2. Modartt Pianoteq 7
Pianoteq 7 is nothing short of a marvel that advancement in music technology has managed to conjure.
Pianoteq surpasses the quality of piano sounds found on most digital pianos. Instead of using thousands of recorded samples as other piano plugins do, Pianoteq 7 uses an advanced form of physical modeling to generate piano sounds. It simulates an actual piano’s physical shape, strings behavior, room acoustics, and mics. The result is that nothing beats its level of flexibility in terms of tweaking the piano’s resonance, action, hammers, and mic placements.
Once in a while, you will want to use “prepared” pianos to create otherworldly sounds, and Pianoteq’s flexibility is ideal for it. You can even age the piano from a mint condition to utterly worn out using a single fader. And all of that, plus 2-4 instruments, come in a plugin that uses less than 100 megabytes of your disk space.
Modartt offers many instrument packs and three flavors of Pianoteq: Stage, Standard, and Pro. The first version provides as much flexibility as a sampled instrument, whereas the latter two add more flexibility and instrument packs. You can choose the instrument packs you want when you purchase your Pianoteq. Note that we will be describing the features of the Pro version.
- Piano Model Tweaking
Each piano in Pianoteq provides you with numerous options to tweak the physical model. That includes basics like tuning, hammer noise, soft pedal, lid adjustment, and sympathetic resonance to damper position, mallet bounce, string length, unison, and many more. Furthermore, you can even remove the piano lid if you don’t like the resonance.
- Per-note Adjustments
As if the plethora of tweaks weren’t enough already, Pianoteq lets you adjust 30 parameters per note. That includes hammer hardness, detune, string length, damper position/duration, cutoff, strike point, spectrum profile, harmonics, unison, and so on. I also love the per-note editor that lets you create shapes across the keyboard to, for example, have unison high only on the lower octaves.
- Mic Simulation
Pianoteq 7 features a microphone modifier section, where you can add up to 5 microphones from 17 mic varieties, including the esteemed Neumann U87 and AKG C414 with multiple polar patterns. Furthermore, it has a top and front view window, where you can set the position of each of the five mics anywhere you like. You can even angle the mic 360°.
- Multiple Outputs
The plugin employs 5 audio outputs, where you can route each mic. This feature allows you to use your DAW’s mixer over the internal mixer to adjust the level of each mic. However, it’s only available in the mic mode – the plugin also features binaural mode, which lets you listen to the piano as a pianist would.
- Onboard Mixing
We’ve talked about several aspects of mixing already, but let’s talk about effects next. The plugin features three FX slots to add tremolo, wah, chorus, flanger phaser, fuzz, delay, amp simulation, compressor, and EQ. And there’s also a convolution reverb section, which features many impulses and allows you to load 3rd party WAV impulses.
- Morphing & Layering
The plugin lets you morph between two instruments using the new morphing technology, providing stunning acoustic authenticity. Similarly, you can mix multiple instruments together or separate by range simultaneously, thanks to the Layering feature.
In addition to being a sound designer’s delight, you can use the standalone Pianoteq with a metronome and a recorder for practicing or stage performance. The plugin features four pedals that make the performance even smoother, and you can assign each to various parameters: sustain, soft, harmonic, sostenuto, super sostenuto, rattle, buff stop, celeste, pinch harmonics, glissando, and Mozart rail.
The following video is a detailed demonstration of the presets and features in Pianoteq 7. It also shows you a comparison between the previous version of Pianoteq and the current one. You can follow along as the demonstrator discovers Pianoteq fully, helping you learn the instrument as well.
Pianoteq 7 is compatible with Windows 10 or higher, macOS 10 or higher, and Linux (Ubuntu). It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Pianoteq 7 is arguably the best piano plugin around. It sounds natural, provides the most level of flexibility, and is reasonably priced. The only downside is that it can sound a little too clean since it’s a physical modeling program. However, I suggest you embrace it. Similarly, some purists complain the space from its onboard room/mic simulation can sound somewhat fabricated. An excellent way to avoid it is by adding convolution reverb. Either way, the issues are too minor to be noticed in a full mix. Furthermore, you can get the Stage version for a reasonably low price if you don’t need all the functionalities. Give its demo a try and see for yourself!
