Choosing the best guitar VST FX

Top 10 Guitar VST Plugins // From Amp Models to Delays

Whether you’re a guitarist or not, tracking and mixing guitars is one of the most enjoyable parts of the recording process. WIth how far digital audio technology has progressed, these days you don’t even need anything other than a guitar, cable, audio interface, and a computer!

Everything can be done in-the-box. From amp modelers and channel strips to reverbs, delays, and harmonizers here are our picks for the top 10 guitar VST plugins.

Best Amp Modeler Plugin - IK Multimedia Amplitube 5  

Amp simulator plugins are not what they used to be. Just like traditional amps they come in different varieties. Some are designed to carefully emulate the sound of one amp. And they do a stellar job. 

But guitar players can be an indecisive bunch, so why not go with an amp simulator plugin that packs all kinds of sounds?

Amplitube released in 2002 and it’s still one of the best amp modeler plugins today. IK Multimedia worked closely with top guitar brands and artists to develop it, and the amps and effects models under the hood are impressively accurate. 

Powered by the DIM and VIR sound engines, the guitar and bass amp simulations cover popular and boutique designs from the best in the business like Fender, Vox, Orange, Marshall, Soldano, Roland, Friedman, Silvertone and Mesa/Boogie to name a few. Some are officially licensed, others are spot-on recreations.

The all-in-one interface is easy to use and covers the whole signal chain from amps, cabinets, effects pedals and rackmount effects to microphones and rooms - you can even load custom IRs! You can drag-and-drop up to 57 models simultaneously through series or parallel routing.

The 5th version introduces over 130 new models, you can blend different cabinets and microphones for an almost endless amount of rigs, and 23 mixing effects, some from T-RackS 5. An engaged user community through ToneNET lets users share their creations and try out what others are doing.

The free version, AmpliTube 5 CS, gives you 41 models so you can try before you buy to make sure it’s the right fit for your sound. There’s so much going on it’s unreal, but the models are as real as it gets!

Best Channel Strip Plugin - Slate Digital VMR

Outboard channel strips offer a lot of utility in a single unit. Some are simple, like a preamp and EQ. More advanced models include processing like gating and compression. But hardware has its limitations.

Some channel strip plugins solve that, and Slate Digital’s VMR has been a top choice since it released 10 years ago. The coolest feature is that you can assemble your own signal chain, rearrange it, even create multiples for A/Bing to find the best flow for the mix.

VMR really packs it in too. You get the most accurate modeling of preamps, compressors, and EQs, and proprietary Slate models let you shape sounds however you want. Revival is a fantastic sonic maximizer, Trimmer keeps gain staging in check, and Bomber lets you carefully shape transient material, to name a few.

Have a go-to chain? Dream Strips let you create eight customizable presets for fast recall. VMR is easy on the CPU too. The beauty of VMR isn’t just the amount of sound modules you get, but the variety. It’s never been easier - or more fun - to build your own virtual 500 series signal chain.


Best Compressor - McDSP 6030 Ultimate Compressor HD v7

Along with EQ, compression is one of the most powerful processors. But when it comes to guitars, it’s not as simple. Not only do you have to consider the best type of compression the part calls for, but the best style of compressor and how these factors vary if it’s an electric or acoustic guitar track. 

Don’t get decision fatigue just yet though. Since the best compressors for guitars are as varied as guitar brands themselves, the ideal compressor plugins are the ones that basically do it all. And the 6030 Ultimate Compressor is a great choice. 

Ten different models cover the entire compressor spectrum. From gentle opticals, smooth tubes, to aggressive solid-state, and transparent VCA, any style you need for electric or acoustic guitars is here. 

Some are meticulous models of legendary designs like the 1176 or LA-2A, some are McDSP originals. Variety is what makes the  6030 one of the best compressor plugins for guitar.


Best Bus Compressor - Slate Digital VBC

Stereo compressors serve a very different purpose in mixing than those designed for mono tracks. A best practice for mixing guitars is to bus (or group, aux, stem, folder, whatever it is in your DAW) them together.

You might have one for rhythm guitars, one for leads, and another for solos. Bus compression adds tightness, and “glue” that helps them sit better in the overall mix.

VBC models three legendary outboard stereo compressors - the SSL Grey, Focusrite Red, and the hallowed Fairchild 660. They can be used together or independently and all offer a distinct compression style perfect for guitars. 

Whether you need the cleans of the SSL, aggression from the Red, or the fat warmth of the Fairchild - it’s all here. Fun fact - the Red is a go-to on guitars for legendary mix engineer Chris Lord-Alge.


Best EQ - FabFilter Pro-Q3

Equalization is one of the most powerful processing tools for sculpting guitars. Everyone needs a flexible go-to, and the Pro-Q3 is all that and more. 

