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Top 10 Piano VST Plugins

Are you used to shredding on virtual guitar plugins and are ready to try something new? In this article, the focus will be on outlining the best Piano Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plug-ins for music production.

Top 10 Paid Piano VST Plugins

1. Kontakt (Native Instruments)

  • User friendly
  • Unique open or closed lid option
  • Tone, space, and anatomy options for sound

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Just a little higher in quality than the last few VSTs reviewed and a tad bit underneath the number one is the Kontakt plug-in by Native Instruments.

This plug-in offers unique pianos with each having its own style, the best of which could be reviewed in their own article.

So much so that it required double-checking to make sure that it wasn’t expected to review each of the piano options available as its own top ten hits. Menus options include extensive libraries, a database of sounds, export, and automation options to boot.

Each piano also has separate options that may be available to that item only or a family of like models. Though Kontakt offers other instruments, it is a must-have for piano players aiming at the $400 price tag.

From numerous drag and drop options to pull down and select menus, making the proper decision to meet the needs of the music is a breeze and can be done in a snap.

Native Instruments provides us with the perfect combination of user-friendliness, affordability, and abundance with the items available for the company’s Kontakt player.

2. Synchron Pianos (Vienna Symphonic Library)

  • The company has its own custom made, piano sampling robot
  • Multiple mics used to capture sounds, including release velocity of the hammers
  • Phenomenal piano sounds at the highest quality

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The number one VST on this list is nothing short of an industry marvel and necessity for any piano player that seeks realism and control in the world of plug-in technology.

With a price range of between $300 for the standard library and $800 for the full product, one can safely say that it will pay for itself after a short time of using the product.

There are samples of the Yamaha CFX and Concert D-274 included, plus sounds from three other stellar sounding instruments.

The realism of what has been captured by the Vienna Symphonic Library will astonish the listener, which is why it ranks at the top of the list.

The settings and features available are world class, and the sounds have absolutely no rival.

3. Piano V (Arturia)

  • $250 or free with the purchase of Keylab piano (and Analog Lab, but not reviewing that one)
  • Approximately 70-80 Scrolling presets for types of pianos.
  • Set your tuning, settings like velocity curve, mic setup, room setup, and EQ.

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It is rare to make the purchase of a piece of equipment based on the strength of VST software, but that is exactly what was done regarding the Piano V by Arturia.

After exploring the demo and experimenting with the sounds of the plug-in on the currently owned keyboard controller, the author of this article decided it would be best to purchase one of Arturia’s Keylab controllers so I can obtain this high-quality plug-in for free with what is most certainly a top-quality piano.

There are twelve pianos included in the Piano V plug-in and play them as traditionally or unconventionally as desired with the options available.

Customization choices include piano tuning, piano settings, microphone, and room setup, and an equalizer.

With or without the company’s piano, Arturia’s Piano V is a valued item with promise and potential.

4. Keyscape-Collector Keyboards (Spectrasonics)

  • Select pianos from a factory or user-created sounds.
  • Different options available depending on the type of piano you select
  • Authentic sounding articulations

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Collector Keyboards allow the user to select multiple pianos and models using its friendly interface.

The controls are completely custom, allowing users to create sound combinations from its library of over five hundred sounds and thirty plus instruments.

Spectrasonics piano plug-in offers options unavailable anywhere else, like velocity switching, hybrid patches, and noise options for mechanical sounds.

The dynamic expression that can be achieved here is nearly unparalleled, surpassed only by the number one selection in this top ten list.

The reviewer will go further to say that if and when there is a substantial price drop on this product it will be a necessity to make the purchase and debate the merits following the release of content using the sounds therein so that one’s audience can confirm the sound buy that was made.

5. Pianoteq (Modartt)

  • Runs on Linux
  • In addition to other effects found elsewhere, the “mallet bounce” feature was unique.
  • Four tiers of purchase in their options

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Pianoteq boasts “true modeling” in its piano instrument software.

