20 Best Free Standalone / VST Guitar Amp Simulators (2021) – PC & Mac

If you’re a music producer who plays guitar, or a guitarist with annoying neighbours, guitar amp simulators are a must. While they’re meant for guitars, all amp sims can be used as production effects, for distortion, saturation etc. They can help to make your sound design better, your guitars sound awesome, and are in general, just great.

In this article we’re going to cover 20 of the best free guitar amp simulators available in 2021.

Here’s the complete list of the best free standalone guitar amp simulators updated for 2021:

  1. IGNITE AMPS Emissary
  2. LePou – HyBrit
  3. Guitar Rig 6 Player
  4. AmpLion
  5. Ignite Amps NRR-1
  6. Blue Cat
  7. Mercuriall Tube Amp Ultra 530
  8. SimulAnalog Guitar Suite
  9. FREEAMP 3.6
  10. Nick Crow Lab 8505
  11. AmpliTube Custom Shop
  12. Kuassa Amplifikation Lite
  13. Poulin Lecto
  14. Shattered Glass Audio Ace Vintage Tube
  15. Black Rooster Audio Cypress TT-15
  16. ReValver 4
  17. Lost in 70’s Tone Deluxe
  18. Amped Roots Free by ML Sound Lab
  19. Voxengo Boogex
  20. Ignite Amps The Anvil

What Is The Best Amp Simulator?

To tell you the truth, the best amp simulator doesn't exist. In a market, as saturated as this, amp sims come a dime a dozen, with a lot of options available both premium and free. The best amp sim will come down to your own preference. It's best to do your own research and find a plugin that works for you.

This list will help you do that, so grab your jack cable, prepare your impulse responses, and let’s get into our favourite free standalone guitar amp simulation plugins.

1. IGNITE AMPS Emissary

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

Any producer who plays guitar should already be well acquainted with Ignite Amps, the designers of incredible software and hardware amplifiers.

The first Ignite Amps entry on our list, the Emissary is incredibly for heavy guitar tones. You still get a clean channel as well as a lead channel, so the Emissary amp sim is great fulfill all your overdriven guitar necessities

With Emissary you get a beautiful looking UI, that instantly lets you know what it’s about. A great selection of controls fills out the package, ending up as one of the best looking guitar amp sim plugins.

Lastly, a set of high-quality analog filters as well as a selectable delay rounds out Emissary as one of the best free guitar amp simulators out there.

2. LePou – HyBrit

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

By now, the legendary LePou range of guitar amp simulators is over 10 years old. While they haven’t received any major updates in a few years, their amp sims are still one of the best you can get.

Our favorite, the HyBrit is widely considered to be one of the best free amp sims out there. People tend to get it wrong, saying that the HyBrit is modeled after a specific Marshall amp, either an 800 or JMP. This is wrong, since the idea with HyBrit is to have the best of both worlds in a frankenstein amp, consisting of elements of both.

Amazing for lead tones and sparkly guitar solos, the HyBrit can cut through the mix, like it’s nobody’s business. Add a tube screamer on top and you’ve got one of the most legendary guitar tones you’ll ever hear.

In the world of free amp sims, the LePou line has always stood out with it’s quality and sound, the HyBrit being our favourite, should be yours too.

3. Guitar Rig 6 Player

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

If you’re a guitar player and haven’t heard the name Guitar Rig being thrown around, what are you even doing with your life. The legendary Native Instruments Guitar Rig is still the go-to for pretty much every guitarist working with amp sims.

While the full version of Guitar Rig isn’t cheap, they offer a completely free to use tier, called Guitar Rig 6 Player. Obviously you’re not getting as much as you would with Guitar Rig Pro, you still do get a really great amp and matched cabinet set as well as a few effects.

The amp you’re getting is called Jump, which is great for smooth and singing leads, reminiscent of the classic british amp sound. The Matched Cabinet complements the amp, making for a ready-to-go rock machine.

Add to that reverbs and delays, distortion, modulation, EQ’s and Filters as well as a full dynamics section, and the “limited” possibilities start to not feel as limited anymore.

All in all, an incredible introduction to one of the best guitar amp sim plugins ever. Still very much capable on it’s own, Guitar Rig Player is worth your time.

4. AmpLion

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

The AmpLion is another entry in the long list of “little brother” software, which is made to be an intro to the Pro version.

