7 Best Piano VST Plugins in 2024

As a music producer and piano enthusiast, I’m always on the lookout for the most realistic and expressive virtual piano plugins. Over the years, I’ve tested countless piano VSTs in order to find the ones that truly capture the nuances and character of a real piano.

In this post, I’ll share my picks for the 7 best piano VST plugins available in 2024 based on extensive hands-on experience. I’ve included options at various price points, ranging from free plugins to premium tools costing hundreds of dollars.

These piano VSTs stood out to me because of their excellent playability, natural dynamics, rich tone, and customizability. Whether you need a simple piano sound or something more complex for film/TV scoring, you’ll find an excellent choice in this list.

1. Pianoteq 8

Pianoteq 8 vst

Pianoteq has long been my go-to piano plugin for its supreme playability and organic sound. Version 8 takes things even further with additional piano models, enhancements to the physical modeling, and more.

Rather than relying on multi-sampled recordings, Pianoteq uses mathematical models to physically simulate the various components of an acoustic piano. This allows for an extremely responsive playing experience with seamless dynamics.

The basic version includes 6 excellent piano models:

  • Steinway Model D concert grand
  • Grotrian Steinweg grand
  • Blüthner Model 1 grand
  • YC5 Rock Piano
  • Electric Grand
  • Clavinet D6

You can expand the collection further with add-on bundles like the Kremsegg and Imperial pianos.

Beyond the standard piano tones, Pianoteq includes unique instruments like the Octaves pinball machine. The effects and voicing options allow you to sculpt the tone further.

If you need supreme playability along with organic-sounding and highly customizable pianos, Pianoteq 8 is easily one of the best options available. The clean interface is also appealing for composers and general music production use.

Key features:

  • Physically modeled piano engine
  • Supreme playability and dynamics
  • 6 pianos included, expansions available
  • Unique alternate tones like Octaves pinball machine
  • Effects and voicing controls
  • Clean, intuitive interface

I was blown away the first time I played Pianoteq. The responsiveness and organic tone really make it feel like you’re sitting at a real piano. I especially love the crunchiness of the bass notes on the Steinway Model D – you can almost feel the vibrations of the strings. The dynamics are just effortless, which inspires me to play more emotionally. Pianoteq makes it easy to get lost in playing for hours.

display of Pianoteq 8 vst

Requirements:

  • Works standalone or as AAX, VST, AU plugin (Mac & PC)
  • Requires dual-core 2.4 GHz CPU
  • 16 GB RAM recommended
  • Works with all major DAWs (Ableton, Logic, etc.)
  • Optional addons like Kremsegg and Imperial available

2. Keyscape

Keyscape vst

For a vast collection of high-end sampled pianos, Keyscape by Spectrasonics is hard to beat. With over 500GB of meticulously sampled acoustic and electric pianos, Keyscape gives you an astounding level of detail and variety.

36 keyboard instruments are included covering all the most popular piano types:

  • Grand pianos – Steinway Model D, Bösendorfer 290, Yamaha C7, and more
  • Upright pianos – Steinway Vertegrand, Yamaha U7, and others
  • Electric pianos – Rhodes Mk1, Wurlitzer 200A, Hohner Pianet N
  • Historical instruments – Royal Albert Hall Organ, Clavinet D6, Harpsichord

These instruments were sampled at world-class studios like Abbey Road and Ocean Way. The nuanced capturing process and OMNISphere engine result in highly expressive tones that respond dynamically to your playing.

You can easily shape the sound further using effects like compression, EQ, and reverb. Some other nice bonuses are the ambient pads and customizable key click.

If you seek tons of detail along with the character of iconic instruments, Keyscape is arguably the most comprehensive piano library around. It’s on the pricier side, but the quality is superb.

Key features:

  • 36 sampled piano and keyboard instruments
  • 500GB+ library
  • Sampled at Abbey Road, Ocean Way, and other studios
  • Advanced capturing process provides excellent playability
  • Effects and customization options
  • Huge tonal variety across instruments

The amount of detail in these sampled pianos is just remarkable. I loaded up the Bösendorfer 290 Imperial Grand and was stunned by the character and richness. When you play softly, you hear creaks and subtle noises that make it remarkably lifelike. The studio where they sampled the pianos also makes a huge difference – the spaciousness of the Royal Albert Hall organ is divine. Keyscape has become my go-to for getting that real vintage piano sound for more soulful playing.

Requirements:

  • VST, AU, or AAX plugin format (Mac & PC)
  • Requires iLok account and iLok license dongle
  • Minimum 4GB RAM, SSD drive recommended
  • ~550GB hard drive space required
  • Optimized for 64-bit DAWs (Pro Tools, Logic Pro, etc.)

