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Because the harmonica is often among one of the first instruments grade school children learn, many people have fond (or not so fond) memories of the instrument.
Whether in folk, country, bluegrass, or even the blues and jazz, the harmonica (or blues harp or “mouth organ”) is an instrument that adds texture or flavor to a song, usually for fills in between vocals, and even for solos.
If you’re looking to add some harmonica to your productions, check out the following harmonica VST plugins to add to your VST library.
Misfit Harmonica by 8Dio – Best Overall
8Dio’s Misfit Harmonica is a deep-sampled virtual instrument (with blues harmonicas) with 8,732 samples, two microphone positions, round-robin sampled, bend up / down articulations, trills (half and whole), two vibrato types (slow, fast), staccato chugga-chugga, and Chaos FX arp and dual convolution reverb.
Misfit Harmonica features a total of 18 deep sampled instruments (of the same brand, for those who care about uniformity of sound).
This may well be one of the best sounding harmonica VST plugins out there, if only by a small margin. Have a listen for yourself and compare it to the others found in this guide to come up with your own conclusions.
Misfit Harmonica requires the full version of Kontakt 5.8.1 and above.
Learn more: 8Dio
Chris Hein – Harmonica by Chris Hein – Best Premium Option
Chris Hein – Harmonica is bar none the most detailed sampled chromatic harmonica you can expect to find. Search as you might, you will be hard pressed to find a virtual harmonica that compares on any level.
This baby features nearly 7,000 samples, 14 articulations(!), up to eight dynamic layers, four dynamic modes, expressive sustains, hot-keys, intelligent legato, glide mode, and a full four-octave range.
There are plenty of tone-shaping controls onboard as well, including 10 DSP effects, two independent convolution reverbs, 63 impulse responses, attack and release controls, special noise controls, ensemble maker, micro-tuner, adjustable fader settings, intelligent LFO-vibrato with EQ, customizable auto vibrato, key vibrato, and even hand-damping simulation.
In terms of articulations, you should expect to find sustain, sustain expressive short, sustain expressive medium, sustain expressive long, sustain vibrato mouth, sustain vibrato hand, bending, short, fall 1, fall 2, staccato 1, staccato 2, run down, and run up.
With a great sound and excellent features, Chris Hein – Harmonica truly is one of the best options out there. It’s also the most expensive. These factors make it our best premium selection.
Chris Hein – Harmonica requires the full version of Kontakt 5.2 or above.
Learn more: Chris Hein
Harmonica by Sonivox – Best Budget Option
Sonivox’ Harmonica was created as an authentic emulation of the real thing. It comes with a range spanning several octaves, with all 12 notes of the western scale covered. That means you can take advantage of this virtual instrument, no matter the key signature of your project.
Perfect for folk, country, blues, classical, jazz, and pop, Harmonica features a sound that rivals Chris Hein – Harmonica.
Altogether, Harmonica comes with master controls (tune, transpose, volume, and pan), envelope controls (amp, filter, pitch, attack, hold, decay, sustain, release), filter controls (Q and Hz), LFO mod (amp, filter, pitch), and effects controls (EQ, chorus, delay, and reverb with applicable parameters).
Sonivox’ Harmonica is a simple and affordable solution well suited to a variety of projects.
Learn more: Sonivox
Harmonica v.2 by Auditory Lab
Auditory Lab’s Harmonica v.2 comes with three harmonica types – diatonic, chromatic, and tremolo. Each instrument comes with its own controls, as well as pan and volume.
Four master parameters give you control over attack, release, pan, and volume, while the effects panel features reverb and delay effects.
Of all the harmonicas out there, this is the least authentic sounding one – at least to me. It does a competent job, but it seems to struggle a bit, especially in the lower registers. Good thing it’s affordable!
Harmonica v.2 is Windows and Mac compatible.
Learn more: Auditory Lab
Amplifikation Matchlock by Kuassa
If it’s not clear why Kuassa’s Amplifikation Matchlock amp sim VST is on this list, don’t worry – it should become clear in a moment.
Inspired by Fender combo amps, Amplifikation Matchlock promises a natural and realistic tube amp sound for guitar players everywhere.
Fender amps have a storied history, and their popularity with guitarists of all persuasions is undeniable (the legendary status of their guitars doesn’t hurt). From Chuck Berry and Dick Dale to Keith Richards and Buddy Holly, that Fender sound proved itself in a variety of genres and styles.
Here’s the part that should be of some interest to you. These amps didn’t just provide the definitive clean sound for legends like The Beatles – they became the go-to for harmonicas and synthesizers too. So, Amplifikation Match could fit nicely in your harmonica effects chain.
Overall, Amplifikation Match comes with three amplifier types (Twin Reverb, Super Reverb, and Custom Vibrolux Reverb), two channels per amp (clean, boosted), power amp Sag and Bias, five cabinets, high pass and low pass filters, seven microphone types, dual-mics with mono or stereo, noise gate, limiter, and up to 8x oversampling.