That being said, the Free version of AmpLion is still quite the capable amp sim. With a 5-channel guitar amp, a selection of 2 cabinets as well as choice of mic positioning. AmpLion is available as both a VST, AU, AAX plugin and a standalone application.

Honestly speaking, AmpLion is not the best sounding amp sim out there, it’s still very unique however, offering an interesting tone, that can be utilized to great lengths.

If you end up liking the Free version of AmpLion, the Pro tier offers 9 pre-amps, 8 amps, a lot of speaker types, tens of effects and anything else you might possibly need.

So whether you’re re-amping, practicing or playing live, AmpLion can be a great addition to your production toolset.

5. Ignite Amps NRR-1

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 64-bit

The second Ignite Amps entry on our list, the NRR-1 is an incredible emulation of a three channel tube guitar preamplifier. The NRR-1 is modeled after a real piece of hardware, built for the Fleshgod Apocalypse guitarist Christiano Trionfera by Ignite Amps in 2009.

Based on another famous boutique pre-amp from the 80s, the NRR-1 is quite simple in it’s sound, yet very powerful and full. Featuring three channels, Clean, Rhythm and Lead, the NRR-1 ticks all the boxes for a free amp sim.

The NRR-1 is probably our favourite dry tone to use on guitars. The sound of this preamp is the perfect blank canvas for further effects and mixing trickery, providing the best possible starting point for your guitar tone.

In addition to the awesome, fully automatable controls, up to 8x oversampling, the sound and usability of the NRR-1 cements it as one of the best free amp sims out there.

6. Blue Cat

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

The Blue Cat is a very verstaile free amp simulator which covers a wide range of tones, from clean and sparkly vintage tones, to high-gain metal guitar tones.

Inspired by renowned classic amplifiers, Blue Cat includes a classic clean, classic drive and modern drive amp models. All of the amps feature a frequency response section that lets you tweak the EQ, as well as adjust the amount of drive. Watch out though, because these can drive your guitar a LOT!

With the newest version, you can also add your own custom Impulse Responses to Blue Cat, letting you to imitate your own favorite cab, mic and room setup.

Blue Cat is also great when it comes to latency, it doesn’t consume a lot of your CPU and it’s easy for real time playing, whether its in the studio or on stage.

Blue Cat offers one of the best free virtual amp sims and you should really get it, from awesome clean tones, to custom IR’s, there is plenty to do and explore.

7. Mercuriall Tube Amp Ultra 530

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 64-bit

The Mercuriall Tube Amp Ultra 530 is the free amp sim, modeled after the awesome ENGL E530 Preamp. Offering two channels, for clean tones and lead performances, you can get a range of sounds from the Ultra 530.

Ultra 530 can do anything from crisp clean tones, to crunchy and heavy metal guitar. And while clean tones on this are awesome, Ultra 530 excels in the heavy stuff.

While the free version is a little more limited than the pro, only offering one cabinet and just x2 oversampling, it still manages to be a very useful plugin.

We like it for jamming at home, since the guitar tone it produces is very full, yet transparent enough to not overpower your other elements.

All in all, a very useful little plugin with great heavy gutar tones, if a little limited.

8. SimulAnalog Guitar Suite

Compatibility: Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

SimulAnalog Guitar suite is a software amp sim, made for research purposes and distributed for free. What you get is a really neat selection of a couple amplifiers as well as some pedals.

The two amps are the Marshall JCM 900 as well as a Fender Twin Amp. In the pedal section you get a selection of different effects, a Boss DS-1 Distortion, SD-1 Super Overdrive, a Tube Screamer, an Oberheim PS-1 Phaser and a Univox Univibe Modulator.

The SimulAnalog Guitar Suite is a great amp sim for anything from clean jazz, to heavy overdriven metal chugs. No matter your preference, there’s something to be had for everyone, who downloads the SimulAnalog Guitar Suite.

Lastly, this software is only available in a 32-bit version, so to run on 64-bit computers, you’ll need a 32-bit bridging utility.

9. FREEAMP 3.6

Compatibility: Windows, 32-bit

FREEAMP 3.6 by Fretted Synth Audio is one of the more unique guitar sims on our list. On first glance, the plugin is quite similar to other similar products, offering traditional effects and amps.

That being said, FREEAMP sounds entirely unique and offers just as much variety. With 7 different amp types, 7 EQ’s 6 speakers, with variable mic placement and bypass mode, various effects, 2 compressors and a lot more, FREEAMP offers a premium amp for FREE.

