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Free guitar plugins

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Introduction

Plugins are software extensions and in this case we are talking about audio plugins for music production software (DAW, Digital Audio Workstation). They are dynamic link library (.dll) files and all it takes to use them is to tell your DAW software where to find them. Default location is C:\Program Files\VstPlugins and it's not a bad idea to keep your plugins right there.

Here's a quick how to scan new plugs in three popular DAWs:

Reaper: Options > Preferences > Plug-ins > VST > VST plug-in paths > Add > select plugins location > Re-scan or reset Reaper.

Cubase: Devices > Plug-in Information > VST PlugIns > VST 2.x Plug-in Paths > Add > select plugins location > OK > Update Plug-in Information

Sonar: Utilities > Cakewalk Plug-in Manager > VST Configuration > Options > Add... > select plugins location > OK > Scan VST Plug-ins

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AMPLIFIERS

There are plenty free amp sims to choose from, they all sound different and have unique quality. Some are simple, other offer different channels and additional switches for more tonal versatility. Since cab simulation has become a more complex matter, most amp sims don't have this functionality and if they do it can be turned off so that you can experiment in this field.

GUI versions are usually made with SynthEdit (www.synthedit.com), if you have some issues with them then try out original versions.

TSE Plugins X30 high-gain guitar amp
picLots of gain and clarity, additional contour switch and transformer simulation that adds soft compression. Based on a well known german gear (ENGL E530). No cabinet.
Nick Crow 8505 Lead
picNick Crow hi-gain amps are popular, they work well witch boosters and external cabinet simulations.
Nick Crow 7170 Lead
pic
Nick Crow Wagner MKII Sharp GUI
pic
Nick Crow Wagner Sharp 0.6
picClassic Nick Crow amp. What's interesting about it beside quality control is the semi-parametric middle eq. Low and high cut help to eliminate mud and fuzziness.
Nick Crow Simple Guitar Combo GUI
picIt's in fact a simple, interesting combo with lots of gain and a cabinet (no bypass).
Ignite Amps NRR1
picNRR1 is a digital model of an actual tube amp built by Ignite Amps. Oversampling control, no cab.
Ignite Amps The Anvil
picThe Anvil is a digital model of an actual guitar tube preamp built by Andy Zeugs. Oversampling control, no cab.

NDZEIT Dirthead

picENGL simulation, 3 channels, switchable cab, cool compressed and tight drive sounds with voicing control.

NDZEIT TubeBaby

picVersatile amp with four different cabs (bypass is possible also), three different preamps and more. Pleasant vibes.
BTE Audio Juicy77
picQuite versatile high-gain amp sim with resonance control and cabinet simulator that can be bypassed. It's not that hot, so if your audio interface has a fixed input you'll probably want to boost your signal before Juicy77.
BTE Audio Juicy77 GUI
picGUI version by Requietus.
Poulin LeXTAC
picInspired by Californian boutique amplifier. Great tonal versatility and quality.
Poulin Legion
picOriginal LePou hi-gain amp. Two channels, two modes per channel (rhytm & lead), two tonestacks. Tight and sharp sound. The goal was to design an amp that wouldn't need a booster before it. No cab.
Poulin Le456
picHi-gain sim based on german gear (ENGL Powerball). Two channels, lots of switches, good quality tones.
Poulin HyBrit
picBrit sounding hybrid from LePou plugins which comes in three versions: preamp, head, fullstack with two IR slots w/delay, hpf, lpf, balance controls.
Poulin LeCto
picMESA Dual Rectifier simulation with two channels and three modes per channel. Ovesampling control, no cab.
Poulin SoloC
picThree channel hi-gain guitar preamp. Clean, crunch, overdrive. Bright, quality and boost switches.No cab and power amp simulation.
Simulanalog Marshall JCM900 GUI
picThis one is a classic. It's a simulation of Marshall JCM900 with speaker cabinet that cannot be disengaged. Part of Simulanalog Guitar Suite. GUI by Requietus.

Original version - Simulanalog website.

Simulanalog Fender Twin GUI
picGUI by Requietus.

Part of Simulanalog Guitar Suite.

Original version without GUI - Simulanalog website.

Smart Electronix Saro GUI
picGUI by Requietus.

Original version without GUI - Smart Electronix website."

IK Multimedia Amplitube 3
picFree version of a great sounding guitar plug-in. There's little to choose from, but the quality is impressive. There's a possibilty to upgrade witch specific amps, effects, cabs and microphones via Custom Shop application.
Kuassa Amplification Lite
picSimple, quite versatile with cab simulation and impulse response loader.
Destructavator ScorchCrafter C120
pic
Aradaz Amp 2 Green
pic
Aradaz Amp 2 White
pic
Aradaz Crunch
picVery cool crunch tone - dynamic, bright and fresh. Optional cabinet simulation.
MOKAFIX NoAmp
picDigital model of famous SansAmp GT-2 guitar amp simulator. Oversampling up to 4x, cab cannot be disengaged. 27 combinations plus drive, level, high and low controls. CPU friendly.
MOKAFIX Metal Clone
picIt looks like a BOSS Metal Zone MT-2 clone with speaker simulation. Oversampling control up to 4x, cab cannot be disengaged. CPU friendly.
Audiffex AmpLion
picDecent quality MESA Dual Rectifier simulation. Channels: red vintage, red normal, orange modern, orange clean, orange normal. Rectifier is switchable between tube and semiconductor. Dual cabinet with panning control and freely adjustable microphone positions, angles and distances. Noise gate, reverb and quality control.
Ronald Passion RevolutionZ
pic4 channels, IR loader, quality control, voicing, shaping, semi-parametric middle eq... Lots to mess around.
Ronald Passion ReChrome
pic
Ronald Passion ReGolD
pic
Ronald Passion Bass Preamp
pic