3. Addictive Keys

Addictive Keys vst

For beautifully captured grand and upright pianos, it’s tough to beat Addictive Keys by XLN Audio. There are 4 main Addictive Keys plugins with groundbreaking sampling techniques:

  • Studio Grand – Yamaha C7 grand piano
  • Electric Grand – Rhodes and Wurlitzer electrics
  • Mark One – Steinway Model D and Bösendorfer 290 grands
  • Modern Upright – Yamaha U5 and T125B uprights

What makes the Addictive Keys pianos truly special is the careful preparation and sampling process. Every nuance from mechanical noises to pedal noises was captured. Advanced adjustment features let you tweak the tone and response deeply.

Some other nice bonuses in Addictive Keys are the mix-ready presets and built-in effects. You can easily get polished, radio-ready piano tones without much mixing hassle.

For authentic acoustic and electric piano sounds that just work beautifully in a mix, Addictive Keys is a top choice to consider. The quality and attention to detail with these sampled pianos are fantastic.

Key features:

  • 4 main piano plugins with grand and upright options
  • Innovative sampling techniques capture detail
  • Tweaking features allow deep piano customization
  • Mix-ready presets and effects
  • Superb quality sampling and programming

I was really impressed by the realism of the Studio Grand plugin. The resonance as you hold down the sustain pedal and the subtle mechanics noises make it feel like you’re sitting at the piano. I also love the tweaking features – being able to change the hammer hardness and tonal character let me customize the sound to my playing style. The Electric Grand captures those classic Rhodes and Wurlitzer tones perfectly. Addictive Keys has been ideal for my pop and funk productions.

Addictive Keys vst

Requirements:

  • VST, AU, AAX plugin formats (Mac & PC)
  • Minimum dual-core i5 processor
  • 8GB RAM required, 16GB recommended
  • Works in major DAWs (Cubase, FL Studio, etc.)
  • Internet required for one-time activation

4. Arturia V Collection 9

Arturia V Collection 9 vst

The Arturia V Collection bundles together all of Arturia’s virtual instrument recreations, including some excellent piano emulations. V Collection 9 includes 4 memorable electric and acoustic pianos:

  • Stage-73 – Fender Rhodes suitcase piano
  • Wurli V – Wurlitzer 200A electric piano
  • GrandBrass – Yamaha C7 grand piano
  • GrandPresets – Steinway Model D grand

Like their classic synth emulations, Arturia’s piano plugins use a combination of sampling and modeling for very realistic behaviour. Subtle elements like key noises, pedal sounds, and mechanical clicks help make these instruments come alive.

The electric pianos include adjustable parameters to change tine, damper, and pickup sounds. Effects like chorus, phasing, and EQ allow for further shaping to get those vintage electric tones.

For the GrandBrass and GrandPresets concert grands, you get a very responsive playing feel with strong dynamics. The tone shaping options help get any sound, from bright and clear to warm and muted.

With its mix of sampling and physical modeling, the Arturia V Collection provides some of the best sounding piano emulations around. The vintage electric pianos are particularly great.

Key features:

  • Fender Rhodes Stage-73 and Wurlitzer 200A emulations
  • Yamaha C7 and Steinway D modeled grand pianos
  • Sampling combined with modeling for realistic behavior
  • Adjustable parameters for electric and acoustic tones
  • Built-in effects like EQ, chorus, phaser

The Rhodes and Wurlitzer emulations are simply spectacular. I’m a stickler for realistic electric piano sounds, and Arturia nailed it. The adjustable pickup and tine parameters let me dial in everything from bell-like roundness to harsher growl. The grand pianos also respond beautifully to playing dynamics. V Collection has become my go-to virtual instrument bundle, especially for getting convincing electric piano sounds.

Arturia V Collection 9 vst

Requirements:

  • Standalone, VST, AU, AAX plugin options
  • iLok account and dongle required
  • Dual-core processor and 8GB RAM minimum
  • 50GB free disk space needed
  • Works with all popular DAWs on Mac & Windows

5. Garritan CFX Concert Grand

Garritan CFX Concert Grand vst

For a single high-end piano library, the Garritan CFX virtual instrument is my top pick. This plugin uses meticulous sampling of the flagship Yamaha CFX concert grand piano.

Over 80GB of stunningly detailed samples are included, with up to 20 velocity levels and 5 microphone perspectives:

  • Player position
  • Nearfield
  • Stage
  • Hall
  • Surround

Everything about the CFX was sampled including pedal noises, key up, key down, release trails, and more. The Aria player engine provides a very responsive keyboard feel.

You can shape the tone extensively with features like lid position, voicing, microphone mixing, and parametric EQ. Advanced effects like distortion, reverb, and compression allow for further sound design.

For classical and cinematic playing, the CFX concert grand is simply spectacular. It’s the most detailed sampled concert grand I’ve come across, and well worth the price.

