Best Piano VST Plugins of 2017 [GUIDE]


Best Piano VST Plugins

The Best and Most Realistic Piano VSTs For Any Project

Your soloist comes in and tells you "I haven't recorded the piano track yet."

The problem is, you promised him or her that you have a piano. A genuine one, you might add.

Then you show him or her a 61-key Midi Controller. Of course, he or she would be a bit annoyed.

With today's technology, computing and processing power, he or she might regret having been a bit irritated when you showed a high-quality midi keyboard controller because:

-these controllers can shift key weights through velocity settings

-and these can be expanded while sounding realistic.

Of course, if it sounds realistic as a grand or concert right out of the box, it'll be plenty useful.

Here are 28 piano VSTs out in the market that deliver the best, hypersampled and epic-realistic sound to-date.

Best Piano VST Plugins
Alicia Keys from NI

1. NI Alicia Keys

You don't need to be a fan of the famous soul singer and pianist because if you hear Thomas Skarbye's name (Scarbee Rickenbacker and other NI sample packs for Kontakt), then you know what you're in for.

Involving Alicia Keys in the project along with her engineer Ann Mincieli (who's a fine piano tech in her own right), Native Instruments outdid itself especially if you want to impress that guy or girl soloist annoyed with a midi keyboard.

You turn it on, you see one Yamaha Piano with the name "Alicia's Keys".

The best thing about it is the convolution reverbs and resonance settings that allow you to play with the environment.

You get a large hall to a dry room which all sound realistic. The resonance adds more charm and cherry to the almost-perfect sound of the piano

It can be annoying when you think that keyboard is produced rather than having a natural sound. But hey, that's what you are buying for this keyboard; Alicia's Keys.

It must include her sound, her engineer's preferences, the piano's recording sound and the presets used.

Hypersampled velocities, ambience and half-pedalling sustains are no question will impress your soloist.


Alicia Keys from NI
NI The Maverick

2. NI The Maverick

Another one of NI's sampled keyboards, this one comes with the all-new Komplete 10 package.

While it may include other 61-key vintage pianos such as The Grandeur and The Gentleman, The Maverick has a different tone.

NI has modeled it on a piano model from 1905. It may remind you of some soft jazz and ballad piano sounds.

While I've found it to have a bit of a "honky" or temperamental sound that doesn't suit much "naturality" if you get my meaning, it still sounds wonderful upon first impression.

It's terribly perfect for jazz is what I'm saying.

Controls include a Tone knob that controls the softness or hardness of the piano.

It also includes a lid control in the same module, which controls the open or closed position of the lid (leading to a more honky and powerful sound for any of your pianos.

Meanwhile, Dynamic Range controls the round robin of velocity samples while retaining your initial velocity hit.

Resonances and convolution reverbs include hall, a concert chamber and a room. Presets are pretty useful too if you don't have time to mess around!

NI The Maverick
NI The Giant

3. The Giant


The Giant is marketed as a "larger than life upright piano" with the aim of being versatile.

Unlike the vintage sound of The Maverick and other Komplete 10 Pianos, The Giant has more of a cinematic touch.

It could pull off a jazz sound if you need it to, but it has more of a cinematic touch more than anything else.

The Giant is based off the Klavins 370i. It's a two-storey piano from 1987 built by David Klavins, which focused on the experimental. It was supposed to demonstrate the power of material physics and to demonstrate the new dimensions of piano sound.

While they focused on the aspect of improving the potential of pianos, NI focused on capturing the experience of Michael Ponti and other piano players who had played there.

While all these descriptions would disappoint you upon seeing it has the same Tone, Dynamic Range, Resonance and Convolution Reverb controls similar to The Maverick, The Giant's ultimately amazing sound does not disappoint. You could even control the overtones for maximum-level tweaking to your sound.

NI The Giant
The Grandeur
4. NI The Grandeur


Included with The Maverick and The Gentleman, The Grandeur is a piano focused on delivering a modern sound to concert grand piano.

If you're creating modern classics with your soloist and he or she probably prefers a great piano with lots of dynamics while sounding modern and warm, The Grandeur is all you need.

Again, it has the same controls as The Maverick and The Giant.

The Grandeur is modeled on a concert Steinway D. Steinway Pianos are well-known all over the world for their warm and vibrant sound and is often the preferred instrument of many classical, jazz and session pianists worldwide.

With this model in your piano, production gripes would be your only concern. A limited number of controls with phasing and overtones might leave you fiddling to find a better sound.

But indeed, the sound of The Grandeur is fit enough for any type of piano song. It might not work for rock music but it is versatile enough for hundreds and thousands of projects.

The Grandeur
NI The Gentleman
5. The Gentleman


Included with The Maverick and The Grandeur in Komplete 10 from NI, The Gentleman is indeed a gentleman because of its beautiful upright sound.

Why NI is obsessed with sampling 1900s pianos is because these pianos are rare and they have an extremely unique sound that may be replicated by modern pianos but not quite near.

Pianos have had a unique sound before the modern times. Comparing the sound of The Grandeur with The Gentleman, The Gentleman has that "ol' timey" vibe with not-so-great-but-likeable bass tones.

The Gentleman is an unspecified upright piano from the 1908 that survived from its time with all its parts intact.

As with The Maverick and the others, it has the same controls for the lid, tone and space. But you could control its transients despite the softness or hardness controls on the tone. But basically those are the controls you could get.

But what would you need additional controls for when the sound is already as amazing as it looks?

NI The Gentleman
Scarbee Vintage Keys

6. NI Scarbee Vintage Keys


Thomas Skarbye, responsible for the Scarbee line of sampled instruments (that I admire so much it hurts), has recorded famous electric pianos from the 60s to 70s.

