The dilemma of the modern music producer or even composer is that they often need to work fast and cheaply.
Bringing in a session musician to play, say, the trumpet, in an ideal world, would be the best option. But sometimes it’s just not tenable due to cost, recording environment, equipment, or otherwise.
These days, though, virtual instruments are starting to sound more organic and authentic than ever in the past, and they don’t cost an arm and a leg either.
So, in this guide, we’ll be looking at the best trumpet VST plugins.
MOJO 2: Horn Section by Vir2 Instruments – Best Overall
Vir2 Instruments’ MOJO 2: Horn Section is a Kontakt instrument (there are multiple Kontakt instruments on this list) whose reputation basically precedes it. The developer claims it’s the “ultimate” pro horn collection that brings to the table a new approach to pop, jazz, and big band horns.
The developers sought to improve upon the original MOJO, and with MOJO 2, they completely redesigned the instrument with all new samples while adding brand-new features and instruments. All samples were remixed, and they added four simulated muted instruments, new legato options, improved simulated vibrato, and more.
MOJO 2 includes 13 brass and reed instruments (along with simulated muted instruments), and 13 articulations – Sustains, Staccato, Stabs, Bend Down, Octave Run Down, Octave Run Up, Doits, Rise To Hilt, Shakes, Trills, Swells, Crescendos, and Falls. Four velocity layers and three round robins are also included.
Legato mode brings melodies to life. Add one to 10 players per instrument to expand and add depth to your sounds, play with humanization and stereo spread controls for added flexibility, and blend three mic positions (close, near, and room) to dial in your perfect sound.
MOJO 2 also acts as your personal brass time machine, with Modern, Retro (60s to 70s), Vintage 1 (40s to 50s), and Vintage 2 (20s to 30s) horn sounds.
Take control of global and articulation specific controls with the Performance page, use the Mixer page to blend three mics, take advantage of the Effects page to further tweak your sounds (EQ, cabinet, saturation, tape saturator, compressor, limiter, delay, reverb), and use the Key Mapping page to alter how articulations and release samples are triggered.
In total, MOJO 2 includes over 100GB of uncompressed sample content.
As you might expect, MOJO 2 is quite versatile. There are plenty of sounds built into it, and they are well suited to a variety of genres. An arsenal of powerful features is built into the attractive but simple “flat vector” one-color accent graphical user interface. This level of control and flexibility is phenomenal, and it can easily make this your one-stop horn shop.
The vintage sounds are quite nice and true to the era. The simulated muted instruments are better than you might expect.
So, MOJO 2 has a lot going for it. But it’s not all upsides. It is a pricy instrument, and while the sounds are good, the quality is a little inconsistent from one setting to the next. Some are great, others fail to capture the full organic feel of real brass instruments. All this comes at a high price tag, so you’d better be sure you want MOJO 2 specifically before making the leap.
Of course, the video below should help you make that decision.
All this might strike you as a bit odd for our “best overall” option, but most others on this list are more specialized, and aren’t going to give you quite the versatility that MOJO 2 offers. We love the articulations and time period specific sounds, and where most other plugins are focused on orchestral sounds, with MOJO 2 you get sounds well suited to a wide variety of applications.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
FORZO Modern Brass by Heavyocity – Best Premium Option
If you’re looking for quality brass sounds, you might not have to look much farther than Heavocity’s FORZO Modern Brass. This Kontakt instrument is highly rated and has been praised by many. Bonedo.de called it “first class,” composer Jason Graves identified it as his new, go-to brass library, and composer Ramin Djawadi found the sounds inspiring.
Heavyocity’s FORZO Modern Brass endeavors to bring epic orchestral brass sounds to your studio environment. The built-in sounds were in fact captured at Skywalker Sound (main soundstage) with Heavyocity’s world-class sound design team, award-winning composer Jason Graves, and film score engineer Mark Noguchi.
The team brought together world-class brass players – 12 French horns, four trumpets, eight trombones (tenor, bass, contrabass), and two tubas. Creative articulations, such as cluster bends and random flutters were added to give the sounds an authentic, human feel.
