Choose The Best Piano VST The First Time.
Pianos are some of the most remarkable and beautifully sounding musical instruments in history. They also come at a premium which makes owning one, a dream that’s hard to achieve.
Luckily for us, pianos have gone digital, so yes, you won’t have to wait for years to find the cash and space for a one. Thanks to piano vst plugins, you can now create piano compositions for your project or mixes in a simple, convenient, and economical way.
Technological advances are so high up, that you can choose a piano from whichever era you want, with all the subtleties of the original instruments all reimagined just for you. It’s time to enjoy stunning sound with near-perfect realism with the best piano vst as shown on our list.
What Is a VST Plugin?
VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology, while a VST Plugin is digital software that allows artists and recording engineers to use vst instruments and audio effects in a digital audio workstation (DAW).
You typically use vst plugins to digitally create a new sound or make an existing mix sound even better. The plugin can apply audio effects to your track, or make the MIDI notes sound as though they are being played on musical instruments.
In our case, a piano vst is a software that imitates a real piano. To get things going, you’ll need a MIDI controller keyboard (preferably one with 88 keys like a real piano), and PC or laptop to run the software. If the keyboard doesn’t have built-in speakers, you’ll also need a set of headphones.
Types of Piano Plugins
There are two main types of piano vst plugins—sampled plugins and the modeled plugins. We’ll look at each of these briefly.
Here the piano sounds are recorded from real pianos, think Steinway, Fazioli, and Bösendorfer. The piano VST manufacturers and recording engineers gather in a studio, place several mics in and around a piano.
All 88 keys on the piano are recorded multiple times to capture variations of individual keys to ensure the plugin sounds as realistic as possible. So, when you purchase a sampled plugin, you are getting a set of recorded sounds from an actual piano.
Sampled plugins tend to be more expensive due to the complexity of emulating sound from these acoustic instruments in software. The file sizes are also huge and can fill up smaller hard. They are also demanding of CPU, so a slow processor may be frustrating as you wait for the file to load.
Unlike the sampled plugins, modeled plugins don’t use actual pianos for recordings. Rather, the plugin manufacturer comes up with an algorithm that imitates as closely as possible, the sound of an acoustic piano.
Many modeled piano vst fall short when it comes to realism as it’s difficult to replicate to a tee the sound of a real piano. Even so, these plugins are more expressive and possibly programmable since you’re not relying on recorded samples. The file sizes are smaller and load faster.
What to Look for When Buying VST Plugins
When it comes to piano plugins, there are varieties to choose from. You’ve got the basic piano plugin, the featureless piano soundalike, static vst, customizable plugins that let you personalize the sound, style to the mix, and the feature-rich vst plugins with realistic piano tones.
Selecting the best piano plugin comes down to what works for you (and your clients) and the project you’re working on. Here are some things to remember:
Most VST instruments work well with Windows and macOS but that doesn’t guarantee that the plugin will integrate seamlessly into your system. There are other factors to consider such as the type of CPU you’re using and speed, memory (RAM), and available drive space.
Some VST instruments include various plugin formats such as VST, AAX, and AU to ensure compatibility with multiple DAW, but others don’t. it helps to check your system’s requirements before buying the piano plugin.
2. User Interface
It’s interesting how some of the best sounding VST instruments aren’t very user friendly. Ideally, music production shouldn’t feel like an arduous task, rather something fun that allows your creativity to flow as you try out different sounds and effects.
If you find the layout too intimidating and complicated, or you have to go through too many installation and configuration steps, then that plugin may not be the best choice for you.
Do you need an instrument that handles one specific task like say piano or FM synthesis well? Or will a sample player loaded with a huge library of sounds work better for you? Do you want to be able to tweak the sound or prefer working with preset sounds?
These are some of the questions that will help you figure out what the best plugin for your needs.
A plugin that crashes your DAW now and again is an absolute no-no. While sometimes it may a case of not understanding how the plugin works, it may also be that the plugin was not well developed and does not receive any updates or patches. Look for the opposite, a plugin that’s well developed and receives continuous support.
