Who uses guitar virtual effects?

HI! My guitar player is looking to make a move to either a Helix, or some virtual effects. I don’t know which are any good, so I’m asking around. He doesn’t want an amp sim, he’ll use a Blackstar amp, but would like to replace his rack of effects pedals. Does anybody have a set of plugins that they like? Thanks in advance! chris

You will find a specific thread here.

As a guitarist, for FX I can say check out Kilohearts free bundle and add their Snap Heap in order to rack them and modulate them. For distortion pedals, there are tons of them out there, many free. So probably start with Nembrini’s freebies, which includes a crybaby. Between the two of these vendors there is not much that isn’t covered. Definitely check out the Kilohearts pitch shifter if you like a whammy pedal. I have a hardware Whammy 5, a hardware Pitchfork, and the KH pitch shifter hangs with them both quite nicely. And it is free.

1 Like

Here are ones I use in no particular order:

  1. Nembrini
  2. Brainworx (Plugin Alliance)
  3. Blue Cat
  4. Kuassa
  5. Mecuriall
  6. TSE
  7. IK (requires running AmpliTube)

Thank you both! I’ve been using Cantabile for a couple years, now, and am just starting to build a rack and use VSTi, instead of hardware, and he’s the same way. Two dinosaurs, trying to figure out what comes next!

Thank you, we’ll take a look!

LOL, same here!

dsteinschneider mentioned Blue Cat, their “Acufiend” virtual feedback is very good if you want/need that sort of thing. What I really, really like about it is that it can do the edge of feedback that comes across as big sustain. Here’s a clip where I used it for that if you want to hear how it sounds: https://soundcloud.com/user-332340733-693408033/electric-guitar-virtual-feedback-clip

Also, I know you said he doesn’t want an amp sim, but the Mercuriall Bogner is perhaps the best amp sim I’ve tried to date, and as a confirmed tube snob can say its pretty decent.


I use Helix Native in my racks. When I’m working with a guitarist I just put him through that, whether he’s using his own amp sim or not. I use it on my keyboards more than any other plug-ins too. It lacks for nothing.


Thank you, again! So much to explore!

Another confirmed tube snob and gigging musician here… but I made the switch from my amazing 1960 Guild/Ampeg tube amp to Cantabile and amp sims several years ago and never looked back. Not to go off topic, and it may take him a while to let go of the Blackstar, but once he starts seeing what Cantabile can do he may see the light. I’ll get to the effects in a minute but the advantages of using Cantabile and amp sims and effects, all in one box, go far beyond the weight and other obvious advantages. For me, the big ones for gigging and doing covers are:
Song States and Notes… just one button to advance, so you can concentrate on your playing. I use an FCB1010 midi footpedal.
Rack states: save any and all of your tones, and easily tweak to improve a tone without losing your original. Quickly try several tones from your saved patches. I often build/save 3 or 4 versions of a tone, record them over the song, walk away for a bit, then come back and decide which is best.
Tones… You can get just about ANY tone you want. My band mates and audiences are amazed at the tones. I even have banjo-like tones, synth-like tones, etc.
Cost… most of the effects I use are free or cheap, and the amp sims are insanely cheap. Neural DSP are my favorites but Mercurial is great, along with S-Gear, Nembrini, and to some extent TH-U, although it’s not quite as good but certainly gig-able.

Effects… I do use Acoufiend also, very cool once you get it right. Bluecat Re-Guitar is pretty awesome for Stratty tones from HB guitars, and I also use it to enhance my Acoustic tones. For wah I use Neural DSP’s Cory Wong sim, I tried others like the Efektor, Wahman or the wah on THU but they didn’t sound realistic to me. Bluecat chorus and flangers are pretty good, and Melda has a suite of free stuff that’s decent if used properly. I have tons of compressors and each one has a different flavor. I love the Harmony rotary and mda leslie. Most of these are free.
For OD and distortion there are too many to mention. Just search plugin alliance or a general search like “free vst chorus plugin 64 bit” or whatever. My go-to verbs are Abstract Chamber and Voxengo Old Skool Verb. Spaceship Delay is quite good, very versatile.

I have a couple of racks I build in Cantabile for effects. You can also save different rack states to process in parallel or serial, which is very handy.

One last note, after a few years of gigging with Cantabile I tried Midi Guitar 2 (I think it was only $100) and that opened up an entirely new world in sonic possibilities. Especially since we didn’t have a keyboard player at the time. Takes a a couple weeks to clean up your playing and track well but then it’s insane. Strings, piano, leads that sound like nothing else, layering of guitar and synth pads, you’re only limited by your imagination. But hey, I don’t want your guitarists head to explode :grin:
Have fun and good luck. There are many others here who are amazingly helpful and knowledgable!


Thanks Elf! This is much what I figured, so much rabbit hole, so little time. XD

Thank you, Tom!

I have Amplitube, Guitar Rig and countless other VSTs for guitar and I never use them. Helix Native is the only Guitar Vst you will need. Especially with the new engine. It is awesome. I do mostly live performances and it saves carrying the very heavy foot pedal around.

Have both Helix Floor and Helix Native. If I were take my guitar out, probably would go native

Thank you all, your insight is truly helpful!

+1 on the Kilohearts stuff. Even when I use AmpliTube 5 and dedicated VST synths, there are times when a KH Haas Effect, compressor, or EQ block makes for a cleaner, simpler choice than messing around with a bunch of rack modules.


Just to reply to myself, I am thinking of adding ambient guitar to my set as the next step. I have a Mexican strat fitted with a GK3 going into a Boss SY-1000, I also have a Helix, but for live use I am thinking of feeding the SY into my audio interface and using Helix Native or other plugins as suits.

Does anybody else do something similar?

I am thinking this way as whilst I love the SY, the Helix has a lot more modelling options.

I am still pissed that Line6 never did a Lefty JTV …

Yes, I am a south paw…., and whilst I play keys in the conventional way, I could never get on with a rightie guitar. So I got the Mexican strat in South Paw form and went the COSM guitar modelling / guitar synth route. I do have a leftie Variax 500 but it is not as nice to play as the strat and some of the models like the acoustics are less convincing than what is in the SY.

1 Like

I’ve been messing around for years now with the Jam Origin MIDI Bass vst. The polyphonic tracking on the MIDI Guitar version is spectacular, it’s just that I’m a bass player so…

Keeping your guitar to MIDI completely within Cantabile opens up a world of possibilities and simplifies your set-up.


Derek see my post above. I’m with Chrisc-o… Why bring more gear when you don’t have to. You could use the jam origin midi guitar 2. I’ve never used the GK3 but if you can get it to output on a standard MIDI five pin then you can use soft synths and samplers in cantabile. I personally use Midi guitar 2 and last year I got a fisherman triple play for certain samples that just didn’t track well on MG2. So I use one or the other, depending on the instrument. Just as an example, I play all the cellos, strings and horn parts for I am the Walrus, on my guitar with MG2. The sample player is Sforzando and all my sample files are free.

The fishman is the wireless version which actually works quite well, and I use WIDI to wirelessly send MIDI from my controllers and foot pedal. But hey, everyone’s different, use what works for you!

1 Like

Thanks for the recommendations, I will look into MG2, however if you see everything else I am taking out, an extra SY-1000 is the least of my worries, and it is quite a unique box of tricks.

As these are occasional gigs, I am not too fussed about not travelling lite.

The GK3 is just the hex pickup, and you need a processor like the SY-1000 to convert to MIDI, which it will output as well, so I certainly have that as an option in Cantabile.

I did try the SY-1000 into Cantabile and Helix Native the other night, and my early experimentation was that it worked pretty well and will do what I want.