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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 left, and effect settings on the right. Detail view presents a number of additional controls relating to all aspects of the piano. Some are global settings such as overall tuning, velocity and pedal response, and the level of mechanical noise, while others are mostly secondary effects parameters that are not available from the Main view. You also need to visit Detail view if you want to set up amp and cabinet simulation.

The Detail view provides access to the V8 plug‑in’s amp and cab modelling, alongside various global settings and additional effects parameters.The Detail view provides access to the V8 plug‑in’s amp and cab modelling, alongside various global settings and additional effects parameters.

A minor irritation with this split layout is that there’s no one place where you can see all the effects parameters at once. The Detail page shows only the additional parameters that are not visible in the Main page, so if, for example, you want to adjust the Resonance of the phaser, you need to go to the Detail page — but you can’t actually turn the phaser on and off there, or set its rate.

The third, Pro‑only view is labelled Setup, and hands you a virtual screwdriver to adjust the behaviour of individual notes. Level, damper response, fine‑tuning and Timbre Shift can be set on a per‑note basis for each of the 73 notes by clicking in the appropriate box and dragging the mouse up or down. Keep the mouse held down and drag left or right and you can draw in sweeping patterns across multiple notes. Timbre Shift is an important factor in the overall sound and, according to the manual, changing the setting “controls the angle of the tine relative to the pickup and the distance of the tine relative to the pickup pole, increasing or reducing its harmonic content and perceived level. At higher levels of Timbre Shift, the tine position is lower relative to the pickup pole’s centre, bringing out more harmonics and animating the tone more overall. At lower levels, the tine is raised higher above the pickup pole centre and fewer harmonics are present in the resulting, ‘rounder’ sound.”

You can’t simply hold down a modifier key and adjust one of these parameters by the same amount for all notes simultaneously, but several of them have their own global controls in the Detail page. Obviously, if you wanted to make the entire piano a quarter‑tone flat for some reason, you’d be better off doing so using the global tuning control than by laboriously adjusting each individual note’s tuning setting. Less obviously, the global Tuning, Timbre Shift and Level settings are applied on top of whatever you’re doing in the Setup window, so you can for example achieve an extreme Timbre Shift by placing the global control at one end of its travel and doing the same for all notes individually. Likewise, the additional EQ that appears in the Pro plug‑in’s Detail page is additive with the EQ in the Main page.

Only available in the Pro version of the V8 plug‑in, the Setup page allows per‑note tweaking of parameters such as fine‑tuning, Timbre Shift and damper response.Only available in the Pro version of the V8 plug‑in, the Setup page allows per‑note tweaking of parameters such as fine‑tuning, Timbre Shift and damper response.

Profile Pictures

The occasional duplication or crossing of parameters makes sense in the context of the V8 Pro plug‑in’s dual‑level preset architecture. You can store and recall Presets, which encompass all parameters, as you’d expect; but you can also store and recall Profiles, which cover only settings made in the Setup page and the upper row of the Detail page. The idea is that a Profile stores a basic Rhodes configuration, while Presets additionally store what might be considered performance controls, such as effects settings. Thus, for example, the Profile EQ in the Details page is considered part of the underlying sound, whilst the Main page EQ is intended to modify that sound on the fly for effect.

A very healthy selection of factory Presets and Profiles is included, and goes way beyond minor variations on the core Mk8 sound. There are Profiles that aim to match the sound of older Rhodes models, both in good and not‑so‑good condition. There are Profiles that store stretched, compressed and ‘smile curve’ tunings across the keyboard. There are experimental setups of the kind you probably wouldn’t spend days recreating on a real Rhodes, such as Profiles where alternate notes have opposite tuning or timbre settings. And there’s a large number of artist Presets and Profiles.

Setting up a real Rhodes piano isn’t for the faint‑hearted, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s happy to leave it to the experts, so in a sense, the Setup pane and the factory Profiles make the plug‑in much more versatile than the real thing from a practical point of view. In fact, I’d say that if you were contemplating buying a Mk8 piano, it’d be worth getting the plug‑in first to get an idea of what sort of tonal range it’s capable of, so that you can ask for it to be configured to your tastes. Likewise, if you already own an older Rhodes and you want to match its sound in software, the V8 Pro plug‑in gives you most of the tools you need to do so.

