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Mellotron Plugins: The 5 Best VSTs for Lo-fi Tape Orchestra

Mellotron Plugins: The 5 Best VSTs for Lo-fi Tape Orchestra

The Mellotron is one of the most unique electronic instruments ever created.

The techniques and concepts it innovated laid the groundwork for sampling and virtual instruments.

But despite its pioneering role in the history of music tech, the Mellotron sound is still in demand today.

That’s why you’ll find dozens of Mellotron plugins that seek to emulate its nostalgic, tape-based tone.

If you’re looking for an authentic sound, you’re probably wondering what is the best Mellotron plugin to buy, or subscribe to in a plugin bundle.

In this article I’ll break down the top five Mellotron plugins available today.

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What is the Mellotron?

The Mellotron was a tape-based sampling instrument that used recordings of individual notes on strips of magnetic tape to emulate the sound of other instruments.

Each of its twelve keys was connected to a complete tape mechanism that triggered the playback of an eight second strip of tape. Each strip contained a recording of a single instrument note or musical phrase.

The Mellotron was invented to give keyboardists access to the entire orchestra at their fingertips. By changing the set of tapes installed, musicians could play the sounds of traditional instruments like strings, woodwinds, percussion and more at the touch of a key.

The Mellotron was a tape-based sampling instrument that used recordings of individual notes on strips of magnetic tape to emulate the sound of other instruments.

Despite being expensive, complicated and difficult to maintain, the Mellotron was intended to be used for entertainment purposes in theaters and homes.

But creative musicians eventually discovered its lo-fi sound could bring a haunting, nostalgic texture that was perfect for the psychedelic rock of the late 60s.

The Mellotron was famously used for the opening flute figure in the Beatles classic “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Preview of youtube video


Hot tip: The Mellotron is the best known example of a small family of instruments that reproduced sound using electromechanical recording methods. Similar devices include the earlier Chamberlin and optical-disk based Optigan and Orchestron. Each has their own unique flavor of quirky lo-fi sampling.

The best Mellotron plugins for your DAW

Luckily for today’s producers there are a handful of excellent choices to bring the retro sound of the Mellotron into your DAW.

With the basics out of the way, here are the best Mellotron plugins to download today

1. GForce M-Tron Select

Gforce M-Tron Select mellotron plugins

GForce is a British plugin developer famous for their obsessive vintage hardware recreations.

They’re catalogue includes excellent takes on legendary synths from Oberheim, Moog and ARP. But their M-Tron series stands out for its fantastic Mellotron emulation.

M-Tron Select is a full version of the plugin with limited options. It’s available at a low price with some plugin packages.

If you’re looking for a straightforward Mellotron with great sound at a low price, GForce M-Tron Select should be on your radar.

If you’re looking for a straightforward Mellotron with great sound at a low price, GForce M-Tron Select should be on your radar.

Hot tip: M-Tron Select is now available with yearly subscriptions of LANDR Studio. The package bundles together the best of the LANDR platform as well as plugin essentials from third-party developers.

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2. IK Multimedia SampleTron 2

ik multimedia sampletron 2 mellotron plugin

IK Multimedia’s SampleTron 2 is another dedicated Mellotron virtual instrument.

It’s based on the same technology that powers the popular SampleTank instrument. Sampletron delivers all the classic sounds of the Mellotron, Chamberlin, Optigan and Orchestron tape keyboards.

It also features dedicated controls for tape degradation artifacts like erosion, noise and wow & flutter.

Sampletron is great for dialing in your perfect Mellotron plugin tone.

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3. Arturia Mellotron V

arturia mellotron V plugin

Arturia’s V collection is well known for its expansive range of accurate vintage synth VSTs.

From revered units like the Yamaha CS-80 to unique early digital gear like the Prophet-VS, V collection has the classics well covered.

Of course, no collection of classic keyboard sounds would be complete without the Mellotron’s magical tape warble.

Mellotron V is a compelling take on the essential Mellotron tapes. Not only that, its added features include the ability to load your own samples.

4. Nanotron

nanotron free mellotron plugin

No collection of classic keyboard sounds would be complete without the Mellotron’s magical tape warble.

While there are plenty of plugin options for recreating the Mellotron with near-perfect accuracy, sometimes budget is the biggest factor.

That’s where Nanotron comes in. It offers a free edition of the classic Mellotron tape libraries.

If you’re looking for a free option, Nanotron is a perfect intro to the sound of the Mellotron.

5. EZKeys Mellotoon by Tunetrack

EZkeys mellotoon

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Toontrack is the company behind the widely used EZ instrument series that includes the popular EZDrummer VST.

EZKeys contains a nice edition of the classic Mellotron sounds recorded through various amps, effects and microphones at a notable Swedish studio.

Mellotronica

The Mellotron is a legendary instrument for its technological innovation and haunting sound.

Since owning a real unit is essentially impossible, VST plugins make it possible to experience in modern times.

And despite its reputation as a hallmark of psychedelic rock, the Mellotron is a unique sound that works in any genre where lo-fi textures are required.

If you’ve made it through this article you’ll have plenty of great Mellotron plugin options to choose from.

Michael Hahn

Michael Hahn is an engineer and producer at Autoland and member of the swirling indie rock trio Slight.

@Michael Hahn

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