As producers, we sometimes hear a melody in our heads which requires an authentic guitar but what if we don’t have one to hand, or the technical ability to play it? That’s where guitar VST plugins are useful.
One of the criticisms of guitar VSTs in the early days of digital music production was that they sounded unrealistic and lacked the human element that a real guitar provides.
In this review of the best guitar VST plugins available, I will direct you towards the premium options so you can add all styles of guitar to your music easily and instantly.
The Best Guitar VST Plugins (Paid)
Table of Contents
- The Best Guitar VST Plugins (Paid)
- Free Guitar VST Plugins
- What Makes a Great Guitar VST Plugin?
1. Bias FX 2
Bias FX2 is a comprehensive guitar VST by Positive Grid. This plugin gives you access to a range of authentic sounding guitars, amplifiers, and effects, all bundled into to an easy-to-use VST.
The great thing about Bias FX2 is its ability to produce a wide selection of guitar sounds, whether you need classic retro or modern styles. Another bonus is that it works as a standalone app so there’s no need for a DAW or any other software.
Positive Grid has made some major improvements in the second version of their popular Bias FX VST. Firstly, it has been re-engineered with a higher resolution DSP engine to better handle heavy usage.
Bias FX 2 is absolutely bursting with authentic analog pedals to transform the sound of the guitar presets. With hundreds of options ranging from distortion, phase, chorus, flange, and other more extreme FX, you won’t get bored of experimenting.
If you desire realistic sounding guitars rather than those drenched in effects, the Guitar Match feature produces amazingly authentic sounds. If you plug in your guitar, you can choose an amp and guitar combo and the VST will transform your sound into that of the chosen model.
This VST isn’t just limited to guitar either. With the DSP emulation in the brand new drum delay feature, you can create percussive sounds and shape them to your rhythmic preferences.
Add in a tube multiband compressor and rotary speaker and you have a premium collection of effects racks which give you the ability to create unique sounds within Bias FX2.
The finishing touch is the partnership with Celestion, one of the best known names in the world of guitar cabs. You can select a custom cab and shape it to your desire using the interactive layout.
Big Fish Audio’s Electri6ity VST is a highly interactive piece of software which is the result of three years of meticulous development. This epic virtual instrument is filled with detailed, interesting electric guitar sounds.
Containing eight of the best known guitar tones in history as the basis of the plugin, Electri6ity gives you the options of three pickups on each guitar and allows you to be very specific with the articulation of the instrument.
The realistic nature of this VST is a consequence of the impressive number of samples which were recorded for each guitar. In total, there were over 24,000 24-bit samples collected in order to make each sound as authentic as possible.
Another feature which adds to the realism of Electri6ity is the advanced scripting it uses. This technology allows for seamless transitions from completely mute to sustain, or from soft styles to more aggressive styles of playing.
All of the recorded samples in this plugin were captured completely clean using direct input. The advantage of this is that it allows you to take that clean signal and do with it whatever you wish.
The built-in multieffects give you a diverse range of options when adding color to the clean guitar tracks. With reverb, delays, phasers, and many other effects at your disposal, there’s no sound you can’t create in Electri6ity.
Acoustic Revolutions 3 is a comprehensive acoustic guitar VST by renowned developers Impact Soundworks. This plugin gives you the ability to create acoustic guitar tracks in a variety of tempos and keys with an overall natural sound.
With a substantial mixture of acoustic guitar loops, Acoustic Revolutions 3 features ten times more content than its predecessor. The pack was formulated by recording 48 strummed rhythms in two tempos, twelve chord types, six keys and a number of rhythmic variations.
With the addition of a brand new Kontakt instrument providing you with more performance options, you can blend between the various rhythms and chords while still retaining the natural sounds. If you need some acoustic guitar inspiration to add to your tracks, this VST is a solid option.
IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube 4 VST is a guitar and bass amp FX modeling software which has a 4-track loops and 8-track digital audio workspace built in. Packed with an array of amps, this VST transforms your signal chain in a realistic and intuitive manner.
The newly created CAB room is a feature worth noting. This section of the softwarte allows you to customize the amp settings to create unique tones to implement into your songs.
