Best ROMpler VST Plugins – 2020 Round-up Review

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Back in the days when computers measured their hard drive sizes in megabytes, it wasn’t so easy to achieve a realistic piano or strings sound on a keyboard.

That was until the time the ROMplers were invented and made a revolution in how people thought about synthesizers.

Our Top Picks for Rompler VST Plugins

  • Mega Synth
  • 14,000 sounds
  • Wavetable synthesis
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  • 6,000 sounds
  • 16-part multitimbral
  • Strummer arpeggiator
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  • Versatile and affordable
  • 6500+ sounds
  • Piano included
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Comparison Chart of the Best ROMpler VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • 14,000 sounds inside
  • Up to 20 oscillators per preset
  • Wavetable synthesis built-in
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  • 6,000 sounds stored in 100GB
  • 16-part multitimbral
  • Very interesting strummer feature
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  • Hybrid keyboard collection
  • More than 6500 sounds
  • Wonderful acoustic piano
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  • All-purpose sample library
  • 600 presets of 180 instruments and vocals
  • High-quality general MIDI bank
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  • 2,799 sounds in 18GB of sample content
  • 119 arpeggiator and 52 trancegate presets
  • Ideal for electronic trance music
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What is a ROMpler? 

ROMpler word derived from combining two words - ROM memory and sampler where ROM stands for read-only memory. So, simply put, ROMpler is a polyphonic sampler that uses samples stored inside of its internal memory only. It usually contains samples of acoustic instruments, basic analog waveforms, and drums. As every kilobyte counts, they were compressed with some advanced nonlinear techniques to optimize memory intake while allowing sample manipulation in a way you couldn’t do so easily with the basic audio file. 

They may provide you with some effects selection and may include certain arpeggiators and most often were accompanied by the piano-style interface.

History of ROMpler

The true rise of the ROMplers started in the 1980s. Memory became a lot cheaper and this allowed more sampling storage. They became so popular that the first ROMpler ever made in this era, KORG M1, is still the best selling keyboard of all time while some of the Roland D-50 presets are still the most-wanted presets as they were used with many legendary artists, like Michael Jackson and Madonna.

But, as the technology kept on developing, ROMplers weren’t required so much in the studio world while they are still considered as a reliable solution for live performances.

When Would I Use a ROMpler Plugin? 

Here are some ideas that came on our mind first:

That Classic Sound

You would use it whenever you need to play some authentic sound. Just like you will use a Gibson Les Paul guitar for the rhythm tracks, you will grab a certain ROMpler to achieve that exact piano sound. That sound may not be realistic, maybe there are hundreds out there that are generally speaking better choices, but sometimes it’s all about the timbre. Also, certain presets will create a link to the listeners that your sound is vintage in a good way.

Workflow

ROMplers have a certain fast-paced user interface that doesn’t require you to program articulations or any kind of key switching to get the sound you want. Maybe that sound won’t be as good as if you picked analog synth or orchestral sampler, but, honestly, most of the time, “good enough” will suffice and save you a lot of time for other more important stuff.

Live Performing

ROMplers are organized in a closed user interface that allows so many layering and splitting options ideal for live performance. And as they are loading much smaller samples regarding typical samplers they are much easier to manipulate if you need to change the sound on the fly.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best ROMpler VST Plugins

Typical ROMplers are rare to be found on the market. But, several software tend to adapt their features and mindset to such user interface, so, please, have a look:

PROS

  • 14.000 sounds inside
  • Wavetable synthesis built-in
  • Incredibly flexible Stack Mode
  • A true example of the mega-synth architecture
  • Up to 20 oscillators per preset from 500+ DSP waveforms

CONS

  • Requires large storage space
  • While there are enough reasons for this price, it’s still expensive

Features and Specifications

This synth collection contains more than 14.000 sounds with more than 500 DSP waveforms and wavetables packed in 64GB of sampled content. It’s equipped with 58 different FX units, 8 LFOs, 34 different filters, and up to 20 oscillators per preset. It also provides you with a very capable arpeggiator with sound lock feature and sample import mode and very advanced preset browser that allows you to search for sounds by either category or tag words and it will even suggest to your sounds that usually go together.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Omnisphere is a true example of what ROMpler actually evolved into. Like they used storage expansion in the ‘80s, Spectrasonics did the same, but only with the gigabytes this time. It should be considered as a mega-synth. It contains samples of so many keyboard instruments that it will be really impossible to not find the sound you need.

While its capabilities and sound volume surpass any conventional ROMpler and they also provide you with advanced sampling options the very core of the software is organized exactly like a good old ROMpler. It will work fine for any type of music and if the budget doesn’t matter, this is probably the first choice for any synth player out there.

PROS

  • 70 studio-quality effects
  • 6.000 sounds stored in 100GB
  • 16 part multitimbral with 16 outputs
  • Very interesting strummer arpeggiator
  • Huge sample-based collection of ROMpler sounds

CONS

  • Some samples may be large for instant loading
  • More genre-specific sound expansions would be welcomed

Features and Specifications

This synth comes at the size of 100GB and gives you more than 6.000 sounds. Most of the sound comes with the round-robin for acoustic instrument presets.

