Sometimes when Musicians HQ mentions gear, we’ll include our affiliate link & may earn a commission at no cost to you. This doesn’t impact the products we mention.
When it comes to electric pianos, there are few as legendary as the Fender Rhodes. It has a classic, warm, dreamy tone (and bark and snarl when you need it) that’s often emulated but rarely matched.
And whether you’re recording rock, jazz, R&B, fusion, or even pop, the Rhodes sound has made many songs a hit, and even to this day, it’s a studio essential.
So, in this guide, we’ll be looking at the best Rhodes VST plugins that offer a vintage electric piano tone.
Stage-73 V by Arturia – Best Overall
Arturia’s Stage-73 V is a popular option for electric pianists. It’s been designed to give you authentic modeling of your favorite Stage and Suitcase sounds (73 and 74 models of the Stage model). And it claims to put all the signature sounds right at your fingertips.
Arturia painstakingly modeled the tines (metal tone rods), hammers, pickups, and circuits of the originals. In addition to all the controls available on the original keyboard units, Stage-73 V gives you access to other adjustments you couldn’t make on the physical keyboards.
This includes bass and treble EQ models, stereo vibrato with speed and intensity controls, and modelled preamp for the Suitcase amp, specifically for the Suitcase model.
You also get access to a variety of EP profiles, a dedicated effects pedalboard (four slots with 13 effects), amp simulator (Fender Twin or Leslie), room ambience, and even controls for velocity curve editor, model selection, hammer hardness, tuning, output selection, damper duration, damper noise, pickup distance, pickup alignment, pickup noise, noise gate, tine noise, dynamics, and tone bar resonance. Over 50 presets are included, which is more than enough to get started with.
Overall, the Stage-73 V sounds amazing (be sure to check out the video below). And there are enough built-in sounds to satisfy the pickiest of players.
Stage-73 V’s interface is awesome. Arturia has opted for a realistic electric piano console look, and it’s simply a thing of beauty.
With all this on offer, and at this price point, it’s hard to imagine a better selection for the best overall Rhodes VST plugin. It looks great, it sounds great, and it’s highly customizable. It’s obvious that it wasn’t just thrown together, and that means it will complement serious studio work.
Arturia’s Stage-73 V is available for Windows and Mac on Plugin Boutique.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Lounge Lizard EP-4 by Applied Acoustics Systems – Premium Option
Search high and low for the best Rhodes or electric piano VST plugins, and you will find that Applied Acoustic Systems’ Lounge Lizard EP-4 regularly tops the list of the best kit available, and if not, still makes the list.
Computer Music magazine called it a “supremely playable emulation of a Fender Rhodes 73,” and DJ Mag said, “it simply can’t be beaten by any other Rhodes or Wurlitzer plugin.”
Lounge Lizard EP-4 comes with 100 custom electric piano presets (with organs, bells, chimes, and leads), real-time circulation of sound (no samples), 32-bit floating point internal processing, sample rates up to 192 kHz, unlimited undo/redo, MIDI program change support, integrated chorus, delay, and reverb, host tempo synchronization, dynamic voice allocation, CPU overhead protection, and more.
If you love to tweak and customize until you achieve your perfect sound (which is one of the fun aspects of vintage electric pianos), then you will love the real-time controls like damper noise and pickup placement. Lounge Lizard EP-4’s small resource footprint also makes it perfect for gigging.
The sounds you can get with the Lounge Lizard EP-4 are quite stunning. The presets work as great jumping off points for creating your own sounds, and if messing around with controls isn’t your thing, the presets work very nicely out of the box. This is a highly usable plugin, and if in doubt, have a listen to the presets in the video below.
Its user interface probably looks a little familiar, and it isn’t a thing of pure innovation and whimsy, but it looks nice, and it does the trick. The lime green on shades of grey really evokes that “lizard” feel they’re going for.
Lounge Lizard EP-4 is the most expensive Rhodes VST plugin we could find. But it’s also one of the most authentic soundings and most customizable. It’s a very musical plugin, and the presets give you a complete palette to paint from. So, if you can’t be without the best, Lounge Lizard EP-4 is what you need.
Lounge Lizard EP-4 is available for Mac or Windows at Plugin Boutique.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Addictive Keys: Mark One by XLN Audio
As you might have guessed Addictive Keys: Mark One was based on the legendary Fender Rhodes Mk. 1.
To capture its sound, Addictive Keys put the keyboard through a MusicMan 112 RD Fifty 1×12”, and recorded using vintage a Shure SM57 dynamic, Telefunken U47 tube condenser, and Coles 4038 ribbon microphones at a variety of distances (near and far). A Neumann SM69 stereo microphone was also used to capture the ambient (room) sound, and a Sela T25 stereo microphone was used for the acoustic strings.
They even took two separate line recordings through a high-voltage DI box as well as through a classic Roland Dimension D analog stereo chorus.
As you’ll be able to hear from the video below, there are some nice sounds built into this VST plugin. I find the tones very crisp and clean, and they capture both the bark and dreaminess of a Rhodes. Some sounds aren’t as authentic as some of the other plugins on this list, but this is still a very competent Rhodes VST plugin. It will fool plenty of ears in the context of a full mix.
