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Rhodes V8 & V8 Pro

Rhodes V8 & V8 Pro

Rhodes’ software recreation of their flagship instrument shows all the same painstaking attention to detail.

From the Minimoog to the Mellotron, classic keyboard instruments are being reissued and reinvented for the 21st Century. The most impressive reintroduction so far has to be that of the Rhodes piano. A labour of love driven by the passion of Rhodes tech and keyboard ace Dan Goldman, the Rhodes Mk8 is a thing of beauty. That’s partly because it’s not a slavish recreation of any previous Rhodes model. Dan has drawn on his unrivalled experience and knowledge to fine‑tune the design of almost every component, from the tines to the dampers, and hasn’t been afraid to improve on weak spots such as the clunky sustain pedal mechanism in the original models. The Rhodes Mk8 is also a rare example of British manufacturing at its finest, with everything apart from the keybed being made in the UK.

The inevitable consequence of Dan’s uncompromising approach, though, is that the Rhodes Mk8 is not a cheap instrument. The price tag hasn’t stopped it being wildly popular (and back ordered), but does place it out of the reach of many. So, for those of us who would love to own one but can’t afford or justify the cost, Rhodes have now made available an official software version.

You Take The High Rhodes

The Rhodes V8 plug‑in comes in two editions. These, to some extent, mirror the two different versions of the hardware instrument, which can be ordered with or without onboard effects. At the time of the SOS review in January 2022, the FX version was not quite complete, though the potential of the compressor, phaser, chorus and delay was already obvious from demos.

In plug‑in land, the version including effects is known as Rhodes V8 Pro. Although there isn’t (yet?) a ‘suitcase’ version of the Mk8, the Pro plug‑in also includes amp, cabinet and microphone modelling. Other aspects of the Rhodes Mk8 electronics have also been simplified for the basic version of the plug‑in, and features such as the envelope follower and auto‑pan waveform selection are only available in V8 Pro. Finally, V8 Pro allows you to dive under the hood and adjust the tuning, timbre, level and damping of individual tines in a way that’s not possible in the basic plug‑in.

The Rhodes V8 virtual instrument is available for macOS and Windows, and supports all the major plug‑in formats, though there is currently no standalone version. Initially, you install a small downloader app, which in turn pulls about 13GB of sample data from a server (for the Pro version). This process took quite a long time for me, so I suspect there are some bandwidth limitations at their end. Once installed, it’s activated by entering a licence code.

Three Way Split

One of the things that makes the hardware Rhodes Mk8 so desirable is its industrial design. Overseen by Axel Hartmann, it’s a triumphant hybrid of classic and modern, and is also extensively customisable. Rhodes are naturally proud of this and so have attempted to replicate the same look in software, using a near photo‑realistic representation of the keyboard and front panel, with the internals visible through a virtual smoked plastic top. The on‑screen keys are depressed in response to MIDI input, but hammers and damper arms don’t move.

The plug‑in GUI can be freely resized by clicking and dragging in the lower right‑hand corner, and Rhodes have also sensibly upped the scale of the control panels. However, there’s still a lot of unused space, and without expanding the window to its largest supported size, I struggled a little to read the legending and reliably target controls with the mouse pointer.

In the V8 Pro plug‑in, the GUI can be switched between three views. The Main view presents pretty much what you’d see if you were sat in front of a real Mk8 with the effects board: preamp, EQ and vari‑pan settings on the...

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