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The organ features a timeless sound. From religious works in the church, all the way to modern day pop and EDM, the organ can be an amazing supporting and lead instrument in virtually any genre of music.
Though you may not use it in every song, you don’t want to be caught without a competent organ in your virtual instrument collection. You just never know when it might be called upon.
So, in this guide, we look at the best organ VST plugins.
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Lakeside Pipe Organ by Soundiron – Best Overall
There are multiple entries via Soundiron on this list, and they’re all amazing in their own way. But for reasons you’re about to discover, we’ve chosen this as our best overall pick.
The Lakeside Pipe Organ features a vintage steel and wooden pipe organ, the kind that can be found specificallyin downtown Oakland, CA, at the Lakeside Temple of Practical Christianity.
This organ of epic proportions is made up of three keyboards and a foot pedal board for bass notes. It mechanically vents compressed air / wind through 85 resonant steel pipes and wooden reeds arranged in 15 ranks to produce its massive sound.
For this organ of epic proportions, Soundiron recorded five stop settings with two wide stereo microphone positions (close and far). Though the pipes only cover 61 keys starting at C2, the developer even decided to stretch the lowest note down further.
The library was originally released by Tonehammer in 2009, but Soundiron updated the Kontakt instrument with better keymapping, improved playability, new automatable performances, as well as effect and arpeggiator controls. And the world is better off for it.
Lakeside Pipe Organ basically matches what you might imagine an organ to sound like in your mind. It’s rich, full, warm, deep, resonant, and authentic. Plus, it gets the seal of approval from most discerning keyboardists.
Where some of the organs in this guide may only be useful in specific situations, Lakeside Pipe Organ should feel at home in a variety of musical genres and projects, be it singer-songwriter, rock, metal, pop ballads, film scores, or otherwise. Of course, it will work nicely for traditional, classical, and religious music too.
Tweaking and dialing in tones are a total blast with Lakeside Pipe Organ because it sounds great with practically any setting. That said whether you want to mellow out with conservative treble settings or allow the full resonance to cut through with shining highs, the parameters put all the power in your hands to create a masterpiece.
- Five organ settings, equivalent to PP, P, MP, MF, and FF
- Close and far microphone positions for all settings
- All notes on organ were sampled (no interval sampling was used)
- Acoustic recording without noise reduction
- Foot basses
- Bell / chimes
- Sessions recordings, FX, live organ demos, and hall sounds
Lakeside Pipe Organ features a fantastical, “old timey” design that’s sure to grab your attention.
As with most organ plugins, the controls are relatively minimal. The main parameters are swell, attack, offset, release, rel vol, and vibrato. There are additional controls for the stop mixer, LFO / filter / arp, and mic mixer to help you dial in your perfect tones.
Lakeside Pipe Organ works on both Windows and Mac.
The full version of Kontakt 3.5 or above is required.
- Lakeside Pipe Organ features a killer organ sound suited to just about any genre, and it gets the stamp of approval from multiple professional keyboardists
- The parameters give you full control over the timbre of the organ, which will come in handy when you’re trying to dial in the perfect timbre for your mix
- This plugin is quite affordable
- Although there are some unique sounds built into this plugin, there is a little less in terms of sound design content compared to something like Traveler Organ or Alpha Organ (very minor con unless you’re a frustrated composer looking for more)
- Requires the full version of Kontakt (might be a deterrent for some)
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
B-3 V by Arturia – Best Premium Option
Arturia doesn’t seem to make plugins. Rather, they develop masterpieces that take the form of VST plugins for the benefit of all artists, producers, and composers everywhere.
I exaggerate a bit. Maybe. But if you’re a classic rocker, then you will likely be able to guess what B-3 V is modeling as well as why you should care.
B-3 V, of course, is the tonewheel organ and rotary speaker setup that was made legendary by the likes of Jimmy Smith, Joey DeFrancesco, Cory Henry, and many others.
The B3 is perfect for a variety of genres, be it rock, jazz, gospel, reggae, R&B, or otherwise. Pro studios across the world are home to a classic B3 in case it is ever called upon (and it often is).
