Let’s learn more about the erhu and check the best VST plugins & Kontakt libraries available in 2023.
The erhu is a traditional stringed instrument present in Chinese culture. It features two strings and is played with a bow, like a violin.
The instrument can be traced back as old as the Tang dynasty in China, making it one of the oldest instruments in the world that kept its construction and overall aspects intact to this day. It was frequently used in southern China as a folk instrument, but since the 1920s, it has been widely used throughout the entire country and nowadays is the most famous exemplar of the huqin family.
How Is The Erhu Different From The Violin?
The erhu differs from the violin in some aspects of its construction: while the violin is played resting on your shoulders, the erhu stays upright and rests on the musician’s thighs. Additionally, it features two strings, two less than in a violin, which resonates with the bow in a tailored position.
Other than that, obvious aspects such as the materials involved in the construction, the assembly of these pieces, and the materials used in the strings and bow fibers are also different. For example, violins tend to be made from selected wood, while the erhu usually is built from ebony or rosewood with a snakeskin resonator.
5 Best Erhu VST Plugins & Kontakt Libraries 2023
1. AmpleSound Ample China Erhu
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An erhu ensemble that is very easy to control.
Ample China Erhu features three erhu models tuned differently from one another, perfect for providing a cohesive sonority that these instruments should have when played together. Ying Wang, a Ph.D. erhu major at the Central Conservatory of Music, sampled the sounds of each instrument with exquisite technique and expression.
Ample China Erhu contains three possible fingerings for your instrument: you can choose between “A String Mode,” “D String Mode,” and “Position Mode,” which captures the realistic fingering regarding a specific position and range.
- Articulation groups
The articulations are crucial to many instruments, even more in an authentic-sounding example like the erhu. You can select “Head,” “Body,” “Legato,” and “Special Effects” main categories. Inside each group, you’ll find common articulations like “Sustain,” “Staccato,” and “Legato,” and other unusual ones like “Whispering,” “Hoarse,” “Mirroring,” and “Sighing.”
- Intelligent legato
Legato is one of the most important techniques and articulations in stringed instruments, mainly due to how it resonates with the notes. AmpleSound includes an “Intelligent Legato” technology that precisely sets the appropriate timing of each note automatically, thus delivering an organic and realistic performance.
The “Mirroring” articulation might be a special feature if you need to double your instrument. Differently from simply copying and pasting the same phrase twice, you can benefit from this awesome technology because it accurately recreates the sonority of two erhus playing simultaneously, thus affecting the resulting sound character significantly.
Some built-in effects are present in Ample China Erhu. They can bring personality and character to your instrument’s voice or be the perfect tool to tweak it to your taste. You can use an 8-band EQ, a two-line compressor, a six-tap echo, and a convolution reverb.
The sample files in Ample China Erhu were recorded with the help of five microphones that can be adjusted and configured freely. You can set the “Mid Low,” “Mid High,” “Front,” “Back,” and “Far” positions to ensure your erhu will resonate the way you want it to.
This library runs on macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin formats and runs in standalone mode.
AmpleSound is a developer who is often worried about aspects such as the sample quality, the array of controls, and some nice built-in effects that elude and increment the instrument’s timbre. Ample China Erhu is an immersion into one of China’s most popular instruments that excel in features that make it versatile and good-sounding for any production. Special attention to the multiple articulations and their categories can make the erhu sound like multiple instruments.
2. Evolution Series World Colors Erhu
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The perfect balance of emotion and quality in a single sample library.
Evolution Series’ Color libraries were developed to bring the best vivid and moving sounds into your DAW in the most musical way possible. As with all products in this series, World Colors Erhu also delivers that same aspect in every played note while maintaining the mandatory high quality in the audio samples.
This entire library was developed in collaboration with a virtuoso and proficient erhu player, which provided the sample files from his private collection to bring to reality the ethereal and immersive tones you see in World Colors Erhu.
