The Best Rhodes VST Plugins

The Best Rhodes VST Plugins

Have you ever felt like your jazz-funk recording is missing something out? There is a noticeable gap between spiky electric bass, sharp electric guitars, and pumping drums. In the 60’s and 70’s, such mighty musicians as Miles Davis and Billy Preston figured that this gap is best filled with a legendary Fender Rhodes piano. But these days, it is extremely hard to come by a pristine instrument that doesn’t cost a fortune. And since we care about the well-being of your wallet, here the list of the best Rhodes VST.

Top 7 Best Rhodes VST

  1. Applied Acoustics Systems Lounge Lizard EP-4
  2. Arturia Stage-73 V
  3. Waves Audio Electric 88 Piano
  4. Spectrasonics Keyscape Vintage Vibe Electric Piano
  5. Toontrack EZkeys Classic Electrics
  6. Air Music Technology Velvet 2
  7. Native Instruments Scarbee Mark I

Rhodes VST Buying Guide

Before we dive into what the best virtual emulations of Fender Rhodes are, let’s figure out why it was so special and important in the first place.

Harold Rhodes invented this electric piano after World War II as he was teaching soldiers to play piano as a part of a rehabilitation program. In the 60’s, Fender started manufacturing the instrument with 32 bottom notes of the original Rhodes. This instrument was known as Piano Bass. In 1965, the first Fender Rhodes was released with a 73 note keyboard as opposed to the classic 88 note keyboard. This instrument had a built-in amplifier and loudspeaker.

In the 70’s, the Stage Piano model was introduced. This model was much lighter and could be used with any amplifier, although the most popular one to be used was Fender Twin Reverb. The older models were then started to be called the Suitcase piano.

The Fender Rhodes was incomprehensively popular in the 70’s amongst not only jazz and funk musicians but also psychedelic rock and blues adepts. In case you still do not know what we are talking about here, you still probably heard how this magnificent piano sounds since it is the backbone of such an unavoidable classic as The Doors’ “Riders on The Storm”. Also, this magnificent instrument is expressively present in “Get back”, recorded by the mighty Beatles in their later years. In fact, Billy Preston performed the whole rooftop concert with The Beatles on a Fender Rhodes. It was the last time when The Beatles performed live together.

Important features

So why this instrument is so cherished and desirable? First of all, the sound. It had a traditional mechanical piano keyboard, but hammers were striking on the metal wires instead of the strings. The vibrations of the wires were then registered by electro-magnetic pick-ups, producing a sweet and mellow, celeste-like sound capable of extraordinary sustain.

Secondly, the sheer convenience of not needing to travel with a traditional acoustic piano. But evidently enough, the sound is far more important than the logistics. And since the Stage version could be plugged into any amplifier, the sound design options were almost unlimited. The Suitcase version had a built-in tremolo effect with an unmistakably distinguishable sound.

The best thing about the times we are living in is that we do not have to spend a fortune and own a dedicated place to store a mighty Fender Rhodes to enjoy the striking sound. So here are the best Rhodes VST.

Best Rhodes VST Reviews

Applied Acoustics Systems Lounge Lizard EP-4

Applied Acoustics Systems Lounge Lizard EP-4

Pros
  • Free demo available
  • Physically-modeled instrument
  • Extremely small size
Cons
  • None
See prices @ Pluginboutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

On the surface, Applied Acoustics Systems Lounge Lizard EP-4 looks like just another software emulation of Stage 73, but if you dig deeper, it turns out it is far more than that. It is not a sample instrument, it is what is called a physically-modeled plugin, which gives us quite a few advantages. As there are no samples involved, the velocity layers are absent, which means you have an extremely responsive and dynamically rich instrument both suitable for studio sessions and live gigs.

User impressions

Users are in love with AAS Lounge Lizard EP-4 because of the quality of the sound. User-friendly GUI and the number of presets make this electric piano the best so far on the market. Another advantage is that it takes up as little space as possible. The possibility to create your own presets and save them for future projects is the feature to love about AAS Lounge Lizard EP-4 even more.

What we think

It truly shocking how much you can achieve with physical-modeling technology inside a modest 70MB package. But the most impressive part about Applied Acoustics Systems Lounge Lizard EP-4 is its playability and responsiveness. And having more than 240 instantly recallable presets and onboard FX doesn’t hurt either.

