My "go to" for recording electric guitars is to throw up a Shure SM57 in front of my Vox AC30 as I love the sound of that amp and the way it feels to play - Watch my review of my Vox AC30 amp here.
There are times though when I need a variety of different guitar tones or simply just an alternative attitude to the sound of the guitar. These are the times when guitar amp plug-ins really come into their own because of the huge variety of tones available within amp plug-in presets. Finding good amp sounds within hundreds of presets though can be a challenge.
A guitar amp plug-in presets must provide me with the following in order for me to deem it suitable:
- Tone - How does it sound? Does the guitar still sound like the guitar?
- Feel - Am I connecting with the sound of preset quickly or do I need to adjust it? Can I play the guitar dynamically?
- Style - Do both the tone and feel of the preset match my style of playing and style of song I'm working on?
Over the years I've recorded through a variety of guitar amp plug-ins. Below are my "go to" clean, crunchy and overdriven guitar amp plug-in presets including short audio examples and reasons for why I use these presets, when I'm not using my Vox AC30, regularly in my guitar recording workflow.
Destructor By Blue Cat Audio - Sultans Of Silk
Guitar amp plug-ins usually include a range of "signature" presets based on notable guitar players and popular guitar led songs. Can you guess what song this preset was based on? When I scroll through guitar amp presets I try to find ones that sound tasteful while complimenting my guitar playing style. The Sultan Of Silk preset is a really sweet sounding tone that makes good use of the built-in compressor component in Destructor. This is by far the best clean to slightly crunchy guitar preset I've found in my guitar amp plug-ins collection as it always fits in whatever mix I'm working on - no matter the song or guitar I'm playing.
If I need to tweak this preset I usually only adjust the Gain control on the Preamp module as this gently shapes the clean/crunch bite.
Vintage Amp Room By Softube - Brown Clean
I have used the Vintage Amp room by Softube for a number of years, in that time I have really taken to the slightly crunchy tones of the Brown "Fender-like" amp. The Brown Clean preset sounds great out of the box but I like to take it a step further by engaging the Vibrato section followed by tweaking the Speed & Intensity controls to get some lovely retro wobble in my guitar tone. I don't really care much for the other two amps in this plug-in as those amps sound too artificial when clean or overdriven.
The Brown Clean preset feels great to play through and responds to the dynamics of my playing in a really tasteful and realistic way. It enables me to feel the notes when I play with varying dynamics. The Vibrato section is also very special, especially when the studio monitors are turned up - it almost feels like I'm playing through a real old Fender amp.
GTR By Waves - ThermitronCrunch
Out of the four presets in this list, Thermitron Crunch in Waves GTR is my bread and butter guitar crunch tone. Many of my clients love to use this with a Telecaster as the results of the two produce great sounding guitars that fit into a mix easily. The tone and crunch characteristics of the ThermitronCrunch preset are very pleasing as the tone isn't too bright and the bass isn't too flabby. This amp generally feels quite tube like and responds very well when single coil pickup are used. The only control I tweak in this preset is the Microphone selector. GTR has 2 modelled condenser microphones and 2 modelled dynamic microphones both with on axis and off axis settings that provide me with some extended tone shaping if needed in the tracking stages.
Guitar Rig 5 By Native Instruments - Carlos In Europe
Finding clean and crunchy guitar tones in guitar amp plug-ins can be challenging, but nowhere near as challenging as finding realistic sounding overdriven tones that feel great to play through the fingertips. Often overdriven guitar tones in guitar amp plug-ins sound over processed - "fake" but I've found one preset that feels great to play through and sounds "true". The preset is called Carlos In Europe found in Guitar Rig 5 by Native Instruments.
Unlike other presets in Guitar Rig 5, this preset is fairly stripped back in terms of components - Amp, Control Room & Reverb and that's it. Out of the box this has a very small amount of ambience which helps to place the amp back slightly. There's just the right amount of gain and balance to the overall tone as well. This is a very engaging preset to play quick-fingered solos through with long sustained notes.
What Are Your Favourite Electric Guitar Amp Plug-in Presets?
Share you favourite electric guitar amp plug-in presets below and why you like to use them.