- Elegant interface
Developed especially for Kontakt 6, World Colors Erhu features a user interface in a lightweight format and with all necessary basic controls included. This provides all the tools and elements you may need without sacrificing good looks, running smoothly, and combining with the overall library’s sonority.
Each sample file in World Colors Erhu was carefully recorded to make the final result amazing. All files come in 48kHz 24-bit, ready for application in any cinematic score or eccentric film production that should benefit from the library’s soft sounds.
Nice effects are always welcome in libraries like World Colors Erhu. You can benefit from a “Swell Tremolo” that sounds amazingly good, aside from adding up reverb as much as you’d like. Finally, you can set it up with a reliable envelope filter, which deals with overall dynamics exquisitely.
This library is available for macOS 10.13 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). A full version of Kontakt version 6 or higher is required (it will not run in Kontakt Player!).
The not-so-usual aspect of World Colors Erhu may not be ideal for your production, but it can present some good uses. The premise is that erhus can create soundscapes and intimate ambient sounds, and Evolution Series proved that easily. As with similar collections, the sample files bear awesome quality, and the included configurations are essential to make it sound as delicate as possible, unlike other instruments.
3. Embertone Chang Erhu
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Concise erhu sounds are allied with the most important configurations in this library.
Embertone has ventured into some cool sample libraries in the past, always delivering satisfying results that should please most producers. In Chang Erhu, that aspect is maintained with a collection dedicated to recreating and bringing to your DAW the most accurate sonic representation of this exquisite instrument.
- Short notes
Chang Erhu contains nice short note modes available, which include “Sustain,” “Staccato,” “Pizzicato,” and “Tremolo.” These modes can be activated via the left-side buttons on your screen, and your MIDI CC notes can also control them seamlessly.
The “Legato,” “Sordino,” and “Ensemble” modes can have an optional round-robin mode activated alongside. This is extremely useful for providing a more humanized playability by subtly altering the sonority of a repeated note, just like when a musician performs it.
- Vibrato display
The center display houses the vibrato articulation, and it’s essential for the erhu sound. In essence, this XY pad sets the amplitude and intensity of the effect in every note you play. All you need to do is move the cursor around to set the perfect balance between both parameters.
- Ensemble mode
The “Ensemble” mode is dedicated to recreating the experience of having multiple musicians playing simultaneously. For example, in Chang Erhu, you can have up to eight erhu players resonating simultaneously, and they are disposed of in a semi-circular formation concerning the microphone. Click on the musician you want to add to activate it, and it will become part of your ensemble.
A built-in reverb effect is essential to set the perfect soundscape for your erhu to resonate properly. It’s all very simple in Chang Erhu: a small knob on the lower right side of your interface screen will set the perfect ambiance anytime.
- Stereo imaging
While in “Ensemble” mode, you can also set the perfect balance for your overall group of musicians. On the left and right sides is a fader dedicated to setting the perfect width for each, which can help distribute the different erhus better and simultaneously make it sound huge.
- Short notes
This library is available for macOS 10.4 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows XP or higher (64-bit only). It runs only in Kontakt version 4.2.4 or higher, in standalone mode, and comes in VST and AU plugin formats.
Chang Erhu deals with basic configurations and controls that make the sample files inside sound better and more realistic. The erhu is a delicate fiddle that deserves this amount of dedication when setting the overall sound, and this is why an “Ensemble” mode is so useful – the sound mass delivered by up to eight musicians does the trick in setting an immersive ambiance.
4. Soundiron Street Erhu
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You’ll fully control all aspects of your erhu tone with this library.
Although the erhu might seem a simple instrument at first, closely inspecting it may tell you otherwise. Sure, there are only two strings, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple to play, considering all techniques and articulations involved. Soundiron created Street Erhu to recreate its iconic sound and provide the user with meaningful adjustments to make the instrument shine accordingly.
