Buyer's Guides

Best Plugins for Guitar - Supercharge Your Tone

When it comes to the best plugins for guitar you have an incredible amount of plugins to choose from. Amp sims are just the beginning. But why use plugins when you could just use a guitar pedal?

A lot of times it’s more precise to do processing in the post-production phase. It gives you more options, more time…and room for error. Once you print it, if something is off you either live with it or re-record.

These are some of the best plugins for guitar and how they can help you get the best tones out of your tracks.

SSL Fusion Transformer

There are so many ways to record guitar tracks. A mic on an amp, direct into a mixer or interface, even into a smartphone! Regardless of how you capture your signal, every guitar player wants their recording to have that "studio magic".

Fusion Transformer does just that; it provides that "analogue glue" that's often missing when recording completely in the box. This channel strip of sorts couldn’t be easier to dial in. You get input/output gain with metering for both. Shine adds top-end sparkle, a button extends the low end, and the wet/dry blend can be balanced.

Just like on a real desk, driving the transformer is where the magic happens. Luckily there is a meter to visualize it, but your ears are the best gauge. It sounds great on single tracks, busses, even the stereo master!

It’s SSL. Nothing more needs to be said. Check out the full Headliner review, here.


IK Multimedia Amplitube 5 MAX

When it comes to amp sims you have no shortage options. Some offer a variety of amps, cabs, mics, and rooms. Some are just focused on modeling one or a few specific amps. With Amplitube 5 you get everything you could want in a virtual amp plugin - and then some.

Whatever your favorite amp is, it’s here. With 400 amps, cabs, pedal and rack effects, and microphones the only tone limitation is your imagination. The new, proprietary VIR (Volumetric Impulse Response) cabinet engine is one of its premier features. Using 600 IRs per speaker you get complete control over the sound. And if that’s not enough, there are 143,000 more to experiment with!

If you want to play through a digital version of your favorite guitar player’s rig you can sift through the fantastic selection of signature artist presets. The scalable interface got an overhaul in this version, and putting your signal chain together is as easy as connecting the dots. You can also use it as a standalone application which makes it great for practice, even live performance!

Amplitube 5 MAX is very affordable considering how much punch it packs. More digital gear than you can imagine, models for guitar and bass, and some of the best virtual amp sounds on the market.

This one is meant to go to 11.


Oeksound soothe 2

soothe2 is a dynamic resonance suppressor that takes the strain away from your EQ and removes unwanted, harsh frequencies with ease. Originally developed for taming harsh vocals, it's also great at removing harshness and fizz from guitar tracks.

The coolest feature? It can identify the problematic frequencies in real-time and reduction match to attenuate the problem frequencies automatically! It adjusts its own bandwidth too, so it’s not affecting the neighboring frequency areas that don’t present an issue.

The GUI is clean and simple. It’s perfect for mono, dual mono, and stereo sources and even has some compression features. But when it comes down to it, it’s really best for taming harshness. Its unique processing and additional features give it multiple mixing benefits. 


Eventide Audio SplitEQ

Tired of the same boring EQ plugins? For equalization, we’re going to select one that’s unique - SplitEQ from the digital masterminds at Eventide Audio. It’s built on Eventide’s Structural Split engine. This allows you to process transient material and the central sound separately. It’s insanely versatile. Need to shape transients, adjust the stereo field width, and/or de-ess? Done.

But it’s capable of much more. There is separate panning for both channels. An 8-band parametric EQ provides the perfect filter types for guitar with slopes that range from 6dB/octave to an insane 96dB/octave!

The resizable interface is laid out intuitively and equipped with spectral analysis and metering over both channels. You can even set it to L-R (left/right) or M-S (mid/side) processing, making it ideal on single guitar tracks or a stereo buss.

SplitEQ is a new concept on what EQ processing can do. And what’s more, there is no source on which you won’t find it useful. It's one of the best plugins for guitar, plus so much more. 


Waves CLA-76 and CLA-2A

The 1176 and LA-2A. Two of the most legendary compressors of all time. Both make fantastic sound plugins for guitar. The 1176 is a fast FET compressor, while the LA-2A is a smooth, slower optical compressor.

The 1176 is a perfect choice for electric guitars and bass tracks to give them a big, bold sound. The LA-2A is fantastic on acoustic guitars. But the best thing about these versatile compressors? They both sound great on all types of guitar tracks.

They complement each other well, and they’re great for serial compression. And they’re so affordable at $30 and $40 respectively you can easily afford to add both to your plugin arsenal. These are models made in partnership with and endorsed by godlike mix engineer Chris Lord-Alge. He loves the LA-3A on guitars, and the LA-2A is very similar in sound and feel.


