The original Mellotron came to fruition almost 60 years ago. At the time, it was one of the most ingenious and innovative new instruments on the market. Remember, this was long before the days of digital synthesizers and samplers.
To help you capture the same vibe as the original Mellotron, we've compiled a list of some of our favorite Mellotron plugins, including free and paid options.
But first, let's answer the most important question...
What Is a Mellotron?
The Mellotron is a unique instrument with a keyboard design that triggers an internal mechanism to run analog tape across a playhead, generating the sound of whatever instrument was recorded to that tape.
You could find a wide range of instrument options on the original Mellotron, including violins, flutes, cellos, choirs, horns, and much more. There were some limitations, however, one of which was the fact that a single-held key would only play a tape "sample" that was seven or eight seconds long before it had to reset.
Thanks to its tape-based design, we get all of the weird pitch warbles and volume fluctuations that lo-fi seekers yearn for, giving the Mellotron its own unique sound.
Some bands famous for using the Mellotron were The Beatles, Moody Blues, King Crimson, Genesis, Oasis, and Radiohead.
Arguably, one of the most famously recorded Melloton songs was The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever."
Getting your hands on the real thing will cost you thousands of dollars, not to mention these things were not portable in the slightest.
Luckily, there are plenty of great Mellotron VSTs on the market today. Let's look at a few of the best Mellotron VSTs.
Best Mellotron VSTs (Paid)
Arturia Mellotron V
Arturia is one of my favorite plugin developers when it comes to high-quality vintage emulations. In my humble opinion, the team at Arturia nailed the sound of the Mellotron better than any other developer on this list.
There's something to be said about the interface, which feels intuitive and nostalgic. In fact, it looks just like the Mellotron, which makes it a bit more inspiring to play around with.
The Mellotron plugin faithfully represents the vintage sounds from the 60s, providing a few unique additions that modern producers will love, including a wide range of effects.
Every sound can be tweaked and altered with inherent noise, saturation, tape flutter, and more. Arturia even allows you to upload your own samples into the plugin to give them the Mellotron sound.
With the ability to mix and match different samples, Arturia Mellotron V is already more powerful than the original hardware. Plus, there are tons of presets to choose from, one of which delivers that iconic "Strawberry Fields Forever" tone.
There's also a dedicated pedalboard with ten different FX slots.
GForce M-TRON Pro
The G Force M-TRON Pro draws from the Mellotron M400, the model that was a favorite of bands like Radiohead, The Beatles, Oasis, Led Zeppelin, Nine Inch Nails, and more.
In terms of sheer size and functionality, you get plenty more to mess with compared to the Mellotron V. You'll find more than 200 tape banks in this 3.5GB sound library, allowing you to access more than 700 patches with individual controls for various effects, such as delay, envelope filter, modulation, and more.
M-TRON Pro uses dual-layer and split-keyboard functionality with 29 parameters for each layer. It's clear that the developers put a lot of love into designing the GUI, giving it a slightly cartoonish design with a uniquely mid-2000s vibe.
As for the sound quality, GForce nails the classic Mellotron sound as well. With so many tape banks and onboard controls, however, this plugin gives you the ability to push your tonality into the realm of the unexpected.
EZKeys Mellotoon is another great emulation of the classic Mellotron M400. The developer worked carefully to capture 15 instruments from the original hardware unit, blending amped and direct signals.
As with the other two Mellotron plugin options, you get access to a number of sound chain presets and custom effects for more functionality.
All of the samples were gathered at Studio 9, Sveriges Radio, with the highest quality equipment, and mixed to be dragged and dropped into your arrangements without much need for alteration.
The included sounds are bright, warm, and crispy sounding, helping them cut through mixes with ease. If you want a raw Mellotron sound, you might look to the other Mellotron VST options above, as these sounds are a bit cleaner and polished, ready to take on mixes.
Similar to the sounds, the interface is also very glossy and clean, giving you minimal parameters and a straightforward, streamlined interface. If you're someone who doesn't like to spend hours tweaking, you'll love how easy this plugin is to use (it's in the name!).
Do note that EZKeys Mellotoon is the most expensive option on this list, though if you're looking for clean and crisp sounds right out the gate, there isn't a better Mellotron plugin.
Wavesfactory Newmello Collection
Before we dig into the Newmello Collection from Wavesfactory, note that it is a Kontakt Instrument, meaning you will at least need to have the free version of Kontakt to run it.
This seemingly minimal instrument goes beyond the standard Mellotron sound to give you a distinct flavor.
There are 75 instrument patches to play around with, though the main difference is that the developers decided to recreate the original unit's mechanics instead of sampling it. To do so, they sampled all 75 of these instruments through a lo-fi cassette.
The user interface is very simple, giving you access to a tape blend slider, a background noise control, a tilt-style EQ tone control, and attack and release times. However, you can also combine a number of effects, including compression, EQ, modulation (phaser, flanger, chorus), reverb, and distortion.
You'll also find a few onboard amp simulators for even more flavor.
