Quick guides

Quick Guide: Top products for beginners

Being brand new to amp sims can make even the simplest of plugins seem complex and if the amp sims require a DAW, then the whole experience can be quite tricky to get used to. For a list of helpful starter tips, please read our “Getting started with amp sims” post to make sure you have what you need to get going. Some users are coming to plugins with the advantage of analog/hardware experience. Others coming in are however are coming in completely new to gear in general. Either way, it can be a bit of a frustrating experience.

Full-suite type plugins like Amplitube, Guitar Rig or Bias FX have for years been the go-to for a lot of guitarists when entering the plugin world. These plugins have their benefits for those newer to plugins because they give the user a “kid in a candy store feeling” but our recommendation for any new amp sim user is to keep it simple. There are many plugins better suited to intermediate to advanced users but even the simplest of plugins can be all that’s needed to get the job done.

Weak plugins can make for a terrible first impression that can leave players reaching for alternatives. Full-suite plugins and their giant population of expansion packs can really add up cost-wise. It’s a lot of money to spend when testing the waters but the marketing makes the expansions look pretty juicy. In the end, many users end up with purchase regret when it comes to plugins they bought before they knew better. Why not get started with stuff that sounds great? For a criteria, we are aiming at compact, free to modestly priced plugins with a very simple GUI that are capable of delivering great tone.

It’s easy to reach for the most popular plugins on the market first thing and in most cases, developers have terrific how-to videos and support teams to help new users settle in very nicely. The top of the heap can however involve a signal chain of components that require a little more “know-how” to get a full user experience. Plugins like the Archetype series from Neural DSP, the Tonality series from STL Tones and other similar plugins have been designed with fairly uniform GUIs that make exploring the plugins easier for all users but getting started with even easier-to-use plugins will only help future exploration.

The plugins in our list set potential new users up for nothing but a positive and high quality first impression. They are also tools that carry a level of quality that will impress experienced users and professionals. The plugins on our list will fuel no buyers remorse if there’s a cost to them at all. All of these plugins will remain effective and useful for a long time to come.

HASR recommended beginner plugins

Please note that this is a basic selection and we are aware that there are many other terrific plugins that are very easy to use. If you have a selection you’d like to recommend, please do email us!

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