Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Is Xfer Serum Worth It? - In-Depth Synth Review |

This article will discuss and review Serum by Xfer Records, dive deep into its nuances and details, and explore its sound design capabilities. 

Sound design is a vital pillar in the ever-evolving landscape of electronic music production, shaping the sonic realms that captivate our senses. One of the most common tools for modern-day sound design is Xfer Serum, a wavetable synthesizer that gives all other virtual synths a run for their money. 

Rating (out of 5 stars)
One-Line Review
Extremely versatile with a wide sonic range.
Reasonably priced for the features it offers.
Highly flexible, enabling intricate sound design.
Generally smooth workflow, but some complexity.
Packed with features for advanced synthesis.
Ease of Use
User-friendly interface but has a learning curve.

Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

With Serum, you can create everything from dubstep to future bass to pop to hip-hop to EDM to DnB, with sounds ranging from bass, arps, pads, keys, and even drums & percussions.  However, the synth may not be beginner-friendly, expensive, CPU-intensive, and can have a learning curve.

Serum has garnered a reputation as a great tool for medium to advanced synthesis, offering many features that empower musicians, producers, and sound designers to sculpt unique and complex sounds.

In this review, we will get into the nitty-gritty of the renowned plugin, delving deep into its interface, capabilities, and sonic potential.

Whether you’re a seasoned producer seeking to expand your sonic palette or a newcomer eager to explore the fascinating world of electronic sound manipulation, Serum can help you explore new sonic possibilities and open up your overall sound design horizon.

Wavetable synthesis: the technology behind the synth

Wavetable synthesis is a method of sound synthesis used in electronic music and sound design. It involves the manipulation and interpolation of wavetables, which are essentially arrays of digital samples representing various waveforms.

These waveforms can include simple sine, square, triangle, and sawtooth waves and more complex and unique shapes. The basic idea behind wavetable synthesis is to cycle through or interpolate between different wavetables over time to create evolving and dynamic sounds.

Serum combines wavetable synthesis with simultaneous subtractive & additive synthesis, so you can upload your own wavetables, combine them and manipulate them to get the sound you want.

This will get more clear in the upcoming sections. What you need to understand for now is that a wavetable consists of several waves. One of these waves acts as a starting point for your sound. 

You can further combine that with other waves and filter, modulate, or add effects to any of those waves and even morph between several waves in the same wavetable.

Wavetable synthesis is considered a great technology because of its flexibility, expansiveness, and experimentation. Experienced sound designers know exactly which wavetable to start with when creating a sound. 

But even in that process, this process can surprise you and help you create interesting sounds beyond what you envisioned or imagined. The wavetable synthesis becomes even more interesting with Serum because of its flexibility and modulations. 

For starters, consider the following. As shown, we have selected the same wavetable in oscillators A and B. In Oscillator A, the display is of the entire wavetable, which you can cycle through using the Wavetable position knob.

On the other hand, in Oscillator B, the display is only of the selected waveform in the entire wavetable. You can switch your display on the synth by clicking on the wavetable or waveform image. You can also edit the wavetable, which we will see in the upcoming sections. 

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Workflow & User Interface

Now that we have understood what wavetable synthesis means and how we can use it, let’s dive into the workflow of the synthesizer: Serum. For any synthesizer, and not just Serum, there are essentially four main sections: Oscillator(s), Filter(s), Modulator(s), and FX.

In Serum, you also get MACROS, wavetable editor, and other additional features, which we will discuss in detail. Serum has four main windows: OSC (Oscillators), FX (effects), MATRIX (modulation matrix), and GLOBAL. In this section, we will discuss only the OSC and FX tabs.


Serum features two main wavetable oscillators, one sub-oscillator, and one noise oscillator. These oscillators can use various wavetables, including digital wavetables such as ANALOG, DIGITAL, SPECTRAL, VOWEL, and USER-defined wavetables created using the built-in wavetable editor.

