The Rhodes electric piano was an incredibly popular instrument throughout the ’60s and ’70s. Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek was one of the first prominent musicians to start playing the Rhodes, picking up one of the earliest models in 1965. Its timeless sound is on countless recordings played by legends like Billy Preston, Chick Corea, Stevie Wonder, and many more. Today, you’ll frequently hear a Rhodes-style electric piano in trendy “lo-fi beats,” thanks to its vintage, rich, raspy sound. Looking for the best Rhodes VST to add to your arsenal? Here are some of the top picks.
Best Rhodes VSTs [FREE]
Everyone needs to have a quality electric piano plugin. There’s just something about the sound that’s so playable; it immediately inspires music. Like practically every kind of plugin these days, there are some really great free ones if you do a bit of digging. Here are four free Rhodes VSTs, all of which are worth a try (you know, since they’re free and all!).
This fun little VST contains five different pianos, including a couple of grands and a couple of electrics. There isn’t anything too frilly about it, just a simple envelope section, a bit of onboard reverb, the ability to detune for extra warble…just a clean, simple software instrument.
RhodeZ by DSK features six variations of the legendary Rhodes electric piano. The envelope section helps you shape the overall response, while three effects (reverb, chorus, and flanger) let you add a touch of chaos to the sound.
This plugin recreates the sound of the earliest Rhodes models, though it’s not intended to be a direct emulation. It kinda has its own thing going on, though still quite close to the original. Its incredibly low CPU usage make it great for the stage as well.
Apart from a very attractive GUI, Sweetcase is an awesome little recreation of vintage sound. This is a sample-based VST recorded from original hardware, and the results speak for themselves. Easy to use, professional looking, and best of all, free!
Best Rhodes VSTs [PAID]
Paid Rhodes VSTs vary in price, but none of them are out of line. You’ll find Waves on the affordable end, while a large bundle like Keyscape is naturally priced much higher. Regardless of which you choose, these are all some of the best Rhodes VSTs available.
Arturia Stage-73 V
We all know Arturia makes absolutely beautiful analog emulations. The Stage-73 V2 lives up to every other amazing VST you’ve heard from them, and comes complete with not only an unparalleled Rhodes modeling engine, but even a virtual amp rig to further customize your sound. It’s rich, lush, soulful, and everything you’d want from a Rhodes VST.
Waves Electric 88
Waves did a remarkable job sampling a “road-worn” vintage electric piano to create this excellent, totally affordable Rhodes VST. It plays very naturally and has great human feel. It also has a really cool Mix section with different effects like compression and an amplifier.
Spectrasonics Keyscape Electric Piano
Keyscape by Spectrasonics is a large collection of pianos and synthesizers which includes pretty much all of the classics and “holy grail” instruments. Naturally, a Rhode-style electric piano is in there, and of course, it sounds fantastic. If you’re looking for a complete kit of keyboards in addition to an electric piano, this is a great bundle.
AAS Lounge Lizard EP-4
The critically acclaimed Lounge Lizard by Applied Acoustics Systems is a deep, deep virtual instrument. It contains over 240 inspiring presets to let you hit the ground running with sounds used by legends like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Stevie Wonder.
Native Instruments Scarbee Mark I
Some VSTs sample a “grab bag” of hardware to piece together one acceptable software emulation. Not the case with Scarbee, this plugin is a recreation of one specific ’70s electric piano in impeccable detail. Every sound a Rhodes is known for is all inside this plugin. It runs on the free version of KONTAKT.
Conclusion: Best Rhodes VST
So which is the best of the best? Arturia is pretty high up there as one of the finest all-around plugins. The sound is gorgeous, the features are vast but not overwhelming, and even the GUI is particularly attractive compared to the others.
Now, no matter what which you choose, all of these Rhodes VSTs are going to perform extremely well. Demo those that you can to narrow down the right choice for you!
Want to learn more? Check out the Pro Mix Academy course Producing Electronic Music with Matt Lange!