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Guitarists have a wide range of effects at their fingertips with VST, AAX, and AU plugins.
We’ve rounded up the best free plugins for guitarists you can find on the net!
It’s no secret that guitarists these days are spoiled for choice when it comes to effects. There is an absolutely gigantic range of guitar pedals on the market to choose from. But many guitarists also like to have their effects “in the box” by way of plugins inside a DAW.
In this article, we’ll look at the best free guitar plugins that are sure to excite any guitarist, and can also be used with keyboards, vocals, and many other instruments.
What Are The 7 Best Free Guitar Pedal Plugins?
The TSE808 2.0 Lite is our pick for the best free guitar pedal plugin on this list. It is a software recreation of the legendary Ibanez Tube Screamer 808, one of the most popular distortion pedals ever created.
For metal guitarists or anyone that needs very aggressive distortion, the Mercuriall Metal Area is our choice for the best metal guitar pedal plug-in. It is a recreation of the ever-popular BOSS Metal Zone, a modern classic.
For those looking for a good option for modulation, the Mercuriall Chorus WS-1 is a solid choice for a chorus pedal, a recreation of the iconic BOSS CE-2 Chorus Ensemble. Below are our candidates for the 7 best free guitar pedal plugins:
Take a good look at professional pedalboards onstage. Notice anything interesting? Chances are you will spot the unmistakable Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer somewhere in the signal chain, and for good reason.
Countless renowned guitarists have used the TS808 Tube Screamer for its smooth, full tone in the style of overdriven tubes (though it uses diodes). The likes of Eric Johnson, John Mayer, Andy Timmons, Gary Moore, Jerry Cantrell, and many others have relied on the TS808 as an important part of their sound.
With the TSE808 2.0 Lite, TSE Audio offers a recreation of this iconic Ibanez distortion and overdrive pedal. You get the sound of the classic, massively collectible TS808 Tube Screamer, all in your DAW, and for free!
Recreation of the classic Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer overdrive effects pedal
Analog flavor reminiscent of the original Tube Screamer
Gives you a smooth, full overdrive in the style of an overdriventube amp
Tone, Overdrive, and Level controls so that you can tweak your sound
Also includes two switches that allow it to be used in Mono or Stereo or Hi and Lo Quality level
The TS808 Tube Screamers is a classic as well as a modern pedalboard staple. The original Tube Screamer propelled into fame when Stevie Ray Vaughan used it to create his signature tone.
Today, those original TS808 Tube Screamers command high prices on the collector’s market and remain popular among discerning guitarists.
Now, TSE Audio gives you the chance to have those sought-after tones, without spending a dime. Download the free plug-in and start pushing your amp (virtual, on your DAW), and find your tone with perhaps the most iconic distortion pedal in history.
This plug-in provides a wide range of gain with that characteristic midrange bump that made the Tubescreamer a legend!
This free plug-in by Mercuriall emulates the classic Metal Zone pedal by BOSS. This recreation offers the very popular compressed gain that is so valued by metal guitarists.
Just like the original, Mercuriall’s Metal Area offers you a 3 band equalizer that lets you chose a range from 200 Hz to 5 kHz. This emulation can also work in stereo.
Simply said, this is a solid emulation of a modern classic that is a staple among metal guitarists. Guitarists like Brian “Head” Welch and James “Munky” Shaffer from the band Korn have employed the BOSS Metal Zone for years.
If you ever wanted to try it out, the Mercuriall Metal Area lets you see if it’s for you. For free!
Provides super-long sustain with heavy mids and lows
3-band EQ with semi-parametric midrange control delivers plenty of tone-shaping options
Tailor-made for hard rock and metal guitarists
The original Metal Zone is one of the most famous stompboxes by BOSS, beloved for its unique dual-gain circuitry that provides you with massive distortion tones.
Mercuriall’s plug-in emulation gives you similar dense levels of saturation, super-long sustain, and heavy mids and lows that are evocative of a stack of overdriven amps, just like the original Metal Zone.
Its 3-band EQ with semi-parametric midrange control gives you lots of tone-shaping options, providing you with control over a wide range of over-the-top distortion sounds and textures.
If you’re a hard rock or metal guitarist, then the BOSS MT-2 Metal Zone distortion pedal is one of the strongest candidates for your pedal board’s distortion duties. Now you can have this for free as a plug-in, thanks to Mercuriall’s Metal Area.
ProF.E.T. is a digital emulation of a high gain distortion preamp/stomp-box for guitar. It has been developed to accurately model its real hardware counterpart, designed and built by Ignite Amps in 2018.
Ignite Amp’s Pro F.E.T. is a digital emulation of a high gain distortion preamp/stomp-box for guitar. It was developed to accurately model its real hardware counterpart, designed and built by Ignite Amps in 2018.
4 controls tone stack with additional Shape switch
Mono and Stereo processing support
Selectable oversampling rate (up to 8x)
Global input and output level controls
This free VST plug-in from Ignite Amps provides a high gain JFET-based overdrive, with all of the saturation and harmonics you would expect from the real deal.