FORZO Modern Brass comes with 11,475 samples, 237 snapshot presets, 57 NKAs, 107 articulations, 432 tempo-synced loops, nine NKIs, five traditional sections (plus full 26-piece ensemble), hybrid brass designer, brass loop designer, sample browser, CYCLE page (advanced granular and rhythmic playback), and MACRO knob for dynamic multi-parameter control.
One quick listen to this Kontakt instrument and you will hear just how huge and powerful the sounds are (check out the video below). It is ideally suited to dramatic, cinematic scores, so if you’re looking for smooth brass and trumpet sounds to use in a pop or rock production, you might want to look elsewhere. That said, you can isolate the trumpets (or any other instrument), and they do sound quite nice.
The brass designer unlocks many interesting possibilities too, whether it’s synth-like basses and pads, or rhythmic electronic drones. Like me, you might hear a few sounds that make you go, “whoa, I didn’t realize that was brass!”
FORZO Modern Bass is a great sounding, quality instrument. It brings many exciting possibilities to the table, especially for composers. But it carries with it a premium price tag also, and as such, it probably won’t be for everyone.
This premium plugin is for those who need the highest quality, most powerful orchestral brass sounds available. All others would probably benefit from a look at the other VSTs on this list.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Muted Trumpet Harmon by Wavesfactory – Best Budget Option
The muted trumpet sound is a nuanced thing, and it’s often wanted, especially in well-established genres like jazz. The trumpet already has a full-bodied, resonant, warm quality to it, but muting it almost transforms it into a different instrument entirely, with whimsy and high end and even a bit of sexiness and sass.
If that’s what you need, then you’ll be happy to know that Wavesfactory’s Kontakt instrument, Muted Trumpet Harmon was created with that classic sound in mind. And I can vouch that they’ve done a good job too!
Artists like Miles Davis were well known for taking advantage of the mute to great effect, but these days they are broadly utilized by soloists, orchestras, recording artists, and even students.
Developer Wavesfactory had Bernat Zamena perform, while sampling each note and transition (without pitch shifting). Round-robin, staccato, polyphonic sustains, and legato articulations have all been placed at your fingertips.
Also included are controls for dynamics, expression, vibrato, algorithmic and convolutional reverb with 40+ custom impulse responses, EQ, compressors, modulation (chorus, flanger, phaser), distortion / saturation / tape, and amp simulators.
Overall, this is a great sounding Kontakt instrument. I find some of the transitions a little inorganic, but aside from that, I don’t have any major complaints.
While it is a bit of a one-trick pony (muted trumpet sounds only), and it’s not going to do what some of our other picks on this list can do, its price point and quality warrant making Muted Trumpet Harmon our best budget option. It is quite affordable, and it could come in handy in certain situations.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Vintage Horns by Big Fish Audio
Now for another Kontakt instrument with some serious character. Big Fish Audio’s Vintage Horns brings a fun, cartoony vibe to their interface, while letting you know, in not so subtle ways, that 60s and 70s disco-funk horns are going to be yours to do with as you please if you purchase this plugin.
And that is the essence of Vintage Horns. This horn section virtual instrument will give you access to those favorite R&B, soul, and funk sounds you’ve come to know and love. The developers did not set out to create a perfect-sounding instrument, so they left the minor imperfections in, just as heard on old recordings.
Big Fish Audio claims you can recreate everything from Memphis Soul, the JBs horn section (trombone, trumpet, alto sax, tenor sax, bari sax), and Detroit Soul, to Philly Soul (with flutes and flugel horn), and Oakland Soul (bari sax, two tenor saxes, trombone, and two trumpets, which switch to flugel horns for ballads).
Vintage Horns comes with nine instrument patches (each with keyswitches), for control over long notes, short notes, stabs, falls, and swells. Sforzando samples were included for brass and reeds. Additionally, 16 multis can be used to tap into pre-made sections, saving you the time of crafting your own.
If you like real, gritty sounding instruments, then you will enjoy Vintage Horns. Some of the sounds are stellar. Some are quite good. I make no claims of Vintage Horns offering the best sounds compared to other instruments covered here, but in a mix, they should come across.