Effect panel derived directly from the IK Multimedia award-winning Amplitube and T-Racks software and you have 70 effects to pick from.

It comes with several sequencers, such as arpeggiator, loop, and pattern players, and a very interesting Strummer that works the best with the acoustic or electric guitar sound and as it’s very oriented toward live performance, it provides you with the quite reliable stand-alone version.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Like the original hardware ROMpler, Sample Tank comes with a 16-part multitimbral mode that allows you to mix up to 16 different presets and split or layer them all across the keyboard range. This is a very handy feature for live performance. Combine it with a capable MIDI keyboard controller, apply MIDI learn feature to the knobs and sliders and you’ll get a quite capable instrument that may totally replace your need for having a traditional keyboard workstation. And just in case you’re used to some of the sounds you have on your hardware gear, there is a sample import option included.

Best for the Money:
Arturia Analog Lab 4

PROS

  • More than 6500 sounds 
  • Intelligent preset browser
  • Includes wonderful acoustic piano sounds
  • Versatile and affordable hybrid keyboard collection
  • Dedicated hardware MIDI keyboard controller - Keylab

CONS

  • MIDI controls can’t be edited
  • Doesn’t support 32-bit system

Features and Specifications

Analog Lab provides you with the essential version of their original V collection but at a much more acceptable price. The trade-off is that you can program only 16 pre-given parameters for every synth engine, the limitation that reminds us of the real old ROMpler.

The sound choice is excellent - many keyboard sounds are included, organ, clavinet, various vintage analog synths, mellotron, even acoustic piano and every type of sound has its own interface and synth engine with dedicated controls. They are all packed together in a very intuitive preset browser that combines.

Why it Stands Out to Us

With so many presets provided we are not sure if the limitations Arturia provided make any big difference for most users.

This collection may satisfy you with all music genres except for classical orchestral soundtracking as it provides you with the sounds of an analog synth, vintage keyboards such as B3 or Vox organs and even the sound of the acoustic piano. 

And with the Multi-Mode provided and the stand-alone version, you may say it’s ready for live performances. Well, Arturia didn’t agree. They went a step further and made a dedicated hardware MIDI keyboard controller to ensure that your performance will be superb.

Best Workstation ROMpler VST:
EastWest Goliath

PROS

  • All-purpose sample library
  • High-quality general MIDI bank available
  • 600 presets of 180 instruments and vocals
  • Load multiple presets within a single instance
  • Different articulations of acoustic instruments provided

CONS

  • No stand-alone version
  • Sample size may not fit the ROMpler terminology completely

Features and Specifications

This library comes as an all-purpose sample library. It contains hundreds of presets for electric guitar, bass, pop brasses, choirs, ethnic instruments, percussion and many different synth sounds. It even has a dedicated General MIDI bank that comes with 128 presets in 14GB of sampled content. But, overall, it takes up to 40GB of storage space and uses the EastWest PLAY engine with a traditional key switching sample playback system for achieving certain instrument articulation in real-time. It also allows you to load multiple presets and define the keyboard range, transposition or output routing.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Goliath doesn't sample size are much larger than ones found in the typical ROMpler. But, the sound collection it provides matches the ROMpler philosophy and that’s why we decided to include it on this list.

It’s rare to find this kind of sample library. It may cover all your basic needs for drum, guitar, piano, organ or synth sounds while delivering the sample quality that exceeds expectations of the usual ROMpler interface. Orchestral sounds are somewhat trimmed down but combined with the choir presets you may find them fit as a very compact tool for cinematic soundtracks.

Editor’s Pick:
reFX Nexus 3 Starter

PROS

  • 95 effect modules
  • Visually improved Librarian mode
  • 2.799 sounds in 18GB of sample content 
  • 119 arpeggiator and 52 trancegate presets 
  • The first ROMpler choice for electronic music

CONS

  • Expensive upgrade price
  • Acoustic instruments missing

Features and Specifications

Nexus 3 Starter pack comes with big improvements in both audio collection and specification terms. 

Effects have been reworked so all four insert effects, four EQs, and other effects are placed on a single page. The arpeggiator is probably one of the most capable we have encountered - it provides you with a 256-step interface and you can run 16 instances at once.

Librarian now provides you with several options to narrow down your search including 22 categories, keyword and color-tagged descriptive terms such as “dark” or “bright”. Also, presets are fully backward compatible with Nexus 2.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Nexus is a safe haven for all electronic music lovers, especially trance people. It’s the best creative ROMpler we had a chance to try out. Incredible workflow machine that will straighten your mindset. 

Trancegate presets are an ideal add-on for creating an instant catchy groove for this type of music. Leads sound wonderful and you can find a suitable one for virtually any genre.

Also, it’s safe to say that the Nexus community is probably the most active one on the market, so it won’t be any trouble to find several commercial and free third-party banks that will expand your preset collection. 

