Anything that usually has the word “free” attached to it comes with a stigma. But these free amp simulators defy that logic, and they are great ways to try out amp sims for the first time. Today we look at the best free amp simulators.
Free Amp Simulators: There’s A Lot Out There!
It wasn’t too long ago, that amp simulators were just coming into their own. They were far from sophisticated, and often looked down on by professional guitarists. It would seem though, that those days are now over. There are plenty of full versions that sound great and are used in studios everywhere these days.
Things are definitely changing in the amp sim world.
We have major artists like Gojira releasing awesome amp packs that replicate their album sounds almost exactly. The thing about these amazing amp packs is that they can get to be pretty expensive. Especially when you want to unlock all of the features that are available.
In order to use these guitar plugins, however, you will need to ensure you have a method for connecting your guitar to your MacBook or PC.
Most of the bigger programs have a pretty good free trial or “free version” that has limited features. These free trials are a great way to test out the amp simulators in their full version, to see if they are something you like. But did you know that there are tons of totally free amp sims out there for Metal?
Today we are going to check out the totally free amp sims that are great for Metal, and do not require any money at all! These are full-featured amp sims that are worth checking out, especially if you are totally new to the idea. If you are just getting into the whole recording aspect of guitar, you should check out our full guide on how to get started.
Let’s jump right in and check out these free amp simulators!
STL Tones: Ignite Amps Emissary
The STL Emissary seems too good to be true when it comes to free amp simulators! This is a fully functioning plug in that has some killer tones to work with. STL themselves describe it as a “great amp sim for just about any genre”. But let’s be honest here: It is BEST for high gain tones. This is not just a free trial kind of amp, it is feature packed:
- Versatile Clean Channel
- Fantastic Overdrive Channel
- 6 Cabinet IRs built in with NadIR
- Full Tube response technology
- Tons of routing options
- Full EQ set
Both channels have their own basic EQ sets that include some really cool tiny details that any real amp would have. These details really set the Ignite apart from most free amp simulators. You have a “bright” switch for the clean channel, and a master “deep” and “presence” knob. Just like say…a Peavey 5150?
In fact, while testing the STL Ignite Emissary, the Peavey 5150 was exactly the amp that I thought of. The clean channel on the STL Ignite is very “sterile” sounding, much like the Peavey. This allows the clean channel to take effects very well however, such as reverb and delay. I tried out a stereo chorus plug in also with the clean channel, and it sounded pristine!
You also get 6 cabinet impulse responses to choose from. These are loaded with a built in system designed by STL especially for their plug in:
“The NadIR dual Impulse Response (IR) convolver, designed to be used as a cabinet simulator for guitar and bass (pre)amplifiers (VST/AU or even hardware), with ZERO latency. Providing advanced built-in filters and delay controls to let user’s shape their tone with ease.”
The only problem I ran into during the testing of this amp sim, was the cabinet IR. It seems like these IRs are ONLY to be used with this plug in, as it they did not work with any other free amp simulators. This is not by any means a big problem. It would have been a cool feature for them to be cross-compatible, but I understand why they aren’t.
If you are looking for one of the easiest free amp simulators to use and get started with, the STL Ignite is a great place to get started!
Blue Cat Free Amp
Until i decided to try out these free amp simulators, I had never even heard of Blue Cat in any capacity. This is a totally new company to me. Let me say up front also, that I was pretty let down at first. The Blue Cat amp looked very simple, and it seemed like I “got what I paid for”. At first.
Don’t let the simple interface and small download file trick you into thinking that this plug in is not up to par. It wasn’t until I actually used it, that I became impressed. The Blue Cat might be lacking in presentation, but it is loaded wth features:
- 3 Amp Models: Clean, Crunch, Modern Metal
- Simulation based on Destructor Distortion
- Accepts any 3rd party IR
- No Latency
- Preset manager
- Supports any sample rate
- Customizable interface
With all of the free amp simulators, the first thing I try is the clean channel. The Blue Cat has a very Fender-like clean channel with very rich mid-range. This was around the time that I realized that looks can definitely be deceiving! The Overdrive channels also sound amazing, without any “fizzy” sounds. I think it’s pretty obvious that these are Marshall based distortion sounds.
