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The harpsichord is a classic. It’s certainly a favorite among classical players, but it also found its way into 60s pop, rock, and psychedelia. And, of course, it’s used strategically in a variety of tracks in a variety of genres, even today.
It may not be an absolute must-have, like a piano or a synthesizer, but its role in a variety of musical styles is undeniable, and as with any instrument, it has its moments. Used in the right context, it totally shines.
In this guide, we look at the best harpsichord VST plugins available.
Demonic Virtuoso by Wavesfactory – Best Overall
Used widely during the Renaissance period and in Baroque music, the harpsichord went through a bit of a roller coaster decline in popularity from the 18th to 20th century. From there, though, it made a serious comeback in traditional, contemporary, and popular music.
Wavesfactory captures the very essence of the historic instrument in their Kontakt instrument, Demonic Virtuoso. The developer recorded a harpsichord in three positions (close, decal, and outrigger), and included four round robins, as well as time-based release samples (no pitch shifting).
Demonic Virtuoso is very configurable. First, there’s a simple mixer that gives you control over the three mic positions. The close position was recorded using two Neumann KM184s, two AKG 414s at the mid-distance, and two Neumann TLM 103s at the far distance (back of the room).
Each channel comes with pan, volume, mute / solo, stereo width, and load / purge controls.
Demonic Virtuoso also features effects. Effect chains can be inserted in any channel independently. You’ll find EQ, various compressors, modulation (flanger, phaser, chorus), distortion / saturation / tape, algorithmic and convolutional reverb (with 40+ custom impulse responses), and amp simulators.
Finally, on the settings page, you can fine-tune round robin, dynamic range, velocity curve, release, and sample start.
In total, this virtual harpsichord comes with 1.52 GB of content – 1,524 samples.
Demonic Virtuoso is affordable, great sounding, and relatively versatile to boot. It’s hard to go wrong here. No wonder it’s our best overall pick!
Demonic Virtuoso requires the full version of Kontakt.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Essential Keyboard Collection by SONiVOX – Best Premium Option
With Essential Keyboard Collection, SONiVOX aims to deliver all the keyboard sounds a keyboard player could want, in one, central, convenient virtual instrument.
This VST takes advantage of Qubiq Audio’s struQture audio engine, making it perfect for live and in-studio use alike.
So, what’s included? Essential Keyboard Collection comes with 13 instruments. The developer even created custom UIs for each instrument, and the plugin can be used as a standalone PC or Mac app too (which is where live use would come in).
In addition to the obligatory harpsichord preset, you’ll also find Steinway grand piano, Yamaha grand piano, upright piano, pianet, toy piano, tonewheel organ, church organ, electric organ, Rhodes Mark I, Rhodes Mark II, clavichord, and harmonium sounds.
Essential Keyboard Collection also comes with a handful of effects, including reverb, delay, chorus, and vibrato. There are multiple presets for each instrument.
Overall, Essential Keyboard Collection is very impressive sounding. The custom UIs for each instrument make it fun and intuitive to use, and parameters, for the most part, are minimal but straightforward to operate.
(Yes, the harpsichord preset sounds great too – very realistic.)
As you would expect, you will end up spending more on a plugin that features nothing but high-quality keyboard sounds, but if you’re anticipating the need for multiple quality keys sounds (not just harpsichord), this is a good place to look.
Essential Keyboard Collection is our best premium pick.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Eko Panda by Soundiron – Best Budget Option
Eko Panda is a classic 70s style synthesizer modeled after the Eko Panda 61. While the instrument was initially marketed as an electric piano, its infrastructure was more akin to that of an early monophonic synth. As result, it approximates the sound of a harpsichord, horns, strings, winds, and even an e-piano.
Eko Panda includes seven voices in total with tight staccatos and infinite sustains, 20 custom FX presets, as well as 40 sound designed patches, atmospheres, pads, and drones.
