Best amp modellers 2024: High-tech solutions for guitarists covering all budgets and styles

Gone are the days when the only way to get great tone is to lug a head and 4x12 cab around with you. In the modern age of guitar tech, the best amp modelers let you pack a hundred great amp and cab combos into a unit small enough to fit on your pedalboard or in a backpack.

From Jimmy Eat World to U2, more and more professional-level bands are turning to amp modeling for their tone when they head out on the road. The difference between the real deal and modelling is so small, that the many benefits of modeling far outweigh the minimal tone gains you’d get lugging multiple amps around with you. Best of all, many modelers are affordable enough for us mere mortals to use, making it easier to get great-sounding guitars anywhere you go.

If you’re new to modelling or want to learn a bit more about it before purchasing, have a look at our buying advice section which features loads of common questions answered by our resident guitar geeks. If you just want to see the best amp modelers available today, keep scrolling for our top picks.

Jonathan Horsley
Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.

Best amp modellers: The quick list

The best amp modellers available today

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Here you'll find full writeups and reviews of all the best amp modellers available today. The majority of these have been personally tested by our expert writing team, so you can rely on our recommendations.

Best overall

Best amp modellers: Neural DSP Quad Cortex

(Image credit: Neural DSP)

1. Neural DSP Quad Cortex

The plugin specialist’s hardware debut is a pro-quality beauty

Specifications

Models: 1,000+ amps and effects
Able to load more patches/IRs?: Yes
Power amp?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Dual-function rotary footswitches is a smart idea
+
Compact, laptop size
+
7” multi-touch display
+
Neural Capture allows you to profile pedals 

Reasons to avoid

-
No deep-editing software just yet 

Powered by a 2GHz Quad-Core SHARC DSP, Neural DSP’s profiler-cum-modeller might just be the unit to give Fractal and Kemper a run for their money. Its power move lies in being able to run multiple amplifier and effects chains at once with a latency unnoticeable to the human ear.

As the name suggests, you have four independent signal paths to play with at any one time, and you can direct one to feed into another, creating complex wet-dry setups, or layers of textured gain to dig into as a song progresses. If you feel like sharing the love, another guitarist can plug in and use the unit simultaneously. You can run the unit in Stomp mode, just like a pedalboard, in Scene mode, which brings multiple blocks of effects into play, or in Preset mode, in which you can assign tones to a footswitch for quick access.

Elsewhere, there are dual expression inputs, full MIDI capability so you can automate switching and parameter control, plus two effects loops for inviting your outboard hardware to the party. You can save up to 256 presets, which can be tagged for easy search and recall, while live performances and rehearsals can be programmed in advance. 

Finally, there’s the Neural Capture profiling function, which uses machine learning to let you make digitised profiles of your favourite amps or stompboxes.

Read the full Neural DSP Quad Cortex review

Best value for money

Best amp modellers: Line 6 Helix LT

(Image credit: Line 6)
Player-friendly unit shifter

Specifications

Models: 50 guitar amps, 12 bass amps, 37 cabs, 16 mics, 104 effects
Able to load more patches/IRs?: Yes
Power amp?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Realistic and inspiring amps
+
Top-quality sounds from a powerful processor
+
Offers full control of the signal path
+
Roadworthy 

Reasons to avoid

-
Phrase loop time is short 

The Helix LT might be the diet version of Line 6’s flagship modelling floorboard, but it still has a Starship Enterprise-esque amount of next-gen features, which are laid out in a mercifully user-friendly way. With over 200 amp, cab, studio microphone and effects models, you won’t want for options, and Line 6 makes it easy for you to save and recall your favourite sounds. 

You can switch instantly between Preset and Stomp modes, the latter of which is ideal for toggling effects on and off mid-song. Line 6 allows for total control of the signal path, from guitar through to effects, amps, cabinets and mic positions. All this can be controlled on the unit or remotely.

On the rear of the unit, you’ll find two effects loops that can be used to incorporate external effects and save them to a preset, plus all the analogue and digital I/Os you would expect. At this price, the Line 6 Helix LT is a no-brainer, and for many it’ll be a toss-up between this and the Boss GT-1000.

