The Best VST Plugins: Real Instruments

​While audio plugins are still not yet at the point of emulating all of the intricacies of acoustic instruments, we have come a very far way.

Art has melted with programming as plugin development studios have worked incredibly hard to come up with ways to emulate instruments in a way that’s hard to detect for the untrained ear.

Take a look at this demo video of RealGuitar.

While audio plugins are still not yet at the point of emulating all of the intricacies of acoustic instruments, we have come a very far way.
Art has melted with programming as plugin development studios have worked incredibly hard to come up with ways to emulate instruments in a way that’s hard to detect for the untrained ear.
Take a look at this demo video of RealGuitar.

​You can notice how the developers got creative with making acoustic guitar possible using only MIDI data. For example, there are certain keys mapped to mute the guitar strings when held down.

In this massive guide, we will be covering a whole lot of real instrument VST plugins, both free and paid. Enjoy!

You can notice how the developers got creative with making acoustic guitar possible using only MIDI data. For example, there are certain keys mapped to mute the guitar strings when held down.
In this massive guide, we will be covering a whole lot of real instrument VST plugins, both free and paid. Enjoy!

​Pianos

Pianos

​XLN Audio Addictive Keys (Our Recommendation)


XLN Audio Addictive Keys (Our Recommendation)
XLN Audio Addictive Keys

​XLN Audio Addictive Keys

XLN Audio Addictive Keys

​You might think it’s weird that we’re recommending a VST that has no built-in library. But really that should show you how incredibly awesome this VST is because it doesn’t need one.

There are four instruments that make up Addictive Keys: Modern Upright, Studio Grand, Electric Grand, and Mark One. 

​These can be purchased separately and/or as a bundle where you can pick which instruments you want. There are two bundles: Duo and Trio. We recommend Trio because really we loved all four of the instruments.

There are four instruments that make up Addictive Keys: Modern Upright, Studio Grand, Electric Grand, and Mark One.
  • ​Modern Upright is based on the Yamaha U3 and has seven different recording perspectives. The sound is low with beautiful clarity. The high notes are able to remain chimey with an overall creamy tone.
  • ​Studio Grand is based on the Steinway Model D and have six selectable mic perspectives. The sound has a vast body, great sustain, and a very malleable sound with great range.
  • ​Electric Grand is based on the Vintage CP-80 and has three distinct characteristics (acoustic hammers, direct line output, and amplified output) and seven different recording perspectives. The sound is dark and warm sound and will work great for RnB, and pop and rock ballads.
  • ​Mark One is based on the Fender Rhodes Mk. 1 and has seven recording perspectives. Mark One has a much darker and muted quality when compared to the Electric Grand.
XLN Audio Addictive Keys Duo

The GUI is stupidly wonderful and the workflow is one of the best we have ever seen. We will simply say that everything is easy to do and it looks gorgeous.

We could go on about Addictive Keys all day, so we will leave it at this. Just go and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.


You might think it’s weird that we’re recommending a VST that has no built-in library. But really that should show you how incredibly awesome this VST is because it doesn’t need one. There are four instruments that make up Addictive Keys: Modern Upright, Studio Grand, Electric Grand, and Mark One.
These can be purchased separately and/or as a bundle where you can pick which instruments you want. There are two bundles: Duo and Trio. We recommend Trio because really we loved all four of the instruments.
Modern Upright is based on the Yamaha U3 and has seven different recording perspectives. The sound is low with beautiful clarity. The high notes are able to remain chimey with an overall creamy tone.
Studio Grand is based on the Steinway Model D and have six selectable mic perspectives. The sound has a vast body, great sustain, and a very malleable sound with great range.
Electric Grand is based on the Vintage CP-80 and has three distinct characteristics (acoustic hammers, direct line output, and amplified output) and seven different recording perspectives. The sound is dark and warm sound and will work great for RnB, and pop and rock ballads.
Mark One is based on the Fender Rhodes Mk. 1 and has seven recording perspectives. Mark One has a much darker and muted quality when compared to the Electric Grand.
The GUI is stupidly wonderful and the workflow is one of the best we have ever seen. We will simply say that everything is easy to do and it looks gorgeous.
We could go on about Addictive Keys all day, so we will leave it at this. Just go and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

​Native Instruments Alicia's Keys

Native Instruments Alicia's Keys
Native Instruments Alicia's Keys

​Native Instruments Alicia's Keys

Native Instruments Alicia's Keys

​Native Instruments’ Alicia’s Keys was created in collaboration with Alicia and her engineer, Ann Miniceli. The VST is based off Key’s own Yamaha C3 Neo and recorded in her own studio.

You have 17 GB of samples and 12 velocity layers per key. While there is only one piano here, you have a mass amounts of tone shaping features and we really loved the reverb in particular. The sound will remain geared to RnB however, which we don’t take offense to.

There are two things that will divide whether you love or hate Alicia’s Keys.  

  • ​First is the pink interface . . . it definitely gives the VST a unique look that makes it stand out, but it’s really bubblegum pink looking. It seems fickle to point this out, but we saw that it was a common complaint among users.
  • ​Second, some will not like the overall produced sound. This was, of course, NI’s intent, but the lack of a natural sound will put off some.

​We should note that while we didn’t have any computer related issues, we saw some complained that the VST was a hog and that the plugin suffered from CPU and latency related issues.

Native Instruments’ Alicia’s Keys was created in collaboration with Alicia and her engineer, Ann Miniceli. The VST is based off Key’s own Yamaha C3 Neo and recorded in her own studio.
You have 17 GB of samples and 12 velocity layers per key. While there is only one piano here, you have a mass amounts of tone shaping features and we really loved the reverb in particular. The sound will remain geared to RnB however, which we don’t take offense to.
There are two things that will divide whether you love or hate Alicia’s Keys.  First is the pink interface . . . it definitely gives the VST a unique look that makes it stand out, but it’s really bubblegum pink looking. It seems fickle to point this out, but we saw that it was a common complaint among users.
Second, some will not like the overall produced sound. This was, of course, NI’s intent, but the lack of a natural sound will put off some.
We should note that while we didn’t have any computer related issues, we saw some complained that the VST was a hog and that the plugin suffered from CPU and latency related issues.

​UVI Grand Piano Collection

UVI Grand Piano Collection
UVI Grand Piano Collection

​UVI Grand Piano Collection

UVI Grand Piano Collection

​UVI Grand Piano Collection is a collection of five grand pianos: Steinway Concert Grand Model D, Fazioli F278 Concert Grand, Erard Baby Grand, Seiler Upright Grand, and the Yamaha C7 Concert Grand.

In all honesty, we found the collection to be underwhelming on almost all fronts. The sounds are OK, but they don’t compete with some of the other piano VSTs on our list.

There is just something lacking on the sound front and we even noticed some slight tuning issues on the Erard Baby Grand preset. 

UVI Grand Piano Collection Yamaha C7 Concert Grand

​Yamaha C7 Concert Grand

Yamaha C7 Concert Grand
UVI Grand Piano Collection Fazioli F278 Concert Grand

​Fazioli F278 Concert Grand

Fazioli F278 Concert Grand
UVI Grand Piano Collection Steinway D Concert Grand

​Steinway D Concert G

Steinway D Concert G
UVI Grand Piano Collection Erard Baby Grand Piano

​ Erard Baby Grand Piano

 Erard Baby Grand Piano
UVI Grand Piano Collection Seiler Upright Grand

​Seiler Upright Grand

Seiler Upright Grand

The GUI is simple and looks like a traditional grand piano, but it lacks features and really that what you need here. You can also change the interface so instead of looking at a visual piano, you will see blue bars that represent the keys.

All it all, we recommend looking somewhere else. One thing we did like is often UVI will have deals running for the Grand Piano Collection and you have a fairly good chance at nabbing this VST for dirt cheap.