Our favorite thing to do however is using the Wah pedal, which can be operated with MIDI CC. Routing that to a foot pedal can add to an already great playing experience.

Add to that 128 Factory Presents as well as a delay and reverb and you get what is honestly, one of the most full and overall solid amp sim packages today.

10. Nick Crow Lab 8505

Compatibility: Windows, 64-bit

If you’re looking for something high gain, rough and distorted, the Nick Crow 8505, based on Peavey amps, is definitely for you.

The interface of the 8505 is simple and doesn’t bother with too many unnecessary bells and whistles. What you get is the 8505, with a few tone controls, not much more. When you start to play with the mind-melting lead sounds and heavy rhythm sections, the sound quality of this virtual amp will stun you.

One of the best free vst plugins for any guitarist into heavy music and while it may not give you the most flexibility, it does what it’s supposed to, really really well.

Nick Crow Lab also offers other free amp sims, like the 7150 Lead, which is another incredibly high gain amplifier sim.

11. AmpliTube Custom Shop

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

The AmpliTube Custom Shop by IKMultimedia is one of the most versatile and customizable amp sims ever.

Essentially, AmpliTube is a host software, for separate pieces of gear. While the amount of options is vast, ranging from amplifier heads, to mics and rack gear, the FREE version still offers 24 individual pieces of gear, to use on your sculpt your perfect guitar tones.

If you’re left wanting more, IKMultimedia offers Gear credits, which can be exchanged for different things like effects, amps and cabs. Starting at 24.99 for 25 credits, individual pieces range from 5 to 35 credits, with collections being 50-250 credits.

All of the AmpliTube Custom Shop models are high quality emulations of incredible, legendary gear. The FREE version comes with 9 effects, 4 amps, 5 cabs, a few mics and a couple rack effects.

Better yet, a lot of the models on AmpliTube are officially authorized emulations, offering a very precise recreation of legendary gear.

12. Kuassa Amplifikation Lite

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

Amplifikation Lite by Kuassa is the little brother of Amplifikation 360, an incredible guitar amps and effects suite. The 3 channel free version of Amplifikation still comes with the same ultra-realistic premium amp sound, offering Clean, Rhythm and lead tones.

Each of your channels have a Gain control, a 4 band tone control section as well as volume. In addition to this, Aplifikation Lite also allows you to load your own custom cabinet IR’s or impulse responses.

If you end up enjoying the awesome workflow of Amplifikation Lite, consider investing in Amplifikation 360. It’s one of the best amps and effects suites out there, offering a great and realistic sound.

Your Amplifikation lite will also nicely slot into the Pro version, giving you the option to keep using it, from the Amplifikation 360 Interface.

All in all, a great introduction to an incredible amp sim and while it’s not as expansive as it’s Pro version, it remains a very useful guitar amplifier, with awesome sound quality.

13. Poulin Lecto

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

In the world of amp sims, Alain Poulin is a legend, just like his creations. Offering them for free, Poulin amp sims can outperform a lot of the most popular amp sims in the world.

Inspired by the Mesa Boogie dual Rectifier, the Lecto is not only of the best amp sims, it’s one of the best free plugins. While on the surface, the UI might look a little dated and in need of an update, the Lecto is still our go-to for classic, Rectifier tones.

Bands ranging from Cannibal Corpse, to Foo Fighters have all utilized this legendary amp for years, and it’s probably THE sound of Late 80’s and 90’s Metal.

Combine the Lecto with a Tube screamer and you’ll end up with probably one of the most legendary guitar tones, used by everyone from Rise Against The Machine, to Hatebreed.

Alain Poulin has proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of amp sims, and the Lecto is just as great as it sounds.

14. Shattered Glass Audio Ace

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

Backing away from the distorted and heavy for a little, the Shattered Glass Audio Ace is a true to life emulation of a legendary American 5W tube tweed amp from the 1950’s.

The sound of the 50’s the Fender Tweed Champ is one of the most beloved guitar sounds in the world. Adding to the original, Shattered Glass Audio have included a feedback level control, as well as some circuit adjustments.

Just like the original, the Volume of this amp goes to 12, a nice detail to the fans of the original tweed, as well as a spit in the face of Spinal Tap’s Nigel.

You can also load your own custom IR’s to Ace, and the plugin offers 8x oversampling, which rounds out the package, of a great little amp sim.

15. Black Rooster Audio Cypress TT-15

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

Back to the heavy and distorted, for fans of stoner metal and doom, Black Rooster Audio’s Cypress TT-15 is their take on the green line of Orange 15 Watt amp heads.