So, if vintage sounds are your thing, you will enjoy Vintage Horns.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Soul Town by DopeSONIX
The name of the virtual instrument kind of says it all, doesn’t it? DopeSONIX’ Soul Town gives you access to the legendary sounds of soul and Motown. And in that sense, it’s an indirect competitor to the previously viewed Vintage Horns.
This VST / AU plugin (for Windows or Mac) puts the 60s Detroit Soul sounds right at your fingertips, with 20 classic instruments and effects like MKI and MKII electric piano, B-series electric organ, bass and string patches, all mixed and equalized to sound like the originals.
That’s right, this isn’t just a trumpet or horn section VST. You’re getting access to classic keyboard sounds, strings, bass, Memphis brass and horns, and even vinyl and tape effects for extra warmth and vintage vibes.
In total, you get 22 instruments, 100 MIDI files, up to five velocity layers for added dynamics, flexible pitch, pan, glide, and gain controls, analog style reverb, hi / lo pass filter, three modes (poly, mono, and legato), stereo output meter, ADSR controls, and more.
Undeniably, Soul Town delivers plenty of vintage sounds that come close to the originals. And there is quite a bit of variety, which is a nice bonus. Overall, it has quite a bit of value as an all-in-one Detroit Soul VST plugin.
But while some sounds are completely dialed in, others leave something to be desired. The quality is kind of all over the map. The best sounds, not surprisingly, are the keyboards. Basses and strings are just so-so. It’s a cool idea, but I don’t think it’s executed at the highest level.
Still, there are relatively few options when it comes to trumpet and horns VSTs. So, this one might be worth considering if your budget is a little constrained, or if you’re sold on what this VST can do for you.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
First Call Horns by Big Fish Audio
If you hadn’t figured this out already, Big Fish Audio has obviously got a horse in the race in the realm of horn VSTs. First Call Horns is a Kontakt instrument. Sound On Sound magazine called it realistic and versatile for pop and rock brass sections, Recording Magazine loved the detailed articulations, and Electronic Musician highly recommends the instrument.
Big Fish Audio created this set as a capable jazz, big band, rock, and pop horn instrument. Given that most high-quality virtual instruments focus heavily on orchestral sounds, this is quite refreshing.
Sounds include trumpets (open and with various mutes), saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone), trombones (including mutes), flugelhorn and French horn. Solo and section contexts are included, with chromatic samples as well as riffs, combinations, and even improvisations.
In total, you get nine solo instruments, seven section instruments, 21 improvisation and riff patches, various articulations, and eight combination patches like Alto Sax + Trumpet + Trombone FPSwell.
First Call Horns hasn’t gotten quite the attention other VSTs on this list have, but it is still supported by the developer and appears a decent option for those who require versatile horns.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
LABS – Trumpet Fields by Spitfire Audio
So far as standalone trumpet sounds are concerned, you can count on Spitfire Audio to nail it every time. Their LABS series VSTs are free, and even if they are generally one trick ponies, their quality is often superb. That includes LABS – Trumpet Fields.
The trumpets in question were recorded at Spitfire Studios with two skilled trumpet players. Trumpet Fields focuses entirely on swells and drones, though, so if an atmospheric effect isn’t what you’re looking for, this VST plainly doesn’t have what you need. That said, there are five reverbs built into the plugin, so you have control over the kind of soundscape and movement you want to create with the trumpets.
Both the concept and execution here are phenomenal. It probably helps that the scope of the project was relatively small. And, since we are talking free, you can’t be too sad about the limitations, especially when it’s at this level of quality.
The LABS series could be better though, at least in our estimation. The main issue is the Spitfire Audio app, which you are forced to use when downloading and installing their plugins. Although your mileage might vary depending on your DAW host, we’ve repeatedly encountered errors with installation.
And even after a plugin has been successfully installed, we sometimes come back to it later to discover the file has been somehow corrupted.
Aside from that, though, we like everything Spitfire Audio is up to and want to support the ongoing creation of LABS instruments in every way we can.
Learn more: Spitfire Audio
What Should I Look For In A Trumpet VST Plugin?
