The 5 Best Piano VST Plugins 2021 that You Should Know About

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Playing the piano is no easy task; you need to ace understanding the notes and tunes. Plus, many of you opt for digital pianos instead of the big traditional ones. While the digital pianos offer an easy way to ace and play piano, the variance in sounds and effects seems to be less. So, this is where many pianists or keyboard players opt for piano VSTs. Are you wondering what a piano VST is?

Well, VST or Virtual Studio Technology refers to the virtual instrumental or effects plugins used in the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) on your computer. VSTs offer the players with digital sounds and effects, which allow them to play instruments like drums, guitars, and piano, all through your DAW. Coming to the piano VST, which is more like a sample library wherein you get to a multitude of different sounds and effects. Moreover, the piano VST uses software to produce sounds similar to an acoustic piano without even touching the actual one. All sounds and tunes produced via piano VST are only on the computer. Here, all you need is a MIDI controller and if it has 88 keys, then it turns out to be quite helpful. Using an 88 keys MIDI controller, you can produce sounds similar to a real piano. So, whatever DAW you have, you can install the piano VST on it.

Besides, these piano VSTs are created by recording all 88 keys from the traditional piano using a microphone. And all of it is recorded in a studio. Basically, sound engineers tend to record each of these 88 keys in different variations to create distinctive effects. In other words, the whole purpose of this VST is to create sounds digitally that are similar to a real piano.

However, choosing an apt piano VST plugin is no less than an uphill task. Since the digital pianos are different, so are the VST software. Hence, based on the sound production or the kind of music you are working on, you have to choose the piano VST. Besides, you must also have the right kind of equipment to use the piano VST. For instance, you need DAW alongside a laptop or computer with a minimum of 12-16GB RAM. Once you have all the equipment, you can decide which piano VST to go for. You’ll have plenty of options available so it can be quite confusing.

 So, to help you choose the right one, we have curated a list of the best piano VST plugins. These 5 piano VST plugins are currently the top ones on the market. Let’s delve further to know more about each one.

Best Piano VST Plugins of 2021– Comparison Table

Product Features
1.Spectrasonics Keyscape
  • More creative output via STEAM engine
  • Based on vintage and antique keyboard sounds
  • Includes 36 sampled keyboard instruments and hybrid patches
2.GARRITAN CFX
  • Multiple microphones perspectives
  • Various presets; categories- Classical, Contemporary, and Player
  • 20 velocity layers per key
  • Powered by ARIA player
3.Vienna Imperial Piano VST
  • Over 1200 samples per key
  • Has over 100 velocity layers
  • Comes with Player, Audience, and Close microphone recording positions
  • In-built EQ and Reverb settings
4.XLN Addictive Keys Studio Collection
  • Includes 2 acoustic and 2 electric pianos
  • Produces amazing quality of sounds and effects
  • Works on MyCloud Technology
  • Offers boutique and vintage microphones
5.Synthogy Ivory II American Concert D
  • Built using powerful Ivory II engine
  • 20 velocity layers, harmonic resonance modeling, and tweak-able features
  • Feature-rich interface;
  • 49 GB core library with custom Soundboard Emulation DSP

 Our Best Piano VST Plugins of 2021- Reviews and Comparisons

1. Spectrasonics Keyscape

Keyscape - Collector Keyboards

Product Highlights

Based on the LA Custom C7 Grand Piano, Spectrasonics Keyscape offers a sample of the distinctive library for almost every type of musical genre.

Features

  • Featuring an extensive collection of rare and stunning keyboards, Spectrasonics Keyscape has sounds collected, restored, and multi-sampled by the Spectrasonics Sound Development Team.
  • These have been collected for over 10 years and are mainly expressive sounds specifically designed to inspire the player to go on.
  • This versatile library includes a collection of an upright piano, grand piano as well as electric digital piano.
  • Technically, it consists of over 500 sounds, including 36 instrument models and hybrid patches.
  • Keyscrape comes with Custom Controls for each patch, which allows you to play more than just the original sound.
  • Keyscape requires around 77GB of space and an Intel dual-core processor of 2.4GHz with 8GB RAM.
  • Lastly, it is compatible with Mac X 10.10 and even higher. Also, it functions well with Windows 7.

