The 13 Best Synth Plugins 2021 (And 5 FREE Plugins)

The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synths) | Integraudio.com

Today, we’ll review the 13 best synth and instrument plugins of 2021 for producers and sound designers. Additionally, we’ll give you five free plugins so you can start making music right away.

Some people simply can’t have enough synths. If you’re lucky, you might have a collection of the best hardware units ever created, but for most of us mere mortals, the plugins will suffice.

Synthesizers have been around since the early fifties, but never before have they been able to do what today’s virtual synths can. And though some still pay homage to the early pioneers, others are pushing forward to create new ways of generating sound. We looked for the best modern synthesizers and reviewed them to help you pick your next music production tool.

Synth
Number of Sound Generators
Synth Architecture
Stand Out Feature
Audio Damage Continua
3
Granular
15 Unison Voices  – Thicken up and widen your sounds with 15 voices per oscillator.
NI Massive X
2
Wavetable
10 Wavetable Modes  – 10 ways to shape your wavetables, including Gorilla and Random modes.
ROLI Equator2
6
MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE)
Granular Engine  – One-of-a-kind granular synthesis lets you create beautiful textures.
Vital Audio – Vital
4
Spectral Warping Wavetable
Unison Spectral Morph  – Bend the wave’s harmonics even further with this feature.
u-he Diva
1
Virtual Analog
Analog-like workflow – It feels like using a hardware synth.
kiloHearts Phase Plant
4
Semi-Modular
Add as many Snapin Effects as needed  – Full integration with the kiloHearts ecosystem.
Arturia Pigments 3
2
Additive
Additive Synthesis  – Create more harmonics simply by engaging this function.
Xfer Records Serum
2
Wavetable
Transparent Aliasing  – The oscillators produce fewer inharmonic artifacts than most synth plugins, resulting in clearer high-end.
Newfangled Audio Generate
1
Marquee Polysynth
Unique Sound  – Generate’s pioneer use of chaotic synthesis helps create sounds you won’t achieve with other plugins.
Tone2 Icarus
3
3D Wavetable
Drum & Glitch Sequencers –  Create beats and rhythmic tracks within the synth.
iZotope Iris 2
1
Sample-Based
Spectrogram – Use this feature to synthesize specific frequencies of your sample.
NI Absynth 5
3
Semi-Modular
Unique Effects – Pipe, Multicomb, Multitap, Echoes, Resonators, and Aetherizer. Sound Mutation – Great to generate unique sounds without too much effort.
Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2.6
4 per part (32 total)
Virtual
Gigantic Soundbank  – the seamlessly infinite library makes it the ultimate live performance tool.

Now, let’s dive into the actual list:

The 13 Best VST Synth & Instrument Plugins 2021

1. Audio Damage Continua Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Audio Damage Continua Review - Top 13 VST Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Continua, by Audio Damage, lets you bend the wave shapes any way you want.

The plugin offers three independent oscillators, two filters, four envelope modulators, and four LFOs. You can use oscillators two and three to modulate the first oscillator and assign noise and drive to the filters. In addition, you can use the filters in parallel or series for different effects and pan them to taste. In the FX/Output menu, you’ll find a chorus, a delay, and a reverb – all of which are stereo effects. You’ll also get eight macros you can assign parameters to.

Key Features:

  • Fifteen Voices
    This polyphonic synth lets you play up to fifteen notes simultaneously, which can help you create beautifully layered arrangements.
  • Filters
    Filtering in Continua is not restricted to the usual HP, LP, BP, and Notch shapes. Instead, thanks to the fantastic Morph knob, you can slightly shape your filter to make it unique. That ensures that not only do you get all the regular filters, but you can also unlock what’s between them.
  • Envelope Generators
    The plugin gives you two ADSR and two FEG envelopes, which can be routed anywhere in the plugin. The ADSRs operate simultaneously, while the FEGs can be set independently. The ADSR control panel gives you a knob for each parameter, in addition to the Curve knobs for the attack, decay, and release. That helps you shape the envelope to taste, but things get truly interesting with the FEGs. Its flexibility allows the user to add unlimited breakpoints to the envelope, shape them to taste, and even sync them to the host tempo.
  • Unisons Mode
    You can create a thicker sound by using Continua’s unison mode. That will make all fifteen voices, or fewer if you prefer, play the same notes simultaneously. Additionally, you can adjust the number of agents by using the knob under the Voice Activity graph.
  • Sample & Hold
    You can use this cool feature to generate random notes. The source can be either random numbers or the outputs of an envelope or LFO. You can mix the signal using the Smooth, Limit, and Level controls and choose the pace through the Rate knob.

Sound & Usability:

You can create mind-bending leads or entire soundscapes with the plugin’s broad set of controls. The extensive modulations, beautiful effects, and nuanced filters make it a unique-sounding tool. But obviously, a great deal of Continua’s magic comes from its three oscillators. Not only can you create the three most common waveforms, but the plugin also lets you distort the shapes to taste to design different sounds.

When it comes to usability, Continua offers one of the most user-friendly interfaces on this list. If you’re acquainted with synthesizers and have experience building sounds from scratch, you’ll find this plugin an effortless device.

Continua Introduction

Audio Damage CONTINUA | Virtual Analog Morphing SYNTH | No Talking Just Sound |

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 8.1 and higher and macOS 10.12 and newer in VST, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Continua is the perfect plugin for sound designers and producers who want to generate exciting sounds without wasting time. The interface is straightforward, and the parameters all have understandable names rather than confusing acronyms. You can’t go wrong with this Audio Damage synth plugin. Its highly configurable nature gives you all the control you need over your patches, which results in an excellent workflow.

2. NI Massive X Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

NI Massive X Review - Top 13 VST Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Massive X, by Native Instruments, gives you the freedom to create innovative sounds effortlessly.

Even though the plugin only offers a pair of oscillators, the vast wavetable catalog ensures that two is more than enough. Of course, you can combine and shape several pre-made waves further, but you can also adjust the Wavetable Modes. Moreover, the signal chain can be rerouted so that you can achieve different kinds of synthesis techniques.