These are referenced in the modified brand names (the norm for most samplers) of Mark I, A-200, Clavinet and Pianet.

All these sampled instruments by Thomas Skarbye indeed deliver vintage tones that may remind you of Pink Floyd and other bands during the era with lush keyboard sounds reminiscent of Rhodes instruments.

But, unlike the vintage electric keyboards of that time, these digital sampled versions do not detune. The clavinet sounds as funky as a 60's song should.

Meanwhile, Mark I probably has best sound suitable for 60s jazz and electronic instruments.

Playing it just reminds me of that era along with their crazy lifestyle and music.

I have to agree though; they really sound authentic and the non-detuning part is a great plus for me.

Scarbee Vintage Keys
Modart Pianoteq5

7. Modart Pianoteq6

If anything, the Pianoteq6 from Modart is simply what sampling technology can do nowadays.

Coupled with a great, velocity-sensitive piano, you could virtually take the sound of a grand piano complete with the nuances and dynamics of the real ones without worrying about the weight and detuning.

The Pianoteq 6 Stage still looks similar to Pianoteq5. You still have the velocity curve controls.

As with every Modart Pianoteq Product, you have the Action controls and Mallet Bounce controls.

One thing about the Pianoteq6 that stands out compared to other sampled piano sets is the accuracy of piano dynamics. Piano hammers are usually made of felt. You can hear the octave stretch and even the slight hardness of the piano felt hammers.

But like all sampled pianos, it's still far from perfect.

But being able to set up your piano, the microphone positions is a lot than just being able to EQ your entire performance to get that studio sound you've always wanted, in a laptop or desktop!

Modart Pianoteq5
AS Piano Collection

8. AcousticsampleS Piano Collection

Gospel Musicians had helped create AcousticsampleS' acoustic grand piano collection.

The group had hypersampled a Kawai-EX Pro piano and they had worked closely with Lance Herring with the playing.

According to the group, they have recorded the instrument with 3 microphone pairs to add dimension compared to their early work in the AcademicGrand piano.

The EX Pro was designed to give a modern, realistic piano sound in its approach to sampling. But the OldBlackGrand part of the package focuses on using old-school gear with tube microphones, giving it the warm sound from a really old Pleyel Grand PIano from 1928.

But it doesn't stop there, the AcademicGrand is also in the package and that's an old 1963 Steinway D concert grand piano. The A-Pian is an old French Gaveau piano from the 1960s and last but not least the B-Pian, which is an emulation of an everday slim upright piano in any house.

AS Piano Collection
Addictive Keys
9. Addictive Keys
If anything, what I love about Addictive Keys is the noise flavor for your recordings. I love having a warm tape sound to my pianos.

Adding distortions definitely help create a unique experimental sound.

While it can be useful in creating house music, Addictive Keys isn't just for electronic music.

It has a powerful grand piano sound that, while it may sound flat, these effects I mentioned definitely help bring more dimension and flavour to its sound.

Another thing I like about it is the ambience controls. You can actually have aged piano strings; a feature you have yet to see.

Even Pianoteq5 still doesn't have these beautiful features but you do get the great mallet simulation.

You have a choice of wide ribbon, ambient, tight studio and mono tube piano sounds, all of which have their own applications in different types of songs.

There's even an audience microphone, the one closest to the audience, which makes Addictive Keys a very good choice for a realistic sampled piano set.


Addictive Keys
Steinberg The Grand 3
10. Steinberg The Grand 3
Steinberg had just released The Grand 3, which is a premium collection of virtual pianos.

This suite features three grand piano models, the Yamaha C7, the Bosendorfer 280 Imperial and the classic Steinway D.

They've also included the Yamaha CP80 Electric Grand Piano and Nordiska Pianofabriken's Upright Piano

Now, everyone who had used a sampled piano knows that the tone and sound differs per emulation depending on the room it was recorded along with the VST's features.

One thing I can say is the Electric Grand Piano additions are definitely welcome; there's too much grand piano everywhere in the virtual world that no one had taken time to get off a great Electric Grand Piano like the Yamaha CP80.

Steinberg, being resource-conscious, had made sure the RAM consumption on computers aren't too taxing. It has a RAMSave feature that allows it to unload samples not being used while tagging the notes and velocities being played.

If you're playing one song or recording one, this can make a load of difference in your system's overall performance.

Steinberg The Grand 3
Steinberg Neo Soul Keys

11. Steinberg Neo Soul Keys

As it says, Neo Soul Keys was made for jazz and hip-hop tracks. The electric piano emulation focuses on sampling the original Mark I suitcase piano.

Now I know you may have encountered this piano in several samplers. But none come close to the samples on Steinberg's iteration.

With velocities, sustains, releases and staccato notes all faithfully recorded, you definitely feel the authenticity of playing it with actual instruments.

As an electric piano, an amp is especially important. Most emulators get away with just one amp or it being a fixed feature in their sound collection.

But for Steinberg's Neo Soul Keys, it adds six types of amplifiers. It also adds plenty of effects to play with to create you realistic sound. As it comes with an amp, you also get different emulations of condensed and tube piano types.

You even get great microphone axis positioning as you would with guitar recording. Pretty awesome!

Steinberg Neo Soul Keys
Synthogy Ivory II Grand Pianos

12. Synthogy Ivory II Grand Pianos

It might be old from 2012 but Synthogy's Ivory II line is far from being old-sounding when it comes to piano emulations.

Just like Steinberg, Synthogy focused on the old Bosendorfer 290 Grand, Steinway D Concert Grand and Yamaha C7 pianos.

