SoundGearLab is supported by our readers. We may earn a commission for purchases made after clicking on links on this page. Read our affiliate disclosure for more information.
The Fender Rhodes Piano was a classic electric keyboard that had a huge influence on music across a range of genres, although gained a huge amount of popularity in the ’70s.
Released in 1946, but refined in the 60s, the Rhodes was Fender’s attempt to create a more portable and versatile piano-type instrument.
Rather than using acoustic strings like a traditional piano, Rhodes keyboards use tuned metal bars that are struck by hammers to produce the Rhodes signature soft sound. These bars are picked up with electric pickups (much like an electric guitar) for further amplification.
Buying a real Rhodes piano would typically cost around $5000, which puts them out of most people’s budgets.
Fortunately, thanks to the digital power of VST plugins, you can now create highly realistic Rhodes sounds on a tight budget, all you need is a PC and music software.
This guide highlights and reviews the best electric piano vst plugins on the market. There is a lot to choose from, and a large range in quality.
I’ve used Rhodes for many years, and have gone through a shocking amount of Rhodes plugins in my time… I know firsthand what works and what doesn’t, so let me share my Rhodes VST knowledge!
Need something to layer with your Rhodes pianos? Check out these choir plugins!
Table of Contents
Comparison of the Best Rhodes VST Plugins
Best for people who might want more than a standard Rhodes emulation. See On Amazon
Air Music Technology Velvet 2 includes 5 different electric piano/ Rhodes models (Fender Rhodes Suitcase, Rhodes Mk1 & 2 stage pianos, Wurlitzer, and a Hohner Pianet-T.
You also get a bunch of effects, including tremolo, auto-pan, distortion, wah, modulation, and a range of reverb and delay types.
All the envelope and shaping options you need. It has control for blending mechanical noise including keyboard and pedal sounds for extra realism. You can change the timbre, velocity curve, and dynamic responses.
This vintage electric piano plugin uses dynamic modeling mixed with sampling techniques, this hybrid system creates ultra-realistic sounds that come close to that of a classic Fender Rhodes.
It mostly revolves around simulation and synthesis rather than sampling. This might give it a slightly more digital sound than fully sample-based plugins, but it also is a massive hard drive and RAM saver, using only 200MB of disk space.
AIR Music Technology Velvet 2 also has a vintage mode which gives you a retro sound at the click of a button, and it comes with 350+ presets for instant inspiration.
This professional-grade plugin is based on Arturia’s cutting-edge modeling engine, which creates highly realistic Rhodes sounds with extensive tweaking and customization.
Arturia Stage-73 Vhas multiple interface modes. The basic “performance” mode gives users quick and broad control of the plugin. You can also go under the hood and tweak the sound in an unprecedented and almost intimidating level of detail.
If you know your way around a real Rhodes, then you will be very happy to see the options Arturia gives you. You have total control over the sonic aesthetic produced by this Rhodes modeling plugin.
The customization offerings are impressive in Arturia Stage-73 V electric piano plugin – you can change hammer hardness, and velocity curves, change the tone bar resonance and the dynamics, and you have complete control over the simulated electronic pickups, giving you even more tone power.
The Arturia Stage-73 V electric piano also offers a range of ambiance layers to increase realism, such as humming from the pickups to tine overtones and key and damper noise.
Arturia Stage-73 V is a beauty to work with. It comes very close to the level of depth a real Rhodes instrument offers, although without the huge cost and physical effort.
Arturia Stage-73 V also features a range of presets to give you some quick inspiration (you can also easily save your own presets).
The design also features an amp simulation (based on a vintage tube combo amp) with a range of effects pedals(including a wah-wah pedal) to further color your incredible sounds. All you need is a midi controller and you’re ready to jam!
What We Like
Incredibly deep level of customization.
Easy to use, but also has “under the hood” functionality.
Know Before Buying
Too complex for basic tasks.
Relatively CPU intense, won’t run smoothly on old machines.