3. Arturia Piano V2
Piano V2 is the second physical modeling piano plugin on our list.
It’s pretty common to compare this one with Pianoteq 7, but Piano V2 undoubtedly stands firm on its own. The plugin comes with twelve models: American Grand, Japanese Grand, German Grand, Pop Grand, Classical Upright, Jazz upright, Pop Upright, Piano-Bar Upright, Plucked Grand, Tack Upright, Glass Grand, and Metal Grand. There are no samples, so the file size of the plugin is relatively small.
Piano V2 offers many options to tweak the sound to your liking. I find the tweaks a little broader in terms of how they adjust the sound. For example, you can’t alter something like string length, but you can change the room simulation. So, in a way, Piano V2 is more suitable for traditional piano sounds. However, it does feature presets that sound otherworldly and experimental, like the ones under glass grand.
- Tuning Controls
Piano V2 features six tuning controls with three for the strings and the hammers each. Under this section, you can control the tuning, unison, stretch, dynamic range, hardness, and hammer position. These are the controls you have in terms of designing the sound of the piano.
- Performance Controls
Under the Piano Settings section, you can control how the piano performs to your midi input. You can add pedal, key-off, and hammer noise. Similarly, you can change the lid position and the soundboard resonance. Furthermore, you can adjust the velocity curve using a handy node-based editor.
- Mic Setup
As I mentioned previously, the plugin features more broad adjustments than minor ones. So, the microphone placement option allows you to select five kinds of setups per piano type. There are Studio AB, Classical AB, Player, Close Mic, and Under Lid mic setups for the grand pianos. And there are Studio, Hybrid, Jazz, AB, and Decca Tree setups for upright pianos.
- Room Setup
In this section, you can assign a room model from the fourteen available options. These include small or large rooms to concert halls and hardware reverb emulations. Furthermore, you can use an EQ, gain-stage the mics, a delay, a digital reverb, and a compressor as well.
Have a look as Venus Theory reviews the Arturia Piano V2. You’ll find demonstrations of the presets as well as a glimpse at the customization options the plugin provides.
The plugin is available for Windows 8.1 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Overall, Arturia Piano V2 sounds quite decent, and there are options to adjust the piano and mic setups that can help you find your unique tone. Furthermore, you get 12 piano sounds for a medium budget. However, there aren’t many features in terms of sound design or mixing in the box. And it might sound a little less dynamic and more synthesized than you’d like, especially when playing solo. However, most of my complaints could be subjective, so I suggest giving it a thorough try yourself.
4. Garritan Abbey Road Studio CFX Concert Grand
Get the sound of the world-class Yamaha CFX in this meticulous venture by Garritan.
The CFX grand piano resulted from over 20 years of experimentation and development by over 40 of the world’s best engineers and artisans at Yamaha. Garritan and Abbey Road collaborated to record this handcrafted beauty in the Studio One orchestral hall with some of the best microphones. The result is a detailed sample library with thousands of samples, and many presets covering a wide range of usage.
- Mic Perspectives
This piano plugin features three microphone setups or perspectives: Classic, Contemporary, and Player. Classic features close mics, mid-field mics, and main room mics. This setup captures the natural tone and nuances of the instrument most faithfully. On the flip side, the Contemporary setup features close mics and ambiance mics designed to bring up clarity and create a bright and hard tone. Similarly, the Player perspective captures the experience of playing the CFX grand via close mics and a binaural mic.
Each mic perspective features numerous presets that sound ideal for various use cases like pop music, rock music, or cinematic scoring. You will find presets created in collaboration with Abbey Road Studios to closely capture the contemporary artists, genres, recordings, live performances, and cinematic settings.
Clicking on the Piano tab on the interface reveals controls for adjusting the sound of the grand piano. You will find sympathetic resonance, sustain resonance, release characters, and pedal noise in this section. Furthermore, you can also change the position of the lid from closed, half-open, and open.
On the Studio page, you will find a convolution reverb section with 12 impulses. Similarly, you can also select between the audience or performer’s perspective of the stereo image. And finally, there is a simple three-band EQ for close output and ambient mic output each, not to mention a mixer to control the two mics’ volume and stereo width.
Have a look as Merriam Pianos describes the Garritan CFX with some preset demonstrations. You’ll get to hear the opinion of someone who has played and used a Yamaha CFX as well.
