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The 11 Best Piano VSTs for Your Studio

08/04/2024

Looking for the perfect piano sound can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Whether you’re a producer adding creative piano sounds to your tracks or a pianist needing the most realistic VST for live gigs, the right piano VST can make all the difference.

Our guide to the best piano VSTs is here to help. We’ve sifted through the options to find top picks that cater to every need and style.

In a hurry?

Here are our top three picks:

Universal Audio Ravel Grand PianoAn extremely responsive physically-modelled piano with UltraResonance technology.Check the current price
Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX Concert Grand Plug-InIncredibly in-depth sampling of a premium Yamaha CFX grand piano in the world-famous Abbey Road studios.Check the current price
Soundiron Emotional PianoPurpose-designed for cinematic scoring with a built-in arpeggiator and FX section.Check the current price

Why we’ve chosen these piano VSTs

We’ve picked 11 piano VSTs that show good diversity, meaning there’s at least one choice for every need, from ultra-realistic reproductions perfect for traditionalists to avant-garde collections tailor-made for cinematic sound design.

Each VST has been chosen not just for its sound quality, but for its unique feature set. We wanted to curate a list that’s great for those looking for a specific tone as well as producers who want to explore new textures.

Types of piano VSTs

When looking for instrument plugins, you’ll probably come across two main types: sampled-based and modelled.

Sampled-based VSTs are like high-quality audio snapshots of real pianos, with vast amounts of velocity and hit variation recorded across all 88 keys. This is about as close to the real thing as you can get. You’ll get access to iconic pianos, recorded in pro studios with all the acoustic goodness. However, these files can be massive, and you’re tied to the specific piano model recorded.

Modelled VSTs, on the other hand, use coding to mimic acoustic pianos. They’re light on your computer’s storage and offer several piano styles and customisations. These are perfect for those who love tweaking sounds or have storage to save.

If you’re all about authenticity, opt for sampled-based VSTs, but if you’re into mixing and moulding sounds, or need something that’s kinder to your computer’s storage, modelled VSTs might be for you. It’s all about what suits your style and needs.

The best piano VSTs

1. Universal Audio Ravel Grand Piano

Universal Audio Ravel Grand PianoType of VST: Sampled

Key features

  • UltraResonance technology
  • Recorded and modelled at United Recording Studios (formerly Ocean Way Studios)
  • Built with UA’s advanced physical modelling technology

Pros

  • Capable of producing soft and muted sounds to lush and evocative nuances
  • Stripped back and user-friendly interface lets you access all parameters with ease
  • Includes reverse recorded textures to blend with traditional notes for experimental sound design

Cons

  • Limited to only one piano sound

Unlike traditional sample-based VSTs, the Universal Audio Ravel Grand Piano offers an unparalleled level of realism and dynamic response, capturing the intricate nuances of a grand piano with remarkable precision.

This VST is authentic-sounding and offers a rich array of features. It boasts an intuitive microphone placement feature, allowing you to craft the perfect soundstage by adjusting the virtual mic positions. Additionally, the Ravel Grand Piano includes pedal noise emulation and sympathetic string resonance, adding layers of depth and realism.

What sets the Universal Audio Ravel Grand Piano apart is its unique combination of ultra-realistic sound with the flexibility of physical modelling. This VST doesn’t just mimic the sound of a grand piano; it recreates the very essence of its mechanics and acoustics, offering musicians and producers an expressive and inspiring tool unlike any other on the market.


2. Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX Concert Grand Plug-In

Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX Concert Grand Plug-InType of VST: Sampled

Key features

  • Multiple microphone positions
  • Available as a standalone application to use in live performances without a DAW
  • Features the world-renowned Yamaha CFX Grand piano

Pros

  • Sampled with precision detail across many velocity layers
  • All three traditional piano pedals are available for authentic performances
  • Multiple tuning options with control over the fine-pitch to accurately match your recording

Cons

  • The library is astonishingly large at 133GB.

The Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX Concert Grand Plug-In is a sample-based VST that brings the majestic sound of the renowned Yamaha CFX Concert Grand to your studio. Recorded in the iconic Abbey Road Studio One, it offers fantastic realism and detail.

Thanks to meticulously captured samples with incredible detail, velocity, and dynamism, this plugin offers an authentic replication of the CFX Concert Grand’s sound. It’s suitable for everything from solo performances to full orchestral compositions.

An extensive feature set includes the ability to switch between three different microphone setups – close, ambient, and player perspectives – providing versatility in sound production. The plugin also offers an impressive dynamic range, from the softest pianissimos to the most thunderous fortissimos, capturing the Yamaha CFX’s full expressive capabilities.

