Whether punchy retro drum sounds inspired by Linn Drums and Roland TR-808, stabby strings from the 80s, soothing synthesizers and pads, or plucky basslines, we see a huge transition in the sonic palette of music at a global scale.
Retro sounds, 80s synth pop, and vintage aesthetics are back for good, with popular artists like Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, The 1975, Badshah, Calvin Harris, Diljeet, and more aggressively using these sounds in their productions.
2023 has been one of the most inclusive times in music, with songs inspired by different genres and eras coexisting together, and there’s an audience for almost every niche. We have created a list of the retro synth plugins and included emulations of synthesizers from the 70s, 80s, and 90s to give you a well-rounded sonic palette.
Vintage Synth Plugins: Top 20 To Get Retro Vibe 2023
1. Roland JUNO-60
JUNO-60 is an emulation of the popular 80s analog synthesizer by Roland.
It’s punchy and fat and has a unique vintage sonic characteristic for which it is known. Roland bases the virtual synth on the original core technology, which was based on the ACB technology. In addition, the instrument derived its sound from its analog filter with switchable high pass filter voicing, Juno chorus effect, and classic CE-1, reverb, flanger, and other effects.
The maximum polyphony available is of eight voices, and the Digitally Controlled Oscillator has customizable controls like range, LFO modulation, PWM depth, PWM source, PWM level, SAW level, SUB level, and NOISE level. That allows you to have a fuller and deeper sound.
- In-depth sound shaping
The plugin allows you to apply two ADSRs, an HPF, a VCF, and a VCA for sonic sculpting. In addition, you can add the effects like overdrive, distortion, Juno chorus, and CE-1 and adjust their tone and depth. Furthermore, for the reverb and delay effects, you can select the types and adjust their time and level settings.
- High-quality sounds
The sampling frequency in which the synth is used can be selected as 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, or 192 kHz. At 192 kHz, you can be assured about the harmonic quality of the sounds.
The JUNO-60 is available in VST, AU, and AAX plugin formats and requires a minimum of macOS 10.14 or Windows 10 operating systems.
2. Moog Minimoog
UAD launched their virtual version of the legendary Minimoog synth with UAD Spark in collaboration with Moog Music.
The plugin has been created with plenty of research to emulate the classic circuitry and rigorous modeling to precisely capture the module-to-module coupling and impedance, to re-create the authentic analog sound of the original Minimoog as a soft-synth.
It has three oscillators, each with six different basic analog waveforms to choose from, along with a volume knob in the mixer window. Overall, the interface and the signal flow, like the hardware, are simple and easy to use.
- Analog filters
The plugin allows you to set the cutoff frequency, filter emphasis (resonance), and contour amount (mix) of the filter, and the filter sound warm, vintage, and analog. It’s modeled from a VCF (Voltage Controlled Filter) and the filter response has been programmed accordingly.
- Software additions
UAD has added flexible velocity sensitivity and additional modulation features like a separate LFO, modulation amount, and modulation mix sources. These features are not present in the hardware version.
- Expansive Presets
The presets are classified and organized in terms of Genre, Type, and Description, and there is a huge variety of presets you can choose from, which fit a lot of different genres and styles. That makes the sound selection process easier, especially for composers and new music producers.
The plugin requires a macOS 10.15 Catalina, 11 Big Sur, or 12 Monterey, and is available with the UAD Spark in AAX, AU, VST3, and LUNA plugin formats.
3. Softube Model 72 Synthesizer
The nicest retro sounds may be obtained by using an analog device.
The finest synthesizer sounds were frequently performed through antique machines, sometimes with hundreds of patch connections or knobs to fiddle with. However, the components inside its structure ensured that these sounds were as unique and original as possible, an important feature of their distinct tone.
Softube took the initiative to recreate the essence of a real 1972 hardware in good shape, capturing and translating every aspect into this virtual instrument.
- Designed and built with passion
Softube has extensive expertise in simulating music gear and has collaborated with hundreds of audio businesses such as Solid State Logic, Tube-Tech, and Weiss Engineering. Model 72 does the same thing by meticulously reproducing every module of this synth to deliver the most realistic feel possible from every small adjustment in any knob or parameter.
- Expansion panel
One of the nicest aspects of a virtual instrument is the new features that may come with it. The “Expansion” tab, for example, allows you to freely adjust individual parameters such as “Doubling” and “Spread.” These two new knobs enable you to have the identical notes you played doubled by another synth and to adjust how much this doubling is spread out in the stereo image.
- Tone generator
The tone generator is the basic core of the synth, where all sounds are created to be subsequently adjusted. You’ll find three oscillators here, two with almost similar output waveforms and a third dedicated to working as an independent modulation oscillator with greater tuning range and slightly varied waveforms, providing modest variation when making new tones.
All of the magic takes place here. This part has a “Master Tune” knob that controls the overall tuning of the Model 72, the “Note Glide” pace, and the modulation mix. As an alternative modulation source, a dedicated LFO can be employed. The modulation wheel acts as an attenuator, fine-tuning the amount of modulation spread, and may also be routed to an oscillator pitch or a specified filter cutoff frequency.
