharp

The Wagner Sharp is another tube guitar preamp emulation with low, high, drive, bass, mid, freq, treble, volume, quality, and power controls.

And, to my ears, the Wagner Sharp does a good job of emulating a tube amp. There are some good tones coming out of this VST!

Download: Nick Crow Lab

Shattered Glass Audio ACE

Shattered Glass Audio ACE

It’s all well and good to have an extensive collection of high gain amp sims. But what about all those beautiful, vintage, clean, or partially crunchy tones?

ACE is an emulation of a legendary 1950s American all tube 5W tweed amp.

Its controls are basic, with knobs for input, volume, feedback, and output, as well as switches for oversampling (2x, 4x, 8x), mode (A or B), cab (on or off), and stereo (on or off).

True to form, this amp sim can help you achieve those favorite tones of the 50s and 60s.

Download: Shattered Glass Audio

Effects Suites

Now it’s time to look at effects suites.

Now, these types of VSTs usually come with amp sims as well as effects, making them quite versatile.

But when you think of a pro guitarist’s rig, oftentimes they have more than just an amp. They have multiple amps, cabinets, rackmount units, and stomp boxes. Effects suites can help you replicate that type of setup.

Here are some of the best free effects suites available.

AmpliTube 5 Custom Shop

AmpliTube 5 Custom Shop

AmpliTube 5 Custom Shop is IK Multimedia’s latest free effects suite that serves as an entry point into their premium product.

This suite comes with 39 pedals, amps, cabinets, mics, and rack FX. Yes, that means you’ve got basically everything you need in one, convenient place. No need to combine this with other standalone guitar VSTs.

There’s plenty to like about this collection, as it places a lot of great, realistic tones right at your fingertips.

Download: IK Multimedia

Guitar Rig 6 Player

Guitar Rig 6 Player

Guitar Rig 6 Player is an amp sim and effects rack featuring amp and matching cabs, 13 effects, and 50 ready-to-use presets.

It comes with the KOMPLETE START package, featuring 2,000 sounds and 6 GB of content, which might just seal the deal for some.

Again, lots of great, realistic sounds here. More than you would expect for free. Not just awesome dirty tones, but sparkly cleans too.

Download: Native Instruments

Audified ampLion Free

Audified ampLion Free

ampLion Free is the light version of ampLion Pro.

Whether you’re looking to re-amp, record, practice, compose, or perform live, this is a plugin that can come in handy in a variety of situations.

It comes with nine guitar amps, seven power amps, 12 speaker types with mic positioning, eight mic types, 30 rack effects, 30 stomp box effects, intelligent metronome, sophisticated audio player, tuner, live mode view, and advanced recorder. Basically, more than enough to get you started.

Download: Audified

TSE Audio TSE X50

TSE Audio TSE X50

The TSE X50 emulates a famous US guitar amp, but also comes with a pedal board with six effects, four rack effects, IR loader, preset manager, and more.

Though it may not be the most feature-rich effects suite available, it’s perfect for getting started, especially if you’re a fan of the amp being modeled.

Music producers have been able to achieve some stellar tones with this VST, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to as well.

Download: TSE Audio

Fretted Synth Free Amp 3

Fretted Synth Free Amp 3

Free Amp 3 comes with seven amp types, seven EQs, six speakers, MIDI volume control, host sync and tap tempo for tremolo and delay, noise gate, two compressors, wah, drive pedal, chorus and filter, flanger, phase shifter, delay and reverb, and 128 factory presets.

But what makes Free Amp 3 most interesting is the built-in guitar synth, which would be its main draw. If you’ve ever wanted to achieve synth-like tones while playing your guitar (without having to play the keyboard), you’ll enjoy this VST.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

SimulAnalog Guitar Suite

SimulAnalog Guitar Suite

The SimulAnalog Guitar Suite comes with emulations of the BOSS DS-1, BOSS SD-1, Tube Screamer, Oberheim PS-1, Univox Univibe, Fender Twin 1969, and Marshall JCM900 Dual Reverb.

It doesn’t have as many features as some of the effects suites we’ve already looked at, and some of the tones aren’t amazing. That said, it does do some things well. The Univibe, for instance, sounds authentic.  And that JCM900 combined with the Tube Screamer isn’t half bad either.

It’s basic, but it has its perks.

Download: SimulAnalog

Virtual Instruments

Finally, we have virtual instruments. A crude description of this type of VST plugin would be “synths that sound like guitar.”

You can control these using your MIDI controller, or even draw in parts for them inside your DAW’s piano roll.

While some of these do sound okay, guitars are incredibly difficult to simulate. So, whenever possible, it is best to get real guitars on your tracks. That said, you can do some unique things with a guitar virtual instrument (for instance, you could double up an existing guitar part for effect).

Here are the best free guitar virtual instruments available.

Spitfire Audio LABS – Peel Guitar

Spitfire Audio LABS – Peel Guitar

Count on Spitfire Audio to come up with unique, amazing sounding virtual instruments.

LABS – Peel Guitar emulates the chime of a Telecaster combined with a vintage tweed amp.

The resulting sound is atmospheric. Does it sound exactly like a guitar? No. But it’s still a highly usable sound, perfect for riffs and melodies.

Download: Spitfire Audio

Ample Sound Ample Guitar M Lite II

Ample Sound Ample Guitar M Lite II

Considered by some to be the best free acoustic guitar virtual instrument available, Ample Guitar M Lite II is quite impressive.

The resulting tone is somewhere between an acoustic guitar and a harpsichord, so you’re not necessarily going to get ultra-realistic tones, but what you can get is still quite a bit better than what you’re going to find elsewhere.

Besides, Ample Guitar M Lite II is free. You can’t go wrong.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Electronik Sound Lab Haunted Guitar Lite

Electronik Sound Lab Haunted Guitar Lite

Ever wanted to create Halloween guitar synth style sounds? No? Not sure I have, either.

But how could we not feature something so unique?

Haunted Guitar Lite, true to form, delivers some creepy sounds. It comes with eight presets, 224 samples, ADSR controls, HP and LP filters, LFO modulation, filter type selector, voice mode, and a creepy GUI to boot.

For all those times you need to make some “scary” music, you’ve got Haunted Guitar Lite.

Download: Electronik Sound Lab

Top Free Guitar VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to build out your VST plugin library, a few free guitar VSTs ought to help you level up your productions.

Although guitar isn’t in the limelight as much as it used to be, it’s still an important instrument, and one that appears on many modern recordings. So, it’s always good to have a variety of tones at your fingertips!

Although you don’t need to download all the above, they are all worth experimenting with. And that’s honestly the quickest way to find out what you like. So, download away, and have fun!

And if you’re looking for more free VST plugins, you can find some here.

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