Top 13 Best Piano VSTs and Plugins in 2023 that Sound Incredible
“There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.”
— Johann Sebastian Bach
We’re about to breakdown the best piano VSTs and plugins that sound absolutely incredible. Piano, is arguably the most universal, recognizable instrument on the planet.
And in the world of production, pianos are what most music producers use to compose and write new musical ideas. Music softwares also “think” in a keyboard style, in fact, we even draw midi language notations within a musical keyboard grid using those famous white and black keys.
According to Sjaak Douma (FKA Analogue Dear) “from a beginner's point of view, it’s one of the most accessible instruments there is. Especially in regards to the physical layout of the keyboard in relation to music theory. Next to this -because of its note range- you're simultaneously accompanist and soloist, making for a ''complete'' musical experience that you can conjure up by yourself.”
It’s not only about accessibility and music theory, as “You can have rhythm, emotion, harmonies, and melodies all playing at once with just 2 hands. Unlike other instruments, the emotive feedback you get from a piano is mesmerizing.” (Ben Laver)
There is only one big problem when it comes to capturing the beauty of a real-size piano: many people cannot afford or host one in their own homes.
Fortunately, we live in a new era of music production, where companies are making incredible-sounding sampled-based or synthesized piano plugins to give all producers a chance to include the sound of the piano in their own tracks.
While it’s still hard to replicate the feel and sound of a professionally recorded piano, we can still get pretty close to it with a good plugin paired with exemplary piano playing skills.
The question now lies in which are the best options out there for software and sample-based Piano VSTs.
Best Piano VSTs and Plugins
1. Keyscape (Spectrasonics)
Most popular and diverse
Many call it the “holy grail” of the piano plugins thanks to its versatility and superb sound. With a huge library of 36 piano models (including some rare gems!) and 500 ready-made presets and sounds, it can easily become your go-to piano for composing and producing.
Every model has been multi-sampled in all their details, trying to maintain the authenticity and imperfections that you would hear if you were sitting in front playing it! This is what makes a software instrument come to life!
Not to mention you also get control over authentic circuit modeled amplifiers, effects and a powerful STEAM Engine® to create innovative sounds and turn a piano into a sound design tool!
You can also combine two pianos at once to take your creativity and experience to the next level and achieve unique tones and timbres. For Omnisphere owners, Keyscape also integrates as a satellite instrument within its engine.
“If I need something clean, Keyscape is my first choice. I think it's one of the more musical libraries out there, especially in regards to its dynamics and how it interacts with your playing.” (Sjaak Douma)
It’s the right pick for you if: If you’re looking for a one-and-done deal this is the one for you. It’s quite pricy but you will benefit from it for years to come and can become your go-to piano plugin for in-the-box productions.
Pros & Cons
+ Huge library of 36 piano models
+ Combine two pianos at once for unique tones and timbres
+ Omnisphere integration
- Quite pricey
- If you’re a beginner it may be more than you need
2. Lekko (Felt Instruments)
Warm and intimate sound
Lekko is the complete opposite of Keyscape. It’s not a comprehensive collection of famous pianos or modeled after a perfectly polished Steinway & Sons. On the contrary, this little gem is sampled from a small Scandinavian upright (with a missing bottom octave).
It’s sampled by embracing little imperfections that make the performance sound human and the notes are not perfectly consistent and noiseless.
If you are a lover of felt pianos and artists such as Nils Frahm this is one to add to your collection. It’s for intimate pieces, the ones where you need that extra touch of emotions.
The acoustic samples are also complemented by unique afterglow patches which are created by processing piano through rare vintage hardware and tape, which gives it extra character. It evokes that dusty, analog vibe, ranging from fragile and soft to dirty remains of the original signal.
It’s the right pick for you if: If you want to add a unique character to your tracks with a different sounding piano this will be a beautiful addition to your collection. Avoid if you’re looking for a “classic” sounding piano.
Pros & Cons
+ Unique intimate and soft sound
+ Processed through rare vintage hardware and tape for extra character
- Very specific sound
- Not very versatile
3. Addictive Keys (XLN Audio)
The classics done right
Sometimes it’s not needed to have so many options at hand and you just want to make a quick choice when picking a piano for your next track. This is when something like Addictive Keys steps in.
Based on the bundle you purchase, you have up to 4 classic pianos on hand: the Studio Grand, a Modern Upright, the Mark One, and an Electric Grand.
What I love about this plugin is its smart workflow and quick menu which allowed me to make quick decisions and find the sound I need quickly, allowing me to maintain my production flow and avoid losing inspiration.
Don’t get me wrong, you can also dive deeper into its controls to tweak the sound until you completely change its nature, but the sound quality is what makes this plugin trustworthy.
It’s the right pick for you if: you want a simple plugin with great-sounding classic pianos.
Pros & Cons
+ Amazing sound quality on the classic piano sounds
+ Smart workflow
+ Only purchase the ones you need
- Not many possibility for advanced tweaking and sound design.
