BEST MPE VST synths, samplers, effects [2021]

mpe midi

Hey guys! Today we are bringing you an ever-updating list of MPE VST products available right now on the market. While the MPE specification has been with us for quite some time, only recently have we seen very good implementations. Ableton for example has implemented MPE in its DAW called Live in version 11, which was released in 2021. Hardware synths, while not the subject of this article, have even less offerings that support MIDI Polyphonic Expression. While some relatively older hardware products have included MPE support via firmware updates (the modern synths from Dave Smith – Prophet 6 and the collaboration with Tom Oberheim – OB-6), there are more and more new instruments coming out with support out-of-the box.

In this article we will only focus on the virtual side of things, with the VST product marketplace being much more dynamic in terms of MPE support than the hardware counterparts. If you want to know more about MPE in general and also if you want to do some research into MPE devices, this article should do the trick.

So, here we go with our picks on the BEST MPE VST products :

A. MPE VST Synths

Arturia Pigments

Pigments is an excellent VST, equally valuable for novice sound designers and for veterans. The visual representation of the parameters, along with their modulations is astounding, and the possibilities and virtually endless. We have a very nice review of it here, along with a nice article on the latest version (at the time of writing), Pigments 3 here.

You can basically use MPE to alter any parameter that is available, so you can add a lot more expression to your sound offering.

You can buy Arturia Pigments here.

ROLI Equator2

ROLI are the makers of the first ever MPE controller – ROLI Seaboard. While mostly used by keyboard players that want to sound like a guitarist, the Seaboard is actually quite nice to play. So why not pair it with the proper, powerfull sound engine that it deserves? If you want a more in-depth guide and review, check out the excellent article on musicradar here.

The Equator2 is actually great as a stand alone tool as well, as long as you pair it with your favourite MPE controller. It gets stellar reviews and boasts four types of synthesis: Wavetable, Sample-based, Granular and Noise. It also has a lot of emulations of classic subractive synths and the control possibilities are virtually unlimited.

You can buy ROLI Equator2 here.

FXpansion (ROLI) Cypher2

This one, while officially another ROLI product, was developed by FXpansion. We see that all the stores are selling it as FXpansion Cypher2, so this is the name that we are also using. Still, the ROLI badge grants this MPE VST product more weight. Again, getting excellent scores and reviews, this one is an extremely good value proposition.

While not built from the ground up as 100% MPE, it has a lot of MPE compatible presets. The workflow is similar to modular synths, and to be honest it is extremely fun to play with. You can also use MPE to modulate rhythmic controls like the arpeggiator and the sequencer.

You can buy FXpansion Cypher2 here.

U-he HIVE2

U-he is no small name in the VST synth market. We are very happy that they implemented MPE Support on all their main virtual instrument products. This is no under statement, they make some of the best sounding plugins on the market.

While previously, their plugins were notoriously resource hungry, now not only did the machines we use became much more stronger, but the VSTs themselves have been optimised. Still, do manage the poly count as going above 12 voices can kill your CPU.

You can buy U-he HIVE2 here.

U-he Diva

Another U-he superstar, this time in a more Virtual Analog flavour, is Diva. They also updated it so that it has MPE support. Diva is a staple in all studios, mostly because of its superb sound quality. If you like the analog sound that hardware synths produce, you will love Diva. Also, there are a lot of under the hood things that make it stand out of the crowd.

Three oscillator goodness! Again, while in the past Diva was known to hog even the most expensive CPUs, today this issue is mostly resolved due to optimisations to the product. Also, note that there are a lot of nice presets available right now for Diva, that could use a bit of expressive play made possible by MPE.

You can buy U-he Diva here.

U-he Repro-1

Again coming to the land of software emulations of the analog synth sound, Repro is U-he’s line of Sequencial/Dave Smith Instruments Prophet line of instruments. Again, updated to support full, per-note expressive play with MPE. This one is either hit or miss, if you want the Prophet sound then yes this is for you, but if you already have a hardware Prophet synth (especially if you have the Prophet 6 which has received the MPE treatment via firmware update) or another emulation then there is no point in getting this.

Specifically, the Repro 1 is actually emulating the monophonic line of Prophets, mimicking the Pro-1 and to some extent the DSI Mopho.

U-he Repro-5

This is basically almost the same thing, but with a polyphonic dimmension to it. Sure, the sound is a bit different because it imitates a different line of gear, the polyphonic Prophet 5, Prophet 6, the Rev-2 and to some extent the DSI Tetra. Still great with MPE, but there is no point in getting this if you already have access to the sound it emulates.

You can buy U-he Repro (which contains Repro-1 and Repro-5) here.

