Best Piano VST Plugins of 2020 – Complete Review

Modern piano VST software made a long road from the first versions. Today, they stand tall sound-wise against some of the most expensive grand pianos. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Piano VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Extremely advanced physical modelling piano engine
  • Piano sound and playability approved by Steinway & Sons
  • Extended key range up to 105 keys
View Latest Price →
  • Highly detailed sample based piano software
  • 3 different piano models included
  • Editable microphones levels and positioning
View Latest Price →
  • Affordable physical modelling piano
  • 12 world class piano sounds in 88 presets
  • 14 different room types for convolution reverb effect
View Latest Price →
  • 133 gigabytes of Yamaha's best CFX concert grand piano
  • Different microphone recording techniques
  • Recorded at legendary Abbey Road Studio One
View Latest Price →
  • Best sampled Yamaha CP-80 up to date
  • Sound recorded from three different sources
  • Performance-friendly front panel design
View Latest Price →
  • Affordable and authentic FM piano sound
  • Simple and intuitive
  • That 80's ballad pop sound
View Latest Price →
  • 4 sample based upright piano models
  • Optional vintage sound effect layers
  • Honky Tonk and Tack Piano included
View Latest Price →

Why Did These Piano VST Plugins Make Our List 

With so many VST instruments available on the market, this seems like a quite legit question. Here are some of the reasons why we have decided on this software:

Realistic Sound

If there is a blind test, you would have a hard time to tell a difference between these VST instruments and real counterparts. Technology took a huge step and made it possible that everyone can have a piece of very expensive instruments recorded in exceptionally professional environments. VSTs from our list put extra attention to every single recording detail to recreate real instrument playing experience.

Piano Sound Variety

These piano VSTs provide you with more than just one sound so you can have a set of completely different pianos right under your fingertips. Some will also give you a part of the history so you can take a listen to how the piano sounded back in the 18th century.

Versatility

Some VST pianos decided to go with a different approach and create an engine that would use complex physical modeling algorithms instead of deep and HDD space-consuming sampling methods. This approach made them incredibly fast to load and ideal for live performing, especially because of fail-safe factors.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the best piano VST plugins:

  1. Pianoteq 6 Pro
  2. VI Labs True Keys Piano
  3. Arturia Piano V2

Review of the  Best Piano VST Plugins 

Let’s roll out some of our favorite VST pianos on the market:

Best Overall:
Pianoteq 6 Pro

PROS

  • Advanced physically modeled virtual piano
  • Extended key range of 105 keys for specific pianos
  • Piano sound and playability approved by Steinway & Sons
  • Vastly editable Note Edit feature available for every single key
  • Optional bundles and free add-on historical instruments available

CONS

  • Might be expensive for some users
  • Available sound options can distract you from recording

Features and Specifications

The main advantage of Pianoteq software is that it’s not a sampler but software with a physically modeled engine applied on all 52 Pianoteq instruments. That’s why it has a small file size so you can change patches on the fly instead of waiting for gigabytes of samples to load up every time. 

Everything can be edited and the note editing is ridiculously deep. You have 30 parameters to edit for every single note if you want, from hammer and damper noise to sympathetic resonance and string length.

Also, besides regular Steinway pianos, there is a lot more available for additional downloads.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is probably one of the most advanced types of software on the market. The ability to tune every single detail of a piano like mallet bounces or fine-tune the EQ and velocity range. We like that mint to worn condition slider, especially because once you slide it just a little bit towards the worn, it can replicate the real piano feel instantly because many of those you have actually played is far from mint new status. 

Simply put, Modartt sets the bar very high with this product, and if the budget is okay for you, there is no better option on the market.

PROS

  • Three different piano models included
  • Works in standalone and plugin mode
  • Highly detailed sample-based piano software
  • Editable virtual studio recording mode parameters
  • Fully adjustable response to match your MIDI keyboard

CONS

  • iLok device required
  • Large file - 64 gigabytes of storage

Features and Specifications

VI Labs put serious effort into recording over 50.000 samples to re-create an authentic playing experience. If we tell you that it requires 64 gigabytes for three piano sounds, you can understand what level of detail is captured within this product.