Soundtoys Decapitator

Decapitator sounds fantastic on guitars. There’s a reason it’s become one of the top saturation plugins. Soundtoys created it by analyzing the dynamic signatures of vintage analog gear and translating that to the digital space.

It can warm up your sound with vintage vibes or add extra gain if you didn’t dial in enough during tracking. Want to get really nasty? It can do that too. You can adjust odd and even harmonics. And if there’s one thing guitarists love, it’s harmonics! A blend knob lets you blend the clean sound in, making it great as a post-processor, juicing up a DI track, or as a straight-up guitar effect.

You can run the saturation spectrum with five saturation modes and a “punish” mode. Oh, punish mode. How perfect you are for heavy guitars or for adding grind to a bass sound. Decapitator uses continuous dynamic modeling -not static convolution like many saturation plugins. And it’s so versatile that you can use it on any source.


Eventide H3000 Factory

The H3000 is one of the best plugins for guitar if you love the sound of the 80s. It is sophisticated rack hardware that provides all types of effects, but is most well-known for its incredible pitch-shifting sounds. It fell out of favor for a bit, but has come back in a big way.

Eventide’s new plugin version features certain choice algorithms from the original unit so you can pitch shift, delay, modulate, and filter in pretty much any way you can imagine. The interface is not exactly…simple. But neither was the hardware. Luckily you get 450 presets, 100 presets from your favorite artists, and 100 presets from the original hardware unit.

It runs on Windows and Mac systems and comes in VST, AAX, and AU plugin formats. There are some OS requirements to be aware of, but at around $350 this is a steal considering how much the original unit costs.


Valhalla Delay

Delay is a versatile effect, and one of the most fun for guitarists to play with. This means you need a plugin that can do it all. With Valhalla Delay you get classic delays like bucket brigade and tape echo. It also includes more modern sounds like standard digital delay, pitch shift, ratio, quad, and lofi - with 16 in all.

The control set lets you add color, adjust diffusion, add modulation, and EQ. And the GUI couldn’t be easier to use. It’s laid out logically and horizontally so you can get your sounds dialed in fast. Style lets you adjust the left/right relationship.

You can tailor the sound in so many creative ways that whatever delay you’re looking for it’s available to you. It’s only $50 too. Valhalla’s tagline for it is “All Things Delay”. That’s exactly right.


SSL Native X-Echo

The Echoplex is one of the most beloved analog echo/delay units of time. And it’s just as famous for the preamp section as it is for the chewy, grainy repeats it offers. Native X-Echo gives you vintage tape echo sounds with some modern features.

The interface is like that of a vintage echo brought into the new millennium. A GUI with five horizontal bars lets you adjust the digital “head positions” across a timeline of four seconds. This lets you sync the echo parameters to note values.

A feature-rich control set gives you much more than a standard echo. You can dial in authentic tape-style sounds with Wow & Flutter. It can even add some modulation. Diffusion gives a bucket-brigade style delay/chorus effect to add depth, great for dialing in more of a reverb. Feedback can go from 0-150% and can even reintroduce repeats into the signal., and Width.

Additional processing includes Saturation. It’s meant to add subtle analog flavor, not overt crunch. And the de-esser is especially useful for taming annoying high mids that can be present on guitar tracks. There are high and low shelving EQs and a dry/wet blend. Two buttons add some unique options. Freeze keeps the feedback rate constant, Kill does just that - kills the echo.

It might tout itself as an analog echo, but with a control set this sophisticated you can dial in all kinds of modern sounds.


Liquid Sonics Seventh Heaven

The Bricasti M7 holds the esteem of being one of the best digital reverbs ever. The hardware units are crazy expensive, but that’s where Seventh Heaven comes in. It’s a much more affordable plugin version of this lush, and I daresay perfect reverb unit. If you’ve ever heard one, you know what I mean.

It’s a Fusion-IR engine, a convolution-style reverb that adds additional modulation. The presets are tailored to be dialed in to bring the best of sound out of each of the many types of reverbs. The most used reverbs on guitars are generally plates and rooms. But with this one, you’ll find yourself playing with halls, chambers, and the number of ‘verbs unique to the plugin.

There are also unique choices you don’t find in standard reverbs like “spaces” and “ambiences”. Sounds unique unto themselves. 30 total. The control set is pretty standard, but it’s more about the incredibly modeled settings.

Liquid Sonics deserves a Grammy for Seventh Heaven.