- Amp Room module
The “Amp Room” module is responsible for creating the optimum instrument sound. This thick-sounding filter with “Envelope Follower,” “Cutoff,” “Drive,” and “Resonance” controls can make your guitar, bass, or keyboard sound as funky as ever. “Fast” and “Smooth” are the two settings of the “Envelope Follower.”
- The modules
Model 72’s parts are separated into “Tone Generator,” “Amplifier,” “Filter,” “Envelope,” “Noise and Glide,” “Doubling,” and “Preamp.” All segments are created in the same manner as an actual unit, with identical signal flow. Specific components, such as the “Amplifier” and “Preamp,” offer the true feel necessary to make it sound realistic, flawlessly mimicking each subtlety that makes the frequencies stand out.
- Designed and built with passion
The plugin is available for macOS 10.13 up to 12 (64-bit only) and Windows 10 and 11 (64-bit only). It comes in VST, VST 3, AAX, and AU plugin formats.
4. Arturia SQ80 V
This plugin complements the analog rave of the 1980s with digital complexity and flexibility.
Arturia SQ80 V is based on the Ensoniq SQ-80 CrossWave synthesizer, released in the late-80s around 1987. It was a build-up on the classic ESQ-1 synth with more waveforms, an enhanced sequencer, and preset storage.
And it was a far easier synth to program when digital synths were infamous for being challenging. Generally, musicians used the synth to create digital organs, sound effects, pads, and even analog-type sounds.
It offered multi-sampled transient attack waveforms like a violin bow, plectrum picks, mallets, breath, percussion, and hammer. Such samples led to the hybridization of acoustic sounds with digital synthesis.
Arturia’s take on this vintage marvel offers even more waveforms, an easier workflow, and other idiosyncrasies that only make the synth better.
One of the biggest changes is the 16-voice polyphony instead of merely eight. Similarly, Arturia SQ80 V employs an eight-voice unison option, which helps create enormous sounds and immersive pads.
- Powerful Oscillators
Arturia SQ80 V features three 8-bit oscillators, each capable of loading a unique waveform and employing a deeply modeled 5503 DOC chip. And like the original hardware, they feature hard sync and amplitude modulation. You’ll find the original seventy-five waveforms and so much more. Hence, Arturia classifies the waveforms into four groups: SQ80 Waveforms, Transwaves, ESQ-1 Hidden Waveforms, and SQ80 Hidden Waveforms.
- CEM 3379 Filter
The plugin features an analog low-pass filter that lends imperfections and a harmonically rich tone to the digital oscillators. Furthermore, the output amplifier is also an analog system that provides sonic fluctuations that impart life to the otherwise overly-precise sound of digital synthesis.
The plugin features four analog amp envelopes, one for each oscillator and one for the master output. Furthermore, there are four polyphonic envelopes with three modes: SQ80, DADSR, and MSEG.
Arturia SQ80 V features an arpeggiator module that lets you easily create melodies and backing patterns. It comes with a standard set of controls like arpeggio direction, sync, octave range, and hold/latch. There are seven arpeggio directions or modes.
- Mix Ready
The plugin features an Effects tab that lets you add four effect processors across two busses, configurable in series or parallel. And there are fifteen effects built into the synth. These include stereo pan, bit-crusher, phaser, pitch-shift delay, delay, compressor, flanger, tape delay, parametric EQ, multiband compressor, JUNO chorus, reverb, multi-filter, overdrive, and chorus.
Arturia SQ80 V is available for Windows 8.1 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
5. Roland JUPITER-4
Jupiter 4 was the first JUPITER polyphonic analog synthesizer, and Roland recreates it in this plugin.
Roland has recreated the original analog circuit behavior virtually with the plugin. It’s known for its massive sound; you could use it to create upfront leads and fat basslines. Plus, the built-in ensemble chorus effect lets you embody the lushness required in pad sounds and other atmospheric sonics.
In addition, the company made some additional changes from the original hardware after years of R&D and feedback. Overall it’s a flexible synthesizer that uses subtractive synthesis.
The Reverb effect in the plugin has ambiance, hall, room, plate, and modulation algorithms with time and level adjustments. The delay types include flanger, panning delay, chorus, and chorus + delay. Further, the other effects include overdrive, distortion, metal, ensemble, and phaser.
You can select LFO shapes like sin, tri, saw, square, etc., along with range, rate, and delay time. Further, the oscillator has LFO and Pulse width modulations when setting up your sound source. Plus, you have a chord feature in the arpeggiator, which used to be hidden in the hardware, wherein you can play multiple notes simultaneously.
Some great presets in the plugin are JH Star Piano and JH Dawn, giving you silky smooth and royal textures. The JH Pedal Board and JH Time preset have a nostalgic electronic texture. The Uno Bass preset is funky and plucky, giving Bruno Mars feels immediately. The melodic sounds are cheesy and soft, whereas the bass sounds are warm and punchy.
The Roland JUPITER-4 is available as VST 2, VST 3, AU, and AAX plugin types, and the minimum operating system requirement is macOS 10.14 or Windows 8, with a minimum of 4 GB RAM and 100 MB of hard disk space. Further, you can use the plugin in SYSTEM-8 because of its plug-out feature.
