The Best Rhodes Plugins in 2020

Fender Rhodes Simulations

10/5/2020

I'm a big fan of Rhodes Piano plugins! Then again, who isn't? The Rhodes Piano (AKA the Fender Rhodes) is an electric piano developed by Harold Rhodes and marketed and sold by Fender, CBS, and Roland. The Rhodes is an electromechanical instrument that generates sound via hammers hitting tines which produces magnetic induction in a giant pickup spanning the body of the piano (not unlike the pickups in a guitar). The signal from the Rhodes can then be sent to an amplifier or recorded direct-input. There are two main styles of the Rhodes piano: Suitcase and Stage, and each come in 73 and 88-key models. The main difference between the two styles is that the suitcase has a built-in amplifier, somewhat similar in design to a Fender Twin. I not only make my own Rhodes Piano plugin and Rhodes shootout videos, I also use and experiment with all the different Rhodes libraries, in quest of the Holy Rhodes tone. Which Rhodes is the best plugin in 2020? Well, I have some thoughts on the matter! If you just want to listen to raw sound examples, watch the aforementioned video. For a more in-depth analysis on the pros and cons of each Rhodes vst, continue reading. I will rate each plugin on four main categories: FEATURES, EFFECTS, VALUE, and PRESETS/SOUND DESIGN.

Adam Monroe's Mark73 Electric Piano

Let's start with my Rhodes plugin. Am I biased? Sure! Is my Rhodes still a decent plugin? I believe so, and here's why! I sampled my Rhodes from a 1976 Rhodes Mark I Stage Piano, so all of the notes and releases are genuine Rhodes sounds. I then engineered analog warmth back into it using SPICE vacuum tube simulations, and I've added stereo panning, tremolo, phaser, chorus, delay, convolution reverbs, and cabinet impulse responses, as well as the Leslie simulation from my B3 Organ plugin.

Models
1.) Suitcase
2.) Stage (Video Clip)
3.) Mark I
4.) Mark II
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Sampled


Features
1.) Range: 73 Notes
2.) VST:
3.) AAX:
4.) AU:

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ? (Video Clip)
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 90
2.) 6 Amps, 43 Reverbs, 30 Cabinets, Phaser, Delay, Tremolo, Panner, Leslie Simulation

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $25
2.) Number of Samples: 8,832
3.) Memory Use: 550 MB

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
I would describe the tone of this plugin as balanced/slightly agressive (Video Clip). It is most similar in tone to the Electric 88 and the Keyscape Rhodes Classic. There are a ton of presets, many based on famous Rhodes songs. The Amplifier, Cabinet, Tremolo, Reverb, and Delay controls are excellent with many parameters. The plugin also contains a massive amount of reverbs and cabinets. A good all-around plugin and the price makes it one of the best value plugins. The only thing it lacks is the expanded 88-key range. The amplifiers sims are especially good at reproducing an accurate driven Rhodes sound.
AAS Lounge Lizard

This is one of the classic Rhodes plugins that has been around for awhile. It's not sampled, but modeled, and also emulates reeds (AKA, the Wurlitzer). It doesn't specifically attempt to model the stage or the suitcase Rhodes, but instead gives the user many options to tweak the sound of the tines, hammer, and pickup as well as a character-shaping knob.

Models
1.) Suitcase
2.) Stage (Video Clip)
3.) Mark I
4.) Mark II
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Modeled


Features
1.) Range: 88 Notes
2.) VST:
3.) AAX:
4.) AU:

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ? (Video Clip)
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 69
2.) Character Knob, Hammer, Fork, Pickup Controls, 4 Reverbs

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $199
2.) Number of Samples: N/A
3.) Memory Use: 135 MB

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
I would describe the tone of this plugin as balanced/mellow (Video Clip). It is most similar in tone to Keyscape LA Custom and MrRay 73. The default Rhodes Preset "BFly Rhodes" is one of my favorite modeled tones and quite close to the Mark I. This is a plugin you should get if you are interested in sound design over fidelity. The tone can be quite accurate, but it is lacking in a few small areas such as the release sounds, and I can never quite shake the feeling that this is an idealized Rhodes tone. It is a very clean Rhodes sound. One thing I find to be annoying is having to choose between stereo panning and regular tremolo. This is a minor issue, but it is an issue with many of the plugins.
Acousticsamples Mark79

Acousticsamples Mark79 is a very similar to the company's other plugins in the sense that it has a very nice warm/vintage tone. Acousticsamples are one of my favorite plugin companies because their stuff tends to sound a little more natural and usually feature great built-in effects and sound design. Their Rhodes plugin is based off of a 1979 Rhodes Mark II.

