Any expensive amp simulators can be the all in one solution for your studio, whether at home or in a professional setting. Today we take a look at the sims that may break the bank, but are excellent options for your studio recording needs.
Using Expensive Amp Simulators In 2021…
We are going to close out our series of articles regarding amp sims with a bang. Today we are going to look at the most expensive, yet expansive options. We have already taken a look at the free ones, and while those will get the job done in most situations, to day we will look at the professional models.
We touched on the more expensive amp simulators already in a previous article. But today we are doing a deep dive into the big boys for professional studio use.
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Whether you are home recording, or you are starting a professional studio, having tons of guitar tones at your fingertips is almost essential. Now there are plenty of ways to achieve this. You can have a room full of amps at your disposal, but this option can be crazy expensive!
We will be looking at this from a fully professional perspective today. Whether that is a home studio or a pro studio.
Personally, over the past year I have been blending real amplifier tones with processor tones like Line 6, and also throwing in some of these more expensive amp simulators. When it comes to getting a track recorded, I have found this method gives me so many tonal options, and streamlines my recording process when it comes to guitar and bass tracks.
All of these expensive amp simulators are around the $400 range. Where that may sound pricey to some people, it is certainly more less expensive than buying a ton of physical amps and speaker cabinets. Amp sims can be a unique option whether you are recording a single song, or an entire album.
Let’s take a look at the best of the best!
IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 MAX Software Suite
Aplitube is the only amp sim that has all “name brand” gear simulators. Most, even the expensive amp simulators, have similar names and pseudonyms for the amps and effects that the program recreates. Almiptube 5 Max has the actual amp models and effects pedals.
The features are extremely expansive:
- 400 Officially Licensed Amps and Pedals
- Over 50 “Unofficial” Stomp Box Effects
- Several programmable Wah-wah Pedals
- Built In Recorder
- Almost 100 Speaker Cabinet Options
- Easy to Use Signal Chain
- Built In 8 Track Recorder
- 143,000 Cabinet Impulse Responses
- 57 Possible Effects Used At Once
- 192 KHZ Sample Rate
Staring with the amps included in Amplitube 5 Max, you’ll find tons of options that replicate all kinds of classic amps. You will find anything from high gain Mesa/ Marshall tones to pristine Fender cleans. The few amps that are not “official” are boutique amps like Hiwatt and DR. Z. But the core amps are all recreated from the physical models.
I was actually blown away by the Fender amplifier sims, as a good clean Fender sound is hard to reproduce. They have all of the classic Fender amps, and a few of the newer ones. These sound like their real life counterparts on the stock settings. But of course, you can customize your setup with the speaker cabs.
When we take a look at the high gain amps we see the same attention to detail. The Marshall sounds are amazing, and you get tons of different big 4×12 speaker combos. The Mesa Boogie and Peavey 5150 sounds are fantastic and organic as well. None of the high gain sounds are “fizzy” or “buzzy”. These are legit high gain tones.
The speaker cabinets are where we get into the complex features of Amplitube. When I was reading the specs, I couldn’t believe that there were 143,000 impulse responses included, yet there are! These can change your entire sound, and each IR works with any speaker combo. If you look at the official website, you can check out all of the speaker options.
The best part about having so many options at your fingertips is that once you find a sound that you really love, you can save it as a preset file. This can be invaluable to streamlining your recording process as it is very easy to become overwhelmed with so many options.
Amplitube 5 Max has everything that IK Multimedia has to offer. This is a real all in one solution to building your sound library for your studio. Amplitube also works well with your real amplifier’s tones as they blend seamlessly.
Avid Eleven MK II Plug-in
It is important to mention that this only works with Pro Tools on Mac! But I wanted to include this in the expensive amp simulators list, because it is an amazing program, and a fully professional suite of amps. This has some of the best amps, and they sound absolutely amazing when recorded.