As you will hear in the video below, this is a great sounding amp, and it’s well worth trying in your processing chain for harmonica tracks.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Opalescence by Loot Audio
Loot Audio’s Opalescence has been described as a cinematic pad designer. It was created specifically for the purpose of crafting hybrid electronic / orchestral pads.
This Kontakt instrument consists of two main modules. The first features 15 orchestral instruments with multiple variations in articulations, dynamics, and playing techniques.
You’ll find solo violin, viola section, cello section, double bass section, bassoon, clarinet, French horn, flute, harmonica, oboe, organ (manual and pedal), trumpet, trumpet mute, and trombone.
The second module consists of two wavetables with a near limitless number of waveforms.
Both modules come with their own HP and LP filters, ADSR envelopes, and volume controls.
You can take advantage of the “Designer” page for 11 sequenced effects, and there’s also a Master FX page with a three-band EQ, reverb, and delay (modern, diffusion, and tape).
All in all, Opalescence comes with two modules, 333 stereo samples, two wavetables, 15 instruments, 22 sequencer-based effects, and a maximum stereo width “hidden gem.”
As its product description would suggest, Opalescence is best thought of as a cinematic scoring tool, though it’s sure to have some applicability in ambient, chillout, prog rock, and more.
See previous options for a dedicated harmonica VST, but if you’re interested in creating complex, layered pad sounds, even as a backing to your harmonica solos, Opalescence is a cool entry to check out.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Little Pump Reeds by Soundiron
We all benefit from outside the box thinking from time to time, and Soundiron’s Little Pump Reeds is certainly a creative choice if you’re looking for a VST plugin that resembles that of a harmonica.
The instrument selection doesn’t feature a harmonica specifically, and is instead made up of a mini accordion, Plastisax (not unlike the melodica – another childhood favorite), two-tone paper squeeze box, concertina, and shruti box (like the harmonium).
Let me say this – this exact combination of rare and unlikely instruments can’t be found in any other VST plugin.
Either way, though, the developer tells us the sound of the Plastisax sits somewhere between a harmonica and a plastic soprano sax for kids, and we tend to agree.
Little Pump Reeds’ versatility and feature set is also a thing of marvel.
You get an adaptable LFO system, selectable LFO shape, speed, intensity, tempo-sync, fade-in, modulation target parameter, 12 FX, high-pass and low-pass filters, and assignable modulation targets (velocity, expression, modwheel, after-touch, step-sequencer table control, and key position).
You also get a customizable arpeggiator (with timing, swing, randomization, arp direction, duration), key and scale lock system, FX rack with 18 effects (assignable to 10 slots in any order), convolution reverb impulse responses, and more.
Finally, you also get 1,222 stereo samples, 20 custom sound designed ambient and FX presets, and multi-sampled acoustic articulations.
Experimentally, and in practice, Little Pump Reeds sounds great, and it’s a very affordable choice besides. So, if you’re open to creative solutions, this one merits a look. If you need a dedicated harmonica VST plugin, though, it’s okay to skip this one.
Little Pump Reeds is available for Windows and Mac and requires the full version of Kontakt 5.5 or higher.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Melox Pro by Sampleson
Here’s another creative solution for our outside the box thinkers out there. Sampleson’s Melox Pro, in case you couldn’t tell, is a rather unique entry, because it’s a melodica virtual instrument, which are quite rare.
Nope, it’s not a harmonica. But one instrument that sounds awfully close is the melodica. It has something else in common, too, in that it’s another instrument that’s bound to be a “first” for many children.
This virtual melodica delights and surprises with its feature set and functionality. It includes stereo and binaural modes, release velocities, key clicks, noises, air sound, mechanics, controllable vibrato (via CC), and stage reverb.
Melox Pro also does not require Kontakt, so as a budget option, it demonstrates quite a bit of merit as well.
As for whether it’s the right choice for you largely depends on whether you like its sound and functionality. But it is affordable, so you don’t have much of anything to lose if you like it.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Luft by Cinematique Instruments
Cinematique Instruments’ Luft is unlike anything you’ve ever heard. That’s what the developer wants you to believe, at least.
In terms of sound sources, they took advantage of simple aerophones, basically any instrument that relies on the movement of air through a reed or an opening to produce a sound.
For this entry, Cinematique prepared 34 airflow instruments they’ve conveniently divided into six categories – church organ, fan organs, pump organs, blown organs (like the melodica and blues harp), flutes, and domestic tools (like a water bottle, broken whistling, hand whistle), and more.
Some instruments were even resampled using a vintage tape machine, giving them a sound that can be likened to that of a mellotron.
Luft features two sound layers with 34 sources, EQ, modulation, and distortion. The two layers can be mixed together and manipulated using the modwheel and more. Luft also comes with 50 presets.
Overall, Luft offers some very warm pad like sounds.
Luft isn’t especially highly rated and isn’t exactly a harmonica instrument either. That said, it’s not well known at this point, and that could be why it doesn’t have a higher rating.