Sound can be edited additionally by changing the mix blend of three stereo microphones set accordingly to the professional piano recording (close, side and player position)

It allows you to tweak sympathetic resonance including harmonic polyphony and the basic set of effects is available if needed.

Why it Stands Out to Us

True Keys focused on delivering quality instead of quantity. Those three models are different enough to cover all piano genres so instead of losing some time on browsing, you can focus on the playing, and luckily, their front panel interface is designed with the same idea.

Depending on your personal taste, you may prefer modeling or sampling methods. If you’re a fan of sampling, VI Labs software is your winner. Every single note either from sustain, half pedal, or una corda modes are pre-recorded from a real instrument and not a single sound is created by using the algorithm.

Best for the Money:
Arturia Piano V2

PROS

  • Ability to modify piano parts individually
  • 12 world-class piano sounds in 88 presets
  • Endless physical modeling capabilities packed in 1GB
  • All piano parts modeled perfectly - even pedal, keys or hammer noises
  • Effects section included - equalizer, reverb, microphone positioning and etc.

CONS

  • Works in 64-bit OS only
  • Parametric EQ could have more than 5 bands

Features and Specifications

Arturia made an advanced modeling piano engine and provided you with 12 different piano instruments organized in 88 presets. It also gives you the ability to change the sound parameters such as lid position, piano tuning, hammer hardness or key off, and hammer noise, and on top of that, there is a parametric equalizer and a convolution reverb simulator with 14 different room types.

Sound is captured by the virtual mixer with up to four microphones set in a different positioning so you can pick the right one for you and blend the presence and the ambiance microphones further to your personal taste.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We appreciate that Arturia decided to take the middle ground and offer you to edit just some of the parameters that might be important for the majority of players. This way you can get into details but it won’t distract you from playing and recording too much.

Also, reverb is just great - there are so many different room options so you can adjust it to match your song vibe perfectly. And it’s also very nice to include an upright piano, as well as jazz piano players, don’t have an urge to play on a full grand.

PROS

  • 32 factory piano presets available
  • Recorded at Abbey Road Studio One
  • Different microphone recording techniques
  • Available in compact installation and Lite version as well
  • 133 gigabytes of samples capturing the famous Yamaha CFX Piano

CONS

  • Only one piano sampled
  • Only 128 notes of polyphony

Features and Specifications

It comes with 133 gigabytes in total for sampling just one single model. But, luckily, there is an option to install a compact version that takes only 25 gigabytes in case that’s too much for you.

You can pick different microphone positioning depending if you’re recording classical or modern music or you’re just playing for yourself. The same is applied to the ambiance stereo image perspective and can be mixed accordingly.

Furthermore, you can adjust the pedal noise and sympathetic resonance and select a different reverb and velocity touch.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Yamaha CFX is the state of art, a milestone that Yamaha is very proud of as it’s their best item ever created and they invested a lot in research. Garritan made it possible that you can have that same Yamaha sound. And having it recorded at legendary Abbey Road makes you sure that everything about this software has that premium touch.

We also appreciate that they decided to compensate the selection by creating different presets so you don’t need to bother too much about tuning VST as there are special presets already made for different music genres or song atmospheres.

PROS

  • Dual effects DSP engine
  • Sample-based Yamaha CP-80
  • Sound recorded from three different sources
  • Volume, pitch and filter ADSR envelope included
  • Intuitive front panel with performance-oriented patch recalling

CONS

  • No parametric EQ available
  • Could come with more sound presets

Features and Specifications

This software captured a regular Yamaha CP-80, an electro-acoustic grand piano, in a very professional way. You can blend the CP-80 sound from the direct line out set through a hardware chorus unit and amplified output from Music Man 112 RD tube combo recorded by 3 close microphones and one stereo room microphone. And on top of that, they even recorded the sound of CP-80 acoustic strings in case you would like to add it as an additional layer. All these sources can be re-adjusted to your personal taste and stored as your own presets.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Yamaha CP-80 is a very authentic instrument that made an impact on the music history of the 70's and early 80’s and this XLN audio software managed to sample it up to perfection.