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Serum features two main oscillators, each with various parameters and controls contributing to its versatile sound design capabilities. These parameters include:

  • Unison
    Serum allows you to stack multiple voices (up to 16 per oscillator) using the Unison parameter, creating a thicker and more complex sound.
  • Wavetable Position
    You can dynamically morph between different points within a wavetable using the Wavetable Position parameter. This enables smooth transitions between different timbres and textures.
  • Blend
    The Blend knob controls the balance between two selected wavetables, allowing you to mix waveforms and create hybrid sounds.
  • Phase
    The Phase parameter adjusts the starting point of the waveform, influencing the sound’s timbral characteristics.
  • FM (Frequency Modulation)
    Serum’s oscillators can modulate each other’s frequencies, enabling complex FM synthesis for evolving and intricate tones.
  • Amp Envelope and Pitch Envelope
    These envelopes control the amplitude and pitch of the oscillator’s output, shaping the sound’s overall contour.

The sub-oscillator allows you to switch between seven basic waveforms, variations of the Sine, Square, Saw, and Triangle waveforms. In addition, you can change its octave, pan, and level.

Next, the noise oscillator lets you load external samples that you can use for spectral synthesis or layering your synths with a sample/noise. You can enable one-shot and keyboard tracking or change the Phase, RandPhase (Random Phase %), Pitch, Pan, and Level.

Further, combining Serum’s four oscillators offers an extensive palette for creative sound design. Here’s how you can use them:

  • Stacking and Detuning
    Use Unison to slightly stack voices and detune oscillators, creating thick and rich textures.
  • Wavetable Blending
    Blend different wavetables using the Blend knob to create hybrid sounds with unique timbral qualities.
  • Frequency Modulation
    Employ FM synthesis by modulating one oscillator’s frequency with another. This can result in metallic, bell-like, or harmonic-rich tones.
  • Wavetable Position Modulation
    Use modulation sources to dynamically sweep through different positions within wavetables, generating evolving and morphing textures.
  • Phase Modulation
    Experiment with modulating the oscillator phase for subtle or dramatic changes in timbre.
  • Layering and Mixing
    Layer oscillators with different waveforms and timbral characteristics create complex and layered sounds.

You can achieve many sonic possibilities by creatively combining these techniques, from evolving pads and rich textures to aggressive leads and experimental effects.

The Complete Guide To Master Serum|1# Oscillators

Serum’s oscillator section provides a versatile foundation for sound design, and its interactive interface allows you to experiment and shape your sounds in real time. As you explore and experiment, you’ll discover endless opportunities for crafting unique and expressive sounds using Serum’s oscillators.

Wavetable Editor

The wavetable editor in Serum is designed to provide electronic music producers complete control over sculpting sound using wavetable synthesis. It offers a range of functionalities and components that allow you to create and manipulate custom wavetables.

You can access it by clicking the “pen” icon on the Oscillator display, as shown in the image below.

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Here is an overview of the Serum wavetable editor’s functionalities:

  • Big Wave Display
    This section visually represents the created wavetable, providing real-time feedback on changes made.
  • Draw Tools
    Various tools are available for manually drawing the waveform, enabling precise control over the shape and characteristics of the wavetable.
  • FFT Area
    This section allows you to manipulate waveform harmonics and their relative phases, offering advanced editing capabilities.
  • Import Audio
    Serum allows you to import audio directly from audio files and break them down into individual waveforms. This can include single-cycle wavetables or multiple ones at once.
  • Morphing
    You can morph between various wavetables using linear interpolation (crossfading) or harmonic/spectral morphing techniques.
  • Direct Drawing
    The editor enables you to draw directly on the waveform display, providing the ability to manually shape and modify waveforms. Grid-size snapping and different shape tools enhance precision.
  • FFT (Additive)
    The editor offers the option to generate or modify waveforms using Fast Fourier Transform (FFT), an additive synthesis technique.
  • Formula Functions
    You can create or manipulate waveforms using formula functions, allowing for intricate and customized waveform design.
  • Processing Menu
    The processing menu provides additional tasks such as applying fades, crossfades, normalization, and export.
Xfer Serum | Wavetable Editor (12/12)


Serum has three envelopes and four LFOs that can be easily assigned to any parameters, enabling you to create interesting sounds and movements. First, let’s talk about envelopes and their features.

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?