But as I continue to listen to it while playing piano (as much as I can), it sounds more organic, more "warm" than the sound delivered by Steinberg's iteration. It also could just be me, but it has that natural feel to it.

Other iterations might have better features but if I need a really realistic piano sound with the right "organic" balls, this is the suite I really need.

The sound is also pretty "malleable" to a point it's easy to include it in any mix.

It also has half-pedalling, a good sustain resonance and stereo width, perspective, velocity response and mechanical key noises (similar to Pianoteq5's mallet bounce) that deliver the most realistic approach to piano sound, as far as I can listen to it.

Synthogy Ivory II Grand Pianos
Imperfect Samples Steinway Grand

13. Imperfect Samples Steinway Grand

Half-pedalling, four mic positions (ribbon, condenser, close microphones, etc), the Steinway D Grand from Imperfect Samples is actually pretty much perfect to my ear.

With a plethora of piano effects to choose from, you could go with traditional concert pianos up to funk and even alternative rock piano riffs.

Yes, the Steinway D Grand Piano's sound is applicable to such areas.

With the four-perspective sampled recording, I can definitely say you don't need much tweaking with this one. Except that, the piano does sound quite modern, given its sympathetic sampling technique.

If you hate Kontakt though, you might miss out on this grand piano.

One perk I like: overall control with the sympathetic resonance. Half-pedalling is definitely a must.

Back to your soloist, this is a piano sampler that he'll definitely, definitely love.

However, he might be limited just to the sound of the Steinway Grand. But for me, this works, especially if you want a very low data footprint.

Imperfect Samples Steinway Grand
Soniccouture Hammersmith
14. Soniccouture Hammersmith

Just released by the end of 2015, this Hammersmith from Soniccouture is definitely modern sounding.

A Kontakt library, this is another iteration of the Steinway D.

You might just find controls for microphones for the close, mid and room microphone.

But explore further and you could find controls for each of these microphones, including their axis and everything else!

Soniccouture boasts its 21-layer per key recording. They don't use randomizing or round-robin scripts. Instead, they stay faithful; you get emulations of your pedal noise, the hammer hits (just like Pianoteq5).

But the best thing is, Soniccouture did Hammersmith with the minute differences considered, including the different sound of the sustain up and down per key. Wow.

You get lots of convolution reverb emulations, stereo width, compression and filters to your taste.

The only downside? It's a 51GB instrument. Definitely, it's one of the best-sounding Steinway D samplers out there, but this one definitely takes the cake if you let it eat some HD cake.

Soniccouture Hammersmith
4Front True Pianos
15. 4Front True Pianos

4Front is a company I know very well because of their 4Front Bass. I got it for free because they were giving it out a free virtual instrument.

Now, because it's free, it's not too realistically sampled. Not that I'm disappointed; I mean it's free and I can't complain.

Moving forward, I've heard 4Front's True Pianos VST and they definitely create really, really great pianos. And they achieve that with just a very small footprint.

However, it can be very limited; not too many noise and dampened sounds that appeals to me.

But it's not too expensive. While it sounds realistically enough, an experienced piano player will definitely hear the sampled difference. It's not really a big problem if you're doing house music or even some jazz.

Your soloist won't be too happy. He or she'd probably prefer the Pianoteq5 or the Hammersmith. Definitely.

4Front True Pianos
Cinesamples Piano In Blue

16. Cinesamples Piano In Blue

Cinesamples Piano In BlueNow, this is again for Kontakt and if you haven't already, maybe you should definitely consider using Kontakt for your sample library hunting especially for realistic pianos.

Cinesamples features controls for convolution reverbs of your choice and microphone volumes with three different positions including close, room and the surround/ambient microphone.

But its main feature would be the velocity curve controls. This works best for keyboardists with a Midi controller that doesn't go much in terms of weight.

But speaking frankly, even if it is indeed a relatively small and compact sample library, Cinesamples' Piano in Blue definitely has the Steinway D's "era" sound especially if you know how to play the microphones.

According to official documentation, it was recorded with a pair of Neumann M49 microphones. If you guessed it, that's from the original Miles Davis song Kind of Blue. That's probably where it found its name.

And it does sound very well especially pedal noise and tape noise levels are very faithful. If you can't hard-drive the size of Hammersmith or Pianoteq5, here's a great alternative.

Cinesamples Piano In Blue
Cinesamples Abbey Road Classic Upright Pianos

17. Cinesamples Abbey Road Classic Upright Pianos

Upright pianos recorded in Abbey Road's studio 2 have been used in plenty of recordings. These upright pianos aren't as famous as the Steinways or Yamaha. But one was built by a C.Hallen and another by Mills. So we'll call them by that sound.

So Cinesamples decided that "Challen" and "Mills" should be preserved in digital sound recorded in its Abbey Road home.

Upon playing this first hand, you can definitely feel the Abbey Road feel: a wide spectrum of sound flying around with warmth and color that gives it great, organic sound that pianists could recognize as digital but can pass off as a real piano.

Lovely velocity curves, to be honest. While playing this piano, I couldn't help but adore it's sound. While it's scripted unlike the Hammersmith, the pedal noise sound authentic.

The controls for microphones aren't really for microphones, but for mixes. The developers used different types of microphones for the job and they used mixes instead of microphone setups. The Vintage mix is definitely convincing. Meanwhile, the Modern mixes focused more on close microphone setups, namely string panning known in many modern sampled grand pianos to date.

Cinesamples Abbey Road Classic Upright Pianos
OrchestralTools Berlin Orchestral Grands

18. OrchestralTools Berlin Orchestral Grands

Recording a Steinway D Concert Piano and a Steinway B, this iteration from OrchestralTools is focused more on a concert-type sound for the piano and it is definitely convincing.