There’s a considerable collection of erhus present in Street Erhu. You can choose from a bass erhu, six different mid erhus, and one treble erhu. Blending these different instruments can be awesome for creating an ensemble unique for the multiple note regions it can cover.
Each instrument section contains dedicated stock phrases that can be freely used and modified to your taste. In the bass erhu alone, there are 1,328 phrases available, while the mid erhus have over 2,500 combined, for example. It’s more than enough to start exploring and composing authentic ideas.
Aside from the preset phrases, Soundiron included some additional sound design tools. You can select from 48 ambiances that stimulate experimentation and can be blended with other effects, thus helping create an original idea out of nowhere.
- Phrase sequencer
If these previous features haven’t caught your attention, this one should. There’s a built-in phrase step sequencer that acts just like regular arpeggiators but instead is dedicated to the phrases included. In addition, you can select various playback modes within, stimulating more creative ideas and generating new sonorities.
The included effects are essential to expanding the versatility of Street Erhu even further. You can freely add an equalizer, filter, reverb, and LFO in your erhu sounds with the certainty that every module can be activated and set according to your needs.
The custom of bending strings is usually reserved for guitarists, but Street Erhu nails that as well. As this technique is delicate and can sound bad if done wrong, Soundiron ensured that the best sampling could be made with this particular articulation, which results in a natural and different sonority for your erhu.
The library is available for macOS 10.9 or higher and Windows XP or higher. It comes in VST, AAX, and AU plugin formats. The Free version of Kontakt Player is supported.
The number of controls and options in Street Erhu should scare most users away from it, but in the end, it is the very opposite of that. The possibilities are considerably extended with these additional tools, including sound designing elements and multiple stock preset phrases. As a result, the erhus sound great on their own, and you can count on some diversified variations of the same instrument.
5. Sonuscore – Esraj & Erhu – Ethnic String Phrases
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This collection goes straight to the point of having good-sounding erhus at your fingertips.
Sonuscore has appeared previously in our lists for its excellent sample libraries, usually covering orchestral instruments. Unfortunately, the erhu is usually not considered as such, but either way, the team decided to give the same treatment to this iconic instrument, and the result is Esraj& Erhu.
There are multiple stock phrases in Esraj & Erhu, which go beyond usual for their division: you can choose between starting, middle, and ending phrases. This is awesome and very useful for producers unfamiliar with these instruments, allowing for a starting point that enables editing and alterations in any of these phrases if needed.
- Speed knob
A center “Speed” knob on the main page allows precise timing control. This can be explored in sections of your song that require a quick switch or variation, such as passages and endings, and can be altered at any time.
The legato articulation was heavily customized for both the esraj and erhu, which ensures a continuous flow of musical ideas and phrases that are highly musical. Besides making the ideas sound more connected, it also brings realism to every note played.
You can include basic and common effects, like EQ, delay, and reverb, into everything you play in Esraj & Erhu. For example, the equalizer features “Low,” “Low/Mid,” “High/Mid,” and “High” knob controls, while the delay offers “Time,” “Feedback,” and “Mix” knobs and a “Unit” selection that sets the repetition time. Lastly, the reverb has “Predelay” and “Mix” knobs with a room selection.
- Waveform preview
On top of your interface screen, there’s a waveform previewer that can be highly functional in showcasing what your final sound will be like, in general terms. This can be helpful to visualize how your waveform is behaving after adding an effect, for instance.
This library is available for macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). A full version of Kontakt version 5.6.0 or higher is required (it will not run in Kontakt Player!).
Although not focused solely on the erhu, Esraj & Erhu proves to be equally dedicated to bringing the authentic sounds of both instruments to life. The general settings and configurations apply to both instruments and boast musicality and authenticity in every recorded sample. But, arguably, the main feature is its simplicity, glued together with an elegant interface.
Ethno World 6 Complete (Ethnic Instruments, including Erhu)
For over 16 years, Ethno World has been steadily expanding and improving, culminating in Ethno World 6 Complete.