AIR Music’s AIR Electric offers a range of electric keyboard simulations including Rhodes, FM keyboards, Wurlitzers, and more.
All of them come with a decent level of customization and flexibility to change their timbre.
This plugin is built with over 20 years of sampling and modeling experience and offers incredible fidelity thanks to its dynamic modeling engine.
The interface is highly intuitive and designed with live performance as a benchmark use case. It lets you change the pickup, envelopes, resonance, and noise parameters to craft the perfect e-keyboard sound. It comes with over 80 presets that cover everything from a vintage sound, to tones closer to synth sounds.
The built-in effects are decent too, coming with all the staple Rhodes tools, including spring reverb, delay, chorus, tremolo, and even some tube distortion to add crunch and warmth. These can all be controlled with midi controllers.
The effects are the same effects algorithms used in the Pro Tools AIR FX bundle, which is widely known to be an industry standard.
The sound might not be as exciting, rich, or deep as the premium plugins on this list, however, for the price, it’s a great deal and offers a wide range of Rhodes and electric keyboard sounds for your productions.
Lounge Lizard EP 4 was the first Rhodes plugin I ever bought, many years ago. I’ve got a lot of use out of this beast, and it’s easily one of those industry standards that you hear all over the charts.
Lounge Lizard is a solid Rhodes emulation all around, but I think this is one of the best choices for live performance too. This is thanks to the high level of resource optimization, quick preset recall, and the simple and intuitive interface.
This is another physical modeling instrument, which uses synthesis rather than sampling to offer a greater level of versatility and depth. It sounds fantastic and comes very close to the real deal.
Lounge Lizard EP 4 comes with a bunch of controls and features for shaping the character and tone of the piano, including a compressor, 4-band equalizer, flanger, distortion, tremolo, and reverb.
The main sound shaping controls give you everything you need from a Rhodes, including the hammer noise, tine bar, and tone bar volumes, pickup symmetry, and even a character control for the finishing touch,
The preset library for Lounge Lizard is huge and has a bunch of experimental patches which push the sound beyond what you would normally expect from a Rhodes simulation, all hand-made by Applied Acoustics Systems’ finest engineers.
It’s responsive and resource-efficient, and there isn’t much to criticize. Maybe Lounge Lizard EP 4 doesn’t have quite the depth as the Arturia Stage-73, but it certainly has enough for most users.
If you’re a Reason user, then this is the obvious choice. This powerful electric piano simulation Radical Keys plugin is an iconic unit from Propellerhead and offers a strong sound with excellent tweakability.
Radicall Keys provides a trio of iconic electrical keyboards bundled into one nifty Reason Rack Extension. Using a hybrid system of both samples and audio modeling, Radical Keys gives you the sound of the Fender Rhodes Mk 1, the Pianet-T, and the Wurlitzer.
Thanks to the unique design, you can mix all three types together. A notable feature is the mic selection, where you can blend between a direct line recording, an amplified signal, or even an ambient room mic. This gives you the chance to quickly create the perfect electric piano blend for your track.
It offers a pretty decent level of customization. The core controls offer velocity response manipulation, tuning with drift, resonance, envelope shaping, and even blend controls for mechanical noises like key and pedal tones.
It also comes with a nice bunch of onboard effects, which have a deeper level of control than most of the others on this list which can be a little flat.
You get a tremolo, compressor, overdrive, EQ, phaser, chorus, and reverb section for extra color and excitement. The character control gives you a broader shift, letting you switch from subdued to agitated.
Propellerhead has also been kind enough to throw in over 100 presets with the plugin that covers a range of sounds and is very useable.
The only issue with this Radical Keys is that it’s a Reason Rack Extension, so it only runs inside Reasons itself and won’t work in other DAWs.
What We Like
Blend between mic/recording source types.
Detailed effects sections.
Dynamic, high-quality sound.
Know Before Buying
It’s a Reason extension, so it needs to be used in Reason software rather than other DAWs.