Bottomline

Applied Acoustics Systems Lounge Lizard EP-4 by far is one of the best virtual electric piano instruments with a highly flexible sound that doesn’t take much space on your hard drive. If you look for a flexible and gig-ready electric piano emulation for a highly reasonable price, do not look any further.

Arturia Stage-73 V

Arturia Stage-73 V

Pros
  • Free demo
  • Physically-modeled instrument
  • Highly customizable sound
  • Resizable GUI
Cons
  • None that we know of
See prices @ Pluginboutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Another physically-modeled instrument, but this time from Arturia, undisputed so far champions of said technology. Although the name suggests that you will get a Stage 73 instrument, further investigation shows that Arturia Stage-73 V also offers quite a few Suitcase piano variations, which are extremely customizable. The vast and impressive library of presets is also included, in case you do not like spending time tweaking things.

User impressions

Users say that Arturia Stage-73 V is very simple and flexible with a superb sound. Another advantage is that you can play it using a wider keyboard range than the usual one. Another cool feature is that it offers 256-note polyphony, the effects and amp/mic models are a bonus. It also doesn’t take much space on a hard drive.

What we think

We found the most enjoyable part of Arturia Stage-73 V to be its physically-modeling engine. The thing is, Arturia lets you actually customize it. So, in addition to the various amp and speaker cabinet options and onboard guitar stompbox pedal effects, you can actually customize the hammer action and add or remove the pick-up hum.

Bottomline

Arturia Stage-73 V is a serious contestant to become your go-to electric piano. And if you like tweaking things and customizing them according to your own preference and workflow, Arturia Stage-73 V is the one for you.

Waves Audio Electric 88 Piano

Waves Audio Electric 88 Piano

Pros
  • Made by Waves Audio
  • Real instrument sampled
  • Standalone plugin
Cons
  • No free demo
See price @ Waves Audio
Best features and specs

For us, audio producers, it is an almost an unconditioned reflex to expect something great when we hear the name Waves Audio. Mainly it is because those guys never disappoint in delivering extremely usable plugins with a distinguishable analog flavor. And because with Electric 88, they actually sampled real worn-out electric piano, it does not disappoint even for a bit.

User impressions

Users agree that Waves Audio Electric 88 Piano has an amazingly authentic and rich sound, dynamic range, and tweakability. It is absolutely CPU and user friendly and loads samples fast enough. Also, users note that while playing Waves Audio Electric 88 Piano, it feels like a real instrument.

What we think

Although Waves Audio Electric 88 Piano does not offer much in terms of customization and has a rather minimalistic interface, it won our hearts with its non-linear imperfections. Of course, it is a matter of taste and preference, but we prefer our virtual instruments not to be squeaky-clean and pristine.

Bottomline

Waves Audio Electric 88 Piano is a minimalistic and straight-forward instrument designed to feel very vintage and analog. It does not offer much beyond that, but you do not really need that much, to be honest. It really is a bargain if you are looking for a straight-forward vintage electric piano emulation for a very low price. And if you still do not feel that the price is right, Waves Audio has sales and discount offers more often than not.

Spectrasonics Keyscape Vintage Vibe Electric Piano

Spectrasonics Keyscape Vintage Vibe Electric Piano

Pros
  • Authentic electric piano emulation
  • Intuitive GUI
Cons
  • Bundled only
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

If you heard of Omnisphere, you know what guys from Spectrasonics are capable of. If you do not, look it up, and you will be amazed. So it is safe to assume that Spectrasonics Keyscape is a very useful and powerful tool of high quality. Since the library of keys is truly vast, there is room for really unique instruments.

Since the original Rhodes’ production had been halted for a very long time, it was hard to come by an instrument in mint condition. So Spectrasonics teamed up with a company that made a modern take on the original Rhodes in 2011. That is how Spectrasonics Keyscape Vintage Vibe Electric Piano came to life.

User impressions

Users say that Spectrasonics Keyscape Vintage Vibe Electric Piano sounds realistic, GUI is very intuitive, you can customize it the way you like. Some say that Spectrasonics did the job so well that one of the users felt that he didn’t need his electronic “in flesh” piano anymore. The variety of instrument, sound, sculpting options makes the experience with it unforgettable. The reasonable price makes this electric piano a dream come true for the majority of the users.

What we think

The interesting thing about Spectrasonics Keyscape Vintage Vibe Electric Piano is that although they have sampled a modern and clean electric piano without any signs of degrading it did not make a virtual instrument sound less analog and authentic.

