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Best Rhodes VST Plugins for All Budgets

reviews May 24, 2020

A Rhodes Piano has one of the most distinctive sounds in music. From silky to sultry, soulful to psychedelic, Rhodes have been heard on countless hits. While there are many Rhodes VST plugins available, they aren’t created equal. The purpose of this article is to dive into the best Rhodes VST of all price points so you can decide for yourself which one is best for you!

A Brief History of Rhodes Pianos

The Rhodes piano invented by Harold Rhodes is an iconic electric piano used by many big name artists such as The Beatles, Steely Dan, Billy Joel, The Bee Gees and The Doors. The Fender Rhodes gained popularity in the 1970’s when it was mass produced after its sale to CBS Entertainment Group. Rhodes keyboards were extremely popular particularly in soul, pop and jazz music. However, the keyboard was utilized by artists across all genres.

With the advent of synthesizers, electric pianos became increasingly popular. And soon enough, people began emulating Rhodes pianos. As modeling has improved, the quality of these Rhodes plugins has only gotten better! And once you get your Rhodes piano up and running, here are some tips on mixing pianos.

Note: this article may contain affiliate links, which mean that I receive a commission for any purchases you make, at no added cost to you.

What is a Fender Rhodes?

The Fender Rhodes is one of the most iconic keyboards of all time known for its mellow timbre and ‘bell-like’ sound.

The Rhodes signature soft sound is due the use of striking of tines when a key is hit. Tines are thin metal rods that are connected to larger tone bars which reinforce the tine’s vibrations. The pickup sits directly opposite of the tines. Closing the gap between the tines and the pickup creates its signature ‘bell’ sound.

The keyboard is designed like a traditional piano although some models only have 73 keys instead of 88. The Suitcase Fender Rhodes contains a built-in amplifier which includes a tremolo feature. The keyboard doesn’t even need an amplifier to make sound although much like an unplugged electric guitar, it will have a weak sound.

The Best Rhodes Plugin: Lounge Lizard EP-4 vs. Arturia Stage-73 V

Picking between the Lounge Lizard EP-4 and the Arturia Stage-73 V is not easy; it’s a battle of the titans! Quite honestly, they’re both phenomenal pieces of VST and it’s a toss-up depending on the user.

The EP-4 and Stage-73 V both do an amazing job to reproduce the signature Rhodes sound, which makes either of them a perfect purchase if that is the main objective. They only differ in additional ‘bells and whistles’ (no pun intended) and design which is totally up to the preference of the user.

For example, the Lounge Lizard EP-4 has a traditional and simple layout, while the Arturia Stage-73 V has a modern and sleek interface. Some may say the Lounge Lizard’s interface is too outdated while others will think it’s ‘old school’ and easy to use. It all depends on the artist’s viewpoint. Some are going to be stoked that it has fewer than 20 expertly chosen parameters.  Overall, I think the Arturia Stage-73 V is the best Rhodes VST out there, but it's a very close call.

Arturia Stage-73 V (My Recommendation)

The Arturia Stage-73 V absolutely nails the signature Fender Rhodes tone and takes it a step further by including three total Rhodes model keyboards, physical modeling features and a vintage amp all in one plugin. If you're an old skool purist, this is probably the best Rhodes VST for you.

For instance, you have the ability to switch from the 1973 Rhodes Stage model to the 1973 Suitcase or 1974 Stage model by the simple flick of a switch. Each model has slightly different controls and knobs to choose from. And the Arturia Stage-73 V gives you the power to physically model any of these instruments and adjust their hammer hardness, pickup alignment, tine color, etc., much like the Lounge Lizard EP-4 plugin.

In addition, this plugin features a beautifully designed user interface which is both aesthetically pleasing and functional in the sense that it allows you to access a wide array of pedals and effects.

Finally, this plugin also comes with an incredible model of the signature Fender Twin amplifier built in to the VST. This combination of the Fender Twin and Fender Rhodes undoubtedly creates that special, classic Rhodes sound that you can adjust as much (or as little) as needed. All in all, the Arturia Stage-73 V is an amazing Rhodes VST which incredibly captures the Rhodes sound and comes with many other useful features such as a wide array of instruments, presets and physical modeling options so you can create the perfect sound for your next recording or live gig.

Lounge Lizard EP-4

The Lounge Lizard EP-4 is a high quality plugin created by Applied Acoustic Systems that not only nails the classic Fender Rhodes sound, but the signature Wurlitzer sound as well. The Lounge Lizard was designed with simplicity in mind. The plugin is not overwhelming by any means which makes it perfect for anyone who does not have much experience with mixing.

However, the Lounge Lizard comes equipped with an entire warehouse of pianos and the ability to have real-time control over any aspect of the instrument’s tone! Forget about relying on pre-built samples and wavetables – Lounge Lizard EP-4’s state of the art physical modeling feature allows you to modify things like damper noise, hammer hardness, tine color, etc.