We find it sounds quite nice. It’s just not going to do a good job of impersonating a harmonica, but as with Little Pump Reeds (also seen in this guide), it can provide some beautiful, lush, warm pad backings.
Luft requires the full version of Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
What Should I Look For In A Harmonica VST Plugin?
As with the guitar, the harmonica is clearly not an easy instrument to perfect as a VST. There are some great sounding harmonica VSTs out there (the ones featured in this guide, specifically), but it seems we may have a way to go in capturing the real, authentic feel of a harmonica.
Further, there probably aren’t many (if any) developers constantly in pursuit of making better and better sounding harmonica VST plugins, so that may stifle progress. More competition would probably bolster developments.
Anyway, if you have no other way to go, then harmonica VSTs are still a good option. The modern producer faces many limitations, be it time, budget, equipment, recording facilities, or otherwise. For quick and dirty sketches, demos, and even commercial projects, there are ways of working with the existing tool set to get more than reasonable results.
Although we’ve covered a variety of useful VST plugins and Kontakt instruments here, at the end of the day, there are only four dedicated harmonica VST plugins we could find. Namely, Chris Hein – Harmonica, Sonivox’ Harmonica, Misfit Harmonica, and Harmonica v.2. These are the ones to look at if you’re shopping exclusively for harmonica sounds.
Other plugins found here may prove useful in other ways. Amplifikation Matchlock could work nicely in the harmonica signal chain, and Opalescence, Little Pump Reeds, and Luft work nicely as pads instruments. They could provide a nice backing to the sound of a harmonica too, so don’t rule out that possibility!
Melox Pro is a melodica instrument. It shares some commonalties with the harmonica (it’s an aerophone), and its sound is considered one of the closest to harmonica of any other instrument. It’s also a very budget friendly option if you don’t mind thinking a little outside the box.
Aside from that, there are a few criteria worth considering. They are as follows:
- Sound quality
Let’s look at each.
What’s the best sounding harmonica VST plugin? We invite you to be the judge because we find they’re all relatively close, except for Audiority Lab’s Harmonica v.2, which is still decent, but the least authentic sounding.
If authenticity / realism doesn’t matter to you, then what I just said is mostly a moot point. Whether you have magic signal chains, or are working on tracks that don’t require realism, you have a better idea of what you need than I do.
But if there’s something we all have in common, it’s that we do care about sound quality, even if we aren’t always going for the most realistic and authentic sounding virtual instrument.
Since all plugins have audio samples and relevant video demos or reviews, we suggest listening to each of the plugins for yourself. Don’t jump into buying any plugin before you’ve had the opportunity to listen to it, because while we always try to be fair, product descriptions can sometimes be misleading.
You know what sounds good to you. That matters more than just about anything else.
Some of the standard features you can expect to find in a harmonica VST plugin are multiple instruments / sounds, articulations, dynamic layers, range, effects, LFO, and more (this should not be considered a complete list of features).
If you have prior experience with harmonicas, then you’ll probably care a lot more about different instruments / sounds, articulations, and dynamic layers. If not (e.g., if you just need the sound of a harmonica), then these features may mean a little less to you.
When it comes to something like effects, it’s always nice when there are built-in effects, especially good ones. But it is certainly possible to make up for any deficits with custom signal chains.
Just because a plugin has more features doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better, either. It’s a safe assumption much of the time, but we’ve certainly seen plugins that have insane flexibility and versatility yet don’t have a good source, which is the foundation.
And I acknowledge that the source isn’t always the number one criterion. But how a plugin sounds is important to every producer, composer, or songwriter I know, as noted earlier.
If you can identify the specific features you need (or if you already know), that’s best. This will help you eliminate options that aren’t right for you, while leaving you with fewer options to choose from.
If you don’t know, there’s plenty of information out there that can help.
If all else fails, always consult your budget, because your wallet might have something to say about the VST plugin you’re about to buy.
Harmonica VST plugins are available in the $26 to $125 range, which is affordable to moderate in the grand scheme of the VST plugin kingdom. So, your pocketbook shouldn’t take too much of a hit.
That doesn’t mean you should be cavalier about the purchase, though. We don’t recommend going into debt for any VST plugin purchase, because we want you to enjoy your creative process instead of crying over a credit card bill you can’t pay on your kitchen table.
Don’t forget that you can always save up for gear you really want too! If you’re okay with delaying gratification, there’s a way to navigate budgetary constraints.
Finally, depending on which harmonica VST plugin you buy, you may require the full version of Kontakt. So, be sure to work that into your budget.
Top Harmonica VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
If you’re looking for a harmonica VST plugin, there are some decent options out there. You can certainly find harmonica VSTs with amazing features, but sound wise, there’s still room left for improvement.
You can still make do with what’s available, though, especially if the cost of hiring a session player, buying a new mic, finding a good space to record in, or some combination thereof just isn’t in the cards.
Harmonica is also harder than it looks, so learning from scratch isn’t much of an option unless you’re not under the gun of deadlines.
Either way, let us know how it goes with your new harmonica VST!