If you’re an electronic music producer or musician, or just a fan of the synth sounds of the 1980s looking to replicate that vibe, then you’ll want to get your hands on a good synth VST or plugin to aid you in this quest. Whether you’re into the Depeche Mode-style sound, or you like to rock out to Van Halen, you’ll find out that there are endless options to choose from today, options that can give you just the sound that you’re looking for.
But where do you start your search? To make the research process a bit easier for you, we’ve narrowed it down to some great, quality synth VSTs to help you elevate your sound and add some flavor to your musical projects. The list is obviously not exhaustive, but the VSTs on our list have great reviews and are very popular among other independent artists and producers. So, if you’re looking to try out some great synth VSTs and plugins, look no further.
1. Arturia Pigment
Ask around on Reddit, Quora, and any other online communities dedicated to musicians or producers, and most of them will tell you that Arturia Pigment is a must-try for anyone looking to experiment with synth plugins and sounds. From the super-user-friendly interface to the myriad of modulations and options available, Arturia is very easy to use and navigate, and a lot of fun to play around with.
It’s a fantastic option for both beginner synth users and pros, and it gives you more than enough bang for your buck. You can work with various approaches, from wavetable, additive, virtual analogue, to sampling and granular, so you can create rich and dynamic sounds to elevate any musical piece. Arturia strikes a good balance between complexity and ease of use, so you can definitely use it as a starting point to begin experimenting with synth sounds, and gradually explore it as you gain more confidence and experience. It’s basically the full package.
2. U-he Diva
We realize that all the synth VSTs on this list have unique-sounding names straight out of a Tolkien novel. U-he Diva, a software synth developed by German company Urs Heckmann, aka U-He, is no different. The Diva synth plugin is known among artists and producers due to its analog, vintage sound, so if that’s the vibe you’re seeking, it might be worth giving it a try. What does the Diva stand for? It’s not what you think: Dinosaur Impersonating Virtual Analogue. The name is meant to reflect the focus on replicating the richness of vintage analog synthesizers. Besides the whimsical name, this Diva packs quite a punch. It features different oscillator models based on classic synthesizers, like Moog, Roland, or ARP, a variety of filter models, various modulation options, built-in effects, different polyphony modes, CPU optimization, loads of factory presets, and a user-friendly interface. It’s definitely an option worth exploring.
3. Xfer Serum
A super-popular synth VST option among independent musicians, producers, and sound engineers is Xfer Serum, developed by Xfer Records. Known for its versatile sound capabilities and ease of use, the Serum generates complex synth sounds via wavetable synthesis. It allows both beginners and experienced producers the chance to edit and experiment in real time. You can also import your own wavetables or use the built-in options available through the plugin.
The drag-and-drop modulation system is easy to use and intuitive even for newbies, so that’s nothing to worry about. What’s more, the Serum offers a solid catalog of filters, effects, and it also gets regular software updates to make sure everything runs smoothly. You get access to more than 140 wavetables and over 450 presets, so whichever direction you choose to explore in your music, Serum will help you achieve it.
4. Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2
Another excellent choice for anyone looking to get into synth music or experimenting with sound, Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2 has great sound design capabilities. It’s easy to use, it allows you to import audio and play around with grains for modulation, add layers, and much more. The plugin comes with more than 50 effects to help you be creative and add more complexity and depth to your work, and as an added bonus, it also features hardware synth integration.
You won’t have to worry about running out of presets to work with, because the Omnisphere 2 library features around 14,000 presets. Moreover, the plugin integrates seamlessly with all kinds of hardware controllers, and also features a Live Performance mode, allowing you to manipulate sounds with a MIDI controller in real time.
5. Cherry Audio Sines
Sines is a polyphonic synthesizer that’s become very popular in the past few years among musicians and producers. An added advantage is the fact that it’s also more affordable compared to other tools on this list, so it’s great for beginners or budget-conscious independent artists. However, even if the price tag is lower, the quality is still there.
The name says it all: Sines focuses on using four sine wave oscillators to reproduce awesome vintage synth sounds. However, the tool is a lot more complex than meets the eye, featuring various controls that allow you to combine and tweak the waves to create rich and deep tones and sounds. The four oscillators can also modulate one another, so the list of options is quite endless. Providing a wide range of built-in filters and effects, and a sonic remit combining subtractive, additive and FM synthesis elements, Sines is a must-try, not to mention that it’s a lot of fun to play around with. Even if you’re skeptical about the low price, don’t let it deter you; you get a lot of bang for that buck.
6. Kilohearts Phase Plant
Kilohearts Phase Plant offers a unique take on the modular synth concept, featuring a blank canvas that allows users to combine elements as they wish. This includes sound-generating wave oscillators, samplers, filters, or effects, and the results can be quite impressive. The Phase Plant is popular due to its flexibility, allowing you to play around with all the settings and filters to produce complex sounds and layers. On the other hand, it might prove a bit too complex for absolute beginners, so if you’ve never really tried a synth VST before, this one might be a little daunting, at least at first. The customization options can be overwhelming, but as you progress and expand your skills, you might start to discover the beauty of Kilohearts Phase Plant. Just note that it might not feel as intuitive and user-friendly at first.
7. Matt Tytel Vital
Developed by Matt Tytel, Vital is a powerful wavetable synth VST that is easy to use by both beginners and advanced producers. It was initially released as a free open-source synth, and quickly gained popularity among musicians due to its user-friendly interface and variety of options. You can import your own wavetables or use the various built-in effects and filters available. It also features a drag-and-drop functionality that makes playing around with modulation sources a breeze. It’s an extremely popular option especially among electronics producers, so if that’s your genre or the direction you’d like to explore a bit more in your musical projects, we recommend you give it a try.
8. Roland Zenology Pro
When you say Roland, your mind immediately goes back in time to the classic synth sound we all know and love. It’s a classic in the game for a reason, and its Zenology Pro synth plugin rises to the occasion. If you love the rich, complex, deep, warm vibe of classic synthesizers, then this one might be right up your alley. According to the Roland website, the Zenology Pro, which features the ZEN-Core Synthesis System, is the most advanced sound engine ever created by the legendary company, so you know you’ll get what you bargain for, and more. If you’re serious about your love of classic analogue synths, then you will love the Zenology Pro.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a synth VST?
A synth VST, or Virtual Studio Technology synthesizer, is a software plugin that emulates the functionality of physical synthesizers within a digital audio workstation (DAW). It allows musicians and producers to create and manipulate electronic sounds using virtual oscillators, filters, modulation sources, and effects. Synth VSTs come in various types, including subtractive, wavetable, FM (Frequency Modulation), and more, providing a wide range of sonic possibilities. These plugins are commonly used in music production to add synthesizer sounds to compositions, offering flexibility, accessibility, and the ability to integrate with the broader digital production environment.
What are the benefits of using a synth VST?
Using a synth VST (Virtual Studio Technology) provides numerous benefits for music producers and musicians. Firstly, it offers a cost-effective and space-efficient alternative to hardware synthesizers, allowing access to a diverse range of sounds without the need for physical instruments. Synth VSTs often come with extensive libraries and presets, speeding up the creative process and inspiring new ideas. They also allow for easy integration into digital audio workstations (DAWs), facilitating seamless workflow and enabling users to experiment with sound design, modulation, and effects. The versatility of synth VSTs, with various synthesis methods available, caters to a broad spectrum of musical genres and styles, making them an essential tool for modern electronic and digital music production.
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