Best Rhodes VST Plugins – 2020 Complete Round-up

If you think about Soul and R’n’B music, we could bet that you imagined a track with a Rhodes sound inside. That’s how essential this electronic instrument is. Also, one of the most iconic bands of all times said that “they wouldn’t exist if Mr. Rhodes didn’t invent the keyboard bass” (The Doors).

Comparison Chart of the Best Rhodes VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Rhodes sound created by advanced physical modelling
  • All three most iconic Rhodes models available
  • Highly detailed user interface
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  • Authentic Fender Rhodes Mk I sound
  • 7 different sound perspectives recorded
  • Explorer mode previews presets before recalling
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  • Emulation of Fender Rhodes Mk I and Mk II models available
  • All in one keyboard instrument solution
  • Comprehensive and intuitive user interface
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  • Hybrid sampling and physical modelling emulation
  • 350 Rhodes presets including special Vintage Mode
  • Provides you with Wultizer and Hohner Pianet-T extra
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  • Ultra small Rhodes emulation
  • 5 different sound characters
  • Ideal for quick live jams
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History of Rhodes

Rhodes was named upon its creator, Harold Rhodes. Despite some predecessors, the real Fender Rhodes journey started in 1965 when CBS bought a Fender company and released a 73-key Rhodes Mk I.

It became most popular thanks to The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and Chick Corea. On the wings of success, CBS created a portable version named Suitcase Piano and in 1979 Rhodes Mk II was made, a cost-efficient remake of the original. 

Because of the digital sound era of the 1980s, Rhodes dropped as the first choice, but in the late 2000s, it got attention once again, and therefore, Mark 7 was created.

Real Fender Rhodes vs. Rhodes VST 

If you were thinking about if you should buy a real Fender Rhodes instead of using a VST, let’s discuss it a little bit:

Versatility

The most famous Fender Rhodes was created 50 years ago. While they will undoubtedly sound the best, they will probably need a lot of regular maintenance to keep in shape and require space and external gear such as amps and effect pedals to sound the best.

Price

Since the most famous models aren’t manufacturing anymore, the price on the used market is very high. Models in mint condition are selling for around $5.000, so unless you’re a hardcore fan of that Rhodes sound, you would be glad to consider VST versions that may come even a hundred times cheaper.

The sound

Sample-based VSTs are able to recreate only a partition of what a real instrument sounds like. Sure, there are some very detailed sampled VST instruments that can cover more than enough for your needs, but if you’re relying heavily on the sound of Rhodes nothing can beat the real thing. In case you don’t have a budget or space, consider at least those VSTs that use a physical modeling approach.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Rhodes VST Plugins

Now we’re going to see what are the best Rhodes VSTs out there:

Best Overall:
Arturia Stage-73 V

PROS

  • 80 factory presets 
  • Requires only 1 gigabyte of storage space
  • Advanced physical modeling Rhodes engine
  • Rhodes MK I, MK II and Suitcase models included
  • Complete effect routing, including wah-wah and volume pedals

CONS

  • Expensive for some users
  • Doesn’t support 32-bit OS versions

Features and Specifications

Arturia software comes with a suitcase and both stage Fender Rhodes models. All models are physically modeled to the details so it’s as good as having the real Rhodes. On top of that, it comes with a perfectly matched Fender Twin Amp while the suitcase model comes along with a preamp. On the output routing, you can also use volume and wah-wah pedal and couple of typical rhodes effects such as flanger, chorus, analog delay or compressor, 

And the best thing is that since it’s an emulation and not a sample-based instrument, it takes only 1 gigabyte of storage space.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Thanks to Arturia’s “True Analog Emulation” engine, it is possible to edit it in every possible way you could do with the real instrument, but with a couple of mouse clicks, whether it’s about hammer hardness or pickup alignment. Even Fender Twin Amp can be tuned to your taste ao this VST instrument is as good as playing the real Fender Rhodes.

Arturia also went a step further and allowed you to resize the VST screen so that it can match with your next industry-standard 4K monitors without upscaling.

PROS

  • Built-in DSP effect section
  • Available as a standalone application
  • 7 different sound perspectives available
  • ExplorerMap allows you to preview presets
  • Sample-based emulation of Fender Rhodes Mk.1

CONS

  • Comes with Rhodes Mk I emulation only
  • Didn’t use Fender Twin Reverb amp for a sample recording

Features and Specifications

This VST is sample-based and XLN Audio puts a lot of effort into capturing every detail. Sound is taken from Rhodes Mk.1 played through vintage tube amp along with some of the finest microphones along with direct out. 

There is a dedicated EQ and effect section and you can stack up two different effects along with the compressor and drive unit.

It supports both 32 and 64 bit OS and can be played either as a VST plugin or work as stand-alone software.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is one of the best Rhodes emulations on the market. Sound can be blended further from the mixer panel from four microphone sources used on capturing the amp on and off-axis and even including room microphone.

This allows you to adjust to overall tone in every possible direction, from smooth and soft warm sound up to crisp and punchy percussive character required to upbeat songs. The user interface is very comprehensive and it also comes with a basic front panel in case you want to perform live to give you access only to the most necessary switches and controls.