The electromagnetic tonewheel design is what it gave the unmistakable B3 its trademark sound you would be hard pressed to replicate or find in another instrument.
Arturia’s B-3 V was created as an homage to the illustrious original, along with the previously mentioned rotary speaker, stomp boxes, analog circuit mods, drawbar modulation, and even animated and syncopated effects.
Right out of the box, B-3 V sounds incredible. Whether you’ve used the B3 extensively, or you’re hearing it for the first time, you will be impressed by this VST.
As Arturia is known to do, they’ve done an amazing job of emulating the original, and B-3 V sounds almost as good as the real thing if not just as good. It would seem like an impossible task to replicate the rotary speaker effect, but here, too, Arturia has succeeded.
The effects and modulation though, are that extra touch that make this a versatile virtual organ.
- Physical modeling engine
- Dual manual interface with separate MIDI channel preferences
- Nine drawbars per manual
- Three modeled chorus and vibrato settings
- Separate upper and lower ON / OFF
- Preamp drive
- Modeled rotary speaker emulator with traditional Leslie performance controls
- Advanced controls – adjust the model
- Convolution reverb
- Swell pedal
- Percussion controls – on / off, volume soft / normal, slow / fast decay, harmonic selection
- Effects (order is configurable) – volume, wah, auto-wah, flanger, compressor, chorus, and analog delay
- Advanced drawbar modulators – LFOs with multiple waveforms and phase, multipoint envelopes, step sequencer, drawbar destinations with positive and negative amount controls
- Physical model engine parameters – drawbar leakage, tonewheel leakage, brilliance, background noise, polyphonic percussion, key click volume, attack and release controls
- 86 factory presets
- MIDI mapping
Arturia generally doesn’t hold back when it comes to any aspect of their plugins, and that includes their graphical user interface designs.
At the heart of the design, of course, is the organ itself, made to look as realistic as possible.
In the upper left, you’ll find controls for the vibrato. Next to them are the drawbars that can help you unlock a variety of tones. And in the upper right, you can find the percussion sounds as well as volume, decay, and harmony.
There’s a volume pedal at the bottom that allows you to control swells.
Then there’s the Leslie speaker cabinet, which comes with its own controls. Again, the cabinet is made to look as realistic as possible.
Not surprisingly, the effects pedals also feature a very realistic looking design to give you an authentic experience.
Arturia also added various modulation possibilities to give the user access to even more sound options.
Overall, even with all the included controls, B-3 V is very user friendly.
B-3 V is compatible with Windows and Mac.
- Gives you access to the classic sounds of the Hammond B3 at a fraction of the price
- The sound quality is amazing, the interface is beautiful, and the features are comprehensive and fun
- The preset browser is categorized and easy to navigate
- Offers a great organ sound for every genre imaginable
- So far as organ VSTs are concerned, the B-3 V is one of the most expensive available (but it is worth the price)
- It’s not for everyone (most people love Arturia VSTs, but some still knock them – to each their own)
- If the sound of the Hammond B3 is not what you’re after, this won’t be your jam
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
DB-33 by AIR Music Technology – Best Budget Option
As with Arturia, AIR Music Technology thought it might be a good idea to try their hand at the classic sound of the Hammond B3. And it’s not hard to see why – the B3 practically defined the sound of an era and it’s still much sought after to this day.
With DB-33, developer AIR Music Technology set the goal to create a tonewheel organ style sound that wasn’t just “close,” not just “approximate,” but a faithful recreation of the real thing. Whether in rock, soul, or jazz, the B3 was all over music from the 60s to 80s, and even beyond. Stevie Winwood, Jon Lord, and Richard “Groove” Holmes all played a part in evangelizing the immortal organ.
Now, AIR Music Technology is quick to say they’re emulating a B3 style tonewheel organ, not necessarily the organ itself. I suppose that’s what it looks like to purchase insurance on your claims. Still, there is something to get excited about here, especially at this price.