A unique feature of the Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX Concert Grand is its integration with the ARIA player, enabling you to use the plugin as a standalone VST, making it ideal for live performances without a DAW. This, combined with the historical significance and acoustic perfection of Abbey Road Studios, makes this VST a great choice for those seeking the ultimate piano sound.


3. Eastwest Bechstein D-280 Platinum

Eastwest Bechstein D-280 PlatinumType of VST: Sampled

Key features

  • Seven different articulations
  • Sampled with 18 velocity layers with multiple round robins per layer
  • Includes three different microphone positions

Pros

  • Produces excellent note separation during faster sections, maintaining articulation throughout
  • Enhanced feature set including AHDSR envelope control
  • Velocity curve customisation to tailor the response to your playing style

Cons

  • Convolution reverbs aren’t as realistic as other offerings

The EastWest Bechstein D-280 Platinum is a sample-based VST, showcasing the majestic sound of one of the world’s most revered grand pianos. With its deeply sampled articulations and dynamic range, this VST captures the essence and soul of the Bechstein piano, providing an incredibly realistic playing experience with a nuanced sound.

One of its most useful features is the multiple microphone positions which allow you to customise their sound by mixing different mic setups. The VST also includes a vast array of articulations, pedal noises, and mechanical sounds of the piano action, adding layers of depth to the overall sound.

A unique aspect of the EastWest Bechstein D-280 Platinum is its incorporation into the PLAY engine, offering intuitive controls and an efficient workflow. This, combined with the instrument’s detailed sample library, makes it a good choice for composers and musicians.


4. Arturia Piano V3

Arturia Piano V3Type of VST: Modelled

Key features

  • A collection of 12 different modelled piano instruments
  • Models soundboard, sympathetic, and Duplex resonances for maximum realism
  • 14 onboard convolution reverbs

Pros

  • Provides much more variety than just a single sampled piano
  • Adaptable to your playing style with velocity curve editing
  • Assignable Macro controls let you dial in your sound quickly

Cons

  • The sound can be quite harsh on certain models, requiring processing to fit a mix

The Arturia Piano V3 is a brilliantly modelled instrument, offering the warmth and depth of 12 world-class pianos in one package, including the likes of an American Grand, Japanese Grand, Upright Jazz and Classical Upright. Unlike sample-based instruments, it uses physical modelling to recreate the rich, resonant tones of acoustic pianos, allowing for an impressively realistic playing experience.

The nuanced control over each aspect of the sound, from the hammer noises to the duplex scale resonance, means you can find the perfect tone, whether it’s for a solo performance or a mix in a larger composition.

You can also adjust the mic placement, lid position, and the environment in which the piano is played, offering a great level of customisation.

Plus, the plugin lets you lend different piano characteristics together thanks to Arturia’s advanced modelling technology. With this, you can create a piano sound that is truly your own, making it a versatile tool for producers and composers looking to push the boundaries of traditional piano sounds.


5. Arturia Augmented Grand Piano

Type of VST: Sampled

Arturia Augmented Grand PianoKey features

  • Four deep sample layers of an ‘80s Steinway Model D
  • Dynamic hybrid instrument which fuses samples with an advanced synth engine
  • Built-in 16-step arpeggiator and 14 FX ranging from Bitcrushing, BL-20 Flanger, and more

Pros

  • Goes beyond traditional piano VSTs, making it perfect for cinematic film scoring and game sound design
  • Extremely playable with MPE connectivity
  • Though complex, it’s very simple to use with a streamlined interface and eight macro knobs

Cons

  • You’ll need an additional piano sample library as this won’t cover all traditional bases

The Arturia Augmented Grand Piano breaks new ground in the VST world by blending samples and the physical responsiveness of a virtual synth engine. This innovative approach ensures a realistic playing experience and plenty of opportunity to get expressive and creative with your sound.

Thanks to a hybrid engine, you can enjoy the authentic sound of a grand piano, enriched with the dynamic nuances and tonal flexibility of a synth with everything from virtual analog and wavetable to harmonic synth engines onboard.

Blending the two, you can take the Augmented Grand Piano further than any traditional piano virtual instrument. It allows you to conjure everything from cinematic sound design to completely washed-out drone tones using piano samples as the foundation. Additionally, the plugin comes packed with a variety of effects and presets, designed to inspire and enhance musical creativity.

Better still, all this is doable via an intuitive intuitive interface, which simplifies the exploration of its deep sound-shaping capabilities.