Studio Devil British Valve Custom

picVery simple british head simulation with exceptional tone and dynamics. Speaker cabinet cannot be disengaged.
AcmeBarGig Preampus Metal C-15
picHere starts AcmeBarGig head series. Pretty useful and original sounding stuff, bring your own cabinets.
AcmeBarGig Preampus Metal Razor
pic
AcmeBarGig Metal Series 60
pic
AcmeBarGig MeatHead
pic
AcmeBarGig DickHead
pic
AcmeBarGig TamlaHead
pic
AcmeBarGig PeckerHead
pic
AcmeBarGig KnuckleHead
pic
AcmeBarGig TaterHead
pic
AcmeBarGig GimmeHead
pic
AcmeBarGig Brain 2
pic
AcmeBarGig SHRED 1.0
picOriginal plugin with six different heads, numerous additional features including awesome ambience simulation.

Here starts a series of Auraplug's free distortion units with cabs. They look like stomboxes, but offer full functionality. They are very CPU friendly.

Auraplug EddieVsHeaven
pic

EddieVsHeaven, Eddie Van Halen tones. Cab included (no bypass).

Auraplug California Sun
pic

Simple guitar combo, cab sim cannot be bypassed. Two channels, nice lows. CPU friendly. Cab included (no bypass).

Auraplug Whamdrive
pic

Modern hi-gain preamp and Digitech Whammy simulation in one plugin. It sounds not too bad, whammy can be automated. Cab included (no bypass).

Auraplug RedSkull Distortion
pic

Scooped mids, tight and pleasant high end, this is a must try it out for metalheads. Cab included (no bypass).

Auraplug FuzzStone
pic

Vintage fuzz sound, classic. Cab included.

Auraplug FuzzStone Germanium
pic

More drive. Cab included.

Following plugins are virtual versions of real gear - Heptode Crunch and Heavy Tone analog preamps which reacreate the sounds of 80's tube preamps (based on Soldano SLO-100). Both plugins offer optional cab simulation.

Heptode Heavy Tone
pic
Heptode Deep Crunch
pic
Fretted Synth FreeAmp 3
pic
Cortex Stack GUI
pic

GUI by Requietus. Designed by Matthias Becker. Original dlls without GUI can be found here.

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Effects

There's much more than just an amp that can be used to achieve an interesting guitar tone, however there aren't many free effect simulations other than distortions, overdrives and boosters that I've come across.

In reality most hi-gain tube amps have definite roundness in sounds that they produce, this is no different in digital world. Semiconductor overdrive/booster adds clarity and sharpness to tube tone. It's very popular within heavy players.

Ibanez Tube Screamer is a well known amp booster. It boosts middle frequencies, pushes the amp harder and gives some cutting edge. Not everyone likes to have it for rhytms because it tends to make them sound razor sharp, however it helps your lead parts to cut beatifully through the mix.

TSE Plugins TS808
pic pic

High quality screamer with oversampling control and DIY tweaking capabilities.

Ignite Amps TS-999
pic

TS-999 is based on famous 808 model but it has some additional features that make it more versatile.

BTE Audio TS' Secret
pic
BTE Audio TS' Secret GUI
pic
Simulanalog TS808 GUI
pic
Simulanalog DS-1 GUI
pic
Simulanalog SD-1 GUI
pic
Smart Electronix MXR-90 Phase GUI
pic
AudioDamage FuzzPlus 2
pic
Distorque PlusDistortion
pic
Simulanalog Univibe GUI
pic
Simulanalog Oberheim GUI
pic
GreenPreXpression GUI
pic

Gate/wah designed by Wurr Audio Engineering.

AcmeBarGig Red Shift
pic

IR based guitar pickup replacing plugin. Lots of popular pickups and additional guitar material simulation.

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Cabinets & Impulse Response Processors

Nowadays it's very popular to use impulse responses to recreate guitar cabinet and microphone setup sounds. Impulse responses are audio files that you load to adequate plugins. There are lots of free impulses to choose, the topic is covered in another article - check out an article on free impulse responses.

Poulin LeCab2
pic

6 IR slots, HP & LP filters, phase, pan, delay and latency control down to 64 samples.

Plektron IRcab
pic

It appears to be a zero latency plugin. It's simple and allows one IR.

Voxengo Boogex
pic

Boogex is an amp sim with an IR based cab sim which accepts external impulse files. To bypass the amp set all knobs to minimum except for volume.

Vladimir Titov Mercuriall 2
pic

Original cab sim with 5 mic positions. Realistic and natural sound.

Aradaz Our Cabinet Simulator
pic

8 internal impulses, 2 cabinets, phase, delay control for both cabs, overall balance control. There's no possibility to load external impulses, however this cab sim can do a lot.

Two Notes TORPEDO PI-FREE
pic

One mic, one cab, power amp section and rich post processing.

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Tuners

Sometimes it's very convenient to tune your instrument within your DAW. Here are some VST tuners suited for the job.

GVST G-Tune
pic
Aglae Software Tune It!
pic
C-Tuner
pic

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Links

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