Serum offers three assignable envelopes that can be mapped to various parameters. Envelopes are essential for shaping the dynamics and behavior of various aspects of a sound.


Each envelope typically includes the following parameters:

Controls the time it takes for the envelope to reach its peak level after a note is triggered
Determines the time it takes for the envelope to decrease from its peak to sustain level
Sets the level at which the envelope remains as long as the note is held
Governs the time it takes for the envelope to return to zero after the note is released
This parameter is the time between the attack and decay in which the waveform is held

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

As you can see in the image, these are all the parameters, so you can control the waveform of the envelope by either tweaking these knobs or by simply dragging the points on the shape of the envelope in your preferred direction to shape it.


Envelopes can be assigned to parameters such as volume, amplitude, pitch, filter cutoff, and more, enabling precise control over how these parameters evolve over time.

Low-Frequency Oscillators (LFOs)

LFO Basics

Serum includes four LFOs that operate lowly, generating cyclic waveforms that modulate various parameters over time. LFOs are crucial for creating movement and modulation effects in sound design. The Rise and Delay parameters help you shape up the LFO and set its timings.


Each LFO offers a variety of selectable waveform shapes, including sine, triangle, sawtooth, square, and more. These waveforms determine the modulation pattern applied to the target parameter. You can find any shape by clicking on the folder icon in the LFO section. You can also load up your own LFO shapes.

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Rate and BPM/Tempo Sync

LFOs can be set to modulate parameters at different rates in Hertz (cycles per second) or tempo-synced to the project’s tempo. This allows for rhythmic and synchronized modulation effects. In addition, you can also sync the LFO to triplet, dotted, and anchored time grids


Serum provides features for customizing LFO shapes and behaviors, such as:

  • Points and Curves
    You can add, remove, and manipulate points on the LFO curve to create unique modulation patterns.
  • Grid Snapping
    LFO points can be snapped to a grid for precise modulation control.
  • Multi-Point Modulation
    Multiple LFO points can be selected and modulated simultaneously for complex modulations.
  • LFOs as envelopes 
    LFOs can also act as envelopes when assigned to modulate parameters other than amplitude. You can do that by clicking the “ENV” button in the LFO section.

By utilizing these envelopes and LFOs, you can dynamically shape and transform sounds in various ways, adding movement, expressiveness, and complexity to their sound designs.

These modulation sources enable the creation of evolving textures, rhythmic patterns, vibrato effects, and more, contributing to the distinctive and powerful sound design capabilities of Xfer Serum.


Macros are control parameters that allow you to modulate and manipulate multiple parameters or functions simultaneously within a synthesizer or digital audio workstation (DAW).

They act as a way to control complex or multiple changes using a single knob or controller, providing a more streamlined and expressive approach to sound shaping and automation. In synthesizers like Serum, macros are versatile control mechanisms that enable you to adjust and manipulate various aspects of a sound or patch.

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

They are typically assignable to specific parameters, allowing you to change those parameters dynamically using the macro control. This functionality is particularly valuable for creating dynamic and evolving sounds, as well as for live performance and automation. Here are the key features of Serum’s Macros or the MOD section.

  • Assignable Macros
    Serum offers four assignable macro controls that can adjust multiple parameters with a single control. These macro controls provide a way to create complex and dynamic modulations by linking various parameters together.
  • Macro Mapping
    You can assign different parameters to the macro controls, creating a map between the macro knobs and specific parameters within Serum. That allows for real-time control and modulation of those parameters using the macro knobs.
  • Modulation Depth
    The macro controls can modulate parameters by changing their values within a user-defined range. This modulation can be scaled and adjusted to achieve the desired effect on the linked parameters.
  • Global and Local Modulation
    Macro controls can be used to modulate parameters both globally and locally. Global modulation affects all instances of a parameter throughout the entire preset, while local modulation affects only the specific instance of the parameter currently being modified.
Envelopes, LFOs, Macros - Serum Tutorial

Easy & Intuitive Drag & Drop workflow

The drag-and-drop workflow in Serum allows you to easily manipulate and create intricate sounds. You can import audio files to generate custom wavetables and morph between them.

