The Best Mellotron VST Plugins

The Best Mellotron VST Plugins

There are times when you can feel stuck and uninspired while producing your next track. The instruments that you usually use just do not do it for you. And then you remember that unearthly and warm sounds that you have heard on some vintage progressive rock records. Then you should know that those particular sounds were made with an instrument called mellotron. And since the original instrument is too expensive even to consider, here is the list of the best mellotron VSTs for you.

Top 5 Best Mellotron VST

  1. GForce M-Tron Pro
  2. Arturia Mellotron V
  3. Wavesfactory Newmello Collection
  4. EZ Keys Mellotron
  5. UVI Mello Tape Machine Virtual Instrument

Mellotron VST Buying Guide

Mellotron has a very distinctive and easily recognizable sound that was extremely popular amongst musicians in the 60’s and 70’s. Progressive rock artists, in particular, expressed admiration for this rare analog instrument. Arguably, the most famous song that featured mellotron would be “Strawberry Fields Forever” by the Beatles.  In fact, the whole Magical Mystery Tour album features this instrument extensively.

Mellotron is also used in David Bowie’s timeless masterpiece “Space Oddity”. A younger generation would be happy to know that mellotron was used in Oasis’s “Wonderwall” and on several tracks on Radiohead’s “OK Computer” album.

What is mellotron

The mellotron is a musical instrument first released in England in 1963 by the company named Mellotronics that was later renamed Streetly Electronics. It is a keyboard instrument where instead of hammers, keys are pressing magnetic tape against a playback head. Various sounds were recorded on the said tape, so technically, you can call the mellotron a first-ever sample-based synthesizer. Different tapes featured various recorded sounds such as cello and flute.

The first models had tapes with drum recordings that let musicians accompany themselves. Since all of the sounds were recorded on traditional magnetic tape and used conventionally for tape machine playback techniques, mellotron’s sound was very distinguishable because of such effects as wow and flutter.

Later models featured an option of replaceable tape, which expanded the sonic options of the instrument. The instrument was extremely popular amongst progressive rock musicians due to its analog nature and very unusual sound.

But there were a few drawbacks. Firstly, in modern equivalent, the original instrument was priced at approximately 20,000 USD which at the time was half of the cost of an average family house. Secondly, since the mechanism was sensitive to touch, it was extremely hard to keep the mellotron in tune. So in the 80’s, this instrument was replaced by more reliable and less expensive digital synthesizers and analog samplers.

Important features

Since having the original mellotron is not an option for the majority of us anyway, the only solution would be to turn our attention to virtual mellotrons. But what exactly are we looking for here?

First of all, as obvious as it sounds, the virtual mellotron should maintain the original one’s spirit. Since our goal here is to gain that original sound without any drawbacks of having the real mellotron, it would be rather sad if the virtual version would not have the same sonic characteristics.

Secondly, in terms of usability, the original mellotron has a lot of room for improvement, to say the least. So our virtual mellotron should be a lot easier to use and has to have a few benefits that the original mellotron does not offer.

And finally, although we are obviously aiming for the original sound of the mellotron, it would be fun to explore the idea of having a few sounds that the original mellotron does not offer. Most importantly, like any other instrument that you would own, the virtual mellotron should be able to inspire you to have original musical ideas and give you some additional energy for composing. So to help you navigate through the variety of virtual instruments, we prepared our top 5 picks of best mellotron VST.

Best Mellotron VST Reviews

GForce M-Tron Pro

GForce M-Tron Pro

Pros
  • Over 160 tape banks
  • More than 500 presets
  • 29 parameters per layer
  • Up to 35 notes
Cons
  • None that we know of
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

At the surface, it seems like GForce M-Tron Pro is a pretty straightforward emulation of the original Mellotron MK1, released in 1963. But when you dig a bit deeper, you notice that things are not as simple as it seems. As the original unit, it has a 35 note keyboard and straightforward controls. But in addition to that, it has a synth-like engine that lets you customize the sound up to the point when you even can reverse it. Its 3.5 GB sound library offers you more than 160 patches, some of which were mastered on the famous Abbey Roads Studio.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with GForce M-Tron Pro usability and user-friendly GUI. As it offers an expanded library with some rare instruments and sounds, it greatly affects the range of music genres for composing audio material. This virtual instrument has built-in effects which recreate the true-to-life orchestral sound. GForce M-Tron Pro is a versatile instrument that is compatible with various music genres starting from vintage 60’s to orchestral cinematic scores.