Read the full Line 6 Helix LT review 

Best amp profiler

Best amp modellers: Kemper Profiler

(Image credit: Kemper)

4. Kemper Profiler

The sound of any amp in the world, in a lunchbox

Specifications

Models: Unlimited
Able to load more patches/IRs?: Yes
Power amp?: Optional

Reasons to buy

+
You can imitate any amp in the world
+
Amp-like fascia feels natural
+
Expensive but cheaper than buying all the amps 

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive footswitch
-
To get the best from it, you’ll need studio time for profiling amps 

Kemper’s bit of kit can profile any amplifier in the world and store its response, to be recalled at your leisure. It does this so effectively that guitar techs have slowly been persuading the world’s touring guitarists to retire their crotchety old Bluesbreaker and take a profile of it instead.

All you need is an amp and a mic to capture the profile. The Profiler comes preloaded with 200 amps, and there are heaps of effects to access, too. There are four Stomp effects and four stereo post-amp effects slots.

What’s great about the Profiler is that you can split the DI signal when recording so that one is recorded with the amp profile and the other is dry, allowing you to reamp painlessly afterwards. Other neat features include delay spillover, which makes changing presets as smooth as a baby’s head, and the ability to lock settings – this means you can have the same spring reverb and slapback delay when switching between the profiles of, say, an old Magnatone and a Fender Tweed.

The Profiler is available with or without a 600-watt power amp, in a rack-mountable unit or as a floorboard unit. Its Rig Manager and Rig Exchange software help you to keep track of what’s what.

Best budget modeller

Best amp modellers: Mooer GE150

(Image credit: Mooer)
The best amp modeller for beginners

Specifications

Models: 55 amps, 26 cabs, 151 effects
Able to load more patches/IRs?: Yes
Power amp?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Best amp modeller in its price range
+
Intuitive layout
+
Headphones output for silent practice

Reasons to avoid

-
More adventurous and experienced players might find the effects too vanilla
-
Pitch Shifter isn’t great

Some players don’t need amp profiling, 8-in/8-out USB audio interfaces and all that jazz, and for beginners and those on a budget, the GE150 is impossible to beat. The build is of high quality, the effects lineup is generous and well realised, and it has lots of practice tools that’ll be invaluable if you’re just starting out.

If the pro units are all-in-one performance and recording solutions, the GE150 presents an all-in-one practice and performance unit for beginners, with an onboard metronome, 40 drum rhythms and an aux input for playing along to your favourite songs – all features that’ll help you to quickly whip your chops into shape. Oh, and there’s an 80-second looper, too. 

Once you’ve got your playing into shape, why not record it? The USB connection allows you to record directly to your computer. This is where the cab sims will come in handy, with the ability to upload third-party IRs very impressive at this price, and something that will add space and quality to those recordings.

Read the full Mooer GE150 review 

Best compact modeller

Best amp modellers: Boss IR-2

(Image credit: Boss)

5. Boss IR-2

The most compact amp modeler you can buy

Specifications

Amp models: 11
Cab models: 11
Effects: N/A
IR loading: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Wide selection of sounds
+
Super compact form factor
+
Easy to tweak sounds

Reasons to avoid

-
No built-in effects
-
Presets only with external switch

Boss has been modelling amps for a long time now, but it’s no small feat to see a fully-fledged amp modeler in the classic compact stompbox format of the IR-2. If you’re an existing pedalboard user and want something that doesn’t get in the way, the Boss IR-2 is a great option.

The range of amp sounds on offer will cover you for anything from Fender cleans to high-gain metal. The sound is super organic and reacts to playing dynamics just like the real thing. The dual-concentric knobs allow you to squeeze a full-size amplifier’s controls into a tiny unit, giving you plenty of tweakability without having to use a computer.

You can load your own IRs by connecting via USB-C, and this is also how you can use it as a direct recording option. A dedicated FX loop and stereo out offer excellent flexibility in connectivity and you can turn off the amp and cab models separately. The amount of features that Boss has squeezed into this unit is truly incredible and for the money, there aren’t many that can compete here.