4. Felt Piano (Spitfire Audio)
The true sound of felt
“When I’m not recording live my go-to plugin is Spitfire’s Felt Piano. When I am using plugins I still like to feel and hear the impurities of the sound - the pedal noise, the hammer noise, the mic hiss - these qualities make the samples feel alive, feel real, and feel natural.” (Ben Laver)
A true bang for your buck, this sampled piano plugin is a gem for intimate felt piano lovers. It’s very easy and intuitive, without many controls.
You get ten presets with ADSR and sustain pedal level controls. There is not much more to say, but you’ll definitely hear its delicate and detailed nature when playing it for the first time.
It was recorded at Spitfire Studios and performed by jazz legend and Mercury Prize nominee Gwilym Simcock. Sometimes the easiest solutions are the most effective, and I definitely have used this one over and over in countless productions.
It’s the right pick for you if: a cheap felt piano that sounds like it’s right in your living room.
Pros & Cons
+ Easy and intuitive
+ Professional sound quality for a very low price
- Not suitable for a wide variety of genres due to its soft nature
- Not many parameters to tweak
5. Una Corda (Native Instruments)
Sampling an iconic piano
I must say if there is one piano that has found a special place in my heart is the Una Corda.
There is just something special about the sound of this unique specimen. There is no other piano in the world that holds the same character and sound as this, which was originally created by David Klavins in close collaboration with composer Nils Frahm.
There are not many of these around the world and it will bring something new and fresh to your arsenal of sounds.
You get so many sonic options to sculpt your sound, from the naked and pure nature of the piano to different material felt fabrics and advanced sound design options that can transform the piano into haunting pads, reverse sweeps, or even rhythmic percussions by isolating the hammer sounds. The possibilities are truly endless with this piano.
“I've tried different libraries. I really like the Una Corda from Native Instruments. I think they managed to make it sound really good and natural.” (Julia Gjertsen)
It’s the right pick for you if: if you’re in the hunt for a one-of-a-kind sounding piano or sound design tool you can rely on the Una Corda.
Pros & Cons
+ Extensive preset menu and one of a kind sound
+ Incredible sound design tool
- Not the right pick if you’re looking for a classic piano sound
6. Pianos (EastWest Sounds)
Own the most sought-after grand pianos
Price: $159 (may vary depending on bundle and options)
If you want precision and meticulous detail in your pianos, look no further. This plugin was engineered to fully capture every sonic detail possible from 4 of the most sought-after grand pianos in the world: the Bechstein D-280, Steinway D, Bösendorfer 290, and Yamaha C7.
All of them have been recorded in a special environment with world-class microphones, passed through AD converters, and a classic Neve console.
Everything about this plugin is engineered to sound polished and refined to perfection. You can tweak mic positions and transition between 7 different articulations to sculpt your sound and performance.
It’s the right pick for you if: you want world-class sound and a range of options to compose in nearly every genre.
Pros & Cons
+ Meticulous detail in every sound
+ Own 4 of the most sought-after grand pianos in the world
+ Tweakble mic positions
- No unique sound design options
7. Noire (Native Instruments)
Best creative piano
If you’re into piano music and neo-classical you are well familiar with Nil Frahm. This incredible pianist, composer, and artist has created such a signature style that Native Instrument has sampled his concert grand piano and taken it to the next level including an innovative particles engine to really get creative with sound design and performance.
Multi sampled in Berlin’s renowned, Bauhaus-designed Funkhaus recording studio, you can really feel and hear the warmth of this instrument.
Once you have picked whether to play it pure or with a damper felt, you can let your creativity free with the particles engine, which reacts to your playing style, adding synched afternotes, harmonic clouds, and other unexpected reactions which often leads to new ideas and possibilities in your music.
It’s the right pick for you if: you’re looking for that “Nils Frahm” sound or want to experiment with its reactive engine to generate new ideas.
Pros & Cons
+ Use the Particles Engine to take sound design to the next level
+ Superb grand piano sound both clean and processed
+ Smart functions that react to your playing style
- Only one piano model
8. Hans Zimmer Piano (Spitfire Audio)
The sound of the movies
If there is one composer that has highlighted the modern era of Hollywood blockbusters it’s Hans Zimmer. How cool is it that you can own the same piano on which the soundtrack of “Inception” was written? The amount of detail and depth in this piano is over the top.
But why does Hans love this piano so much? This is the in-house grand piano at the Hall at AIR Studios, one of the best scoring stages in the world. And it’s why he decided to spend nearly a year working on this plugin to make it available to play anywhere we are around the world, with just a midi keyboard and a computer, so that it’s possible to capture and create a world-class score when inspiration strikes.
It’s the right pick for you if: If you write scores on or for piano and want a piece of production history that has cost considerably more than buying a concert grand of your own, then this is the library for you.
Pros & Cons
+ Sound-wise it doesn’t get any better than this
+ You can own Hans Zimmer “signature sound”
- Very expensive
9. TruePianos (4Front Technologies)
A simple and light classic
Sometimes the easiest solutions are also some of the most effective. This virtual piano still sounds very full and realistic to play and it’s super light on the CPU (which is a real winner for many producers who might not have powerful computers).
You get 5 modules to play with but you don’t have to waste any time tweaking the parameters to get a good sound straight out of the box.