UVI Grand Piano Collection is a collection of five grand pianos: Steinway Concert Grand Model D, Fazioli F278 Concert Grand, Erard Baby Grand, Seiler Upright Grand, and the Yamaha C7 Concert Grand.
In all honesty, we found the collection to be underwhelming on almost all fronts. The sounds are OK, but they don’t compete with some of the other piano VSTs on our list. There is just something lacking on the sound front and we even noticed some slight tuning issues on the Erard Baby Grand preset.
The GUI is simple and looks like a traditional grand piano, but it lacks features and really that what you need here. You can also change the interface so instead of looking at a visual piano, you will see blue bars that represent the keys.
All it all, we recommend looking somewhere else. One thing we did like is often UVI will have deals running for the Grand Piano Collection and you have a fairly good chance at nabbing this VST for dirt cheap.

​Soundiron Emotional Piano Player

Soundiron Emotional Piano Player
Soundiron Emotional Piano Player

​Soundiron Emotional Piano Player

Soundiron Emotional Piano Player

​Emotional Piano Player can’t stand alone in being your only piano plugin, however, it’s a great plugin to have in your arsenal and that’s because Emotional Piano Player has a strong and unique sound.

Weighing in at just under 5 GB, Emotional Piano Player can be used in the free Kontakt Player and non-player versions.

Sound wise Emotional Piano Player is well . . . emotional sounding. It’s hard to describe, but you really get a soundtrack-esque piano sound.

Your low notes are dark and soft with some muddiness that adds to the emotional side, and while your high notes are still dark and soft sounding, they have great clarity. 

Because of this, we think the plugin works best when the piano is either by itself in a song or the main focus. We feel that in heavier rock songs or in full-blown orchestral music the piano will probably get a bit too lost in the mix.

Soundiron Emotional Piano Player
Soundiron Emotional Piano Player
Soundiron Emotional Piano Player

You will also find yourself wanting to use reverb a decent amount because of how the sounds were recorded. The sound you get is close and dry. You do have 41 presets to choose from and there are a total of 1761 samples.

There is definitely a place for Emotional Piano Player in your bag of piano VSTs, just don’t count on it to be the only one.

Emotional Piano Player can’t stand alone in being your only piano plugin, however, it’s a great plugin to have in your arsenal and that’s because Emotional Piano Player has a strong and unique sound.
Weighing in at just under 5 GB, Emotional Piano Player can be used in the free Kontakt Player and non-player versions.
Sound wise Emotional Piano Player is well . . . emotional sounding. It’s hard to describe, but you really get a soundtrack-esque piano sound. Your low notes are dark and soft with some muddiness that adds to the emotional side, and while your high notes are still dark and soft sounding, they have great clarity.
Because of this, we think the plugin works best when the piano is either by itself in a song or the main focus. We feel that in heavier rock songs or in full-blown orchestral music the piano will probably get a bit too lost in the mix.
You will also find yourself wanting to use reverb a decent amount because of how the sounds were recorded. The sound you get is close and dry. You do have 41 presets to choose from and there are a total of 1761 samples.
There is definitely a place for Emotional Piano Player in your bag of piano VSTs, just don’t count on it to be the only one.

​EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos

EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos
EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos

​EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos

EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos

​Where Emotional Piano was a card among many, EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos is the whole deck. 263 GB and if you had it shipped to your house it would come on 35 DVDs, so let’s talk about the size.

As you can probably guess there are negatives to this leviathan. First, it will take you an entire day to install all of it, that is if you have the room available for it on your computer.

The patches take a while to load, so patience is the key here. However, if you are patient, you will be rewarded tremendously. 

You have four pianos (Yamaha, Bosendorfer, Bechstein, and Steinway) which were sampled from three positions (room, close, and player’s perspective).

EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos Cover

The sound is all around solid and verges on perfect and all four pianos sound different from each other and with all the articulations you have at your disposal, you can fool anyone into thinking you’re playing an acoustic piano. 

The GUI is very modern looking and holds true to the professionalism of the sound quality. If you can afford the price and computer space, then you should definitely look into EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos.

Where Emotional Piano was a card among many, EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos is the whole deck. 263 GB and if you had it shipped to your house it would come on 35 DVDs, so let’s talk about the size.
As you can probably guess there are negatives to this leviathan. First, it will take you an entire day to install all of it, that is if you have the room available for it on your computer. The patches take a while to load, so patience is the key here. However, if you are patient, you will be rewarded tremendously.
You have four pianos (Yamaha, Bosendorfer, Bechstein, and Steinway) which were sampled from three positions (room, close, and player’s perspective). The sound is all around solid and verges on perfect and all four pianos sound different from each other and with all the articulations you have at your disposal, you can fool anyone into thinking you’re playing an acoustic piano.
The GUI is very modern looking and holds true to the professionalism of the sound quality. If you can afford the price and computer space, then you should definitely look into EastWest Quantum Leap Pianos.

​Toontrack EZKeys

Toontrack EZKeys
Toontrack EZKeys

​Toontrack EZKeys

Toontrack EZKeys

​If you’ve dreamed of having piano in your music, but can’t really play the instrument or find someone to do it for you, then EZKeys is the VST for you

This is because EZKeys comes with a wealth of compositional tools to help you create a wide variety of playing styles. This is most noticeable when you use the Song Track feature. 

When you open up the Song Browser, you will be able to preview files in the library that gives you everything from broken chords to a plethora of genre styles. When it comes to chords, you can basically make whatever chord you can imagine.

When you click on an individual chord, you are presented with the Circle of Fifths (if you’re lost already, you’ll want to do some studying). Here you can change any individual note in the chord, as well as add more or take any away.  

Toontrack EZKeys Fifths

​Circle of Fifths

Toontrack EZKeys Browser

​Browser

While EZKeys is great if you’re not a piano player, it’s not great if you don’t know some music theory. You’ll want to have a decent gripe on chord names, music keys, and various musical techniques and playing styles. EZKeys does provide a PDF to help explain the theory behind many of its music theory features.

So we recommend this plugin to guitarist, vocalist, etc. that can’t play piano, but understand music composition. If you play piano, you’re going to find the real strength of this plugin useless.

If you’ve dreamed of having piano in your music, but can’t really play the instrument or find someone to do it for you, then EZKeys is the VST for you. This is because EZKeys comes with a wealth of compositional tools to help you create a wide variety of playing styles. This is most noticeable when you use the Song Track feature.
When you open up the Song Browser, you will be able to preview files in the library that gives you everything from broken chords to a plethora of genre styles. When it comes to chords, you can basically make whatever chord you can imagine.
When you click on an individual chord, you are presented with the Circle of Fifths (if you’re lost already, you’ll want to do some studying). Here you can change any individual note in the chord, as well as add more or take any away.   
While EZKeys is great if you’re not a piano player, it’s not great if you don’t know some music theory. You’ll want to have a decent gripe on chord names, music keys, and various musical techniques and playing styles. EZKeys does provide a PDF to help explain the theory behind many of its music theory features.
So we recommend this plugin to guitarist, vocalist, etc. that can’t play piano, but understand music composition. If you play piano, you’re going to find the real strength of this plugin useless.

​Arturia Piano V

Arturia Piano V
Arturia Piano V

​Arturia Piano V

Arturia Piano V

​Arturia Piano V is a powerful collection of nine fantastic pianos that can be placed in 14 different rooms giving you a lot of piano-based sounds and opportunities to make incredible piano laced songs. 

Up first are our nine pianos, which include a Classical Upright, Pop Upright, Jazz Upright, Piano-bar Upright, Pop Grand, Concert Grand, Jazz Grand, Glass Grand, and last a Metal Grand.

As noted above, you have 14 rooms these pianos can play in: Small Piano Room, Concert Hall, Classic Concert, Resonant Recital Hall, and Glass Hall to name a few.

To make sure Piano V fits into your mixes, you are given controls for string tension (tuning), unison detuning, stretch tuning, dynamic range and hardness of the hammer, and hammer positions.

Arturia Piano V Interface
Arturia Piano V GUI

Diving further into our features we are given four mics: two close mics and two room mics. 

If you’re looking for a collection of grands and uprights, this VST may be your best bet. Sitting for around $200, Piano V is a pretty good deal for the variety of sounds.