The user interface has a classy design. It’s bold and easy to navigate, and it looks quite realistic. But it’s one of those interfaces that exists because it must, not necessarily because it’s the epitome of streamlined workflow. In this case, it’s not all about tweaking parameters, so that’s fine.
All these factors taken together make this the best budget option. Which isn’t to say this is the cheapest VST plugin on this list because it isn’t. But it’s going after a specific sound. And for the money, it’s excellent value. So, while this was not an easy decision (there are still a lot of great VSTs on this list – there’s even a great free option at the end), Mark One made the cut for our best budget pick.
Mark One is available at Plugin Boutique for Mac and Windows.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Velvet 2 by AIR Music Technology
AIR Music Technology’s Velvet 2 is something special. This highly rated and popular VST plugin combines five classics from the 60s and 70s – Fender Rhodes Suitcase, Fender Rhodes MK I and MK II, Wurlitzer 200A, as well as the Hohner Pianet-T.
In addition to authentic emulation (with proprietary dynamic modelling), you get access to onboard effects, tube drive controls, timbre, dynamic response, velocity curve, and even pedal sounds and other mechanical keyboard noises to give your tones a more authentic feel. Vintage Mode gives you access to classic, vintage sounds too.
The built-in preamp gives you access to tube overdrive, compression, and a custom three-band EQ (with parametric mid band), and even distortion, chorus, flanger, phaser, wah/filter, and tape delay effects. You also get Ambience, Spring, and Room reverbs to add more space. In terms of built-in effects, Velvet 2 easily has the most of any VST mentioned here.
Stunningly, the Velvet 2 comes with 350+ professional presets that can be tweaked to your heart’s content.
We love the vintage style interface of the Velvet 2. It’s simple but balanced. The controls are very clear, and it’s visually appealing without being loud.
The built-in effects are fun and powerful. They give you access to a wide range of tones without the need for additional effects. It does have a great sound overall, but we don’t think it’s the best sounding Rhodes VST plugin on this list. For those who want versatility, though, you might be hard pressed to find a better option. So, if you want instant access to a wide range of sounds, this might be the right pick.
Velvet 2 is available for Mac and Windows at Plugin Boutique.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Electric Pianos by Muze
Muze Electric Pianos brings together the best of two worlds – vintage Rhodes MK II sounds with the Yamaha CP80 electric grand.
These classics were recorded at 24bit ultra high resolution. This Kontakt instrument comes with 10 velocity levels, reverberation during note-off periods, and trigger release. If you don’t have Kontakt, or don’t have plans to use it, then this would obviously not be the right selection for you.
Either way, Electric Pianos also gives you access to 106 ready-to-use hybrid presets (pianos, horns, guitars, keys, bells, mallets, e pianos, processed pianos, effects, etc.), 10 velocity layers, four-band equalizers, cabinet, screamer, rotator, distortion, tape saturator, two layers per preset, and 5,035 samples.
If chill electric piano sounds are what you’re looking for, you will love this plugin. There are many built-in sounds, but I do feel the electric piano sounds are the strongest overall. That said, sometimes it is nice to have more tones at your fingertips (and some of them are quite usable).
If you’re looking specifically for a VST plugin that will give you authentic Rhodes sounds exclusively, then you may want to look elsewhere. A one trick pony will suit you better. But if you want a versatile tone maker, you’ll have a lot of fun with Electric Pianos. Also hit “play” on the video below to hear some of its sounds.
As you can see, its user interface is beautifully designed. It’s well balanced and features a semi-realistic look. It puts all the controls at your fingertips so you can tweak to your heart’s content. Although there isn’t much by way of color, in this case, we don’t count that as a demerit. It’s obviously been designed to look like console gear.
And to be fair, what you get for the price is excellent value.
Electric Pianos is available at Plugins Boutique for Mac and Windows.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Electric 88 Piano by Waves
Although it makes no claims of emulating a specific vintage electric piano, it’s clear that Electric 88 Piano is, for all intents and purposes, an electric piano VST plugin with Rhodes like character (and, technically, the name speaks wonders already). Its sounds were sampled to capture all the intricacies of the original, with effects, compressor, and an amp for authentic emulation.
Over time, vintage pianos start to develop their own character. Their tone changes, they start to detune, and every key becomes an entity of its own. These imperfections, though, are often what serve to create an amazing, “broken in” instrument sound that’s a joy to play and to listen to.
As you probably gathered, the Electric 88 Piano was developed based on a road-worn piano, capturing the essence and character of each key, which were all played by a real human.
In total, the Electric 88 Piano features non-linear sampling, mix section, compressor, amp, effects, tremolo, autopan, phaser, chorus, and reverb. It’s also NKS-ready for NI Komplete Kontrol and Maschine.
Producer-remixer Kris Menace said the Electric 88 was “so true to the Fender Rhodes,” keyboardist-producer-composer Jason Miles called it “top of the class,” and producer / songwriter / musician Michael Goldwasser said it was the closest he’s found to the real thing.
