With the explosion of popularity with amp simulator plugins in 2019, there’s a virtual sea of choice when it comes to choosing an amp sim for your recording, practicing, and jamming needs.
For recording metal especially, amp sim plugins are as popular as ever with guitar players in the heavy genres.
Why Amp Sims Are So Popular
The reason being the convenience, tonal versatility and palette of heavy tones on offer without racks of expensive gear.
Even the die-hard tube amp purists out there are beginning to switch over to virtual rigs for their recordings.
With all this choice in the modern-day plugin and VST world, which amp simulator plugins are best for metal players?
What This Post is About
In this post, I have taken the time to round up a selection of the best amp simulators which are best for metal players, including high-gain and killer sounding modern amps and effects.
How I Choose Them
- Most metal presets – which software provides enough modern tones in one package
- Best sound – the most authentic and realistic guitar tones for recording and practicing
- Features -depth of customization, amount of presets and effects
- Most value – for the price which offers the most ‘bang for your buck’
- Key features – standalone version, free demo, unique innovative features
Always Try The Free Demo
The best amp simulator plugin is the one that sounds best to your ears and tailors to your requirements the most as a recording guitarist.
So I always recommend giving the free demo version a spin before opening your wallet for a potential purchase.
So without further ado, here’s a selection of popular amp simulators in 2019 for getting a modern and selection of killer high gain metal tones.
Let’s get into it in no particular order….
#1-AmpliTube 4 (IK Multimedia)
- Price: €299.99 (Max version)
- Standalone: yes
- Win/Mac (64-bit only)
- Demo version: yes
Amplitube 4 has long been a heavy favorite within the amp sim community especially with metal players.
Even in 2019, it’s still the premium software with hyper-realistic guitar tones, bundles of features and the ability to modify all components of your rig for ultimate tone tweaking.
- Accurately emulated amplifiers and stompbox effects
- ‘Cab Room’ – in-depth cab, microphone, and room ambiance customization
- Rack effects
- Built-in recorder and DAW
- Easy to use interface
- Save and modify presets
- Downloadable content via the ‘IK Custom Shop’
- Hardware Support for MIDI foot controllers
With all these great features, Amplitube 4 is the top option for a sweet metal amp plugin for genuine metal tones and unlimited amounts of tone sculpting customization for professional recording in any DAW.
Which Version is Best
Each version includes all the standard features mentioned above. The differences with each version are the number of amps, effects and presets that are available for dropping into your custom rig.
Amplitube 4 offers a handy free demo for road testing a few amps and effects for getting a feel for things.
If you become convinced there is the option to upgrade to the premium versions later or purchase and download additional amp packs and effects to your rig via the IK Custom Shop.
The Base Version (€49.99)
The Base version is the most affordable version out the pick. The problem is, when it comes to modern metal amps, high gain stompboxes and effects the choices are very light.
There is enough to get you started with a handful of unofficial Marshall type British amplifiers. But when it comes to metal amps, there is only one modern metal amp (although it is based on a Mesa Boogie.)
If you are new to amp sims then this is a great program to dip your toe and get you going.
Deluxe Version (€299)
The Deluxe version is the next step up offering 140 pieces of gear with a large range of amps, cabinets, microphones, stompboxes, and effects.
All this gear is Amplitubes unofficial presets so no official skins, unfortunately. However, the presets sound authentic which are emulated versions of popular amps, cabs, effects, and microphones.
Again only a few metal amps to choose with most of the selection of amps being American vintage amps with a few modern high gain amps. Which brings us to the last version…
Best Option: Amplitube 4 ‘Max’ (€299)
The ‘Max’ version contains the Deluxe version and all the awesome official amp packs including the sick sounding official Mesa Boogie pack (list below.)
- Official Mesa Boogie Pack – (6 official Mesa Boogie Amps)
- Amplitube Metal – Amplitubes unofficial high-gain amps and cabs
- Orange amps bundle – Official Orange amp bundle
- Slash – Official Slash Marshall amps and effects
- Jimmi Hendrix Pack – Collection of historic Fender Amps
- Official Ampeg bass pack – Ampeg amp and bass cabs
This version offers the most and valuable presets that will satisfy the metal players with a line of amps from Mesa Boogie, ENGL, Soldano, Orange, etc.