Now, there are better and more realistic sounding piano VSTs on the market, most notably Addictive Keys, so make sure you’re set on Piano V’s sound first.

Arturia Piano V is a powerful collection of nine fantastic pianos that can be placed in 14 different rooms giving you a lot of piano-based sounds and opportunities to make incredible piano laced songs.
Up first are our nine pianos, which include a Classical Upright, Pop Upright, Jazz Upright, Piano-bar Upright, Pop Grand, Concert Grand, Jazz Grand, Glass Grand, and last a Metal Grand.
As noted above, you have 14 rooms these pianos can play in: Small Piano Room, Concert Hall, Classic Concert, Resonant Recital Hall, and Glass Hall to name a few.
To make sure Piano V fits into your mixes, you are given controls for string tension (tuning), unison detuning, stretch tuning, dynamic range and hardness of the hammer, and hammer positions. Diving further into our features we are given four mics: two close mics and two room mics.
If you’re looking for a collection of grands and uprights, this VST may be your best bet. Sitting for around $200, Piano V is a pretty good deal for the variety of sounds. Now, there are better and more realistic sounding piano VSTs on the market, most notably Addictive Keys, so make sure you’re set on Piano V’s sound first.

​Synthogy Ivory II

Synthogy Ivory II
Synthogy Ivory II

​Synthogy Ivory II

Synthogy Ivory II

​We mentioned that we like the sound quality of other piano VSTs more in our list when reviewing Arturia Piano V; well Synthogy’s Ivory II is one of those. 

Though for Ivory II a better quality sound brings along issues. Most notably are the long load times and its ability to hog the CPU.

You could have guessed that this would be the case, however, just by reading the specs.

Ivory II Grand Pianos is a 77 GB collection of four pianos: Bösendorfer 290 Imperial, a Steinway D nine-footer and a Yamaha C7. We are confident in saying that they all sound wonderful and distinctive from one another.

With controls like Key Noise and various timbre controls, you can really manipulate your chosen piano’s tone and sound allowing you to find the sweet spot in the mix.

Synthogy Ivory II Session
Synthogy Ivory II Program

This leaves you with a fantastic sounding piano VST plugin that is very easy to play. The GUI looks great and finds the perfect balance between complicated and simplistic.

Besides the load times and CPU demand, our only other criticism is the lack of mic controls. This seems like an odd thing to forget given how much control you have over everything else.

We mentioned that we like the sound quality of other piano VSTs more in our list when reviewing Arturia Piano V; well Synthogy’s Ivory II is one of those.
Though for Ivory II a better quality sound brings along issues. Most notably are the long load times and its ability to hog the CPU. You could have guessed that this would be the case, however, just by reading the specs.
Ivory II Grand Pianos is a 77 GB collection of four pianos: Bösendorfer 290 Imperial, a Steinway D nine-footer and a Yamaha C7. We are confident in saying that they all sound wonderful and distinctive from one another.
With controls like Key Noise and various timbre controls, you can really manipulate your chosen piano’s tone and sound allowing you to find the sweet spot in the mix.
This leaves you with a fantastic sounding piano VST plugin that is very easy to play. The GUI looks great and finds the perfect balance between complicated and simplistic. Besides the load times and CPU demand, our only other criticism is the lack of mic controls. This seems like an odd thing to forget given how much control you have over everything else.

​IRCAM Prepared Piano

IRCAM Prepared Piano
IRCAM Prepared Piano

​IRCAM Prepared Piano

IRCAM Prepared Piano

​Welcome to the world of the weird, strange, and bloody good fun sound experimentation and manipulation. So get your John Cage game face on and step into the world of IRCAM Prepared Piano.

If you’re thinking “who the hell is John Cage”, then you probably want to walk away because this is anything, but a traditional piano VST. The sounds here are beautiful wonky and strange, and fans of avant-garde music will rejoice.

In the plugin, you are given a Yamaha C7 with a nice selection of preparations including rubber erasers, paper, and clothes pegs to name a few. There are 45 preparations in all.

IRCAM Prepared Piano Controls

And of course, you can play the piano strings with mallets, fingers, and an Ebow among other things. Don’t worry you can play in a traditional manner as well.  

We did find issues with long load times in the VST, so this will probably be better suited in the studio as opposed to the stage. The GUI verges more on the complex side of things.

These are all things to be expected honestly because that is just the nature of prepared instruments. So if you love complexity and creating new sounds, check out IRCAM Prepared Piano.

Welcome to the world of the weird, strange, and bloody good fun sound experimentation and manipulation. So get your John Cage game face on and step into the world of IRCAM Prepared Piano.
If you’re thinking “who the hell is John Cage”, then you probably want to walk away because this is anything, but a traditional piano VST. The sounds here are beautiful wonky and strange, and fans of avant-garde music will rejoice.
In the plugin, you are given a Yamaha C7 with a nice selection of preparations including rubber erasers, paper, and clothes pegs to name a few. There are 45 preparations in all. And of course, you can play the piano strings with mallets, fingers, and an Ebow among other things. Don’t worry you can play in a traditional manner as well.  
We did find issues with long load times in the VST, so this will probably be better suited in the studio as opposed to the stage. The GUI verges more on the complex side of things. These are all things to be expected honestly because that is just the nature of prepared instruments. So if you love complexity and creating new sounds, check out IRCAM Prepared Piano.

​Pianoteq 5

Pianoteq 5
Pianoteq 5

​Pianoteq 5

Pianoteq 5

​First, let’s talk about the different versions that are available for this VST.

Pianoteq 5 Pro comes in as the most expensive version and offers so many features that you can decently replicate the prepared piano setups similar to what you saw with IRCAM Prepared Piano. 

This is the only version that supports 192 kHz audio, note-per-note edit, and thousands of editable overtones. This will run you over $500, so it’s a big buy for many.

Next, we have the Standard version. While you lose the high sample-rate support and note-per note edit, you still have piano model tweaking, microphones settings, and eternal reverb impulses. This version runs you a few hundred dollars less than the Pro version.

Last, at our most basic, is the Stage version. This time you lose piano model tweaking, microphone settings, and eternal reverb impulses, but you still have two instrument packs, EQ, velocity curve, and reverb like you do for the other two versions.

Pianoteq 5 Pro

For us, the Pro is the strongest version and warrants the asking price. We say this because Pianoteq 5 handles complexity very well and that is the plugin’s strongest feature.

It’s a powerhouse and a be-all and end-all kind of piano VST.  It begs to be the only piano VST in your arsenal because it is the whole damn arsenal and it looks and sounds great doing so.

It’s not a beginner VST by any means, but it doesn’t pretend to be.

First, let’s talk about the different versions that are available for this VST.
Pianoteq 5 Pro comes in as the most expensive version and offers so many features that you can decently replicate the prepared piano setups similar to what you saw with IRCAM Prepared Piano. This is the only version that supports 192 kHz audio, note-per-note edit, and thousands of editable overtones. This will run you over $500, so it’s a big buy for many.
Next, we have the Standard version. While you lose the high sample-rate support and note-per note edit, you still have piano model tweaking, microphones settings, and eternal reverb impulses. This version runs you a few hundred dollars less than the Pro version.
Last, at our most basic, is the Stage version. This time you lose piano model tweaking, microphone settings, and eternal reverb impulses, but you still have two instrument packs, EQ, velocity curve, and reverb like you do for the other two versions.
For us, the Pro is the strongest version and warrants the asking price. We say this because Pianoteq 5 handles complexity very well and that is the plugin’s strongest feature. It’s a powerhouse and a be-all and end-all kind of piano VST.  It begs to be the only piano VST in your arsenal because it is the whole damn arsenal and it looks and sounds great doing so.
It’s not a beginner VST by any means, but it doesn’t pretend to be.

​Guitars

Guitars

​Acousticsamples Sunbird Acoustic Guitar
(Our Recommendation)

Acousticsamples Sunbird acoustic guitar (Our Recommendation)

Acousticsamples Sunbird acoustic guitar

​Acousticsamples Sunbird

Acousticsamples Sunbird

​Based on the 1962 Gibson Hummingbird, Acousticsamples Sunbird is one, if not the most realistic sounding guitar VSTs out there. 