6. Soundiron Emotional Piano

Soundiron Emotional PianoType of VST: Sampled

Key features

  • 10 dynamic velocity layers per note across the full 88 keys, totalling 1,716 samples.
  • Compatible with Native Instruments Kontakt Player, no additional purchase is necessary!
  • Modular FX rack

Pros

  • Several low-level velocities deliver authentic, realistic emotive performances
  • One of the few purpose-designed libraries for soft, delicate playing
  • Compatible with all Native Instruments hardware – making setup a breeze

Cons

  • More one-dimensional than other library offerings, with not a lot of power in the higher velocities

The Soundiron Emotional Piano is a deeply sampled library. Its warmth and depth have made it a go-to for composers and musicians seeking a cinematic quality in their work, offering the nuanced dynamics and tonal complexities of a real piano.

With its focus on emotional depth, the instrument brings a unique character to compositions, making it particularly suited to film scores, solo piano pieces, and ambient music.

The Soundiron Emotional Piano boasts a variety of features, including a robust selection of presets that range from pure piano tones to ethereal and atmospheric textures. Effects such as reverb and chorus, along with the ability to adjust the mechanics of the piano sound, including pedal and key noises, allow for extensive customisation.

“Soft pedal” and “performance” controls offer additional layers of creativity, enabling you to craft unique, emotive sounds. The Emotional Piano lets you create moods and narratives through music, making it a powerful tool for composers and songwriters to add depth and feeling to their work.


7. Sonuscore LOKI – Felt Piano

Sonuscore LOKI - Felt PianoType of VST: Sampled

Key features

  • Sample-based upright felt piano with multiple velocity layers and five round robins per layer
  • Unique “Glow” slider
  • AR Attack and Release

Pros

  • Streamlined interface lets you focus on your playing
  • Capable of a wide variety of different tones and textures
  • Recorded with real room microphones, letting you introduce realistic ambience to your tones

Cons

  • Not as deeply sampled as other competitors

The Sonuscore LOKI Felt Piano is a sample-based VST that offers a deeply intimate and nuanced piano sound, perfect for injecting a touch of emotion into your pieces. Capturing the gentle tones of a piano with the felt dampers engaged, it delivers a sound that is both realistic and laden with character.

Featuring adjustable microphone positions and a range of atmospheric effects, from subtle reverbs to ambient textures, you have complete control over the spatial aspects of your sound.

Its user-friendly interface, designed to facilitate quick and easy adjustments makes it accessible for both professionals and beginners. This, combined with the plugin’s focus on the emotive, softer side of the piano, makes the Sonuscore LOKI Felt Piano a distinctive choice for those seeking to convey depth and feeling in their music.


8. Addictive Keys: Studio Grand

Addictive Keys: Studio GrandType of VST: Sampled

Key features

  • Sampled VST of a classic Steinway Model D Grand Piano
  • Addictive Keys engine
  • Recorded with six interchangeable microphone positions

Pros

  • Incredibly life-like sounds make it realistic and convincing enough for solo performances.
  • The versatile sound makes it useful for just about any style or genre.
  • Small disk footprint with fast loading times.

Cons

  • The extensive customisation could be overwhelming for beginners.

The XLN Addictive Keys: Studio Grand captures the grandeur and dynamic range of a Steinway Model D grand piano with meticulous detail. It’s about as real as it gets without sitting in front of an actual grand piano.

With its detailed sampling, every nuance of the Steinway piano is at your fingertips, from the subtlest touch to the most powerful chords. The depth and clarity of the sound make it a go-to for any genre, whether you’re composing a classical piece, crafting a ballad, or laying down some jazz.

You can choose from several microphone setups, adjusting the mix to suit your taste. The plugin also includes a variety of presets, designed to inspire and fit seamlessly into your mixes. The ability to tweak the tone, space, and even the amount of pedal and hammer noise gives you complete control over the sound.


9. Eastwest Yamaha C7 Platinum

Eastwest Yamaha C7 PlatinumType of VST: Sampled

Key features

  • Eight separate articulations and 18 velocity layers per note
  • Full AHDSR envelope controls
  • Comes loaded with convolution impulse responses from world-famous halls, chambers, and more

Pros

  • Dedicated articulations make programming faster and more intuitive
  • Bright and airy tone is perfect for pop and rock
  • Tailor the response to your playing style with velocity sensitivity

Cons

  • The library requires quite a powerful computer to run effectively

Showcasing one of the most recorded pianos in the music industry, the EastWest Yamaha C7 Platinum is an exceptionally realistic sample-based VST. The piano is captured with meticulous attention to detail with over 18 velocities per note and eight separately recorded articulations.