Key Features:

  • Wavetable Modes
    Massive X offers ten different modes (Standard, Bend, Mirror, Hard-sync, Wrap, Formant, ART, Gorilla, Random, and Jitter), which determine the behavior of the wavetable oscillator. Whatever mode you choose will determine the functionalities of the controls around the central wave knob. There are two dedicated parameters for each mode, which help add to Massive’s ease of use and versatility.
  • Noise Section
    The plugin makes it easy to add textures to your synth but way beyond the traditional white or pink noises. There’s a wide range split into seven categories: Static, Friction, Processed, Environment, Machines, Beings, and Transients. In addition to those, you can create and save your noises to use as textures. The plugin lets you add two noise generators and mix them with a fader and pitch controls.
  • Insert Effects
    You can add up to three effects anywhere in your signal chain
    . There are ten effects, including a bit crusher, a pitch shifter, and a ring modulator. Additionally, you can also use the insert effects to add another oscillator. It’s not as versatile as the other ones, but you can create a Sine, Saw, or Pulse wave.
  • Modulations
    The plugin gives you three Performer sequencers, nine primary modulators, four trackers to map MIDI controls, and a Voice Randomization unit
    . You can drag any of these modulators from the source bar and drop them in any parameter you desire. The modulators can be adjusted below on the Edit menu. Among all the modulators, the Voice Randomization is the one that helps the synth sound the most natural. You can apply it to several parameters, and they will be slightly different with every new note you play.
  • Routing
    Use this menu to connect all parts of the synthesizer and come up with different sounds
    . You can link all parameters and effects differently or bypass an entire section to hear how it sounds. The menu is divided into Polyphonic and Monophonic sections. You’ll find generators and processors, busses, the feedback loop, and the modulation modules in the first area. Alternatively, the Monophonic area will sum the polyphonic signals and apply the stereo effects. Here you can change the order of the stereo effects for additional experimentation.

Sound & Usability:

Massive X makes it easy to create the sounds you’re looking for. The workflow is simplified by the logical, analog-like disposition of parameters and sections. Starting from the top left, you have the oscillators. To their right, you’ll find most effects and, below it all, the modulations. Overall, this is a simple-to-use plugin, which makes it accessible for beginners and experienced producers alike.

With over 600 presets, it’s easy to get started, too. Whether you want to change some preset a little or create your patch from scratch, Massive X gives you plenty of options.

Massive X Tutorial - Part 1 - Oscillators, Phase Modulation, Routing Matrix

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.13 through 10.15 and Windows 10 as a Komplete instrument, without a standalone version. Also, to run Massive X, you need an AVX Compatible processor.

Summary:

Native Instruments’ Massive X is a highly versatile synth that expands on the original’s mythos. Compared to most other synths on this list, its main advantage lies in the highly adaptable Wavetable Modes. They ensure a more extensive library of oscillations than would ever be possible by simply combining differently-shaped waves. That and the highly user-friendly approach make Massive X an excellent download for your Komplete library.


Related Readings:

Top 8 Piano Plugins 2021 (And 5 Best FREE Pianos)

Top 6 Organ Plugins Ever Made 2021 (And 3 Best Free Organs)

Top 14 Plugins For Beginners 2021 (VST, AU, AAX)

Top 6 Best Sampler Plugins 2021 (And 3 Best FREE Plugins)

Top 9 Drum Machine Plugins 2021 For Beatmaking (Best Grooveboxes)

Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital)

Top 10 Free EQ Plugins 2021 Update (For Mixing & Mastering)

Top 6 Laptops for Music Production 2021 With High CPU & RAM Power

Top 10 Stereo Imaging Plugins 2021 (Best Old & Modern Picks)


3. ROLI Equator2 Review

More Info & Price 

ROLI Equator2 Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Equator2, by ROLI, is a six-source hybrid synth with a highly flexible routing engine.

This plugin’s UI is divided into two halves. The top half contains the synth source modules, filters, settings, visualizers, and effects. Alternatively, the bottom half holds all the modulation sources, the five macros, and the routing engines. This simplified workflow benefits productivity, even though the UI looks crowded. Equator2’s primary offering is the hybrid sources, though. You get oscillator, sampler, granular, and noise sources, which you can use simultaneously in up to six source slots.

Key Features:

  • Multiple Sources 
    Equator2 offers the basic analog-like waveform oscillators, but it goes further. You’ll also benefit from a multi- and single-layer sampler engine, a granular synthesis engine, and a noise module with three different sounds. All these sources can be mixed and matched to taste. For example, you can use any sample as the source sound for the granular engine. This malleability, plus the six available source slots, makes the Equator2 a powerhouse of a synthesizer.
  • Flip-Flop 
    Within the Random Modulation Source menu, you’ll find four randomization sources in addition to the Flip-Flop. This module switches its output between 100% and 0% with every new note. What you get is a “note on, note off” feel. It works independently with each of the synth’s voices.
  • Effects
    The plugin gives you a 12-slot effect rack so you can shape and texturize your patch to taste, all within the synth—no need to pile up more CPU-hungry plugins on this channel
    . The green line around the rack shows you the signal path, and at the top of the menu, you can toggle between four available configurations. There are fourteen effects, including a granular delay, a chorus, a flanger, a compressor, and many more. You can also add any of these effects multiple times until you fill up all the twelve slots.
  • Routing Matrix
    You can shape the sound to your liking simply by sending the outputs of any given source module to different parts of the synth. To do so, use the routing matrix to reposition a source’s output into the global filters or the effects’ inputs. Then, later in the chain, you can choose where you want the signal to go before hitting the main out. Alternatively, you can use the routing matrix to send sound straight from the source to the main output.

Sound & Usability:

If you want it to, the Equator2 can sound effortlessly warm, complete, and rich. Alternatively, it can sound harsh and powerful. The presets are entire trips on their own – you could spend days just playing and feeling the unusual sounds. Most presets that use the granular engine, such as “Harp of the Amethyst Circle,” sound natural while still soaked in granulation.

All that shows that you can create your patches and have them be as impressive as you want with Equator2’s versatility. Other than that, usability’s very simple, and finding presets is easy with the tagging system. You can search for sounds based on source, instrument, articulation, and timbre, making life easier and speeding the workflow.

Equator2: An Overview

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.14 and newer and Windows 10 in VST, AU, and standalone formats.

Summary:

The ROLI Equator2 is a fantastic synth for producers and artists looking for the best of all worlds. From the analog-like wavetable engine to the all-digital granular synthesis, you’ll have an extremely versatile plugin at your disposal. It’s expensive, but this plugin is a whole instrument, so that’s expected. If you already own a ROLI keyboard, integration is seamless since you’ll be able to take advantage of all of the patches’ nuances. Nevertheless, it’s a hell of a great addition to your synth collection.