It should also be noted that this plug-in runs on Linux!

There are three basic bundles to purchase, with a fourth that includes all instrument packs.

Beyond the stage version, the standard edition features advanced tuning options, includes instrument morphing and layering, loads external reverb impulses, microphone settings, piano model tweaking, and note-for-note editing.

If that wasn’t enough, one can go further with the Pro tier and edit overtones and all other physical parameters not included in the standard version. Pro will also allow support of audio up to 192 kHz.

The website tabs will direct an individual appropriately throw the steps of skepticism.

After listening to the audio available, there is no doubt that someone will want to try this piece of software.

The ease of use and satisfaction of the music being made will prompt the next step of the purchase. An instrument pack can contain more than a single instrument so do not let the price deter anyone from the purchase.

The cost of the license and two instrument packs with the stage version is more than enough to get someone going. It’s possible to add on as skills and needs progress from there.

This is another plug-in option that allows a person to play with the realistic sounds of earlier periods such as the Baroque harpsichord option or even hear a historic piano during one of its fledgling days of existence.

Though not all sounds are available in the trial, let the sounds and experience from those packs of sounds guide your decision to purchase.

6. CFX Concert Grand (Garritan)

  • Only one piano
  • Quality sampling technology
  • Numerous settings available at a $200 tag

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The Abbey Road Studios CFX Concert Grand Virtual Piano is a beast of a plugin with amazing realism and a sound library to match.

Part of the MakeMusic family, known for its productive stewardship of SmartMusic and Finale, Garritan has a strong entry with this full option along with the CFX Lite.

Included in this model is the use of ambient mics in the classic perspective as well as having the option of close mics in contemporary mic perspective and player mic perspective.

The extensive mic placement styles based on the knowledge of Abbey Road sound engineers is what gives this plug-in so much strength on this list. Once it is experienced then the emphasis will be more understood by the reader. Those who are satisfied without these additional microphone settings may acquire CFX Lite for $80.

In addition to the numerous mic perspectives, the presets available for this piano are astonishingly malleable.

Each of the three options (classic, contemporary, and player) offers ten settings within itself for the user to experiment with. The analog-style knob and fader system equate to countless combinations of user-created settings for one to explore.

The company’s partnership with Abbey Road Studios proves to be a force to be reckoned with as it delivers a piano VST that is still as capable as it was when released nearly five years ago.

7. Keysuite Bundle (UVI)

  • $350 bundle for use with free UVI Workstation 3 and Falcon
  • Remarkably simple interface, but sounds incredible
  • Ravenscraft 275 & Model D are must-haves along with Austrian Grand exclusive.

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There are two selections on this list that has individual instrument sounds that are so good, they can stand on their own without the others. This is one of them.

The Keysuite bundle is a massive collection of keyboard instruments from UVI.

The sounds of the ten grand and upright piano sounds alone are enough to sell this wonderful collection, but the showstopper here is the exclusive Austrian Grand piano.

It will not be known that this phenomenal instrument is needed until its heard by the listener, then potentially making that listener a customer in the near future after that.

What sets this piece of software apart from others is that it is one of the first to allow someone to create music across multiple time periods and locations using the many options available.

The care taken in the sample capture of these sounds is apparent in addition to the level of detail in effects settings.

The user has a plethora of options, though there is not a moment where the level of decision-making would be considered daunting.

The positive testimonials you will read about regarding this plug-in are well earned and worth the time of anyone searching for top-notch audio samples for their piano repertoire.

8. Addictive Keys (XLN Audio)

  • User-friendly, simple scrolling menu for selecting piano and effects.
  • Database descriptions for pianos
  • Producer, as recorded and selections options for pianos

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A free trial that is sure to revert to a sale in time is Addictive Keys by XLN Audio.

This VST loads quickly and its presets are amazing.

Feel free to take the time to design new sounds with the intricate control settings.

Customers may purchase one of four pianos for less than $100 each or bundle up to three for approximately $200.