Best Option For: investing in an ‘all in one’ amp sim for taking care of your metal recording needs. You will have to invest a fair bit for all the additional metal content through the IK Custom Shop or the ‘Max’ version.
But this will be worth the investment for possessing the best amp sim for supplying endless modern tones you could ever need.
Amplitube 4 is a straight forward program focusing towards authenticity and sonic realism ideal for tone purists, instead of being a crazy experimenting platform for crazy tonal experiments like other amp sims.
#2-Helix Native (Line 6)
- Price: $399 (Elite version)
- Standalone: no
- Demo version: yes
The Helix Native by Line 6 features 60 amps, 30 cabinets, and 100+ effects. Offering plenty of core presets for endless amounts of metal tones for your dream virtual rig.
All the presets are Line 6 reincarnated versions of popular amp companies… Mesa Boogie, Peavey, Engl, Bogner, Soldano, Orange, and many more.
The tones I must say are notably responsive and genuine to their modeled counterparts. You can create an army of metal presets that sound genuine as any other amp sim on the market today.
- 60 amps, 30 cabs, 100+ effects
- Upload Impulse Responses (IR)
- Realistic amp emulations
- Versatile in sounds
Another good feature is you can upload custom impulse responses to improve on the current selection of sounds if they are not to your taste adding more flexibility.
The Helix has a logical and notably low-key interface which makes dragging dropping presets easy and customizing is a breeze with the movable sliders making customizing a simple process.
As great as the Helix is and deserves a spot on this list, I would say the $400 price tag is a little too steep in my personal opinion. I would say a price range of $150 – $250 would be somewhere more appropriate.
However, for a complete tone studio library, the Helix is a fantastic option and offers tons of value for the high price tag and is up there with the best amp sim plugins on offer.
Best option for: metal players looking for an ultimate guitar tone library plugin.
#3-BIAS FX 2 (Positive Grid)
- Price: = $299
- Standalone: yes
- Free Demo: yes
The original BIAS FX was a popular amp sim within the metal recording community for an endless selection of options for creating any players virtual dream metal rig.
BIAS FX 2 is an updated complete guitar tone studio VST plugin equipped for complete tonal customization.
- Genuine sounding emulated amps and effects
- A grand total of 200 presets
- 100 amplifiers and cabs (34 high gain amps)
- 100 effects total
- Tone Studio – create and download custom rigs from the online community
- ‘Guitar Match’ – Alters your guitars core sound to vintage single coils or humbuckers
BIAS FX 2 is the new incarceration packing tons of high gain amplifiers modeled from popular amp brands such as Mesa Boogie, Engl, Diezel, Soldano, Bogner, and many more.
When it comes to choice, the software features 100 amps (34 high gain modern amps) with 100 effects allowing all the possible tone any metal player could need.
Screaming leads, heavy rhythm, ambient cleans, experimental effects the possibilities are endless with the amount of customization on offer with this package.
‘Guitar Match’ is a new innovation feature unique to any amp sim. How it works is Guitar Match ‘samples’ your pickups then altering your core tone to a selection of 17 classic guitars to choose from.
For example, can alter your warm EMG humbuckers to a classic clean Telecaster single coil pickup for a brighter and more ambient clean tone adding some sparkle to your sound.
Bias FX does not just emulate amps… it can now emulate guitars! What a time to be alive!
Best option for: a premium amp simulator VST plugin with lots of editing and tone customization.
#4-BIAS AMP 2 (Positive Grid)
- Price: $269 (Elite version)
- Standalone: yes
- Free Demo: yes
For technical amplifier purists out there, BIAS Amp 2 takes tinkering and tweaking to a whole new level.
This amp sim plugin stands out from other programs as you have the ability to build your custom dream amplifier from the ground up. Everything in close detail!
For example, you can modify intricate components such as the pre and power tubes, transformers, biasing, EQ shelf-frequencies, etc all impacting on the overall tone and performance of your dream amp.
- Intricate and deep tone sculpting
- ‘Amp Match’ – upload an mp3 file to create a custom amp to that tone
- Tonecloud – download and upload presets to and to the online community
- Standalone version
- 100 amp match features
- Official Celecestion speaker impulses
Keep in mind, this program is not a ‘build your dream rig’ plugin as there are no masses of effects and stompboxes.
