If you are a bass player you may associate your rig with shaking the room and driving your family and neighbors nuts. If you have a tube amp it's pretty hard to practice at a low volume and get a decent tone. This is one situation where having one of the best bass amp simulators at your disposal could come in handy.
The fact is, even as little as 5 years ago you could be forgiven for expecting absolute trash from a sim. But, the technology has improved at a dramatic pace. Hardware sims like Axe-FX and Kemper amps are even replacing real amps at gigs these days.
Whether you are just looking for something to practice at home with headphones, to record with, or even play a gig there are plenty of high-quality amp sims out there now. There are also some terrible ones. So, we have put together a list of our favorites ranging from free to hundreds of dollars. You should be able to find something in this list that fits your needs and budget.
Many of the more expensive bass amp sims we suggest are actually full guitar amp suites. If you also play guitar or take your home studio seriously they are definitely worth the extra cost. You get more variety in tones, effects, filters from these options.
The free stuff is also pretty decent. They're perfect if you are getting a sim to practice with and don't need A+ studio-quality sound.
Of the three big dogs in the guitar amp modeling world, GR6 Pro is our favorite when it comes to bass.
They offer two different dedicated bass amp heads and a few different guitar amps that are conducive to creating a sweet bass tone. One example of such is a Fender Bassman equivalent.
Guitar Rig is the most recently updated full-service package from one of the most reliable names in plugin technology. You can trust that the realism of the tones is completely on point and the UX is straightforward.
There are plenty of virtual stompboxes and other effects such as reverb straight "out of the box". This means you can shape the sound to your will in minute detail. There are a total of 68 different effects and filters. Insane!
Each amp sim has its own unique cabinet impulse response that can tailor or reassign. You also have three different modes to control mic placement, EQ, phase alignment, and other details. On top of this, there are 16 microphone types available, and 27 cabinets. If you can't build the tone you are after with all those options you must be looking for something incredibly specific. In that case, you will have to go out and get that exact physical amp.
As this is a Native Instruments pack, you can also get it as part of the Komplete Bundle. This is their plugin package that contains everything a bedroom (or professional) producer would need. It includes mastering plugins, effects, filters, and midi instruments. If you plan to create radio quality mixes in a range of different genres it is worth considering. It costs a pretty penny though, so make sure it is something you will actually use. At around 10% of buying the plugins separately it's a fair deal, but dropping $1K at once is a big deal for some.
As a musician that plays a string instrument, It is likely you have heard of Positive Grid. Unless of course, you were living under a rock in 2020.
Their extended product launch for the Spark Amp was everywhere for a long time. I know I couldn't log into any social media without having a targeted ad or review thrown in my face for months on end. It was a little annoying, but at the end of the day, it is a good product. This pack uses the same tone library as the Spark so it has access to a HUGE array of sounds for guitar and bass.
This package is our favorite when it comes to ease of use and guitar tone. The user-generated tone library makes it very easy to find an appropriate tone without having to mess with settings too much. This makes it great for the less tech-savvy among us. You can also mess with the massive amount of settings and FX to tweak the sound to your liking.
There are 4 bass presets in this package. That does not mean it is limited to 4 amp heads by any means. This guitar amp simulator allows users to build tone from the ground up. This means in the community library there are hundreds of bass tones. How's that for variety?
The simulation from this plugin is very close to a real amp. Most people would not be able to tell the difference in a recording. Spot-on recreations of famous tones to crazy settings are at the user's fingertips.
In our opinion, Bias Amp is the reason Guitar Rig 6 exists as they made it necessary for Native Instruments to upgrade. However, GR6 is the newer of the two and has a bit more settings to mess with. These are important for bass, which is why GR6 is a little better for the fat strings. You would not be disappointed with either of these choices though.
Keep an ear to the ground for if either of these goes on sale as they cost around the same and are both fantastic.
Softube has an outstanding suite for guitar amplifier simulation called Amp Room. Unlike many other packaged options, this only includes ONE bass amp with it. Not ideal, but the fact is, the single bass sim is fabulous and deserves its own following.