Serum simplifies sound design with a visual interface by enabling waveform drawing, FFT manipulation, and spectral morphing. Additionally, Serum modulations offer advanced control. Holding “Alt” while clicking a knob enables quick modulation depth adjustments.

You can also copy LFOs by dragging and dropping, streamlining modulation routing. These features empower you to sculpt unique textures, from evolving pads to aggressive basses, making Serum a go-to synth for beginners and professionals.


Serum offers an array of sophisticated filters that greatly contribute to its sound-shaping capabilities.

Filter Types

Serum provides an extensive range of filter types, including traditional options like Normal (lowpass, highpass, bandpass, notch), Multi (combines lowpass, bandpass, and highpass filters), Flanges (combines flanger and filter effects), and Miscellaneous (offering unique filter types like SampHold and Reverb).

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Filter Parameters

The key parameters for filters in Serum include:

Cutoff Frequency
Determines the point at which frequencies above the cutoff are attenuated
Controls the emphasis of frequencies near the cutoff point, creating a peak in the frequency response
Adds saturation or distortion to the filtered signal, providing warmth and character
Filter Type
Allows you to select the type of filter (e.g., lowpass, highpass, bandpass) and adjust its characteristics
Envelope and LFO Modulation
Serum enables the modulation of filter parameters using its flexible modulation system, including envelope generators and low-frequency oscillators (LFOs)


The Complete Guide To Master Serum|#2 Filters Galore

Other Features

Firstly, you can select the oscillators on which the LFO applies.

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Next, Serum offers keyboard tracking options that allow the filter parameters (cutoff, resonance, etc.) to be modulated based on the pitch of the notes being played.

This feature enhances the expressiveness of the sound and ensures that the filter behaves differently across the keyboard range. You can simply select the Keyboard icon to enable the keyboard tracking. Lastly, Serum’s advanced modulation capabilities are crucial in shaping filter behavior.

Envelopes, LFOs, and other modulators can be assigned to modulate various filter parameters dynamically over time. This interplay between modulators and filters allows dynamic sound textures to evolve over time and respond to different playing techniques or automation.

In essence, Serum’s filters, oscillators, modulation capabilities, and filter parameters collectively contribute to its remarkable versatility in sound design, enabling you to create a wide spectrum of sounds ranging from classic analog timbres to futuristic and experimental textures.


Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Serum’s FX window is a versatile toolbox encompassing many effects, including reverb, delay, flanger, phaser, chorus, distortion, (multiband) compressor, EQ, hyper/dimension, and filter.

Each effect precisely controls parameters like mix, time, rate, depth, resonance, and more. You can creatively shape sounds, adding depth, character, and movement. The intuitive interface allows drag-and-drop routing for flexible signal flow.

Its multiband compression is Xyfer’s popular compression plugin OTT, which has a great sound. Overall, this comprehensive FX suite empowers sound designers and producers to sculpt intricate textures, amplify dynamics, and imbue sonic richness, elevating the quality and complexity of their music productions.

Skins & Visual Appeal

Serum not only impresses with its sonic capabilities but also offers a range of visual customization options through “skins.” These skins allow you to personalize the appearance of the Serum interface, adding an extra layer of aesthetic appeal to the user experience.

Serum skins are essentially graphical themes or overlays that modify the visual design of the Serum user interface. These skins can alter the software’s colors, textures, patterns, and overall look, providing a fresh and unique visual experience.

They come in various designs, ranging from sleek and minimalistic to bold and vibrant. Some skins might adopt a futuristic and high-tech appearance, while others may have a retro or analog-inspired aesthetic.

You can choose from skins that resonate with their personal tastes and creative sensibilities, creating a visual atmosphere that complements their musical ideas.

Skins for Serum are available in both free and paid categories. The Serum user community often develops free skins that can be found on various online platforms. Paid skins, on the other hand, may offer more extensive customization options, detailed design elements, and additional features.

Lastly, changing the skin of Serum is extremely easy. Simply click on the logo or the “SERUM” icon on the left upper corner of the interface.

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?


The MATRIX tab in Serum offers an advanced modulation matrix that allows you to create complex and dynamic sound modulations and interactions.