Using a Mac with Pro Tools is the industry standard when it comes to professional recording setups. Unfortunately this limits access to many people that record at home. The Avid Amp collection requires an iLok USB dongle as well. But if this is your setup, this is one of the best sounding amp sims on the planet.
Like some of the other expensive amp simulators, the Avid Eleven Rack has a combination of name brand modeled amps, and some generic “based-on” amps. The Eleven Rack was one of the first hardware amp sims, and now they have expanded the features to skip the actual hardware. The features are pretty expansive:
- Guitar and Bass Options
- 33 Amp Models
- 15 Speaker Cabinets
- 10 Microphone Options
- Record Different Mic Placements
- Sophisticated modeling emulates power amp sag, cabinet resonance, speaker cone breakup, and more!
- Compatible with Avid Pro Tools HD/HDX/11+, Media Composer 8.1+, and VENUE 4.5+
- Supports 44.1kHz-96kHz sample rates
The name brand amp sims in this program are outstanding! The more expensive amp simulators all sound great, but the simplicity of Avid Eleven Rack focuses more on quality of sound than being feature-packed. This makes the sounds of Marshall, Mesa Boogie, and Soldano really stand out.
The speaker recording options are very convincing as well. You can use different microphones like a condenser, vintage ribbon, and a Shure Sm50. On top of these microphone options, you can also set how you place the mics. These can be virtually set directly in the front of the speaker or “off axis”. This makes up for the lack of impulse responses.
Out of all the expensive amp simulators, the Avid Eleven Rack is the most expensive and has the least amount of features. But the quality is undeniable. This is a popular setup in some of the professional studios I have visited over the years. So if you DO run a mac with Pro Tools then Avid Eleven Rack is a good option.
Helix Native Plug In
Line 6 Helix Native is probably the most popular of all the expensive amp simulators. It is also one of the most expansive when it comes to effects and amp models. Unlike something like Amplitube 5 though, there are no sponsored “name brand” amps in the collection.
This means you still get faithful recreations of all of the famous amps, but they are just named differently. Line 6 has done this for years to keep their products under a certain price point as there are tons of amp models here. So if you’re looking for a Mesa Boogie amp, you’ll find it under “Treadplate USA” or something similar.
That being said, the amp sims here sound fantastic. The effects do as well. The features speak for themselves:
- 60+ Amp Models
- 30 Speaker cabinets
- Over 100 Effects Pedals
- Accepts 3rd party Impulse Responses
- Runs at 64 Bit
- Works Seamlessly With The Helix Pedalboard
- Works with Mac and PC
The amp models are the shining feature on the Helix Native, and makes it one of the best expensive amp simulators on the market. You get anything from clean Fender tones, to extreme Metal amps with tons of gain. The amp models all sound fantastic on their own, but you can tweak the amp’s functions just like real life. Change the tubes, or the way they sag if you want!
The speaker emulation here is also tricked out with options. You have tons of different cabinet designs from vintage to modern. But the best part, is you can load your own 3rd part impulse response into Helix Native. For example, I like two particular IR settings for high gain. I can just load my personal settings right up, and use them!
While the amp sims are as good or better than all the other expensive amp simulators that focus on the amps themselves, Line 6 is known for the outstanding effects pedals that Helix Series supplies. Line 6 absolutely has some of the best digital effects on the market. Especially if we are talking about the delay pedals and other modulation effects. They are fully programmable, and sound just as good as any actual stomp box to my ears.
Helix Native is not only a studio tool either. If you use any other Helix device, you can import your settings easily to your device that you have created in Helix Native. This is especially important if you are in a band, and you want your settings to sound the same on recordings as well in a live setting.
Even as a stand-alone tool for the studio, Helix native is an absolute beast when it comes to creating tones easily. It stands with the most expensive guitar simulators as one of the best.