Models
1.) Suitcase
2.) Stage (Video Clip)
3.) Mark I
4.) Mark II
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Sampled


Features
1.) Range: 73 Notes
2.) VST: (UVI)
3.) AAX: (UVI)
4.) AU: (UVI)

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ? (Video Clip)
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: N/A
2.) Spring Reverb, Cabinet/Amp simulations

Value
1.) 2020 Price: €89
2.) Number of Samples: 2532
3.) Memory Use: 284 MB

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
I would describe the tone of this plugin as balanced/mellow/vintage (Video Clip). It is most similar in tone to Keyscape LA Custom Rhodes and Neo-Soul Keys Suitcase Rhodes. The tone is heavily influenced by which cabinet/amp setting you choose. The plugin lacks some built-in effects like phaser and chorus, but the UVI Player itself has these effects. The overall tone makes the user feel like they are playing an old Rhodes that was stored in an attic somewhere. It has a 73-Note Range. One thing I find is annoying is having to choose between stereo panning and regular tremolo. This is a minor issue, but it is an issue with many of the plugins.
Spectrasonics Keyscape

The Rhodes plugins that come with Spectrasonic Keyscape are part of a larger library that includes wurlitzers, clavinets, and acoustic pianos. Therefore, one must consider this library in the context of purchasing the larger library because it is expensive. If you are looking for a standalone library there are probably better options. That being said, the Rhodes libraries themselves are quite good.

Models
1.) Suitcase (Video Clip)
2.) Stage (Video Clip)
3.) Mark I
4.) Mark II
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Sampled


Features
1.) Range: 73 Notes
2.) VST: (UVI)
3.) AAX: (UVI)
4.) AU: (UVI)

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ? (Video Clip)
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 57
2.) 8 Amplifiers, 3 Reverb, 3 Chorus, 2 Phaser, De-Noise, Color-Shift Knob, Tape Saturation

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $399
2.) Number of Samples: ?
3.) Memory Use: 1.5-1.7 GB depending on model

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
The tone of this plugin varies by model. The tone of the Rhodes Classic (Mark I Stage Video Clip) is a bit more agressive. The tone of the LA Custom (Suitcase Mark II Video Clip) is a bit more warm/balanced. There is also a third Rhodes model based on a modern Vintage Vibes Rhodes and I would say the tone here is, well, new/modern. Given the three Rhodes models, this is a versatile plugin and you are sure to find the tone you are looking for. There is also a color-shift knob that works but the tines get a letter splunky when you turn it towards mellow. Still, a nice additional feature to have. The memory use is also enormous at 1.5 GB, so make sure you are using a computer with plenty of memory. I hate to repeat myself, but one thing I find annoying is having to choose between stereo panning and regular tremolo. This is a minor issue, but it is an issue with many of the plugins. Seriously though, why do this in a plugin? You can get some cool effects by stacking stereo panning on top of tremolo. If you can afford it, and you think you will use all the of the wurlis, clavs, and acoustic pianos that also come with it, then this is a good option.
Air Music Technology Velvet 2

This is an interesting plugin as it attempts to emulate Rhodes, Wurlis, and even a Hohner Pianet T, but is much less expensive than Neo Soul Keys, Keyscape, and Lounge Lizard. It does a relatively good job of emulating a Rhodes and has an insane amount of tweakable parameters.

Models
1.) Suitcase
2.) Stage
3.) Mark I (Video Clip)
4.) Mark II
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Modeled


Features
1.) Range: 88 Notes
2.) VST: (UVI)
3.) AAX: (UVI)
4.) AU: (UVI)

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ? (Video Clip)
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 140
2.) 3 Cabinet/Amplifiers, Distortion, 3 Reverb, Delay, 2 Phaser, Chorus, Flanger, Age Knob, Velocity Control

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $99
2.) Number of Samples: N/A
3.) Memory Use: 255 MB

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
I would describe the tone of this plugin as neutral/balanced (Video Clip) and I would say that it's closest in tone to MrRay 73. Like Lounge Lizard, it lends itself well to customization and sound design, but the overall tone is a little less colored than either Lounge Lizard or MrRay. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and this could be a good functional plugin if you need a Rhodes that will blend well into mixes, especially considering the 140 presets which have done a lot of the sound design work for you. I would like to hear some better releases, but in a mix you aren't going to notice. I hate to repeat myself yet again, but one thing I find annoying is having to choose between stereo panning and regular tremolo. This is a minor issue, but it is an issue with many of the plugins.
Waves Electric 88

The Waves Electric 88 is a pretty solid Rhodes plugin. It has the full 88-key range, as well as your standard array of phaser, chorus, tremolo, and Reverb. Best of all, it is one of the more affordable plugins of the bunch.