Key features:

  • 80GB sampling session of Yamaha CFX concert grand
  • 5 mic perspectives for mixing
  • Pedal noises, key sounds, and more captured
  • Aria engine provides great playability
  • Lid, voicing, EQ, and other tone controls
  • Effects like reverb, chorus, distortion

The quality of sampling with the CFX is just off the charts. It’s incredibly responsive across the entire dynamic range, and captures every subtlety of a piano perfectly. I love mixing between the intimate player perspective and spacious hall mics for dramatic crescendos. For classical and film scoring applications, the CFX has simply the best concert grand sound I’ve ever heard. It’s extremely inspiring to play.

Garritan CFX Concert Grand vst

Requirements:

  • VST, AU, AAX plugin formats (Mac & Windows)
  • Quad-core i5 CPU recommended
  • 16GB RAM required, SSD drive ideal
  • ~85GB hard drive space needed
  • Supported by major DAWs (Studio One, Reaper, etc.)

6. Spitfire Audio – The Ton

Spitfire Audio – The Ton

For a dry, intimate piano sound, The Ton from Spitfire Audio is a fantastic choice. Derived from the felt sounds of a grand piano, it provides wonderfully delicate and emotive tones.

3 microphone perspectives captured the hammers and strings in exquisite detail:

  • Close – Intimate internal perspective
  • Tree – Natural room sound
  • Ambient – Airy hall reverb

With no traditional piano samples used, you get a highly unique tone that morphs between piano, dulcimer, and even percussive sounds. The Kontakt interface provides tone-shaping options like timbre, tone, and dynamics.

For evocative underscoring and textures in film/TV/game scoring, The Ton offers a sound palette unlike any other piano VST. From brooding atmospheres to sparkling accents, it inspires fresh creative possibilities.

Key features:

  • Made purely from piano hammer and string noises
  • No traditional piano samples used
  • 3 mic perspectives for mixing
  • Ethereal, shifting tone from percussive to string sounds
  • Interface provides timbre, tone, dynamics control
  • Inspiring for underscore and ambient music

This ambient piano tool offers tones I’ve never heard before – it’s hauntingly beautiful. The shifting character between percussive plucks and atmospheric strings creates infinite possibilities. I love using it for background textures in my film soundtrack work. Subtly doubling it with a traditional piano adds thickness in a unique way. The Ton has become an integral creative tool in my arsenal.

Requirements:

  • Download contains open format Kontakt instrument
  • Full version of Kontakt 5.6 or higher required
  • Quad-core CPU and 16GB RAM recommended
  • 25GB hard drive space needed
  • Works in any DAW supporting Kontakt instruments

7. Versilian Studios Chamber Grand D

If you’re looking for a great free piano plugin, check out the Chamber Grand D by Versilian Studios. This virtual piano faithfully recreates a Steinway Model D grand piano through sampling and modeling.

Everything from individual string resonances to the soundboard and pedals was modelled to produce an extremely realistic tone. There’s a smooth velocity response across the 88-note range.

You can control dynamics using the virtual piano lid, adjust parameters like stereo width and reverb, and tweak EQ to brighten or darken the tone. Effects like chorus, tremolo, and distortion allow for further sound design.

Considering its high quality and detailed sampling, the Chamber Grand D is quite remarkable as a free piano VST plugin. For great grand piano tones without spending money, this is an excellent option to try.

Key features:

  • Faithful recreation of a Steinway Model D grand
  • Sampling and modeling for realistic sound
  • Smooth velocity and dynamics response
  • Lid, EQ, reverb, stereo, and other adjustments
  • Chorus, tremolo, distortion effects
  • Absolutely free plugin

I’m endlessly impressed by the realism of this free piano plugin. The resonance and warmth provides that true grand piano feel. It responds very naturally across soft and loud dynamics. For a free virtual piano, the sampling quality and programming are remarkable. The Chamber Grand D has been my go-to free choice when I need a no-frills excellent piano sound.

Requirements:

  • VSTi and AU plugin formats (Mac & PC)
  • Works in SFZ sample player or Kontakt Player
  • Quad-core CPU recommended for best performance
  • 8GB RAM minimum required
  • Hard drive space needed just for install files
  • Supported by all major DAWs

Get Realistic Piano Sounds with These Top Plugins

If you want to get realistic, playable piano sounds in your music production projects, I highly recommend giving these 7 plugins a try. They provide everything from flagship concert grand tones to quirky ambient textures.