You get three types of microphone level controls: the typical close, mid and room.

When I tried this out, getting an orchestral sound was a cinch. Just drive down the close microphone sound and voila, you get a very good, powerful concert piano sound.

If you're a film scorer and you need an epic piano sound to go along with a grand arrangement of amazing, this is the piano for you.

I know you might say it's achievable with the other VSTs I've already written about. But the sound of these Orchestral Grands, recorded in the Teldex Scoring Stage and with orchestral positioning, is entirely convincing.

With an inclination to symphonic arrangements, it would be easier to tweak around with this baby rather than mess around with other VSTs, which weren't prepared when the conductor came in.

OrchestralTools Berlin Orchestral Grands
East West Quantum Leap Pianos
19. East West Quantum Leap Pianos
EastWest is a company I know from another product. If you've used their Symphonic Choir, you know what I'm talking about.

They've punched every detail down to the core and I'm not surprised that their piano collections really sound at best, one of the finest, detailed piano emulations I've heard.

We've heard numerous iterations of the Steinway D and B, along with the Yamaha C7 and the legendary Bosendorf.

But EastWest had really done with Quantum Pianos. It's a huge, 263GB library and once you order, it would get to your home on 35 DVDs. Thirty-Five. That's really huge!

While you can still install each piano separately since that's a giga-footprint in your hard drive.

Of course, you'd expect lots from such a large footprint. Each piano has a control for each close, mid or player microphone and room microphone, a lid position with gradual close to open settings for grand pianos, a convolution reverb with options more than hall and rooms.

While it's tedious to wait for it to load since it's such a huge-sized library, it's definitely worth it, the sound you're about to hear!

East West Quantum Leap Pianos
8Dio 1928 Steinway Legacy
20. 8Dio 1928 Steinway Legacy

Another Steinway 1928 iteration, 8Dio of course delivers as much as its competitors can, but it has its own tricks up its sleeve.

It has a smaller footprint than Pianoteq5 and Hammersmith. It may use a round-robin at times, but it's as dynamic as pianos can definitely get.

You get controls for your close, mid and room microphones. You also have a denoise option if you don't like much of the Steinway D's original mechanical noises. But I digress; I love mechanical sounds and your soloist does too if he or she had played a real grand or upright piano.

One thing about the Steinway 1928 by 8Dio is you hear almost everything, just like you would with the Hammersmith. While it does do with the round robin, the sound quality is as excellent as you'd imagine. It even has its own mixer that allows you to control the nearness of mallets.

Meanwhile, it has that weird morphing patch that makes your piano sound more interesting, You can morph several guitar, pipe harp, bells and alien drum sounds into your piano. Great for film scores and sfx!

8Dio 1928 Steinway Legacy
Paper Stone Instruments - Palm Mute Piano

21. Paper Stone Instruments - Palm Mute Piano

While it's just a small library of 2.6GB, Paper Stone Instruments' Palm Mute Piano faithfully digitally recreates a Danemann Grand Piano.

Now, it's not as known as the classic Steinways and Bosendorf, but it's very powerful with its mellow tone, perfect for jazz and scores.

But I found it to work with so many applications from piano solos to rock riffs.

Samples include staccato, sustain and pedalled articulations with three velocity layers. While that sucks, it's a 2.6GB library, unlike the Quantum Leap Pianos and Hammersmith that eat up and layer almost every detail of piano.

But I wouldn't recommend it to a soloist who would record a piano song. It sounds quite synth-y. The Danemann's mechanical hammer and "palm mute" sound definitely makes it sound interesting, but not for those mellow, tear-jerking piano songs piano VSTs are often used with.

Paper Stone Instruments - Palm Mute Piano
Tonehammer Emotional Piano

22. Tonehammer (Soundiron) Emotional Piano

One again for the lighter footprints in piano VSTs, Tonehammer is a better choice for a lightweight library that your soloist could use.

As its name implies, this is the direct opposite of Paper Stone Instruments' Palm Mute Piano, which somehow sounds really jolly. With its mellow tone and options including a "gentle blur" setting that softens notes and even the shapes of notes that create that jaded, emotional and feel-type of piano playing, it's quite amazing how just a few gigabytes can achieve this milestone.

As pianos are often recreated for the theater, concert or for an epic film score, Emotional Piano player is all about that intimate sound a piano is when inside a bar. With 5G and a Kontakt Player, your soloist will definitely love this library and you could easily use this to finish your session.

If he or she's playing dark-toned music, this works well too!

Tonehammer Emotional Piano
UVI Tines Anthology

23. UVI Tines Anthology

UVI's Tines Anthology is focused on emulating some awesome Electric Piano and Electric Bass Piano instruments.

As the name implies, the library includes some of the famous '65 to 2007 tine electric pianos of our age including some of the greatest sounding Rhodes Pianos. Mark I to VII is included in this package and it does emulated the sound, especially Mark III's broken-ish piano sound.

Controls include a noise drive for added character. Mark VIII, which is a more modern-sounding electronic piano, sounds faithfully recreated and has with it included a tremolo sound.

The piano basses themselves have their own phasers and chorus as the pianos. Yet they sound deep and convincing.

I would definitely prefer the Mark V especially if you're playing some classic 60s to 80s cheesy songs. The adjective I'd use is cheesy. Mark V has a very warm and beautiful sound. While it sounds identical to Mark I, the overtones on Mark V is very much what stands out in the Tines Anthology.

It's a bit underpriced, but you are also a bit limited on controls. But you get a very good and convincing sound.