Bottomline

If you were looking to add a powerful and versatile library of keyboard instruments to your arsenal, you should give Spectrasonics Keys a try. Otherwise, having an 80 GB of sounds for a rather high price just for an electric piano probably is not worth it.

Toontrack EZkeys Classic Electrics

Toontrack EZkeys Classic Electrics

Pros
  • Two electric pianos instead of one
  • Free time-limited demo
  • Mix-ready sounds
Cons
  • None, really
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

With Toontrack EZkeys Classic Electrics, you will get not just one electric piano emulation, but actually two. First of all, you will get the Rhodes MK1 emulation, the first actual electric piano manufactured by Fender after the Piano Bass. Secondly, you will get Wurlitzer 200A, which could be considered a more heavy-weight and aggressive version of Rhodes piano.

User impressions

Users agree that Toontrack EZkeys Classic Electrics sounds authentically good and flexible. It is incredibly easy to use, and that you have a standalone version is quite handy.

What we think

If you are unfamiliar with the EZkeys range of instruments, it was actually designed to make it possible for producers who can not play keyboard instruments to craft professional piano parts and mix on the go. That being said, Toontrack EZkeys Classic Electrics is still a very playable and responsive virtual instrument.

Bottomline

There is something really pleasing about the ability to have two things for the price of one. Even if you did not want the second one in the first place. Jokes aside, Toontrack EZkeys Classic Electrics is a very powerful tool for creating electric piano parts without the actual need to play one.

Air Music Technology Velvet 2

Air Music Technology Velvet 2

Pros
  • Trial version available
  • Five electric pianos instead of one
  • More than 350 presets
  • Intuitive GUI
  • Low price
Cons
  • Sometimes sounds a bit too clean
See price @ Pluginboutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

If you are a ProTools user, chances are you are familiar with true Air Music capabilities. And since the company is very well respected, it would not be wise for them to give less than was expected. So Air Music Technology Velvet 2 has not one, but actually five vintage electric piano emulations of high quality. Here we have Fender Rhodes Suitcase, two versions of Rhodes Stage piano, Wurlitzer 200A, and Hohner Pianet-T. These emulations are very nuanced and have some very impressive classic effects onboard, such as spring reverbs and tape delays.

User impressions

Users say that Air Music Technology Velvet 2 has outstanding basic sound and has the feature which adds mechanical noise as a nice touch. It is highly playable, very responsive, and surprisingly versatile.

What we think

We actually believe that those instruments sound too clean, which not in any way makes them sound less authentic. As we said before, it is purely a matter of taste and perspective. Also, having such a rarely sampled instrument as Hohner Pianet-T makes a lot of difference.

Bottomline

What is better than having two things for the price of one? Yes, of course, it is to have five things instead. If electric pianos are not the focal point of your typical production, but rather some sort of a supporting act, you should consider Air Music Technology Velvet 2. It also does not hurt that it has some very rarely sampled piano sounds with truly unique vibes.

Native Instruments Scarbee Mark I

Native Instruments Scarbee Mark I

Pros
  • Works in a free KONTAKT player
  • Authentic Stage 73 MK1 emulation
Cons
  • Does not have a free demo
See price @ Native Instruments
Best features and specs

Native Instruments Scarbee Mark I is a virtual instrument that can offer you an almost unprecedented level of attention to detail. Because it is a sampled instrument, you get an authentic Stage 73 MK1 sound with twelve velocity layers. They also sampled and matched the release of each individual layer to make it sound authentic and even more realistic. So it would feel exactly like playing the real electric piano.

User impressions

Users like that Native Instruments Scarbee Mark I has nice warm, refined sound and solid effects. Some say that it is a perfect choice for jazz, funk, fusion, and R&B, but it is sufficient to say that the instrument is versatile enough to be used in any style that would benefit from the electric piano.

What we think

Since it is Native Instruments’ KONTAKT instrument, you would not really expect much of its interface. But what truly impressive is that how many features this rather minimalistic interface packs. You have an adjustable analog noise control that lets you increase or reduce it, but also, you have such classic effects as reverb, chorus, phaser, compressor, delay, EQ, and amp simulation.

Bottomline

Native Instruments Scarbee Mark I is a pretty straightforward virtual instrument that does not offer much in terms of versatility, although the sound is quite customizable. Instead, you will have a very authentic and realistic emulation of Stage 73 MK1 with a very warm sound and extremely pleasing playability. You also may be pretty pleased with the relatively low price of this instrument.

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