6. Roland JUPITER 8
The Roland JUPITER 8 plugin is a modern and virtual recreation of the popular 80s polysynths.
The vintage analog synthesizer’s software reboot has 16 oscillators and eight voices of polyphony and is great for sounds like sparse and ambient pads, upfront leads, and thick bass textures. According to Roland, the plugin is a down-to-circuit-level accurate reproduction of the original. As a result, you can utilize synth for creating the trending synth wave, future pop, indietronica, and many modern-day pop genres.
- Synth Architecture
The plugin consists of 2 VCOs with shapes such as saw, triangle, PWM, sine, square, and noise. As a result, both sound sources sound quite analogous and warm. Further, a VCO Modulation option consists of an LFO, envelope, Pulse Width Modulation (PWM), and PWM -1 switch. Further, there’s a high pass filter, a Vintage Controlled Filter, a Vintage Controlled Amplifier, and two envelopes.
- Effects section
In addition, there’s a flexible effect unit with an adjustable effect type, a reverb section, and a delay/chorus section. However, you can change the reverb and the delay/chorus type. Plus, there’s an in-built arpeggiator, portamento knob, and legato switch for interesting movements and transitions.
The visual look of the plugin is exactly like the original Jupiter-8, and it has a resizeable GUI. You can easily browse through the plugins and tweak any parameters by manipulating their sliders, knobs, and switches. However, the controllers are a bit small, but you can zoom the plugin window to access each control.
You can click on the patch button to access the presets of the plugin. It allows you to add new banks, load/import a bank, delete it, and save/export it as a file. Each bank consists of 64 memories, and you can change the order of the memories in the bank and rename the bank.
The Roland JUPITER-8 is available as VST 2, VST 3, AU, and AAX plugin types, and the minimum operating system requirement is macOS 10.14 or Windows 8, with a minimum of 4 GB RAM and 100 MB of hard disk space. Further, you can use the plugin in SYSTEM-8 because of its plug-out feature.
7. Roland JUNO-106
Juno-106 is the recreation of the vintage analog synthesizer which influenced modern pop music.
It consists of a DCO (Digitally Controlled Oscillator), an HPF (High Pass Filter), a VCF (Voltage Controlled Filter), a VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier), two envelopes/ADSRs, its well-known CHORUS effect, a delay effect, a reverb effect, and other effects. It also has a browsable patch window, arpeggiator, and articulation controllers like bend and portamento.
- Sound Sources
The DCO was created to stabilize the tuning of analog synthesizers, and it uses a VCO such that it’s driven by a control signal from a Digital-to-analog converter. You can control the LFO modulation and PWM modulation of the oscillator, PWM level, and SAW level and add depth to your sounds by adjusting the SUB level slider. You can also add noise to your sounds to add more frequency spectrum coverage to the sound.
The HPF allows you to control the cutoff frequency, while the VCF allows you to adjust the velocity sensitivity, cutoff frequency, resonance, envelope modulation, LFO modulation, and keyboard follow.
Apart from the delay, reverb, and chorus effects with adjustable controls, you also get access to effects like distortion, overdrive, Crusher, Phaser, and two types of Juno Chorus. That allows you to sonically shape your sound seven further by adjusting the harmonic content of the sounds and adding time-based effects.
The set of controllers in the plugin is immense, with bend sensitivity pitch and filter controllers, modulation sensitivity pitch and filter controllers, portamento knob, legato on/off switch, bend range, bend gain, tempo sync on/off switch, key assign mode, key hold switch, octave sector, and condition control.
The Juno 106 plugin is compatible with the SYSTEM-8 synthesizer and is available as VST 2, VST 3, AU, and AAX plugin versions. It requires the Intel® Core™ i5 or better or Apple M1 chip, along with at least 4 GB of hard disk and 100 MB of hard disk space.
8. u-he Diva
Diva, by u-he, offers limited controls, but it sounds very similar to real analog synths.
Overall, Diva is an easy plugin to navigate. The plugin gives you five different types of oscillators, four kinds of high-pass filters, five main filter options, and three types of envelopes. You’ll find LFOs, the effects, and the available controls in the lower panels, such as sync, pan, and tuning.
Additionally, there are individual menus for modifications, trimmers, scope, and presets.
Each of the five types offers a slightly different GUI, which can be confusing. Other than that, they all sound incredible. For example, in the Voltage Controlled Oscillation area, the plugin gives you three options. A CPU-hungry Triple VCO with FM controls, a multi-wave Dual VCO with PWM, and a CPU-friendly Dual VCO Eco with ring modulation. In addition to those, you get a DCO, a single oscillator with a flexible sub-OSC, and a Digital oscillator, which offers several types of waveforms.
The heart of Diva is its filters. U-he has modeled all five units after a more significant number of classic hardware and, though the controls are similar, each has its unique flavor. For instance, VCF | BITE adds beautiful resonance by increasing the oscillator volume by 10%.
- Oscillator Voice Detune
Voltage oscillator synths detune slightly due to component wear, creating a natural effect that is almost like a soft chorus. To simulate this, u-he went above and beyond and gave us the Oscillator Voice Detune panel. You can access it by clicking the Trimmers section at the GUI’s bottom. There are three knobs for each of Diva’s voices, and you can fine-tune them to find your sound.
