Best Arpeggiator VST Plugins- 2020 Guide

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It’s hard to imagine a person that didn’t hear an arpeggiator sound in their life. Whether you’re into modern music like “Hot N Cold” or more into “Hungry Like the Wolf” retro vibe, both start with a typical fast-paced and short arp melody and use it as a song major trait.

Comparison Chart of the Best Arpeggiator VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Complex equences
  • 5 sequencers per preset
  • Built-in sound engine
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  • 64-step monophonic sequencer
  • Dozens of scales
  • Humanization, Random and Inifinity Mode
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  • One note arpeggiator and chord memorizer
  • Hundreds chord presets inspired by classical music composers
  • Ideal for trance music
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  • Deep and flexible
  • Arp changes available on key switch
  • Patterns can be linked together with Pattern Sequencer
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  • Best used as a groovebox
  • Random & Infinite Loop mode
  • iOS compatible
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  • Versatile and straight-forward
  • Plenty of modulation control panels
  • Ideal for live performance
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What is an Arpeggiator?

The word arpeggio derives back from 1730 and it was used to describe a technique of playing chord notes, individually. But, the arpeggiator as we know it today was created around 1970. It was often found in synthesizers from that era and it became widely acknowledged with Roland JP-4 from 1978 and nowadays it’s an integral part of almost any modern synthesizer.

Arpeggiator is a feature that allows you to create a sequence by simply holding down the desired notes. It generates sound output based on the information you’re sending by using various MIDI controls and can be further manipulated in real-time.

What Does an Arpeggiator VST Do?

Modern arpeggiators utilize the MIDI interface to play a melodic or rhythmic pattern. Here are some of the situations where using an arpeggiator can be fruitful:

Sequencing

Arpeggiators excel in creating fast and technically demanding phrases that are quite distinctive. They can create some advanced patterns that aren’t even possible to perform by a human being or would require serious practice before recording. 

Speaking about instruments, synth bass sounds, and any percussive and plucked type of synth sounds are most often found to use arpeggiator features.

Rhythm

Synths are not the only instrument that can benefit from arpeggiator. You can use it on drum machines to either add a certain percussion element over the basic rhythm layer or apply some modulation effects that would change filter resonance for every fourth snare in a row (for example). 

Effect Modulation

Notes are not the only thing that can be sequenced. Various modulations can be affected as well so you can use arpeggiator to pan the sound from the left to right very fast or apply random filter behavior to create a unique sound that would take a lot of time and programming manually.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the best arpeggiator VST plugins:

  1. Sugar Bytes Consequence
  2. Audiomodern Riffer
  3. Xfer Records Cthulhu

Review of the Best Arpeggiator VST Plugins

As many synths provide you with some Arp settings, dedicated Arpeggiators aren’t so easy to find but are often much more capable. And, unlike those found in synth VSTs, you can use them with any external source:

​Best Overall:
Sugar Bytes Consequence

PROS

  • Nice multi-effect panel
  • Polyphonic triggers for every step in sequence
  • 237 sounds provided including a kick-drum layer
  • Capable of making both complex sounds and rhythms
  • Up to 5 sequencers pre preset, including modulation curve sequencer

CONS

  • Supports 64-bit OS only
  • Not all features are bug-free at the moment

Features and Specifications

Consequence is organized as a snapshot of 16 different chords which can be controlled with up to five sequencers from a different aspect. If you need, modulation it can be sequenced, too. This way you can automate filter information in a step-based environment.

Effect panel is fairly equipped so you can pick from reverb, delay, chorus, phaser, and reverser. It also comes with more than just advanced sequencing options and provides you with up to 3 instruments panel where you can pick hundreds of analog sounds available.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This software excels especially in chord sequencing and can be heavily used in any kind of electronic music, EDM genres such as Minimal Techno especially. We really like how Age and Crush settings are behaving so you can make your sound closer to the hardware analog quality.

Synth sounds are hand-picked for sequencing purposes and we love how Sugar Bytes were thinking about everything so you can even have a 4/4 drum kick for a quick reference and better playing in early stages. It may also happen that the sound provided will be good enough.

