The marimba is a pitched keyboard percussion instrument (similar to a xylophone) that resides in symphonies, percussion ensembles, orchestras, commercial music, and more.
Finding an excellent-sounding marimba VST isn’t a walk in the park — many sound cheap. Not to worry, as I have discovered five exceptional libraries that I will share with you today.
1) Vital Series: Mallets (Paid)
I’ve already mentioned Mallets in a previous post (xylophone VSTs), but it happens to fit perfectly with marimba VSTs.
Vital Series: Mallets is an excellent pitched-percussion plugin from Big Fish Audio, the creators of Electri6ity, Mojo 2, and Apollo: Cinematic Guitars.
The plugin includes patches for marimba, xylophone, bells, chimes, vibraphone, and others.
The sample quality is incredible — when I listened back to my studio monitors, I felt like I was listening to real performers.
Vital Series: Mallets comes with multiple mallet types allowing for more flexibility and better dynamic emulation.
Mallet types included are as follows:
- Medium Soft
- Medium Hard
Vital Series: Mallets is available at Plugin Boutique.
2) Marimbaphonic (Free)
For all the composers and producers looking for a free option — rejoice. Marimbaphone is a surprisingly decent-sounding free marimba plugin.
The instrument contains 122 samples from the University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios public domain library.
The most disappointing flaw in this marimba VST is the limiting two velocity layers (hey, what can you expect, it’s free?).
Here are Marimbaphone’s main features:
- 122 mono 24-bit samples
- Two velocity layers
- Release time control
- Amplitude dynamic range control
- Basic reverb
3) Short Marimba VST/AU from Flintpope (Free)
This VST unfortunately has been taken down!
Here’s an interesting (and free) marimba VST from a website called Flintpope.net.
The Short Marimba is a cool-sounding free instrument that won’t stand up to significant orchestral recordings but does work for many styles like pop and hip hop.
4) Soniccouture Grand Marimba (Paid)
I have a hard time distinguishing between Grand Marimba and Vital Series: Mallets’ marimba. They both sound so unbelievably realistic.
Grand Marimba is a fantastic marimba VST that features a 5-octave Yamaha 6100, designed with the legendary Keiko Abe.
The 6100 is a flagship instrument with precision tuning, Honduran Rosewood bars, and welded resonators (rattle-free).
Grand Marimba is a Kontakt Player instrument, meaning you do not need the full version of Kontakt to use it in your DAW.
5) Marimba by Frontline Producer (Paid)
Marimba by Frontline Producer is a great-sounding, and very affordable, marimba VST from Producer Loops.
The significant difference from the others on the list: it includes loops. Frontline Producer includes 343 marimba loops at tempos between 100 and 127 (which can be warped to your liking).
In addition to loops is a software sampler patch, which you can use to create your parts and melodies.
Marimba by Frontline Producer is available at Plugin Boutique.
6) Fine Mallets Bundle from Cinematique Instruments (Paid)
Fine Mallets is an armory of seven mallet percussion instruments including marimba, vibraphone, metallophone, glockenspiel, kalimba, and more.
The marimba patch sounds much dryer than others I have previously listed in this article.
There is also much less sustain, but I think it still sounds excellent and has commercial production potential.
The articulations included for the marimba patch include hard mallet, felt mallet, and big-soft mallet.
Note: the full version of Kontakt is required to use Fine Mallets.
Fine Mallets is available at Plugin Boutique.
Things to Consider When Looking for Marimba VSTs
Depending on your production, you may pick a different plugin. Some digital audio workstations even have marimbas and other percussion instruments included with the software.
Using Marimba VSTs in Pop and Hip Hop Music
Because you’re working in pop or hip hop music, you may not need the highest quality samples. A free option may work just fine.
I use Cubase, and it comes standard with Halion Sonic SE 3 — a VST sampler and sound creation system.
Halion Sonic SE 3 isn’t the full version of Halion, but it does come with some decent marimba patches. The included presets work fine for pop and hip hop music.
Check if your DAW includes some free virtual instruments and see if they’re any good!
Using Marimba VSTs For Orchestral and TV/Film Composition
Composition for film, TV, and video games requires next-level libraries — your competition will be using them.
Blowing away music supervisors right from the get-go is imperative, as you may only get one chance.
Using high-quality instrument samples is, unfortunately, a must when working in the TV and film industry.
For orchestral music, quality is also crucial. Unless you plan to hire out an entire orchestra to play your piece and record it, you may want to save up for the best virtual libraries you can afford.
Compatibility of Marimba Virtual Instrument Plugins
Most digital audio workstations today support VST (virtual studio technology) — VST is the most common format today.
However, if you use a DAW like Pro Tools, you may have to use a format known as AAX or RTAS. There are workarounds, but they are obnoxious, requiring you to use Reaper inside Pro Tools to host VST plugins — a total headache.
Fortunately, most plugins today come in different formats.
- VST (Virtual Studio Technology)
- AU (AudioUnits)
- AAX (Avid Audio eXtension)
- RTAS (Real-Time Audio Suite)
- TDM (Time-division Multiplexing)
Read your DAWs manual to see which format it supports.
Vital Series: Mallets remains to be my favorite mallet VST plugin bundle, though I have to say, Grand Marimba is coming in at a close second.
My best piece of advise when working with any plugins and instruments is to keep amassing them until you have an extensive library — like a painter’s color palette.
The “best-sounding” marimba VST may not always be the best application for a given style of music, like hip-hop, lo-fi, or pop.
If you’re interested in recording and production, specifically relating to drums and percussion, check out some of my other roundups:
- Top 5 Xylophone VSTs
- Top 6 Tambourine VSTs
- Top 5 Drum Machine VSTs
- Free Drum Kits
- 8 Top Drum VST Plugins
Have you tried out any of the marimba VST plugins I’ve listed here? What do you think? I’d love to hear from you in the comments down below.
Please share this article with your producer friends if you found it helpful.
Thanks for reading.