Here’s a quick recap of the 7 best piano VST plugins highlighted in this post:

  1. Pianoteq 7 – Physically modelled piano with supreme playability
  2. Keyscape – Massive 500GB library sampled at studios like Abbey Road
  3. Addictive Keys – Innovative sampling for authentic acoustic and electric pianos
  4. Arturia V Collection – Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Steinway, and Yamaha emulations
  5. Garritan CFX – Meticulously sampled Yamaha CFX concert grand
  6. Spitfire Audio The Ton – Ethereal shifting tones derived purely from piano noises
  7. Versilian Studios Chamber Grand D – Excellent free Steinway Model D recreation

I hope this guide helps you get inspired finding the perfect piano VST for your next track or scoring project. Let me know in the comments if you have any other favorite piano plugins I should check out!

What Are VST Plugins?

VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. VST plugins are software that integrates with digital audio workstations (DAWs) like Ableton Live, Logic Pro, and FL Studio.

They allow you to use virtual instruments and effects as if they were hardware units connected to your mixing console and racks. VSTs provide synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, EQs, compressors, reverbs, and more.

For virtual instruments like piano VSTs, playing a MIDI keyboard triggers the instrument tones just like a real piano. The piano notes and articulations are output through your audio interface.

Effects plugins like chorus, delay, and reverb process your piano and other tracks to polish the sound. You can add and adjust as many VST effects as your computer can handle.

The benefit of VSTs is the flexibility of using countless software instruments and effects without needing real hardware units. Plus they don’t take up physical space in your studio!

VST plugins revolutionized music production, providing quick access to every possible sound you can imagine. All the pianos and effects featured in this article are VSTs that integrate with major DAWs.

What Do You Need To Use Piano VSTS?

To use piano VST plugins, you’ll need:

  • A compatible DAW (Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, etc.)
  • A MIDI keyboard to play the virtual pianos
  • A computer meeting the plugin’s minimum system requirements
  • Hard drive space for installing the plugins
  • A VST host application if using the plugins standalone

Many piano VSTs work across Mac and Windows so you have flexibility in your choice of computer and OS. But be sure your system meets the CPU, RAM, and disk requirements.

Sampling VS Modeling Piano VSTS

Piano VSTs use either sampling or modeling methods:

  • Sampling – Recordings of real pianos, with different velocities and articulations. Gives very realistic tones but the recording quality affects the end result.
  • Modeling – Mathematical modeling of piano components like strings, hammers, soundboard. Allows different piano types to be recreated digitally. Very flexible but dependent on modeling accuracy.

Both methods have tradeoffs. Sampling provides superb realism when done right, while modeling offers more flexibility. Many piano VSTs now use a blend of sampling and modeling for the best of both worlds.

Why Use Piano VST Plugins?

Here are some key benefits of using piano VST plugins:

  • Huge variety – Choose from concert grands, uprights, electrics, and more
  • Customizable sound – Tweak and shape tones to your taste
  • Flexibility – Change piano types without mic’ing real instruments
  • Inspiring expressiveness – Features like dynamics and pedal noises capture the real piano experience
  • Mix ready tones – Many plugins provide effects and EQ for polish without extra mixing

Advantages Of Piano VSTs Over Keyboards Internal Sounds

Advantages

  • More realistic, nuanced piano sounds
  • Huge selection of piano types to choose from
  • Customization options like voicing, mics, FX
  • Ability to layer pianos and combine with other instruments

Disadvantages

  • Dependent on computer and audio interface quality
  • Latency can affect playability
  • Licensing costs for commercial use

To Sum It Up

For greater realism and options, dedicated piano VSTs are superior to keyboards’ internal sounds. But keyboards are more all-in-one. The best solution is using VSTs with keyboards that have great keybeds.

How To Choose The Best Piano VSTS?

Here are some tips for picking the best piano VST:

  • Trial demos – Try before you buy to judge tone and playability
  • DAW compatibility – Ensure plugin format works in your recording software
  • System requirements – Check that your computer specs meet minimums
  • Sound quality – Listen closely to dynamics, resonance, articulations
  • Tone control – See what kind of voicing, EQ, FX options are offered
  • Ease of use – Seek simple interfaces that allow fast sound tweaking

Does More Size (GB) Mean It’s Better?

Not necessarily. Some piano plugins use special programming techniques to provide excellent realism at smaller file sizes.

The amount of sampling affects size more than quality. So if a piano is multi-sampled across the keyboard at high velocities with multiple mics, the library will be huge.

But a deeply programmed sampled piano focused on just one sound might have smaller size while still sounding superb. Judge on tone, dynamics and features rather than just GB size.

Get Realistic Piano Sounds with These Top Plugins

If you want to get realistic, playable piano sounds in your music production projects, I highly recommend giving these 7 plugins a try. They provide everything from flagship concert grand tones to quirky ambient textures.

Hi, my name is Pallav, and I've been playing the piano for over 20 years. I'm also the proud owner of Digital Keyboard Piano, an online platform where I share detailed reviews of the latest MIDI controllers, digital pianos, and related equipment.

Leave a Comment