While XLN Audio decided to put a very detailed edit panel we praise the idea to provide you with a simple front panel interface that is more oriented towards live performance. From that screen, you can tweak just the basics (like you could on a real electric grand) and instantly recall presets

So, if you’re looking for a perfect R’n’B vintage electric grand, this is your best pick.

Best FM Piano VST:
SONiVOX FM Piano

PROS

  • Simple but intuitive front panel
  • Standard ADSR envelope control
  • Basic set of all the necessary effects
  • Affordable and authentic FM piano sound
  • Works on both 32-bit and 64-bit software, including the AAX plugin support

CONS

  • It could have more presets
  • Single sound source makes its usage quite narrow
  • List Element

Features and Specifications

This VST instrument comes as a very basic software with only 300mb of file size. It’s set straight to be used as an FM piano and it’s easy to tweak around if you need to. The front panel is laid out basic and there are just enough modifications to fine-tune it right to your needs. With the given 4-band EQ you can make it sound more percussive or tune that silky high-end part precisely. Standard envelope ADSR controls are also present for both Amp, Filter, and Pitch parts so that you can have a typical synth hands-on interface.

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you’re about to create that 80’s pop song ballad tune and vibe, you’re going to need an FM piano. While this is not your typical acoustic piano sound, it’s a very authentic instrument that made many songs go to the top of the charts because of it. This VST sounds and behaves exactly as you would expect from it. And unlike the old FM piano hardware, you can’t run out from polyphony so if you hold a sustain pedal you can create a beautiful pad layer.

Best Upright Piano VST:
Synthology Ivory II - Upright Pianos

PROS

  • Selectable audio perspective
  • Can be run stand-alone or as a VST plugin
  • Sampled-based piano VST consist of upright pianos only
  • Four different and realistic upright pianos including honky-tonk
  • Optional layers enhance the vintage authentic playing experience

CONS

  • Slightly outdated user interface
  • It requires 85 gigabytes for full installation

Features and Specifications

This VST software comes with four different sounds representing modern Yamaha upright piano, and another vintage three from the beginning of the 20th century including honky-tonk and tack piano with an additional layer of creaks and clunks for authentic “not so tuned” playing experience.

You can change a couple of mechanics such as lid position, key, and pedal noise and even include a synth layer beneath your piano playing. Regular DSP effects and EQ section is available, too.

It requires 85 gigabytes of your hard drive space. In case that’s too much for you, there is a compact installation that will take only 15 gigabytes.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is an excellent collection of both standard and historical piano sounds. While the modern piano can be used for classical music, others are more oriented to specific genres from the epoch they are coming from.

There is an option to alter the sound by picking the audio perspective based on the idea if you’re performing on the stage or playing at home. You can tell that they were definitely thinking about live performance because there is even an optional synth layer for a modern upright, just like you would expect to hear in modern pop songs.

Acoustic Piano vs. Piano VST 

Let’s review some of the most important differences between real acoustic piano and VST instruments.

Sound Quality

If your idea is to record the piano as easy as possible, piano VSTs can sound as good as premium acoustic pianos. And the best part is you won’t need a special room with a set of expensive microphones to record it properly.

Keybed Quality

Depending on keybed quality and dynamic response, playing performance may vary significantly. While nothing can match the keybed of an acoustic piano, there are some MIDI keyboard controllers and digital pianos that come so close that you can perform all the fine details just like on an acoustic piano.

Tuning 

Tuning is a regular part of acoustic maintenance and it’s not very cheap. It’s necessary to keep your sound in key. VST instruments are “pitch correct” and in case you want to experiment you can detune it in any unorthodox way you want with a couple of mouse clicks.

Sound Output

The acoustic piano sound comes straight from the piano box. VST piano sound relies on speakers’ sound quality. But, unlike the acoustic piano, you can turn speakers volume down or even use headphones instead and play anytime you need.

Price

An acoustic piano is at least ten times more expensive than a VST piano. Precisely, you could find a decent one for the single price of tuning an acoustic piano.

Conclusion 

The idea of having the ideal sound in your laptop is especially appealing if you’re playing piano on a regular basis. Regardless of if you would like to record modern or classical music or just play, piano VST will always find a sweet spot in your virtual instrument library.