Models
1.) Suitcase
2.) Stage
3.) Mark I (Video Clip)
4.) Mark II
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Modeled


Features
1.) Range: 88 Notes
2.) VST: (UVI)
3.) AAX: (UVI)
4.) AU: (UVI)

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ? (Video Clip)
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 44
2.) Phaser, AutoPan, Tremolo, Chorus, Reverb, Formant, Tone-Shaping, Amplifier, Mic Style, Velocity Curve

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $50
2.) Number of Samples: 1320
3.) Memory Use: 436 MB

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
I would describe the tone of this plugin as being balanced/aggressive/vintage (Video Clip) and I would say that it's closest in tone to Adam Monroe's Mark 73. Being sampled this plugin tends to sound a little more authentic to me than some of the modeled plugins, and the tone is a bit gritty, being similar to Adam Monroe's Mark 73. It blends well in a mix, but again, has a unique identifiable tone, and as such tends to sit in the background less well than some of the more vanilla plugins. Still, that's not a bad thing, and if you are making more aggressive sounding music or need a Rhodes to cut-through the mix, this and Adam Monroe's Mark 73 are great options. This plugin also includes a separate tremolo and stereo panner, yay!
Neo Soul Keys Studio 2

Like Keyscape the Neo Soul Keys Rhodes libraries aren't a standalone Rhodes plugin but part of a larger library that includes wurlitzers, clavichords, and a Yamaha CP-70 That being said, Neo Soul Keys is a bit more focused on Electronic Pianos, and thus a fairly wide-range of Rhodes tones are represented.

Models
1.) Suitcase
2.) Stage
3.) Mark I (Video Clip)
4.) Mark II
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Sampled


Features
1.) Range: 88 Notes
2.) VST: (UVI)
3.) AAX: (UVI)
4.) AU: (UVI)

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ? (Video Clip)
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 30
2.) Delay, Chorus, Phaser, Flanger, 3 Reverbs, EQ, Combo Amp

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $199
2.) Number of Samples: ?
3.) Memory Use: 150 MB

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
I would describe the tone of this plugin as being balanced/clean (Video Clip) and I would say that it's closest in tone to Lounge Lizard. Overall, this is a very clean and detailed sounding library. Although there are dirtier presets, I think the main function of this library leans more towards that clean, soft, stereo-panning sound that you often find in genres like Neo Soul and Hip Hop. If you are looking for that kind of sound, this might be the library for you! Another nice thing about this plugin is that you can stack effects and the different Rhodes models themselves, which can be used to create some interesting textures. One minor nitpick I have with this library are the releases. Rhodes pianos have a very distinct release sound - or at least mine does - that can't really be heard here. If you want to hear an example of what I am talking about, listen to the releases in theSoniccouture EP 73 plugin. They are perhaps a bit overdone there but quite distinct
Native Instruments Scarbee Mark I

The Scarbee Mark 1 from Native Instruments is another older but classic Rhodes library. I believe this library was first released way back in 2002 by Thomas Hansen Skarbye and then re-released by Native Instruments in 2009. Despite it's age, it doesn't sound dated and actually holds up quite well to other Rhodes libraries.

Models
1.) Suitcase
2.) Stage
3.) Mark I (Video Clip)
4.) Mark II
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Sampled


Features
1.) Range: 88 Notes
2.) VST: (Kontakt)
3.) AAX: (Kontakt)
4.) AU: (Kontakt)

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ? (Video Clip)
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 8
2.) Panner, AuthoWah, Chorus, Compression, Distortion, Phaser, Amp, Reverb, Delay

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $69
2.) Number of Samples: ?
3.) Memory Use: 231 MB (with Kontakt)

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
I would describe the tone of this plugin as being balanced (Video Clip) and I would say that it's closest in tone to Lounge Lizard and Waves Electric 88. This library doesn't have quite the grittiness of Waves Electric 88 or the Adam Monroe's Mark73 library, but it is still very realistic and authentic sounding, especially when it comes to the note releases. Where it is slightly lacking is in the sound design department as there aren't too many presets, but the presets it does come with are quite good. The only complaint I really have about it is that it is a Kontakt library, and I've had my fair share of trouble with Kontakt, especially when it comes to things like DRM and version compatibility
Arturia Stage 73 V

Arturia is a company best known for their analog synth simulations but occasionally they will model vintage instruments. With their Stage 73 plugin they have attempted to model both the stage and suitcase Rhodes models.

