There is nothing quite like the warm tone of a Rhodes piano. The unique sounds of this instrument can be found in countless songs in modern music through a variety of genres, including R&B, hip-hop, electronic music, and chillwave.
Want to infuse the sounds of the Fender Rhodes in your mix? Well, you basically have two options. Spend thousands buying the real thing or spend considerably less on an authentic digital version.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great options to choose from if you want to go down the more convenient, less expensive path.
We’ve put together a list of some of the best Rhodes VSTs you can currently buy.
Top 6 Rhodes Plugins
- Applied Acoustics Systems Lounge Lizard EP-4
- XLN Audio Addictive Keys: Mark One
- AIR Music Technology Velvet 2
- Arturia Stage-73 V
- Waves Electric 88
- Toontrack EZkeys Classic Electrics
If you’re looking for a quality plugin that faithfully replicates not only the Fender Rhodes but also Wurlitzer sounds, check out the Lounge Lizard EP-4. This plugin, created by Applied Acoustics Systems, is fairly simple with fewer than 20 parameters. This means it’s easy to use and won’t be overwhelming if you’re not super experienced with mixing.
Even though it is simple, it does go far beyond the typical Rhodes sounds that you might expect. You can achieve unique Rhodes tones, including organ-like, chime-like, and bell-like tones. You can explore these and others in the Experimental preset section. Beyond that, you can also play with the compressor, equalizer, and multi-effect processor to dial in some crazy, unexpected tones.
- Doesn’t take up much CPU
- Get a good amount for what you pay
- Sounds are super authentic and transparent
- Interface is a little outdated
- Not able to import sounds from older versions
XLN Audio has a very popular professional drum VST called Addictive Drums, but their Addictive Keys VST definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. The Mark One plugin authentically emulates the distinctive warm tones of the Fender Rhodes. The Fender Rhodes on this plugin was played through a vintage tube combo amp and was recorded with the help of several rare microphones to give the best sound quality.
The Mark One can give you any Rhodes sound you are looking for from classic to funky. If you’re wanting a super transparent tone, you can also use the line output on the Rhodes rather than the amp.
This software from XLN Audio gives you the ability to adjust the recording and mixing. You can also choose from a selection of vintage microphones and adjust their distance to achieve a shift in ambiance. If you want to play with the distortion or warmth, take a look at the amp settings.
With the Mark One you get a dynamic mic, room condenser, and ribbon mic in addition to a floor mic and room mic. You also have the option of adding in a Roland Dimension D for analog stereo chorus.
- Impressive sound quality and great microphone choices
- Takes up much less CPU than you would think
- Flexible in the processing stage
- Doesn’t have pre/post switching for effects sends
The Velvet 2 VST from Air Music Technology is an electric piano plugin with a good amount of versatility. It actually combines the sounds of five of the best electric pianos out there today. These are the Fender Rhodes MK I, Fender Rhodes MK II, Wurlitzer 200A, Fender Rhodes Suitcase, and Hohner Pianet-T. This VST gives you intimate tones that authentically emulate sounds from a Rhodes piano.
You’ll also find a number of onboard effects that will help you venture outside of the natural capabilities of the instrument. The tube drive panels can help if you want to warm up your tone. You can further shape the sound by adjusting the timbre, curve, and reaction to playing dynamics.
If you want to boost the authenticity of the sound, you have the option to blend in the noise of the pedal and other mechanical sounds from inside the keyboard. With these details, it’ll truly sound like you’re working with an actual Rhodes. You’ll also have access to a 3-band EQ and 350 amazing presets created by the AIR Technology sound designers. This can help you work more efficiently as you search for the best tones for your mix.
- An incredible library of 350 presets
- Numerous effects to choose from
- Very authentic sounding Fender Rhodes plugin
- There is no standalone version
- Can take too long to load
Arturia stands out among the competition when it comes to vintage synthesizer and keyboard VSTs. They offer just about anything you could think of in this arena, but we’re going to take a look at their Rhodes Stage-73 VST. This is an impressively versatile and authentic emulation of the instrument with beautiful, transparent tones. You can also switch over from the 1973 to the 1974 version just by turning the tone knob.
The layout of the Stage-73 is not only aesthetically pleasing but also user friendly. There’s a wide range of pedals for you to play with to take your Rhodes sounds to a different level. There’s no shortage of effects options too, such as changing the curves and the wet/dry mix.
If you want a grittier final tone, you can take advantage of the small Fender Twin amplifier. The awesome selection of presets is conveniently organized by category, including Clean presets, Short presets, Dark presets, Distorted presets, and many others. If customization is a priority for you, Arturia’s Stage-73 should be at the top of your list.
- Incredible preset menu
- Makes use of top-notch physical modeling
- Stomp effects section is very unique
- Certain presets take some time to render
Waves has built a strong reputation based on their incredible product line of plugins. They are the go-to for many mixing engineers worldwide. Among their amazing collection you’ll find the Electric 88, an authentic Rhodes plugin. Its interface lets you dive into the details to craft the ideal tone for your track. You can use this plugin to enhance nearly any type of production. One of the best features is its price tag. It is one of the most affordable Rhodes plugins in the market.
The Electric 88 utilizes a sampling method that borrowed tones from the Mark I 88. You’ll get super realistic and smooth sounds with its fine-tuned velocity curves. You’ll definitely notice a drop-off in effect options compared to the Stage-73, but all the effects you want can be added in later. If you’re wanting a good-quality, low-priced VST, you need to pick up the Waves Electric 88.
- Easy to dial in various sounds
- Great quality sampling with lots of layers
- Not a very wide range
Yes, Toontrack has awesome VST keyboard plugins with grand piano sounds, but they also have a solid option for those who want classic electric keyboard sounds. The Toontrack EZkeys Classic Electrics bundle features the sounds of the Rhodes MK I and Wurlitzer 200A. One thing we love about this plugin is that it offers several songwriting features to help those who may struggle in that area. Transposing MIDI tracks is a breeze, and you can also use various playing styles from other MIDI tracks. The Chord Wheel feature can be used to add some color to your chords or adjust the voicings.
With the EZkeys MK I, you can experiment with tones that are outside the natural realm of the Rhodes. There’s an exciting collection of various presets with built-in effects for processed sounds. These include a chorused Rhodes, a distorted Rhodes, and a funky Rhodes with a wah-wah pedal.
If you’re not a super strong keyboard player but would like to add some chord progressions and keys into your mix that sound human produced, the EZkeys bundle is a great option.
- Included Export to WAV function
- Built-in sequencer is top notch
- Awesome sound quality
- MIDI data is a little too similar to some popular songs
The Sweet Sounds of the Fender Rhodes
When you look at all the options of Rhodes VSTs out there, it might be a bit overwhelming narrowing down which one is best for you. But we have to say that it pretty much comes down to your budget as any VST on our list will likely get the job done. The plugins we have described are the best on the market right now, and each holds its own in this space.
You already know that there is nothing quite like the sound of a real Fender Rhodes in a professional production. Trying to replicate this sound with various effects and piano and synth sounds might seem like an impossible task. Make the whole process much easier for yourself by adding a Rhodes VST to your collection.