What We Like About Spectrasonics Keyscape

Keyscrape does come with a bunch of exceptional features. With this VST, you can transform sounds into something more creative by using a STEAM engine. Besides, Keyscrape also features an intuitive interface along with creative effects and performance controls, which enhance music production. Plus, you get quite a handful of patches so that you can customize and bring variation to your music.

Besides, this VST includes 36 sampled keyboard instruments in its single package along with vintage keys multi-sample. Each of the sampled musical instruments has variations such as Yamaha C7 Grand Piano and also includes cinematic, rock, and classical. Lastly, it also features authentic sounds, vintage amplifiers, and many classic effects such as mechanical noises, release overtones. Needless to say, sound experts totally love this VST Plugin for a digital piano.  

What We Don’t Like About Spectrasonics Keyscape

On the downside, Keyscrape offers a wide array of creative samples and features. However, for a beginner, it can be too much. Hence, beginners should avoid this VST plugin. Besides, it is quite heavy on the CPU so it’s best to use the VST with a higher processor.

 

        Pros         Cons
More creative output via STEAM engine
Based on vintage and antique keyboard sounds
Includes 36 sampled keyboard instruments and hybrid patches
Sounds from Yamaha C7 Grand Piano
Too many sounds for beginners
Goes heavy on the CPU

2. GARRITAN CFX

Garritan CFX Concert Grand – Thomann Elláda

Product Highlights

Featuring an impeccable Yamaha CFX Grand Concert, this VST plugin is recorded and sampled by Garritan at Abbey Road Studios. For this, you don’t need to get a separate sampler, as Garritan CFX is powered by the ARIA player.

Features

  • This VST offers different presets as well as 20 velocity layers per key. These velocity layers include sample sets for sustain pedal down, pedal up, and soft-pedaling.
  • You can even partially pedal and re-pedal too. Besides, the CFX includes a convolution reverb, so a reverb plug-in is also not required.
  • Other requirements for this VST include 8GB RAM, a multi-core processor, 133GB worth of storage space, and a fast interface hard drive.  
  • Plus, it is compatible with Mac OS 10.10 – 10.14 and Windows 7.

What We Like About GARRITAN CFX

The most notable aspect of the Garritan CFX Concert Grand VST plugin is its multiple microphones perspectives.

Further, presets are categorized into contemporary, player positioning, and classic. While the classic preset category offers a range from Bach-inspired classical settings to jazz-themed tone by Bill Evens, the contemporary category consists of more modern mixes. On the other hand, the Player category has a preset that captures single noises and nuances of the CFX. Basically, this Player category is all about the CFX whereas the Classic and Contemporary are about the output and how one hears the CFX.  

Besides, it also uses industry-standard microphones. Take, for instance, microphones such as the AKG C12, KM 184, Neumann M49, and D19. Moreover, the library has several presets, so you don’t need to form a custom patch. Just tweak the presets to produce your desirable sounds. Besides all these, Garritan CFX is built by the most gifted engineers so that you get the best virtual piano.

 Also, it comes with 3 discrete perspectives, which sound quite realistic similar to the Studio One piano. Hence, if you’re looking for a VST that boosts up your musical creativity then Garritan CFX is the one.

What We Don’t Like About GARRITAN CFX

Garritan CFX’s only shortcoming is its one basic piano tone. Some users might look for more variance so they tend to look for more character piano sounds. Apart from this, it is also expensive considering it consists of sounds from one instrument.

        Pros         Cons
Multiple microphones perspectives
Various presets; categories- Classical, Contemporary, and Player
20 velocity layers per key
Powered by ARIA player
Produces one basic piano tone
Costly

 3. Vienna Imperial Piano VST

EmbNav_ViennaImperial_c_1440x600

Product Highlights

Developed by the prominent Vienna Symphonic Library and recorded on the Bosendorfer 290-755, Vienna Imperial Piano VST is one the best upright virtual grand piano VST that money can buy. This virtual piano VST has over 1200 samples per key. That makes it one of the most regarded VST by several composers today.