The plugin is available for Windows 8.1 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Tone-wise, Abbey Roads Studios’ recording, and Garritan’s programming have managed to recreate the glory of the Yamaha CFX remarkably well. The subtle but significant sympathetic resonance also manages to kick the realism up a notch. The only issue you would experience is its size. This single piano library takes up over 122 GB of disk space, although you will find a Lite version that features only the Classic Mic Perspective, taking up only 24.5 GB too.
5. XLN Audio Addictive Keys
Despite being a little dated, Addictive Keys has remained relevant thanks to its flexible sound and enthusiastic fans.
If you are familiar with Addictive Drums, you’ll find the visual similarities between the two. When you first open Addictive Keys, you’ll notice a flashy but slightly aged interface, which is still very functional. Furthermore, the philosophy behind the piano plugin is also similar to the drums: providing a flexible library with multiple effect processing options but in a small size.
Purchasing Addictive Keys is a little different compared to others on our list. There are four libraries: Modern Upright, Studio Grand, Electric Grand, and Mark One. You can buy each individually, in pairs, in a triplet, or all four of them, with each step reducing the price further.
- Mic Positions
The plugin features multiple mic positions that can drastically alter the sound to your liking. For example, in the Studio Grand library, you have five mic positions: Close Ribbon, Ambiance, Close Tube (XY), Middle Tube, Body Tube (mono), and Side Ribbon. You can mix up to three microphone positions to create your personalized sound.
Other than mics, you can use the onboard effect plugins to modify your sound further. There is an EQ, a noise generator, tremolo, and chorus on the main Edit page of each mic position you have selected. And there are two FX sends that feature a delay, reverb, and an EQ. And finally, you will find a phaser, EQ, compressor, distortion, noise generator, and a filter in the Master channel.
Under the Explore tab on the interface, you can change your sample library (if you have more than one) or select presets. I’m very impressed by the variety of presets you can find. Even if there aren’t many sample libraries, you can get a surprisingly wide variety of sounds thanks to the mic placements and effect plugins. So, you’ll find patches such as “Prepared Horror” and “Woody Pizzicato” that are heavily manipulated to sound otherworldly.
- Further Edits
You can also make adjustments to the pitch to create detuned effects or vibrato. Furthermore, there is an envelope each for the pitch, filter, and volume. And other than that, there are three pedals: sustain, sostenuto, and soft. You can adjust each pedal’s characteristics as well. Unfortunately, though, there is no way to edit resonance or the lid position.
Here you can find Stu Harrison from Merriam Pianos reviewing the Addictive Keys with some detailed look at the Edit tab and sound demonstrations.
The plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Addictive Keys is one of the first-ever piano plugins I owned, and I still return to it when I want something easy and quick. The sound is more than decent, and the small size makes it a highly efficient piece of software. Furthermore, it offers more ways to stretch your creativity in sound design than most other traditional piano plugins. So, I’d recommend this one if you are an electronic or a pop/rock musician.
6. Spectrasonics Keyscape
From the makers of the famed Omnisphere synth comes this extensive collection of keyboards and pianos.
Keyscape provides multiple instruments totaling over 500 patches and a plethora of tools to create unique sounds. It also integrates into Omnisphere 2 if you happen to own the plugin. Furthermore, its minimalistic user interface makes this a good plugin for technically challenged users who still want creative possibilities.
The acoustic pianos in the plugin sound warm and resonant, whereas the electronic keyboards have distinct sounds. Similarly, the included set of historical instruments revel in authenticity. And of course, as with Omnisphere, you can use multiple instruments simultaneously to create unique patches.
- Numerous Keyboards
Keyscape provides 36 keyboard options beyond a basic acoustic piano to accommodate all genres. The plugin includes varieties from grand and upright to toy pianos and historical instruments like the Dolceola. You’ll also find iconic electronic keyboards like Fender MK-80 Rhodes, Clavinet, and more.
- Authentic Expression
Each instrument’s sheer amount of detail makes for higher quality audio and more realistic, expressive performances, especially in the plugin’s acoustic models. These details include mechanical noise, pedal noise, and release noise behavior modeling to create a digital instrument that sounds as natural as possible.