Best for versatility

Best amp modellers: Line 6 HX Stomp

(Image credit: Line 6)
It’s the Helix, but in a stompbox

Specifications

Models: Unlimited
Able to load more patches/IRs?: Yes
Power amp?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Rugged enclosure
+
Pedalboard-friendly format
+
Top-class tones and over 80 amp models to choose from
+
Effects loop 

Reasons to avoid

-
Display is a little small
-
No expression pedal 

A compact, pedalboard-friendly 3-footswitch version of Line 6’s ever-impressive Helix units, the HX Stomp has a lot going for it. There are a lot of presets – 126 of them, arranged in 42 banks with three presets a piece. To create those presets, you’ve got over 300 onboard amp, cab and effects models to play with. What more do you need?

Teeny it may be, but the HX Stomp’s MIDI connectivity makes it easy to integrate within a larger rig. There’s an expression pedal input to make it more of a performance tool, and you’ve even got an effects loop for bringing stompboxes into the mix. The stereo-in, stereo-out sound quality is unimpeachable, and you can also upload third-party IRs. 

Like its larger siblings, the HX Stomp can be used as an audio interface or for reamping; just connect to your DAW via USB. Though it only features a single SHARC ADSP-21469 processor – one fewer than the Helix – this piece of kit nonetheless packs a jaw-dropping amount of power.

Read the full Line 6 HX Stomp review  

More options...

Best amp modellers: Kemper Profiler Stage

(Image credit: Kemper)
Take the Profiler setup to the floor…

Specifications

Models: Unlimited
Able to load more patches/IRs?: Yes
Power amp?: No

Reasons to buy

+
The same Kemper awesomeness, only in a floor unit
+
Works out as excellent value
+
Heaps of inputs/outputs 

Reasons to avoid

-
Display is a little small
-
No expression pedal  

The Profiler Stage brings all that Kemper magic to a floorboard unit. Does it translate? Well, the tech is the same, the sound quality is the same, and the Profiler Stage has everything needed to be the heart of a digital rig.

There are some things we’d like to see in a future update. A built-in expression pedal would be one, and the LED screen could do with being bigger. But in terms of sound, the world of guitar amplifiers is your oyster, and if you aren’t fussed about a power-amp option, this is a great choice for a self-contained Kemper experience.

Read the full Kemper Profiler Stage review 

Best amp modellers: BOSS GT-1000

(Image credit: BOSS)
Stunning amps and effects make Boss one of the best

Specifications

Models: Over 100 amp/effect types, seven cabs
Able to load more patches/impulse responses (IRs)?: Yes
Power amp?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Realistic and inspiring amps
+
A large, high-quality range of effects
+
Superb build 

Reasons to avoid

-
The patch system could bamboozle beginners 
-
The 38-sec (mono), 19-sec (stereo) phrase loop time is short 

The Boss GT-1000 offers a 10-footswitch, pro-quality setup at a price that’s more than tempting to the serious amateur. Operationally, Boss arranges your sounds into patches, each containing the full signal chain from amp through to cabinets and effects. The amplifier models are breathtaking, fleshed-out and organic thanks to AIRD technology that builds upon the Tube Logic paradigm. The 32-bit, 96khz sampling offers superb sound quality, and there’s an abundance of headroom. Switching between patches is super-quick. Effects are exceptional, too, and are derived from the algorithms powering the DD-500, MD-500 and RV-500 units. It’s little wonder Boss lays them on a little thick for our tastes in the presets – these effects are something to be proud of.

Thanks to the latest software update, the GT-1000 now offers up to 16 onboard impulse responses (IRs), four simultaneous FX blocks and 10 input memories so that you can save optimised levels for different guitars – ideal if switching from a guitar with single coils or one with high-output humbuckers. 

As for the fundamentals, there’s a cornucopia of connections that allow you to hook up external effects and expression pedals, and to use the GT-1000 as a fly-rig or recording interface. There’s wireless via Bluetooth. The Boss Tone Studio app is free and offers deep editing. You can upload 250 user patches to complement the 250 presets. If you’re looking for something more compact, the GT-1000CORE has all the same DSP power but is housed – like the Line 6 HX Stomp – in a super-compact three-footswitch enclosure.