UVI Tines Anthology
Grand Piano Collection
24. UVI Grand Piano Collection
UVI's grand piano collection has a smaller footprint than other compendiums. The only difference is aside from the Steinway D  or Yamaha C7 that everyone who owns a piano and wants it sampled really loves, UVI had also sampled other lesser-known pianos, such as the Fazioli F278 Concert Grand, Erard Baby Brand Piano, Seiler Upright Grand.

These five pianos sound as convincing as their other iterations, but they also lack the concert atmosphere most piano emulations have. Of course, that can be resolved by using the available convolution reverb.

As UVI sells these pianos on a bundle for those cash-strapped looking for great piano emulations and some usable piano VSTs for simple scores, they don't have much in terms of control. But I can hear minute details of mechanical noise, including some hammer hits. The sad thing is that you couldn't control these minute details as you would in, say for example, Hammersmith.

But it still plays as a decent piano especially if you want a very low data footprint in your computer.

Grand Piano Collection
UVI Attack EP 88
25. UVI Attack EP 88
There are numerous sampled libraries of the original EPs and if anything, almost all of them sound authentic. The only difference is in their usability and ability to emulate the smallest of details from the original instruments.

So UVI had taken things further with their UVI Attack EP 88. It's a Tack Piano sampled library but the twist lies in recording with five channels that capture different areas of these pianos.

If you're not familiar what a Tack Piano is, it's known as the "junk" or "honky-tonk" piano because tacks or nails are used on the felt-pads of the instrument, giving them a xylophone-y sound.

So it's basically a Rhodes Piano except it's given brass tacks on its hammers. With over 47,000 samples through five signal sources/microphone positions, you definitely get what you pay for.

You also get five types of effects including the SparkVerb, Dual Delay, Crunch, Phasers and even flange. It's a pretty amazing toolkit for the EP addict in you.

UVI Attack EP 88
UVI IRCAM Prepared Pianos

26. UVI IRCAM Prepared Pianos

It's alright if you don't know what IRCAM is. But when you know about them, lucky you and you know what to expect with the UVI IRCAM Prepared Pianos.

The Institut de Recherce et Coordination Acoustique/Musique or something roughly translated to The Research Institute for Acoustic and Music Coordination is an institution in France dedicated to music, sound and avante-garde electro-acoustical music.

So you might say we're in for an experimental surprise.

IRCAM places different types of items unconventionally placed on the piano strings perceived to be very musical or adding some interesting nuance in the piano.

Inspired by John Cage's Prepared Piano, the researchers had measured the distance of these items that have created some strange and amazing sounds.

The interface presents two layers of preparations. You get a selection of items including erasers, picks, screws, mutes, mallets, foils, or remove everything and just go with a natural piano or the Yamaha C7 sound.

It's especially amazing to have these kinds of pianos when you're trying to convey a different piano sound in, say for example, a cinematic score. An unconventional piano can add more color to a film. It may not be for everyone, but the IRCAM prepared piano is simply amazing.

UVI IRCAM Prepared Pianos
EZKeys Essential Pianos

27. ToonTrack EZKeys Essential Pianos

EZKeys was revolutionary during its time. It came out and made it easy for almost everyone to pick up and play a piano. But as musicians grow their awareness and skills in music production, they begin to notice flaws in their earlier VST or instruments.

So now, the EZKeys line from ToonTrack is not focused on delivering realistic piano pieces, but rather it becomes a songwriting tool. Such as the smart transpose feature.

I had a midi file once, the add chord feature on a piano solo I programmed had definitely unlocked a new universe of composition ideas for myself.

Library management and song structure details in different styles helped further my composition needs. While the piano sounds really great, I see the EZKeys essential pianos as a songwriting tool. If you want something realistic, there's more in this list that can help you.

However, ToonTrack did place effort in realistically capturing the sound of their Steinway D, Olsten Piano and two other electric pianos including the Rhodes Mark I and the Wurlitzer 200A.

If you're not an expert piano player though, you can always create your midi composition in the piano, enhanced by its algorithms and functions and then use another VST that's realistic to create a very, very convincing song.

EZKeys Essential Pianos
Ravenscraft 275 VI Labs

28. Ravenscraft 275 VI Labs 

While only using about 17,000 samples, a bit lower than the standard presented here, the Ravenscroft 275 from VI Labs captures the Ravenscroft Model 275 Titatium Concert Grand.

Focused on each velocity and the capture of the piano's beautiful and powerful sound unique to Steinway D, B and other older brands, the sampling of the piano is definitely top-notch.

VI Labs took time to emulate close, player, room and side microphones to capture the entire performance of the piano itself.

If you're not satisfied with the velocity, the Una Corda samples, which would add mellow and "deeper" tones to silent hits (Velocity below 30), which would be a bit impossible on other sample libraries.

Ravenscroft's Pianos sound warm and precise, not to mention modern. The addition of pedal noises, key noises and silent strikes that could be controlled in the plug-in is something useful and I've come to love.

Ravenscraft 275 VI Labs

 

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The Best and Most Realistic Piano VSTs For Any Project

Best Piano VST PluginsYour soloist comes in and tells you “I haven’t recorded the piano track yet.”

The problem is, you promised him or her that you have a piano. A genuine one, you might add.

Then you show him or her a 61-key Midi Controller. Of course, he or she would be a bit annoyed.

With today’s technology, computing and processing power, he or she might regret having been a bit irritated when you showed a high-quality midi keyboard controller because:

-these controllers can shift key weights through velocity settings

-and these can be expanded while sounding realistic.

Of course, if it sounds realistic as a grand or concert right out of the box, it’ll be plenty useful.

Here are 28 piano VSTs out in the market that deliver the best, hypersampled and epic-realistic sound to-date.