- Controls For Customization
You can edit each patch with highly intuitive, user-friendly controls, giving you endless customization options to work with. The visually clean nature of the UI makes it ideal for users who struggle with complex software.
- Duo Mode
This intriguing feature of Keyscape allows you to mix two instruments and save the unique combinations as presets for future use. For the more inventive creators, this feature gives them access to a whole treasure trove of new instruments.
- Onboard Effects
The plugin features a collection of built-in effect processors to mix your sounds. The effects include reverb, EQ, character shift, compressor, etc. However, the available effects change depending on the sound patch you have opened. And if you integrate your Keyscape with Omnisphere, the possibilities of sound design increase even more with its many effects processors.
Have a listen to the presets of Keyscape and you can also see how the effects available on the Editor page are changing depending on the category of the instrument the reviewer Mike Pensini is selecting:
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Keyscape provides a wide variety of sounds that range from world-class acoustic grand and upright pianos to electric keyboards. It is user-friendly and has unique features like the Duo Mode. Furthermore, the samples are incredibly high quality. However, I must mention that Keyscape does not have a half-pedal feature, which pianists might find a little disappointing, especially considering the hefty price tag.
7. EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos Gold
This piano plugin features four of the best grand pianos recorded at EastWest Studios.
The Pianos Gold library took over two years of recording, editing, and programming to develop. It features numerous samples per note in various playing styles at different velocities. The four included grand pianos are: Bechstein D-280, Steinway D, Bösendorfer 290, and Yamaha C7. The Gold Edition of this library features player’s perspective mics and 16-bit samples.
- The Sound
EastWest Recording Studios used vintage Neumann microphones through the iconic 8079 Neve console to record the samples from the player’s perspective, which gives you the experience of playing these pianos. Furthermore, the Play plugin features convolutions of the EastWest hall to emulate the space.
Eight articulations were recorded per piano: sustain, sustain with pedal, repetitions, repetitions with pedal, soft pedal, soft pedal with a sustain pedal, staccato, and release trails. Also, the plugin features a true repetition detection technology, which switches staccato to actual repetitions based on how you are performing the notes. It recreates the acoustics of playing said pieces accurately.
- Lid Position
Pianos Gold uses filters to simulate the position of the lid. So, you can control the position smoothly from fully closed to open. The smoothness is quite enjoyable, although, for solo performance, you may not find it entirely convincing enough.
Here’s a demonstration of each of the pianos in EastWest Pianos Gold below along with a look at some of the features available:
The plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The EWQL Pianos Gold is a straightforward piano plugin that features four great-sounding pianos. The interface and general experience feel a little outdated due to the age of this plugin, but overall, the sound is still going strong. If you wish for tons of control and mixing possibilities, this plugin may not be for you as it focuses on remaining simple. Furthermore, it requires about 60 GB of disk space, and the plugin eats a large amount of RAM. So, make sure your system is capable of handling it before purchase.
8. Synthogy Ivory II Grand Pianos
Ivory II is a stunning sample-based piano plugin that sounds highly realistic thanks to several innovations in use.
This piano plugin features three grand pianos: Bösendorfer 290, Steinway D, and Yamaha C7. They total over 77 GB of samples with up to 18 velocity layers per note. Furthermore, it uses modeling and DSPs to provide even more realistic piano sound and acoustic space.
The three included pianos are well-suited for jazz, classical, and contemporary pop music, respectively. Each piano contains numerous presets curated to fit various genres and use cases. However, if you don’t want to spend too much of your disk space, you can install only the pianos you wish to individually.
The plugin features a Harmonic Resonance Modeling engine that recreates sympathetic string resonance, adjustable with a knob. Similarly, you can control the amount of shimmer or high-frequency overtones of the piano to your liking. And finally, the Sustain Resonance DSP provides a natural damper pedal response. All of these turn Ivory II into an authentic living, breathing instrument.
- Onboard Mixing
Ivory II features built-in effect plugins like a convolution reverb, chorus, and EQ to help you start mixing without leaving the plugin interface. I like the convolution reverb that offers 7 spaces, but I’d rather use outboard plugins over the other two. However, each of the effects is very CPU efficient.
