We’re cheating slightly by choosing a small collection here rather than an individual instrument but at the price it’s still something of a bargain. NI is a world leader in virtual instruments and here you get 5 organs: 3 models of Hammond, a Farfisa and a Vox Continental plus of course models of the amplifiers that give them their unmistakeable sounds. Each one is based on samples of the real hardware and coupled with advanced processing to add effects and all the controls you would get on a real version of the instrument. Truly, a classic collection.
The Fender Rhodes is one of the most-imitated instruments around, with real units being both rare and physically very large. Not everyone always gets it right but Arturia has here, using software modelling to recreate both the Suitcase and Stage models, the front panel controls, tines and a suite of effects and Fender Twin amp that give the sound its unique character. Equally prized for jazz, pop and electronic music, the Rhodes sound can vary from shimmering and mellow through to hard edged and rocky. However you use it, this is rather easier than lugging a real Rhodes piano around!
“A piano isn’t a vintage keyboard”, I hear you say. Well no, but Pianoteq is different. Using physical modelling rather than samples as the basis for its sounds, it’s amazingly lightweight and thus easy to run on even a small laptop. It lets you choose instrument packs so you can tailor it to your needs. When you buy, you can select the Electric Instruments collection which gives you various electric pianos, Electra and Hohner Clavinet amongst others. These have onboard effects and many sound tweaking controls that you don’t always get in sample-based instruments. Plus, there’s that tiny footprint to consider.
Another entry for NI, this time a Kontakt Player-based collection of 16 era-defining analog synths and keyboards, sampled into a 4GB library and given a gorgeous interface. Whether you’re after fat basses or creamy leads, you can take advantage of the onboard arpeggiator and the Chord Player that makes performance a breeze. Designed for speed of playing rather than in-depth sound tweaking, you get presets that embody classic setups plus a Morph slider to transition between them, effectively giving you lots more options. For the price, Retro Machines is a great tool to have to hand.
Weighing in at a mind-bending 25GB, this sampled collection of four classic vintage keyboards is not for the faint hearted. Spitfire is known for its almost obsessive attention to sampling detail, and it shows here. There’s a Rhodes, Clavichord, Wurlitzer and keyboard bass instrument based on a Rhodes as popularized by The Doors. With a veritable who’s who of talent involved in the sampling process, this is a chance to get virtual access to some rarely-seen, beautifully maintained classics. One for the serious player.