Models
1.) Suitcase
2.) Stage
3.) Mark I (Video Clip)
4.) Mark II
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Modeled


Features
1.) Range: 88 Notes
2.) VST:
3.) AAX:
4.) AU:

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ? (Video Clip)
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 8
2.) Phaser, Flanger, Chorus, Delay, Amp Simulation

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $149
2.) Number of Samples: N/A
3.) Memory Use: 146 MB (with Kontakt)

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
I would describe the tone of this plugin as being neutral (Video Clip) and I would say that it's closest in tone to Velvet 2. I hate to say it, but out of all the Rhodes libraries, this one sounds the least authentic to me. The modeling is 95% there, but there are some subtle shortcomings that can clearly be heard, even when compared to the other modeled libraries. Listen to the Get Back Solo and focus on the attack of the notes: they are just a little different than every other library, they are missing the correct weighting (there should be audible "clacks" or "clicks" on the run-downs). This can probably be fixed by adjusting the velocity curve, but I feel like this something that should just be correct out of the box. Not to pile on, but I also don't understand the design decision to limit the amplifier to the stage model and the stereo panner to the suitcase model. This is how things are in real life, but why limit a plugin in this way? Even so, if purchased sd part of the Arturia V Collection this plugin is quite usable, but as a standalone plugin, I feel that there are better options.
Soniccouture EP 73 Deconstructed

Soniccouture's plugins usually focus on some form of abstract sound design and their Rhodes library is no exception. It features a regular Rhodes piano library but expands upon that concept with hammered, plucked, and bowed notes.

Models
1.) Suitcase
2.) Stage
3.) Mark I (Video Clip)
4.) Mark II
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Sampled


Features
1.) Range: 73 Notes
2.) VST: (Kontakt)
3.) AAX: (Kontakt)
4.) AU: (Kontakt)

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ? (Video Clip)
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 120
2.) Phaser, Panner, AutoWah, Chorus, Delay, Compressor, HPF/LPF Filters, EQ

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $149
2.) Number of Samples: 13,700
3.) Memory Use: 988 MB (with Kontakt)

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
I would describe the tone of this plugin as being balanced/bright (Video Clip) and I would say that it's closest in tone to Adam Monroe's Mark73, Waves Electric 88, and Scarbee Mark I. The Rhodes library is somewhat unique sounding; it's a little brigther, but I think a lot of the difference has to do with the releases, which are more present then any every other library (you can however easily turn them down). Where this plugin really shines is in its presets and sound design. Unfortunately, because of the library's size and the fact that it uses Kontakt, you will be waiting 10-15 seconds to switch those presets, as Kontakt must unload and reload all the samples to switch the presets (and that's on a SSD drive!) Ignoring this, some of the sounds are quite unique, especially the bowed notes, which are somewhat reminiscent of a glass armonica.
GSi MrRay73 Mark II

GSi is known for making accurate models of vintage gear like the Rhodes piano and the Hammond B3. MrRay73 was one of the first, if not the first modeled Rhodes plugins, and still sounds surprisingly good.

Models
1.) Suitcase
2.) Stage
3.) Mark I
4.) Mark II (Video Clip)
5.) Modeled/Sampled: Modeled


Features
1.) Range: 73 Notes
2.) VST:
3.) AAX:
4.) AU:

Effects
1.) Tremolo? (Video Clip)
2.) Stereo Panner? (Video Clip)
3.) Phaser ?
4.) Chorus?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 0
2.) Phaser, Tremolo, Amp, Tone-Shaping

Value
1.) 2020 Price: €50.00
2.) Number of Samples: N/A
3.) Memory Use: 1 MB

Effects II
1.) Reverb?
2.) Amplifier?
3.) Cabinet?
3.) EQ?



Thoughts
I would describe the tone of this plugin as being balanced (Video Clip) and I would say that it's closest in tone to Lounge Lizard. This is a very accurate sounding plugin, but it is aging, and I don't think it's being maintained because it is only available as a 32-bit Windows VST plugin. This makes it unusable in DAWS like modern Cubase which are 64-Bit only, and you can't run it on OS X. The plugin also lacks basic effects like reverb, but the actual Rhodes simulation itself is quite good, nailing things like velocity response and releases. However, I really do think that this plugin will soon be lost to the sands of time.