The plugin gives you over 1200 presets, making life a lot easier, especially if you don’t have time to design your patches. Additionally, it’s easy to search for the right presets through tags or text. You can look up categories, features, or the character of the desired sound.
Sound & Usability:
Like most analog gear, you lose some flexibility to gain character and personality. And even though this is a plugin, it makes every effort to get the best of the most famous hardware synths. As a result, this plugin’s sound is warm, round, and punchy from the get-go. Additionally, Diva’s usability is unique. That’s because u-he went for a genuinely analog look and feel for this plugin.
However, the overall UI looks a bit crowded, with small names for small knobs. There are no fancy graphs or metering here, simply the parameters laid down as knobs and faders on a clean background. For that matter, controlling the envelopes with faders will come as a new experience for those only used to digital synths.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.7 or newer and Windows 7 or higher in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
9. Roland JX-3P
Roland JX-3P is the plugin version of six voice vintage analog synthesizer.
It honestly recreates the original sound with its fat midrange, shimmering high-end, and upfront bass frequencies. It’s great for vintage sounds like synth stabs, synth strings, warm electric pianos, organs, and saw-based plucky bass sounds. It also supports the PLUG-OUT format to work with the SYSTEM-8.
The plugin features a unique patch block, a matrix that allows you to select sounds from two rows consisting of sixteen factory sounds and two rows in which you can save your patches. In addition, there’s a patch browser in which you can select different presets to help you get started with the synth.
- Sound architecture
The plugin consists of two DCOs (Digitally Controlled Oscillators), one VCF (Voltage Controlled Filter), one VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier), and two envelopes. The digital sound sources, along with analog filters and amps, give it a great hybrid tone that makes it sound unique and versatile. You can keep the sound source as unison, mono, or poly.
- Effects section
The plugin consists of three effects sections: the first is adjustable, the second is delay/chorus, and the third is reverb. Select the delay and reverb type best suits your song and taste. In addition, there are controllers like the portamento knob, legato switch, and bend range. In addition, there’s also a tempo-synced arpeggiator with conditional and step programming capabilities.
The Roland JX-3P is available as VST 2, VST 3, AU, and AAX plugin types, and the minimum operating system requirement is macOS 10.14 or Windows 8, with a minimum of 4 GB RAM and 100 MB of hard disk space.
10. Arturia Jup-8 V
Arturia’s take on this classic synthesizer is sure to take you back in time to when the change from analog to digital was the most evident in the history of music.
The esteemed manufacturer Roland introduced the Jupiter 8 synthesizer in early 1981. So, you could say it pretty much kickstarted the 80s sound. Arturia’s Jup-8 V plugin aims to recreate the same synth in great detail.
And I must say it’s quite a wild success, both sonically and visually. It has a thick, powerful sound and every ounce of the original synth’s versatility.
The plugin uses component-level modeling and sampling to deliver all of the controls in the original hardware. Furthermore, Jup-8 V modernizes the classic with added quirks and features.
Go beyond the antique limitations with multiple LFOs, better modulation, contemporary sequencing, effects, and 16-voice polyphony.
- Dual VCOs
Like the original hardware, the plugin features two oscillators. The first oscillator allows you to change the range and waveform, whereas the second features a fine-tune knob too. You can also switch to a low range to use the second VCO as a sub. Another notable feature is cross-modulation from the second oscillator to the first, creating sci-fi and powerful sonic landscapes to explore.
The original Jupiter 8 synth was much loved for its dual filter design. And this faithful emulation by Arturia features the same. You’ll find a 6 dB/oct high-pass filter with a cutoff fader and a low-pass filter. The low-pass has faders for cutoff, resonance, key follow, etc. You can also switch the low-pass filter’s slope steepness between 12 dB/octave and 24 dB/octave.
First, the plugin features an LFO that controls the pitch at the top left of the user interface. It lets you add subtle vibrato or even wobbles. Similarly, it employs two envelope generators with the standard attack, decay, sustain, and release controls. Moreover, the first envelope can modulate the pitch, pulse-width modulation (PWM), and low-pass filter’s cutoff, whereas the second one can modulate the pitch, cutoff, and volume.
- Arpeggiator & Sequencer
Jup-8 V employs the Jupiter 8’s arpeggiator with a range of four octaves and some new modes that weren’t available originally. The arpeggio modes include up, down, played order, reversed, up-down including highest/lowest notes, up-down excluding the highest/lowest notes, and random.
- Effect Processors
While the 16-voice oscillators alongside Arturia’s unison detuning make the synth sound grand by itself, these additional effects bring yet another layer of beauty to your sound. It has three FX slots and eleven digital effects, including reverb, delay, compressor, chorus, bit-crusher, etc. Of course, if you prefer the old-school sounds, you can turn off these effects with the click of a button.
Arturia Jup-8 V is available for Windows 8.1 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
11. Roland SH-101
The Roland SH-101 plugin emulation is based on advanced circuit-level modeling and is a great recreation of the original synthesizer.