PROS

  • All three standard Rhodes models included
  • Detailed hybrid emulation of Fender Rhodes
  • Authentic emulation of classic analog effects
  • Comes with Wultiyzer and Hohner Pianet-T as a bonus
  • 350 presets available with special Vintage Mode sound re-creation

CONS

  • EQ could benefit from 4 band layout
  • Doesn’t support macOS 10.15 Catalina at the moment

Features and Specifications

Velvet 2 is a hybrid VST that combines both sampling and modeling approaches. It comes with all the necessary analog effects emulations needed including tremolo with the autopan, spring reverb, and tape echo.

It also provides you with the Vintage Mode so you can recreate some of the most authentic Rhodes sounds recorded throughout history. You can pick from 5 different instruments and navigate through 350 professional presets.

There is also a comprehensive MIDI learn option for mapping your MIDI keyboard and it supports both 32 and 64-bit OS versions.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Velvet 2 is an excellent and very affordable pack of electric piano essentials. It gives you a great Rhodes Suitcase and Stage Pianos Mk I and Mk II models and also includes an extra Wultizer and Hohner Pianet-T. Combine this VST with some clavinet and it should cover all your electric piano needs, especially with the given number of presets inside this VST. 

We love how the drive preamp is integrated and the warmth it produces and how the user interface changes to match the interface of the electric piano you’re playing at the moment.

Best Fender Rhodes VST:
Essential Keyboard Collection

PROS

  • Available in VST and standalone versions
  • Comprehensive and intuitive user interface
  • Authentic rhodes sound with great effects panel
  • 13 different instruments with nice patch variety provided
  • Sample-based collection of most frequently used keyboard instruments

CONS

  • It could include Fender Rhodes Suitcase as well
  • Authorization requires free iLOK account and manager

Features and Specifications

This VST provides you with 13 different keyboard instruments compiled together into a player interface - piano, rhodes, organs, clavichord, just to name a few are all packed inside. The DSP effect engine consists of reverb, chorus, delay, and vibrato and comes with many dedicated presets depending on the instrument you’ve picked.

Installation takes up to 2 gigabytes of storage space and you can perform in VST and stand-alone versions. Also, both 32 and 64-bit formats are supported and no additional MIDI mapping is required.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Rhodes sounds very authentic and convincing. It can be enhanced a lot thanks to a well laid and intuitive effects panel. It will satisfy the demands of most users, especially for the price given. 

We like that it comes with all the keyboard tools in one single VST and even includes some classic sounds such as harpsichord and church organs. Also, tonewheel organ emulation is as good as on some premium VSTs out there. 

While we can’t say that the piano samples are the best we’ve ever heard, if songs aren’t heavily based on piano parts, they will sit well in your mix.

PROS

  • Effective electric piano emulator
  • All options set in a single front panel screen
  • 16 electric piano presets with no velocity layers
  • Built-in compressor, 4 bands EQ and effects panel
  • 5 different “character” signal paths emulation presets available

CONS

  • Shallow effect options
  • Could provide more presets diversity

Features and Specifications

This Rhodes VST decided to emulate the real rhodes sound instead of sampling. It comes with DSP effects used most frequently with Rhodes piano such as chorus, reverb, and phaser and you can tweak the sound further by adjusting the hammer noise or tine bar or choose between 5 different characters based on the sound you want to achieve. 

The standalone version is available and it works in both 32-bit and 64-bit environments and it’s very CPU-resource friendly. Full MIDI realtime controller support is also implemented in both VST and standalone instances.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This Rhodes VST gives you a wonderful sound with the incredibly small storage footprint of 70 megabytes (yep, no typo here - seventy) and it requires only 512 megabytes of RAM. AAS did some really great optimizing here and we can’t recall so many VST instruments of this quality at this size. You can install it in a minute and change patches even during the performance with minimal sound interruption as they load up in less than a second. Everything is oriented towards live performance so we can highly recommend this unit in case you want to perform live using a laptop and a MIDI controller.

When Would I Use a Rhodes VST Plugin? 

If you’re unsure what would be the best way to use a Rhodes, let us help you out with some tips or hints to put you into right mindset:

Analog Sound

Modern music tends to avoid digital sound sources as they are often described as plastic and shallow. On the other hand, analog sound sources are warm and pleasant to the ears, and Rhodes can add extra warmth to your tracks compared to that 80s ballad piano sound and sound a bit more modern compared to the regular acoustic piano.

Vintage Atmosphere

Rhodes is an instrument that was used a lot in the 1970s. So, if you want to recreate music from that era, lay a track of Rhodes for an instant retro vibe no matter what you’re recording, funk, jazz, hip-hop, or pop music. 

Ballad Companion

If you’re about to compose a slow and soft song, consider Rhodes - it can sound more mellow and the way its sound resonates can provide you even with a rhythmic pulsating background layer that can move your song a little bit in a way that piano couldn’t. Soul and R’n’B songs tend to use this character a lot to create an authentic genre trademark.

Conclusion 

Rhodes is a unique instrument that can’t be used in all situations. But, when you use it you will always notice it as it produces very authentic and distinctive sounds that can make a real difference to your songwriting no matter what genre you’re working on.