Is it worth buying a suite worth of guitar amplifier sims just to access one bass amp? If you are a guitarist, yes! You will get plenty of use out of the other simulators too. If you are only using one sim, it still probably is. For example, you can buy an add-on that emulates an Eden WT-800 for Amp Room and it costs more than the full suite. So, going off that cost, the guitar amp sims in the package deal are just a bonus.
You can use Amp Room as a VST plugin, RTAS or AU.
The difference between this package and many other amp simulator packages is the few included options. What they lack in modeling alternatives they make up for with accuracy of sound.
This is an option if you are going to do some 'serious' recording with your bass. You will need to add-in your own effects from outside this plugin. The cost of this can add up very quickly if you're buying individual effects. That is why it is hard to recommend this sim over others with more inclusions. Yet, the accuracy of the tones keeps this suite as being a hot contender for our favorite.
To be honest, the graphics are not great. However, the interface is easy to navigate through and has a lot of options to work with. It could be a little daunting for someone without a lot of experience with setting up a physical amp for recording. It will, however, feel very familiar for veterans.
There are three cabinets available to pair with the single head. You select these by clicking on them and dragging them into the "room" on the screen. Here is where it gets a bit tricky for beginners. You can adjust the mic distance and lateral offset of the microphone by dragging with your mouse. The process is relatively simple, but to know what those settings actually do is impossible unless you have done it before. You may have to fiddle around for a while to figure out what you're doing.
There is a DI box, amp control panel, and a limiter. Each of which has fairly standard controls for each respective item's real-life equivalent. With all these controls you can dial in anything from a fat, deep, warm sound to a punchy, tight, and bright one.
They have modeled the included head on a DR103 Hiwatt head from the late '60s. It was originally a guitar head but has fantastic bass response. Softube chose this head as you can get it to break up if you drive it hard to get aggressive tones.
Because of the control you have, and the variety of tones that this amp can produce, the sounds you can conjure are actually quite versatile. This is surprising given the lack of alternate amp heads. Each of the three included cabinet simulators gives a different flavor to the mix.
We would recommend using a few other effects from your library or downloading some free ones if you want to expand the tonal variety of this sim. However, the three different cabinets offer enough variety for your average user.
You wouldn't be recording an album with a different physical amplifier for each song so why would you need to do that with a simulator?
This is NOT the highest quality amp sim plugin pack by any means. It was up there at one point, but the fact is it's a little too old to keep up with the big dogs now. With that in mind, you can pick this up for <$50 as it is frequently on sale.
It's fun to mess around with and has plenty of different amp and cabinet options for bass. There are also many bass relevant effects such as compression pedals. We wouldn't use it to record with, but it is fine to practice with.
This is a good option for the budget-conscious player that still wants a huge tone library.
The amount of virtual amplifier options in this package is huge but it only has one bass amp sim included. This makes it the worst of the big 3 guitar VST bundles for bass.
It still sounds great, and its integration with other IK products such as iRig makes it a smart choice for using at a gig. If you plan to do this, Amplitube is still worthy of your consideration. This is especially true if you would also get a lot of use out of its electric guitar amp sims too.
The bass player of one of the rival bands on my local scene when I was a teenager had a Gallien Kruger amp. I was always super jealous. My little solid-state 50w Peavey did the job, but, there was a canyon of difference between the bass sound of our bands. Now, I can get the tone I was so jealous of for FREE!
This LE version is the free edition of the GK Amplification 2 Pro from Audified. It has many of the great features from the paid version but only emulates one amp instead of three. The virtual amp you get for free is the Gallien-Kruger MG150. These amps are a very popular 1x12 150w combo. They are famous for packing a punch in a small package.
The paid version of this amp sim includes two other amps. These are an 800RB and 2001RB. In my opinion, these sound fatter, and more like the GK sound I fell in love with. You can't blame Audified for keeping the best amps for the paid version though. How else would they make their money?
This is a bit older than some of our other top-rated picks. In spite of this, the GUI has held up pretty well. It is not full HD so it won't blow your mind if you are using a high-res monitor but it still looks crisp enough to not be a turn-off.
It is easy to navigate, with the same tone control knobs you can expect to see on the physical version of the amp. If you know how to dial in a tone you love on a GK amp you'll be able to do the same here with no worries.
