The music or musical box is an incredibly special instrument, that invokes a wide variety of emotions depending on the context it’s used.
From the sense of innocent, childlike wonder to the downright creepy, it helps to have a high quality music box VST in your composing toolkit.
And while a glockenspiel or a celesta can come close, it’s not the same thing as having a dedicated instrument.
Therefore, we set out to find the best music box vsts currently available on the market. In this article, we summarize our findings – and suggest both free and paid options to you.
If you’re just looking for a quick and simple music box that sounds good, than you can’t go wrong with the Glockenspiel Box from Cinematique instruments.
What makes the music box included in this package so special is the sheer amount of customization you can do to it.
To start off with, there are 3 different articulations to work with – ‘regular’, ‘hard’ and ‘wood’. The wooden sound is very unique and gives off a much different feeling than the harsher articulations do.
However, although the regular and hard articulations quite strong and will certainly pierce through the mix, these can be toned down using the adjustable tone slider available for all instruments.
Additionally, there are a number of other customization options available – such as built-in effects and control over things such as reverb and delay. Although much of this you could do with third-party plugins, having these options built-in to the instrument aids with playability and helps you dial in your sound more quickly.
This bundle also comes with a number of other instruments, including a metallophone, kalimba, crystal bowl and as the name would suggest, a glockenspiel. This makes it an even better value as these other virtual instruments are quite good as well. In fact, the Glockenspiel Box made our list for top kalimba VSTs as well!
2. FrozenPlain Music Box Suite (Free)
We’re constantly amazed at just how many free options are available to producers today, and one of the virtual instruments that invokes that feeling is this one.
Music Box Suite is a free music box sample library from FrozenPlain. Although a paid version is available, the free version is extremely versatile due to being hosted in FrozenPlain’s synthesis engine, Mirage.
The sheer number of options available in the interface speak for themselves. You’ve got your standard envelope. EQs. Loopers. And that is before you get into any of the effects located on the side, or the fact that you can layer up to 3 music boxes on top of each other.
12 included presets give you a lot of different bases to work with, before you get into tweaking anything yourself.
And hey, the sampled Victorian music box sounds pretty good too! Therefore, our free pick has got to go to this one.
Honorable Mention: Spitfire also has a free LABS music box, which can be viewed by clicking here. Like just about everything Spitfire puts out, this one is pretty great.
If you’re looking for something simple and quick to use, the Tiny Music Box from Fracture Sounds is worth considering.
There’s honestly not a whole lot to say about this sample library. The sound – while not our favorite on this list, is good enough to be used in commercial music and there are several options to tweak it further.
The one thing that really stood out for us was the inclusion of the ‘age’ option.
Essentially, as the age goes up, the music box has more detuning applied to it, as well as some other audio processing to darken the timbre.
As we said at the beginning of this article, music boxes work well both for innocent, childlike lullabies to creepy horror scores. Using the age option, you can easily find this perfect balance depending on the feeling that you’re going for with the song.
This one is just unbelievably cool, and the one we have the most fun with.
If you consider yourself a sound designer or you love shaping your instruments into something truly unique, you owe it to yourself to pick up the Musique Box from SoundIron.
This isn’t just one music box – Musique Box 2.0 includes a collection of 11 different music boxes that are all wonderfully sampled. Not only do you have the sound of the notes, but SoundIron included other patches, such as the wind-up sound of the boxes. This is a nice touch that most other music box VSTs excluded from their offerings.
The dry sound is realistic and beautiful in itself, and even includes the little clicks and imperfections that genuine music boxes have. However, what makes Musique Box 2.0 shine is the collection of customization available.
There is so much to talk about, but here is what you have in a nutshell:
- Up to 4 customizable layers (this one is huge!)
- Adjustable LFOs, with 5 different waveform options (sine, square, triangle, sawtooth or random)
- 18 DSP effect modules
- 99 impulse responses, plus 40 more custom FX impulses
- An arpeggiator
- The ability to lock notes to a specific scale
If you really want to dial in a specific music box sound or you want to play around with a bunch of creative effects, the Musique Box is definitely going to be the best choice.
This may be the most expensive music-box-only library on our list, but we still consider it to be a heck of a bargain at this price.
Finally, we have the Vintage Music Box from Auditory Lab.
Quite simply, the sound of this VST is beautiful. It’s more soft and rounded than some of the other music box VSTs listed here, but that makes it ideal for calm, peaceful, or happy tunes.
Of course, it can still give off those darker feelings too – but it wouldn’t be our first choice for that.
Like everything, the best way to know if it’s for you is to simply listen to it for a moment – Auditory Lab included a demo with several different styles of music that you can listen to in the video above.
The music box may be a simple little instrument, but it’s a powerful one. Just the unique sound of a music box can tap into your past and invoke feelings of a time long gone.
Thankfully, there are a lot of fantastic companies that have chosen to sample it, and there are no shortage of music box VSTs available to choose from.
Which do you like best? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments form below.
– The Musical Sanctuary Team