The tone section has four controls over highs, lows, and high and low mids, with a Shape toggle switch that changes the character of the EQ curve, for added tonal flexibility.
The Pro F.E.T. was not really designed to get low gain sounds, so keep that in mind. It is more of a tight distortion with a fast attack that will be great for guitarists who play metal and other heavy styles.
Ignite Amp’s Pro F.E.T. supports mono or stereo output, and all controls can be automated within your DAW. Additionally, the Pro F.E.T features a 4 controls-based tone stack with 2 different modes that ensure maximum versatility and tone-shaping options.
You can use this VST plug-in as a preamp or a distortion unit in front of a clean amplifier, and it will deliver quality results in both cases.
The Pro F.E.T features a double-precision (64-bit) floating-point mathematical model, fully automatable controls, and Ignite Amps’ proprietary preset management system with bank file import/export functions.
The Mercuriall Chorus WS-1 is the only modulation guitar pedal plugin on this list. It is loosely modeled after the BOSS CE-2, the famous blue chorus ensemble pedal.
Launched in 1976, the CE-2 Chorus Ensemble was the world’s first chorus effect pedal and the very first BOSS pedal, and its sound was used for many other iconic pieces of gear, such as the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus amp.
The CE-2 has been used by the likes of Brian May, Eric Clapton, and John Frusciante, and was the basis for a legendary sound that defined an era and is still sold today in its original form.
Lucky for us, Mercuriall has created a VST emulation of the CE-2 with the WS-1. Oh yeah, and it’s free!
Depth, Speed, and Mix control
Modeled after the legendary BOSS CE-1
Capable of pitch shifting
Can run in mono or stereo
Compatible with Windows and Mac
The Mercuriall Chorus WS-1 allows you to control the amount of modulation with depth, and there isn’t much detuning at lower settings. On the other hand, going above 25% starts to introduce pitch shifting, which can add to your sonic palette and increase the usability of this plug-in.
It features a Speed knob that affects the rate of the pitch shift, while the Mix knob sets the overall wet/dry balance. It can run in mono or stereo, and while it’s more on the subtle side of chorusing it adds a dimension that is a great alternative to the chorus plug-ins that come bundled with DAWs.
Overall, it’s a great choice of chorus effect for your DAW, and it’s free! System requirements for the Mercuriall Chorus WS-1 are Windows 64-bit VST/AAX, Mac 64-bit VST, AU, AAX.
This free VST distortion pedal plug-in features the familiar three-knob setup as an Ibanez Tube Screamer, but with an additional sweep control that tailors the midrange, allowing you to get that scooped distortion sound that is favored in metal.
It was designed specifically for down-tuned guitars to stay tight and fast with the lower registers. Like the other Ignite plug-ins, it is a meticulously modeled simulation with controls that can be automated, oversampling options, and mono or stereo output.
It is compatible with Windows and Mac 64-bit VST/VST3/AU. This is a fantastic choice for those lovers of the Tube Screamer that play metal or require very aggressive distortion.
Deep Crunch is the official emulation of the analog boutique guitar pedal manufactured by Heptode. Inspired by the Soldano SLO-100 amp crunch channel, Virtual Deep Crunch produces very realistic tubish crunchy sounds.
The Heptode Deep Crunch features a 3-band EQ, gain, and level controls dial in your sound, and you can toggle on and off the onboard cabinet simulation.
Its design features a typical stompbox approach with five knobs at the top with a cab sim switch, a footswitch that activates and deactivates the effect, and in/out quarter-inch ports.
It is based on the Heptode’s Soldanos Super Lead Overdrive 100 (SLO-100) stompbox. This amp set the standard for modern high-gain amplification and remains a popular choice today for those that can afford its price tag.
The Heptode Deep Crunch is great for all styles of rock and plays nicely with basically any source you decide to pair it with. It is compatible with Windows and Mac as a 32bit and 64bit VST.
The R47 by TSE is a digital emulation of the famous RAT pedal by Pro Co. This pedal became quite popular during the ’70s for its warm distorted tone, simplicity of use, and durability.
It has enjoyed continued popularity during the years and is used by Metallica’s guitarists Kirk Hammet and James Hetfield.
Now as a free DSP plug-in by TSE, the R47 is well suited for semi-clean/crunch to high gain sounds. You can use it before an amp-sim or alone on a track right before a guitar-cabinet emulation software.
The Pro Co “The RAT” is a distortion pedal with a very simple circuit, which can be broken down into four simpler blocks: distortion stage, tone control, output stage, and power supply.
The R47 by TSE is a nice emulation of this legendary distortion pedal, and just like all the others on this list, it’s totally free.
The overall design of the original RAT pedal is pretty similar to that of the BOSS DS-1 distortion pedal. However, the RAT has a very unique sound that still appeals to many guitarists, almost half a century after its initial release.
It’s a fantastic time to be a guitarist when you consider the range of tone-shaping options provided by VST plugins. Just a few years ago, if you wanted to try effects or stompboxes at home, you’d have to either buy them or borrow them.