You won't need to break a sweat memorizing anything special here. If you want something that has a billion settings to play with this probably isn't the choice for you. If you want to just plug in and play, it's perfect.
It's very Gallien-Kruger-y. This brand has a pretty well-known tone and this amp sim replicates it well, especially for a free sim. The sim is minutely responsive to changes in your playstyle. You can really hear the pop of your thumb if you're slapping hard. It's punchy, and driven, just what you would expect from a real GK amp.
Playing with the bridge pickup can get a little harsh when getting up to the higher frets. You may want to mess with the settings a little bit to roll off the treble and mids.
This sim should be able to cover pretty much any musical style you throw at it. However, comparatively speaking to packages where you get more than one amp, its tonal variety is quite narrow. The MG150 lends itself particularly well to punk and thrash metal. This is due to its ability to push its way through a mix when competing with a band.
You can up your game by getting the paid version of this plugin. It costs around $75 so it won't destroy your savings account either. The extra two modeled amps will give you even more variety and access to extras such as additional cabinet options and effects.
It's free! You can try it for yourself rather than trusting my opinion. I do believe you will end up buying the full suite if you try this one out though. It's a good choice for the budget-conscious even as a paid sim.
If you play bass guitar then you have to be familiar with the SansAmp Bass Driver DI. It's one of the most popular pieces of bass gear and is often used in lieu of an actual amplifier at gigs. Talk about easy load-in! It is for this reason this pedal-like sim has made our top list even though it doesn't replicate a speaker cabinet too.
This plugin would also be happy to go into your physical bass amp or even a powered bass cabinet. This means you could save buying a real SansAmp if you've got the right connections from your laptop. Using a virtual option is a lot trickier to fiddle with settings mid-gig though. So, if your setlist requires a few different tones you should opt for the real deal instead.
The company behind the BOD 2.0 sim is TSE. They're an extremely reliable brand when it comes to free audio software. They have their flagship paid products as well but they don't skimp out on their free software as a result. They also continue to update these free products so you can rest assured you will be able to squeeze many years of use from this simulator.
Given that the SansAmp driver has been around since the '90s, this plugin has seen a long life with a few different versions. The graphics in the most recent iteration of this plugin are greatly improved when compared to older versions. It won't feel outdated when paired with your DAW or other plugins.
The aesthetics are obviously reminiscent of a physical SansAmp driver, as are the controls. You have control knobs for level, drive, low, high, blend, and presence to mold the sound to your liking.
There is also a "footswitch" to turn bypass mode on or off. It's nice and simple to dial in the desired tone, especially if you have used a real SansAmp or similar pedal before.
The variety of uses for this sim is one of its strong suits. You can use it on its own or as part of a chain into an amp sim. It also works great plugged into a physical amp or PA. An additional way you could use this plugin is as a virtual preamp. Pair it with plugins for tube emulation and an impulse loader and it'll blow you away. Who'd have thought a preamp sim would be best used as a preamp?
A good idea for a free setup would be to pair this with the GK amp sim. Two free amp simulators that when paired give outstanding results.
Lacking cabinet simulation is a mildly frustrating part of using this sim. It is of course easy enough to add another free sim to fix this but that may create latency. Especially for those of us with older computers and demanding DAWs.
The signal path remains noise-free whatever you throw at it, unless of course, you are aiming to build some overdrive on purpose. Each of the controls brings value to the overall versatility of the tone created by this sim. Messing around with them can be a lot of fun and can give you an impression of what this plugin can do.
I recommend cutting the presence right back and slowly reintroducing it until you get the sound you desire.
Despite how versatile the BOS is, it is best used with additional plugins. Given that it is free it is definitely something to try out. Pair it with an amp sim or any number of other quality pedal sims like fuzz or boost and you'll get unbelievably realistic phat tones.
Whichever amp software you decide to go with there is often a free version to try out. Unfortunately, this is often for a guitar amp and not for a bass guitar. If you are dipping your toes into plugins it may be best to start out with a free option like GK LE. As your knowledge increases, you could upgrade to GR 6 or something similar.
The packages are well worth the investment and can cater to a massive amount of needs. Be sure you will get enough use out of them to justify the cost.