It’s designed to provide a fast workflow. Two clicks on the interactive display inserts an EQ point, and depending where on the spectrum it is the plugin chooses a common band-type. E.g. either extreme gives you a shelf or pass filter, inserting at the midrange opens a band filter, and so on.

Multiple phase modes ensure everything lines up properly regardless of how many EQ points are used. The Dynamic EQ setting analyzes track content and adjusts gain automatically. Customize the spectrum analyzer for the most efficient visualization to stay on top of levels or quickly find sweet - and not-so-sweet - spots.

It works on mono and stereo tracks when you’re mixing, and mid/side is ideal for mastering. Auto Gain keeps signal level consistent even with the most extreme EQ moves. 

Tracking, mixing, mastering, subtractive, additive, clean or colored.  Whatever you need it for, Pro-Q3 always delivers.


Best Modulation - Solid State Logic Module 8

Modulation adds movement and depth to guitars that other processing can’t. The category spans multiple effects, so why go with just one modulation plugin when you can have six? All the usual suspects are here - chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, vibrato, and pan. The signal chain is drag-and-drop and can be customized any way you’d like.

Each effect has specific controls with global parameters for input, width, and mix. Five LFO shapes offer more modulation versatility and it can be synced to the session tempo. Adding movement to mixing guitars was never easier.


Best Reverb - Strymon BigSky Plugin

Reverb comes in many different types. Two tried and true settings for guitar are plate and spring. This is partly due to their history with the instrument. 

Who doesn't love the epic plate reverb from Sunset Sound that soaks Van Halen’s first few records? Or the sound of a slick spring reverb pumping through a clean Fender amp?

Strymon creates products with seriously next-level DSP, and you’ll find the BigSky on pedalboards around the world. Now you can bring it to your DAW. The interface is easy to navigate and 12 settings get you from small springs to humungous halls. 

But the real magic lies in the unique reverbs designed for guitar. Shimmer adds octave up pitch shifting, Chorale comes with modulation, Swell has a slow attack, and Magneto recreates the reverberated wash of a multi-head echo.

One of the reasons this is such a great plugin for guitar is that it was designed for the instrument. Not that you can’t get a great sound out of other plugins. But why not go with a reverb designed specifically for guitar?


Best Delay - Valhalla Delay

Delays are one of the types of effects that work on pretty much any source. But they really add magic to guitars. Some have more settings and controls, but overall they’re designed to just do what they do. That’s why we went with a dark horse in the Valhalla Delay.

It’s got delays perfect for guitar. Chewy analog BBD, classic tape echo, new and old school digital, pitch shifting, lo-fi, and more. Even cooler is that once you choose a delay mode you pick a style that adjusts how the delay behaves.

An in-depth control set lets you really dive in, and you can add drive, modulation, diffusion, and EQ. Valhalla Delay brings the best of both the modern and classic delay worlds. Amazing considering the easy-to-use interface and $50 price point.

Best Harmonizer - Eventide H910

Harmonizers are unique processors. Eventide pioneered the effect when they released the H910 all the way back in the mid 70s. Its signature combo of pitch shifting, modulation, and delay adds harmony, width, detuning, oscillation, and makes a guitar sound like no other processor can.

The H910 plugin is laid out exactly like the hardware. Controls below the main faceplate add a level of parameter adjustment the outboard gear doesn’t. Like adjustments to the envelope follower, Mix, Glide, and Mains (volume) sliders, and a small two-octave keyboard.

“True analog modeling” recreates the nonlinear circuit of the original hardware. MIDI control offers real time harmony and pitch manipulation. Eventide offers the Dual Harmonizer at no cost with purchase too, so you can get the sounds from the popular technique of running two of the units in series.


Best Saturator - Soundtoys Decapitator

Why would anyone use a saturation plugin for guitars? For the same reasons they’re great on any track! They add warmth and harmonics that fatten up sounds. And they’re great to give life and lift to digital audio tracks.

Decapitator’s design is to give you top shelf saturation and distortion meticulously modeled from hardware. Whether it’s tubes, transistors, or something else. Through five analog saturation models it’s perfect for adding the character that many digital recordings lack.

Select one of the five styles, dial in the amount drive, set the EQ, output level, and mix blend. No overthinking here. Subtle to extreme and everything in between, Decapitator is a top choice distortion and saturation plugin for a reason. It’s also a great alternative to an analog tape emulation. A saturator isn’t just a great tool for guitars, it’s a mixing necessity.


No matter how you choose to process guitars it's not about the tools you use, but how you use them. These are our picks for the top 10 guitar VST plugins, and we curated them because they offer a mix of quality, versatility, and utility.

There’s a lot of ways you can process guitars, but remember in the end it’s all about what the song needs.