One slight oddity about the factory Presets is that they all have the compressor enabled, even those that are intended to emulate older Rhodes pianos that never had compressors built‑in. I think the reason for this is that with so many parameters under the hood that can affect the signal level, Rhodes have rightly been cautious about overloads. Disable the compressor, and the output is usually very quiet, to the point where even heavy block chords barely hit ‑25dBFS on the DAW channel meters. That can be annoying when you need to overdub to an existing backing track, but it’s easy enough to correct once you’ve dialled in the sound to your taste, and preferable to the many instrument plug‑ins that hover on the edge of clipping all the time.

Rhodes Trips

Creating a multisampled instrument is a very different project from building an electromechanical piano, but Rhodes Music are well placed to do it. One of their main investors is Matt Pelling, whose previous company was Loopmasters. With access to his vast experience overseeing the creation of sample libraries, you’d expect Rhodes to be able to get this one right, and they have. The core Mk8 sound coming from the plug‑in is almost as gorgeous as the real thing. It’s rich, plummy, sonorous and balanced — if you want it to be. If you’d rather it was aggressive and biting, it can do that too. Or if you want a more muted, bell‑like tone with authentically intrusive thumps and bumps from the mechanism, you can have that at the click of a mouse.

There are existing Rhodes plug‑ins that cover an equally wide tonal range, especially those that use physical modelling rather than samples, but what you won’t find elsewhere is a painstaking replica of the Mk8’s electronics. Rhodes Music have put a lot of thought into the design of their preamp, EQ and effects, and they are quite different both from generic stompbox or studio processors, and from anything that was available as an add‑on for older Rhodes models. The Drive, for example, transitions smoothly from gentle added warmth to moderate overdrive without ever becoming gritty or harsh, or losing note definition. Used on its own, the envelope‑driven auto‑wah is a surprisingly subtle effect, only getting a little squelchy when you turn the EQ’s Mid gain right up, but it comes into its own with the Drive and the compressor. Vari‑pan is pure bliss at low rates, shading to ring‑mod madness at the other end of the scale; again, this is often best used in conjunction with the Drive and auto‑wah.

The chorus effect is capable of producing a surprising variety of tones, from rich and floaty to slightly seasick and wobbly, although the need to tab repeatedly between the Main and Detail pages to set it up can get a bit annoying. The same goes for the phaser, which covers much of the same ground in a mysteriously different way and sounds absolutely superb.

Finally, the amp/cab modelling gives you a choice of four amp‑plus‑cabinet combos, including one based on the original ‘suitcase’ Rhodes amp. You can also choose whether this should be miked with a virtual Neumann M49 or Shure SM57. With no control over amp settings or virtual mic placement, this feels like a bit of an afterthought, and personally I’d use a third‑party amp modelling plug‑in in preference.

The attention to detail that makes the Rhodes Mk8 such a remarkable instrument in hardware is apparent here too.

In all other respects, though, the attention to detail that makes the Rhodes Mk8 such a remarkable instrument in hardware is apparent here too. If you want a great‑sounding Rhodes plug‑in that you can simply call up and use, the more affordable basic version will do the job nicely. But for my money, the extra features in the Pro edition are well worth the additional cost. You can lose yourself for hours in the virtual setup process without any of the swearing and hard work that’s involved in setting up a real Rhodes, and the Pro effects integrate with the basic sound in a way that would be hard to replicate using third‑party plug‑ins. I still want a real Rhodes Mk8, but as second bests go, the V8 Pro plug‑in is a pretty good alternative.


  • Provides a smoothly multisampled Rhodes Mk8 sound, but can also do very decent recreations of earlier models.
  • Setup page in the Pro plug‑in offers endless configuration possibilities.
  • Gorgeous effects.


  • Amp/cab modelling is a bit perfunctory.
  • Controls and their labels can be hard to make out unless the GUI is at its largest size, and effects parameters are split over two pages.


The Rhodes V8 plug‑in won’t stop anyone lusting after the real thing, but it’s a fine virtual instrument in its own right, and arguably even more versatile from a sonic perspective.


Rhodes V8 £149.95, V8 Pro £249.95. Prices include VAT.

Rhodes V8 $179.95, V8 Pro $299.95