Sunbird is simply gorgeous and shines the most when playing chords, but that isn't all Sunbird can do.

Sunbird comes with four modes: ​

  • ​Solo mode allows you to play single notes creating wonderful sounding melodies
  • ​Chord mode gives you the ability to easily do both strumming and picking
  • ​Patterns mode does it all for you
  • ​MIDI mode lets you use your favorite MIDI guitar controller

With the integrated song builder you can quickly create songs. And trust us, Acousticsamples covers all your guitar needs when creating songs.

Acousticsamples Sunbird Song Builder
Acousticsamples Sunbird Pattern

There are 67 patterns for strumming, picking, and advance playing styles. 39 different samples per fret, and of course all 21 frets are sampled on all strings. You can choose from multiple velocities for hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, pre-notes, mutes, and ghost notes.

Sunbird GUI matches the quality of the sound with its ease of use and clean, but detailed “dashboard”. Even better is the VST is light on your CPU. All in all, Sunbird is our choice when it comes to guitar VSTs.

Based on the 1962 Gibson Hummingbird, Acousticsamples Sunbird is one, if not the most realistic sounding guitar VSTs out there.
Sunbird is simply gorgeous and shines the most when playing chords, but that isn't all Sunbird can do.
Sunbird comes with four modes: Solo mode allows you to play single notes creating wonderful sounding melodies, Chord mode gives you the ability to easily do both strumming and picking, Patterns mode does it all for you, and the MIDI mode lets you use your favorite MIDI guitar controller.
With the integrated song builder you can quickly create songs. And trust us, Acousticsamples covers all your guitar needs when creating songs.
There are 67 patterns for strumming, picking, and advance playing styles. 39 different samples per fret, and of course all 21 frets are sampled on all strings. You can choose from multiple velocities for hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, pre-notes, mutes, and ghost notes.
Sunbird GUI matches the quality of the sound with its ease of use and clean, but detailed “dashboard”. Even better is the VST is light on your CPU. All in all, Sunbird is our choice when it comes to guitar VSTs.

​MusicLab RealGuitar

MusicLab RealGuitar
MusicLab RealGuitar

​MusicLab RealGuitar

MusicLab RealGuitar

​RealGuitar is similar to Sunbird in the features it has. For sound quality, we feel that RealGuitar doesn’t match Sunbird’s quality however.

It’s not by much, but we can’t help but noticing that RealGuitar just misses the mark when it comes to a convincing sounding guitar. This is most noticeable when the guitar is strumming chords as it comes off a bit too stiff.

This doesn’t mean that RealGuitar sounds bad. Plus, the plugin is incredibly easy to use, and you can choose from eight different guitar models including nylon and 12-string.  

You have the option to tweak the EQ of each which opens you up to multitudes of guitar sounds. RealGuitar gives you the option to throw tremolo and chorus effects on your guitar.

It seems odd though that there are no reverb effects. It seems like a simple oversight, and it’s one that could improve upon the realism factor, so hopefully, with future versions we’ll see reverb introduced.

Overall, we say grab this VST if you mainly want to use if for composing more so than actual recording.

RealGuitar is similar to Sunbird in the features it has. For sound quality, we feel that RealGuitar doesn’t match Sunbird’s quality however.
It’s not by much, but we can’t help but noticing that RealGuitar just misses the mark when it comes to a convincing sounding guitar. This is most noticeable when the guitar is strumming chords as it comes off a bit too stiff.
This doesn’t mean that RealGuitar sounds bad. Plus, the plugin is incredibly easy to use, and you can choose from eight different guitar models including nylon and 12-string.  
You have the option to tweak the EQ of each which opens you up to multitudes of guitar sounds. RealGuitar gives you the option to throw tremolo and chorus effects on your guitar.
It seems odd though that there are no reverb effects. It seems like a simple oversight, and it’s one that could improve upon the realism factor, so hopefully, with future versions we’ll see reverb introduced.
Overall, we say grab this VST if you mainly want to use if for composing more so than actual recording.

​IK Multimedia AmpliTube 4

IK Multimedia AmpliTube 4
IK Multimedia AmpliTube 4

​IK Multimedia AmpliTube 4

IK Multimedia AmpliTube 4

​AmpliTube has a lot of features, so let’s do a quick rundown. You have 10 stompboxes, nine amplifiers, 10 cabinets, 39 speaker models, four microphones, two rack effect units, and two tuners because you can never have enough tuners.

The Cab Room feature will make any gearhead giggle in delight.

There is simply something fun about being able to just move your mic placements around the cabs. 

You can also swap out individual speakers, change the room environments, and in the mixer section you can mix the levels of the speaker mics, room ambience, direct amp signal, and overall mix. 

IK Multimedia AmpliTube 4 Loop FX
IK Multimedia AmpliTube 4 British Amps

We think AmpliTube 4 sounds great and makes the case for itself as a top of the line amp replication VST. Some will find the amp selection to be limiting and gimmicky.

AmpliTube 4 shows every preset they have ever created, however, you won’t be able to use all of them unless you purchase them separately from the main VST. We know it’s a nice way for them to show users the variety of presets potentially available, but at the same time, it feels like a kick in the gut.  

Besides that, we don’t really have a complaint of the fantastic sounding AmpliTube 4.

AmpliTube has a lot of features, so let’s do a quick rundown. You have 10 stompboxes, nine amplifiers, 10 cabinets, 39 speaker models, four microphones, two rack effect units, and two tuners because you can never have enough tuners.
The Cab Room feature will make any gearhead giggle in delight. There is simply something fun about being able to just move your mic placements around the cabs. You can also swap out individual speakers, change the room environments, and in the mixer section you can mix the levels of the speaker mics, room ambience, direct amp signal, and overall mix.
We think AmpliTube 4 sounds great and makes the case for itself as a top of the line amp replication VST. Some will find the amp selection to be limiting and gimmicky.
AmpliTube 4 shows every preset they have ever created, however, you won’t be able to use all of them unless you purchase them separately from the main VST. We know it’s a nice way for them to show users the variety of presets potentially available, but at the same time, it feels like a kick in the gut.  Besides that, we don’t really have a complaint of the fantastic sounding AmpliTube 4.

​Vir2 Electri6ity

Vir2 Electri6ity
Vir2 Electri6ity

​Vir2 Electri6ity

Vir2 Electri6ity

​With over 24,000 24-bit samples from eight classic guitars, Electri6ity goes far to create an immersive and in-depth VST that will leave you spending hours upon hours fine-tuning your sound.

This can be a good thing. Case in point, you have a Strat, Tele, P90, Les Paul, Rickenbacker, Danelectro Lipstick, and an L4 all to choose from. This is a nice selection of guitars that will give you the ability to achieve a wide range of sounds.

The sound itself is fantastic and you are able to add effects such as phaser, flanger, chorus, reverb, and delay. These effects are driven into the screamer modular, which besides having a similar name, the screamer modular even looks like the classic Ibanez Tubescreamer.

Vir2 Electri6ity Amp
Vir2 Electri6ity Settings

But the in-depth detail can bring the VST down. Even though the samples are streamed from the Hard disk, the VST hits your RAM hard. One Instrument alone can consume around 700MB.

This also creates a learning curve for users, but how big of one is hard to say. You can create great sounds with just a little bit of learning, but to fully utilize the VST you’re going to be spending quite some time figuring it all out.

With over 24,000 24-bit samples from eight classic guitars, Electri6ity goes far to create an immersive and in-depth VST that will leave you spending hours upon hours fine-tuning your sound.
This can be a good thing. Case in point, you have a Strat, Tele, P90, Les Paul, Rickenbacker, Danelectro Lipstick, and an L4 all to choose from. This is a nice selection of guitars that will give you the ability to achieve a wide range of sounds.
The sound itself is fantastic and you are able to add effects such as phaser, flanger, chorus, reverb, and delay. These effects are driven into the screamer modular, which besides having a similar name, the screamer modular even looks like the classic Ibanez Tubescreamer.
But the in-depth detail can bring the VST down. Even though the samples are streamed from the Hard disk, the VST hits your RAM hard. One Instrument alone can consume around 700MB.
This also creates a learning curve for users, but how big of one is hard to say. You can create great sounds with just a little bit of learning, but to fully utilize the VST you’re going to be spending quite some time figuring it all out.

​Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5

Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5
Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5

​Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5

Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5

​Guitar Rig 5 features 17 amps, 27 cabinets, eight microphones – the Pro version doubles this – and 54 effects. This VST has an ocean of sounds, but the control room will attack your computer’s CPU, and not all of the modules sound great.  

NI covers their bases well with this VST. You can choose from three Plexi replicas, two Citrus amps (we’ll let you figure out that replica brand), and a number of other classics like the Twin Reverb, Dual Rectifier, AC30, the list goes on.

While we don’t see it being used much for professional recording, it’s a great tool to figure out what sound you want to use for the studio and how to achieve it with physical instruments.

Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5 Browser
Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5 Components

We spent countless hours just messing around in the control room blending all the mics, amps, cabs, etc. together creating a wealth of finely tuned tones.

Don’t get us wrong though, Guitar Rig 5 is a great sounding VST and is top of the line when it comes to amp simulation. But for the pricey $450 we would have liked to see the sound quality be consistent among all the models.  

Guitar Rig 5 features 17 amps, 27 cabinets, eight microphones – the Pro version doubles this – and 54 effects. This VST has an ocean of sounds, but the control room will attack your computer’s CPU, and not all of the modules sound great.  
NI covers their bases well with this VST. You can choose from three Plexi replicas, two Citrus amps (we’ll let you figure out that replica brand), and a number of other classics like the Twin Reverb, Dual Rectifier, AC30, the list goes on.
While we don’t see it being used much for professional recording, it’s a great tool to figure out what sound you want to use for the studio and how to achieve it with physical instruments. We spent countless hours just messing around in the control room blending all the mics, amps, cabs, etc. together creating a wealth of finely tuned tones.
Don’t get us wrong though, Guitar Rig 5 is a great sounding VST and is top of the line when it comes to amp simulation. But for the pricey $450 we would have liked to see the sound quality be consistent among all the models. 

​Vir2 Fractured: Prepared Acoustic Guitar

Vir2 Fractured: Prepared Acoustic Guitar
​Vir2 Fractured: Prepared Acoustic Guitar

​Vir2 Fractured: Prepared Acoustic Guitar

Vir2 Fractured Prepared Acoustic Guitar

​Fractured: Prepared Acoustic Guitar is a lovely little oddball that stands out among the all too common and almost to the point of being bland VSTs that dominate the market.

You might be wondering how we can make such an outlandish statement! Well, all you have to do is take a listen. Every sound and we promise you, every sound you hear was made from an acoustic guitar.

How they got some of the sounds is beyond us, but we are glad they did. The Arpeggiate setting left us feeling like we were listening to “Rain Dogs” by Tom Waits.

It’s hard to describe the sounds because they are so all over the place. They are quirky, odd, fun, ridiculous, but rather usable and they sound complete sonically by themselves.  

Vir2 Fractured Prepared Acoustic Guitar Arpeggiate
Vir2 Fractured Prepared Acoustic Guitar Flights Down

There are 104 instruments to choose from, that are divided into five major categories: Chromatic Kits, Drum Kits, Melodic, Pads & SFX, and Tempo Synced. Like we said before, you’ll just have to hear it to know what the hell we are talking about.

Vir2 has created a wonderful VST that will only run you $100 and it’s a great buy if you’re into weird and creative sounds.

Fractured: Prepared Acoustic Guitar is a lovely little oddball that stands out among the all too common and almost to the point of being bland VSTs that dominate the market.
You might be wondering how we can make such an outlandish statement! Well, all you have to do is take a listen. Every sound and we promise you, every sound you hear was made from an acoustic guitar.
How they got some of the sounds is beyond us, but we are glad they did. The Arpeggiate setting left us feeling like we were listening to “Rain Dogs” by Tom Waits.
It’s hard to describe the sounds because they are so all over the place. They are quirky, odd, fun, ridiculous, but rather usable and they sound complete sonically by themselves.  
There are 104 instruments to choose from, that are divided into five major categories: Chromatic Kits, Drum Kits, Melodic, Pads & SFX, and Tempo Synced. Like we said before, you’ll just have to hear it to know what the hell we are talking about.
Vir2 has created a wonderful VST that will only run you $100 and it’s a great buy if you’re into weird and creative sounds.

​8Dio Guitars

8Dio Guitars
8Dio Guitars

​8Dio Guitars

8Dio Guitars

​8Dio Guitars is an incredibly deep collection of seven guitars including steel string, electric, 12-string, nylon, Dobro, ukulele, and a mandolin. These are then divided into two libraries titled: Solo Guitar and True Strum-based Guitar.

Each guitar plugin will run you either $150 or $200 depending on which one you purchase.

All of the guitars come jammed packed with features. Looking at the electric guitar version you have: 15 electric guitar solo presets, and 13 Strummer Chords in 12 keys and 13 Rhythms.

The Dobro version is even more packed with 18 Dobro Guitar Solo presets and 18 rhythms.
The sound quality is nice as well and warrants the price for each.

8Dio Guitars Mandolin
8Dio Guitars Dobro
8Dio Guitars Steel String

Once you get familiar with the bend wheels, allowing you to bend both up and down, you can create some realistic sounding tones.  

The GUI both succeeds and fails for us. It’s easy to navigate around and use, but all the interfaces are so similar and dark it creates a monotone effect. The GUI often comes off looking like a menu in a video game.  

If that doesn’t bother you, then you should check out 8Dio’s collection of guitar and other strings.

8Dio Guitars is an incredibly deep collection of seven guitars including steel string, electric, 12-string, nylon, Dobro, ukulele, and a mandolin. These are then divided into two libraries titled: Solo Guitar and True Strum-based Guitar.
Each guitar plugin will run you either $150 or $200 depending on which one you purchase. All of the guitars come jammed packed with features. Looking at the electric guitar version you have: 15 electric guitar solo presets, and 13 Strummer Chords in 12 keys and 13 Rhythms.
The Dobro version is even more packed with 18 Dobro Guitar Solo presets and 18 rhythms.
The sound quality is nice as well and warrants the price for each. Once you get familiar with the bend wheels, allowing you to bend both up and down, you can create some realistic sounding tones.  
The GUI both succeeds and fails for us. It’s easy to navigate around and use, but all the interfaces are so similar and dark it creates a monotone effect. The GUI often comes off looking like a menu in a video game.  
If that doesn’t bother you, then you should check out 8Dio’s collection of guitar and other strings.

​Bass (Guitar)

Bass (Guitar)

IK Multimedia Modo Bass (Our Recommendation)


IK Multimedia Modo Bass

​IK Multimedia Modo Bass

IK Multimedia Modo Bass

​Mo​do Bass blows us away. It’s the first physically modeled bass guitar and baby, is it fantastic sounding.

To describe the sound, we will simply say turn around and have a friend play both Mondo Bass and a physical bass. Hear the one that sounds better? That would be Mo​do Bass!

Are we exaggerating a bit, well yeah! But honestly, Mo​do Bass will actually sound better than some fairly good physical basses out there. Your bass list includes ‘60s P-Bass, ‘70 P-Bass, ’70 J-Bass, Modern J-Bass, Devil Bass, Violin Bass, and on.

You have 12 basses to choose from in all, with seven stompbox effects, and two amp models (one solid-state and one tube based on AmpliTube). There are 20 interchangeable pickup models and three playing styles (Puck, Slap, and Pick) which can be switched at any time.

IK Multimedia Modo Bass Style
IK Multimedia Modo Bass Strings

The GUI is wonderful as well. It has a lovely color tone and navigating is a breeze with everything lying right out in front of your eyes without it feeling encumbered.

