Today we will cover the 4 best Banjo plugins available as of 2023.
Whether you’re trying to make Bluegrass, Dixieland jazz, folk music, or you want to add a touch of country into your track, finding the suitable banjo plugin might not be as easy as you think. The banjo is a serious instrument, and it requires a lot of skill and technique to master.
Different banjos have different dynamics and colors, as with any instrument, so it is essential to find the right one that works for you and the sound you are trying to achieve.
Now that you have an idea of what you’re looking for, let us start off this list with one of my favorites:
Top 4 Banjo Plugins 2023
1. Ample Sound Ethno Banjo
Ample Sound is one of the most well-recognized VST manufacturers in today’s world of digital music production.
Their products have set a standard in the industry, and they’ve always managed to deliver with high expectations.
This banjo is one of the more difficult instruments to recreate in a virtual setting because of the 5th string logic. From 9 different articulations, FX, and microphone modes, you have all the tools necessary to control your instrument and elevate your sound.
Fun fact: Ample sound purchased a Deering Sierra 5-string banjo at the 2019 NAMM convention, which was used to sample and create this current plugin;
- Articulations and modes
The nine different articulations are sustained, palm mute, natural harmonics, slide in and out, legato slide, hammer off, and strum. This new articulation goes beyond real-life techniques of playing the banjo. It allows you to play certain strings with sustain while playing other strings with strumming. Apart from articulations, they have also included different microphone modes that can bring out different tonal characteristics.
- Vibrato and Pitch bending
AEBJ’s system uses the latest technology in pitch bending. Modulation time or vibrato time is measured in milliseconds rather than note divisions, and you can also control the modulation gain and pitch. This means that your vibratos and pitch bends are going to sound a lot more natural and authentic.
- Riff machine and strummer
The riff machine comes with a lot of famous banjo pieces built-in. You can create your own riffs, but you can also use the existing ones to get new ideas and inspiration since they are made with all the features in combination to emulate the instrument’s techniques. The strummer is nothing further from Ample Sound, but you shouldn’t overlook it. You can get the natural chords for the Banjo.
- This plugin is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64 bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Ample Sound just never disappoints. Their plugins are always well thought out, and I think this is arguably THE best banjo plugin on the market. The articulations, the modes, the vibrato, everything is executed so perfectly. It is a gift for banjo lovers.
2. Auditory Lab Banjo V2
On the cheaper side of things, we have Banjo V2 by Auditory lab.
While this plugin isn’t as customizable as the previous one, it still uses a quality banjo with down-and-up picked samples. It also has three dynamic levels with two round robins to add realism and authenticity to the sound.
This one is probably the easiest to use out of all the other plugins on our list, with a highly user-friendly interface. It is easy to download and install and could efficiently run on older versions of your daw. The best thing about this VST is that it only takes up 400MB of storage and has very low CPU usage, which is fantastic for people with low spec computers.
- GUI – Graphical User Interface
Banjo V2’s GUI is so user-friendly that you can immediately start using the plugin without wasting any time figuring out the controls.
- PC requirements
As I previously mentioned, this plugin only takes up 400MB of storage and can be run on almost everybody’s PC.
- Overall Sound
Considering the price and memory required to use this plugin, the sound you get is still up to standards and won’t leave you disappointed.
- This plugin is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU format.
Banjo V2 is great for those with lower spec computers and for people who like simple and easy-to-use plugins. Despite not having a lot of controls and features, you still get a great banjo sound and for a low cost.
3. Reflekt Audio Yojo Banjo (Free)
You don’t have any cash to spare? Don’t worry, I got you covered with our third pick, Yojo Banjo by Reflekt Audio.
When you open up the instrument, you’re greeted with the head of a banjo in the middle, some knobs on the left and right side, and the logo YoJo at the top as your GUI. You’ll find four different sections named layers with knobs that control the EQ on the left side.
To the right side, you’ll find the envelope generator controls. And at the bottom right corner, you have your standard effects: the reverb, filter, and pitch controls.
Now granted, this isn’t some highly advanced technology, so it has its limitations, but for the price of nothing, you really can’t go wrong with this plugin.