So, no doubt you’re probably starting to get the sense that standalone trumpet VSTs are in short supply. There are numerous section or orchestral plugins, but just trumpet? There aren’t too many of those.
That said, the ones that do exist are quite strong. Their sound quality ranges from good to amazing, and multiple developers have done the hard work of recording and sampling trumpets and brass instruments from various sources and eras (so you didn’t have to).
We certainly look forward to the day that we see more developers focusing on just the trumpet, but that doesn’t mean what’s already on the market isn’t any good. Quite the opposite – it’s quite good!
But there are obviously some things to think about. Do you want a specialized orchestral plugin? Do you want just a muted trumpet? Would you like a vintage horn section? Is an atmospheric effect more than enough? These and other factors are going to play a part in your buying decision.
So, in this section, we’ll be exploring those “other” factors – the intangibles, if you will. Here we consider:
- Sound quality
Let’s get into it.
It should not come as a surprise that we stress sound quality over just about everything else. This is because you will be the end user of the plugin or virtual instrument, and if you are not satisfied with its sound, you will feel like you have wasted your time and money, because most trumpet and horn VSTs are on the pricier side.
Features are important, but you could have all the effects and tweakable parameters at your fingertips, and if you are still not happy with the sound, you’re unlikely to be happy with your purchase. You’re not going to get much mileage out of it.
Video demos and reviews are good starting points. They don’t always tell the full story of a virtual instrument, as video and audio quality vary from creator to creator. But it’s better to be armed with these resources than not, and we should be thankful they exist.
While the trumpet and horns plugins featured here are basically the best available, it’s still wise to have a listen to each before making up your mind.
Find a plugin with a sound you like, and you should enjoy the results more. And while that doesn’t always mean the most expensive, especially given that different trumpet VSTs were created with different purposes in mind, you should expect to spend a decent chunk of change on a quality virtual instrument. But we’ll get to the issue of budget in a moment.
How much control do you want over the sounds?
Effects are one thing. Unless you’re using a DAW with some severe limitations, you should be able to add your favorite effects to your signal chain, so unless you especially like the built-in effects featured in the trumpet or horn instrument you’ve chosen, you’re not bound by such limitations.
But there are other things you can’t easily compensate for. For example, articulations. If an articulation isn’t built into a specific plugin, then no matter how hard you might try to replicate it, you’re probably not going to get the results hoped for.
As well, an instrument like MOJO 2 has sounds from across the eras. Again, there are no ways of replicating this that aren’t convoluted or ultimately ineffectual. If you have endless time to experiment, it might be a fun project. If your next composition is due this weekend, now’s not the time to reinvent the wheel.
So, while the sound of a plugin might be paramount to all else, feature set should still be considered quite critical to your buying decision.
Certain virtual instruments are available in abundance. Synths and keyboards, specifically, have been captured at an incredible level of accuracy and detail, almost negating their hardware counterparts.
But there are some instruments that haven’t been tackled with the same level of enthusiasm and expertise yet. Some developers have obviously worked hard to bring authentic, organic trumpet and horns sounds to the virtual instrument user, but they are few compared to synth developers. And the overall popularity of the instrument plays a part in that.
Basically, if you’re buying a trumpet or horns virtual instrument, you’re buying specialization. And the cost of specialization is always higher than the cost of commodities.
We’ve included a few options that cost a little less here. Some are quite good. Others are competent but no more than that.
We still suggest paying close attention to your budget when buying. We do not advocate going into debt for any music or production related purchases. Given that each trumpet VST is different, if you don’t have the budget for your best option now, the best idea is to save up.
Top Trumpet VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
The trumpet is a beautiful instrument. It’s full of personality, and let’s face it, humanity. Even so, virtual emulations come close. Whether you’re in a hurry, can’t afford expensive session musicians, or like the convenience and immediacy of virtual instruments, you can’t go wrong adding a trumpet or horns VST to your library.
Buying is a little easier compared to other instruments because there is less overall supply for trumpets. Choose one of the above based on your needs and the factors considered here, and you can’t go wrong. Enjoy!