Best Synth ROMpler:
Steinberg Halion Sonic 3

PROS

  • Handy FlexPhraser feature
  • Very impressive analog synth
  • Over 3.200 instrument sounds
  • 61 effect modules including unique morphing filters
  • All-in-one hybrid workstation with wavetable synthesis

CONS

  • No stand-alone version
  • FlexPhraser can't be exported as MIDI

Features and Specifications

Halion Sonic 3 is a hybrid workstation that combines disk streaming sample playback and advanced wavetable and granular synthesis. It has more than 3.200 presets and you can stack up to 16 different sounds in a very compact built-in mixer where you can edit volume, pan, output routing, and 4 insert effects. Speaking of effects, it comes with 61 modules including many high-quality Steinberg products such as REVerence or very unique morphing filters that allows you to mix up to 4 filters out of 24 available.

Why it Stands Out to Us

If we could pick one company who should make a software ROMpler then we would definitely ask a company that has at least history in making hardware ROMplers. And, luckily, Steinberg is actually owned by Yamaha which manufactured industry-leading flagship workstations such as Motif and Montage. That’s why it’s not a big wonder that FlexPhraser actually derives from the Yamaha Motif ROMpler series and provides you with hundreds of phrases and rhythm patterns within a touch of a single key which is quite inspiring and interesting add-on for your composing that makes you break that writing block you have. 

Are ROMpler Plugins Hard to Learn? 

ROMplers are the easiest plugin to learn. Pick the sound you want and play along. It’s safe to say that they rely on your keyboard playing capabilities mostly.

We find ROMplers to be the most rewarding song composing tool. No other plugin will allow you to switch from drum soundf to vintage gospel organ in a couple of clicks. Sure, some step-sequencing and multi-layering comes with the experience, but the core of the software is very friendly, even for kids. Actually, we would gladly recommend ROMplers as an educative or fun tool for them as they may learn more how synthesis works along.

Comparison Overview 

Some ROMplers may have various synth abilities. Some may have sampling expansion. But, ROMpler is neither of those two, so let’s resolve the confusion about those three units:

ROMpler vs. Sampler 

Most samplers have the ability to record new samples or modify them in a full old one. ROMplers can only playback what they have already in memory. Also, samplers have many more editing options regarding slicing, pitch-shifting, or time-stretching aspects. Even if you import a sample to the ROMpler it may sound deformed after a certain key range, while Sampler would use certain algorithms to maintain the original sample traits.

However, abilities necessary for the live performance of the ROMpler are much better and it’s not that rare to see a ROMpler controlling or using a Sampler externally.

ROMpler vs. Synth

Synths tend to use different kinds of synthesis to create a sound. ROMplers don’t generate such waveforms, they use pre-built samples of waveforms which can’t be modified. You can only add effects and filters on it and modify the sound envelope in general. Synths have a much more versatile sound engine, while ROMpler has a much more numerous sound options regarding the instrument variety it provides.

Conclusion 

So many ROMplers had its time and place in history and made a contribution for so many legendary music pieces. Although today some large sampling libraries may have a more realistic sound, nothing can beat the swift workflow of the good old ROMpler.

People Also Ask

Now that we have covered some ROMplers topics, let’s see what else troubles people around the globe. PCM is definitely a tricky term and real instruments may create some misunderstanding, too. Let’s also explain the nature of the two most popular synths on the market these days - Omnisphere and Nexus:

What is a PCM Synth?

PCM Synth or also known as sample playback synth uses PCM synthesis where PCM stands for Pulse Code Modulation. This type of synthesis uses samples instead of oscillators where every sample covers about 4 or 5 notes range. It is often used to recreate sounds of acoustic instruments.

Are PCM and ROMpler the Same Thing?

Broadly speaking, it’s safe to say that they are the same thing. ROMpler uses audio samples which are stored in the form of PCM waveforms. But, PCMs can also contain a lot shorter samples than can be used for more than just sample playback like a wavetable synthesis.

Are Synthesizers Real Instruments?

People tend to link the word “real” for the instruments which sound similar to some acoustic instrument. If that’s the terminology we’re going to use, then no, synthesizers are artificial instruments. But, if you consider electric guitar as a “real” instrument, we don’t see why analog synthesizers would be considered different.

Does a Synthesizer Need an Amp?

Not necessarily. While there are some sounds that can benefit a lot from using an amp, especially lead synths, most of the time it won’t be necessary. But, this doesn’t mean you cannot experiment and put your synth sound through the guitar amp.

Is Omnisphere a ROMpler?

Omnisphere is a special synth, the mother of all synths to be more precise. While it can sound like a traditional ROMpler and will provide you the preset variety you would expect from ROMpler instruments, it’s also capable of much more like wavetable synthesis, sample import, etc.

Is Nexus a ROMpler?

Yes, Nexus is probably the most advanced ROMpler on the market and a true example of how a modern ROMpler should look and sound like if it goes to the hardware version at some point. It relies to sample playback in the same way old hardware ROMplers did.