Read the full Boss GT-1000 review 

Best amp modellers: Strymon Iridium

(Image credit: Strymon)
A classic amp modeller that can still hang with the big boys

Specifications

Amp models: 3
Cab models: 3
Effects: 1
IR loading: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Three superb amp emulations
+
Pedalboard friendly
+
Load your own IRs

Reasons to avoid

-
No effects loop
-
High power draw

It’s been around for a while, but like most Strymon pedals, the Iridium continues to perform admirably despite newer and shiny amp modellers emerging. The beauty of the Iridium lies in its no-menu-diving approach to sound sculpting, giving you full control of your sound in a handy pedalboard format.

The three sounds in the Iridium model a Fender Deluxe Reverb, a Vox AC30, and a Marshall Plexi, giving you three solid bases to build your tone upon. Three cabinet selections for each offer extra flexibility, with the ability to load your own if you wish. A ‘favourite’ preset footswitch essentially allows for running two different amps at once, great if you need flexibility in your rig.

Despite its simple looks, there’s a surprising amount of depth on offer, and the Impulse Manager lets you further sculpt your IRs with EQ. It doesn’t have an effects loop which might be a deal breaker for some, but there are plenty of connectivity options including a stere out and an expression/midi input.

Read the full Strymon Iridium review 

Best amp modellers: Universal Audio UAFX Ruby

(Image credit: Universal Audio)
If it’s good enough for The Edge…

Specifications

Amp models: 3
Cab models: 3
Effects: 2
IR loading: No

Reasons to buy

+
Accurate AC30 emulation
+
Easy to use
+
Useful mobile app

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one core sound
-
No IR loading

The Vox AC30 is probably one of the hardest amplifiers to model. Many have tried, but most guitarists agree that these models fall slightly short of what makes a classic AC30 so distinctive. The Universal Audio UAFX Ruby aims to address that and has received a glowing endorsement from U2’s Vox-loving guitarist The Edge.

Like all the UAFX series, the Ruby provides you with a simple stompbox-style layout that makes dialling in your desired tone a breeze. There are three channel types available via a switch on the right-hand side that give you a Brilliant, Normal, and Vibrato option to use. We particularly enjoyed the Brilliant channel, which models the original ‘Top Boost’ circuit of an AC30.

A three-way speaker toggle switch opens up different cab options, but it’s a little disappointing you can’t load your own impulse responses. Apparently, this is because the cabinets are modelled rather than using IR tech. Still, with the stereo outs, preset storing, and additional 4 cable method accessible via the app, it’s got plenty of flexibility to fit into any setup.

Read the full Universal Audio UAFX Ruby review 

Best amp modellers: Fender Tone Master Pro

(Image credit: Fender)
Classic Fender tones in an easy-to-use package

Specifications

Amp models: 27
Cab models: 26
Effects: 91
IR loading: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Classic Fender amp tones
+
Easy-to-use interface
+
Touch screen display

Reasons to avoid

-
No profiling option
-
Presets require tweaking

It’s taken a little while but one of the world’s most prominent amp manufacturers has finally gone all out in the amp modelling sphere. The Fender Tone Master Pro is smart smart-looking and cleverly designed unit with its own unique take on impulse responses and cabinet simulation.

The selection of amps is as you’d expect, from the Deluxe Reverb to the Bassbreaker you’re well covered if you love Fender amps. It also features an official EVH 5150 model, bringing one of the world’s most popular metal amps to modelling lovers everywhere. There are loads of effects too, from room and shimmer reverbs to fuzz pedals and whammy sounds.

With 6000 different combinations of cab simulation, the Tone Master gives you a unique grid system for placing your virtual microphones, which makes it a lot easier to dial in a perfect setting. We love how simple it is to edit everything thanks to the touch screen, making it one of the most easy-to-use amp modellers on the market.

Read the full Fender Tone Master Pro review 

Best amp modellers: HeadRush MX5

(Image credit: HeadRush)

12. HeadRush MX5

A small yet powerful floor modeller with an intuitive touch screen

Specifications

Models: 50 amps, 15 cabs, 10 mics, 65 effects
Able to load more patches/IRs?: Yes
Power amp?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Intuitive preset editing and recall
+
Easy-to-use touch screen display
+
Compact size

Reasons to avoid

-
No editing software

The HeadRush MX5 takes everything that was great about the larger HeadRush Pedalboard and condenses it down into a unit that will fit into the front pocket of your gig bag. Detailed amp models and high-quality effects are the name of the game here, with an intuitive touch screen that will have you up and editing in no time.