Features

  • The 1200 samples per key reflect the magnitude of pianistic possibilities, which is the reason why composers prefer using this VST when they need realistic sounds in music.
  • Besides, the Vienna Imperial library has over 100 velocity layers along with numerous release samples for differing note lengths.
  • Powered by the proprietary piano engine, Vienna Imperial Piano VST stands out as the most realistic virtual piano you’ve ever heard.
  • Vienna Imperial Piano VST also comes with Player, Audience, and Close microphone recording positions.
  • Further, this VST is quite easy to use, as it has a unique velocity histogram. And its interface gives you two options – basic and advanced view. With these options, you can easily adjust frequencies, and set microphone positions.  You can alter convulsion reverbs, pedal noises, octave shift, sympathetic resonances as well as stereo width.
  • Lastly, Vienna Imperial Piano VST turns out to be a great fit within an orchestra making it one of the best piano VST that money can buy.

What We Like About Vienna Imperial Piano VST

The most outstanding aspect of Vienna Imperial Piano VST is those nine extra notes below lower A, which is present in a standard piano. These extra nine notes are mainly because this VST was sampled on the Bösendorfer 290 – 755. And you can get those nine extra notes by turning it on using an Octave shift in the Advanced View. Besides that, this VST offers you tones quite clear and distinctive. Also, the in-built EQ and Reverb settings, which are not usually present in many VSTs. And these in-built features come in a file sized nearly 46.8GB. That also means you would definitely need 4GB RAM on the PC.

Besides all these, Vienna Imperial Piano VST was made using CEUS technology. Well, this CEUS technology made exploitation of the velocity range of the MIDI protocol to any degree possible. Hence, in making this VST, almost 100 velocities were recorded per key even without the sustain pedal. Moreover, a USB e-licenser or the Vienna key is required to use its library.  

What We Don’t Like About Vienna Imperial Piano VST

Despite all the excellent features that Vienna Imperial Piano VST is built with yet it has a shortcoming. Since its high-end recorded sample library offers a huge collection of recordings, you can only use it if your PC has good storage. So, you would need a minimum of 4GB RAM and a 3GHz processor to run this.

        Pros         Cons
Over 1200 samples per key
Has over 100 velocity layers
Comes with Player, Audience, and Close microphone recording positions
In-built EQ and Reverb settings
Need a minimum of 4GB RAM and a 3GHz processor to run

 4. XLN Addictive Keys Studio Collection

Addictive Keys: Complete Collection screenshot

Product Highlights

Packed with four pianos, 2 acoustic, and 2 electric ones, the XLN Addictive Keys Studio Collection VST is typically recorded using modern and vintage mechanisms. This recording results in a huge collection of production-ready preset that help you in your music creation.

Features

  • One of the latest VST plugins, the Addictive Keys features 3 major multi-sampled classic keyboards, which are Yamaha U3 Upright piano, Fender Rhodes Mark I, and Steinway Model D Concert Grand.
  • With such a huge collection of samples, this VST produces an impeccable quality of sounds and effects. This owes to filters, chorus, reverb, EQ filters, distortion, tremolo, and so on.  
  • Besides, the Additive Keys offers high-end boutique and vintage microphones so that you get up to 7 mic perspectives for each instrument.
  • However, using all these microphones one after another will kill the system. Hence, this VST allows 3 perspectives to be loaded at a time but it does provide a huge palette even before you move to EQ.
  • Apart from this, presets of XLN Addictive Keys are categorized into 3 pages aiming at the producer, purist, and creative needs.
  • Also, there is a preview MIDI performance in each patch, which you drag to DAW.
  • Above all, the XLN Addictive Keys Studio Collection evades the complications of a detailed piano library quite successfully. And in this, this VST delivers an authentic and useful palette of core sounds as well as amazing processing.

What We Like About XLN Addictive Keys Studio Collection

One of the major advantages you get with this VST is the MyCloud Technology. MyCloud Technology helps you to connect with your VST and you can continue to operate it from anywhere. It synchronizes presets and memos automatically and even allows you to work on the go while keeping everything organized. This turns out perfectly ideal for those musicians, who travel a lot and love to collaborate with other musicians. Plus, you need not worry about losing your work, as you can use it on multiple PCs and get all your files synced easily.