4. Vital Audio – Vital Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Vital Audio Vital Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Vital is a three-oscillator synth that lets you warp wavetables by addressing their harmonics.

With up to twenty polyphonic voices, two filters, three envelopes, and four LFOs, Vital is a powerful sound design tool. Though it only uses wavetable synthesis, it has a few tricks up its sleeve when shaping waves. Moreover, the plugin is highly customizable thanks to its multiple Macros and a Sampler that lets you drag and drop your source files into the plugin.

Key Features:

  • Adjustable Wavetables
    You can start shaping the sound to taste with the Unison and Phase manipulators at the oscillators. The plugin lets you add up to sixteen Unison voices and detune them the way you want. To change the phase, first, you need to choose one of the modes underneath the knob. That will give you plenty of freedom to find specific waves between the other ones. And not only does the plugin let you shape wavetables, but it also gives you a 3D view. This graph lets you understand the subtle differences that happen when moving the wave slider up and down. It’s helpful when you need to find the perfect nuance to achieve your sonic goals.
  • Transpose Snap
    This feature is present in all oscillators and the sampler, and it’s helpful when you want to transpose a sound harmonically
    . All you need to do is select the notes you want to be able to transpose to. These will be highlighted on the keyboard icon. If you modulate the pitch adjustment with an LFO, you’ll create an arpeggiated sound.
  • Effects
    The plugin gives you nine effects, and the signal flow goes from top to bottom
    . You can change their order into something that suits your production better, but you can’t double any of them. Overall the effects are thorough and versatile, with the compressor even offering multi-band and single-band options.
  • Advanced Tabs
    Here, you’ll find some settings for oversampling, voice, and display, but mainly you’ll get options and unison controls for the oscillators and a couple of analysis graphs. The Unison controls give you enough parameters to let you place those extra voices wherever you want in the stereo field, but also the wavetable. That helps create an image with a lot more depth and width.

Sound & Usability:

Vital sounds like most synth plugins with simple settings engaged. Its characters are not much different from that of an analog synth. It’s when you start using the Unison Spectral Morph that Vital shows its actual capacity. Under the Unison knob, you can dial in one of several Spectral options that will tackle the waveform’s harmonics. The resulting sounds are often unpredictable but generally very full and, depending on the amount you dial, almost granular-like.

Using the plugin is easy, but mostly if you’re acquainted with the way synths work. That’s not to say Vital isn’t beginner-friendly, although it could at least have some notes when you hover over parameters to give you tips.

Exploring the Vital synth (by Vital Audio)

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Linux 18.04 and newer, Windows 10, macOS 10.12, and higher in VST, AU, and LV2 formats.

Summary:

It’s not hard to get a great sound out of Vital Audio’s Vital. It’s a complex plugin with an easy-to-guess workflow and excellent wavetable-shaping options. It offers what most synths plugins offer but delivering just a bit more in some situations. That and its warping methods put Vital in a unique position among its competitors, making it an essential tool for today’s producers.

5. u-he Diva Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

u-he Diva Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

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.

Key Features:

  • Oscillators
    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.
  • Filters
    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. Additionally, you get a “Detune Amt” knob below in the same panel, which controls the global detune. In high values, the same note will sound highly different if you play it twice.
  • Presets
    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.

Diva Review - Synth Spotlight

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.7 or newer and Windows 7 or higher in VST, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Built as an all-analog solution for your synth needs, u-he’s Diva lets you grasp the sound of the original hardware for a thin slice of their prices. Unlike the originals, though, you can replace the modules and combine them to taste, just to remind you that you’re in the digital realm. Overall, Diva is a great-sounding plugin that will have a special place in your collection.

6. kiloHearts Phase Plant Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

kiloHearts Phase Plant Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Phase Plant, by kiloHearts, is a highly capable synth with a straightforward workflow.

The plugin’s interface is divided into three main areas: generators, effects, and modulators. The plugin sends the signal from the generator section onto the effects, which you can route anywhere in the plugin. Phase Plant offers several standard parameters, such as unison, detune, macros, and polyphony, allowing you to create any effect you would be able to with another synth. However, its primary selling point is the multi-mode generators, including a sampler, paired according to necessity.

Key Features:

  • Generators
    There are four generators, two effects, and four utility functions to add to this area. As for the first group, the plugin gives you analog, noise, sampler, and wavetable generators. You can mix and match them to taste and even repeat the same generator. That ensures the utmost flexibility, paired with a simple drag-and-replace system to organize the signal flow. The effects you get here are a filter and a distortion, which you can place anywhere in the chain. Finally, the utilities give you the ability to group generators or create auxiliary, mix, and output tracks.
  • Effects
    Since Phase Plant is a kiloHearts snapin host, you can add any snapin plugins you own to the chain. If you load a preset that uses snapins you don’t own, they will work, but you won’t be able to tweak their parameters. The effects area has three lanes, and you can send any generator to any route. That gives you more control over the signal flow. From here, you can use the drag and drop arrows to apply modulation or use the effects to modulate any other parameter.
  • Modulators
    Here, you’ll find an envelope, LFO, and randomization modules. Additionally, this section lets you apply MIDI control and other utility modules to your patch. The envelope is straightforward, and the LFO offers all the basic shapes. Moreover, it lets you create new waveforms or use the LFO as an envelope. Finally, the random mode is a sample-and-hold LFO that outputs arbitrary values to create unpredictable movement in your patch.

Sound & Usability:

kiloHearts’ approach to making plugins is efficient when you’re inside its ecosystem. The snapin plugins on their own are good, but some lack features and the “wow” factor. However, when you put them together on a snapin host such as the Phase Plant, you see what they were made for. Incredibly, you can add as many snapin effects, generators, and modulators as you need without breaking your CPU in two.

The result of this integration is an endlessly versatile synth that sounds as good as any of the more expensive ones. Additionally, the user interface is clean and understandable, making it easy to get great sounds from the plugin.

Phase Plant by Kilohearts | Review of Key Features | New Modular VST Plugin Synth

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 7 and newer and macOS 10.7 and higher in VST, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

You can place this plugin effortlessly among your go-to synths, especially if you already own some snapin plugins. If you don’t, then you need to purchase some to start creating some more elaborate patches. Nevertheless, Phase Plant offers many generators, making the real difference in developing new and exciting sounds.