Although it features a good selection of reverbs from small ambiance to long lush reverbs.
It’s more of a ‘build your dream amp’ sim as a stepping off point which you can either load another amp sim plugins alongside for adding effects and additional details around your dream amp.
Integration with BIAS FX
For ultimate tone customization, you could import your dream custom amp from BIAS AMP 2 into any version of BIAS FX.
Meaning you can add your dream amp into BIAS FX for adding the effects and ‘icing on the cake’ details to your dream rig which are lacking in BIAS AMP 2.
Best Option For: Amp and tone freaks who want an immerse editing experience for creating a custom core amplifier and their own signature dream metal tone.
Not for users looking for the all in one tone library VST plugin like BIAS FX, Amplitube 4, Helix Native, etc.
#5-Emissary (Ignite Amps)
- Price: Free
- Standalone: No
The Emissary was released in 2014 and to this day is still a very popular metal plugin continuing to receive praise from the online guitar recording community.
The Emissary plugin is a single emulated modern high gain amp head fully equipped for sculpting any style of metal.
The amps core tone is known for emulating the sound of a ballsy and aggressive tube amp perfect for enabling with any style of metal.
Although it sounds just as good with rock, clean and milder tones the plugin is really at home when used for aggressive metal tones.
Besides the great versatility of sounds on offer, let’s not forget this plugin is completely free for download and use on your tracks right away.
This software is not meant to be a tonal library like other programs, It’s simply to deliver one great sounding and versatile amp with the beauty of no cost up front.
Need a Cab Sim?
Keep in mind, you will need a cabinet simulator for pairing with the amp head plugin in order to get the best sound.
For this, I recommend the NadIR cab simulator which is another popular choice for a solid cabinet sim for pairing with your amp head plugins.
Best Option For: A free amp sim plugin to apply within a DAW (no standalone version) for a great sounding metal tone without paying top dollar.
This is also a great option if you are new to the world of amp simulators to test the sound and how to configure them which can lead the way into a paid program down the line.
#6-The Nameless Suite & NTS Suite
- Price: $99 each
- Standalone: yes
- Free demo: yes (each offer 14-day trial)
For this selection, I couldn’t decide which plugin to choose between both of these metal monsters, so as a Brucie bonus, I included them both!
The Fortin amp sim series brings forward two epic and brutal sounding amp simulators covering virtual amp purists perfectly for the genres of rock, heavy rock and of course metal.
Both amps are aggressive, high gain, modern voiced, versatile and drapped in metal tones. Both versions also include virtual pedals being an overdrive, noise gate and boost for further tone shaping control.
The Nameless suite and the NTS are two separate plugins costing $99 a piece integrated with a handy standalone version for using the software independently outside of a DAW.
But what are the differences and which one to choose? Let’s discuss them both…
The Nameless Suite
The Nameless suite to this day is a popular metal plugin for unleashing a saturated modern tone on your tracks.
When it comes to tone, the nameless suite to my ears is modeled to sound like the classic ‘Peavey 5150’ with a beefy sounding 4×12 cabinet.
The Nameless has been regarded by the amp sim community as the ‘tighter’ and more ‘controlled’ version perfect for lower tunings for chugging, djent, and metalcore.
The amps sound is certainly tighter across all frequency ranges and is more at home with modern and heavier detuned versions of metal.
The NTS Suite
The NTS Suite is the newer alternative choice featuring the benefit of a second channel for sparkling clean tones and a different tonal personality compared to the original Nameless amp.
The NTS suite is modeled to sound like a ‘Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier’ and has a noticeably trebley top-end and a more saturated tone lending itself well to more extreme styles of metal such as thrash and death metal for example.
Which to Choose?
Both amps are awesome sounding high gain tube amp plugins perfect for sculpting any metal tone. Your choice ultimately comes down to personal preference and which tones you prefer.
Best Option For: An affordable amp simulator for amazing heavy tones without paying the price for a premium amp simulator plugin.
#7-Peavey Revalver 4
- Price: $99
- Standalone: yes
- Free demo: yes
Peavey amp fans and enthusiasts look no further! Here I bring to you the catalog of official Peavey amplifiers in simulated form for your enjoyment.
Peavey has historically produced some of the best metal amps over their existence, providing the heaviest and brutal guitar tones to the masses.
