While we probably all had little toy xylophones as kids, those were some pretty poor instruments. However, a ‘real’ xylophone is made from pure, dense materials to give a wonderfully clear, ringing sound and a bright, distinct voice.
And that’s exactly what the best xylophone VST should be able to replicate. But it’s not an easy task. Recording a xylophone well, or any other instrument for that matter, is truly an art. Therefore, great xylophone VSTs should have a pure tone and full voices, along with easy-to-use controls and plenty of velocity levels and round robins for the most realistic sounds possible.
What is a Xylophone?
A xylophone is a pitched percussion instrument made out of plates laid out on a rack, sort of like a keyboard. It’s in the idiophone family, which doesn’t mean you have to be an idiot to play it. It just means that the sound comes directly from the instrument, not from strings or moving air.
Playing the xylophone takes a lot of skill and practice. Xylophonists usually play with one or two mallets in each hand to strike the tuned plates in just the right place. Those plates can be made out of hardwood, but these days they are just as likely to be fiberglass or reinforced plastic for a more controlled and pronounced sound.
My Best Xylophone VST Recommendations
Xylo Wood by Reflekt Audio (FREE) – Best Free Xylophone VST
Let’s start with some of the free xylophone VSTs out there. Xylo Wood by Reflekt Audio is a best basic wooden xylophone VST that you can pick up and install easily enough. Why is it free? If you want it, you have to follow the producer on Instagram and tag two friends to get it. So, they’re using the giveaway as a way to generate free publicity. Well, why not?
This is a small package that’s only going to take up 471.6MB of space. You get three layers of samples that can be blended and mixed to give the best wooden xylophone sound. You can also adjust envelope, attack, decay, sustain, release, and reverb to find the sound you want.
The VST works directly in most major DAWs, which is a bonus whether you’re using Mac or Windows platforms. So, how’s the sound? It’s OK – not the clearest or best you’re going to hear, but it’s at least bright and bold. I’d say it’s pretty good for a free VST.
eXylo by AlanViSTa (FREE) – Most Accurate Free Xylophone VST
The next best free xylophone VST on my list is eXylo by AlanViSTa. Here you’re looking at something a little more substantial. You get a package of 88 stereo 24-bit samples that were recorded at the University of Iowa’s Electronic Music Studios.
These samples were recorded from a wooden xylophone in a big, soundproofed room, so they’re actually quite accurate. They come across bright and snappy but could do with a bit more sustain for some uses.
You get some basic controls here over amplitude dynamic range and release, plus a master volume, and that’s about it. The samples are only provided in two velocity layers, which is quite basic and doesn’t go far to create a realistic voicing. But the price is right – free!
Mallets I by Synchron – Best Budget Xylophone VST
Next up is Mallets I by Synchron. This is one of the best paid xylophone VST packages you can buy, and you can buy the basic package for about $99 or the full library for about $180. The difference here is the mic set-up – you get four mic positions with the basic pack, but seven with the full library.
You’re also not looking at a single instrument VST here but a three-instrument pack. You’ve got the xylophone we were looking for, plus a glockenspiel and a celesta. That means you get three very different struck instruments for a wide range of compositions.
All were recorded in the massive Synchron Sound Vienna. Additionally, the player gives you control over the room’s 3D sound to create the ambiance you need.
As for the xylophone
It was sampled while played with wooden and leather beaters. You get pure single notes as well as rolls, fast and slow glissandos, dynamic strikes, as well as unusual bowed notes. This xylophone sounds excellent, and you can get it working right away using Kontakt 6 or even the free Kontakt Player.
Vital Series: Mallets by Big Fish Audio – Easiest to Use Xylophone VST
If you’re a producer that uses a lot of struck instrument sounds in your compositions, why stop at three when you can have eight? In this pack, you’ll get xylophone plus marimba, glass marimba, glockenspiel, tubular bells, song bells, vibraphone, and crotales. That basically covers everything you can hit.
Each instrument is sampled with six different voices: soft, medium, medium-hard and hard mallets, rods, and bows. These are stereo samples with five velocity layers and 5x round robins to help you produce the most realistically played performances you can.
They also give you 146 presets that include 24 natural, 22 natural rolls, 60 layered organic, and 40 layered processed presets. It does cost about $200, and you need a full version of Kontakt (5.6.6 or higher) to run it. But, the sounds are excellent, and the UI is easy to use and full of treats.
Mallet Flux by Sonuscore – Most Versatile Xylophone VST
If you’ve got the money and want to try something different, there’s the Mallet Flux package from Sonuscore to consider. This pack gives you five struck instruments to play with – the xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, celesta, and vibraphone. These voices are beautifully sampled and sound rich and realistic.
But you also get a ton of creative control. They provide you with 270 presets they call “scenes.” These generate arpeggios and sequences that you can use to enhance all sorts of compositions. These scenes make composing faster and easier, especially if you’re producing music for games or other backgrounds.
The xylophone here sounds good, though it’s a little less natural than some of the other VSTs we’ve seen. However, the “scenes” and other built-in effects let you do a whole lot. That makes the roughly $230 price of this package worth it. That said, it’s one of the most comprehensive xylophone VSTs you can buy.
Need Some Other Great VSTs or Music-making Gear?
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Which is the Best Xylophone VST?
It all depends on what you’re looking for. If all you need is a quick 1-off xylophone for a track, one of the free xylophone VSTs will work just fine.
On the other hand, if you’re a professional composer who will use struck instruments in dozens or even hundreds of compositions, one of the bigger packs will be worth it. Whatever your needs, make sure you give the VST a good thorough listen before choosing the right package for you; this can normally be done as part of a free trial, so it should cost you nothing.
Until next time, may the beat go on.