5. How it Sounds
Despite what everyone says, the vst instrument must sound good to you. Once you’ve zeroed in a couple of instruments, check out YouTube videos and demos to familiarize yourself with the sounds they produce.
It’s easier working with a sound that is close to what you’re aiming for rather than spending too much time tweaking one that was off from the beginning.
Our Review of the Best Piano VST Plugins
With everything we’ve learned so far, it’s time to check out some of the best vst plugins on the market.
Overall Best Piano VST
If there’s something Garritan is known for, it’s high-quality plugins, and this one is no different. They took Yamaha’s 9-foot CFX grand piano, placed it in the world-renowned Abbey Road Studio One then brought in some of the finest sound engineers.
As you can imagine, the results were a plugin of such remarkable quality, showcasing authentic grand piano sound and a wide palette of tonal color.
The microphone placements during the recordings created three distinct perspectives—Classic, contemporary, and player. Within these categories are several sub-presets to suit different styles.
The classic preset is full of sub-presets that offers natural tones that include the Bach inspired classical settings to jazzy tones. It cuts across many genres but remains true to the classic era of every one of them.
The contemporary preset is about a modern mix of presets. It focuses on brightness and attack and covers dark, edgy, and warm sounds too.
The player preset is different from the other two. The classic and contemporary presets concentrate on how the listeners hear the CFX. The player offers you the experience of sitting behind the piano. Its presets capture every nuance and noise of the CFX.
This plugin’s user interface is friendly has just enough tweaking options. From microphone positioning to mechanical noise, lid position, and reverb among others, you’re bound to find what you need for your project.
If you want to inject some creativity and realistic grand piano sounds into your tracks, here’s a plugin to look out for.
- Amazingly realistic sound
- High-end equipment used
- Multiple categories and presets
- Large software that requires a fast processor
A Collectors Delight
Behind this plugin is the story of a passionate team at Spectrasonics who spent 10 years of their lives looking for some of the most sought after keyboards in the world. These rare keyboards were meticulously restored and sampled in different ways.
The samples they recorded are beautifully tuned, captivating, and they sound sweeter, warmer, and richer than most plugins. If you’re into Clavinets, Rhodes, and Wurlitzer you’ll fall in love with this package
The enormous keyboard collection includes LA Custom C7 Grand Piano, Classic Mark I Rhodes – LA Custom “E”, Wing Tack Piano, Wing Upright Piano, Vintage Vibe Electric Piano, Electric Grand CP-70, Piano Wurlitzer 140B, and Wurlitzer 200A, among others.
We love that every instrument is of impeccable quality and has several variations to suit different musical generals or styles of playing. The Yamaha C7 Grand Piano for example has cinematic, rock, and classical tones, among others.
Since you and I may never own one or several of these beautiful instruments with their quirks and all, we can rely on this plugin to inspire and enrich our soundtracks.
Overall, you’ll have over 500 top-quality sounds, hybrid duo patches, and a range of controls such as EQ, reverb, and performance noise. The layout is pretty straightforward and so easy to use, that you may find yourself inspired to create for hours.
- Large range of sounds from rare and vintage instruments
- Ability to combine two instruments seamlessly
- Value for money
- Installation takes a while
An Artists Choice
If you want to make exceptional sounds especially those that involve vocals or natural instruments, this is the go-to plugin. It’s a comprehensive software suite that encapsulates sounds from various synths.
The hardware synth integration feature fully supports over 65 hardware synths including Dave Smith, Korg, and Roland, among others. You can find the full list here.
Creatives and producers can take advantage of the over 14,000 high-quality sounds to find exactly what they need to create hit records, films, TV, and even games. Plus, the super arpeggiator and effects allow you to customize your project just the way you want it.
Even with the large library, you can still create your own samples, and that includes making up synthetic sounds from scratch. The manufacturer says this plugin offers endless possibilities and we agree with them.
What I love best about this plugin is that you can grow with it. You most likely won’t need to upgrade to a “more advanced” plugin as it offers a wholesome package. As you hone your skills, you’ll grow with it. To top it off, the plugin is nicely designed and easy to use.
Overall, this is one of the best vst plugins. It’s well-thought-out, packed with useful features, intuitive, and an absolute joy to work with. It has something to offer you, no matter what level you are at.
