13 Best VST Plugins For Rock Music 2024

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Whether you’re just getting started as a producer, or you’ve gained some experience, rock projects likely won’t be in short supply. That means you’ve got to be ready for the occasion, whether you’re working on a project yourself, or recording one of your clients.

In this guide, we look at the tools of the trade. You’ll discover the best VST plugins for rock music.

BFD3 by BFD – Best Overall

One thing we know about modern rock is that sometimes drum plugins are used in place of real drummers. There can be many reasons for that, including lack of budget, lack of personnel, or lack of proper gear to capture the drums in a satisfactory way.

BFD’s BFD3 is still a killer (and sometimes forgotten) option for creating massive-sounding drum tracks. This software acoustic drum studio offers a realistic sound while offering an array of tweakable parameters to give you maximum flexibility.

If you need to go beyond the standalone virtual instrument, it’s well worth checking out BFD expansions. You’ll find handy tools like Dark Farm, Metal Snares, The Black Album Drums, and more suited to rock and metal projects.

Overall, BFD3 is of incredible value. That, and the plugin sounds great. That’s what makes it our best overall selection.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

BIAS FX 2 Elite by Positive Grid – Best Premium Option

BIAS FX 2 Elite by Positive Grid – Best Premium Option

If you’re not adequately set up for killer guitar sounds, you should consider getting your hands on BIAS FX 2 Elite – Positive Grid’s top of the line amp sim / guitar effects rack / workstation.

BIAS FX is well-known for being one of the most configurable virtual guitar multi-effects of its kind, and it certainly lives up to its reputation here.

The latest version gives you access to Guitar Match, 100 new amps, 100 new effects, 200 new factory presets, more HD racks, fuzz modeler, time modeler, harmonizer modeler, custom artist presets, and more.

There’s very little BIAS FX 2 Elite can’t do. So, if you’d like to have your bases covered in terms of guitar tones and effects, you might want to check out this, our best premium selection.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

bx_2098 EQ by Brainworx – Best Budget Option

bx_2098 EQ by Brainworx – Best Budget Option

Taking after the famous Amek 9098 EQ, Brainworx’ bx_2098 EQ brings you the classic British EQ in convenient digital form.

This EQ features Tolerance Modeling Technology (TMT), 20 channels, THD control for analog style harmonic distortion, full M/S capabilities, and slightly varied L/R channels.

Additionally, bx_2098 also lets you add stereo width to your tracks, giving you the ability to affect the stereo field without additional plugins.

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Guitar Rig 6 Pro by Native Instruments

Guitar Rig 6 Pro by Native Instruments

Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 Pro is the latest edition in their long-running guitar amp sim workstation. And this version features new everything – new look, amps, effects, and even machine learning technology.

New amps include Chicago (a rare mid-50s combo amp), Bass Invader (a vintage solid-state bass amp), Fire Breather (an American boutique amp), and Rammfire (an emulation of the Pre-500 Dual Rectifier amp).

In addition to improvements for Matched Cabinet Pro, Guitar Rig 6 Pro also comes with some exciting new effects like Red Fuzz, Raum, Crush Pack, Mod Pack, Reverb Classics, Vintage Compressors, Supercharger and Supercharger GT, Driver, Reflektor, and more.

The Intelligent Circuit Modeling technology helps reproduce the behavior of hardware gear, giving your amp emulations a more realistic, organic, and satisfying sound.

Fans of Guitar Rig should certainly have a look at this.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

SSL Guitarstrip by Solid State Logic

SSL Guitarstrip by Solid State Logic

Solid State Logic’s SSL Guitarstrip is a channel strip that was built specifically for acoustic, electric, and bass guitars. It comes with four processing modules to help you dial in your perfect tones from one convenient, beautifully designed interface.

Kick things off with the Drive module, with two emulations built for guitar and bass amps. Take advantage of the boost, punch, edge, and shape controls to tweak the effect to taste.