The amp models are incredibly realistic, giving you everything from boutique tube amps to monster high-gain stacks. Thanks to regular firmware updates, you’ll be the recipient of new amp models as they’re added to the HeadRush database, ensuring you’ll never get bored of playing around with this one.

It’s an absolute breeze to get acquainted with this unit thanks to the responsive 4-inch touch screen that lets you chop and change your presets with ease. Handy features like hands-free parameter adjustments and gapless preset switching with reverb and delay tail spillover ensure this gig-ready tone machine stands apart from other compact amp modellers.

Read our full HeadRush MX5 review

Best amp modellers: Buying advice

Close up of a Line 6 Helix LT

(Image credit: Future)

How do amp modellers work?

Amp modellers have come a long way since the early days of the Tech 21 SansAmp but the basic idea remains the same. Circumvent the need for carrying around multiple amplifiers and effects by utilising Digital Signal Processing to emulate the sound you need. To understand how the best amp modellers work, first, we need to understand how sound works.

Soundwaves are a physical phenomenon caused by vibrations travelling through the air, water, or even solid objects. Put your chin on your guitar and play a chord and you’ll see what we mean. These soundwaves are all totally unique from one another, with a rate, frequency, and depth that defines how our ears interpret them.

DSP could have an article on its own, but the basic principle is as follows. First of all your soundwave, in this instance, an amplifier is recorded via a microphone. Using an Audio Digital Conversion (ADC) chip, your signal is turned into 1s and 0s that a computer can understand. This signal is then transferred to the Digital Signal Processor itself, typically some form of computer processing chip whereby the signal can be stored, edited, or transferred. Going the other way the signal then passes through a Digital Audio Conversion (DAC) chip to convert it from 1s and 0s back into a soundwave before being passed to your speakers and back out to your ears. 

As ADC, DSP, and DAC chips get more powerful, they’re thus better able to accurately recreate the sounds we feed into them. This means eventually the technology will become so good that it will be nigh on impossible for humans to determine the difference between the two. 

What should I look for in an amp modeller?

So now that you understand how the best amp modellers work, what should you look for when purchasing one? Well, we know that DSP is crucial to how an amp modeller works, so the more powerful this is, the more accurate your emulations will be. You’ll also want to look into how your amp modeller handles editing and patches. Some of these modellers have some serious depth to them and manual diving will be a requirement. If you’re the kind of player that balks at this kind of thing then you may want one of the simpler offerings in this guide.

Amp modellers now replace your entire rig, so looking at the options you have here is a must too. Bearing in mind pretty much every amp modeller will have a feature list the length of your arm, one of the most important of these is something called Impulse Responses (IR). IRs are models of guitar cabinets and the space they occupy and can seriously beef up your recording capabilities and live sound when used correctly. Have a look and see if your chosen modeller allows you to edit or upload your own, as this will be crucial to getting a great sound.

There’s so much choice here and so many features that it can be a little daunting trying to pick one, but at the end of the day the sound is the most important of all. Plenty of the manufacturers here have sound demos on their websites so if you can’t try one out in real life, grab a good pair of headphones and find the one with the sounds that inspire you the most.

How we choose the best amp modellers

In the realm of amp modellers, our writers at MusicRadar bring a wealth of real-world experience and expertise to guide you in selecting the optimal choice for your musical endeavors. As avid musicians, many of us have spent countless hours on our local music scenes, both on stage and in the studio, forming the foundation of our recommendations. This practical, hands-on involvement ensures that our insights resonate with the diverse needs of our audience.

Our team goes beyond the spec sheet; we plug in, crank up the volume, and let the modellers speak for themselves. This immersive approach allows us to assess not just the technical aspects but also the nuanced characteristics that make a modeller a genuine asset for musicians. From the responsiveness of the interface to the authenticity of the tones, our goal is to encapsulate the essence of each modeller through the lens of our own playing experiences.

As music enthusiasts ourselves, we recognize the significance of finding a modeller that aligns with your budget, technical specifications, and, most importantly, inspires your creativity. Our selection process is a fusion of technical expertise and a genuine passion for music, ensuring that each recommended amp modeller isn't just a piece of gear but a partner in your musical journey. 

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.

With contributions from