This layering system which resembles an EQ, allows you to tweak and customize your sound. Additionally, you can use the panning controls to pan out each layer and get different colors and depth out of your sound. If you don’t want a specific layer to be playing at all, you can completely turn it off.
For the effects, you get reverb and filter. You can choose from the different filter types (high pass, low pass, etc.), but there is no controller for the resonance. I don’t know why the pitch control is in the effect section, but you can use it to create your vibratos and pitch bends.
- This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3 and AU formats.
It’s not suited for everybody, especially the bigger banjo fans. This would be great for your casual producer or songwriter looking to upgrade his arsenal and be able to experience some banjo.
4. Banjodoline Virtual Banjo & Mandolin
The Banjodoline is a virtual banjo and mandolin, so you’re getting two for the price of one, which sounds like a pretty good deal.
But how about 12? Yes, there are actually 12 instruments in this VST, and they are surprisingly good.
There is a demo version for this plugin, but I will mostly be covering the paid full version since the demo is practically unusable.
This plugin is not what you would call the most authentic but being on the cheaper side of things, you get a lot of bang for your buck. In addition to getting a banjo and a mandolin, you also get their variants and even combinations of the two.
The sound that most of these presets produce is pretty good for casual use, and thanks to the customization available, you can modify the sound to better suit your needs. Apart from looking a bit rough and overwhelming, the GUI is still easy to navigate and offers you the basic controls of the VST.
- Instrument presets
The 12 different instruments I mentioned above are Mandolin, Mandolin Tremolo, Archtop Mandolin, Mandocello, Mandola, Octave Mandolin,
Electric Mandolin, Banjolin, Tenor Banjo, Plectrum Banjo, Banjolele Banjo Uke, and 5-String Banjo. One of the instrument presets is an articulation for the mandolin, a tremolo.
- Controls and Effects
For the controls, we have the standard envelope generator, pitch bend, reverb, LFO, filter, and Amplitude range settings. You can use the LFO to create interesting effects like vibrato.
- This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 64-bit. It comes in VST/3 and AU format.
The Banjodoline is an excellent choice for those looking to get their feet wet in folk genres. Even tho I said that the sound isn’t the most authentic, it still has a lot of color and depth and may even be perfect depending on what you’re looking for.
The only issue I have with this plugin is the look of the GUI. It’s rough and scary looking. It looks nothing like a banjo plugin, it kind of looks like a distortion plugin if you ask me, but that shouldn’t get in your way of producing.
What to look for in a banjo plugin
Before spending your money, it’s wise to do a little research before you make your purchase. The best banjo plugin would be the one that successfully emulates the actual instrument and captures all of its unique and distinct features.
Now we try our best to give you our honest opinion on any matter, but your ears might have different taste buds, so you should listen and find the one that sounds most organic to you.
I put a big emphasis on cleanliness, but sometimes I strive for a more harmonically rich tone depending on what I’m trying to make. In addition to cleanliness or harmonics, a big dealbreaker is dynamics and string count.
Banjos have a variety of components that ultimately make up the whole sound. Tiny slight adjustments and tweaks will result in a different spectrum of dynamics and tones.
For example, when banjos use a bridge made from dense wood but light in weight, it makes them sound much brighter but possibly shrill. But when using a heavier bridge with less density, it will add more bass frequencies and warmth to the sound and, as a result, might take away some of the clarity.
Bluegrass players often opt out for brighter 5string banjos, while Dixieland jazz players prefer the warmer four-string banjos, usually tenor or plectrum.
Also, it would be best if you generally looked for VSTS that offer you more options in articulations and style of playing the banjo. As a rule of thumb, the original type of banjo used to sample and create the plugin will often determine the overall quality.
When it comes to real instrument plugins, you’re always going to have trouble finding many options for the more uncommon instruments. But at least it makes it easier to choose the one you like and move on.
Now obviously, if you can afford it, your best option would probably be the Ethno Banjo by Ample Sound, no matter what genre you’re trying to fit in, but it won’t hurt to give the other ones a try as well since you never know what you need until you need it. The choice is yours.