7. Arturia Pigments 3 Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Arturia Pigments 3 Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Arturia’s Pigment 3 is a versatile beast that allows for seemingly infinite sound designing.

The new version offers a harmonic generator and the original three generator modules: analog, wavetable, and sample. In addition to six modulation types, the plugin gives you most of the standard functions you’d expect from a virtual synth. When you hover the mouse over a parameter, a small “+” icon will show up to indicate you can drag modulation sources to it. You can edit these modulations on the lower half of the interface and use the mixer-like middle strip to select and adjust the output value.

Key Features:

  • Harmonic Generator
    This new feature uses additive synthesis to include previously unexistent harmonics to the sine wave. You can add up to 512 harmonic partials, which will dramatically change the tone of the sound. You can also extensively shape the relation between odd and even harmonics and mix them in volume.
  • Utility Engine
    You can use this in addition to engines one and two
    , and what it does is add an extra layer of color and clarity to the sound. It gives you two noise generators and one oscillator, which is great for creating texture and depth. Additionally, you can use it as a standalone sound source.
  • Pitch Shift Delay
    This effect changes the pitch of each delayed repetition. When used softly, this effect will add some interesting depth to the sound. If you crank it up, however, the result will be a monstrous detuned cacophony.
  • Modulation Effects
    The plugin gives you a whopping 18 effects you can add to the sound
    . Among them, you’ll get a multiband compressor, a tape echo, a wavefolder, and a bit crusher. Additionally, this new version offers the JUN-6 chorus and the BL-20 flanger, both of which are hardware classics that Arturia has recreated in standalone plugin formats.

Sound & Usability:

Thanks to its many analog-modeled filters, Pigments 3 offers a plain smooth sound, great for pads and soundscapes. However, it can also be as aggressive as needed, adding up to Pigments’ versatility. The additive synthesis combines analog, wavetable, and granular technologies to provide innovative results that no other synth on this list comes close to. Moreover, using Pigments 3 is fun and easy. Its specific workflow benefits from intelligent routing options, such as applying different filters to different busses.

Arturia Pigments 3 Is Here! 🤩 | 5 Sound Design Tips & Tutorial

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for 64-bit only Windows 8.1 and above and macOS 10.13 and newer in VST, AAX, and AU formats.

Summary:

Arturia’s Pigments 3 adds to the company’s amazing plugins as a workhorse synth for the modern producer. Amazingly, they’re adding features from their recent plugin emulations to Pigments, which only makes us hope they keep releasing new versions. In the meantime, you can be confident you’ll be getting a handy tool when adding this to your collection.


Related Readings:

How Do Analog Synths Work? – Oscillators, Filters & Envelopes Explained

Should I Buy A MIDI Keyboard Or Synth? (Are Synths Worth It Anymore?)

Why Is Audio Gear So Expensive? (Especially Synths)

Top 13 Waves Plugins (2021 Update)

Top 10 FET Compressor Plugins 2021

Top 8 Lo-Fi Plugins 2021 (And 3 Best Free Alternatives)

Top 6 Mastering Chain Plugins 2021 (Best Single Mastering Tools)


8. Xfer Records Serum Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Xfer Records Serum Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Serum, by Xfer Records, is a favorite among electronic music artists due to its remarkable user-friendliness.

Creating, editing, and manipulating wavetables is effortless with Serum’s quality-oriented workflow. Additionally, whenever you import an audio file into Serum, it will analyze and divide it into unique waveforms that you can use as wavetables within the synth. Then, you can warp and modulate the waveforms to your liking, and when they’re done, the plugin offers a 10-effect rack that eliminates the need for more plugins in your signal chain.

Key Features:

  • Filter Types
    The plugin offers four filter categories: Normal, Multi, Flanges, and Miscellaneous. You’ll get a large set of filter presets for each, and the numbers beside their names represent how steep the cutoff curve is. In addition to the ability to engage the filter for both oscillators, plus the sub and the noise engines, you can use note-tracking to keep the filter in tune with every new note.
  • Sub-Tables
    Not only does the plugin let you see and hear the main wavetable, but it also offers different layers of the same sound, depending on how many Unison voices you have selected.
  • Copy LFOs and Envelopes
    Hold down “alt” (“option” on the Mac) while clicking on the ENV or LFO top bar and dragging it to another one beside it. That will copy the entire shape and its parameters onto the new slot. You can do the same process to copy an LFO or Envelope shape into any oscillator if you want to. That will create a custom wavetable with the same pattern as the source.

Sound & Usability:

With its two main oscillators, plus a sub and a noise generator, Serum provides a wide range of sonic possibilities. Unfortunately, even though its single filter has several presets and attractive controls, such as fat and drive, it lacks in number. If we could at least have a dedicated filter for each main oscillator, then Serum would probably be better positioned on our list.

However, usability-wise, Serum is as easy as they come. It’s fun to play around with Serum’s knobs when sculpting your sound. Additionally, the controls are appropriately named, which improves the user experience.

The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Xfer's Serum | Serum for COMPLETE Beginners

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.11 and newer and Windows 7 and higher as a VST, AU, and AAX plugin.

Summary:

It’s easy to understand how Serum got its famed status. Just from looking at it, you immediately know what you need to do. And truth be told, you can create great sounds even if you’re not that experienced. Overall, this is a user-friendly plugin that deserves a place in your collection.

9. Newfangled Audio Generate Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Newfangled Audio Generate Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Newfangled Audio’s Generate builds upon a chaotic generator to create complex and unpredictable sounds.

This plugin uses the concept of additive synthesis to expand a basic waveform and shape it into whatever you need it to be. The signal starts with the Chaotic Generator, rolls into the Wavefolder and the Low Pass Gate. Like a regular synth, you can also add effects and modulate any parameter you see fit with Envelopes, LFOs, and more.

Key Features:

  • Chaotic Generator
    With all parameters at zero, the plugin simply offers a sinewave sound. The Chaotic Generator transforms that sinewave into a mind-bending, intricate sound. Simply select one of the eight oscillator types, the chaos amount, shape, and animation. Additionally, you can mix in two sub oscillators, sync it to tempo, and define the key you want to work within.
  • Wavefolder
    Here, you can start warping the chaotic waveform by adding drive, folds, and shape and symmetry changes. The result is a harmonically rich sound that you can take even further, thanks to the three Wavefolder types.
  • Low pass Gate
    Overall, this filter creates a smooth and pleasing sound contributing to Generate’s natural-sounding patches. An ADSR drives the LPG, and you can track the filter’s cutoff frequency to the notes you’re playing.
  • Seven Modulation Pages
    Generate gives you five kinds of modulations spread across seven selectable and tweakable pages. You get global settings, two envelopes, two LFOs, a Sample & Hold unit, and a Step Sequencer. You can use the circles above each section’s name to use that parameter as a modulator for anything in the patch.