The DB-33 has a great sound. Since there are over 120 presets onboard, you can quickly and easily find a starting point for your projects, whether it’s a jazz standard or a soft ballad.
Full, rich, and warm, I don’t know if you could possibly be disappointed with DB-33’s tone at this price point. No wonder it’s our best budget option.
It doesn’t sound quite as good as Arturia’s B-3 V, and that will probably be a point of contention for discerning buyers and purists. But as they say, you do get what you pay for!
Personally, I find the sounds to be very competent. I wouldn’t be embarrassed to use any of them in my projects, especially in full mixes.
But the only way to know for sure is to have a listen to it for yourself, so check out the video below.
- 122 presets
- Convolution rotary speaker cabinet
- Tube drive emulation
- Controls for vibrato, chorus, drawbars, and more
- Can be used as an effect
DB-33 features a sleek, semi-realistic looking user interface based on classic organs. It has a smooth, “candy-coated” quality to it that I kind of like.
Compared to Arturia’s B-3 V, it has a minimalistic interface. And it does feel a little “crammed” by comparison.
Then again, design is not all about how something looks. It’s also about the parameters and ease of use.
And the parameters on the DB-33 are clearly marked and easy to understand.
DB-33 is compatible with Windows and Mac.
- It may not quite compare to Arturia’s B-3 V, but it still sounds impressive, and the timbre is highly configurable
- It’s versatile enough to work in most genres
- DB-33 can be applied as an effect to guitar, drums, and other instruments
- It’s affordable
- It has a good sound to it, but it may prove unsatisfactory to some
- There are more faithful recreations of the Hammond B3 out there
- It does not have all the features or parameters that the B-3 V has (though it still comes with rotary speaker controls)
- The developer could do a better job explaining all the features available
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Traveler Organ by Soundiron
Soundiron’s Traveler Organ is a multi-sampled Kontakt instrument library. The sound comes from an early 20th century Clough & Warren flat-top reed organ.
Soundiron captured a variety of stops and articulations (sustains, marcatos, staccatos, bellow creeks, key clicks, etc.) in a dry studio with quality preamps and three Neumann mics (just add reverb). They even threw in some custom sound-designed organs, pads, and ambiences. Composers are sure to love this feature.
The developer says this 63-key 13-stop organ will work in a variety of genres, whether it’s whimsical street performances or classical church music.
If it wasn’t obvious from the name, producers sometimes compare the sound of the Traveler Organ to that of a circus or merry-go-round organ. I would even say its sound is somewhat comparable to the melodica.
Out of the box, the organ has a very raw, warm, clarinet-like sound. By tweaking the parameters, you can alter its natural sound from pad to more of a staccato sound, and the vibrato even gives you a Leslie speaker style effect.
The included effects can drastically change the sound of the organ, especially the distortion and amp and speaker simulation options. This puts a wider array of possible tones and textures at your fingertips.
Speaking of tones and textures, the sound-designed patches are much closer to synthesized sounds and should also come in handy for a myriad of scenarios.
While the default sound may not be for every genre as the developer claims (unless a circus organ sound is what you’re after), if retro organ sounds are your thing, you will thoroughly enjoy this entry.
- 26 instrument presets with dozens of articulations and performance controls
- Round robin for every articulation (including releases)
- Special MIDI-CC and velocity crossfade presets
- Antique organ bellows, key clicks, SFX, and sound design content
- Sustains, attacks, diminuendos
- Stop settings and reed voicings
- Multi-mode arpeggiator with step sequencer
- 70 convolution reverbs – churches, cathedrals, chambers, rooms, halls, and special effect impulses
- Multi-effects rack – EQ, filter, distortion, amp & speaker simulation, phaser, flanger, delay, and more
Traveler Organ comes with a 3D rendered user interface.
The developer opted for a slight “horror” look with the candles and skull imagery, as well as the age-worn scores, but we must admit, the lighting effects and textures give the interface a classic, authentic, and polished look.
Your basic controls include volume, attack, release, offset, vibrato, and octave, which are represented by the drawbars onscreen.
Overall, the design is simple, uncomplicated, and attractive.
