11 Best Guitar VST Plugins 2023

11 Best Guitar VST Plugins 2022

The sound of the guitar is beyond iconic. Sure, it has had ebbs and flows in terms of its popularity, but as a lead instrument, it dominated most of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.

And while the guitar is often heard in rock and metal these days, that doesn’t mean it’s any less useful in genres ranging from pop and blues all the way over to electronic and even hip-hop on occasion.

So, if you want the sound of the guitar on your tracks, you’ve only got a few options – get someone else to play, play yourself, or get a VST. And in this guide, we’ll be looking at the best VST guitar plugins.

IRON 2 by ujam – Best Overall

IRON 2 by ujam – Best Overall

There are multiple ujam plugins on this list, and it just so happens that there’s one that’s kind of like IRON 2 called CARBON (it appears later in this guide). But where CARBON is a little more focused on heavy sounds, IRON 2 gives you a bit of everything, and that versatility makes it our best overall pick.

And IRON 2 is best suited to power chords, rock riffs, and so on.

An evolution of the original IRON, IRON 2 comes with a new instrument mode with new samples and phrases, 30 styles, 350+ phrases, 30 stomp box emulated effects, 60 Finisher FX modes, and even Drop D and doubling modes for more bottom end thump.

As with all ujam products, the graphical user interface is centered on getting you up and running fast. It’s simple, it’s beautifully designed, and instant gratification is available right out of the box.

And the sounds are surprisingly authentic and versatile. There are a lot of great tones here, and you can go deep with the parameters for additional tweaking if you wish. You can blend bridge and neck pickups, adjust the character (fat, soft, bite, twang), choose from five amps (direct, clean, crisp, cream, crunch, and metal), and tweak the level of distortion with the drive knob. Remember what I said earlier about versatility?

And if you like otherworldly synth or effect style sounds, you can easily create them with IRON 2 as well (also see the video below).

IRON 2 is frankly surprising. And if you need a plugin that handles everything from clean to crunch to metal, you’ll love this VST.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Electri6ity by Vir2 Instruments – Best Premium Option

Electri6ity by Vir2 Instruments – Best Premium Option

Electri6ity is an award-winning Kontakt instrument. Vir2 Instrument spent over three years developing this virtual electric guitar instrument with as much detail, functionality, and versatility they could possibly pack into a single plugin.

It comes with a Strat, Tele, P90, Les Paul, Rickenbacker, Danelectro Lipstick, ES-335, and L4. There are more than 24,000 24-bit samples per guitar, each in three pickup positions (front, rear, mixed). You get a vast array of articulations on every fret of every string. There are downstrokes, upstrokes, ghost notes, mutes, harmonics, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, releases, seamless velocity layers, and FX too.

Articulation Morphing Technology (A.M.T.) and Velocity Morphing Technology (V.M.T.), makes going from dead mute to sustain or from soft to loud, a walk in the park, and it adds authenticity to the performance too.

The legato engine lets you break out into melodies and solos, while the chord detection engine keeps the rhythms tight, and recognizes nearly 2,000 chords. You can double track, unison bend, strum, pick, trill, tremolo pick, and more, and you can control all the parameters.

The samples were recorded clean, but not surprisingly, you can punch things up with the built-in multi-effects, including flanger, chorus, reverb, delay, Screamer module, as well as amp simulation (British, Classic, Clean, Jazz, Metal, Modern, Rock).

This plugin features so much power, it’s no surprise that it is award-winning. The sounds are quite competent, and you can make very convincing guitar tracks with Electri6ity. While Electri6ity does come at a premium, its sheer versatility is only matched by other Vir2 Instruments creations (there are a couple more on this list).

But our top premium pick is this – Electri6ity.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Harmonix by Wavesfactory – Best Budget Option

Harmonix by Wavesfactory – Best Budget Option

This one is a bit of a “loose end” we dug up. But depending on what you’re looking for, you will love this Kontakt instrument.