NI Alicia Keys

NI Alicia Keys

You don’t need to be a fan of the famous soul singer and pianist because if you hear Thomas Skarbye’s name (Scarbee Rickenbacker and other NI sample packs for Kontakt), then you know what you’re in for.Read more...


NI The Maverick

NI The MaverickAnother one of NI’s sampled keyboards, this one comes with the all-new Komplete 10 package.

While it may include other 61-key vintage pianos such as The Grandeur and The Gentleman, The Maverick has a different tone.Read more...


The Giant

NI The GiantThe Giant is marketed as a “larger than life upright piano” with the aim of being versatile.

Unlike the vintage sound of The Maverick and other Komplete 10 Pianos, The Giant has more of a cinematic touch.Read more...


NI The Grandeur

NI The GrandeurIncluded with The Maverick and The Gentleman, The Grandeur is a piano focused on delivering a modern sound to concert grand piano.

If you’re creating modern classics with your soloist and he or she probably prefers a great piano with lots of dynamics while sounding modern and warm, The Grandeur is all you need.Read more...


The Gentleman

NI The GentlemanIncluded with The Maverick and The Grandeur in Komplete 10 from NI, The Gentleman is indeed a gentleman because of its beautiful upright sound.

Why NI is obsessed with sampling 1900s pianos is because these pianos are rare and they have an extremely unique sound that may be replicated by modern pianos but not quite near.Read more...


NI Scarbee Vintage Keys

Scarbee Vintage Keys

Thomas Skarbye, responsible for the Scarbee line of sampled instruments (that I admire so much it hurts), has recorded famous electric pianos from the 60s to 70s.

These are referenced in the modified brand names (the norm for most samplers) of Mark I, A-200, Clavinet and Pianet.Read more...


Modart Pianoteq5

Modart Pianoteq5If anything, the Pianoteq5 from Modart is simply what sampling technology can do nowadays.

Coupled with a great, velocity-sensitive piano, you could virtually take the sound of a grand piano complete with the nuances and dynamics of the real ones without worrying about the weight and detuning.Read more...


AcousticsampleS Piano Collection

Gospel Musicians had helped create AcousticsampleS’ acoustic grand piano collection.

The group had hypersampled a Kawai-EX Pro piano and they had worked closely with Lance Herring with the playing.Read more...


Addictive Keys

If anything, what I love about Addictive Keys is the noise flavor for your recordings. I love having a warm tape sound to my pianos.

Adding distortions definitely help create a unique experimental sound.Read more...


Steinberg The Grand 3

Steinberg The Grand 3Steinberg had just released The Grand 3, which is a premium collection of virtual pianos.

This suite features three grand piano models, the Yamaha C7, the Bosendorfer 280 Imperial and the classic Steinway D.Read more...


Steinberg Neo Soul Keys

Steinberg Neo Soul KeysAs it says, Neo Soul Keys was made for jazz and hip-hop tracks. The electric piano emulation focuses on sampling the original Mark I suitcase piano.

Now I know you may have encountered this piano in several samplers. But none come close to the samples on Steinberg’s iteration.Read more...


Synthogy Ivory II Grand Pianos

Synthogy Ivory II Grand PianosIt might be old from 2012 but Synthogy’s Ivory II line is far from being old-sounding when it comes to piano emulations.

Just like Steinberg, Synthogy focused on the old Bosendorfer 290 Grand, Steinway D Concert Grand and Yamaha C7 pianos.Read more...


Imperfect Samples Steinway Grand

Imperfect Samples Steinway GrandHalf-pedalling, four mic positions (ribbon, condenser, close microphones, etc), the Steinway D Grand from Imperfect Samples is actually pretty much perfect to my ear.

With a plethora of piano effects to choose from, you could go with traditional concert pianos up to funk and even alternative rock piano riffs.Read more...


Soniccouture Hammersmith

Soniccouture HammersmithJust released by the end of 2015, this Hammersmith from Soniccouture is definitely modern sounding.

A Kontakt library, this is another iteration of the Steinway D.

You might just find controls for microphones for the close, mid and room microphone.Read more...


4Front True Pianos

4Front True Pianos4Front is a company I know very well because of their 4Front Bass. I got it for free because they were giving it out a free virtual instrument.

Now, because it’s free, it’s not too realistically sampled. Not that I’m disappointed; I mean it’s free and I can’t complain.Read more...


Cinesamples Piano In Blue

Cinesamples Piano In BlueNow, this is again for Kontakt and if you haven’t already, maybe you should definitely consider using Kontakt for your sample library hunting especially for realistic pianos.

Cinesamples features controls for convolution reverbs of your choice and microphone volumes with three different positions including close, room and the surround/ambient microphone.

But its main feature would be the velocity curve controls. This works best for keyboardists with a Midi controller that doesn’t go much in terms of weight.

But speaking frankly, even if it is indeed a relatively small and compact sample library, Cinesamples’ Piano in Blue definitely has the Steinway D’s “era” sound especially if you know how to play the microphones.

According to official documentation, it was recorded with a pair of Neumann M49 microphones. If you guessed it, that’s from the original Miles Davis song Kind of Blue. That’s probably where it found its name.

And it does sound very well especially pedal noise and tape noise levels are very faithful. If you can’t hard-drive the size of Hammersmith or Pianoteq5, here’s a great alternative.


Cinesamples Abbey Road Classic Upright Pianos

Cinesamples Abbey Road Classic Upright PianosUpright pianos recorded in Abbey Road’s studio 2 have been used in plenty of recordings. These upright pianos aren’t as famous as the Steinways or Yamaha. But one was built by a C.Hallen and another by Mills. So we’ll call them by that sound.

So Cinesamples decided that “Challen” and “Mills” should be preserved in digital sound recorded in its Abbey Road home.