The plugin provides five possible lid positions that go from closed to open. Similarly, you can adjust the release, noise, timbre (or softness), dynamic range, stereo width, and so on. The Timbre Shift knob lets you add spectral shift to the entire sample set and create some bright piano sounds and bizarre plastic timbre.
- Synth Layering
Ivory II features a section that lets you add a synth pad to your piano to achieve a smooth, fantasy-esque sound. The result is something you’d often find in Yamaha or Roland arranger keyboards. There are 8 synth pads along with level, transposition, decay, and release controls.
Check out how Ivory II sounds and how the plugin functions in the following video by Mirriam Pianos:
The plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher 32-bit or 64-bit and macOS 10.8 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Ivory II is one of the few piano plugins that sound comprehensive and musical. It sounds amazing and has a decent amount of flexibility and efficiency. Most of the sound quality comes from its resonance modeling and Sample Interpolation Technology which provides ultra-smooth velocity and note transitions. It becomes most apparent when you play scales dynamically. The only issue you might face is the file size and somewhat high price, especially for only three pianos. However, note that the pianos in question happen to be majestic.
The 5 Best Free Piano Plugins 2022
1. Sound Magic Piano One
Piano One is one of the best free piano plugins, especially if you are a pop musician.
This plugin features a deeply sampled Yamaha C7 concert grand piano. Over the audio samples, Piano One also utilizes a hybrid modeling engine to offer even more playability. However, since this is a free version of Sound Magic’s Neo Piano, some features are limited.
The limitations aren’t debilitating, though. The modeling engine’s sympathetic resonance feature is missing, and the piano samples are limited to 18 seconds. Neither should create any issues unless you intend to use the piano in a professional solo performance.
- Piano Tweaks
The plugin features overtone controls from the Harmonics section. You can shift the harmonic frequencies or change their level. Similarly, the Tone section lets you control the low and the high frequencies, and the Lid fader adds a low-pass filter to simulate the piano lid position. Furthermore, you can change the amount of hammer dampness, dynamic range, release amount, and so on.
- Built-in Reverb
Piano One has a dedicated reverb section, where you can adjust its parameters. It’s a relatively simple digital reverb, but it offers all the critical parameters. So, it’s fine for mixing with other instruments. If you are playing the piano solo, though, I’d suggest trying an outboard convolution reverb.
Piano One has a Perspective section to mix between the player and the audience’s perspective. I found that a blend between the two can result in a wider stereo space. And similarly, the Noises section features pedal, string, and hammer-off noise generators, which can add to the realism of your performance.
The following video by Kenny Gioia demonstrates the sound of Piano One. If you are using REAPER, the video also shows how to load the plugin in your DAW:
The plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10 or higher, both 32-bit or 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
Sound Magic Piano One is the free version of their paid Neo Piano plugin. And that means you will get premium-sounding samples but with somewhat limited features. However, I don’t think the limitations are problematic; you’ll be hard-pressed to find similar quality for free elsewhere. Overall, I think it’s a worthy download.
2. Sample Science Room Piano v3
If you are after a simple piano sound reminiscent of the 90s keyboards, you’ve come to the right place.
Room Piano is a piano plugin dedicated to giving your tracks a Lo-Fi feel. The plugin uses samples of a living room upright piano, sampled every 3 semitones in 2 velocities. So, don’t expect a realistic sound. But if you are making hip-hop or similar genres, you can use this piano alongside one of the best Lo-Fi plugins and create a nostalgic piece of music.
The plugin only consumes around 60 megabytes of your disk space. So, you can use this plugin in your productions as a retro sound. Or, you could use it as a placeholder when composing and later replace the plugin with a heavier library.
While the effect plugins aren’t flexible, they are still handy for manipulating the sound quickly. Room Piano v3 features a simple room reverb, a low-pass, and a high-pass filter. And the plugin also features an amp envelope and glide feature.
The plugin features an LFO modulator that you can assign to pitch, volume, and filter. You can select various waveforms for the LFO and assign an LFO source such as your modulation wheel.
Have a listen to how Room Piano v3 sounds and how you could incorporate it in a mix as a Lo-Fi sound:
Room Piano v3 plugin is available for Windows 8.1 or higher and macOS 10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
I wouldn’t recommend this piano plugin for a pianist. It’s designed to sound as retro as possible, what with the strange inclusion of a pitch glide! But for an experimenting artist who enjoys adding effects to complicate sounds, this plugin could be what you are after.