One of the cool things about the guitar is the harmonics that exist across the fretboard. When a guitarist lifts their finger off the fretboard and lightly touches the string at different nodal points of the fretboard while picking the string, a resonant, chime-like sound graces the ear. These are usually used as ornaments rather than for writing entire songs, mind you.

Harmonix gives you easy access to those ear-catching, bright harmonics. But what makes the plugin unique is that you can mix and match the harmonics of an electric, acoustic, and bass guitar. That’s right – you can use them independently, you can use them all at once, and you can mix and match.

It comes with plenty of cool features too, so let’s have a look.

First is the Mixer. You can control the electric (Gibson E-335), acoustic (Alhambra A3), and bass (Fender Jazz Bass), with complete facility over volume, pan, mute/solo, stereo width (100% stereo to mono), doubler, output selector, and even a load/purge switch.

Then there’s the effects section. You can add EQ, various compressors, chorus, flanger, phaser, distortion, saturation, tape, algorithmic and convolutional reverb (with 40 custom impulse responses), and even amp simulators, to meticulously shape and sculpt the tone of the guitars.

Next is the sequencer. This is a sequencer / arpeggiator featuring seven presets. Here you can also adjust tempo, steps, and mode (up, down, random, as played). The instruments can be played in unison, but each instrument also has its own sequencer table.

Finally, there’s settings. From here, you can control four modules – round robin, dynamic range, velocity curve, and envelope.

The sounds are beautiful, unique, and at times otherworldly. You can even hear the pick attack in each.

What you get for the price is quite extraordinary. But if you need a more holistic guitar solution, you’re unlikely to get everything you need with Harmonix. That’s why we chose it as our best budget option. It’s fun, it’s cool, it’s got great novelty appeal. But it’s not your all-in-one guitar plugin.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Guitarist by Sugar Bytes

Guitarist by Sugar Bytes

The electric guitar occupies a special space in music, even today. Sugar Bytes’ Guitarist gives you the ability to play electric guitar rhythm parts without a guitarist. It has a step sequencer system that allows you to customize everything from chords to fingering patterns, and even more granular things like nuance and expression.

Use the Patterns page to start setting up your rhythm guitars. Use the 16 steps to control when chords are triggered, which strings are being played, and whether the strums should go in an upward or downward (upstroke or downstroke) direction.

Strings can be played individually so you can create arpeggiated sequences, intricate metal riffs, and even damp and dead notes give you control over articulation for the funkiest of rhythms.

Chord sequences can be defined in the lower lanes – root notes, chord types (12 included with three fingering variations), step-repeat, and you can even create 24 user chords (“impossible” chords too).

Take advantage of the Animation page to control finger movement on the fretboard. Each finger can be moved up or down by one to three semitones per step. Parts can be quickly and easily looped, damp and dead notes can be added, and half-tempo settings are also onboard.

Guitarist comes with three primary sounds – Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, and a Duesenberg Starplayer Special with Bright and Normal variations. 2,000 samples were recorded for each with fretted notes and open strings inclusive. You’ve also got round robin for alternating different samples, and Random mode where samples are randomly selected.

But that’s not where Guitarist ends. It also comes with various effects. The FX1 module puts modulation effects at your fingertips – chorus, phaser, phase wah, and auto wah. And FX2 offers delays, reverbs, and reverse-buffer delay. You also get two amp models, and a wah-wah pedal (with a variable-rate LFO).

You even get four categories of presets – Global, Sound, Pattern, and Chord. We could go on.

All this comes in an attractive, well-designed (if a little old school), sophisticated package.

Features don’t count for much if the sound of the VST isn’t all that great. And in this case, it’s not bad at all. Guitarist will give you a relatively raw, strummed sound of a guitar. It does, of course, come with enough processing options to help you start dialing in your sounds. I think it would still be best if you set up your own effects chain with it.

