Guitarists looking to ditch their hardware amplifier and explore the myriad options available for amp simulation and guitar effects processing offered by modern software will likely need to get their hands on a DAW.
Many of these come pre-loaded with some kickass preset tones - Logic, Ableton, Reason and Cubase included. Logic's Amp Designer plugin is an especially powerful option, offering up 20 amp simulations and seven different virtual microphone options to boot.
There's no shortage of possibilities to choose from, as most modern DAWs will come equipped with at least some tools and capabilities aimed at those looking to amplify, process and record their guitar. Read on for our rundown of the top six DAWs for guitarists available today.
1. Logic Pro
Apple’s fairly priced DAW behemoth contains a veritable smorgasbord of virtual amps, cabs and pedals, all easily accessible via its slickly organised and user-friendly drag-and-drop UI. The ability to quickly conjure up a decent sounding rhythm section via the included Drummer can also prove a massive backing track boon for apprentice guitarists.
2. Bitwig Studio
A novel way to conjure exciting new chains and amp setups, Bitwig Studio’s unique series of plugins and effects presets can lead to all manner of original-sounding results. The touchscreen potential of the DAW allows for speedier interaction, especially when you’ve got a six-string axe round your neck.
A mainstay of the electronic production world, the inclusion of Softube’s Amp also makes Reason an appealing route for guitarists too, with a simple series of presets pushing you in the right tonal direction (further modifiable). The included effects that make up a big part of Reason’s extensive roster can be remarkably effective as guitar tone shifters.
4. Presonus Studio One
Preloaded with Ampire – a ‘state-space’ modelled amp/cab and pedal simulation suite – Studio One 5 Pro provides some world class tones straight from the box, with all of the amplifier and tone reproductions being expertly created using Presonus’ bespoke technology. It also features a useful microphone edit page and an extremely colourful selection of chainable stompboxes.
5. Steinberg Cubase 11
The grandaddy of DAWs is no slouch when it comes to guitar processing either. The included VST Amp Rack grants the ability to shape a virtual signal chain with ease, combined with the range of onboard effects and the spectrum of VST guitar tailored plugins mean Cubase is a rock-solid base to begin your guitar explorations.
6. Ableton Live 11
The EDM favourite can be put to brilliant use as a guitar recording suite and processor, and, like Reason, it contains Softube’s excellent Amp simulations. Live’s creative sound design-oriented effect repository is hugely inviting for those looking to fashion more alluring tones, while the loop-based recording process forces a rethink of each guitar part.