Sound & Usability:

Creating your chaotic waveform is the most straightforward task possible since you don’t need to understand anything about synthesizers to get started. Simply press a note and watch the yellow lines behind the parameters. Then, as you tweak them, a visual representation of what you’re doing comes alive on the screen. This innovative concept makes it easy for beginners and fun for the experienced. Different shapes, parameters, and chaotic mode combinations create absurdly interesting sounds, becoming even more enjoyable with modulation.

An EPIC Synth Plugin For Cinematic Music and Sound Design 🔥 | Newfangled Audio Generate

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 8.1 and higher and macOS 10.9 and newer in AAX, VST, and AU formats.

Summary:

Generate, by Newfangled Audio, is an impressive tool that you should not take lightly. It might not be as versatile as others on this list in the long run, but it’s the plugin with a very unique sound. In short, Generate deserves a place in your collection, primarily if you work with sound design.

10. Tone2 Icarus 2 Review

More Info & Price 

Tone2 Icarus Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Icarus 2, by Tone2, is a complete synthesis workstation with built-in tools no other synth in this list offers.

The plugin gives you three highly intuitive wavetable oscillators, each with 54 synthesis modes and up to 64 polyphonic voices. The result is a highly versatile tool that leaves no stone unturned when it comes to sound design. In addition to two envelopes, four LFOs, two filters, and an EQ, Icarus offers the Main Menu at its core, where you can access effects, the arpeggiator, drum, and glitch controls.

Key Features:

  • 54 Synthesis Methods
    Icarus 2 gives you all synth types offered by the others on this list, such as granular, additive, analog, etc. However, it’s the formant, vocoder, harmonic-morphing, phase-distortion, and many other modes that bring this plugin forth as one of the best out there. You can create absolutely any sound with its many synthesis methods.
  • Drum Sequencer
    The pattern-based drum sequencer contains over 100 pre-programmed rhythms, but it also lets you integrate your beats with the synth’s functions. The grid offers you sixteen steps to create your beats and five tracks to load or play a sample. Additionally, you can change the volume, velocity, pitch, panning, and many more details for each channel.
  • Arpeggiator
    The built-in arpeggiator is almost a synth by itself,
    and it strikes the perfect balance between strength and usability. Additionally, it gives you advanced features such as autochords, polyphonic playback, pitch slides, swing-shuffle, etc. All these features make up for a powerful built-in tool that enhances the capabilities of the plugin.
  • Glitch Sequencer
    This rhythmic-based sound modifier adds multiple glitch effects that disfigure and enhance your sound
    . You get ten effect rows with sixteen steps per row, and you can add one or several per step. The sequencer gives you a Repeater, Gate, Pan, Tremolo, Low & High-pass filters, Bitcrusher, Degrader, Detune, and Pitchslide effects.

Sound & Usability:

Overall, Icarus 2’s tone is soft and rounded. Nevertheless, it can recreate any classic synth sound and push the limits further with innovative timbres. In addition to the extensive set of synthesis methods, the plugin also gives you dozens of effects and filters that can be combined to create new, one-of-a-kind sounds. The vocalic and resonator filters are examples of exotic types you’ll only find in Icarus 2.

When it comes to user experience, the all-in-one approach makes the UI seem a bit confusing. Even so, using the plugin is truly uncomplicated, as it operates as simply as any other synth despite the excessive number of knobs. You can use a drag and drop function to modulate any parameter and control all connections from the Matrix menu.

The ULTIMATE Synth VST - Review of Icarus 2 by Tone2

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows XP and higher and macOS 10.7 and new in VSTi, AU, and Standalone formats.

Summary:

Tone2’s Icarus 2 has enough potential to be the next standard when it comes to versatile synths. It still doesn’t have such a broad user base as Serum, for example, but who knows, it may get there one day. Nevertheless, it’s a must-have tool for the modern-day producer.

11. iZotope Iris 2 Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

iZotope Iris 2 Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

iZotope’s Iris 2 offers a different approach to synthesis and an 11 GB sample library.

The Iris 2 isn’t a regular synthesizer. Instead, it combines sampler and modular synthesis technologies to give you a broader palette. Even though the plugin doesn’t have any oscillators, you do get samples from classic analog synthesizers and the tools to manipulate them. In addition, you can upload any sample you may already own into Iris 2 and apply synth-like modulation, filters, and effects. However, what sets this plugin apart from its competition is the spectrogram menu, in which you can create frequency-based rhythmic patterns or textures.

Key Features:

  • Spectrogram
    This graph displays frequencies on the y-axis and time on the x-axis for any sample you load into the plugin
    . Here, you can use the tools on the left-hand sidebar to select the frequencies you want to hear and the loop time for the sample. In other words, you can manually filter out the frequencies you don’t like or create interesting patterns that playback specific parts of the audio.
  • Modulations
    The plugin offers five LFOs and five Envelopes, all of which can modulate any parameter in the patch
    . You can also assign Mod Wheel, Aftertouch, Velocity, and Key Tracking modulations anywhere in the plugin. All these options allow you to give enough movement to what could sometimes become dull samples.
  • Mix Window
    Since you can load up to four samples at once, the mix window offers you a place where you can better blend the sounds to create the final patch. You can access this page in the upper right-hand corner by clicking the Mix button. Opening it lets you close the master and sample panels in the main UI to visualize the spectrogram in better detail.

Sound & Usability:

The presets on this plugin are relatively decent, but nothing special. However, its samples are great, and the ability to stack up to four sample layers is what makes Iris 2 deliver its best results. Learning to work the spectrogram can take some time, mainly if you’re not used to image-editing tools such as the Lasso or the Magic Wand. Nevertheless, once you do, it’s like a whole new world of synthesis opens up in front of you.

Additionally, learning how to use the plugin never feels overwhelming, thanks to its intuitive interface. The best way to understand Iris 2 is by getting hands-on with it and trying to create sounds.