The sample library Ethno World bills itself as the “ultimate collection of ethnic instruments and voices from around the world.” By “ethnic instruments and voices,” You can take it they mean anything you won’t hear in a standard western classical orchestra or your run-of-the-mill rock, jazz, or electronic band.
Given the immensity of the Earth, it is not unexpected that the library is over 22 terabytes in size, with 28,479 samples and 310 separate sound sources including Erhu.
There are several types of stringed, plucked, and bowed instruments, as well as a wide variety of woodwinds (including many flutes) and, of course, many types of drums and percussion, all of which can be found in the library.
In addition to the aforementioned new mandolin with numerous play techniques, you may now find a Fujara, Concertina, Autoharp, Japanese koto, South American Charango, and many other instruments.
- Quick Edit Tab
- The presets in the library are labeled as Hazy Piano, GoTo Piano, Arcade Piano, Icy Piano, Glass keys, Dream Keys, twilight keys, etc. There are 151 presets like these, with 106 sounds and preset categories.
Microtuning enables the user to fine-tune each note and to create, load, and save customized microtonal profiles. This is a game-changer for world instruments, giving them the punch they require to offer a more authentic feel to tunes that need it.
The new version features a graphical interface that has been rethought from the ground up to provide lightning-fast response times.
There is a wide variety of customization options and cutting-edge features. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol keyboards and NI Maschine can be tagged and interacted with in ETHNO WORLD 6 Complete thanks to compatibility with the Native Kontrol Standard (NKS).
- Information Database
Access to the comprehensive IDB-INFO is a standout feature of ETHNO WORLD 6 Complete, as you can access it from any instrument or voice.
In the “IDB-INFO” section of the site’s navigational menu, you’ll find pictures of the instruments and extensive information about their histories, cultures of origin, and distinctive playing styles. There are also instructions on using key switches to produce believable results with the matching instrument.
The instruments are both multi-sampled instruments and instrument effects, and they have a wide variety of performances (loops/phrases) synced to the pace. Most instruments have a nice presence and liveliness during playback. Including each instrument as a multi-sample instrument and the phrase/loops allow users to bring their world or ethnically colored music to life.
The library is available for Kontakt 5.7 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player). Kontakt 5.7 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Over the years, this collection of odd instruments has grown into a voluminous archive. This library is unparalleled in its selection of instruments and vocal samples. In addition, the sound is more genuine, thanks to the micro tuning tab I discovered.
You can use the presets to change the tune away from western tuning and toward a better suit for the local environment. Now that Ethno World is NKS-compatible, you may easily navigate between instruments in no time.
Ethnic instruments are difficult to cover because they present unusual sonorities, unfortunately not so much explored as other European instruments. However, their sounds are iconic nonetheless, and this list sought to prove that a considerable selection of nice libraries excels in bringing an ethnic instrument such as the erhu to multiple audiences.
The erhu sounds similar to a violin but with intrinsic and specific elements that make its sonority unique. To have such a considerable amount of sample library options is awesome and proves that more and more people are interested in its sounds and the music you can make with it.
Among the best options for erhu sample libraries, AmpleSound Ample China Erhu and Soundiron Street Erhu excel in creating a realistic instrument profile, very nicely translated to a virtual environment. Both options can create faithful sound profiles allied with relevant effects and articulations that help make them even more real.
For an additional option, Evolution Series World Colors Erhu is a somewhat unique collection for turning the erhu sounds into vivid seamless sonorities, ideal for any sound designers looking for a refreshed and revamped approach to an ethnic instrument such as this.
Eventually, it all comes down to taste and your exact needs, so test the products before buying them.
See you next time!
Eduardo Cardoso is a musician and audio producer based in São Paulo, Brazil. He studied both music production and theory in college and has successfully launched his career as a solo artist in 2021. With over 10 years of experience with the music business, he currently acts as a session musician, music producer, audio editor, and content creator. Read more..