A versatile VST, AmpliTube 4 can be used as either a standalone or integrated into your favorite DAW such as Logic, Ableton or Protools. The onboard 8-track DAW can be used to record your ideas and then you can manipulate them using the multitude of effects within the plugin.
With five new British amp models, you have access to some of the most iconic guitar sounds of years gone by. Or, if your preference is to invent new sonic combinations, this IK Multimedia VST will suffice.
If you’re into VST plugin, you’ve probably heard of SONiVOX by now. Their latest guitar offering is the Bright Electric Guitar, based upon well respected Boston guitarist Jud Crane’s Strat playing.
Crane spent countless days in the studio playing his classic Fender Strat armed with Seymour Duncan pickups and a Vibrolux amplifier, and the subsequently captured recordings were complied into this high quality VST.
The first thing that strikes me about the Bright Electric Guitar plugin is its authenticity. Sometimes, pre-recorded guitar sounds can sound unnatural due to the lack of flow between notes, but SONiVOX have combated this issue well.
By including three separate mute velocities, three tone velocities, and a variety of up and down stroked major and minor triads, SONiVOX have produced a highly realistic guitar VST which is easy to navigate and makes a worthy addition to your DAW.
MusicLab’s RealGuitar 5 simplifies the process of crafting natural sounding acoustic guitar tracks and adding them to your recordings.
A sample based VST, RealGuitar 5 allows you to play up to 104 guitar frets and the movement sounds imitating the human elements of sliding up and down the fretboard in a realistic way.
You can hook up the software to your MIDI controller and play the acoustic guitar as you would a piano. Triads, arpeggios or single note melodies are all within the capabilities of RealGuitar 5.
With two polished acoustic guitars to choose from, you use their basic sound as the blank canvas for your track. You can then add effects and small nuances to the MIDI tracks, even going as far as creating controlled buzz or slap noises.
The pattern manager feature gives you quick access to a multitude of rhythmic patterns and strumming styles, 1,250 to be precise. These patterns are based upon a range of distinctive musical styles and provide you with ideal springboards for your inspiration.
Next let’s take a look at Heavyocity’s Scoring Guitars 2 VST. Building upon the popular initial version, Scoring Guitars 2 features over 5 GB of brand new guitar content ready to be dropped into your productions.
In order to create the inspiring library of guitar sounds, Heavyocity’s resident guitarist went into the studio and recorded a collection of atmospheric tracks. With a long list of pulsating melodies, pads, cinematic ambience and drones, this VST is a very useful addition to your plugin folder.
With the addition of thick rhythmic pedals, an array of samples from a resonant semi-hollow body guitar and recording added in the keys of D and G, Scoring Guitars 2 is perfect for creating cinematic soundtracks.
Another great thing about this plugin is the number of effects options it provides you with. You can transform the original guitar loops into psychedelic melodies by fiddling with the FX channels until you find the right sound for your track.
Acou6tics is another VST on our list by Big Fish Audio. This Kontact Instrument pays homage to the earlier reviewed Electri6ity electric guitar plugin, using similar technology but this time, with the aim of producing realistic acoustic guitar sounds.
By recording six individual acoustic stringed instruments including a twelve string, nylon string, steel string, ukulele, mandolin and guitalele, Big Fish Audio have fulfilled their ambition of creating an immersive, responsive plugin.
Featuring both finger picked and plectrum-played styles, there’s no shortage or realistic elements to Acou6tics. Crammed with thousands of samples recorded across over a dozen of articulations, the acoustic guitar sounds are highly natural in sound.
This VST is compatible with all major DAWs and is powered by the industry-standard Kontact engine, ensuring flawless performance and reliability.
Line 6 are best known for their amplifiers, but are now starting to build a reputation as a leading creator of guitar based VST plugins. The Helix Native is based on their top-tier HX amp series, bringing all of its grit and power into your DAW.
If you’re familiar with Line 6 amps, you’ll know that they love to include an abundance of FX options. With Helix Native you get over 60 electric guitar and bass amp models in addition to the 100 effects.
Line 6 set out to create the closest representation of their Helix amplifiers as physically possible, and the results speak for themselves. To achieve this, they considered the finest details, such as the ripple of the amps power supply and the tube sag.