The plugin was created as an economical and portable synthesizer. Hence it’s 2-octave long and monophonic. However, modern artists at the time adapted to it, and it became popular for its unique bass and lead patches. It consists of a single sound source, a VCO with no polyphony, a Source Mixer, a VCF, a VCA, an effect section, a modulator section, and an arpeggiator section.
- Comprehensive Sonic shaping
The plugin allows you to change the levels/mixes/depths of effects like Crusher, Reverb, and Delay. You can mix these effects on your sounds to make them more interesting and deep. Further, you can add modulation like PWM, adjust square/pulse wave level, and sub-oscillator level.
There are hundreds of factory presets available that can help you get started. Everything from leads, bass, synths, sequences, bells, brass, toms, etc., are available. In addition, wobbles, vowels, buzz, crush, digital, and many other sound textures are available for you.
- Easy sound design
The plugin has a beautiful interface with switchable colors and is quite easy to use due to the sliders and knobs available. It doesn’t involve much programming, as almost all controllers have simple level/mix adjustment knobs/sliders. That makes the overall sound-shaping process easier.
The minimum operating system requirement of the Roland SH-101 is macOS 10.14 or Windows 8, and the plugin is available in VST, AU, and AAX versions.
12. Synapse-Audio Obsession
Let’s look at Synapse Audio’s take on the classic Oberheim OB-Xa synthesizer.
We’ve checked out an emulation plugin of the Oberheim OB-X synth, which was the first synth released in 1979 in this series. Conversely, Oberheim OB-Xa was a newer version released in 1981.
It utilized Custis CEM IC generators making it sound contrastingly smoother compared to the raw and wild personality of the OB-X, which used the SEM module instead.
Obsession by Synapse Audio brings the powerful polyphonic vintage synthesizer to your music studio with modern features added to it. It features detailed per-voice controls that no other synth provides. The feature is useful for creating rich, dynamic sound.
Furthermore, the temperature-dependent fluctuations you find on the original hardware are also simulated using the Organic knob. The result is an impressively authentic experience alongside jaw-dropping sound quality.
- Three Modes
Obsession can operate in three modes: single, dual, and split. Single-mode plays one patch and is the default mode of the synth. Conversely, the dual-mode can play two patches simultaneously. It stacks two different patch settings; each is called a “part.” You can access each part by clicking on the A and B buttons at the top left of the interface. Similarly, the fader between these two buttons lets you control the balance between the two parts. And lastly, the split mode lets you load two patches, but you can play each separately. Instead of stacking the two patches, it loads one in the lower region of your keyboard and the other patch in the higher octaves.
- Sound Engine
Obsession uses two oscillators and a noise generator. The oscillators can produce saw, pulse, a mix of saw and pulse, and triangle waveforms. While the saw and pulse waves have dedicated buttons, the mix is activated when both switches are turned on, and the triangle wave is selected when no switch is enabled.
- Filter Section
The filter section holds a filter that is a low-pass by default. However, you can also switch it to a band-pass mode. The section has three input buttons: OSC 1, OSC 2, and Noise. The two oscillator buttons toggle whether or not the oscillator is sent into the filter. If you disable it, the oscillator becomes inaudible. Similarly, the Noise button enables white noise at a fixed volume like the original hardware, although you can control it via the modulation matrix.
There are two envelopes in Obsession: amp envelope and filter envelope. The amp envelope controls the synth’s volume, and the filter envelope modulates the filter cutoff. However, the latter can also modulate the second oscillator’s pitch if you enable the F-ENV button in the oscillator section.
Likewise, it features two LFOs. They feature three waveform shapes: sine, square, and sample-and-hold (S/H).
- Voice Edit
This feature is the most powerful and exciting one of Obsession. You can differ each synth’s voice in many ways by changing the value of various parameters per voice. So, if you played a C major chord, you could make the C note sound different from E, which sounds different from G.
- Back Panel
The plugin features a “back panel,” where you’ll find the modulation matrix, analog simulation settings, and some effect processors. The modulation matrix has twelve slots that allow you to link a modulation source to a destination parameter. The sources include velocity, key track, modulation wheel, pitch bend, modulation wheel, aftertouch, polyphonic aftertouch, constant values, LFO x modulation wheel, etc.
Synapse Audio Obsession is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
13. Roland SH-2
The Roland SH-2 plugin emulates the dual VCO plus sub-oscillator vintage synthesizer with the same name.
It’s great for creating deep and impactful bass sounds, and the plugin version has programmed and captured every bit of its circuitry quite well. With the same signal flow and controllers, the plugin has a warm and fat analog sound. You can use it with the SYSTEM-8 for hardware extension.
- Synth engine
The maximum polyphony of the synth is one voice/oscillator with three VCOs, with adjustable pitch and amplitude parameters. In addition, there’s a VCF and a VCA for further sound sculpting and VCF and VCA- envelopes for modulations. The main modulator on the synth is an LFO. In addition, you get an arpeggio and delay and reverb effects to shape your sounds further.
The SH-2 has specific sonics that is great for creating edgy leads, wild effects, thick basslines, and movement-driven elements in your arrangement. That makes it great for techno, deep house, disco, 80s synth pop, etc. But, overall, it has a fresh and raw vintage tone with minimal effects and wetness.