Upon playing this first hand, you can definitely feel the Abbey Road feel: a wide spectrum of sound flying around with warmth and color that gives it great, organic sound that pianists could recognize as digital but can pass off as a real piano.

Lovely velocity curves, to be honest. While playing this piano, I couldn’t help but adore it’s sound. While it’s scripted unlike the Hammersmith, the pedal noise sound authentic.

The controls for microphones aren’t really for microphones, but for mixes. The developers used different types of microphones for the job and they used mixes instead of microphone setups. The Vintage mix is definitely convincing. Meanwhile, the Modern mixes focused more on close microphone setups, namely string panning known in many modern sampled grand pianos to date.


OrchestralTools Berlin Orchestral Grands

OrchestralTools Berlin Orchestral GrandsRecording a Steinway D Concert Piano and a Steinway B, this iteration from OrchestralTools is focused more on a concert-type sound for the piano and it is definitely convincing.

You get three types of microphone level controls: the typical close, mid and room.

When I tried this out, getting an orchestral sound was a cinch. Just drive down the close microphone sound and voila, you get a very good, powerful concert piano sound.

If you’re a film scorer and you need an epic piano sound to go along with a grand arrangement of amazing, this is the piano for you.

I know you might say it’s achievable with the other VSTs I’ve already written about. But the sound of these Orchestral Grands, recorded in the Teldex Scoring Stage and with orchestral positioning, is entirely convincing.

With an inclination to symphonic arrangements, it would be easier to tweak around with this baby rather than mess around with other VSTs, which weren’t prepared when the conductor came in.


East West Quantum Leap Pianos

East West Quantum Leap PianosEastWest is a company I know from another product. If you’ve used their Symphonic Choir, you know what I’m talking about.

They’ve punched every detail down to the core and I’m not surprised that their piano collections really sound at best, one of the finest, detailed piano emulations I’ve heard.

We’ve heard numerous iterations of the Steinway D and B, along with the Yamaha C7 and the legendary Bosendorf.

But EastWest had really done with Quantum Pianos. It’s a huge, 263GB library and once you order, it would get to your home on 35 DVDs. Thirty-Five. That’s really huge!

While you can still install each piano separately since that’s a giga-footprint in your hard drive.

Of course, you’d expect lots from such a large footprint. Each piano has a control for each close, mid or player microphone and room microphone, a lid position with gradual close to open settings for grand pianos, a convolution reverb with options more than hall and rooms.

While it’s tedious to wait for it to load since it’s such a huge-sized library, it’s definitely worth it, the sound you’re about to hear!


8Dio 1928 Steinway Legacy

8Dio 1928 Steinway LegacyAnother Steinway 1928 iteration, 8Dio of course delivers as much as its competitors can, but it has its own tricks up its sleeve.

It has a smaller footprint than Pianoteq5 and Hammersmith. It may use a round-robin at times, but it’s as dynamic as pianos can definitely get.

You get controls for your close, mid and room microphones. You also have a denoise option if you don’t like much of the Steinway D’s original mechanical noises. But I digress; I love mechanical sounds and your soloist does too if he or she had played a real grand or upright piano.

One thing about the Steinway 1928 by 8Dio is you hear almost everything, just like you would with the Hammersmith. While it does do with the round robin, the sound quality is as excellent as you’d imagine. It even has its own mixer that allows you to control the nearness of mallets.

Meanwhile, it has that weird morphing patch that makes your piano sound more interesting, You can morph several guitar, pipe harp, bells and alien drum sounds into your piano. Great for film scores and sfx!


Paper Stone Instruments – Palm Mute Piano

Paper Stone Instruments - Palm Mute PianoWhile it’s just a small library of 2.6GB, Paper Stone Instruments’ Palm Mute Piano faithfully digitally recreates a Danemann Grand Piano.

Now, it’s not as known as the classic Steinways and Bosendorf, but it’s very powerful with its mellow tone, perfect for jazz and scores.

But I found it to work with so many applications from piano solos to rock riffs.

Samples include staccato, sustain and pedalled articulations with three velocity layers. While that sucks, it’s a 2.6GB library, unlike the Quantum Leap Pianos and Hammersmith that eat up and layer almost every detail of piano.

But I wouldn’t recommend it to a soloist who would record a piano song. It sounds quite synth-y. The Danemann’s mechanical hammer and “palm mute” sound definitely makes it sound interesting, but not for those mellow, tear-jerking piano songs piano VSTs are often used with.


Tonehammer Emotional Piano

Tonehammer Emotional PianoOne again for the lighter footprints in piano VSTs, Tonehammer is a better choice for a lightweight library that your soloist could use.

As its name implies, this is the direct opposite of Paper Stone Instruments’ Palm Mute Piano, which somehow sounds really jolly. With its mellow tone and options including a “gentle blur” setting that softens notes and even the shapes of notes that create that jaded, emotional and feel-type of piano playing, it’s quite amazing how just a few gigabytes can achieve this milestone.

As pianos are often recreated for the theater, concert or for an epic film score, Emotional Piano player is all about that intimate sound a piano is when inside a bar. With 5G and a Kontakt Player, your soloist will definitely love this library and you could easily use this to finish your session.

If he or she’s playing dark-toned music, this works well too!


UVI Tines Anthology

UVI’s Tines Anthology is focused on emulating some awesome Electric Piano and Electric Bass Piano instruments.

As the name implies, the library includes some of the famous ’65 to 2007 tine electric pianos of our age including some of the greatest sounding Rhodes Pianos. Mark I to VII is included in this package and it does emulated the sound, especially Mark III‘s broken-ish piano sound.

Controls include a noise drive for added character. Mark VIII, which is a more modern-sounding electronic piano, sounds faithfully recreated and has with it included a tremolo sound.

