I love real instruments, and I have pianos, organs, vibes, marimbas, Moog & Arp synths, and lots of other real instruments in my studio. I find that virtual instruments just don't get used as much during sessions because virtually nobody can see them except maybe the engineer when he's accessing a pull-down menu. [Funny John! -AH] The real instruments are in constant use however because of their physicality. (OK, enough on that rant, but I'd be interested in hearing how other Tape Op readers feel about this, or how they've addressed it.)
Nonetheless, I'm not sure I'd want to deal with a real Mellotron even if I could find one affordably. I have several analog tape machines, and that's enough tape path maintenance for me!! The thought of all those tape loops sounds like lots of late night "the Mellotron doesn't work" phone calls to me.
The M-Tron is a great solution for those wanting to access this classic instrument. Straightforward and easy to use like the real instrument, but minus the headaches. The GUI is simple but fun: a reproduction of a Mellotron complete with coffee stains and cigarette burns. The sound library is vast and inclusive-four CDs with just about every Mellotron tape ever made! I've got some software samplers with some Mellotron samples, but the simplicity and completeness of this plug-in makes it well worth the asking price.
Sonically, I've found most of the virtual instruments I've used to sound excellent, including this one. I've used the M-Tron on several projects now, and it sounds great and works as expected. Just about every virtual instrument format on Mac and PC is supported.
($129.95 MSRP, www.m-audio.com)