But they certainly weren’t kidding when they said you could create cool rhythmic parts with Guitarist. The string muting function works great.

As the video shows, it can take a while to get used to this VST, but the effort is worth it. Have a listen to what it can do.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

CARBON by ujam

CARBON by ujam

Can you bring heavily distorted guitar sounds to your productions without hiring a guitarist? After all, you can’t exactly make metal music, game music, and modern film scores with a clean sound alone…

Well, that’s why ujam’s CARBON exists. This beautiful, future-tech VST plugin gives you access to the tools you need to punch up the heavy factor in your tracks.

Grammy Award winning Hans Zimmer called it “completely inspirational,” film composer John Massari found it intuitive and rewarding, and composer Masahiro Aoki said it lets him make “ideal sounds quickly.”

CARBON comes with Ultra Amp and Future Distortion algorithms with organic, distorted, and processed rhythm guitar sounds suited to soundtracks, rock music, electronic music, and more.

It also comes with Virtual Guitarist with Instrument Mode, the ability to combine up to four guitarists, and a multi-effect rack with a stunning 75 effect algorithms and 100 presets. You can push the effects as far as they will go, but CARBON has been designed to retain the raw, organic sound of heavy guitars, even with the effects at 11.

And those who love heavy music will love that CARBON is essentially an eight-string instrument, letting you access deeper lows and soaring highs.

Just as you would expect, CARBON gives you some great distorted sounds for rhythm guitar parts. And there aren’t too many VST plugins out there that can do this!

Is it the most authentic effect you’ve ever heard? Perhaps not. But they are perfect for their intended purpose. Also watch the video below to see what it can do.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

SILK by ujam

SILK by ujam

So, you want the classy sounds of a nylon string acoustic guitar. Whether it’s for classical music, Flamenco, or even R&B and pop, there are musical situations where you would be hard pressed to find a better sound than a nylon stringed acoustic.

This is what ujam’s SILK promises to put at your fingertips – intricately fingerpicked chords and melodies. Whether it’s for singer-songwriter arrangements, solos in dance music, or a little color and texture in pop music, SILK can add some beautiful color to your projects.

You get access to 60 styles, 670 phrases, multimode microphone positions (Rich, Full, Original, Bright, Sheen), and even custom effects to tweak your tones. A 1967 German concert guitar was used to capture the sounds of SILK, along with in-phase recording, editing, and channel strip.

You can create arpeggios, patterns, and chord riffs, ranging from clean all the way over to fortissimo. You can also add movement and depth to your sounds with the “Animate” control, and even inject performances with humanity using the swing, timing, feel, and variance controls.

As with all ujam plugins, SILK gets extra points for their beautiful graphical user interface. It’s nicely organized, features a great color scheme, and is a shining example of what graphic design should be.

The included sounds are quite good as well. The decay leaves a little something to be desired, at least in my mind, but aside from that, I like what I’m hearing. They even built muting functionality into SILK.

If you can’t play classical guitar, can’t hire someone else to play it, or simply need to speed up your production process, you will find a reliable ally in SILK.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

AMBER by ujam

AMBER by ujam

ujam’s AMBER is your one stop shop for strummed acoustic guitar chords – the sound that practically defined the prolific singer-songwriters of the 60s and 70s and its resurgences in decades to follow.

Guitarist and producer Ted Perlman said ujam outdid themselves with this plugin, guitarist / producer / songwriter Stephen Lipson loved it, and guitarist-producer Rick DiFonzo thought it was “scary good.”

You can rely on AMBER to give you steel-string acoustic guitar strums with over 50 styles, 600+ phrases, as well as multiple effects (delay, chorus, and reverb) and additional sound shaping controls.

Having tested a variety of combinations, developer ujam settled on a boutique American vintage dreadnought along with a legendary German vintage large diaphragm condenser microphone for the sounds included in AMBER. They even captured the guitar pickup for additional sonic possibilities.