Next up is the Phase Correction module. If there are any phase issues with your layered guitar tracks, this module should help. In addition to two phase correction routing modes, you also get a sidechain mode, left chan and right chan modes, correlation meter, delay and phase invert controls, and an allpass filter.

The Compressor module features five compressor presets, auto-gain, a gain reduction meter, and a compressor mix control.

Finally, there’s a simplified three-band channel EQ with an asymmetrical low gain control, mid gain, pre / post control, and EQ auto listen.

If that wasn’t enough, the channel strip also features a 24dB / 8ve high-pass filter at the input stage.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Pulsar 1178 by Pulsar Audio

Pulsar 1178 by Pulsar Audio

If you don’t already have a capable compressor, you should certainly consider Pulsar 1178 for your rock projects. This is one of the most versatile FET compressors available, taking after the original 1178 hardware unit.

Pulsar Audio, however, added even more features to make this a true powerhouse – full sidechain EQ, optional saturation, and precision metering.

While compressors are generally used to manage dynamics and transients, the Pulsar 1178 can do so much more than that, adding a bright character and giving you the option of adding definition to vocals or squashing the transients of a drum room.

Whether for vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, drum overheads, or buss and master compression, Pulsar 1178 is a tool well worth adding to your arsenal.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

OptoRED by Tone Empire

OptoRED by Tone Empire

Tone Empire’s OptoRED is a transparent optical compressor based on a classic American hardware unit. And it’s got a real analog vibe to it too.

The OptoRED compressor features a built-in sidechain circuit, low-pass filter, automatic gain, wet / dry mix, and other great features.

Whether on vocals, bass, drums, percussion, synths, or just about any acoustic or electronic instruments, OptoRED is sure to produce the versatile results you need for rock music.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Weiss Deess by Softube

Weiss Deess by Softube

Cleaning up vocals plays an important role in most genres, and one of the most capable de-essers out there is Softube’s Weiss Deess. This is a handy tool even for touching up piercing hi-hat sounds or unwanted harshness in masters.

Additionally, this de-esser brings together many of the features you simply won’t find with other similar plugins – visualization, an easy workflow, and versatility.

Its algorithm is based on the industry standard DS1-MK3. It comes with two bands of de-essing, tweak-and-go faceplate with detailed controls, low-latency mode, filter shapes and frequencies, and as noted, intuitive metering.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

SPL Vitalizer MK2-T by Brainworx

SPL Vitalizer MK2-T by Brainworx

Brainworx’ SPL Vitalizer MK2-T is an unmasking EQ for making music and speech more comprehensible. You can also increase the loudness of tracks or boost their stereo width.

This plugin features component level modeling of the SPL EQ. It gives you the ability to unmask overlapping sounds, enhance the presence sounds, increase perceived loudness, soften or tighten low end, selectively compress the low end, balance lows and highs, and widen mixes.

SPL Vitalizer MK2-T also comes with mono, stereo, or multi-channel operation. For an EQ that’s a little outside the box, the plugin is relatively low cost too.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Brusfri by Klevgrand

Brusfri by Klevgrand

Klevgrand’s Brusfri isn’t your average gate effect. This advanced noise reducer lets you clean up noisy audio of any kind – and for those working on rock projects, that’s a godsend.

Perhaps best of all Brusfri is simple in setup. It includes three sections – the attack / threshold / release section for controlling the internal expanders, the learn button for analyzing noise, and tonality section for fine-tuning.

In many cases, the only thing you will need to do to reduce noise is hit the learn button, which allows for near automatic noise reduction. But Brusfri does come with additional controls just in case.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Cerberus Bass Amplifikation by Kuassa

Cerberus Bass Amplifikation by Kuassa

As much as bass players are the butt of the joke, bass guitar does play an important role in rock projects, and it can be a hard thing to get right in a mix.

Kuassa’s low-cost amp sim, Cerberus Bass Amplifikation, though, can give you very usable tones out of the box, increasing the chances that you will get the tones right.

