Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Guitar amplifier VST selection

I own a Behringer iAXE 629 MetAlien electric guitar with an USB interface. This should save some space in the room since I don’t need a guitar combo, amplifier, effects and all the cables: it’s all software on my PC. By the way, USB adapters are also available even if you have an “ordinary” e-guitar.

Sadly enough the iAXE is shipped with a rather poor selection of software, so sooner or later one will look for better alternatives. I was focused on VST plugins because they come most handy for mixing / recording in a virtual studio environment.

The list of features I expected:

  • VST compatible
  • support for several amp models
  • includes most common guitar effects such as reverb, wah, phaser, flanger, etc…
  • built in guitar tuner
  • reasonable CPU consume
  • should be able to product a phat metal sound…

This is a list of software I tried and compared:

  • Native Instruments Guitar Combo I/II/III this is shipped with the guitar, some nice presets, but no VST or any other integration, a rather entry level product
  • Native Instruments Guitar Rig Series: the professional guitar product line, millions of settings, very cool sound
  • IK Multimedia Amplitube: maybe THE big competitor to Guitar Rig, a very mature product
  • Cockos / Reaper amp modeling effects: these are part of Reaper, a powerful VST sequencer platform, and they produce an acceptable sound if one takes enough time to set up the correct filter chains (not really straightforward).
  • The SimulAnalog Research Project: provides a couple of free VST plugins which - if chained in a right way - sound quite fair
  • FreeAMP SE: a very professional VST plugin with lots of effects and a very convincing set of presets (eats up some CPU, though).

The bottom line: sure enough, there are still loads of other guitar amp VST’s around, just do a short google research to see. But one thing is quite clear: you don’t have to spend several hundred euros/dollars if you can get free amps that sound almost as good as their heavyweight brothers. And before you ask: my personal favourite is FreeAMP.

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