Well, as you expect from Peavey Revalver 4, some of the classics included in this package are the: 6505, Valveking, 5150 and many more classic Peavey beasts.
You also get unofficial amp brands modeled from classic models from Vox, Marshall, Diezel, and, Mesa Boogie.
- Large selection of amps, cabs, and effects
- Realistic ReValver engine
- Microphone selection, positioning, and ambiance controls
- Upload impulse responses
- Standalone version
- Modify your guitars core tone to sound like a different guitar
- Rack effects
- Slick interface
- Schematic designer
Best Option For: paying for an affordable sim for metal with tons of features and presets without paying $300+.
Also great for beginners getting into amp emulation and the advanced users alike.
- Price $129
- Standalone: yes
- Free demo: yes (15-day trial)
Scuffham S-Gear is another popular software placed in the affordable bracket on this list.
Concerning the metal players, the software boasts emulated amps sounding similar to a Mesa Boogie, Soldano, Marshall and a vintage Fender amp offering a nice palette of tones.
- 5 versatile pro studio amps
- Rackmount effects (reverb, delay, modulation)
- Load your own impulse responses
- Includes a cab simulator
- Versatile option of tones
The stand out amp from the bunch is the ‘Wayferer.’ This amp can go from heavy chugging to crystal clear tones cleans and vintage crunch all from the one amp.
The new version of Scuffham S-gear includes rackmount effects (modulation, reverb, and delay) all integrated into a simple and easy to use interface.
I must admit, This is not the most flashy option on the list but for the price, the value is definitely there for an affordable virtual amp for playing metal. The best thing to do is give the demo a try and let it convince you.
Best Option For: beginners learning the ropes or advanced users wanting to try something different.
- Price: $269
- Standalone: yes
- Demo version: yes (15-day trial)
Overloud TH-U may not be at the same level as popularity as Amplitube or Bias FX in the amp sim community.
However, this is software has stepped up its game from the previous version boasting the most presets of any of the choices on this list. And with this comes a wide variety of sounds and tones.
TH-U features accurate versions of classic metal amps from Mesa Boogie, Peavey, Engl, Diezel, Randall, etc for massive metal variety.
All emulated to a high level of realism and tonal responsiveness for easily creating a legendary custom metal rig.
- Tons of amps and dynamic effects
- Genuine amp and effect tones
- Online community for important and exporting presets
- Support for MIDI foot controllers
- Live option for playing live
- Standalone version for quick jamming
The interface has been redesigned and uncluttered all unnecessary distractions for easily dragging and dropping presets into your rig without any navigation problems.
There are tons of loaded features straight out of the box. This sim also does not sell you any additional content unlike other sims and is slightly more affordable than other larger sims on this list.
- 1000 custom presets
- 89 amps
- 50 cabinets
- 77 pedals and rack effects
- 18 microphones
Best Option For: users looking for a reliable and premium amp sim for a variety of metal tones with simple navigation and tons of presets.
Guitar Rig 5 Pro (Native Instruments)
Another popular amp simulator plugin but unfortunately does not make the list. The reason being there’s not much choice when it comes to high gain modern amps for the price.
Secondly, Native Instruments have stopped all software support for Guitar Rig 5 therefore, I cannot recommend a product that is no longer supported.
Do You Play Bass?
Now we have come to the end of the list, as a guitar player do you play a bit of bass on the side? Then you must read my post…“The 7 Best Amp Simulators for Bass.”
I round-up the best and most valuable amp simulators if you are a recording bass player. These amp sim plugins are the best choices for any recording bass player.
As you can see, there’s a lot of choice for acquiring an amp sim for a great sounding, saturated high-gain goodness and a variety of heavy tones.
I have always loved the convenience, versatility, and sound of amp sims from the first time I tried Guitar 4 Pro.
But not with the sea of virtual amp simulators due to their rise in popularity, there’s now almost too much choice on offer.
So with that, the take-home point again is to always try the demo version to see which software meets your tonal and recording needs out of all these options I have mentioned.
Thanks for Reading
Well done for making it all the way to the end! If you enjoyed this post I recommend you read my next post…
“7 Reasons why a Les Paul CAN Play Metal?” It’s my top reasons why this guitar is awesome for playing any style of metal.