This solution features three amp types (valve, FET, and drive), additional tone sculpting options (parametric EQ, 10-band graphic EQ, compressor, contour, and limiter), dual 3d mic placement, Impulse Response loader, and more.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Pro-R by FabFilter

FabFilter Pro-R by FabFilter

I don’t think any producer would argue that you need reverb for rock music. You may not use it on everything all the time, but you’ll probably come close.

There are more sophisticated reverb plugins available on the market than ever, but one that stands close to the top of the heap (if not at the top of the heap) is FabFilter Pro-R.

FabFilter Pro-R features a huge list of options you can explore on your own time, but it should suffice to say that it’s capable of an array of sounds (small ambiences, rooms, concert halls, cathedrals, and more) that fit nicely into any mix.

If it’s time for a reverb upgrade, FabFilter Pro-R is well worth a look.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Decapitator by Soundtoys

Decapitator by Soundtoys

Now, I get it that with rock music you’re likely to be working with multiple distorted tracks already. At the very least, it is very likely that the guitars are distorted. But that still doesn’t mean that you won’t need a nice saturation to add to vocals, drums, or otherwise.

One of the most popular, to-rated, and well-regarded saturation plugins on the market is Soundtoys’ Decapitator. Sure, it might carry a higher price tag than most, but it can also do more than most, and besides, it just sounds so good.

Decapitator has five types of distortion built in – A, E, N, T, and P. You’ve got control over the drive, low cut, tone, high cut, output, and mix. And if you need to add a little edge to your saturation you can give the “Punish” button a try.

In developing Decapitator, Soundtoys worked with an array of vintage and modern hardware, including EQs, compressors, studio distortions, consoles, and preamps. They then analyzed and identified the most unique sounding pieces of gear and modeled their sound.

Whether you need to beef up a track, think it out, give it an edge, add some warmth, create a signature sound, or even draw certain tracks out of the mix, you’ll enjoy working with Decapitator.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In A VST Plugin For Rock Music?

If there’s one thing we know about rock music it’s that you’re typically going to have vocals, drums, bass, guitars, and sometimes keyboard or synth tracks to mix. That part is easy.

What can be far more complicated is the fact that there are many types of rock, and there aren’t necessarily any “one size fits all” solutions. It depends a lot on your preferences as well as the stylistic choices that work.

Here are some factors to consider in choosing the right plugins for you.

Assess Your Needs

Is there anything missing in your VST arsenal? Do a quick assessment before buying anything. There probably are some gaps you need to fill. And you probably have some plugins that will make the cut.

Where should you spend the most money? In the gaps you have to fill.

Sound Quality

Whether it’s a guitar multi-effect, EQ, or reverb, it’s well worth listening to the plugins before you decide which to buy. Importantly, consider which ones are going to get you the results you’re looking for.

Since there are video demos, reviews, and audio clips for virtually every plugin, you can take your time and listen to each one before deciding, which is recommended. And if you want to go deeper into each plugin, you can also read customer reviews.

Features

What features does the plugin come with? Do you know what you need?

Some plugins come with more features than others. More features aren’t always better, but more features generally do cost more. So, that’s worth keeping in mind, especially if budget is a consideration.

While there aren’t too many straight comparisons that will apply (because of the variety of plugins featured), it is worth examining what the plugins come with to arrive at a better buying decision.

Budget

While buying plugins isn’t all about budget, we would still recommend checking your budget before making any purchases. One plugin may not cost you much, but the more you add to your shopping cart, the easier it becomes to spend hundreds or even $1,000+ in one go.

We don’t recommend going into debt for any purchases. We want you to be able to enjoy your new tools, not be crying over the credit card bills you can’t pay. So, please spend responsibly. You’ll have more fun that way.

Top VST Plugins For Rock Music, Final Thoughts

Remember – there are no “one size fits all” solutions for rock music. Some of the above may work for you. Some of the tools may not. It’s well worth putting some extra time into research to find exactly the tools that will serve you and help you achieve the results you’re looking to achieve.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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