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

This feature provides exceptional control over how various parameters within Serum are influenced and modulated, enabling you to craft intricate and evolving sounds. The key features of the MATRIX tab are:

  • Modulation Routing
    The MATRIX tab in Serum allows you to route modulation sources to various parameters within the synthesizer. This means you can designate certain modulation sources, such as envelopes, LFOs, or MIDI controllers, to affect specific parameters like oscillator pitch, filter cutoff, or effects parameters.
  • Drag-and-Drop Modulation
    Serum’s MATRIX tab features a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface. This means you can easily assign modulation sources to targets by dragging and dropping them onto the desired parameter. This intuitive process streamlines the modulation setup and encourages experimentation.
  • Modulation Amount and Curve
    In the MATRIX tab, you can control the amount or intensity of modulation applied to each target parameter. Additionally, the curve of the modulation can be shaped, allowing for smooth or abrupt changes depending on the desired effect.
  • Multiple Modulations
    One of the powerful aspects of the MATRIX tab is its ability to accommodate multiple modulations for a single target parameter. This enables intricate layering and blending of modulation sources, resulting in complex and evolving sound textures.
  • Global and Local Modulation
    The MATRIX tab offers both global and local modulation options. Global modulation affects the entire preset, while local modulation applies only to the specific instance of the target parameter. This flexibility allows for a wide range of modulation possibilities.
  • Customizable Modulation Sources
    Serum provides an array of modulation sources, including envelopes, LFOs, and MIDI controllers. These sources can be customized and shaped to generate unique modulation patterns and effects.
  • Visual Representation
    The MATRIX tab visually represents the modulation connections, making it easier to understand and manage the modulation routing within the synthesizer.

Preset Library

Xfer Serum comes equipped with a Factory Library containing 458 presets. These presets cover many sonic possibilities, showcasing the synth’s capabilities right out of the box.

While these presets are a great starting point, many producers explore additional presets to expand their sonic palette. Here’s how you can load different presets on Serum.

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Third-party presets

For those seeking more diverse and specialized presets, numerous third-party sound designers and communities offer preset packs for Serum. These presets cater to different genres and styles, allowing producers to find presets that align with their creative vision.

Notable sources for third-party Serum presets include Loopmasters, BVKER, Cymatics, and Surge Sounds. These packs often cover a variety of genres, from Hip Hop and Trap to Future Bass, Dubstep, and more.

Third-party presets are one of the best features of Serum. Since the synth is so popular, you can find its presets in almost any genre. You can find both paid and free third-party presets.

File/Directory Management

Installing and organizing Serum presets is straightforward. After downloading presets, you can access the “Presets” folder within Serum. To reach this folder, simply navigate to Serum’s Menu, usually located in the top-right corner of the interface, and select “Show Serum Presets Folder.”

In Windows, the Presets folder lies in the “Documents” by default. Here, you can organize presets into specific subfolders like “Keys,” “Pads,” or other relevant categories.

Additionally, Serum’s modulating components, such as LFO shapes, noises, skins, and tables, can also be managed within this preset structure. The process involves dragging and dropping downloaded preset folders or files into the respective subfolders. Once added, you can refresh Serum’s preset browser to access their newly installed presets.

Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?

Performance, Optimization & Global Settings

Xfer Serum is renowned for its powerful and versatile wavetable synthesis capabilities, but optimizing its performance while maintaining efficient CPU usage is a consideration for many users.

Serum’s robust wavetable engine and extensive modulation options contribute to its sonic flexibility, but they can also demand significant processing power, especially when using complex presets or multiple instances.