This Kotakt instrument is compatible with Windows and Mac.
Also, the full version of Kontakt 5.5 or above is required to run Traveler Organ.
- It has a warm, accordion like tone by default
- It will work perfectly for playful music all the way over to ominous music
- The effects and sound designer content make it handy for composition, percussion, and other applications
- It’s more versatile than you might think
- If you’re not crazy about getting a classic organ sound, then you might not be stoked for this one, but that’s typically what ends up attracting producers to it
- The fact that you need Kotakt to use Traveler Organ could be a con, but it comes with so many great tools, it’s honestly hard to argue with the price let alone the download and installation process
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Alpha Organ by Soundiron
Soundiron’s Alpha Organ Kotakt instrument features a vintage pipe organ deep sampled, originally captured at St. Paul’s Church in San Francisco, CA. And it’s no worse for wear, even compared to the other Soundiron instruments in this guide.
As the developer will tell you, sometimes it’s not just about the instrument but also the room in which it sits, and Soundiron seems convinced – the pipe organ and St. Paul’s Church together form one complete instrument.
Just to give the user a feel for the amazing, almost “miraculous” sounds they were hearing in the church, Soundiron was sure to include a broad selection of sound-designed ambiences as well.
Alpha Organ has that classic, rich, warm, natural, triumphant sound church organs are known for. Each preset (characterized by mood and feel) has its own character and texture for added versatility. More sounds to draw from is rarely a bad thing, and certainly a plus in this instance!
Naturally, the sound-designed ambiences would work well for trailers, TV, films, video games, and more. This gives the virtual instrument some added versatility.
- Three master presets – Main, Layered, and Ambiences
- 20 custom FX presets
- 4,117 samples (9.2 GB installed)
Soundiron obviously wanted to go for something different here, utilizing the colors of the rainbow as the backdrop (stained glass), a bold “Alpha Organ” logo lit up with golden lettering in the center, and control knobs that seem to resemble plasma energy.
These are some unique design choices to be sure, but thankfully they are not confusing to the end user. There are plenty of controls to play with, but you won’t have any trouble finding them, nor should you be confused as to what they do.
Alpha Organ is available for Windows and Mac, and it works with the free or full versions of Kotakt.
- It will instantly fill the room with that familiar, lush church organ sound
- Sound-designed content is epic
- You can get the plugin at a fair price
- It’s less versatile than some entries – it’s best suited to classical, gospel, video game, and film music (but it still sounds amazing)
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
What Should I Look For In An Organ VST?
So, we’ve looked at five of the best organ VST plugins available.
Thankfully, there aren’t a lot of plugins to compare. That can streamline the buying process.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t factors to consider. Given that some organs are more specialized than others, it’s always good to be aware of what you’re buying, and in what situations it will shine the brightest.
As much as possible, we’ve covered the key factors involved (especially in the pros and cons sections). But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things you should be thinking about.
Here we’ll consider these criteria to help you find the perfect organ VST plugin:
- Type of organ
- Sound quality
Here’s what you need to know:
Type Of Organ
At first brush, it might seem like all organs are alike. That is, of course, until you start listening intently to the differences. Some organs are clearly better suited to some genres compared to others, though some are versatile enough to belong in most musical situations.
As with piano, guitar, or just about any other instruments, different models / designs have different tonal qualities. Out of the five organs featured in this guide, only two are emulating the same thing. The other three are all distinct.
What follows is crude categorization at best, but these are basically the three types of organs available in this guide:
- All-arounder. The Lake Pipe Organ and any plugins emulating the B3 will tend to be better all-arounders, suited to a variety of musical situations and genres. A church organ (see next bullet) is going to be a little more limited in terms of what it might be able to handle. The argument could be made that the Lake Pipe Organ is a church organ, but its conventional organ sound will lend itself nicely to more styles.
- Church organ. The Alpha Organ is the prime example of a church organ. You can try to fit it into different genres, but at the end of the day, it will work best in church, traditional, gospel, video game, and film score type contexts. Secondarily, the Lake Pipe Organ is a beautiful church organ too.