The eternal favorite of guitarists that sit on a chord for minutes, The Cypress TT-15 is the perfect amp sim for powerful, crunchy distortion. While it includes a 2×12 cabinet emulation, the Cypress TT-15 does not bother with too many bells and whistles.

What you get is a tone control section, reminiscent of the amps that inspired it, which can be used to get anything from crunchy overdrive, to sharp and textured distortion.

The sound of the Cypress TT-15 is rough and heavy, great for the metal heads out there, while also offering a great lead tone.

If you’re into real heavy stuff, you should probably try out the Cypress TT-15

16. ReValver 4

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

ReValver 4 by the amplifier legends Peavey is a whole suite of amps, cabinets and effect pedals. While not everything in ReValver is free, the software still comes with top of the line cabinet modelling technology.

You can adjust anything from mic placement, to speaker configuration, as well as import your own IR’s. Quite uniquely, ReValver also supports 3rd party plugins, so you can add your favorite stompbox or effect to ReValver.

If you get bored of browsing presets, you can also dig deeper, and adjust anything from tube types to resistor values. This means that you can essentially create an entirely unique amp, completely to your specification.

While the Free version is limited, when compared to the Pro version, it’s still a versatile and realistic sounding amp sim.

17. Lost in 70’s Tone Deluxe 2

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

Designed as a complete full tube amplifier, from the preamps to the baffles. Designed with two independent channels, a clean and high gain, Tone Deluxe 2 is an awesome sounding amp sim.

Based on the ECC83 and EL34 audio tube amplifiers, the Tone Deluxe can produce plenty of gain, with a low noise floor, leading to cleaner recordings.

The Analog Time model design of Tone Deluxe reduces the latency, allowing for more immediate and natural feeling emulation. Usually, when it comes to free amp sims, latency is what sets the good apart from the bad.

With an amp that sounds this good, playing feels pleasurable and natural, while offering plenty of options for post-processing.

Tone Deluxe 2 is a great tube amp, with a colorful sonic characteristic, that’s awesome for crunchy rock guitars as well as clean tones.

18. Amped Roots Free by ML Sound Lab

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

Amped Roots Free is ML Sound Lab’s first ever amp sim. Releasing it completely free, to convince producers of their modeling quality. And we’d have to say we like their direction.

Made in collaboration with the awesome guitar YouTuber Ryan “Fluff” Bruce, the sims included are the best amps and gear from his personal collection.

The free version offers only one amp, in comparison to the four you get with the Full Version, however, that’s the only difference. You still get an awesome high quality IR of Fluff’s personal favorite 2×12 cabinet, as well as a pedalboard.

The Amp you get with the free version is the 5034 Fluff, based on the EVH 5150, a beloved modern metal overdriven sound perfect for heavy chugs.

To round out the package, you can also import your own IR’s for a custom cabinet response.

Whether you’re a fan of Ryan’s or not, this amp simulator is awesome and you should definitely check it out.

19. Voxengo Boogex

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

A staple in the world of free VST plugins, the Boogex by voxengo is a crystal clear, realistic amp sim. While it may not be as exciting visually as, say a Guitar rig 5, but what the Boogex lacks in looks, it makes up in sound.

Allowing you to achieve anything from screeching distortion, to smooth jazz tones, the Boogex is a hidden gem in the world of amp simulators.

Included also is the Voxengo OldSkoolVerb reverb, which is the only effect you’ll get, but while it’s simple, it’s effective as hell. Included are a spectrum analyzer, 2 EQ’s a switchable amp control, as well as expandable IR’s.

If you get bored with the ones included, Voxengo offer extra Impulse Response files on their website.

Simplicity and usability screams higher than anything else in the Boogex, but as usual, simplicity brings power, and this is definitely an amp simulator that achieves greatness.

20. Ignite Amps The Anvil

Compatibility: Mac, Windows, 32-bit, 64-bit

Lastly, rounding out our list, another Ignite Amps product, this time, the awesome “The Anvil” amp simulator.

A digital emulation of a three channel tube preamp, the Anvil has been designed for crystal clear tones at high gain settings

You get three channels. A Clean channel, inspired by classic Californian circuits, which provides a beautiful sparkly tone to your guitar. The Rhythm channel is a hot-rodded British amp emulation, great for crunchy rhythm guitars.