What we think

It is always rather pleasing to get more than it was expected as GForce M-Tron Pro impresses with its truly vast library of sound patches. The sound feels exactly as the original unit would, and additional sound banks maintain the spirit of the Mellotron MK1 respectfully. The problem with the original Mellotron is that it has a too recognizable sound that you can use only in specific musical situations. GForce M-Tron Pro surpasses that limitation by adding extra patches and giving you greater control over the sonic characteristics.

Bottomline

GForce M-Tron Pro is a reasonably priced emulation of Mellotron MK1 that gives you a lot more than it was expected. In case, for some reason, you find that included soundbanks do not satisfy your needs, there are additional soundbanks offered. And since it has a standalone option, GForce M-Tron Pro would be a perfect choice for live performances. As for the included soundbanks, it seems unlikely that the possibilities they provide would be used up any time soon.

Arturia Mellotron V

Arturia Mellotron V

Pros
  • 65 original tape racks
  • 61 presets
  • Has a free demo
Cons
  • None, really
See price @ Plugin Boutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

If you heard about Arturia before, you know that they have quite a different approach to virtual instruments. They use the technique which is called physical modeling that provides far more flexibility than conventional sampling would. And with Arturia Mellotron V, you can experience all of the benefits of that technology. This virtual instrument sounds and feels exactly like the original mellotron would and gives you quite more on top of it.

With Arturia Mellotron V, you get the sounds starting from Mellotron MK1 to M400, the last model built by the original manufacturer before they seized production in the 80’s. On top of that, you get shockingly precise control over every sonic characteristic, including flutter and hiss. Arturia Mellotron V has all of the original controls with the addition of effects that come from the guitar pedalboard and 2 amplifier emulations. And by far, the best feature of this virtual instrument is the ability to load your own samples.

User impressions

Users like Arturia Mellotron V amazing range of carefully sampled instruments that sound astonishingly good and realistic. This virtual instrument has incredible sonic diversity, which enables the possibility to use it in a variety of music genres, starting from psychedelic 60’s rock up to futuristic electronic music.

What we think

Arturia Mellotron V sounds and feels amazing as all of their visual instruments do. But the thing we are most impressed with is the ability to use your own samples. Broadly speaking, this feature was introduced on the Mellotron MK2 since you could change the tape on it. Of course, nothing can stop you from recording your own sample on that tape but imagine the gruesomeness of the process. Arturia Mellotron V could be used as a pretty capable sampler with tape saturation and a very distinctive analog feel, and that could be done without effort whatsoever.

Bottomline

Not only Arturia Mellotron V offers you a very realistic and believable emulation of several models of Mellotron it also could be used as a sampler. Combine it with a very reasonable price, and you have a bargain. You probably should know that Arturia Mellotron V was used by a keyboard player from the BBC Orchestra in Abbey Road Studios during the performance to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles album Abbey Road.

Wavesfactory Newmello Collection

Wavesfactory Newmello Collection

Pros
  • 75 instrument patches
  • 2 tape decks
Cons
  • Does not work in a free KONTAKT player
See price @ Plugin Boutique
Best features and specs

Wavesfactory Newmello Collection is a virtual emulation of Mellotron M400, which works in a full version of Native Instruments KONTAKT. The interesting thing is that they did not actually sample the Mellotron M400. Instead, they have sampled 75 different instruments into the vintage tape deck. This technique greatly expanded the possibilities of the original instrument keeping the unique vintage vibes of M400. It has a minimalistic GUI, giving you access to 75 patches that could be channeled through 2 different tape decks, attack and release controls, and simple tilt EQ.

User impressions

Users say that Wavesfactory Newmello Collection has a super user-friendly GUI and is extremely easy to use. This virtual instrument has 75 carefully sampled instruments with amazingly clean and pristine sound. It will be a great addition to music from the 60’s to 70’s and some lounge and trance music.

