In this article you’ll find our top 8 absolutely free VST synthesizers. You can combine these with your stock synth plugins and you’ll have a wide selection of free synths!
It’s one of the most powerful free synthesizers. It features many synthesis techniques, a great selection of filters, a flexible modulation engine, a lot of effects and routing options, as well as modern features like MPE and microtuning.
Surge is a digital synth which has wavetable oscillators, but also has analog-style features like filters. It's quite a complex synthesizer at first sight, but it has a lot of creative potential as well as a great set of presets.
Factory presets: 2000+
Next up, two plugins by Matt Tytel - first Helm, which after Surge might look much simpler.
It’s a digital subtractive synth with some simple-but-great features. It’s very visual, so it’s easy to program, and very pleasing visually. You also see all modulations with live visual feedback.
- 32 voice polyphony
- Dual oscillators with cross modulation and up to 15 unison oscillators each
- 12 different waveforms
- LFO, Step sequencer, Simple arpeggiator, Effects: Formant filter, stutter, delay, distortion, reverb
Factory presets: 274.
The second plugin by Matt Tytel is Vital. It’s a Spectral warping wavetable synth - an alternative to synths like Serum and Massive. It’s also very visual like Serum and has great modulation possibilities with flexible LFOs and envelopes. It’s got all the modern functionalities - MPE and microtuning.
However, it requires more CPU power than the previous synths. It’s a free synth but there are some subscription options for more functions and presets.
Free factory presets: 75.
Tyrell is a virtual analog synth based on the classic Roland Juno 60. It’s very simple and extremely good sounding. Like the juno-60, it includes a great chorus section. It has two oscillators and up to 8 voices of polyphony which can also play in unison.
Its only downside is that it has a little bit confusing default skin. One icon looks like a triangle wave but is actually a saw wave in oscillator 2 and a sine wave in oscillator 1. You can download this free skin from u-He’s website to get it changed - and by the way this skin feels much cleaner.
Factory presets: 580+
Other completely free synths from u-He:
It’s an analog-modelling synth - a recreation of the Moog Realistic MG-1 synthesizer sold in Radio Shack stores in the 80's. It has a great, fat Moog-style analog tone, a polyphonic oscillator section, as well as other basic modern functions which were not present in the hardware.
Very simple interface for easy sound creation. It’s great for basses, but can make all kinds of sounds. MG-1 doesn’t feature effects, so you can pair it with stock or third party plugins.
Factory presets: 130+
OB-Xd is based on the Oberheim OB-X - it attempts to recreate its sound and behavior. It has modern improvements which the original did not have, but was designed to sound as good and as rich as the original. OB-XD uses micro random detuning which is part of the hardware’s sound.
This synth, just like MG-1, doesn’t feature any effects, so you can pair it with stock or third party plugins - like the Multiply Chorus from Acon Digital.
Factory presets: 1500+
A set of synthesizers wouldn’t be complete without a rompler. Nils‘ K1v is a rompler that emulates a Kawai K1, a classic japanese synth from 1988. It was an entry-level and low fidelity synthesizer, but its patches are still very useful. It’s great for simple sounds - synthesized, sampled or combined. It has a source balance control for timbre modification.
Factory presets: 968 Single presets and 384 Multi presets.
The last synth for today is this modular rack by Cherry Audio. It includes over 20 modules which you can patch together in any way you wish. It’s quite complex - but if you’re into modular synthesis it’s a great VST option.
An alternative is the free VCV Rack, but for now it’s available as a standalone program.
Factory presets: 176.
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