Unlike the other plugins on this list, the PSound Vintage Electric uses 100% real samples, rather than digital modeling. This means it has arguably the most realistic and accurate sound because you are really hearing a Rhodes piano, rather than digital synthesis.
The controls are a little more limited than others here, giving you a basic dynamic response curve, and a release and resonance setting.
There isn’t much else that controls the raw tone itself, but it does come with a few onboard effects for coloration, you get a tremolo, chorus, reverb, and EQ.
It’s powered by the UVI sampling engine, which means you will need to download the free UVI workstation (or UVI Falcon) plugin, which isn’t much of an issue anyway. XLN Audio addictive keys is a similar plugin I also recommend.
This is a more streamlined plugin compared to others on this list, but it has a super realistic sound, and you’re getting the real deal.
Where other plugins can sound a little digital and synthetic, this sounds like a real Rhodes. It does lack some customization, but if you want a sound that works, then this is a great choice.
Looking for more virtual instruments? See my review of the best flute vsts!
What We Like
Uses 100% recorded samples from a Rhodes Mk 1 rather than digital modeling.
Keyzone Classic is an unbeatable free piano and keyboard plugin. If you need the authentic sound of keyboard instruments on a tight budget, you won’t find much better than this.
This plugin actually offers more than the sound of a Rhodes, it also includes Yamaha and Steinway grand pianos, and another basic electric piano patch on top of the classic Rhodes sound.
Keyzone Classic uses samples rather than digital emulation, which means it might take up a little more hard drive space, but it gives you an authentic, realistic sound.
You get the standard ADSR envelope controls, a one-knob reverb, velocity curve editing, master volume, and a pan-based LFO.
It occasionally sounds like the samples are stretched further than their normal pitch, which can be a bit jarring. Although for the price, this plugin is a good deal and will be a big help for producers in need of a range of keyboard sounds on a tight budget.
Uses real Rhodes samples.
Comes with 5 piano sounds
Easy to use and includes presets
Buyers Guide – What to consider when choosing Rhodes VST Plugins
There are many Rhodes Piano plugins out there, each with a slightly different twist. This section highlights important things to think about to help you choose the right Rhodes piano simulation for your needs!
Sample-Based or Simulation
When looking at electric piano VST plugins, you will quickly notice that there are two engine types – sample-based or digital modeling. Sampling uses real recordings of an electric piano, where a modeling Rhodes plugin simulates the sound. Which type makes the best Rhodes VST is largely a matter of personal tastes. Samples tend to sound more realistic, but are also more limited and use more space and CPU.
Amp and Effects Simulation Built-in?
Do you need a whole range of effects in your Rhodes plugin? Or would you be happy to use external ones?
Level of customization offered – basic or deep?
Some electric piano plugins are very simple, others offer a huge level of customization. The best Rhodes plugin for you depends on your level of comfort getting under the hood and tweaking the nitty gritty controls.
What is the best piano plugin?
If you are after a traditional piano plugin, rather than a Rhodes, then I’d recommend the Arturia Piano V2. This is fully featured and incredibly versatile. You won’t find much better for the price!
Is Rhodes acoustic?
There are some acoustic elements in the operation of a Rhodes, however, it is largely an electrical device. The vibrating bars create acoustic energy, but this is then converted to electricity thanks to the pickups.
What is a VST in music?
VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology and is a type of music production software. VSTs are also called plugins and are smaller, embedded software units that work within a larger DAW (digital audio workstation). VSTs bring a new flavor and level of power and customization to a DAW and are essential for all professional producers.
Best for people who might want more than a standard Rhodes emulation.
Good luck choosing your electric piano plugins. All of the Rhodes plugins on this list have a fantastic sound quality and give you everything you need to create tones close to the classic sound of a real electric piano.
Electric pianos have a versatile sound that it can work with all music genres. Whether you are looking for a mellow timbre, or something with more of a bite, any virtual instrument on this list will get you sorted in no time.
Electric pianos are a huge part of hip hop, so if you’re in that field you might be interested in my review of the best hip hop vsts!