Users have reported high CPU utilization when employing certain features, such as Unison, which can lead to performance concerns. To address these issues, you can explore various optimization techniques and global settings within Serum:

  • Unison Reduction
    Serum’s Unison feature allows the creation of stacked voices to achieve thicker sounds. However, higher Unison values can significantly increase CPU load.
    You can consider reducing Unison values or using effects to simulate additional voices, thus reducing processing demands.
    You will find plenty of Unison settings in the Global Settings.
    Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?
  • Polyphony Adjustment
    Serum offers adjustable polyphony settings determining the maximum number of voices that can be played simultaneously. Lowering the polyphony can help alleviate CPU strain while still delivering satisfactory results.
    You can also make your oscillators monophonic in the following window in Global Settings:
    Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?
  • Draft Quality Mode
    Serum’s global settings include a “Draft” quality mode for oscillators. Enabling this mode can reduce the CPU load by sacrificing some audio quality. It’s a trade-off between CPU efficiency and sound fidelity.
    Review: Is Xfer Serum Worth It?
  • Modulation and Effects
    Careful management of modulation sources, effects chains, and overall signal flow can contribute to optimal performance. Streamlining modulation routings and limiting resource-intensive effects can help balance sonic richness with CPU usage.

While Serum provides many sound design possibilities, understanding and utilizing these optimization techniques judiciously can help strike a balance between sonic creativity and CPU efficiency.

Please note that the specific settings and optimizations may vary based on your system, presets, and production needs. Software updates and newer hardware can enhance performance and efficiency as technology advances.

For more detailed insights into optimizing Serum’s performance and utilizing its global settings, you can often turn to online resources and user communities, where tips, tutorials, and discussions provide valuable guidance on achieving the desired sonic results while maintaining optimal CPU usage.

Price and compatibility

Serum is a widely used wavetable synthesizer plugin developed by Xfer Records. It is compatible with both Windows and macOS operating systems, making it accessible to a broad range of users.

Serum is available in VST, AU, and AAX formats, allowing it to be integrated into various digital audio workstations (DAWs) such as Ableton Live, FL Studio, Logic Pro, and more. As for its price, Serum comes in two different versions:

  • Full Version
    The full-featured version of Serum, including all the capabilities and features, is available for around $189.
  • Rent-to-Own
    Splice offers a rent-to-own option for Serum for $9.99/month, with a free three days trial. This can be a more budget-friendly option for some of you.

It’s important to check the official Xfer Records website or authorized resellers for the most up-to-date pricing information and any ongoing promotions or discounts. Remember that prices and availability may have changed since my last update.

Serum v/s other plugins

Serum v/s Vital v/s Masssive v/s Omnisphere

Synthesis Type
Spectral Wavetable
Multi-Engine (Wavetable, Granular, Sample-based)
Key Features
Customization, Modulation
Modulation, Iconic Sound
Multiple Engines, MPE Support
Extensive Sound Library, Versatility
Sound Design
Versatile, Real-time Manipulation
Bass-heavy, Modulation
Dynamic, Spectral Warping
Cinematic, Atmospheric, Textures
Modulation Options
Drag-and-Drop, MPE Modulation
Versatile Modulation Capabilities
Sound Library
Extensive Preset Library
Vast (5,000+ Sound Sources)
or $9.99/mo subscription
Pro – $80
(Light version also available for free)
Popular Genres
Bass-heavy, Electronic
Cinematic, Ambient, Soundtracks
Customization, Versatility
Iconic Sound, Modulation
Innovation, Affordability
Versatility, Extensive Library


Serum is personally my go-to synthesizer for all things sound design and most things electronic music production. Learning this synth can give you immense power as a music producer.

If I am to talk about my sound design arsenal, apart from Serum, Diva for analog sounds, Omnisphere for its vast library and functionality, and Kontakt libraries for their programming and natural sonic capability covers almost everything for me in the sound design area.

Its drag-and-drop workflow, immense preset libraries, flexibility, and great range of effects give it its strength. You get end-to-end workflow for your sound design in this application which occupies less than 200 MB of space.

With this synthesizer, you can create everything from dubstep to future bass to pop to hip-hop, with sounds ranging from bass, arps, pads, keys, and even drums & percussions.  However, the synth may not be beginner-friendly, expensive, CPU-intensive, and can have a learning curve. Another thing to consider is that you may want a big screen to use this synth.

My laptop screen sometimes falls short of the multi-window workflow on Serum. Besides that, Serum and Vital are considered the best options among wavetable virtual synthesizersVital is more affordable but has fewer presets and tutorials, as it is not as popular as Serum. I hope the article helps. Thank you for reading.

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