Play position and fret noise can be controlled for a more realistic feel, shimmer brightens up the high frequencies while attenuating mid-range, and you can control the feel of the performance using the swing and feel controls.

To me, the instrument sounds closer to a harpsichord than a guitar. You can clearly hear the strummed “attack,” and that’s a nice slice of authenticity, but the sound of the instrument reminds me more of a keyboard instrument.

That’s how it sounds to me when playing shots, but when you have AMBER strum chords continually, it sounds a little more like a real guitar. AMBER also sounds quite decent in a mix.

Given how challenging it can be to “nail” the sound of a strummed acoustic guitar, ujam has created a powerful production tool here. It may not be their best guitar plugin overall, but it is impressive given the limitations they were surely working with.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

SPARKLE by ujam

SPARKLE by ujam

Okay, so you’ve got your power chords covered. You know that you can get nylon-string acoustic guitars in your tracks. Strummed steel-string acoustic guitars are also within reach. What about some catchy licks for your pop, funk, and indie rock tracks though?

ujam’s SPARKLE was created precisely for this reason. The developer captured a rare Strat with custom, hand-wound humbucker, and single-coil pickups. They even went so far as to hand pick vintage amps and speaker cabinets to give you access to as many sounds as possible.

SPARKLE features nearly 100 styles, over 1,000 phrases, multiple amp and cab combinations, custom effects, drive and grit controls, and even feel and swing parameters for more control over the performance.

SPARKLE has some nice, gritty tones to it. You can affect the signal with delay, chorus, and reverb, and so far as pickups are concerned, you can choose from neck, mid, dual, and bridge. At times, the sounds are a little closer to keyboard than guitar, but for the most part, they’re very good.

This VST should come in handy for anyone who wants to add some funky, rhythmic, syncopated guitars to their tracks.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Scoring Acoustic Guitars 2 by Heavyocity

Scoring Acoustic Guitars 2 by Heavyocity

I probably don’t need to tell you that Heavyocity’s Scoring Acoustic Guitars 2 (Kontakt instrument) has been built with movie scores in mind. The latest version (2) comes with 5.33 GB of new production-ready guitar content – everything from driving pulses and cinematic phrases all the way over to drones and ambient beds, using world-class guitars and amps.

Heavyocity took advantage of a variety of electric guitars and amps, from custom Strats to classic 335s, and American amps and cabs to British amps and cabs. Additional processing was done using their high-end outboard gear to make the sounds near mix ready out of the box.

With Scoring Acoustic Guitars 2, you also get 300+ Motion presets, 380+ NKIs, 71 complex pads, 50 ambient beds and drones, 164 melodic pulses and phrases (wet and dry), 88 rhythmic pedals (wet and dry), 12 performance palettes, three Xtra Playables, Motion page for volume, pitch, and pan pattern creation, as well as Playable Trigger FX for real-time control.

Now, if you’re looking for your everyday, ordinary, organic acoustic guitar sounds, this probably isn’t the place to look. There is a lot to choose from here, but the sounds are best suited to film and video game composition. Whether it’s pads, pulses and phrases, guitarscapes, rhythmic pedals, performance palettes, or otherwise, these pre-crafted sounds will work best to enhance and heighten the emotion of visual content.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Acou6tics by Vir2 Instruments

Acou6tics by Vir2 Instruments

Vir 2 Instruments’ Acou6tics is a Kontakt instrument follows in the footsteps of its award-winning predecessor, Electri6ity. With the same advanced technologies aboard, this virtual acoustic guitar was created using six acoustic instruments – steel-string acoustic, 12-string acoustic, nylon stringed acoustic, ukulele, mandolin, and even a guitalele.

Various attacks and articulations have been captured and are controllable – plectrum and finger picking – and Blulemin stereo recordings and piezo pickup sounds were captured too. In total, there are more than 12 articulations per instrument, with sustains, mutes, releases, legatos, slides, effects, and even hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides. Mic distance is also adjustable.