U-he Bazille

You may have noticed that indeed U-he updated all their flagships to support MPE, with enhancements coming everyday. Bazille, for those that don’t know, is their modular-like synth approach. Here, MPE shines due to the sheer parameter tweaks and combinations possible. Just assign, and use.

MPE and real. hardware modular synths don’t really work well because polyphony in modular is extremely difficult to achieve in the way it works with regular synths. Still, if you want very deep sound design, you should give Bazille + MPE a chance.

You can buy U-he Bazille here.

B. MPE VST Samplers

Audio Modelling SWAM

Going into the composer and traditional sound design, SWAM is a collection of sample-based (well, actually physical-modelled sound but let’s just call it sample-based for the sake of simplicity) plugins replicating real acoustic instruments. MPE is a huge added touch, because like actual musical instruments, you get to imprint your own play style and technique to actually sound unique. If this is your cup of tea, you can check out the extremely detailed review below:

Audio Modelling SWAM includes strings, brass, and other acoutstic instruments and comes in an extremely diversified product line-up.

You can buy Audio Modelling SWAM here.

ROLI Studio

For those that want the MPE collection (and not only the MPE sounds) from ROLI but don’t need the full customisation that can be achieved by Cypher2 and Equator2 (discussed above in this article), ROLI were kind enough to give you a sample-based variant. Equally useful if you are looking for MPE on a budget.

With a huge collection of 500+ sounds (out of which more than half support MPE), this one is your one-stop shop if you are just getting into the world of Midi Polyphonic Expression sound design.

You can buy ROLI Studio right here.

Audio Damange Quanta

This MPE VST is a granular synth, so it is more sampler than synthesiser. Yes, you can do a lot of things with it, probably more than you can do with a regular subtractive, but still the source sound is based on samples so it fits in section B of our article on expressive plugins.

As with most granular synths, they encourage a rather “wild” approach, never “mild”. Experimentation is key with Quanta as well, and the fact that it supports MPE gives it extra edge over other plugins.

You can buy Audio Damage Quanta here.

While in no way a full list, this article shines the spotlight on which MPE compatible plugin is actually great to use. There are other offers of course that did not make our list, and also there is the possibility to setup other VST products to work with MPE signals, but we will discuss this in another article.

Free alternative products to the BEST VST instruments and effects

Hello ladies and gentlemen, for today iDesignSound.com will bring you our own favourite free alternative vst plugins to the most popular digital music production tools on the market.

Sure, VSTs are great, and VSTs are usually much more cheaper than actual hardware music production tools. Still, when it comes to digital products, there will always be a free option. This is because digital is literally, well, digital meaning without physical form. This means that once some effort has been put into development, copying and distributing the product can be free of charge. This has in turn provided never before seen accessibility and democratisation of the music landscape. Now, all you need to make music is basically talent, a (fairly cheap) computer and your DAW of choice (which can also be free, of course). Let’s dive straight in and see what’s on “offer” in 2021:

Serum free alternative plugin synth: Vital

We start with the biggest one, in our oppinion. So big that it is extremely hard not to use. Ok so we all know and love Serum, it is one of the best sounding and most powerful sound design tool there is. We stand by our words here, and we actually wrote a lot of articles here at idesignsound.com involving serum, such as a detailed comparison between Serum and Omnisphere and also there is an evergreen, always updated article on the top best VST synth which Serum won (on the Value/Budget choice).

Thus, finding an alternative is a bit hard, but it is possible. Without further ado, we present the closest match in the free vst market for a Serum replacement: Vital. It comes pretty close in terms of power and sound quality, albeit it does have some bugs.

You can get Vital from their website right here, unfortunately there is no mac version, only windows. Don’t confuse it with Glitch 2, which is a (very good) paid effects unit.

Effectrix free alternative vst: Glitch

Step into the world of sequenced effect units. Basically, they apply effects only to certain parts of your sound, and you control which part you want to modify with a simple and known interface. The resemblance is not there, but trust us, it is basically the same thing. The effects are on par in sound quality, and there is even a randomiser on board for those that like to experiment.

Glitch is available free of charge here.

RC-20 Retro Color free alternative vst: Izotope Vinyl

This is one of our favourites. It is soo simple to use and the results are extremely good. What we like about Izotope Vinyl that is comparable to RC 20 VST is the instant gratification element. You just slide a little fader and the sound takes so much color and character, a smile is guaranteed to appear on your face.

Sure, the graphical user interface is extremely spartan compared to the RC2o plugin but who cares, as long as the results are comparable. And they most certainly are. You even have the wobble from RC-20, represented on Izotope Vinyl as the “warp” control, with the added bonus of actually controlling the warp shape.