With built-in compression adding the final touches, this authentic sounding electric guitar plugin is great if you want to add gritty guitar into your productions without disturbing the neighbors.
SONiVOX make another appearance on this list of the best guitar VSTs, this time with their Taylor Acoustic Guitar plugin. As you can guess by the name, this is a collaboration with legendary acoustic guitar manufacturers Taylor.
Some guitar purists may be skeptical of a Taylor plugin, because reproducing their beautiful warm tones is a challenge that could seem unrealistic. However, SONiVOX are up to the task, as they’ve proved time and time again.
Sampling the Taylor 810 acoustic guitar using a Lawson Tube mic, this VST genuinely sounds close to the real thing. With human nuances like fret noise, harmonics, alternate strumming patterns and muted chords, it’s hard to tell that the guitar isn’t being played right in front of you.
Although this plugin doesn’t provide the extensive range of effects which previous entries offer, it’s a good option if you simply want to add natural sounding acoustic guitar into your music without unnecessary functions and complications. Sometimes, simplicity is best.
Free Guitar VST Plugins
If you are on a budget, these free guitar VSTs may be a suitable option worth considering.
- Ignite Amps Emissary – A small selection of amplifier presets and guitar sounds
- Shreddage 3 – Fairly realistic guitar VST focused on overdriven solo samples
- Ample Guitar M Lite II – Good quality acoustic guitar plugin for playing melodies
- Amplitube Custom Shop – A guitar editing VST which has a handful of built in effects
- Audified Live Guitar and Bass Bundle LE – A collection of bass and guitar recordings
In all honesty, these free plugins are nowhere near the standard of the paid options, but they are still worth adding to your VST folder.
What Makes a Great Guitar VST Plugin?
Guitar is one of the most difficult instruments to recreate authentically in a VST plugin, but many of the options on this list prove that it can be achieved. Let’s look at the main qualities you might need from a guitar-based plugin.
Due to the complexity of a guitar’s natural timbre, and the wide range of notes and tones it can produce, it’s essential that the samples collected for a VST plugin are of a high quality.
As guitarisists will know, one of the most attractive qualities of this stringed instrument is how versatile it is. You can create a basically limitless number of tones, effects, sounds and feels by experimenting with playing techniques, finger placements and pedals.
Therefore, the core sample library that a guitar VST plugin contains must be good enough for you to express whatever idea comes into your head, otherwise you will be limited by its shortcomings.
Mics & Placement
If you’ve ever recorded acoustic or electric guitar before, you’ll know that it’s not only what you record that matters, but also how it is recorded.
The best guitar VST plugins offer multiple microphone recordings of each type of guitar, along with a variety of placements. The sound of an acoustic guitar recorded with a close-up dynamic mic is completely different to one captured with a distant condenser.
The more of these adjustable recording techniques and factors the VST offers, the more you will be able to make the guitar samples your own.
Perhaps the main quality that seperates a decent guitar VST from a brilliant one, is the lengths that the creators have gone to in order to make the sounds as authentic and natural as possible.
This is no easy task – many have tried and failed to capture the natural essence of an acoustic or electric guitar in software in the past.
Nevertheless, plugins have come a long way since they first burst onto the scene in the 2000s. You can expect to hear natural sounding finger slides on the frets, rich harmonics and life-like fingerpicking or strumming techniques on the best guitar VSTs.
The more humanistic elements the VST is capable of adding to the guitar samples, the less you will be able to tell that it is not coming from a live guitar player. It’s their attention to detail which makes the best plugins shine.
One of the most important aspects of electric guitar playing is effects. The guitar is essentially a blank canvas, and effects pedals are the perfect tools for adding colors to the clean tone.
The best guitar VST plugins contain a wide range of popular effects, from modulation, to distortion to reverbs and delays.
If you enjoy processing your guitar’s tone, then I’d recommend looking for a VST that has an extensive onboard effects rack.
This is also a great way to learn about the ways different guitar effects interact with one another and their impact on the instrument’s sound.
Learning As You Go
Now that you’ve read my detailed review of the best guitar VST plugins available today, it’s time to go and get stuck into your preferred choice. The great thing about VSTs is that you have to learn all the ins and outs, and sometimes this period of discovery can be very creative.