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The mellotron, at least for me, has one of those iconic sounds that instantly recalls images of the 60s. The mellotron blends beautifully with other keyboard instruments, and in isolation, it sounds haunting, mysterious, and even whimsical, all in the same breath.
That also means there isn’t anything exactly like it. Sure, the mellotron was designed to emulate choirs, strings, flutes, bass, and other orchestral instruments. But its sound is distinctive. It has a tone and a place in recording history all its own.
So, in this guide, we’ll be looking at the best mellotron VST plugins that will give you awesome results in the studio, and in some cases, live too.
Mellotron V by Arturia – Best Overall
Arturia’s Mellotron V is a popular and highly rated VST plugin. In the areas of sound quality, value for money, ease of use, features, and presets, it achieved a perfect score among its user base. And it’s not too hard to understand why.
The Mellotron V faithfully reproduces the original, vintage 60s sounds of the mellotron, while adding a few modern modifications that puts unprecedented customization at the producer’s fingertips.
The appeal of the mellotron is the ability to play tape-based recordings of orchestral instruments. And that construction is what gives it that unique character we’ve all come to know and love. The sound, or the “magic,” as the case might be, it’s safe to say, is in the imperfections of tape flutter and other artifacts.
Obviously, there are many mellotron samples out there. But the Mellotron V has been designed to be a comprehensive model of the original console. And that means the ability to tweak and customize to the nth degree, with saturation, inherent noise, variable instrument mix combos, and tape flutter. You can even play your own samples through the Mellotron V’s tape-replay engine.
The ability to mix and match samples of the best tape banks is one of the things that makes the Mellotron V more powerful than the original unit. You get presets complete with designer combinations of instruments, onboard effects processing, all searchable and easy to access within the user interface.
In total, you get 65 original tape racks from MKI, MKII, M300, and M400 mellotrons, user sample import, three tracks to select or blend samples with, modeling parameters for modulation (flutter, mechanics noise, noise floor, tape saturation, velocity on volume, aftertouch on flutter), amplitude envelope and loop controls for each sample, time stretching on user samples, and 61 presets to get you started.
The dedicated effects pedal board features four slots with 10 different effects. You also get one amplifier simulator (Fender Twin or Leslie), and one room ambiance.
The interface obviously takes after the original mellotron (even down to the slightest of details). It has a time-worn look to replicate a vintage feel, and from its appearance, you can instantly tell that it’s simple and not overwhelming. Included on the main interface are the three-way sound selector, volume knob, tone knob, and pitch knob.
Of course, as you might have guessed, Mellotron V lets you go deeper into the console. This is where you can access the flutter, tape saturation, mechanics, noise floor, as well as velocity and aftertouch. You also get an ADSR envelope for deeper customization.
The three tape tracks, of course, allow you to create all kinds of sound combinations, depending on what you’re looking for.
Overall, the graphical user interface is the meeting place of “dialed in” design balanced with functionality. It offers a luxurious feel while giving you as much control over your sound as possible. You can even modify your samples, which is frankly a ridiculous amount of customization. Of course, you can dive even deeper into the pedalboard for more variations.
Speaking of the plugin’s sound, I’m impressed by all that Mellotron V makes available. You would be hard pressed to find a mellotron with deeper customizability, and that means you can do more with the mellotron than was even originally intended! With so much power at your fingertips, you’re sure to be able to create highly usable sounds for your tracks and projects.
So, we can wholeheartedly recommend Mellotron V as the best overall option. Not to say it doesn’t have competition, but when all the factors are taken together, this VST emerges on top.
You can find Mellotron V on Plugin Boutique for Mac or Windows.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
EZKeys Mellotoon by Toontrack – Premium Option
Toontrack brands EZKeys Mellotoon as “the one-piece orchestra.” This VST plugin, as with most, takes after everyone’s favorite, Mellotron M400 unit (as do most mellotron VST plugins).
The developer captured 15 instruments from the classic Mellotron, sampled with a blend of direct and amped signals. You also get a variety of custom effects and sound chain presets for added fun and function.
The samples were recorded in Sweden at Studio 9, Sveriges Radio. A Music Man RD50 amp was used to amplify the mellotron, along with an Avalon U5 line box, Telefunken U47, DAD AX24, and Coles 4038 microphones to gather its tones. The sounds were designed to be mixed-ready and should “drop” nicely into any mix without much alteration.
Some of the sounds include recorder, piano, solo flute, viola, cello, string section, and mixed brass. There are some awesome combo sounds like Clouds, which is a blend of the recorder, solo-flute, and viola along with optical tremolo and plate reverb.