I was even more surprised when I added my favorite saved Impulse Responses. I have four or five IRs that I really love, and came with a much more expensive package. The Blue Cat will accept any IR you throw at it, and it also takes effects well, like reverb and delay.
Of all the free amp simulators, this may be the most simple when it comes to looks. But don’t be fooled by it’s simple nature! There are some really great tones to be had with this amp sim. Plus, if you decide that this is just too simple looking, you can customize the appearance!
Cypress TT-15 Amp
My goodness, I wonder what this amp sim could possibly be going for when it comes to tones? I think we can tell just by taking a look at the interface, exactly what the Cypress tt-15 is going for. This is essentially an Orange Tiny Terror, based on the Lunchbox version.
Usually this would be when I list all the features that come with the free amp simulators, but the Cypress is a little easier than the others on the list. The Cypress does one thing, and comes with only one impulse response. So it seems a little silly to try to list features. But the one thing it does, it does really well!
The Cypress TT-15 sounds just like a boosted Orange amp, so if you are going for a great Doom Metal tone…this is your amp sim! I tried out the Cypress with my tuned down guitars, and it was super clear when the gain was maxed out. The Cypress also takes external effects really well from other VST programs and stand-alone effects.
You obviously can’t argue with the price, I mean…it IS free. There is no reason not to add this simple sim to your arsenal! You never know when you may need a straight distortion tone! The Cypress can certainly hold it’s own with the bigger free amp simulators, and can be an essential tool when recording overdubs.
Guitar Rig 6 Free
So Guitar Rig is definitely not a free program usually, but Native Instruments has a very good free version of the paid software that is good enough to stand on it’s own. I was not originally going to include Guitar Rig on this list because of these reasons, but I was completely blown away by the free version of this program! It definitely deserves a place with the other free amp simulators.
Usually, the free amp simulators are completely watered down versions of their expensive big brothers. Strangely, this is the not the case with Guitar Rig 6. It has tons of features for a free VST:
- Amp Sims with Matched IR
- 13 Effects
- 50 user presets to try out
- Free routing tools
- Drag and drop effects
- Easy interface
- Built in metronome
- Built in tuner
There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with the quality of the amp sim itself. The sounds you can get from Guitar Rig have always been pretty good, but the newest version is truly something to behold. You can get sparkling cleans, down to the dirtiest overdrive. The user presets that are included have tons of cool options to try out, and really shows off what the program can do.
The effects interface looks like a physical rack unit, and you simply drag and drop the effects into your chain. I was impressed that the free version had so many cool effects to choose from. You have some really good filters, delay, and reverbs. These effects can always be routed in front of the amp, or through the loop.
The other included freebies are pretty nice as well. You get a decent tuner, and basic recording options. The recorder is especially good for doing play-along practice. The built in metronome is great too as it is programmable, which is ideal for practicing speed exercises. These features are not essential or anything, but other free amp simulators certainly don’t include them.
If you are curious as to what it’s like to have a big, expensive amp sim…then Guitar Rig is a great way to dip your toes in the water! It still remains easy to use, but can give you a good idea of what you may be dealing with when it comes to the “full experience”.
Free Amp Simulators: The Final Thought…
If you are looking to try out an amp sim, and you’re not really ready to dedicate yourself to one program yet, these are a great intro to what they do. The sims on this list are all very different in tone, and you can try them out to see what is more appropriate for your unique style.
Some of the paid versions of these free amp simulators are very expansive, and have thousands of effects. For me, that can be overwhelming. I prefer to have limited options so I can get to recording quickly. Many effects processors give me “option paralysis” because they have so many sounds to experiment with.
However, some people need those options to get the tone they want, and to finely hone the sounds they are working with. I understand that mentality, and if that’s your style then I say go for it. Something like Neural DSP may be perfect for you with it’s limitless amount of sounds and features.
No matter what your style, there is a great amp sim out there for you.
Are free amp simulators worth it?
You should definitely give them a try! Most have great features and can ease you in to the world of amp sims?
Can I use free amp simulators with my DAW?
You can use most free amp simulators with your DAW of choice.
Are free amp simulators available for Mac?
Almost every amp sim is compatible with any operating system.