​Runner-up:
Audiomodern Riffer

PROS

  • Resizable user interface
  • Up to 64 steps and 10-octave range
  • 53 scales from all around the globe,
  • Very capable monophonic step-sequencer
  • Humanisation, Randomize, and Infinity Mode

CONS

  • No polyphonic mode
  • Randomize could be further organized by tags

Features and Specifications

Riffer works as a monophonic step-sequencer with a very capable Random feature along with amazing Infinity mode. All you have to do is to set a key range and note resolution, the software will do the rest. All important scales are there, even some exotic Eastern scales are included.

It will generate a melody for you that can be edited further - notes could be moved, duration can be tied or sustained and you can even apply a Humanisation for some organic shuffling. Once you’re done you can simply drag & drop it directly to your DAW software.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Riffer is an excellent example of how arpeggiator VST can help you out whenever you get stuck in the creative process. It works great in both low and upper sound register, so pick up one of many scales available, hit the Randomize, select Infinity mode, and just wait until you hear something that actually triggers your mindset.

If that’s not enough you can lock certain notes, shift steps of the complete sequence forward or play it backward. And although it excels in creating melodies, nothing stops you from using it on rhythmic tracks and seeing how it works out.

​Best for the Money:
Xfer Records Cthulhu

PROS

  • 8 independent step-sequencing tabs
  • Affordable two-in-one sequencing tool
  • Import or record chords in MIDI format
  • Complex arp options built from a single note input
  • 150 chord presets inspired by classical music composers

CONS

  • Missing chord suggestion feature
  • Not so straight-forward work with Logic DAW

Features and Specifications

Cthulhu is a hybrid sequencing tool that is made from an arp generator and chord memorizer part. It provides you with hundreds of complex chord presets inspired by classical music composers such as Bach and Mozart. These chords can either be triggered instantly by assigning them to any desired key or store it into one of the eight tabs that can be manipulated with an arp generator which comes not just with the basic up and down options but some advanced but frequently used runs.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Cthulhu is a very handy tool that can offer you some chord solutions you wouldn’t consider on a regular basis and it’s one of these VSTs that you will be surprised how handy they might be once you try it out.

It has a very extended chord library that can work really well if used in arpeggiator mode, especially Bach chorale presets. It will work great for any kind of electronic music especially if you need a fresh and unique stab trance tune. One key-chord will make wonderful progression for DJs and other people who aren’t so deep in musical theory.

​Best Rhythm Sequencer VST:
Audiomodern Playbeat 2

PROS

  • iOS compatible
  • Comes with pre-installed sounds
  • Step sequencer with up to 32 steps
  • Randomize feature with infinite options
  • Groove randomizer with a modern interface

CONS

  • Limited to 4 tracks
  • No dotted note resolution

Features and Specifications

This arp works as a rhythmic step sequencer with a unique randomize feature that creates a groove for you based on the settings you picked and the number of steps.

It comes with standard quantization and shuffle options. It uses up to four monophonic tracks on which you can either load your samples or use the one provided. It also provides you with the optional Infinite Mode that will keep changing the pattern on every sequence start. Groove can also be extracted to the DAW by simple drag-n-drop.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Playbeat is the kind of tool that you would use while you’re brainstorming about your project. It may give you ideas that you wouldn’t ever consider on your own and unlikely from other software, this one puts the focus on the groove instead of melody.

Interface is quite intuitive which increases creativity even further and it’s designed ideally for the beat making process, especially for touch screen devices. Luckily it works with iOS devices pretty well.

We would recommend it for electronic dance music where you could utilize it either as a spice to flavor existing groove or create one from the scratch.

​Best Sequencer VST:
Sugar Bytes Thesys

PROS

  • Basic synth sounds provided
  • Advanced 32-step sequencer
  • Random and Mutate functions
  • Dedicated pattern sequencer for longer phrases
  • Deep and flexible programming with dedicated key switches

CONS

  • VST3 support is missing
  • Root key and scale could be bigger and more visible

Features and Specifications

Thesys interface is made from up to 32-step sequences that can use up to five panels. Every panel controls different note functions - pitch, velocity, gate time, performance or modulation and you can edit all steps by simply holding down the mouse click and moving the cursor over them.

