Studio Devil British Valve Custom
The British Valve Custom began with founder and lead DSP engineer Marc Gallo painstakingly measuring and digitally mimicking a 12AX7A triode based preamp circuit (the basis of the legendary JCM800 and countless other tube amps). The result is an extremely realistic Marshall-esque emulation. The way the high end breaks up and the tight low end are both extremely realistic.
The stripped down interface is extremely user friendly and inviting, just like a real amp. Also just like the real deal, cranking everything to 10 (except the presence) results in that classic brown sound made famous in the early 80’s by EVH. Highly recommended.
Studio Devil also offers a more feature laden plug in, Virtual Guitar Amp, which includes 18 distinct amplifier models and power amp drive control for sale at their site.
Voxengo has a great reputation for creating high quality affordable VST effects, and I guess you can’t get more affordable than free! Boogex is probably the most well known free amp modeling VST and for good reason. Not only do you get a large amount of tonal control to shape the gain stages and equalization, Boogex includes a convolution based cabinet and microphone modeling engine and a nice (if slightly confusing) graphical interface.
Tones can be as smooth or harsh as you want, and if you don’t like the included cabinet/mic impulse responses (which is doubtful based on the extremely genous and varied selection), you have the ability to load up your own. A great feature of Boogex is the ability to mix in some of your direct signal using the tone control (strangely named in my opinion, mix would have been a better choice). Turning the control all the way down allows you to use the Boogex convolution engine without the built in amp modeling. Very nice!
I’m extremely interested to see future amp modeling offerings from Voxengo.
If there is such a thing as “vintage” VST effects, the MDA suite would certainly garner that label as these have been floating around forever. Bundled with the comprehensive plugin package is Combo, an amp and speaker emulator. The user interface is…well there’s not one just the default Windows interface as this was initially designed prior to any Windows DAW supporting VSTs!
Controls are sparse including stereo/mono toggle, speaker selection, gain, bias, and level. Slight adjustments to the bias control allow for some cool “my amp is about to explode” sounds and the off axis 4 x 12 cabinet is uncannily effective in emulating the phase cancelation of single micing a multiple speaker cabinet. Also interesting is the one inch speaker setting which actually works well for special effect scenarios such as the vocal-into-bullhorn effect.
SimulAnalog Guitar Suite
Here is another classic, forgotten in the vastness of the internet. The Guitar Suite started as an academic research project to model every element within an electronic circuit digitally. The generous suite includes VST effects claiming to emulate a Boss DS-1, Boss SD-1, Ibanez tube Screamer, Oberhein PS-1, Univox Univibe, ’69 Fender Twin, and Marshall JCM900. As with MDA Combo, there’s really no interface.
So how does everything sound? Not bad! The amp models lack some of the dynamic realism of more recent offerings and you’ll have to use a separate vst for speaker cab modeling (like Boogex or S.I.R.); however they capture the general characteristics of their real world counterparts.