There are plenty of parameters for fine tuning, including volume, attack, release, vibrato, octave layering, transient offset, and glide (for legato and portamento leads).
There’s also an onboard LFO system, featuring selectable LFO shapes, speed, intensity, tempo-syncing, fade-in time, and modulation target parameter.
Additionally, there are 13 high-pass, lowpass, and FX filters, assignable modulation control options (velocity, expression, modwheel, after-touch, key position, step-sequencer table), and arpeggiator (with arp direction, velocity sequencer table, note timing, swing, duration, and randomization).
For this project, two Neumann TLM 103 large diaphragm condenser mics were used to capture the Eko Panda in a dry room, and it comes complete with sustain and staccato samples for every key.
Overall, Eko Panda features two instrument presets, with vibrato, glide speed, LFO, filter, and arp, 20 sound designed FX and ambient presets, glide slider, octave knob, convolution reverb (with 119 variations), and a full multi-effects rack with EQ, filter, delay, phaser, flanger, distortion, amp sim, speaker sim, and more.
I would describe Eko Panda as being somewhere between an organ and a synth, and there are plenty of classic warm tones to delight your senses. The harpsichord sounds are not bad. Given its price point, and surprising versatility, we have no reservations selecting it as our best budget option.
But if you are looking for a solid harpsichord sound, specifically, we still recommend one of the first two options in this guide.
Eko Panda requires the full version of Kontakt 5.5.2 or above.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
VI.ONE by Vir2 instruments
The best way to describe Vir2 Instruments’ VI.ONE is as a workhorse sketching / demoing / composing / scoring / arranging tool. Not that it can’t be used for commercial projects, but you will likely find that some of its sounds are better than others.
Speaking of sounds, though, that is VI.ONE’s greatest strengths, that it comes with a 21 GB library of samples. You’ll find a harpsichord sound, of course, but beyond that, you’ll also find Rhodes, electric organ, acoustic pianos, flugelhorn, tuba, celeste, banjo, ukulele, and much, much more.
VI.ONE also comes with EQ and reverb controls, MIDI CC, and multitimbral operation (up to 64 simultaneous instruments depending on RAM availability).
While it doesn’t come with the best sounds ever made, VI.ONE does make for a great one stop shop for all the sounds you need.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Principessa by Soundiron
Embodying the sounds of a hard-to-find late 60s / early 70s “Princess” organ, Soundiron’s Princepessa features an analog synthesizer tone and plenty of tone-shaping controls.
It’s feature set, though, is practically identical to the Eko Panda, also seen in this guide.
You do get different instrument tones, though, and the Principessa comes with harpsichord, piano, synth flute, bass clarinet, trumpet, trombone, strings, diapason, and vibraphone.
This entry is oddly good at soundscapes / sound design style textures. So, if you’re looking for an atmospheric organ, this might be right down your alley. Warm tones are what it seems to do best.
Principessa requires the full version of Kontakt 5.5 or above.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Verve by Soundiron
Soundiron’s Verve is yet another quirky 60s vintage organ entry based on the Italian combo organ, the Jen Brio 61-CS. In terms of sounds, it offered harpsichord, piano, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, oboe, and tibia.
Soundiron captured the instrument direct line in and in wide stereo, with staccatos, sustains, and key up / down sounds. It features 3.4 GB of content, and 4,482 stereo samples in 24 bit / 48 kHz stereo uncompressed PCM WAV audio.
Otherwise, its feature set is also like that seen with Eko Panda and Principessa (also seen in this guide).
The Verve also has a hybrid organ / synth type sound to it, with plenty of warmth and lots of possibilities in terms of soundscapes and atmospheres as well.
Verve requires the full version of Kontakt 5.5 or above.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
What Should I Look For In A Harpsichord VST Plugin?
The harpsichord features an iconic sound you’d be hard pressed to find just about anywhere else. It’s not the kind of instrument you’d use on every recording, but where it fits, it fits nicely.
