Best Free Guitar Amp SimulatorsMay 31, 2023
Whether you’re a producer who wants to record guitar tracks professionally or a guitar player in a band, amplifiers and effects play a vital role in finding the precise tone you’re after.
Regardless of your skills on the fretboard, if you don’t have the right tools, chances are you can’t get the sound you want from your electric guitar.
While there are several versatile and capable amplifiers for all types of purposes, amp simulators have gained undeniable popularity among musicians from different genres and skill sets.
Besides an abundance of tones and effects, portability is another focal point of using amp simulators. Instead of carrying around huge amps, cabinets, and pedal boards for each gig, guitar players can have virtually all the sounds they want using an audio interface and a laptop. Pretty nice. No more breaking a sweat to those gigs.
What’s more, using amp simulator plugins costs significantly less than buying amplifiers, setting them up in an acoustic room, and using different microphones to capture the sound.
Although there are many paid amp sim plugins you can add to your DAW, you should not overlook the free ones. IK Multimedia’s Amplitube 5, for instance, costs you over $250 for the complete version. This is while the free version of this plugin offers the same quality but with fewer amps, cabinets, and effect pedals.
Costs are important, but they’re not the only reason newbie producers should avoid getting paid plugins. Too many options with little knowledge of working around different parameters can be quite overwhelming at the start of your music production journey.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best free guitar amp simulators in 2023.
1. Logic Pro’s Stock Pedalboard And Amp Designer
If you already have Logic Pro and want to record electric guitar tracks, one of the best ways to build your tone and add effects is using the DAW’s stock plugins.
Once you add a new audio track, you can load numerous patches from Logic’s library for guitar and bass. You can also create your guitar tone from scratch if you don’t want to use presets:
- From the top left corner of your screen, press the little 'i' in a circle to open the inspector menu.
- In the left inspector channel strip, add “Amp Designer” and “Pedalboard” to your Audio FX.
The amps and cabinets in Logic’s Amp Designer resemble some of the most iconic models, including classic Marshal, Vox, and Fender tube amps. Though they’re not named directly after what they emulate, you can tell what each is intended to simulate by the looks and, obviously, the sound character. You can adjust the mic position for your cabinet or choose to get the sound directly from the amplifier.
On the other hand, Logic’s Pedalboard comes with 30+ effect pedals for different purposes, including modulation, distortion, delay, and EQ. Each of these pedals comes with knobs and switches to further manipulate your guitar channel.
If you don’t have Logic Pro on your Mac, you can use GarageBand to use some of these amps and pedals for free.
2. Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 Player
Native Instruments is an icon in the music production world. Their Guitar Rig 6 Pro is among the most popular amp sims for all genres. The free version, called ‘Guitar Rig 6 Player,’ comes as a ‘collection of studio tools’ taken from the paid version.
Guitar Rig is available as standalone software and a third-party plugin that you can integrate into your DAW of choice.
This plugin includes 50 presets, 13 effects, and a British-style tube amp with a matched cabinet. In terms of variety, it falls short of some other free guitar amplifier simulators, but the sound quality makes it up.
3. IK Multimedia Amplitube 5 CS
Another big name in the world of guitar effects is IK Multimedia’s Amplitube 5. Both used as a standalone app and a plugin, Amplitube offers virtually an endless library of presets for different genres, types of guitars, pickups, and playing styles.
Similar to the previously mentioned amp sim, IK Multimedia offers a watered-down version of Amplitube 5 with a limited number of tools dubbed ‘Amplitube 5 CS’ for free.
One of the benefits of Amplitube over other amp simulators is how you can slowly purchase the precise rig you want. The free version comes with 42 iconic pedals, amplifiers, speakers, cabinets, mics, and rack FX. However, based on your preferences, you can expand your library by purchasing individual gear (amps, pedals, etc.) one at a time.
One of the drawbacks of Amplitube 5 is that, when used as plugin, it can be pretty CPU-hungry. So, if you have various guitar tracks all running Amplitube, you might face latency issues or random clipping sounds, especially if you’re not using a capable computer for music production.
4. Ultimate Guitar ToneBridge
Almost all guitarists are familiar with the tools and services Ultimate Guitar provides. Anything from a social medium for guitar players to tablature and sheet music, UG has come to aid many musicians over the years.
One of the innovative products they offer for free is ToneBridge. The main goal of ToneBridge is to provide ready-to-play presets that emulate the guitar and bass tones of an ever-expanding library of songs. This can be an excellent tool for live performers wanting to switch between different guitar tones but may not have the knowledge or experience of working with different parameters to create their own sound.
Nonetheless, ToneBridge allows you to adjust parameters and switch between amps, effects, cabinets, and mic positions.
Compared to other amp simulators on this list, ToneBridge is not competitive in terms of sound quality. I wouldn’t recommend using it to record guitar lines if you want to get industry-standard sound quality.
If you’re a Mac user, you can download ToneBridge from the AppStore for free.
5. Ignite Amps Emissary
Last but not least, Ignite Amps Emissary is a well-known amp sim on the market, mainly among metal players. Although players of other genres can also benefit from the clean and overdriven sounds it offers.
As a dual-channel tube amp simulator, Ignite Amps Emissary features a clean channel for more mellow tones. However, it is mainly known for its impressive lead channel and heavily distorted effects.
Although this plugin emulates almost every component of the analog circuit from real amps, it is fairly CPU efficient.
The sound quality you get from the Emissary is pretty decent, making it optional for tracking, live playing, and jamming.
You can download Ignite Amps Emissary here and use it both as standalone software and a plugin.
Final Thoughts On Free Guitar Amp Simulators
Whether or not software can fully replace real amps and pedals is still a heated debate among guitar players. While these plugins have come a long way in getting as close as possible to what they emulate, some still would prefer using tube amps and recording guitar tracks through microphones. I have both so I like the flexibility. Some days, I'm more in a "tube" mood. Other days, I'm in a "sim" mood.
If you’re unsure about switching from traditional gear to software plugins, free amp sims can be great gateways to dip your toes into the digital world.
Regardless of which amp sim you go for, keep in mind that there is a natural learning curve you’d need to go through before you can comfortably create the exact tones you’re looking for.
If you need more help regarding music production, songwriting, or recording tracks on Logic Pro, I suggest downloading my Free 6 Pillars To Learn Logic Pro faster.