I find the included sounds detailed, warm, bright, and crisp. They should cut through the mix with ease. If you’re looking for rawer sounds, then EZKeys Mellotoon might not be the right choice for you. But if you like polished, smooth, sleek sounds that are mix ready, this Mellotron VST plugin is going to make your life easier.
Its interface is likewise smooth and glossy. It exists more for the visual appeal than the controls since the parameters are relatively minimal to begin with. But that’s not a bad thing. It just goes to show that Toontrack has gone to extra lengths to give you a sleek, straightforward user experience.
This is our premium pick, but is it worth the money? That’s probably the trickiest part. EZKeys Mellotoon is the most expensive option presented here.
But since it offers polished tones that other plugins don’t out of the box (you can still tweak to get there with other plugins mind you), this option is for those who don’t want to mess around, want beautiful tones out of the box, and like the idea of working fast in the studio.
EZKeys Mellotoon works on Windows and Mac machines and is available at the developer website.
Learn more: Toontrack
UVI Mello by UVI – Best Budget Option
They say not to judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to UVI Mello, you can infer a lot about this Mellotron inspired VST plugin from its appearances alone. This plugin has a distinctly cartoony, vintage vibe, and it’s not afraid to be a little loud and bold in its pronouncement, either.
UVI Mello, of course, is a tribute to the legendary Mellotron. The developer sought to create a VST plugin faithful to the original, with dozens of multi-sampled original tapes on three different machines, and 28 sounds. Key noise and mechanical sounds were kept intact and were even stereo recorded. These tape noise and key-off sounds were made mixable, so you can easily achieve your desired effect.
UVI did want to take things a little further, though, so they added an analog modeled tape delay, reverb, custom unison mode, switchable multimode filter, three-band EQ, ADSR envelopes, built-in SparkVerb, and more.
As noted, its GUI is a little cartoony. It’s going for a realistic vibe, but without going too far in the uncanny valey direction. It’s slick and glossy, though, perhaps more so than any other VST plugin on this list. And the onboard controls allow you to shape your sound quickly and easily (e.g., bass, mid, treble, mid freq controls).
To my ears, this is a great sounding Mellotron emulation. It’s got a raw tone that you can easily tweak to drop into your mix. For all intents and purposes, this is a very competent plugin with solid customization and great built-in sounds.
Although it’s not the cheapest plugin on this list, we do consider UVI Mello the best budget option in this guide. It’s excellent value for the money, and it sounds great. It’s worth the asking price.
You can get UVI Mello at the developer website. It’s compatible with Mac and Windows.
Learn more: UVI
Newmello Collection by Wavesfactory
Wavesfactory’s Newmello Collection (note: this is a Kontakt instrument) promises to go beyond the mellotron while offering the distinctive flavor of the favorite tape-based sounds that made it so memorable.
As the name would suggest, this is a collection, and as per the developer, it comes with volumes I through III. Emulating the Mellotron M400, this collection includes 75 instrument patches. But instead of sampling an M400, Wavesfactory opted to recreate the mechanics of the original unit by sampling 75 custom instruments through a lo-fi cassette tape.
The user interface offers access to a background noise control, tape blend slider (combine two tape decks), attack and release times, and a tone control with tilt-style EQ. You can select from 75 patches, or patches from your own keyboard.
Newmello Collection, though, also lets you combine a variety of effects in any order you want: EQ, compressors, modulation (chorus, phaser, flanger), distortion / saturation / tape, algorithmic and convolutional reverb (more than 40 custom impulse responses), and amp simulators.
There are more presets included than we can realistically cover here, but here are a few to give you a taste: bass flute, alt sax, euphonium, violin, viola, cello, upright bass, electric guitar, ukulele, harp, dulcimer, electric sitar, grand piano, accordion, harmonium, vibraphone, marimba, bells, timpani, and more.
Its interface is well balanced, and it’s clear it’s going for a luxurious feel. But somehow it feels a little taped together. The attack, release, and tone knobs specifically don’t seem to fit the design of the rest of the interface. That simple change, though, would be enough to propel this plugin to rockstar status in the design realm. You can’t be too picky in this regard though.
The included sounds are quite nice. My impression is that some are better than others, but all the sounds you know the mellotron for are available here and are quite close to the real thing. The included effects let you take things to new and unusual heights, and that gives you the option of adding surprising sounds to your mixes.
Newmello Collection is available as a Kontakt instrument at Plugin Boutique.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
M-Tron Pro by GForce Software
GForce Software’s M-Tron Pro is the developer’s take on the Melltron M400, the instrument that worked so well for bands like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Radiohead, Trent Reznor, Oasis, and many others (to be fair, every developer seems to enjoy hammering this point).