No matter the appealing price, you won’t be disappointed in the sound quality. I love this one just to work quickly in capturing ideas as it is super easy to load, I can load a presets that sound great and it doesn’t take a toll on my CPU. Seems like a good deal to me! No wonder Avicii used this one a lot!
Pros & Cons
+ Great bang for your buck
+ Easy on the CPU and easy workflow
- Quite old compared to other newer options with more features
- Limited parameter tweaking
10. Olafur Arnalds Stratus (Spitfire Audio)
The future of piano
This is quite an unusual piano that fuses the power of technology with the beauty of Ólafur Arnalds’ unique-sounding Yamaha DU1E3 felt-dampened pianos, captured in his studio in Reykjavik.
The plugin is engineered around a unique interface made up of eight multi-layered piano and synthesizer matrixes, each offering a unique sonic experience as you control how these combinations of harmonic elements develop.
I love creating syncopated combinations with this, as it leads to the birth of such unexpected musical patterns. It’s a true power for ever-evolving soundscapes, textures, intimate loops, and endless kinds of ear candy to sprinkle around your track.
For the lovers of generative music, you can even take advantage of the Randomise bar and its experimental controls to further randomize the results. It’s basically like having a ghost pianist in the studio with you!
It’s the right pick for you if: you are in generative music and want a piano tool to experiment.
Pros & Cons
+ A piano for producers who want to experiment
+ Unique engine and workflow which often leads to unexpected results
- Not your typical piano plugin
11. LABS Soft Piano (Spitfire Audio)
“If you need a felted piano sound, I still think the Spitfire Labs Soft Piano has a lot of character - and it's free!” (Jameson Nathan Jones)
Part of the LABS suite (collection of free plugins), this super-soft piano for some reason has become a favorite of many pianists I talk to. There is no complex matrix of menu, just a beautifully sampled instrument that sounds good as it is.
Pros & Cons
+ Unreal to believe a free plugin can sound this good!
- Limited to a felt piano sound
12. Pianobook - peer-to-peer community
“I also visit from time to time Pianobook website. It is a peer-to-peer community of composers and producers sharing their sounds for free. It’s been set up by Spitfire Audio founder Christian Henson with the aim to promote the notion that the best sounds for music are made by people who make it. You find very interesting Piano packs on there.” (Luca Longobardi)
The beauty of this website is the possibility for anyone to sample and make their piano available to the world for free.
You can find some real beauties here if you look around, and some of these instruments can become your next secret sauce. Some have really unique tones and character, which I often layer on top of more high-quality plugins (like some of the ones previously mentioned in this article) so that you can achieve unique harmonics and mixtures of tones.
Pros & Cons
+ Can find some really nice sounding pianos if you dig around
+ All free user content
- May take a while before you find a really good one
13. DAW Stock Piano
I wanted to include this as I believe it is still one of the most effective tools to use when inspiration strikes.
In most DAWs it’s super easy to recall and you should save it in your template. They are not CPU intensive and have a decent sound which is just enough to get the inspiration going and capture the idea before it disappears.
You can later save the MIDI and import it into a new track once you are ready to dive deeper into the sound design. Imagine if you spent 15 minutes for that perfect piano sound and forget that melody that has been running around in your head?
Pros & Cons
+ Quickest options
+ Most stock pianos sound good for basic songwriting
- You can hear the difference when compared to other professional piano plugins
- Most don’t have lots of ways to tweak parameters
BONUS SECTION - Best Piano processing plugins
1. SketchCassette (AberrantDSP)
Add that lo-fi feel
Want to completely degrade your piano or just add a slightly dusty feel to it? This is a great tough to add some character and realism to your piano line, or even make it sound like it was sampled straight off an old record! Really effective if you make lo-fi hip hop just want to make your own piano samples sound vintage.
2. OTT (XferRecords)
A great tool to make your piano shine and cut through your mix. Especially effective when you want a pop piano or if you want those bright classic house record chords. This also brings out all the imperfections of the sound so be careful not to overdo it! Ableton has it’s own version of this as a preset in the Multiband Compressor.
3. Valhalla Super Massive (Valhalla DSP)
I love to drown my piano in huge reverbs and delays to give it that ethereal feeling. You can even crank the dry/wet to 100% wet to create background soundscapes that carry throughout the tune while following the melodic progression of your piano! This plugin has some really extreme presets but can also work wonders for shiny short reverbs.
4. Portal (Output)
A great one when you want to experiment with new ways to use your piano. You can generate surrounding layers and effects that can add a nice dimension to your piano chords and melodies. You can even get super extreme and turn your piano into synth swells and unheard sounds!
5. soothe 2 (oeksound)
Get rid of resonances and unwanted frequencies
I love to include the piano in most of my productions, but it also adds a new layer of mixing issues. The piano is a very resonant instrument with a very full frequency spectrum. It needs to be EQed very carefully to make it fit in your productions and every genre has its own style.
The most annoying thing is always trying to find those resonant frequencies that ruin the mix and muddy it up. That’s when soothe 2 kicks in, which reduces those unwanted peaks in real-time as it is able to detect and duck them with almost no latecy. It is quite expensive but it has become a life saver in all my mixdowns.