- Specialty organ. The Traveler Organ tends towards this category. As with any other virtual instrument, you can do what you want with it, but a specialty organ is likely to sound best in situations it was designed for. The Traveler Organ would be great for circus, amusement part, maybe even a little ominous classical music or film scores, but that’s about where the guarantees end.
Knowing what type of organ, you want to buy can sometimes streamline the entire process and help you arriving at a buying decision faster.
But if you aren’t there yet, keep reading…
When it comes to samples, the quality of the library is obviously a factor. Things like where the instrument was recorded, how it was recorded, using what microphones and outboard gear, utilizing what processing, are all going to play a part in what you hear.
If the sound was modeled using other methods, then of course, the finished product you hear will depend on the methodologies employed.
Another way of thinking about this would be the overall authenticity of the sound. For instance, the B-3 V sounds closer to the real thing compared to the DB-33, though they are basically emulating the same thing. Of course, we are talking about the most expensive and most affordable plugins in this guide.
Timbre is another key factor. It is certainly affected by the overall quality and authenticity of a sound, but its fair to say that even if all other factors were equal, the tonal qualities of one organ would differ significantly from another.
Even with the same recording methodologies and same microphones in the same positions, you would end up with different tones, because that is highly dependent on the instrument itself.
Timbre is a matter of individual preference, though. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the world of guitar, where every guitarist has their own sound, no matter how hard they might try to emulate anoterh.
The quality of a sample also depends on whether any unwanted noise was captured, if there are any audible artifacts, or peaking affecting the input signal (producing a pop or distortion).
This doesn’t seem to be much of a concern with modern, professionally developed VST plugins, mind you, and in our own research, we didn’t identify any issues with the five organs featured here. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do your own looking, of course.
At the end of the day, though, you’re the one using the organ. So, if you’re happy with it, we don’t think there’s anything wrong! It’s okay to go with your gut.
Every virtual organ featured in this guide offers up a competent organ sound. So, let’s start there.
As well, every organ on this list has tweakable parameters. Some have more, some have fewer, but ultimately, they’re all configurable to greater or lesser degrees. Naturally, you can still mix things up in post processing.
Not every organ comes with additional effects. You can always create your own effects chain, so this may not be a deal breaker, but if you want to minimize CPU usage, this might be a factor. Plus, the virtual organs do sometimes come with great effects.
Finally, not every virtual organ comes with sound design style material. This may matter to you less if you’re not a composer, or if you’re not constantly looking for fun, unusual, distinctive sounds you can incorporate into your music. But if you’re buying an organ VST with this type of content in mind, you should prioritize a VST plugin that’s going to make you happy.
Organ VST plugins, thankfully, aren’t overly expensive. Plus, you can get a great sounding virtual organ for relatively little money.
That said, spending over $100 on an organ might be a bit of a stretch for some. Producers just starting out don’t necessarily have a huge budget, and the cost of plugins can add up very quickly, especially if you have a big shopping list.
I suppose, in this case, it’s the argument between “good enough” and “excellent” quality plugins though. You can get a “good enough” plugin in the $30 to $50 range, and you could even be perfectly happy with it depending on what you’re looking for.
In the upper range, though, you’d be looking at about $150, which might not be a deal breaker, but it could feel like a lot to put into an organ VST, depending on your needs. It usually costs more to get the best of the best.
At the end of the day, our top recommendation is to use your budget to filter out untenable options. We don’t suggest going into debt for music related purchases, so if you can’t afford all the organ you desire right now, promise you will save up and purchase later, okay?
Top Organ VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
When all is said and done, there aren’t that many organ VST plugins out there. And that could be because the ones available are already quite competent. It could also be because many producers either have access to the real thing or prefer recording the real thing. We can’t fault anyone for that.
Still, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have any of the above virtual organs in my collection, and no doubt they would find their way into many of my projects.
Either way, you’ve got to be the decision maker. So, do your homework, check out the videos, and choose a plugin that’s matched to your needs. Happy shopping!