How To Use iZotope Iris 2 with Protoculture

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.8 through 10.15 and Windows XP and higher in VST, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.

Summary:

Spectral synthesis is nothing new, but it’s probably never been as easy to grasp as it is with Iris 2. This one-of-a-kind plugin offers enough tools for sound designers to get creative and blend sounds any way they see fit.

12. NI Absynth 5 Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

NI Absynth 5 Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Absynth 5, by Native Instruments, is famous for its organic soundscapes and marvelous pad timbres.

You can find your modulations, envelopes, and more at the tab selector up top, but don’t let the counterintuitive design scare you away. Even though it’s one of the oldest plugins on our list, Absynth 5 still manages to impress. It offers oscillators, samples, FM, and granular synthesis and the ability to use external audio sources as generators. The plugin lets you load up to three oscillators, but it leaves two slots open below each generator where you can load filters and modulators.

Key Features:

  • The Mutator
    This feature lets you turn some of your current patch characteristics into another patch in the search result list. In short, if there’s a sound you like in any given patch, but you’re using a different one, you can combine both patches using the Mutator. Moreover, you can add randomization and repeat the process as many times as you need.
  • Six Sections 
    Up top, the plugin gives you six window selectors named
    Perform, Patch, Effect, Wave, Envelope, and LFO. On the Perform page, you get an overview control over the entire synth’s operations. The Patch window is where you can generate, filter, and modulate the sound. Then, there’s the Effect section, where you can add effects, change their order, and stack up some modulation. On the Waves page, you can manipulate your own waves within three categories: Simple, Morph, and Library. Next is the Envelope window, in which you get one 68-breakpoint envelope per oscillator. Finally, there’s the LFO section, where you can modulate your patch with low-frequency oscillators.

  • Built-in Effects
    The plugin offers six effect categories, all of which are proprietary and offer a surround panner. In addition, you get the Pipe, which replicates the resonating qualities of physical objects; the Supercomb Filter, which uses feedback to cancel frequencies and achieve a phaser effect; Multitap delay with three taps; Echoes, which creates classic echo sounds with the help of the built-in filters; and the Aetherizer, a granular delay effect that lets you create anything from whispers to shimmering sounds.

  • Focused on Ambient Sounds
    Absynth 5’s an exciting tool to create beautiful ambient and atmospheric sounds and pads. The three-oscillator engine, plus the power of the Waves and Envelope windows, make it easy for sound designers to create their dream atmospheres and producers to come up with the perfect beds for their tracks. In addition, you can take advantage of the plugin’s extensive set of waveforms to come up with unique sounds simply by mixing them.

Sound & Usability:

Absynth 5 may be as versatile as some of its most recent peers, but the user interface largely misses the mark when creating an intuitive experience. Nevertheless, it’s easy to find the perfect patch thanks to the Browser. All you need to do is choose the sonic characteristics, and the plugin will offer you several options within that category. Putting your patches together can be a little tricky, but the several synthesis methods, a truckload of effects, and the three oscillators do give you enough liberty.

ABSYNTH 5 - Overview | Native Instruments

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 10 and macOS 10.14 and newer in standalone, VST, AAX, and AU formats.

Summary:

Even though this plugin is famous for its pads, you can create exciting lead and bass sounds if you understand how to use it. Unfortunately, Absynth 5 doesn’t make it easy for beginners, but it sure feels right as a tool for more experienced producers.

13. Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2.6 Review

More Info & Price 

Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2.6 Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Omnisphere 2.6, by Spectrasonics, works as a plugin but also as the software behind over 60 hardware synths.

The plugin’s impressive sound library and architecture are paired with 58 effect units for almost endless sound manipulation. Each oscillator has two modes: Soundsources, which provide samples, or Wavetable, which works like a regular synth. In addition, the plugin offers four layers in which you can create sound from an oscillator and apply modulation, filtering, and an envelope. It also provides neat features such as crucial tracking and up to eight LFOs per layer.

Key Features:

  • Eight Parts
    Thanks to its architecture, the Omnisphere 2.6 is like eight synths in one. Considering that each part lets you build a fully-fledged four-layered patch, this plugin gives you access to up to eight patches you can play simultaneously. That means a whole new world, in versatility terms.
  • Arpeggiator
    This feature consists of a 32-step arpeggiator with velocity, shuffle, and pattern controls. Additionally, this module gives you step modifiers, which are flexible tools that let you add specific behaviors to single steps. Finally, each of the eight Omnisphere’s parts gives you an arpeggiator, which means you can have up to eight playing simultaneously inside a single plugin.
  • Live Mode
    Thanks to its hardware integration with some of the most popular synthesizers on the market, Omnisphere is a powerful live tool. You can switch and layer patches seamlessly using the different parts. If you’re performing, you can have up to eight different sounds per MIDI track, saving you time and CPU in live scenarios.

Sound & Usability:

Not only do the presets sound beautiful, but you also get a description for each of them on the main menu view. That is helpful when you’re searching for a defined mood or genre-oriented sound or want to copy some of the preset’s layers into your patch. In addition to the wavetables and sample oscillators, the plugin also offers granular synthesis features, which significantly enhance its sonic range. Other than that, Omnisphere’s usability is effortless thanks to its intuitive interface.

Omnisphere 2.6 | All the Sounds? No Talking | Part 1 - Pads + Strings

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.13 and newer and Windows 7 or higher in VST, AAX, and AU formats.

Summary:

Few plugins offer as much flexibility as Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere, let alone its impressive bank of over 14 thousand sounds. It is a fantastic plugin for artists, producers, and sound designers, and you can’t go wrong with adding it to your collection.


Related Readings:

Top 6 Chord Generator Plugins 2021 That Inspire Melodies (VST, AU, AAX)

7 Best Exciter Plugins 2021 For Mixing & Mastering

Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins 2021 (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak)

Top 7 Multiband Compressor Plugins 2021 (And 4 FREE Plugins)

Top 7 Channel Strip Plugins 2021 (And 2 Best Free Plugins)


The 5 Best Free Synth Plugins 2021

1. Newfangled Audio Pendulate Review

More Info & Download

Newfangled Audio Pendulate Review - 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins | Integraudio.com

Pendulate, by Newfangled Audio, is an impulsive free synth that borrows the double pendulum engine from its paid sibling.