There are between 4,000 and 8,000 samples per instrument and articulations are available on all strings and frets. You also get an advanced strum engine, picking engine, guitar chord detection (nearly 25,000 chords), guitar noise engine (pick, finger, slide noises), and vibrato engine.

The variety of instruments, articulations, and tweakable parameters are the main draw to Acou6tics. It just so happens that this VST carries a premium price tag, though, so you’d better be sure this is what you want before committing to the purchase.

That said, the sounds are quite impressive. You can tell the difference between all instruments, for example a 12-string acoustic and a guitalele. These are distinct enough to outshine legacy plugins attempting an authentic guitar sound.

That said, we already know the challenge with acoustic guitars when emulated in this way. They end up coming out sounding a little like a harpsichord. And this is true of these instruments too. But the variety makes it fun, versatile, and inviting, and overall, we don’t hear anything a whole lot better coming out of other developers yet either. Vir2 has got the right idea here.

Check out the video for a better sense of how this VST works.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Apollo: Cinematic Guitars by Vir2 Instruments

Apollo: Cinematic Guitars by Vir2 Instruments

Yet another entry via Vir2 Instruments, Apollo: Cinematic Guitars is a bit of a giveaway. Vir2 compares this Kontakt instrument to an “orchestra of guitarists.” Ideally suited to composers, Apollo includes a variety of time-saving content recorded with the best guitars, effects pedals, amps, and signal flow.

With over 22 GB of sample content, Apollo includes five guitar-based categories: ambient designer, swells, pads, phrase builder, and instruments. There are also eight effects and modulation.

If you enjoy creating trippy, backwards chords and harmonics, slides, pads, and other effects, then you will enjoy what Apollo has to offer, because it will save you the time of energy of having to create these from scratch.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In A Guitar VST Plugin?

Besides watching video demos and reviews and picking out the plugins that you think have the best sounds, it would also be wise to identify the different categories of virtual instrument plugins that exist, because that can make the shopping process a little easier on you.

At first brush, they may all appear the same or similar, but by the time we’ve divided them into a few different categories, you’ll see that there are a few different types of guitar VST plugins.

Here, we’ve covered the following:

  • Acoustic. Acoustic guitar may well be one of the toughest sounds to emulate digitally. But developers are getting better and better at it by the day. There are several standout plugins in this category, including SILK, AMBER, and Acou6tics.
  • Electric. The electric guitar is a practical necessity in a variety of genres, especially heavier ones. Some of the best plugins on this list probably are the ones that emulate electric guitar, including IRON 2, CARBON, and SPARKLE.
  • Cinematic. Composers will likely benefit most from this category of VST plugins, but naturally they can be used in a variety of situations as needed. Scoring Acoustic Guitars 2 and Apollo: Cinematic Guitars both provide a large range of cool sounds you can use in your projects.
  • Harmonics. Harmonix is the only plugin in this category. That said, there are plugins like it that essentially take one aspect of the instrument and take it to the next level. These are rarely comprehensive solutions, but they usually do one thing well, and it’s possible other plugins can’t do what these specialty plugins can do.

Granted, there may be times when you need more than one plugin to get the job done. For example, you may have projects that require acoustic guitars, or electric guitars, or in some cases, both. So, it’s not a bad idea to think ahead, because most if not all plugins only do one or the either, not both.

Finally, it’s never a bad idea to consider your budget. There are plugins ranging from about $60 to $400 in this guide, and that is a bit of a spread. It can add up fast, especially if you’re thinking about picking up more than one plugin.

We don’t advise going into debt for any purchases, so either use your budget to filter out your options or opt to save up for the plugin you can’t live without.

Top Guitar VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

Whether it’s to sketch out song ideas or for use in full productions, the above guitar plugins should act as competent virtual instruments to develop and enhance your songs. Guitar isn’t easily emulated, but developers have come a long way, and VST instruments are getting to be more realistic and versatile than ever.

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