- Limitless possibilities
- Ideal for beginners and pros
- Professional sound
- High price tag
When it comes to setting standards in the VST instruments world, this plugin has earned the “Platinum Standard” acclaim. Thanks to Synthogy’s continuous efforts to improve their products, the plugin features a new interface and a massive set of jaw-dropping sounds.
Perhaps the best feature of all is the Sympathetic String Resonance, a highly sought-after but elusive characteristic in pianos. Synthogy has explored this characteristic in a unique way that brings out its complexities and subtleties.
The plugin features three iconic pianos, the Yamaha C7 Grand Piano, the German Steinway D 9’ Concert Grand, and the Bösendorfer 290 Imperial Grand. All three pianos were recorded with precision to bring out their individual tonal qualities, tightness, and smoothness of tuning.
The Yamaha has the most character, the Steinway comes off softer and mellower, while the Bösendorfer is vibrant and instantly playable. You can install all three or just the one you need. All three will take substantial space on your hard drive.
The plugin offers 77GB library, so you’ve got tons to choose from. There are up to 18 layers of velocity per piano, extra soft pedal samples, more release, pedal noise with half-pedaling support, EQ tuning, timbre shifting and so much more.
The user interface is friendly, making it ideal for beginners and pros alike. We love the numerous presets available, and the level of control you have with this plugin. You can play around with the intonation, lid position, pedal noise, and velocity curve, among others.
With such great sound, playability, and editability, the Ivory II deserves a spot on our list of the vest piano VST on the market. Combine that with a master keyboard and you might not find time to do anything else.
- Low latency performance
- Ideal for beginners
- Sympathetic String Resonance
- Three iconic pianos
- No virtual microphone
The price tag on this plugin is appealing and you’ll be getting a good-quality plugin without burning holes in your pocket. But that’s not all it’s good for. If you’re looking for a plugin that allows you to experiment with your creativity and come up with your own signature sounds, welcome home.
Addictive Keys offer an incredible range of sounds created from fantastic instruments—the Studio Grand, Modern Upright, Electric piano, and Mark One pianos. Each of these has unique characteristics and multiple recording perspectives.
The Studio Grand features the Steinway Model D concert grand piano known and loved for its unrivaled sound and character. The Modern Upright is based on the Yamaha U3 upright piano and offers warm and mellow jazzy tones to bright pop tones.
The electric piano combines acoustic hammers, amplified output, and direct line output to give the perfect R’n’B ballad, pop, and indie rock tones. And lastly, the Mark One features the Rhodes Mk.1 electric piano that belts out sublime tones that range from smooth enthralling caresses to searing, crunchy sounds.
The user interface has a stunning design that’s super inspiring and easy to understand, and easy to use too. You can use chorus, distortion, EQ filters, filters, microphone mix, and reverb without much hassle.
Two features draw me to this plugin namely the built-in memo recorder and MyCloud. Think about all the times when you get an influx of sound ideas and end up forgetting most of them? The memo recorder allows you to store compositions for further exploration.
MyCloud is a super awesome online service that connects with your VST allowing you to work from anywhere and with any other device. That’s right. You can produce music on your main computer and any other and rest easy knowing that all your memos and presets will be synchronized.
If you travel a lot or collaborate with other creatives on projects, this feature is invaluable as you can have the plugin on multiple computers and know that everything will be safe and organized.
Addictive Keys is without question one of the best piano plugins out there. It gives you room to experiment and customize sound to your liking. Beginners, those who feel like there’s more they can learn, as well as pros can enjoy the tremendous benefits of this plugin.
- Low CPU usage
- A great option for beginners
- MyCloud and memo recorder features
- No major issues reported
When it comes to expanding your sound library, there are multiple options on the market. We trust that our review of the best piano VST has helped you find one that suits your needs. If we had to recommend one though, it would have to be the Garritan Abbey Studios CFX Concert Grand.
This plugin was designed by world-class engineers using the amazing Yamaha grand piano, in a world-class recording environment. With three perspectives and tons of sub presets to choose from and a friendly interface, you can infuse some serious creativity in your tracks.
Over to you now, let the creativity flow.