When it comes to modern rock and metal guitar tone, you’ll almost never go wrong with the Peavey 5150 (and it’s cousin the 6505). If you don’t have one, or can’t record at high volume, don’t worry: there are tons of great options for 5150 amp sims. I’ve tried pretty much all of them, and here’s my two cents on the pros and cons of each (spoiler warning: they’re all pretty solid).
As always, remember that the amp/amp sim you use is only ONE part of what determines your tone — in this case, the cab simulation you use also matters a lot. I personally like Recabinet for my cab sim, but an IR loader with your cabinet of choice is also a good option (I like LeCab with the Catharsis IRs).
Line 6 Pod Farm
Pod Farm’s 5150 sim is the “Mississippi Criminal” amp that’s included with the Platinum edition. I loved Pod Farm back in the day, but I personally think there are better-sounding (and cheaper) options these days. If you do use it, definitely bypass the cab and go into Recabinet or an IR loader instead.
Official site ($299)
IK Multimedia Amplitube
Amplitube is a great product, but I personally have a hard time getting a good 5150 tone out of it. There’s something kind of harsh in the upper mids that I struggle with. That said, plenty of other people get great tones out of it so maybe the problem is me. One particularly great feature of Amplitube is the cab sim section, which gives you a ton of control over mic selection and placement and really lets you shape the tone.
Official site ($199)
Like Pod Farm and Amplitube, Revalver includes a full suite of pedals, Peavey amps, and cabs. But unlike those two, you can actually get under the hood and literally tweak everything at the component level- down to swapping out the transformers, tubes, etc (more detailed review here). I personally have a hard time getting a good tone out of it without tweaking a bunch of the options, and it’s more CPU-heavy than any other plugin I use.
Official site ($99)
This is an “all-in-one” plugin that includes an overdrive, amp, and cab sim (IR loader). It sounds fantastic, it’s easy to use, and it’s pretty affordable. The only real downside is that the design makes it a bit tricky to use effects (other than the included delay), and it’s 64-bit only, so it won’t work in some older DAWs such as Logic 9. It’s a one trick pony, but it does that trick very very well.
Official site (50 Euros)
Nick Crow Labs’ 7170/8505
Last but not least, my personal favorite. I’m not 100% certain about this, but based on the appearance I’m guessing 7170 simulates the EVH 5150 III and 8505 uses the 6505 or block letter 5150 as its reference point. Either way, both sound awesome, behave pretty much like you’d expect the IRL amp to behave and best of all they are FREE! You’ll want to put an overdrive in front (I suggest TSE 808) and run them into the cab sim of your choice.
Official site (free)