The plugin offers an innovative synthesis method based on a double pendulum, a chaotic system governed by ordinary differential equations. In short, the plugin generates sound from a sine wave, and you can shape it with the six oscillator parameters. In addition, the Wavefolder section helps you add wave-bending harmonics to the sound, and the Low Pass Gate offers an ADSR and a smooth sound.

Key Features:

  • Global
    Here, you can set the parameters for voice and pitch on a global scale. In addition, the modulation sources within this area let you add MIDI and MPE modulation into any parameter in Pendulate’s upper half.
  • ADSR
    This section creates three modulations sources when a note is pressed
    . You get a full envelope ADSR modulator, an ADR envelope, and an ASR. These slightly different shapes let you affect multiple parameters with similar intentions but exceptional results.
  • LFO
    Lastly, in the modulation chain, we have a single LFO with five outputs
    . Each modulation output offers a different waveform that you can use to modulate other parameters. For example, the LFO gives you a sine, triangle, pulse, sawtooth, and ramp waveforms.

Sound & Usability:

While the upper half has been mostly copied from Generate, the lower half of the plugin offers limited effects and modulations. And even though that was expected, it isn’t a bad thing for Pendulate’s users. It would be nice having more LFOs and envelopes, but this is a free plugin. As a sample for the paid version, this plugin works marvelously, as it also borrows the user-friendly experience from Generate.

It’s absurdly easy to create modulations. You can click the circles and drag and drop the mouse into the [+] of whatever parameter you want to modulate from the bottom half.

New Pendulate Chaotic Synth Plug-in by Newfangled Audio (Presets Demo)

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 8.1 and higher and macOS 10.9 and newer in AAX, VST, and AU formats.

Summary:

Newfangled Audio’s Pendulate is a powerful plugin in its own right, but it’s merely a slice out of Generate’s pie. Nevertheless, it’s a worthy addition to your collection thanks to its one-of-a-kind synthesis method. So if you’re looking for a specific sound to add to your productions, try this one out, and you won’t regret it.

2. u-he Zebralette Review

More Info & Download

u-he Zebralette Review - The 5 Best Free Synth Plugins | Integraudio.com

Zebralette, by u-he, is a free, miniaturized version of a paid synth, the Zebra2, that keeps some of its goodies.

The plugin offers an oscillator, one envelope, 16 voices of polyphony, 2 LFOs, and three built-in effects. Additionally, you can use MIDI interfaces to control most of the plugin’s parameters. Zebralette was developed to work as a learning interface for the Zebra2, but it turned out to be a great synth on its own, thanks to its robust oscillator.

Key Features:

  • Oscillator
    The heart of Zebralette’s sound is the thorough Zebra2 Oscillator
    , which gives you all the expected controls, including 1, 2, 4, and 11 unison voices. The wavetables are shaped in the Wave Editor, and you get the ability to save your modifications by clicking the Presets button.
  • Wave Editor
    The big graph-like panel in the middle of the oscillator area is where you can create and edit up to sixteen wavetables in four different modes
    . There are two Morph Modes and two Blend Modes, each with distinctive build characteristics that add versatility to your oscillator. You can use the Wave knob to change and blend the wavetables.
  • Morph Modes
    These are handle-oriented shapers. In GeoMorph mode, you can add up to 32 handles to adjust the curvature to taste. In SpectroMorph, you’re not handling the waveforms but the harmonic spectrum. There are 1023 harmonics spread logarithmically across 10 octaves, and when all handles are at the same level, you get a sawtooth wave.
  • Blend Modes
    GeoBlend, the first mode,
    depicts the waveform, but each cycle is represented by 128 vertical bars. Thus, when you turn the Wave button, the waves are cross-faded. The next mode is SpectroBlend, in which the harmonic spectrum is depicted by 128 bipolar bars, which show the in-phase and anti-phase harmonics.

Sound & Usability:

Zebralette’s sound is shockingly interesting for a single oscillator synth, and with 300 presets, it’s also easy to get started with. The simplified interface makes for an easy-to-learn plugin, and the phaser and delay effects further its versatility. Moreover, adding the MSEG to this free plugin is astounding, making it possible to achieve crazier-than-normal sounds with this simple tool.

FREE Synthesizer from U-he—Zebralette Review

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 and newer, Linux, and Windows 7 or higher in VST, AAX, and AU formats.

Summary:

U-he’s Zebralette is not precisely a flexible plugin, but it offers enough control for you to bend it to your will and come up with unusual sounds of your own. Overall, it’s a beginner-friendly plugin that deserves a place in your toolbox.

3. VSTZONE Eclipsis Review

More Info & Download

VSTZONE Eclipsis - The 5 Best Free Synth Plugins | Integraudio.com

Eclipsis, by VSTZONE, offers excellent sound quality in a hybrid wavetable architecture.

This impressive plugin packs three oscillators, six LFOs, and two effects racks. Additionally, it offers randomization functions as well as interesting presets. Each of the three oscillators contains frequency and subtractive modulation units, and you get up to 32 polyphonic voices to make sure you can make your sonic vision come true.

Key Features:

  • Waveshapes
    The plugin gives you 118 base waveforms per oscillator, a number you can expand to 1888
    by simply using the adjusting controls. That’s a total of 5664 waveforms you can mix, match, and modulate to create new sounds.
  • Arpeggiator/Gate
    You can select steps from four to 32 and select up to eight targets
    . Additionally, you can divide the grid into patterns to extend your loop.
  • Scheme Screen
    Another great feature is that you can change the signal flow at the scheme screen
    . The plugin gives you a few predefined path options, but it lets you pick the best route for your track. On the Modulation page, you also get the modulation matrix, where you can assign the output of each LFO.

Sound & Usability:

With features such as preset randomization and effortless saving and loading, Eclipsis offers an enhanced workflow. In addition to the sounds you can get from the oscillators and modulation units, this free tool also gives you a portamento control that lets you add another layer of expression to your synth.

All that makes this plugin one of the best free synths out there and a reliable tool, especially if you don’t want to spend over a hundred bucks on a plugin right now.

Eclipsis by VST Zone

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows and runs as a VST.

Summary:

It makes no sense that a plugin this capable is free. It’s got everything you need from a wavetable synthesizer, including some mind-blowing extras, like the arpeggiator. All in all, this is an excellent plugin that deserves a place in your collection.

4. Sporesound Graphite Review

More Info & Download

Sporesound Graphite - The 5 Best Free Synth Plugins | Integraudio.com

Graphite, by Sporesound, offers a few good attributes lost inside a greyed-out, dark UI.