There is no reason that this shouldn’t be your go-to bass VST and $300 for it is a steal in our opinion.


The GUI is wonderful as well. It has a lovely color tone and navigating is a breeze with everything lying right out in front of your eyes without it feeling encumbered.
There is no reason that this shouldn’t be your go-to bass VST and $300 for it is a steal in our opinion.

​DSK BassZ (Free)

DSK BassZ (Free)
DSK BassZ

​DSK BassZ

DSK BassZ

​DSK BassZ is a nice little introduction into the world of bass VSTs and just VST plugins in general. It’s very simple in design, which fits perfectly with what this little plugin can do. 

The GUI is broken into four sections. Up top is where you can select from 24 bass sounds comprise of acoustic and synth tones.

Underneath you’ll find three main boxes: Envelope, Master, and Filter. The envelope section has basic ADSR parameters. The master section controls volume, pan, and fine. And the Filter section has HP, LP, res, and cut. 

We find that it plays out of tune a lot and using the “fine” parameter does nothing to help.

It’s hard to hate on the plugin since it’s free, and while simple and out of tune, we are sure some creative mind will find use in it. All in all, it’s a plugin that gets your feet wet. Well, it more splashes water onto them.

DSK BassZ is a nice little introduction into the world of bass VSTs and just VST plugins in general. It’s very simple in design, which fits perfectly with what this little plugin can do.
The GUI is broken into four sections. Up top is where you can select from 24 bass sounds comprise of acoustic and synth tones. Underneath you’ll find three main boxes: Envelope, Master, and Filter. The envelope section has basic ADSR parameters. The master section controls volume, pan, and fine. And the Filter section has HP, LP, res, and cut.
We find that it plays out of tune a lot and using the “fine” parameter does nothing to help.
It’s hard to hate on the plugin since it’s free, and while simple and out of tune, we are sure some creative mind will find use in it. All in all, it’s a plugin that gets your feet wet. Well, it more splashes water onto them.

​Samsara Cycle Om Bass 2

Samsara Cycle Om Bass 2
Samsara Cycle Om Bass 2

​Samsara Cycle Om Bass 2

Samsara Cycle Om Bass 2

​OM ​​Bass 2 is another free bass VST on our list. Om Bass 2 is more complex than BassZ both in features and look of the GUI.  

Features for Bass 2 include a graphic EQ, flanger, delay, tremolo, distortion, tone velocity, adjustable string buzz, mod wheel, and MIDI learn.

It’s a decent amount of features for being free, plus you get 128 presets. 

The interface layout is simple but nice, and since there is an image of a bass that takes up half the screen, you feel like you’re actually playing a bass as opposed to BassZ.

However, this may backfire on you and you wind up feeling like you’re playing a lo-fi 90’s computer game. Speaking of the 90’s, the sound actually reminds us of lo-fi bass lines you’d hear in 90’s computer games.

​Overall, here is our recommendation if you’re looking to get into the tiny world of bass VSTs. Try out both BassZ and Om Bass 2, because why not and maybe you’ll find some interesting tones, and you’ll learn a bit about common features in VSTs.

​After you’re done with those go and grab Modo Bass. We know it’s pricey for beginners, but trust us; you get an incredible wealth of godly bass tones without having to spend $1000+ on the physical basses.  

​Drum Kits

Drum Kits
OM bass 2 is another free bass VST on our list. Om Bass 2 is more complex than BassZ both in features and look of the GUI.  
Features for Bass 2 include a graphic EQ, flanger, delay, tremolo, distortion, tone velocity, adjustable string buzz, mod wheel, and MIDI learn. It’s a decent amount of features for being free, plus you get 128 presets.
The interface layout is simple but nice, and since there is an image of a bass that takes up half the screen, you feel like you’re actually playing a bass as opposed to BassZ.
However, this may backfire on you and you wind up feeling like you’re playing a lo-fi 90’s computer game. Speaking of the 90’s, the sound actually reminds us of lo-fi bass lines you’d hear in 90’s computer games.
Overall, here is our recommendation if you’re looking to get into the tiny world of bass VSTs. Try out both BassZ and Om Bass 2, because why not and maybe you’ll find some interesting tones, and you’ll learn a bit about common features in VSTs.
After you’re done with those go and grab Modo Bass. We know it’s pricey for beginners, but trust us; you get an incredible wealth of godly bass tones without having to spend $1000+ on the physical basses. 

​FXpansion BFD 3 (Our Recommendation)

FXpansion BFD 3 (Our Recommendation)

FXpansion BFD 3

​FXpansion BFD 3

FXpansion BFD 3

​Let’s talk about the sound of BFD 3 first, because dammit if this bad boy doesn’t sound like an acoustic kit to you then we don’t know of any other drum VST that will. 

The drums have meticulously been samples from acoustic drums; you have up to 80 sample layers for snare alone.

And don’t worry, you can pretty much play any articulation you want. Drags, rimshots and clicks, etc. are all there for articulations on the snare, and you have 13 different articulations for hi-hat alone. 

If you have ever recorded an acoustic kit, you know how important and critical it is to mic everything properly, and how much more difficult it is to mix drums as opposed to some other instruments, piano for example.

That’s where BFD 3 shines and why it might just be easier to use the VST instead of using a drummer on an acoustic kit.

FXpansion BFD 3 Groove Editor
FXpansion BFD 3 Effects

We know it’s sacrilegious, but we’re trying to get our point across. You have a wealth of mixing options, and mics and mic placements to choose from, and you can put your virtual drums in the best room possible for the sound you desire.

The CPU load is light as well, and the GUI is simply fantastic and an improvement over BFD 2. In our opinion, there is no better virtual drum kit, and you’re doing you’re a disservice if you don’t check it out.

Let’s talk about the sound first, because dammit if this bad boy doesn’t sound like an acoustic kit to you then we don’t know of any other drum VST that will.
The drums have meticulously been samples from acoustic drums; you have up to 80 sample layers for snare alone. And don’t worry, you can pretty much play any articulation you want. Drags, rimshots and clicks, etc. are all there for articulations on the snare, and you have 13 different articulations for hi-hat alone.
If you have ever recorded an acoustic kit, you know how important and critical it is to mic everything properly, and how much more difficult it is to mix drums as opposed to some other instruments, piano for example. That’s where BFD 3 shines and why it might just be easier to use the VST instead of using a drummer on an acoustic kit.
We know it’s sacrilegious, but we’re trying to get our point across. You have a wealth of mixing options, and mics and mic placements to choose from, and you can put your virtual drums in the best room possible for the sound you desire.
The CPU load is light as well, and the GUI is simply fantastic and an improvement over BFD 2. In our opinion, there is no better virtual drum kit, and you’re doing you’re a disservice if you don’t check it out.

​XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2

XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2
XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2

​XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2

XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2

​There emerges a challenger to BFD 3, and that would be Addictive Drums 2

The biggest reason you should choose Addictive Drums 2 over BFD 3 is if you’re already familiar with Addictive Keys. It is visually and functionally similar and you’ll find it a breeze to jump from Addictive Keys to Addictive Drums 2.

Kit size has improved from Drums 1 to Drums 2 with six new kit piece slots; bringing you up to 18 in all now. You can really get nitty and gritty on tone shaping with the Tone Designer feature. And when matched with the Response feature you have a powerful combo.

The sound is fantastic; we almost immediately stumbled on some wonderful Queens of the Stone Age deep and reverby sounding drums. Plus, we really like the ease of use and look of the GUI.

XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2 Plugin
XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2 Gallery

Addictive Drums 2 does come with some issues, however. There is no integrated sequencer or complex bleed function. This is design this way on purpose; XLN wants to keep things simple. But ugh, we would have preferred those features to be included.

To be honest, the fact that there isn’t is what made us recommend FXpansion BFD 3 over Drums 2.