And lastly, the Lead channel, which provides awesome and super tight hard metal sounds. All three modes feel very accurate and responsive even on high gain settings.

Ignite Amps make a whole host of signal processing units, that are all free. For us, The Anvil sounded best, when used in tandem with another plugin, like the TPA-1 or the NRR-1 by Ignite Amps.

All in all, we think it’s a solid way to end our list. If you’ve no idea how to use amp simulators though,, keep reading further!

How Do I Connect My Electric Guitar To My Computer Without A Amp

motu m2 audio interface on guitar amp
To connect your guitar to your computer, you'll need to have an audio interface and a TRS/Jack cable to hook up to it. This will send a signal from your guitar to your computer. Then you need to set it up inside your audio software.

Thankfully, you can pick these up quite cheap, with beginner audio interfaces being around the $100 mark.

Here’s how to connect your guitar to a computer without an amp:

  1. Plug your Jack/TRS cable into your audio interface. Don’t have one? Check our list of the best.
  2. Plug your Jack/TRS into your electric guitar.
  3. Turn up the gain on your audio interface so you get a signal.
  4. Open up your audio software/DAW.
  5. Create an audio track & arm it.
  6. Place your guitar amp simulator on the track as a plugin.
  7. For standalone, just open the software and set it up in there.

For Guitars, it’s as simple as connecting your guitar to a TRS input on your audio interface, in the same manner you would with a standard amp. Next, depending on which input you have your guitar going into, you have to select this as the audio input for a channel in your DAW.

Some DAW’s will require you to arm the track before you can hear anything.

When using amp simulation VST plugins, it’s as easy as dropping the plugin on your routed audio channel.

Now you should be able to start browsing your amps, cabinets and start pushing out some real amp tones. Whether you’re into overdriven tones, or want something intuitive an easy to play around with, there are tons of both free and paid amp sims.

TIP: In addition to guitar tones, you can also use amp sims as saturation units, to add character to drums, or synths. Placing a warm amp on a send with reverb after it, can create awesome textures to fill out your stereo field.

Why Do Some Amp Simulators Sound Bad?

Some guitar amp simulators will sound bad because they don't focus on realism and playability. For instance, in amp plugins where you can control cabinet settings, mic placements, reverbs etc, you're going to get a more realistic sound, because it has been designed with realism in mind.

Other guitar amp simulators (mainly the free ones), focus on re-creating the amp sound, rather than the intricacies like the room noise, mic setups, speaker cone sizes & more. This is why your guitar amp simulator might sound bad.

You’ll want to find a simulator that has a number of options.

Guitar Rig 6 is one of the best guitar amp simulator plugins. We recommend trying out a number of different plugins, and seeing which you like the best.

You can get free trials on most plugins, so try them out!

The main drawback for a lot of bad sims is the playability, which ruins the natural feel of playing through an amp.

Since guitar is so much about feel, different amps in real life make you focus on their independent sonic characteristics. In the world of digital amplifiers however, the name of the game is playability and feel. Recreate the responsiveness of a real amp, and you have an awesome plugin on your hands.

Finishing Up

Here’s the essential list of the best free standalone guitar amp simulator VST plugins updated for 2021:

  1. IGNITE AMPS Emissary
  2. LePou – HyBrit
  3. Guitar Rig 6 Player
  4. AmpLion
  5. Ignite Amps NRR-1
  6. Blue Cat
  7. Mercuriall Tube Amp Ultra 530
  8. SimulAnalog Guitar Suite
  9. FREEAMP 3.6
  10. Nick Crow Lab 8505
  11. AmpliTube Custom Shop
  12. Kuassa Amplifikation Lite
  13. Poulin Lecto
  14. Shattered Glass Audio Ace Vintage Tube
  15. Black Rooster Audio Cypress TT-15
  16. ReValver 4
  17. Lost in 70’s Tone Deluxe
  18. Amped Roots Free by ML Sound Lab
  19. Voxengo Boogex
  20. Ignite Amps The Anvil

Whether you’re looking for different amps and effects pedals to add to your software collection, or want some intuitive and easy vintage style tube amps, there’s plenty of options both free and premium.

Hopefully you’ve been able to find what you were looking for, maybe you even learned something along the way. One thing is for certain though, whether it’s a demo version or a boutique amp, if you’re a good enough player, you’ll get good tones out of everything you touch.

After that it’s all preference, one amp isn’t better than another, but if you got this far into the article, you probably already know that.

If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our other helpful tutorials and reviews.