The plugin is available in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU plugin formats only and requires a minimum of Intel Core i5 with 4 GB of RAM and macOS 10.14 or Windows 8.1.
14. TAL Software TAL-U-No-LX
The TAL-U-No-LX complements the Jupiter 8 emulation on my list, providing incredibly authentic analog sounds.
As you probably guessed by its name, this plugin emulates the Roland JUNO 60 polyphonic synthesizer. It’s essentially a younger sibling of the Jupiter 8 and came with a more streamlined interface.
TAL-U-No-LX sports a user interface similar to the original design but has noticeably gone under some reordering alongside added features.
The plugin features detailed character emulation alongside carefully calibrated controls. So, you can essentially dial in preset patches from your old JUNO 60 preset book and get near-identical results, making the TAL-U-No-LX an excellent counterpart or even replacement for the original hardware.
Furthermore, added idiosyncrasies like portamento and filter LFO waveforms push the ambition of this beloved synth even more.
The plugin features a single oscillator with a pulse and saw wave generator. It lets you control the pulse width when set to pulse wave. Similarly, you can enable a square wave sub-oscillator and a noise generator, which feature individual volume controls. Since TAL-U-No-LX is a single oscillator synth, the oscillator has no pitch control. However, you’ll find a master tune and level control.
TAL-U-No-LX features a high-pass filter next to the oscillator section. Then, the next section is a low-pass filter with frequency and resonance controls. It features keyboard tracking to change the frequency cutoff depending on the note you play. Both of these filters have a fixed 24 dB/octave slope.
The plugin employs a single envelope and an LFO. You can set the envelope to control the volume, the filter frequency, and the pulse width. You can also modulate the envelope amount using velocity. Similarly, the LFO can control the oscillator pitch and the pulse width. You can change the LFO shape, add a delay before the LFO starts, and invert the shape.
This section has seen a few changes compared to the original design. Like in JUNO 60, you have three modes of arpeggiation: up, up & down, and down. It has up to three octaves of range. And you can sync the arpeggiator to your DAW and enable hold or latch. Originally, the JUNO 60 didn’t support MIDI, which meant you couldn’t sync the synth to a MIDI clock. So, the sync feature is a welcome change.
You’ll find the original JUNO chorus effect, which defined the synth’s sound for many users, at the top right of the interface. However, deviating from the hardware design again, TAL introduces two extra effect processors at the bottom right of the user interface: a delay and a reverb. The delay can sync to the DAW and provides a spread feature to widen your stereo image.
TTAL U-No-LX By TAL Software is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
15. Roland Promars
Jupiter PROMARS is considered the kid brother of the Jupiter-4 synthesizer and is a 1-voice/oscillator mono synthesizer.
However, unlike Jupiter-4, it packs two vintage controlled oscillators and two sub-oscillators, hence creating a thick and fat texture. It’s known for its buzzy bass sounds and fat synth leads. It was one of the first instruments to have onboard memory, and it innovatively combined the analog world with a microprocessor.
- Multiple Sound sources
The plugin has two VCOs as its sound sources, with VCO-1 having the option to select sawtooth, square, and combinations of saw, square, and sub sounds. You can also adjust the range, modulation depth, pulse width properties, and tune.
- Signal flow
The sound travels from the two VCOs to a mixer, where you can set their levels along with noise. Further, there’s a VCF section with a high pass filter, low pass filter, and envelope settings. Then, there’s a VCA section wherein you can set the envelope ADSR, tone, and Crusher Depth. Lastly, there’s an effects section where you can add reverb and delay effects to your sound.
You can create some interesting movements with the arpeggiator that allows you up to two ranges of octaves, various combinations of up and down movements, and arpeggio steps are selectable between 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/4T, 1/8T, and 1/16T.
The Roland PROMARS is available as VST 2, VST 3, AU, and AAX plugin types, and the minimum operating system requirement is macOS 10.14 or Windows 8, with a minimum of 4 GB RAM and 100 MB of hard disk space. Further, you can use the plugin in SYSTEM-8 because of its plug-out feature.
16. u-he Repro 1
Repro 1 is u-he’s take on the esteemed Prophet 5 synth’s monophonic counterpart featuring component-level modeling.
After releasing Diva, an acclaimed analog modeling synth, u-he turned their eyes to the Sequential Circuits’ hit synthesizers from the 1980s: the Prophet 5 and Prophet Pro One.
The resulting plugins were the Repro bundle, including two synths: Repro 5 and Repro 1. Repro 5 is an eight-voice polyphonic synth, whereas Repro 1 is proudly monophonic.
The main user interface of Repro 1 resembles the Pro One synth, especially how the parameters are laid out. Although, you’ll undoubtedly find plenty of modern changes introduced by u-he.
The fundamentals of the synth are fairly basic, which is expectable from a synth designed nearly four decades ago. However, exciting features like Tweaks and Sequencer, not to mention a preset collection, help make the synth as relevant as ever.