And this thing is huge! It comes with a massive, 3.5GB sound library, and over 200 tape banks (19 of which were remastered at Abbey Road Studios).
From the control interface, you can access the eye-popping 700+ patches, independent controls for the tape banks (layers A and B), pitch modulation, filter and envelope, keyboard responses controls, effects (delay and ensemble), and of course a keyboard section showing an authentic 35 note range.
M-Tron Pro also comes with dual-layer and split-keyboard operation, MIDI Learn, 29 parameters per layer, lowpass, bandpass, and highpass filters, and tape-based effects (like reverse and half speed). It’s quick to load up, too, which means it can also be used onstage. Yes, you heard right – this is a competent live instrument!
The user interface is quite unique in that there are four interface sizes in three designs (original, wood, and clear). It’s clear to me that a lot of love went into the GUI, and while it is well-balanced and meticulous, it’s also kind of comical. The master tune, volume, and PB range knobs, specifically, pop out in a weird way. Modifying the gradient and making it more subtle would prevent these design elements from sticking out unnecessarily.
But for the most part, we really like the slightly cartoony design with heavy drop shadows, gradients, and glossy polish. It kind of brings us back to the mid-2000s, but not in a bad way.
The onboard sounds are quite authentic to my ears and should satisfy mellotron fans of most shades. With all the onboard controls, though, you can take the mellotron sound beyond the ordinary and expected and into the otherworldly. And that’s just fun.
M-Tron Pro is available for Windows or Mac on GForce Software’s developer website.
Learn more: GForce Software
What Should I Look For In A Mellotron VST?
When it comes to mellotron VST plugins, there aren’t that many available. There are a few free ones not covered here, but the drop in quality is instantly noticeable. Regardless, the mellotron VSTs featured here do such a good job that, the only way to even replace them would probably be to own a real, physical Mellotron product. And that can get expensive. Not to mention, the popularity of the instrument makes it hard to find in the aftermarket.
There are some physical alternatives out there, like the Mellotron M4000D Mini, but price wise, it’s not going to be anywhere near as viable as a VST. Either way, though, we assume you’re here because a VST plugin is what you want and what you need.
So, in this section, we’ll look at what to look for when you’re shopping for a mellotron VST. Here are the main criteria to consider:
- The authenticity of the modeling, sampling, or emulation
- Its overall tone and sound, combinations, and customizability
- Onboard effects and other parameters or features (versatility
- The cost of the plugin
Let’s dig deeper into each of these factors.
Look, I get it. Some people are really into authenticity. Plugins from 10 or 20 years ago tend not to compare to what’s available. The bar is a lot higher, and in some cases, even free plugins are taking things to the next level.
But it’s understandable that certain music producers and sound engineers would want to get the best sound they can possibly get. A sound matched to the very thing it’s emulating.
And what I can say is that, inevitably, in some ways, you will be sacrificing authenticity. That’s the nature of a VST. It’s not meant to be perfect. More so, it’s meant to be more convenient, more versatile, and more affordable than hardware gear. And for the most part, VSTs follow this rule.
That said, we’ve covered some great plugins here. Some are honestly a little hard to tell from each other in terms of sound and quality. And the mellotron is already such a unique instrument with various idiosyncrasies that, little imperfections in emulation aren’t that big of a deal – especially in a full mix.
So, with regards to authenticity and how important that is to you, we encourage you to trust your own ears and make up your own mind. After all, you’ll be the one using the plugin, and that means you should get what works for you, and that applies to workflow too. Don’t trust any recommendation blindly, unless it’s coming from someone who’s steered you towards your favorite kit in the past.
Tone & Sound
The tone of the VST plugin is probably the key factor for most, and thanks to video demos and reviews, you can hear exactly what the plugins sound like before you buy. That tends to help with the buying process quite a bit.
Effects & Versatility
There are different types of producers and engineers. Some like to tweak, experiment, and play with parameters more. Others stress workflow and efficiency over customization. This is ultimately up to you, and we’ve presented options suited to different tastes above.
Price & Budget
Finally, we do see pricing as an important factor in consideration of your budget. There’s no need to overextend yourself, and we do not recommend paying for musical goodies with debt. Consider your budget, spend responsibly, and you can’t go wrong.
Top Mellotron VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
The mellotron has been used in a variety of songs you’re bound to have heard before, especially in classic rock. Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and even King Crimson’s “The Court of the Crimson King.” It has a signature sound you can’t really find anywhere else.
Generally, the mellotron isn’t an instrument to use on every song, but it does have its place, even in modern recording. And if you’re going to pick up a mellotron VST plugin anyway, it may as well be one that offers satisfying results on all your projects.