The piano basses themselves have their own phasers and chorus as the pianos. Yet they sound deep and convincing.

I would definitely prefer the Mark V especially if you’re playing some classic 60s to 80s cheesy songs. The adjective I’d use is cheesy. Mark V has a very warm and beautiful sound. While it sounds identical to Mark I, the overtones on Mark V is very much what stands out in the Tines Anthology.

It’s a bit underpriced, but you are also a bit limited on controls. But you get a very good and convincing sound.


UVI Grand Piano Collection

UVI’s grand piano collection has a smaller footprint than other compendiums. The only difference is aside from the Steinway D  or Yamaha C7 that everyone who owns a piano and wants it sampled really loves, UVI had also sampled other lesser-known pianos, such as the Fazioli F278 Concert Grand, Erard Baby Brand Piano, Seiler Upright Grand.

These five pianos sound as convincing as their other iterations, but they also lack the concert atmosphere most piano emulations have. Of course, that can be resolved by using the available convolution reverb.

As UVI sells these pianos on a bundle for those cash-strapped looking for great piano emulations and some usable piano VSTs for simple scores, they don’t have much in terms of control. But I can hear minute details of mechanical noise, including some hammer hits. The sad thing is that you couldn’t control these minute details as you would in, say for example, Hammersmith.

But it still plays as a decent piano especially if you want a very low data footprint in your computer.


UVI Attack EP 88

UVI Attack EP 88There are numerous sampled libraries of the original EPs and if anything, almost all of them sound authentic. The only difference is in their usability and ability to emulate the smallest of details from the original instruments.

So UVI had taken things further with their UVI Attack EP 88. It’s a Tack Piano sampled library but the twist lies in recording with five channels that capture different areas of these pianos.

If you’re not familiar what a Tack Piano is, it’s known as the “junk” or “honky-tonk” piano because tacks or nails are used on the felt-pads of the instrument, giving them a xylophone-y sound.

So it’s basically a Rhodes Piano except it’s given brass tacks on its hammers. With over 47,000 samples through five signal sources/microphone positions, you definitely get what you pay for.

You also get five types of effects including the SparkVerb, Dual Delay, Crunch, Phasers and even flange. It’s a pretty amazing toolkit for the EP addict in you.


UVI IRCAM Prepared Pianos

UVI IRCAM Prepared PianosIt’s alright if you don’t know what IRCAM is. But when you know about them, lucky you and you know what to expect with the UVI IRCAM Prepared Pianos.

The Institut de Recherce et Coordination Acoustique/Musique or something roughly translated to The Research Institute for Acoustic and Music Coordination is an institution in France dedicated to music, sound and avante-garde electro-acoustical music.

So you might say we’re in for an experimental surprise.

IRCAM places different types of items unconventionally placed on the piano strings perceived to be very musical or adding some interesting nuance in the piano.

Inspired by John Cage’s Prepared Piano, the researchers had measured the distance of these items that have created some strange and amazing sounds.

The interface presents two layers of preparations. You get a selection of items including erasers, picks, screws, mutes, mallets, foils, or remove everything and just go with a natural piano or the Yamaha C7 sound.

It’s especially amazing to have these kinds of pianos when you’re trying to convey a different piano sound in, say for example, a cinematic score. An unconventional piano can add more color to a film. It may not be for everyone, but the IRCAM prepared piano is simply amazing.


ToonTrack EZKeys Essential Pianos

EZKeys was revolutionary during its time. It came out and made it easy for almost everyone to pick up and play a piano. But as musicians grow their awareness and skills in music production, they begin to notice flaws in their earlier VST or instruments.

So now, the EZKeys line from ToonTrack is not focused on delivering realistic piano pieces, but rather it becomes a songwriting tool. Such as the smart transpose feature.

I had a midi file once, the add chord feature on a piano solo I programmed had definitely unlocked a new universe of composition ideas for myself.

Library management and song structure details in different styles helped further my composition needs. While the piano sounds really great, I see the EZKeys essential pianos as a songwriting tool. If you want something realistic, there’s more in this list that can help you.

However, ToonTrack did place effort in realistically capturing the sound of their Steinway D, Olsten Piano and two other electric pianos including the Rhodes Mark I and the Wurlitzer 200A.

If you’re not an expert piano player though, you can always create your midi composition in the piano, enhanced by its algorithms and functions and then use another VST that’s realistic to create a very, very convincing song.


Ravenscraft 275 VI Labs 

Ravenscraft 275 VI LabsWhile only using about 17,000 samples, a bit lower than the standard presented here, the Ravenscroft 275 from VI Labs captures the Ravenscroft Model 275 Titatium Concert Grand.

Focused on each velocity and the capture of the piano’s beautiful and powerful sound unique to Steinway D, B and other older brands, the sampling of the piano is definitely top-notch.

VI Labs took time to emulate close, player, room and side microphones to capture the entire performance of the piano itself.

If you’re not satisfied with the velocity, the Una Corda samples, which would add mellow and “deeper” tones to silent hits (Velocity below 30), which would be a bit impossible on other sample libraries.

Ravenscroft’s Pianos sound warm and precise, not to mention modern. The addition of pedal noises, key noises and silent strikes that could be controlled in the plug-in is something useful and I’ve come to love.

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Final Words:

Has your piano soloist made up his or her mind which plug-in to use?

If you haven’t noticed, he or she had forgotten she’s about to use a MIDI Keyboard Controller.

Each one of these plug-ins are definitely best-performing in certain aspects, but as always, it will depend on your producer’s ear to find the one that’s right for you.

Please Share your thoughts about these plugins and Share This Post.