Thanks to EastWest’s advanced sampling techniques, every nuance of the Yamaha C7’s sound is faithfully reproduced, from the delicate touch of the keys to the powerful resonance of the strings. This makes it a perfect choice for any genre, whether you’re laying down a jazz track, composing a classical piece, or anything in between.

Featuring an extensive range of articulations, dynamic layers, and pedal noises, the EastWest Yamaha C7 Platinum gives you unparalleled control over the sound. The VST also boasts a customisable interface, allowing you to adjust everything from mic positions to reverb within an intuitive workflow.


10. Sampleson MetaPiano

Sampleson MetaPianoType of VST: Modelled

Key features

  • Spectral modelled full-sized Japanese Concert Grand Piano
  • Includes several ambient soundscape impulse responses
  • Captures complete dynamics without velocity switching

Pros

  • Extremely small file size when compared to sampled libraries, totalling only 60MB
  • Very affordable when compared to other modelled pianos
  • Simple interface with everything on one screen, no menu diving

Cons

  • Spectral modelling isn’t as realistic as sampled instruments

The Sampleson MetaPiano uses sophisticated spectral modelling algorithms to recreate the sound and feel of a grand piano.

This piano VST produces incredibly expressive sounds. The MetaPiano captures the essence of a grand piano, from the hammer strikes to the complex resonances of the strings, all without the need for gigabytes of sample data. This makes it a great choice for musicians and producers looking for authentic piano sounds with a minimal footprint.

Among its features, the MetaPiano boasts a simple yet effective interface, making it accessible to players of all skill levels. The VST offers control over various aspects of the piano’s tone, including the mechanics of the action and the acoustics of the virtual room it’s played in, allowing for a highly customisable playing experience.


11. Capsule Black Ivory

Capsule Black IvoryType of VST: Sampled

Key features

  • Sampled Steinway Model D piano
  • Extensive preset browser
  • Four voicing options: Polyphonic, Monophonic, Legato and Glide

Pros

  • An affordable plugin
  • Very small memory footprint, running on less powerful machines with ease
  • Velocity sensitivity adjustments let you tailor the response to your playing style

Cons

  • Limited to one piano sound

Crafted through high-quality sampling, the Capsule Black Ivory mimics the sound of a grand piano in incredible detail – ideal for delicate melodies and powerful harmonies.

The plugin offers intricate velocity layers that breathe life into your performances, and detailed pedal noises add depth and realism. Every aspect has been thoughtfully sampled. Adjust mic positions for the perfect balance, tweak the tonal character, adjust the playing mode, and dial in just the right amount of resonance. It’s like having your very own grand piano, customisable down to the last detail.

Things to consider when buying a piano VST

Before you splash out on a piano VST, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

Firstly, think about what type of VST fits your style. Are you after the realism of a sampled piano, with all its intricate details and nuances? Or do you want the versatility and tweakability of a modelled piano sound? Your pick here largely depends on whether you lean towards authenticity or flexibility in your productions.

Next, consider your setup. It’s crucial to check that your VST is compatible with your computer, whether Mac or Windows, and your DAW. Some VSTs might only work as part of specific platforms, like Kontakt Libraries, which means you’d need the right sampler.

Lastly, your budget. The most authentic and beefy piano VSTs can also be the priciest. It’s all about finding that sweet spot between what you need and what you can afford.

FAQs

What is the most realistic-sounding VST piano?

The most realistic-sounding VST piano plugins are:

Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX Concert Grand Plug-In

Eastwest Bechstein D-280 Platinum

Arturia Piano V3

Universal Audio Ravel Grand Piano

Eastwest Yamaha C7 Platinum


What piano does Hans Zimmer use?

Hans Zimmer’s choice of piano is the Steinway Model D grand piano. This iconic instrument has been at the core of his Oscar-winning scores for over two decades.


What is the best Kontakt Piano?

The top 10 piano libraries for Kontakt are:

Eastwest Steinway D Platinum

Native Instruments Noire

Soundiron Emotional Piano

Eastwest Bosendorfer 290 Platinum

Final thoughts

If you’re a producer looking to add a dynamic, expressive piano to your mixes, we hope our list of the best piano VSTs has helped! Each option is designed to cater to a wide array of styles and needs, ensuring you find the perfect fit. Whether you’re crafting intricate compositions or exploring new soundscapes, these VSTs offer the diversity and quality to elevate your music to new heights.

 

Content Writer - High Tech

I'm an experienced content editor and copywriter with a passion for music and technology. When I'm not writing engaging blogs or comprehensive product descriptions, I spend my time working with bands and musicians as a producer and mixing/mastering engineer.

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