Whether it’s classical music, traditional, 60s pop and psychedelia, progressive rock, or otherwise, you can let your imagination take you to new, fun, and strange places full of possibility.
We know that choosing a VST plugin isn’t always easy though. Not that there are a ton of options when it comes to harpsichord plugins (there really are only two organic / authentic sounding choices), but it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibilities that you’re not quite sure which plugin to go with yet.
Don’t worry. That’s why we’ve created this section of the guide, specifically for you – to help you home in on the one (or two, or more) plugin(s) that are going to rock your world.
So, what should you look for in a harpsichord plugin? Here are some solid criteria to consider:
- Sound quality
Let’s talk more about these considerations.
If realism and authenticity are what you’re after, then your choices basically come down to Demonic Virtuoso and Essential Keyboard Collection. Both sound great, but of the two, Essential Keyboard Collection sounds better.
The main difference between the two, then, is 1) budget, and 2) the number of available sounds. Demonic Virtuoso is more affordable than Essential Keyboard Collection. But Demonic Virtuoso is a standalone harpsichord virtual instrument, while Essential Keyboard Collection offers up 13 must-have quality keys sounds.
For a solid harpsichord sound, Demonic Virtuoso is more than enough, but for extended versatility, you might prefer Essential Keyboard Collection instead.
What if you don’t have the budget for either plugin? Or, what if you don’t need a realistic sounding harpsichord?
In that case, Eko Panda is probably a safe bet. Yes, it’s more of an organ / synth than a harpsichord, but it’s very inexpensive, and more versatile than just a harpsichord as well.
Either way, though, we do encourage doing your own research. From sound clips to video demos, there is a decent amount of content you can peruse to hear how specific plugins sound.
I’m not here to steer you in a specific direction. I’m here to help you find the ideal solution for you. And what’s right for me won’t necessarily be right for you. You know what types of projects you’ll be working on, as well as what types of sounds you like.
So, don’t forget to spend a bit of time in personal exploration.
Some of the most common features for plugins in this category include instruments / sounds, multitimbral operation, round robins, mic positions, mixer controls, modulation, effects, amp sims, and presets (this should not be considered a comprehensive list).
As with sound quality, some self-exploration is par for the course. You should be thinking about what you need for your projects. You can always make up for some deficits with effects chains, but whether that makes sense for you probably depends on available CPU power and access to quality effects.
Take some time to explore each plugin and learn about their feature set. In this case, Eko Panda, Principessa, and Verve are remarkably similar, but outside of that, you will find each plugin has its own strengths.
Since you are looking to purchase a keyboard instrument, features aren’t necessarily the thing to get obsessed over. If you have control over key parameters, that’s what matters most.
I’ve got some good news for you. You won’t need to spend a king’s ransom to get a solid harpsichord VST plugin. Plugins in this category start at about $30 and go up to roughly $220. Yes, you are going to end up spending more for a better product, but did you expect any differently?
For an authentic sounding harpsichord sound, though, you should expect to spend about $60.
Now, Essential Keyboard Collection is the most expensive plugin on the list, and the best sounding. You’ve got to be the one to decide whether that’s worthwhile for you. It may not be if you already have competent piano, electric piano, and organ sounds.
Either way, we don’t recommend going into debt for any purchase, so please spend responsibly. If you don’t have the budget for what you need right now, be sure to save up for it.
Also keep in mind – depending on the option you choose; you may also need to purchase the full version of Kontakt. So, if relevant, don’t forget to work that into your budget.
Top Harpsichord VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
And now you should be equipped with everything you need to know to purchase your first (or second) harpsichord VST plugin. No, there aren’t many options, but that’s not too surprising – harpsichord doesn’t seem to belong on every musical track!
Still, the products available are quite good, so I don’t think there’s a major missing here. The trick is to evaluate sound quality, features, and budget to decide which one is right for you. Beyond that, it’s all about what you like best and what’s going to work best for your projects.
Enjoy your new plugin and let us know how it goes!