- Multi-mode Oscillators
Repro 1 features two oscillators, each capable of generating one or multiple types of waveforms. Oscillator A generates saw and pulse waves, whereas Oscillator B generates saw, triangle, and pulse waves. You can change each oscillator’s frequency (pitch), octave, and pulse-width to control the cycles of the pulse wave. Furthermore, you can hard-sync the Oscillator A to Oscillator B with a toggle.
- Filter & Modulation
Repro 1 features a single four-pole (24 dB/oct) low-pass filter, a replica from the original hardware. The filter includes keyboard tracking and a dedicated filter envelope. The exciting part is that you can use the filter envelope as a modulator. You’ll also find the following modulators: Oscillator B’s Lo Freq LFO and a dedicated LFO.
- Arpeggio & Sequencer
The main interface of the plugin sports a primitive arpeggiator that lets you switch between up and up-down modes. So, like with the original hardware, you’ll also find a sequencer. As groundbreaking as the original hardware’s sequencer was for its time, u-he’s design surpasses the original on every front.
For starters, the sequencer lets you add two 32-step patterns per instance of the plugin, resulting in sixty-four total steps.
Switch to the Tweaks panel, and you’ll essentially remove the synthesizer cover to reveal the components within. Here, you can change the very behavior of individual elements. You can try out different models for the oscillators, filters, etc. The filter models include crispy, rounded, driven, and poly, whereas the filter envelope features piano, one-shot, high sustain, etc.
At the bottom right of the main user interface, you’ll find a tab called Effects, which takes the place of the virtual keyboard on the synth. You’ll find five effect processors in this section. These effects include Jaws wave-folding distortion, Lyrebird delay, RESQ three-band EQ, Drench plate reverb, and Sonic Conditioner stere saturator & transient designer.
U-he Repro 1 is available for Windows 7 or higher, macOS 10.9 or higher, and Linux, all 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats. Note that macOS AAX is temporarily unavailable at the time of writing.
17. Roland JD-800
Roland JD-800 was an iconic 90s digital synthesizer, and now its plugin version by the same company is also available.
The plugin is based on an advanced synth engine that models the original waveform of the hardware digital synthesizer. Some highly-skilled sound designers have also put together and kept 64 presets from the original hardware in the plugin. Roland has used the LA (Linear Arithmetic) synthesis, which mixes the PCM-based samples with subtractive synthesis, to create the plugin.
- Detailed recreation
Roland has recreated everything from the same interface to the same signal flow, with four tones, 2 LFOs, a pitch envelope, a TVF envelope, a TVA section, a two-stage multi-effects section, and more. However, the GUI is resizeable and also includes additional views. Plus, it has improved the polyphony by expanding it in the plugin version.
- Expansive effects section
The plugin includes the same seven effects: chorus, phaser, enhancer, distortion, spectrum, delay, and reverb. That gives you lots of sonic colors to add to your sounds and enhance them. In addition, there’s also a three-band (low/mid/high) equalizer available.
- Sound Source
JD-800 consists of 108 waves and four basic tones you can layer together. The Wave Generator/WG section includes controllers like waveform, gain, pitch course, pitch fine, pitch random, key follow, bend, modulation, LFO 1, LFO 2, and LEVER. In addition, you can also edit the pitch envelope.
- Other features
You can adjust the TVF and its envelope, TVA and its envelope, and you get controllers for adjusting legato, portamento, unison parameters, and more. All these features give you great flexibility in your sound design process.
The Roland JD-800 is available in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin versions and has a minimum requirement for macOS 10.14 and Windows 8 operating systems.
18. discoDSP – OB-Xd
One of the most iconic hardware synthesizers in history is reborn with modern features in software form.
As the name suggests, discoDSP’s OB-Xd is modeled after a real Oberheim OB-X synthesizer. It emulates the sound and personality of the original.
However, as with any software interpretation of classic synths, you’ll find some added features and quirks. All of them are quite handy and enhance the user experience.
The Oberheim OB-X synth was beloved for many classic sounds you hear on hit records from the 80s. For example, I’m a fan of its triangle lead sound with glide. Similarly, you can create awesome pad sounds with its individual voice pan controls.
And thanks to the slight detuning effect that occurs randomly, the synth sounds convincingly analog and dynamic.
- Dual Oscillators
The plugin features two oscillators, each capable of producing a saw, triangle, and square wave. The square wave offers a pulse width control. However, unlike the original design, OB-Xd doesn’t have a frequency modulation with the second oscillator modulating the first. Instead, the first oscillator modulates the second. Similarly, a mixer section next to the oscillators section lets you control the volume of each oscillator and add white noise.
- Multi-Mode Filter
Unlike the original design’s single 12 dB/oct low-pass filter, the OB-Xd offers a multi-mode 12 dB/oct filter akin to the Oberheim SEM module. You can crossfade between low-pass, band-pass, and high-pass by turning the Multi knob from left to right. It also features a 24 dB/oct mode, although it will switch to a fully low-pass mode.
- Further Controls
The plugin offers a maximum of 32-voice polyphony, but you can change it on the fly in the global section. You’ll also find a unison mode that stacks a monophonic voice to all the polyphonies available. And there’s a glide feature with four types of legato mode. Next, the voice variation section lets you generate random changes on various parameters.