3. Spitfire Audio LABS Soft Piano
True to its name, Soft Piano delivers an intimate tone that works well for ambiance.
Spitfire Audio recorded the Soft Piano on a dry stage at Air Edel Studios in London. It features a grand piano with a thin strip of felt cloth placed between the hammers and the strings. The fabric helped reduce the high frequencies of the piano and create an intimate, soft tone that is ideal for many uses, including film scoring, hip-hop, and pop music.
As with any of the LABS instruments by Spitfire Audio, this plugin’s interface features two faders and a knob. That’s it. One of the faders is volume control, whereas the other controls dynamism. And the large knob controls the amount of reverb.
There aren’t many places for a piano as soft as this one. It doesn’t stand out well in a busy mix. However, Spitfire Audio has nailed it with Soft Piano when you want something that stays in the background and provides a soft ambiance. I find it helpful in creating intros and outros in a song.
The following video shows the interface and also lets you see how it can sound with a variety of effects:
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Clearly, Soft Piano isn’t a universal piano. However, its intimate sound is unlike anything else. And the instrument is well-sampled and features multiple velocity layers. For a free plugin, it’s not bad at all.
4. Agus Hardiman Golden Piano
Fans of late 80s pop music will love this free piano plugin.
Golden Piano is a simple piano plugin that features a decent grand piano sample library alongside an electronic piano and pad. Furthermore, various other features can help you adjust the sound to your liking. Although there isn’t a massive possibility for sound design, the plugin is excellent for what it does.
The plugin features a grand piano with 8 velocity layers per note. While it isn’t an awful lot, it’s pretty decent enough for production. Furthermore, you can add FM synth (DX) tines and a soft pad to recreate the renowned pop e-piano sound. You can adjust the levels of the tines and the pad with a volume knob each.
- Reverb & LFO
The big knob at the center of the interface controls the reverb amount. And the two knobs to the right control the pitch LFO depth and rate. You’ll probably want to avoid overdoing the latter effect unless a retro sci-fi style sound is what you’re after.
Have a listen to this groovy track featuring the dry sound of Golden Piano. Note that it doesn’t utilize the tines or the pads:
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, and AU formats.
While most piano plugins attempt to remain universal and applicable for multiple genres, Golden Piano aims to capture the sound of 80s and 90s pop music. And it does so very well while barely consuming any RAM or CPU. If you are a fan of such piano sounds, go right ahead and download it.
5. 99Sounds Upright Piano
Upright Piano is a generic piano plugin that can also create some pad sounds.
This piano plugin employs a very straightforward interface with the appropriate sound. It’s a dry piano that you can use for general music production like hip-hop and trap. There are four sampled notes per octave and six velocity layers per note, so it sounds pretty smooth.
The piano plugin features a tremolo, a damper, and a reverb. The damper is essentially a low-pass filter that softens the piano sound. And the reverb is a simple digital reverb that can add space to your sound.
The envelope features an attack and a release knob. You can use these to soften the piano sounds or create a pad-like sound. The pad sound works incredibly well when you combine it with the reverb and a slight tremolo.
In this video, Bedroom Producers Blog demonstrates Upright Piano and also shows you how it can sound when used as a pad:
The plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 9, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
Overall, it’s a pretty simple piano plugin that you could use either as a placeholder or even for production. I wouldn’t recommend it for solo classical performance, but you should be able to get away with it if you add in some reverb. Try adding some chorus to create a bar-piano style sound or to improve the pad-like tone.
VI Labs Ravenscroft 275
This offering by VI Labs is a deeply sampled piano library of a 9’ American grand piano.
Unlike the piano plugins on our list, the Ravenscroft 275 is a sample library for the UVI Workstation/Falcon 2 sampler. It features nearly 17,000 samples with four microphone placements in a very straightforward user interface. The sound is impressive thanks to the deep velocity and intricate harmonic interaction sampling. Furthermore, there are multiple articulations and effective convolution reverb with 22 impulses to further push realism.
- Mic Blend
The library features four discrete microphone setups: close, room, player, and side. You can blend in each of them from the main user interface to create just the right amount of stereo imaging and intimacy you want. Furthermore, you can also unload the sample set you don’t want using the arrow/checkmark icon. It helps save RAM.