The EP-4's advanced synthesis not only allows you to create an authentic, warm and unique sound built specifically by you to use on your tracks or during live gigs, it can create far out sounds not possible in real life. Furthermore, the plugin’s newly designed effects section allows you to easily adjust the compressor, limiter or equalizer and save them as presets in your library. The Lounge Lizard EP-4 runs in 64-bit which makes it much more powerful and able to run smoother. You certainly won't regret making this your go to Rhodes plugin.

Best Rhodes Plugin Under $100

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice quality! The Addictive Keys Mark 1 plugin by XLN Audio is by far the best Rhodes plugin under $100. This plugin pushes the iconic Fender Rhodes sound by modeling a vintage tube combo amp–the MusicMan 112 RD Fifty 1x12.

In addition, you have the ability to choose from six microphone perspectives which gives you a wide range of vintage electric piano tones from mellow to crunchy and everything in between.

The plugin is based on the Fender Rhodes Mk. 1 electric piano, which is one of the most iconic pianos throughout the decades. The Addictive Keys Mark 1 also comes equipped with a fully stacked set of presets in the ExploreMaps section where you not only have a wide range of presets, but you also have the ability to adjust each one. Overall, Addictive Keys Mark 1 adequately recreates the signature sound of a Fender Rhodes at a fraction of the price and features smart workflow, beautiful presets, fast load times and incredible sound which makes it a fantastic purchase for any musician.

Best Free Rhodes VST

Many DAWs including Logic and Reason come equipped with a Rhodes plugin that can potentially do the job without having to purchase a $150-$200+ Rhodes VST. For instance, Logic Pro X’s vintage electric piano and vintage clav sound absolutely phenomenal and can be adjusted to sound very close to a Rhodes rig. In addition, these modelled instruments are very responsive to your playing and configurable in ways that a sample-based instrument simply cannot be.

Although these plugins may not have all the bells and whistles of a separate Rhodes VST, you can still get pretty darn close to the signature sound for absolutely no additional cost!

Best Rhodes Samples & Loops

If you’re looking looking for smooth Rhodes licks and lush lo-fi Rhodes chords, you might want to check out a sample pack instead. These pre-recorded phrases are full of samples that you can chop and manipulate to make your own. Or you can loop them to create chill, mesmerizing patterns. 

I've listed some of the most popular Rhodes loop packs below. And if money is tight, here are some of the best sites for free loops and samples

Vintage Rhodes

Vintage Rhodes from Loopmasters is the ultimate collection of Royalty Free Electric Piano Loops and Multi Samples primed and ready for your Deep House, Jazz, Soulful and Funk productions.

NU Jazz & Hip Hop Rhodes

RV Samplepacks presents Nu Jazz & Hip-Hop Rhodes, a soulful and elegant collection of top notch Rhodes samples for use in your music. Taking inspiration from a whole host of iconic sounds, these key samples are 100% royalty free and recorded using the latest and greatest technology and techniques.

Alternative VSTs to Rhodes Pianos

Sure, the Rhodes is a classic sound. But sometimes it's not quite the digital piano sound that you're looking for. Maybe you're looking for something a little more futuristic, like an electric piano. Or maybe some something a wee bit spacier, like a Wurlitzer. Well I've got you covered!

Best Electric Piano Plugin

If you’re looking for some alternatives to the standard Rhodes VST, one option is XLN’s Addictive Keys Electric Grand. This plugin brings the luxurious sound of the classic Yamaha CP-80 to your fingertips, making it one of the best electric piano plugins available.

The Yamaha CP-80 has been used by various superstar artists from Peter Gabriel to U2, ABBA and more. XLN gives you the power to balance the natural acoustics of Yamaha’s CP-80 with various microphone and amplifier combinations. And it's affordable! Addictive Keys Electric Grand breathes new life into the classic Yamaha CP-80!

Best Wurlitzer Plugin – Arturia Wurli V (100)

Another great alternative is the Arturia Wurli V, which is simply one of the best Wurlitzer plugins on the market. This plugin equips you with the sound of an original Wurlitzer 200A which was used by countless artists throughout the decades.

Arturia’s painstaking attention to detail in the recording process flawlessly re-creates the behavior of every key, tine and detail of this beautiful instrument. This plugin also comes with a wide variety of built-in amplifiers and stompbox-style effects which gives you endless possibilities of sound. The Arturia Wurli V is a great addition to any musician’s collection of vintage VSTs.

Best Traditional Piano Plugins

Maybe after all this talk of digital pianos, Rhodes pianos, and wurling electric pianos, you're yearning for a good old fashioned acoustic piano. No worries! Here are my recommendations for the best piano vst plugins available!

 

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