And overall, this is a great sounding plugin. Waves specifically set out to create an instrument that’s musical and inspirational. Less precision and more character. While it’s been designed for pianists and keyboardists, it’s just as viable a tool for producers and engineers. Also refer to the video to get a better sense of how it sounds.
The interface is among the best we’ve seen so far. It captures the essence of a vintage electric piano, not surprisingly, but it adds a bit of color to make it more visually appealing. It is very nicely balanced, easy to use and understand.
Electric 88 Piano is available for Windows and Mac at Waves.
Learn more: Waves
LABS – Electric Piano by Spitfire Audio
LABS – Electric Piano may well be free. But it sounds amazing. And though we wouldn’t expect any less from Spitfire Audio’s LABS series of plugins, it simply would not be on this list if we didn’t think it highly competent. Whether you’re a composer or a music producer, if you don’t know about LABS, consider this your golden ticket.
But as a user of the LABS series of plugins, I can honestly say it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There are some pros and some cons. So, let me lay this out for you.
First, the pros. LABS – Electric Piano sounds great. It has a very authentic tone. Just check out the video and you will hear for yourself. It’s also free, and it’s hard to argue with that. The user interface is minimal, simplistic, and beautiful (though the LABS series of plugins all use the same interface).
Now for the cons. One is that, while there are usually some tweakable parameters within LABS VSTs, there are usually only a few. And that goes for Electric Piano too. In terms of versatility, just about any other plugin on this list will top this one.
I also get that there are many ways to download and install a plugin these days, and Spitfire Audio’s method of distribution is to get you to download their app and install the LABS VSTs one at a time. I wouldn’t take issue with this if it wasn’t severely error prone, even after VSTs have been installed. I’ve had to install and re-install, usually without any knowledge as to why things are going wrong, or what the cause is. Stability, at least for me, has been an issue.
And then there’s file size. It seems Spitfire Audio has been able to keep the VST file sizes a little smaller than in the past, but it’s fair to say most are still 500 MB and up. It’s understandable. This is how they’re able to deliver authentic sounds with their plugins. But it’s a bit of a commitment.
I guess you can’t ask too much from a free plugin. But I would love to see the installation process ironed out. Because that’s really the biggest con of all.
But you can get an amazing sound for free, and that’s noteworthy.
LABS – Electric Piano works on Mac and Windows.
Learn more: Spitfire Audio
What Should I Look For In A Rhodes VST Plugin?
There are a limited number of plugins to choose from. That said, I know what it feels like to be in analysis paralysis. You know you need a Rhodes VST plugin, but which one should you get?
Just from the descriptions given, you can probably tell that all seven Rhodes VST plugins are very distinct offers. They’re all going to give up satisfactory electric piano sounds, obviously, but they’re going to deliver different results because of the methods used to emulate the classic Fender Rhodes.
So, in this section, we’ll be looking at a few criteria to help you find what you are looking for. Use the following as your buying guide, and you should at least be able to narrow down your options. Let’s look at:
- The tone of the VST plugin
- The overall versatility of the VST plugin
- The price of the VST plugin
Tone & Sound
Most music producers and sound engineers will be interested in how the plugin sounds, first and foremost. And while the above do vary in quality or character, and some are more authentic than others, you will find that all plugins on this list boast a great flavor.
So, then it comes down to preference and needs. What do you like, and what sounds do you require for your projects? Asking yourself these questions can help you arrive at meaningful answers.
Effects & Versatility
Some VSTs basically give you a Rhodes style sound with minimal customization. And then there are those that are loaded with effects and other tweakable parameters that let you customize to your heart’s content. There’s no right or wrong here. It’s just a matter of which is more versatile.
And just because a VST doesn’t have built-in effects doesn’t mean you can’t add effects to it in your DAW after the fact. Of course, your results will vary, and it will depend on the effects you use. But it can’t hurt to think a little outside the box, right?
Price & Budget
Rhodes plugins are basically in the $20 to $200 range. That’s not a price that should break the bank, but everything adds up. For instance, if you’re planning to pick up a Rhodes VST along with an EQ, chorus, compressor, and delay, you could easily end up spending $500. And if your original budget was $300, you’d be well over.
That’s just one of many scenarios that could play out, and it’s possible all you need is a Rhodes VST right now. But even then, price should still be a consideration, unless money isn’t an object. We don’t recommend going into debt for any music related purchase.
Price is also a great way to filter out options to help you arrive at a buying decision faster.
Top Rhodes VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
Short of owning a Fender Rhodes, you would do well to outfit your studio setup with a quality VST plugin. The Rhodes offers a classic sound, and it’s a classic for a reason – it fits so nicely into any mix. Plus, it’s highly tweakable and customizable, and it has appeared on countless hit songs, including “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder, “Daniel” by Elton John, “Get Back” by The Beatles, and many, many others.
Although the plugins showcased above are the best of the best, but it’s fair to say your options are limited. So, the VST you need is quite likely on this list. Check out the videos and find the perfect plugin for your needs.