- Sample Based Resonance
The Ravenscroft 275 sample library features true recorded and scripted sympathetic resonance without any synthesis whatsoever. Furthermore, the samples include both pedal down and harmonic key pedal up resonances. You’ll notice that the sound, therefore, is very close to a real acoustic grand piano.
- True Pedal
The library features recorded una corda, sostenuto, and half-pedal functions. You can even assign the custom CC values and half-pedal range to accommodate your smooth sustain pedal. Furthermore, the re-pedal feature lets you lift the sustain pedal and press down again quickly without losing the release, just like an acoustic piano would. And finally, each of the pedal actions has recorded resonance emulations. So, for example, if you play a chord with the pedal down, it will cause other strings to resonate, and if you re-pedal, all the strings will resonate but quietly.
- More Articulations
The library also features articulations like staccato and muted strikes. The staccato samples provide you with real, recorded note trails for short notes, whereas the muted strikes are for percussive attacks. You can switch between normal samples to mutes in real-time.
Have a listen to Ravenscroft 275 and find out how it compares to the actual piano according to Stu Harrison from Mirriam Pianos:
This library requires UVI Falcon 2 or the free UVI Workstation to run.
UVI Workstation is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Ravenscroft 275 is one of the most realistic-sounding virtual pianos yet. It is based on the glorious American-German grand piano of the same name. The sound is highly musical, and the sampled resonances make the library feel like an actual instrument. If you are a pianist and are used to playing an acoustic grand, you should give this library a try. Furthermore, thanks to the lossless FLAC file compression, it only requires about 5.5 GB of disk space. And with its selective loading feature for the mic setups and articulations, this library is bound to perform well even on a very modest computer.
Is a piano lesson worth it?
In short, yes. However, it is particularly essential to become a piano performer and perhaps also read sheet music. If you are someone who just wants to play some riffs and your favorite hit songs, you can easily learn from YouTube videos, books, apps, online courses, and so on without an instructor.
Are piano learning apps worth it?
They are worth it if you use a MIDI keyboard (not a touch screen) and give it the amount of practice and diligence necessary. However, most piano apps don’t teach you proper fingering and posture techniques. So, make sure you at least purchase a guidebook to help you learn good habits while playing. You can check online piano lessons here (free & paid)
Can you teach yourself piano?
Yes, you can. And what’s more, it’s a very rewarding journey. Being able to play Canon in D for the first time is a proud moment, and it’s absolutely okay to feel that way too! However, to reach the levels of pianists we admire, you will need to put in a lot of practice, where self-reward helps a lot.
If you wish to teach yourself something, figure out what motivates you. For me, I love performing for others. But how do you do that if you have no audience? Well, something as simple as recording yourself playing and sending it via Telegram or Messenger to a friend can be gratifying. And looking forward to doing so drives you.
Surround yourself with friends and family who support your learning or are learning instruments themselves. It doesn’t matter if it’s online or offline. Either way, you will find yourself greatly motivated to continue working.
Selecting a piano plugin comes down to preference. Even if the piano plugin is extremely well sampled and programmed, you might not like the piano from which the library was created. If you’re like me and want to pick from a variety, I suggest checking out Modartt Pianoteq 7 and Arturia Piano V2. The first lets you select the instruments you like from their extensive library before purchasing, whereas the latter comes with 12 built-in selections.
Modartt Pianoteq 7 remains a solid choice for realism, but you might prefer samples over physical modeling. In that case, try VSL Synchron Pianos and VI Ravenscroft 275. Similarly, if you make pop music or other contemporary genres, I’d highly recommend the Garritan CFX Concert Grand and Spectrasonics Keyscape.
And finally, if you are on a budget, I would suggest Addictive Keys as the best all-rounder with plenty of presets and flexibility. Feel free to check out the demos of each piano plugin on our list using the provided links, and I hope this article helps you find a piano plugin that works for you. If you are looking for piano restoration services like piano tuning, check the link.
Other Plugin Roundups:
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Amps & Preamps:
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Processing & Sound Design:
K. M. Joshi is a multi-award-winning composer and sound designer, specializing in film, game, and TV audio. He enjoys making cinematic music, rock, blues, and electronica.