While the original hardware wasn’t velocity-sensitive, this plugin lets you alter the envelope depth of the filter and amplifier using velocity. Furthermore, the voice variation section also features eight pan knobs, one for each voice when you aren’t in unison mode. This feature lets you create ultra-wide pad sounds or narrow but convoluted lead sounds.
discoDSP OB-Xd is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10 or higher, 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
19. Roland – JV-1080
The Roland JV-1080 plugin emulates the Digital Circuit Behaviour Technology of the classic synthesizer from the 90s.
Synthesizers became common in popular arrangements by the 90s, and Roland found a way to include as many sounds in a single device as possible using samples-based Pulse Code Modulation technology. The technology proved realistic and expansive, as it could emulate acoustic sounds and is flexible and versatile.
The workflow consists of four separate Tone sections with different controllers and modulators. In addition, there are send effects, patches, patch effects, and the option to switch tones. Plus, there’s an expansive sound bank, articulation options, and 128-voice polyphony, giving you a fuller and deeper sound.
- Unique workflow
The tones are the smallest sound units built upon to create patches. The sounds start with a wave generator, which then passes through a time-variant filter (TVF), which further passes through a time-variant amplifier (TVA). For each step, you can assign an envelope, and you can also route LFOs to each step.
- Effects Section
There are essentially three effects units that you can switch on or off. The first is multi-fx, consisting of 78 different effect types, including distortion, flanger, etc. The second and third effects are chorus and reverb, such that the chorus can also be replaced by delay. Lastly, the reverb unit has five different types of spaces.
- Memory and Bank
There are hundreds of pre-saved sounds and presets that you can get started with. These sounds are versatile and of great quality. The plugin allows you to create, save, delete, and add new bank(s) of the sounds, such that each bank can have 128 memories.
The plugin has a stunning look with black and blue skin that is beautifully designed and well laid out. Hidden and under-the-hood functionalities don’t appear when you open the plugin, which keeps it clean and organized. In addition, the GUI is resizable and can be zoomed up to 200%.
The plugin is available in VST2, VST3, and AU plugin formats only and requires a minimum of Intel Core i5 with 4 GB of RAM and macOS 10.14 or Windows 8.1.
20. Roland D-50
The Roland D-50 plugin is a recreation of the 80s hardware synth based on LA (Linear Arithmetic) synth architecture.
Originally, the hardware integrated samples, virtual analog technology, and multiple effects to create unique and interesting sounds emulated by the plugin. The 80s saw a huge and rapid transition in the music industry, in which varying genres were introduced and fused with each other. To adapt to that, Roland released the D-50 in 1987.
Hence, the synth has a good palette of sounds, with genres ranging from synth-pop, R&B, new wave, and more.
- Sound source
The sound source in the plugin is a wave generator, for which there are two sections: WG Pitch and WG waveform, such that the WG Pitch allows you to edit the fine pitch, course pitch, LFO mode, envelope mode, and Bend mode using their sliders. The WG Waveform allows you to adjust sliders for waveform, pulse width, pulse width’s velocity, after, depth, and more.
- Filter Section
The Time Variant Filter (TVF) has three sections: one for adjusting the filter parameters and the other two for the filter envelope. The first filter section allows you to adjust the cutoff frequency, resonance, LFO, and envelope parameters. The second and third one allows you to set the envelope’s levels (L1, L2, …, L5) and times (T1, T2, …, T5).
- Time Variant Amplitude (TVA)
Similarly, you can set the TVA parameters and its envelopes levels and timelines using three different sections. The advanced envelope for the amplitude and filter allows you five levels of editing.
- Sound Banks
The sounds are stored in different banks, such that each bank has 64 memories or can hold 64 patches/presets. You can import, save, rename, delete, and create new sound banks. The plugin also has a great collection of factory presets.
The D-50 is available in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin versions and has a minimum requirement for macOS 10.14 and Windows 8 operating systems.
We have included everything from modern versions of vintage sounds in modern synthesizers to authentic recreations of retro hardware. Nostalgia is freshness and the best time to experiment with your sounds; this list will give you the tools to do so!
Arturia Analog Lab and Roland Cloud bundles are great if you buy a collection of flexible, versatile, and well-rounded synthesizers. They contain some of the best emulations of some of the most popular vintage synths, like Juno-106, JUPITER-8, Minimoog, etc. these collections have honest and authentic recreations of the original hardware.
However, if you’re looking for something modern sounding yet having a vintage flavor, u-he Diva is a great plugin. It’s also good for other analog sound design purposes and sounds great! However, the Softube Model 72 has the best virtual analog sound and sounds close to the original synthesizer.
The JUNO-106 and JUNO-60 are great for sweet, cheezy, and romantic sounds. Arturia SQ 80V, Roland JUNO-60, and UAD Moog Minimoog are the best analog emulations. The Roland SH-2, u-he Diva, and Synapse-Audio Obsession are great choices for dark and underground analog textures and aesthetics.
Lastly, Roland JV 1080 is the best 90s synth emulation from the list, as it has a great collection of presets and beautiful analog warmth and depth. Hope the article was of help! I am sure you can find the right plugin(s) for producing retro/80s/vintage-type music and sound design from the post. Thank you for reading!
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.