Positive Grid BIAS FX 2: Elite/Platinum Bundle
Positive Grid has stepped up what it offers this year with the amazing expansion packs that you can buy to upgrade your standard edition of BIAS FX 2. We have taken a look at what the standard edition can do, and it’s a pretty amazing collection all by itself.
But today, we are look at the best expensive amp simulators, and to me, there is none better than the BIAS FX Elite/Platinum bundle edition. This has the standard program, along with all of these amazing expansions:
- BIAS FX and BIAS Amp Elite Edition
- BIAS FX 2 Elite & BIAS AMP 2 Elite
- BIAS Pedal Distortion, Delay, and Modulation
- Metal Amplifier Signature Pack
- Bass Expansion Pack
- Acoustic Guitar FX Expansion Pack
- Celestion Speakers Classic Pack
- Pro Series Compressor
- Pro Series EQ
This edition of BIAS FX 2 has just about everything the company has to offer in one package. The price is a little over $400, which may seem a little steep at first. But you get all of the individual expansions. If you were to buy everything separately, this would easily be over $1100 worth of plug ins. So while it’s one of the more expensive amp simulators, it’s also one of the biggest.
If you bought all of the actual amplifiers that are included, you would easily spend over $80,000.
When we have talked about BIAS FX before, we mentioned the quality of the amp sims. These are hands-down some of the best amp modeling I have ever heard. While they do not have sponsors like Amplitube 5, the amps are clearly marked as to which sound is being emulated. With over 60 amp models to choose from, you could easily record an album and never use the same amp twice.
Positive Grid is not only known for their amp modeling, but also the outstanding effects that come with BIAS FX Elite. There are hundreds of pedals to pick from. Some are more modern, while others are based on classic pedals that every studio should have. There’s a huge library here of modulation, distortion, fuzz, and vintage models.
BIAS FX also has one of the easiest interfaces to navigate. Your signal choices are very clear on screen, and it’s easy to drag and drop different effects to tailor your tone. The visual pedal editor allows you to dial in just about anything, and works well with things like the “Vintage Tape Delay” that mimics machines that have been long since discontinued or rare to find.
BIAS FX is also the only one of these expensive amp simulators that has Celestion Speakers as an option when choosing a cabinet/combo amp build. These are modeled after Celestion’s most popular speakers and captures the true tone of anything from vintage to modern. You can also mix and match speakers to your liking.
This Platinum Bundle also includes the EQ and compressor that was made specifically for mastering full songs. This is an easy solution to one of the most talked about topics with recording engineers. Mastering is a whole different art than recording guitar, and outboard gear can cost a fortune. But BIAS FX gives you the tools needed to really make your finished tracks pop.
It’s no secret that we love BIAS FX around here, and this is for good reasons. The possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to recording just about any genre you can think of. You can also export your tones to your Spark Amplifier!
Expensive Amp Simulators…Are They Worth The Price?
At the beginning of the article I mentioned this article will be focused towards the professional studio environment. In a pro situation, I think it is absolutely worth the price. If you bought every one of these programs on the list, you would still not be spending as much as you would on just ONE boutique amplifier.
That’s a fact.
All of these expensive amp simulators can save you time in the studio no matter how you use them. If you use the amp sims exclusively, then you save time setting up a physical amp and speaker cabinet. But if you are doing some layering of guitar tracks, these amp sims can add a distinctive sonic flavor that your physical amps simply do not have.
I whole-heartedly encourage anyone that works in a professional capacity doing recording work, to at lest check these awesome amp sims out. Almost all of these plug in have a free trial so you can try it out. I can assure you, that once you get used to streamlining your workflow, you won’t be able to go back!
Are Expensive Amp Simulators worth it?
If you want to take your guitar sound in the studio to the next level, then expensive amp simulators may be your solution. You have a wealth of amps and effects that can be accessed with just one mouse click!
Will an expensive amp simulator work with Reaper?
Most amp simulator programs will work with just about any DAW you want to use. Reaper is compatible with most 3rd party amp sims.