Besides all these, with Addictive Keys, you get 7 flavors of noise, including tape and vinyl, alongside 5 types of distortion and 3 modulation effects. Another notable feature of this VST is that you can mix and match 3 stereo channels, which completes due to panning and width control. And this is because each instrument has been captured using microphones in different positions.  

What We Don’t Like About XLN Addictive Keys Studio Collection

On understanding the shortcomings of the XLN Addictive Keys Studio Collection, it is clear that the individual control of the constituent sounds isn’t given to users. Also, it has unnecessary graphics and doesn’t even include a library for MIDI parts.

        Pros         Cons
Includes 2 acoustic and 2 electric pianos
Produces amazing quality of sounds and effects
Works on MyCloud Technology
Offers boutique and vintage microphones
No individual control of the constituent sounds
Unnecessary graphics & no library for MIDI parts

5. Synthogy Ivory II American Concert D

Product Highlights

Based on the highly acclaimed Vintage 1951 Steinway Concert D Virtual Grand Piano, the VST Synthogy Ivory II American Concert D stands out as one of the first choices for many artists around the world.

Features

  • Sampled from the classic 1951 Steinway Concert D Virtual Grand Piano, the American Concert D is built with the powerful Ivory II engine.
  • It gathered a lot of attention due to its 20 velocity layers, harmonic resonance modeling, and several tweak-able features.
  • The 20 velocity layers are responsible for delivering smooth velocity and impeccable transitions of notes.
  • Besides, American Grand D is just one piano sampled, which makes it way more affordable than other Grand Piano collections from Synthogy.
  • Considering all, it must also be noted that it produces exceptionally clear and transparent sounds along with singing tone and resonance.
  • It’s also compatible with Windows and macOS, however, the installation process is slightly longer given the 7 DVDs worth of data.
  • Plus, the VST is totally worthy due to its in-built flexibility to the installer, which allows you to stop or start the installation process, alongside work off numerous DVDs mounted at a time.
  • Overall, it’s reassuring to see that American Concert D delivers fantastic sounds with great vibrancy and transient detailing, which makes it quite good at classical repertoire as well as pop styles.

What We Like About Synthogy Ivory II American Concert D

Including all excellent features, American Concert D’s most notable aspect is its feature-rich interface. Well, you can see 4 tabs on the top of the interface, which are based on the principal areas including areas of operation, programs, effects, covering sessions, and preferences. And in this, the most significant areas are the Session and Program Page. While the Session page reveals how the instrument responds to the velocity, intonation, voice count, and tuning, the program page works on fine-tuning the instrument.

Besides, this VST comes with a 49GB core library with a custom Soundboard Emulation DSP. And this DSP technology doesn’t rely on additional samples or ordinary sine waves. Another notable aspect of this VST is its Harmonic Resonance Modeling to realize the true Sympathetic String Resonance. Lastly, it is one of the greatest VSTs, which has 64-bit support with a refined and powerful engine that delivers a highly impressive performance.

What We Don’t Like About Synthogy Ivory II American Concert D

Despite all the impeccable features, the Synthogy Ivory II American Concert D VST lacks some customization related to microphone positions. Also, there is some dexterity and finesse on the Program Page. In addition to all, you need an iLok account to use this VST, without it the American Concert D VST is inaccessible.

        Pros         Cons
Built using powerful Ivory II engine
20 velocity layers, harmonic resonance modeling, and several tweak-able features
Feature-rich interface; including areas of operation, programs, effects, covering session and preferences
49 GB core library with custom Soundboard Emulation DSP
Lacks some customization related to microphone positions
Need a mandatory iLok account to use this VST

Final Verdict

As we narrowed down on the 5 piano VSTs, we conclude that according to us, the Spectrasonics Keyscape is the best piano VST plugin of all. Built from the stunning collection of rare and extensive keyboards, this VST has sounds restored and sampled using the Spectrasonics Sound Development Team. With over 500 sounds, that include 36 instrument models and hybrid patches, this piano VST can transform sounds into more creative output by using a STEAM engine. Hence, it is correct to say that Spectrasonics Keyscrape is one of the best piano VST for a digital piano.

Besides, you can also go for the other VSTs if it fulfills your requirements and meets your budget.

 

More to read:

Best Keyboards to Learn the Piano

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