There emerges a challenger to BFD 3 and that would be Addictive Drums 2.
The biggest reason you should choose Addictive Drums 2 over BFD 3 is if you’re already familiar with Addictive Keys. It is visually and functionally similar and you’ll find it a breeze to jump from Addictive Keys to Addictive Drums 2.
Kit size has improved from Drums 1 to Drums 2 with six new kit piece slots; bringing you up to 18 in all now. You can really get nitty and gritty on tone shaping with the Tone Designer feature. And when matched with the Response feature you have a powerful combo.
The sound is fantastic; we almost immediately stumbled on some wonderful Queens of the Stone Age deep and reverby sounding drums. Plus, we really like the ease of use and look of the GUI.
Addictive Drums 2 does come with some issues, however. There is no integrated sequencer or complex bleed function. This is design this way on purpose; XLN wants to keep things simple. But ugh, we would have preferred those features to be included. To be honest, the fact that there isn’t is what made us recommend FXpansion BFD 3 over Drums 2.

​SONiVOX Tony Coleman Drums

SONiVOX Tony Coleman Drums
SONiVOX Tony Coleman Drums

​SONiVOX Tony Coleman Drums

SONiVOX Tony Coleman Drums

​Soul, funk, and blues are Tony Coleman’s genres and these are the genres where the VST shines. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Coleman, he was the drummer for the late and great B.B. King.

So where does this VST stand among other drum VIs?

Well, first thing first is you only have one kit to choose from. This may send off red flags for you, but don’t worry, SONiVOX knows how to erase your fears.

  • First, this kit sounds great for the genres mentioned above, plus you’re able to EQ your kit’s sound to a decent degree. 
  • ​Second, the price point justifies the lack of multiple kits. It’s currently only $50 and the plugin sounds amazingly realistic.  
  • ​Third, because of the simplistic design, Tony Coleman Drums is ridiculously light on CPU.

​Tony Coleman Drums definitely have their place in the VI drum world. It is incredibly easy to create fantastic sounding blues, soul, and funk sounds with a wealth of drum techniques and articulations. 

The single drum kit prevents it from being great for musicians that want a more rock-oriented sound, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then you should probably move on.  

Soul, funk, and blues are Tony Coleman’s genres and these are the genres where the VST shines. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Coleman, he was the drummer for the late and great B.B. King.
So where does this VST stand among other drum VIs? Well, first thing first is you only have one kit to choose from. This may send off red flags for you, but don’t worry, SONiVOX knows how to erase your fears.
First, this kit sounds great for the genres mentioned above, plus you’re able to EQ your kit’s sound to a decent degree.
Second, the price point justifies the lack of multiple kits. It’s currently only $50 and the plugin sounds amazingly realistic.  
Third, because of the simplistic design, Tony Coleman Drums is ridiculously light on CPU.
Tony Coleman Drums definitely have their place in the VI drum world. It is incredibly easy to create fantastic sounding blues, soul, and funk sounds with a wealth of drum techniques and articulations. The single drum kit prevents it from being great for musicians that want a more rock-oriented sound, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then you should probably move on. 

​SONiVOX Big Bang Universal Drums

SONiVOX Big Bang Universal Drums
SONiVOX Big Bang Universal Drums

​SONiVOX Big Bang Universal Drums

SONiVOX Big Bang Universal Drums

​The number one thing that holds back Big Bang Universal Drums is it’s beyond glitchy. We decided to see if others had the same problems we did, and the results were not good for Big Band Universal Drums. We saw constant criticism of glitchy installation to the plugin constantly crashing. 

We usually like taking a fair and understanding approach to our reviews. We always try and find a way to highlight each VST and why they may be better suited for you based on your needs than others. Here, we simply cannot.

Beyond all the crashes most seem to experience, we simply didn’t care for the sound quality of the drum samples. The GUI looks nice and is simple to use, but there is an incredible lack of tweaking ability. It even ran our CPU way more than it should have, adding insult to injury.

All in all, just look somewhere else. We know SONiVOX can make a great drum plugin, just look at the Tony Coleman Drums, but they have so much work to do here to improve Big Bang Universal Drums.

The number one thing that holds back Big Bang Universal Drums is it’s beyond glitchy. We decided to see if others had the same problems we did, and the results were not good for Big Band Universal Drums. We saw constant criticism of glitchy installation to the plugin constantly crashing.
We usually like taking a fair and understanding approach to our reviews. We always try and find a way to highlight each VST and why they may be better suited for you based on your needs than others. Here, we simply cannot.
Beyond all the crashes most seem to experience, we simply didn’t care for the sound quality of the drum samples. The GUI looks nice and is simple to use, but there is an incredible lack of tweaking ability. It even ran our CPU way more than it should have, adding insult to injury.
All in all, just look somewhere else. We know SONiVOX can make a great drum plugin, just look at the Tony Coleman Drums, but they have so much work to do here to improve Big Bang Universal Drums.

​SONiVOX Blue Jay Drums

SONiVOX Blue Jay Drums
SONiVOX Blue Jay Drums

​SONiVOX Blue Jay Drums

SONiVOX Blue Jay Drums

​Blue Jay Drums samples come from recording small and large ambient versions of a 15-piece Yamaha Maple Custom drum set. This includes DW and Yamaha snares, a Paiste hi-hat, and Zildjian cymbals. 

The plugin is only $20, so there isn’t much here, to be honest. But that’s OK. The GUI is simple, but has a nice layout and is easy on the eyes.

SONiVOX is quick to name drop, citing the likes of Carly Simon, Alice Cooper, Boston, and so many others that have recorded at Blue Jay Studios.

Our view is that you should check out the trial version if Blue Jay Studios is something you’ve paid attention to in the past. There isn’t a lot here, but it’s not an expensive purchase by any means.

Blue Jay Drums samples come from recording small and large ambient versions of a 15-piece Yamaha Maple Custom drum set. This includes DW and Yamaha snares, a Paiste hi-hat, and Zildjian cymbals.
The plugin is only $20, so there isn’t much here, to be honest. But that’s OK. The GUI is simple, but has a nice layout and is easy on the eyes.
SONiVOX is quick to name drop, citing the likes of Carly Simon, Alice Cooper, Boston, and so many others that have recorded at Blue Jay Studios.
Our view is that you should check out the trial version if Blue Jay Studios is something you’ve paid attention to in the past. There isn’t a lot here, but it’s not an expensive purchase by any means.

​Orchestral

Orchestral

​UVI Orchestral Suite (Our Recommendation)

UVI Orchestral Suite (Our Recommendation)

UVI Orchestral Suite

​UVI Orchestral Suite

UVI Orchestral Suite

​A leviathan of a VST, all you have to do is take a listen to Orchestral Suite to know why we recommend it. 

Often, VSTs get plagued with the notion that they sound fake and can never replicate an acoustic instrument. Our argument to that is just take a listen to Orchestral Suite.

You have access to over 60 classical instruments that include strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, a full choir, and more. Gorgeous sounding harps are met with potent harpsichords and so on and so forth. The VST comes in at a whopping 4.62 GB.

All of the common articulations that you would expect to find are here and the legatos, staccatos, and sustains all sound fantastic and realistic.

For the price ($200) it is almost impossible to beat this VST and when searching around the web, everyone seems to be in agreement on this.

UVI Orchestral Suite Selections

Our tip for this incredible plugin is get used to using reverb. All sounds of Orchestral Suite were recorded through close-mic’d sources, and this leaves the sound dry with little note of the stage or ambiance.

This is not a bad thing at all, however. Often orchestral VST wash their sounds in reverb and while it helps to improve the sound, it leaves the sound static with little room to tweak.  

A leviathan of a VST, all you have to do is take a listen to Orchestral Suite to know why we recommend it. Often, VSTs get plagued with the notion that they sound fake and can never replicate an acoustic instrument. Our argument to that is just take a listen to Orchestral Suite.
You have access to over 60 classical instruments that include strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, a full choir, and more. Gorgeous sounding harps are met with potent harpsichords and so on and so forth. The VST comes in at a whopping 4.62 GB.
All of the common articulations that you would expect to find are here and the legatos, staccatos, and sustains all sound fantastic and realistic.
For the price ($200) it is almost impossible to beat this VST and when searching around the web, everyone seems to be in agreement on this.
Our tip for this incredible plugin is get used to using reverb. All sounds of Orchestral Suite were recorded through close-mic’d sources, and this leaves the sound dry with little note of the stage or ambiance.
This is not a bad thing at all, however. Often orchestral VST wash their sounds in reverb and while it helps to improve the sound, it leaves the sound static with little room to tweak. 