User selection begins with the Modern Upright, modeled after a Yamaha U3, that has seven different recording perspectives.

This piano is great for a jazz tone and can range from an overall warm tone to having a bright pop feel.

  • The Studio Grand features the popular Steinway Model D, with six microphone perspectives and a wide range of tones.
  • The Electric Grand uses a vintage CP-80 for its sounds, recognizable for indie, pop-rock, and soul prominence.
  • Finally, the Rhodes Mark One Stage piano is legendary.

It is well done in the Mark One instrument through the company’s use of a vintage microphone and tube combo amps. Both latter instruments make use of seven different recording perspectives.

I can see the explore, edit, and FX page setup of this VST being underappreciated but these detailed selections are what makes Addictive Keys worth a look.

9. Mini Grand (AIR Music Technology)

  • AAX only available in AIR Creative Collection
  • 7 piano models with quality samples
  • Realistic Resonance & Room Simulation

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Originally, this plug-in was ranked higher, but after careful examination and exploration of other VSTs, the Mini Grand by AIR began to slowly move down in the ranks.

The initial ranking may also be due to user bias, as the author of this article uses Mini Grand often in Pro Tools.

Though the sounds are of a very high caliber, more so than the previous entry in the top ten, Mini Grand cannot justifiably be considered better in the subjective opinion of the reviewer.

It is an enjoyable addition to anyone’s plug-in arsenal, with re-pedaling technology creating a standout argument for its place among these other champion contenders.

At $80 it is at a lower price point than the other VSTs identified, which makes it a good way to step up your piano game without breaking the bank.

The mix knob is a positive addition to the settings, but hopefully, this option will grow to be more intuitive in the future.

Being able to vary the model and room choices allows the user to create some interesting changes to the atmosphere in compositions.

10. Keyzone Classic (Bitsonic Audio)

  • FREE with purchase of a Bitsonic Audio product
  • Has LFO & ADSR in settings
  • Detune option

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Even though this is a free plug-in with the purchase of another company product, it sounds too good to be dismissed into the group with the other five.

There are a certain weight and presence to this VST that graduates this software into the top percentage.

Catalina users should be aware that the company is still working on making their software work properly on that version for Mac.

There are five presets in the Keyzone Classic, using the samples of Yamaha and Steinway grand pianos, Rhodes, an electric piano, and the piano from Keyzone 1.

In addition to the traditional volume and ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release) envelope, the user can also set the velocity curve and reverb rate. A welcome inclusion to the settings is the Low-Frequency Oscillator rate and depth.

It was also a joy to play around with the detune and pan knob, which allows the user to explore different timbres and tones to this simple instrument while placing it in various locations in the stereo image.

A plug-in is a piece of coded content that can be incorporated into the software to enhance functionality.

With the options presented here, the reader would most certainly like the opportunity to weigh all factors before making a final decision regarding the plug-ins that will enhance their overall workflow.

Descriptions of the VSTs have included price, features, and information regarding user-friendliness.

It is highly recommended one consider all mentioned characteristics of these VSTs when selecting an option to reflect a unique artist’s style.

Any choice, however, will increase the performance and overall quality of user productions.

There is sure to be a plug-in identified with a sound to fit a user’s preferred genre of music, allowing one to take personal creations to the next level.

It is with the utmost commitment to quality that this article has been written to create the best musical outcomes for individuals seeking to make an addition to their studio based on the criteria outlined within this article.

Hopefully, these VST plug-ins present a plethora of prosperous piano program potential in pursuit of piano perfection.

Alliteration aside, enjoy the exploration of these top plug-ins!

Top 5 Free Piano VSTs

  1. Dead Duck Piano
  2. Iowa Piano & Salamander by bigcat Instruments
  3. Versilian Upright Piano
  4. Awesome Piano
  5. Piano One
Ready to try something else? Check out our top recommendations for synth & workstation VST plugins

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