The plugin’s premise of using 2048-sample wavetables offers above-average sound quality. The 3D editor, paired with extensive modulation and effect options, helps you take complete control of your soundscape. The plugin gives you two oscillators, four envelopes, three LFOs, two filters, and four macros.

Key Features:

  • Effects
    Graphite gives you two reverbs with different settings, a tube preamp, chorus, compressor, delay, phaser, and a flanger
    . You can access, bypass, and change their routing from the FX tab.
  • Filters
    You get two multimode filters used in parallel, serial, or split routing
    . One excellent addition to the filters is the drive amount knob.
  • Arpeggiator
    This almost-hidden function gives you three knobs you can use to create arpeggios
    . It’s not the most versatile function out there, but it helps add some movement and life to the sound.

Sound & Usability:

This plugin lets you create quite impressive sounds. However, when you first land your eyes on Graphite, you feel like entering The Batcave. The moody dark UI offers little contrast between buttons, titles, and sections. It’s hard to know what knobs you’re tweaking, and even though it bets on the contrast with yellow and orange to highlight areas, it’s not enough. This plugin is bound to make you waste some time before you find the sound you’re after, partly due to its design but also because it has no built-in presets whatsoever.

Graphite wavetable free synthesizer

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for 64-bit Windows and macOS in VST and AU formats.

Summary:

Despite the nightmarish UI, the plugin offers good-sounding features, and it’s overall usable. You can add it to your collection right now, but I would wait for a new look on a future update.

5. The Colorspace Cloud Review

More Info & Download

The Colorspace Cloud - The 5 Best Free Synth Plugins | Integraudio.com

Cloud, by The Colorspace, delivers all its features on a single interface.

The plugin gives you three morphing-oscillators, four LFOs, a filter, and an envelope. But what brings fascinating sounds to Cloud’s palette are the reverb and delay effects. In addition, the three bit-crushers give Cloud its signature character.

Key Features:

  • Automorph
    On the lower-right corner lies the Automorph. It helps you integrate the three oscillators by controlling the waveforms’ speed and depth. Additionally, you can change the morphing order to achieve differently layered results.
  • Enhance
    This knob lets you create a wider stereo image, making the delay and reverb feel alive and bringing the listener into the atmosphere
    .

Sound & Usability:

Even though the UI is crowded, and blue on black isn’t the best contrast option, you can get some exquisite sounds out of Cloud. It’s not a transparent unit by far since the plugin’s sounds lean heavily on bit-crushing, but it does offer a peculiar 80s sci-fi atmosphere. All the controls resting on the main interface make using it both more accessible and more complicated. Easier because there’s no need to flip through different screens but more complicated because all the knobs feel small and tucked together.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows in VST format.

Summary:

Using Cloud has its downsides, but it’s a great little tool for genres such as pop, EDM, and Trap. You wouldn’t use it for sound-designing, though, mainly for leads and basses. Also, add this to your collection if you’re looking for a free 80s throwback machine.

Bonus Plugin

Output Arcade Review

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Output Arcade Review - Review - The 13 Best Synth & Instrument Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synth Plugins) | Integraudio.com

Arcade, by Output, is a loop synthesizer with an innovative concept and an easy-to-use interface.

Travel back in time, or to a sci-fi land – or simply chill beside the pool. Each of Arcade’s Lines gives you many beats and sounds to imbue your productions with infectious character. Each of the white keys on your MIDI keyboard can play a loop, and the black keys will warp and mangle the sounds. Arcade lets you have up to fifteen polyphonic voices, and you simply need to drag and drop the sounds from within the plugin into the available keys.

Key Features:

  • Macro Sliders
    The plugin offers four macro sliders
    , which depend on the sample pack you pick. You can assign any parameter to any of the four macros by right-clicking its knob.
  • Modulation
    The plugin gives you two modulation sources to access from the sinewave icon on the main menu
    . You can choose between an LFO and a step sequencer, and you can combine them any way you see fit. To assign modulation to any parameter, you simply need to follow the same steps as the Macros.
  • Loop Edit Page
    When navigating over a white key on Arcade’s main page, an Edit button will show up at the key’s bottom
    . Upon clicking it, you’ll find a menu in which you can edit the loop’s properties. You can also change the speed and pitch, as well as control the two effects sends.
  • Mixer
    The built-in mixer gives you an overview of all the sample volumes and their effects on the send and master bus effects
    . You can add up to four effects on the master and use the two available bus sends to craft a streaming-ready mix right out of the plugin.
  • Product Lines
    Right now, the plugin offers 40+ different sample packs. Some are loops, and others are virtual instruments; others are ambient sounds. Whatever you think you’ll find here, you will. Moreover, it’s effortless to find the best product line thanks to the built-in online search engine.

Sound & Usability:

Its loop-based engine makes Arcade a one-of-a-kind solution for producers and artists in need of a fast, efficient workflow. The plugin’s two main pages, Play & Browse, let you float seamlessly from finding the right sound to using it in your music. You don’t even need to leave the plugin – it all happens within Arcade. Download the newly uploaded samples and assign them to a key to get started. The plugin gives you thousands of excellent samples, and you can have some great fun while using modulations to make them your own.

Output Arcade - BEAT Creative Block with this VST Plugin! | Tutorial & Review

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 7 and newer and macOS 10.12 and higher in VST, AU, AAX, and standalone formats.

Summary:

It doesn’t get any more user-friendly than this. Output struck gold with this sample synthesizer, and after years of its launch, they still update the library regularly. That means you can access hundreds of sounds from the past, present, and future by pressing a few keys. Arcade is a must-have for any producer, beatmaker, or artist who’s always looking to experiment with different sounds to create new music.

Conclusion

Hopefully, picking your next synth just got easier with our 2021 list! No matter if you’re a producer, an artist, or a sound designer, we chose the best options so you can find the best bang for your buck.

Among the paid plugins, a few come ahead on the best-of list. Such synths as the NI Massive X, ROLI Equator2, kiloHearts Phase Plant, and Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2.6 offers everything you’ll ever need from a virtual synthesizer. And the fact that each has its characteristics and sounds makes it almost mandatory to collect with the four.

Among our free contenders, VSTZone’s Eclipsis and Newfangled Audio’s Pendulate will both give you outstanding results and add incredible value to your productions. And since they’re free, why not add both to your toolbox?

Scroll to Top