What we think

Sometimes things do not need to be complicated in order to be good. And sometimes, you do not need to have access to Mellotron M400 in order to sample it. It is impressive how close to the original unit Wavesfactory Newmello Collection sounds, considering that the original unit was not sampled at all. It has a very sleek design, a lot of interesting sounds, and a pretty modest for a KONTAKT library size. What else do we need?

Bottomline

Wavesfactory Newmello Collection is a pretty simple and minimalistic library of samples for Native Instruments KONTAKT. It is very reasonably priced and does not take a lot of space of the hard drive. This virtual instrument would be a perfect choice for the producer who believes it would be handy to have a virtual mellotron in a toolbox but does not expect it to be used very often.

EZ Keys Mellotron

EZ Keys Mellotron

Pros
  • 24 presets
  • Mellotron M400 sample-based emulation
  • 15 looped vintage sounds
Cons
  • None
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Toontrack tries to give users, who are less experienced in keyboard playing, the ability to create professional-sounding arrangements effortlessly and with ease with its EZ line of products. The same principles are applied to EZ Keys Mellotron. It has an impressive library of MIDI files with drag-and-drop functionality that are arranged very intuitively and fit in different styles. All of the MIDI files are highly customizable, and the instrument also features a Chord Wheel and key transposition tools. Which lets you relatively quickly create a desirable arrangement.

As for the sound, it has 15 patches that you could find in the original Mellotron M400. To customize the sound further, EZ Keys Mellotron has a library of presets and pretty intuitive controls.

User impressions

Users like EZ Keys Mellotron for the excellent quality of the samples and unique sounds. It has a MIDI library, a built-in sequencer, and songwriting tools, which greatly help to compose tracks.

What we think

The whole EZ Keys line of products from Toontrack, although it has a different intention, impresses with its versatility. Yes, the Song Builder functionality might be very useful for someone who is not very familiar with keyboard playing, but if you are proficient enough with the keys, you can easily play the right part.

What we like about EZ Keys Mellotron is that it has a customizable velocity curve. Sometimes virtual instruments are too responsive or not responsive enough for certain models of MIDI keyboards. And it is rather useful to be able to change it.

Bottomline

EZ Keys Mellotron is a very impressive virtual instrument of the highest quality, which provides great versatility both for experienced keyboard players and producers who prefer a faster workflow without any MIDI input. The sound of the EZ Keys Mellotron maintains the spirit of the original Mellotron M400 and could be customized further with built-in effects.

UVI Mello Tape Machine Virtual Instrument

UVI Mello Tape Machine Virtual Instrument

Pros
  • 28 original sounds
Cons
  • iLok account needed
  • UVI Workstation needed
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Nowadays, UVI has become a pretty capable competitor to Native Instruments in terms of providing virtual instruments on the sample engine of high quality. UVI Mello Tape Machine Virtual Instrument proves that point dramatically. It’s a virtual instrument based on samples from several different models of Mellotron. All of the sounds are sampled with almost inhumane attention to the details to the point where you could not distinguish this virtual instrument from the original one by ear.

User impressions

UVI Mello Tape Machine Virtual Instrument is a versatile and powerful virtual instrument inspired by the 60’s. As not only are multi-sampled tapes included in a package, but key noise and inner mechanical sounds were captured. It can add a warm 60’s flavor to almost any musical genre, but it will sound the best used for pop, funk, psychedelic rock, and modern electronic music.

What we think

UVI Mello Tape Machine Virtual Instrument is a great visual instrument with lots of additional controls, but those are not the most impressive things about it. There is something very special about the sound of all of the UVI’s virtual instruments. They always sound realistic and expensive, but there are certain very specific vibes that make them stand out in the crowd. Although you are required to have a free UVI Workstation plugin in order to run this virtual instrument, you should definitely go check it out as well as the other things that UVI has to offer.

Bottomline

UVI Mello Tape Machine Virtual Instrument is a great virtual emulation of several Mellotron models with quite a few additional controls for a relatively low price. Even though the functionality might not be as impressive as in the other offerings from various competitors, the sound quality and character alone should make this virtual instrument worth considering. You may find the sound to be rather refreshing and inspirational if you have not heard UVI instruments before.

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