It's pretty clear that the developers wanted to make the interface as sleek and modern as possible. While the included sounds aren't necessarily my favorite compared to the other Mellotron VST plugins above, they are quite nice in their own regard.
Overall, it's a great Mellotron VST if you want to add something a bit surprising to your productions.
The UVI Mello is the best mid-range Mellotron plugin on this list.
The developers at UVI felt a purpose of creating a Mellotron VST plugin that was faithful to the original, using 28 sounds created from multi-sampled tapes on three separate machines. All of the nuances were kept intact as well, including the mechanical sounds and keyboard noise. You can even mix the key-off and tape noise sounds to your liking!
Of course, even with the "keeping things faithful" idea, UVI also added a few effects for those who want to take their productions a bit further. You'll find ADSR envelopes, a three-band EQ, a multi-mode filter, a custom unison mode, an analog tape delay, and a reverb.
The GUI has a glossy look to it with an easy-to-use layout, allowing you to dial in sounds quickly.
Comparing this to the other Mellotron VST plugins on this list, UVI Mello has a great sound. I'd say it has more of a raw tone, which you can tweak to fit in any mix.
Best Mellotron VSTs (Free)
The team over at Elektrostudio did an excellent job at capturing the nuances of the original Mellotron when making the Tapeotronic . You'll find 16 distinct patches, including strings, choir, flute, and more. For a bit more control over your sound, you'll find a bias tape and SFX parameters.
The plugin also comes with MIDI Learn/Automation, perfect for anyone who wants to be able to "perform" with this plugin, whether you're playing live or in the studio. Overall, for a free tool, it's an incredibly versatile VST plugin and one of the best Mellotron emulations you can get for free.
Dream Vortex Studio Nanotron
The Nanotron Mellotron VST is a unique offering in that it combines the sounds of both the Novatron and the classic Mellotron, which was very popular back in the 80s. You get a lush and full sound that was beautifully captured with painstaking realism.
You don't get very many controls to mess with, as the developers decided to keep it simple. You'll find attack and release knobs and tone control.
All of the samples were recorded on a Studer A80 tape machine, giving you that vintage, warm vibe. However, they were all cleaned up for any pitch errors to give users a quality Mellotron plugin with all of the expected sounds, such as a string section, choirs, flutes, and more.
One thing to note is that this Mellotron VST is only available for Windows users.
Artifake Labs Redtron SE
While it's a free Mellotron VST plugin, Redtron SE from Artifake Labs might be one of the most premium-sounding free plugins when it comes to the sample library.
It captures all of the original sounds of the Mellotron M400S. Every sound and sample was beautifully cleaned and restored to be placed in the VST, though all of the original warmth and character are still very much alive.
You'll find nine different sound types in the library, giving you more than you would expect from the standard sonic capabilities of the original unit.
Each of the sounds on the Redtron SE is eight seconds long, as you would expect from the original Mellotron, and you won't find any looping capabilities, giving you the most realistic experience possible.
One thing to note is that this Mellotron VST comes with the "Mellotronic Click Switch," which is an exclusive Mellotron control that allows you to integrate the sounds of the original pops and clicks heard at the beginning of each note played.
You'll also find split and layer possibilities, full MIDI automation capabilities, independent A& B sound parameters, and much more.
While the Tapeworm plugin might not look like much at first glance, it is a powerful Mellotron-style synthesizer that you can use to create expressive, otherworldly sounds.
This particular plugin differs from other Mellotron VST plugins in that it uses remastered samples of the original Mellotron. You'll find five voice types in this plugin, MIDI automation, attack and release knobs, tuning, and more.
The interface was designed to be extremely easy to use. Even with its very limited controls, it's a fairly flexible plugin, perfect for anyone who wants to add some new or unique tones to their instrument arsenal.
Note that this Mellotron VST is only available for Windows users as well.
The DVS Microtron is another unique addition to the free Mellotron instruments VSTs in that it is a classic recreation of the Mellotron and Novatron. Dream Vortex Studio recorded the original orchestral instruments on the legendary tape machine, the Studer A80.
Not only do you get the magic that comes from the original sound of the Mellotron samples, but you also get a unique tape flavor.
You'll find three voice tracks on the DVS Microtron, including the Male Choir, Female Choir, Flute, and String Section.
Each of the instruments has unique tonal characteristics, though you can also shape them to your liking using the Attack, Release, Depth, and Rhythm parameters.
Whether you want to add some vintage flavor to your music production or create some stellar, ethereal landscapes, this virtual instrument is a must-have.
As with all other Dream Vortex Studio instruments, this VST is only available on Windows.
Final Thoughts - Getting Your Hands on the Sound of One Of History's Best Tape-Based Instruments
There are so many ways to utilize the sound of the Mellotron in music, as there are so many great sounds baked into it. With several different voices and sound design possibilities, it's an excellent tool to have in your instrument arsenal, whether you make rock, pop, or electronic music.
Make sure to check out some of the VST plugins above and try them out if you can!