Up to 16 different patterns can be stored per preset and there are some factory presets and basic synth sounds available for a quick start. Notes can be also recorded either live or by step recording using an external MIDI device.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Thesys can save you a lot of time in the studio. We love the implemented key switching system as you can create ideas on the fly and thanks to the Pattern Sequencer feature you can prolong any sequence easily.

It will make any sequencing work less scientific and it specializes in creating melodic patterns. Sugar Bytes managed to organize everything so it fits the front panel thanks to the very original user interface. This way you’ll get a creative environment pretty close to what producers had with the hardware grooveboxes before, especially with that step-recording feature that allows you to enter a phrase note by note.

​Editor's Pick:
Kirnu Interactive Cream

PROS

  • iPad version included
  • Real-time performance-oriented
  • Affordable and straight-forward arpeggiator
  • 9 Data Control and 8 user-defined MIDI CC tabs
  • 4 tracks, 12 patterns and 16 chord memory slots per preset

CONS

  • User-defined tabs could be more intuitive
  • Advanced editing may be too much tab-driven

Features and Specifications

Every preset can store up to four tracks. They can include up to 12 different patterns and memorize up to 16 chords and play simultaneously. Chord Memory allows you to trigger predefined chords by a single keypress.

Beneath the display, there are 5 dedicated knobs for the usual Arp settings and other settings are placed in numerous tabs. Every tab controls different sound parameters and can have its own loop points regardless of how long the actual sequence is an additional eight user-defined tabs can control more parameters directly from your MIDI controller.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Cream excels in live performance. Basic front panel settings favor real-time playing while advanced users can dive into tabs and fine-tune output. Such users could store a complete song in a single preset thanks to the four-track feature and Pattern Sequencer.

We’re also glad that the iPad version works as good as the Mac/Win one. As it doesn’t take too much CPU power, this type of software is ideal for such portable devices. Using an iPad for this purpose is a very practical way to expand hardware synths possibilities as some don’t come with internal arpeggiators or have very basic arp options.

Pros and Cons of Arpeggiator VST Plugins

Lets break down some of the usual Arpeggiator traits and flaws for you:

Pros

The following are some pros of this kind of arpeggiator VST plugins:

Creative Wonderland

In case you’re having a writer’s block, Arpeggiator VST can tilt you forward. Many VSTs come with dedicated presets that can be used as an instant inspiration. Just hold down the key, edit the gate time and movement, or maybe try a randomize and just wait for it.

Instrument Versatility

While Arps are usually associated with the synth sounds, there are no limits to use it on any instrument. Arps on Sax? Well, not quite the usual approach, but, who knows? Think about how people looked upon electric guitars back in the 1950s.

Complex Effect Editing

Think about how much time you would need to create a random pattern for several effect modulations using an automation track in your DAW software. These modulations can be triggered in several clicks if you decide to use Arpeggiator instead.

Cons

However, it comes with some drawbacks, including:

Limited Use

Arps create specific MIDI information that can be used only with other instruments or effects. On their own, they generate just a bunch of zeros and ones. So, while they are excellent in what they do, they have a very narrow field of use in general.

How to Use an Arpeggiator VST

Arpeggiators may look like rocket science. But, it will look much better if you get into terms first:

Mode/Direction

Options for this feature can vary the most depending on what software you are using. It can provide you with the basic up and down Arpeggio runs pre-made patterns, or with several random note generators.

Rate/Speed/Note

This setting allows you to change the note resolution for your Arp. Most of a time, arpeggios are using either 1/8 or 1/16 rate.

Sugar Bytes Consequence

Octave (Range)

It defines how many octaves Arpeggiator will cover in its run. Lets use Up & Down mode and octave range set at two for an example. This way, Arp will go up two octaves before going down. 

Latch

This way you can play Arp without holding the keys down. Think of it as a hands-free option so you can control other parameters.

Gate Time

This feature generates the note articulation. Applying a knob or slider to one side results in staccato playing while the other will create a legato sound.

Swing

If you want to make the groove funkier and get rid of the “on the grid” vibe, you may increase the amount of Swing.

If you want to find out more, check the YouTube video.

Conclusion

Arpeggiators are not a necessary VST instrument, but, if you’re doing any kind of electronic music, they might really improve your workflow. Good Arp VST may even inspire you in a certain way you wouldn’t even think of and can make you find a hidden gem in your VST instrument collection.