​IRCAM Solo Instruments

IRCAM Solo Instruments
IRCAM Solo Instruments

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​For the weird. For the bizarre. For the avant-garde lovers that want to explore the boundaries of orchestral music.

If you read our review of Fracture: Prepare Acoustic Guitar, you know we like weird sounds. Sometimes there is nothing more exciting than taking mallets, coins, sticks, guitar picks, etc. to a piano and seeing what the hell happens.  

With IRCAM Solo Instruments you can do just that across 16 different instruments. There are five woodwinds, four brass, four string instruments, guitar, harp, and accordion. 

The strongest aspect of Solo Instruments is also its downfall. The individual noises are weird but sound incredibly realistic and fantastic.

Unfortunately, the instruments just don’t work that well together. There was so much attention to making them sound brilliant on their own that they fail to blend when played together.  

IRCAM Solo Instruments 2
IRCAM Solo Instruments Cover

This wouldn’t be an issue if we could tweak and customize the “mix” of the instruments, but we really don’t have a lot of options to do that. In that sense, you’ll probably find yourself using Solo Instruments for flavoring up your already created songs as oppose to composing with just Solo Instruments.

For the weird. For the bizarre. For the avant-garde lovers that want to explore the boundaries of orchestral music.
If you read our review of Fracture: Prepare Acoustic Guitar, you know we like weird sounds. Sometimes there is nothing more exciting than taking mallets, coins, sticks, guitar picks, etc. to a piano and seeing what the hell happens.  
With IRCAM Solo Instruments you can do just that across 16 different instruments. There are five woodwinds, four brass, four string instruments, guitar, harp, and accordion.
The strongest aspect of Solo Instruments is also its downfall. The individual noises are weird but sound incredibly realistic and fantastic. Unfortunately, the instruments just don’t work that well together. There was so much attention to making them sound brilliant on their own that they fail to blend when played together.  
This wouldn’t be an issue if we could tweak and customize the “mix” of the instruments, but we really don’t have a lot of options to do that. In that sense, you’ll probably find yourself using Solo Instruments for flavoring up your already created songs as oppose to composing with just Solo Instruments.

​Garritan Instant Orchestra

Garritan Instant Orchestra
Garritan Instant Orchestra

​Garritan Instant Orchestra

Garritan Instant Orchestra

​Right or wrong orchestral music is plagued with the notion that is it arduous, in both compositions and with the demand it asks of its listeners. As the name shows, Instant Orchestra seeks to change that notion.  

Instant Orchestra is a VST that wants you to create full-fledged cinematic orchestrations from just a few lines.

They do this by utilizing the mod wheel to bring in pre-determined instruments to your already established instrument. 

All you have to do is go to the Blending Texture folder. This folder contains patches that contain multiple layers which then can be crossfaded with the mod wheel. This gives you the ability to switch to instruments that you already know will work on the fly.

​Garritan Instant Orchestra succeeds with their goal. It is incredibly easy to create quick orchestral compositions in only a short time. This will work great for anyone that needs to create fast orchestral music i.e. TV composers that need to get the job done fast.

​You get what you pay for when it comes to the depth of the VST. If you’re looking to create wide-spanning full orchestras that feel as if you’re listening to it live, then look somewhere else. It’s called Instant Orchestra after all.

​SONiVOX Film Score Companion

SONiVOX Film Score Companion
SONiVOX Film Score Companion

​SONiVOX Film Score Companion

SONiVOX Film Score Companion

​SONiVOX Film Score Companion is a vast and demanding collection of various orchestral plugins. We hope you’re ready for this because you have . . . 

  • ​Orchestral Companion Strings that comes with a 9 GB library comprising string ensembles for 1st and 2nd violin, violas, cellos, and basses.
  • ​Orchestral Companion Brass, which comes with a 5 GB library comprising solo and ensemble trumpets, solo and ensemble trombones, solo and ensemble French horns, and tubas.
  • ​Orchestral Companion Woodwinds, with a 9 GB library comprising piccolos, flutes, oboes, English horns, clarinets, bass clarinets, and bassoons.
  • ​Eighty-Eight Ensemble, with 11 GB library featuring a Steinway 9-foot CD337 Concert Grand. The grand was recorded in the same room as the other instruments, so you don’t get conflicting mixes like you do with solo Instruments.
  • ​Big Band Cinematic Percussion: with an absurd 15 GB library of 200 various percussion instruments.
SONiVOX Film Score Companion Strings
SONiVOX Film Score Companion Brass

​The GUI for each of the plugins looks great, and the workflow between them is wonderful as well. There are some iffy sounds here and there, but if you’re a beginner and have gotten your feet wet already and you’re ready for a complete setup without breaking the bank, then Film Score Companion is for you.

SONiVOX Film Score Companion is a vast and demanding collection of various orchestral plugins. We hope you’re ready for this because you have . . .
Orchestral Companion Strings that comes with a 9 GB library comprising string ensembles for 1st and 2nd violin, violas, cellos, and basses.
Orchestral Companion Brass, which comes with a 5 GB library comprising solo and ensemble trumpets, solo and ensemble trombones, solo and ensemble French horns, and tubas.
Orchestral Companion Woodwinds, with a 9 GB library comprising piccolos, flutes, oboes, English horns, clarinets, bass clarinets, and bassoons.
Eighty-Eight Ensemble, with 11 GB library featuring a Steinway 9-foot CD337 Concert Grand. The grand was recorded in the same room as the other instruments, so you don’t get conflicting mixes like you do with solo Instruments.
Big Band Cinematic Percussion: with an absurd 15 GB library of 200 various percussion instruments.
The GUI for each of the plugins looks great, and the workflow between them is wonderful as well. There are some iffy sounds here and there, but if you’re a beginner and have gotten your feet wet already and you’re ready for a complete setup without breaking the bank, then Film Score Companion is for you.

​Vienna Symphonic Library

Vienna Symphonic Library
Vienna Symphonic Library

​Vienna Symphonic Library

Vienna Symphonic Library

​If you’re looking for an even larger library of sounds than the Film Score Companion, then we have a VST for you.

Vienna Symphonic Library really is incredibly vast. Since the year 2000, Vienna has produced over 40,000 samples, and the articulations available are endless. 

The library is broken into two main components: the free Vienna Instruments sample player and a Vienna Instruments Collections.

The GUI screams professionalism and is sleek, easy to navigate, and a delight to look at. It’s safe to say the sound quality matches the high-quality interface.

Vienna Symphonic Library sells multiple all-in-one packages, as well as single instruments, so take the time and look around and ask yourself what you need. There is a lot here and the range of products can get overwhelming.

​It’s a great library for both newcomers and sound designers as you can slowly keep adding on to your established plugins and sounds that you’re already comfortable with.

If you’re looking for an even larger library of sounds than the Film Score Companion, then we have a VST for you.
Vienna Symphonic Library really is incredibly vast. Since the year 2000, Vienna has produced over 40,000 samples, and the articulations available are endless. The library is broken into two main components: the free Vienna Instruments sample player and a Vienna Instruments Collections.
The GUI screams professionalism and is sleek, easy to navigate, and a delight to look at. It’s safe to say the sound quality matches the high-quality interface.
Vienna Symphonic Library sells multiple all-in-one packages, as well as single instruments, so take the time and look around and ask yourself what you need. There is a lot here and the range of products can get overwhelming.
It’s a great library for both newcomers and sound designers as you can slowly keep adding on to your established plugins and sounds that you’re already comfortable with.

​I hope you have enjoyed this guide! If so, please share it with a friend. Cheers!

I hope you have enjoyed this guide! If so, please share it with a friend. Cheers!