On the RC-20 there is the “Digital” and “Distort” control which is basically a bit reduction and a form of distortion that can be replicated in any daw with built in effects, it’s really nothing special. If you really must have a 3rd party VST alternative, any distortion and bit reduction plugin works. Also, the “Space” control on the RC-20 is just a normal reverb, there are a lot of free reverb options out there. If you don’t know any free reverb, bit reduction and distortion plugin, let us point you in the right direction with this free vst mega list.

Izotope vinyl is available on Izotope’s website.

Guitar Rig alternative: Amplitube

Well, kind of. Yes, Amplitube is a paid/licensed piece of software that has a free of charge version. Guitar rig also has a free version, a demo mode. Still, we consider that Amplitube is a good contender if you want to find a Guitar Rig replacement that is also free of charge. We decidecated a whole article on comparing Amplitube to Guitar Rig here.

Antares Auto Tune free replacement: Graillon 2

Ah Auto-tune, the effect we really love to hate here at iDesignSound. That is because we consider ourselves serious music makers who don’t really like pop and the pop sound that you can find in basically all mainstream music including a lot of hip hop.

Still, if you must use it, there is really no point in getting a paid plugin unless you really really need all the very pro features, But if you just want to tune vocals without ruining the sound qualities then the alternative vst called Graillon 2 will work just fine, and you can find the free version here.

That was it, we hope we managed to make your music production journey a bit more budget friendly. Still, if you want to use the paid plugins like a bigboy, sign up to our newsletter, we always provide our subscribers the best deals on the market!

Arturia Pigments 3 – new features

We truly love Arturia Pigments 3. We actually love all Arturia software here at idesignsound.com. Today we bring you an update on the new features of this full fledged “polychrome” VST synth. And for a full fledged review, our friends at musicradar.com have a very nice review.

Introduction

Arturia Pigments is a very nice and very modern VST instrument. It initially started out as a wavetable synth with a lot of features. What is striking about the Arturia Pigments is the visualisation of the modulation sources. Thus, it is very very intuitive and also very easy to learn.

Other than this, it has some very nice effects onboard, a great sequencer and the option to load your own wavetables. For a detailed review, you can also check our article here at idesignsound.com.

Version three, which is free for existing users, brings incremental updates like more sound engines, more wavetables, more effects and so on, but there are two features that are brand new and strike out, we will analyse them below:

Arturia Pigments 3 – Additive mode

Dubbed the “Harmonic Engine”, Arturia Pigments 3 introduces one of the earliest forms of sound synthesis, additive synthesis. The very early experimental synths had this, where each oscillator would create the fundamental and each of its partials to create a complex sound. So if you would imagine a spectrum analyser, the highest spike (usually the lowest in frequency) is the fundamental frequency of the sound, and then the next ones (usually to the right, higher frequency) are the partials. Together, they form the timbre or the style of the sound. Regular synths, or “subtractive” create this frequency pattern with a single, complex oscillator, then use a filter to reduce the partials. But this has some issues, namely you can mostly reduce partials to the left or right, it is very hard to fully remove partials in the centre of the frequency spectrum (you can with an EQ, but not fully and you more than often reduce other partials than the ones you want to).

But if you really want to design timbre, it is much better to not include what you don’t want than to filter it out. The problem with additive synthesis in hardware form is that you need a lot, and we mean A LOT of oscillators to add up. This is why subtractive is preferred from a practical standpoint, even if filtering the oscillator it is not really adequate for full control of the oscillator timbre. Of course, we are talking about hardware synths, so for VSTs it was a real shame that no real, serious additive synths were made.

In Arturia Pigments 3’s additive engine you can add up to 512 partials and you can also modulate them. This should bring a brand new sound palette for your productions.

Arturia Pigments 3 – Utility Engine

This is more of a fine tuning addition to your ability to design complex sounds with the VST. This new feature is not that “in your face as additive” synthesis but it is, in my humble opinion, at least equal in importance. Usually, it is the subtle things that make us like something.

The Arturia Pigments 3 Utility Engine contains two individual distinct noise sources and a virtual analog sub oscillator. This will make your sounds fat in no time. While you would be able to have this in the past, it would also meant you would sacrifice valuable space in the for of one of the two slots the VST has. Now, the Utility Engine is separate, so you get to keep the two original sound sources.

Other new additions come in form of new effects and filters (legendary analog emulations from Roland), plus pitch delay and multi-band compression.

You can buy Arturia Pigments from pluginboutique.com, with a special introductory price of 99 eur (original price 199 eur).

5 BEST Mid-winter 2021 VST Plugin DEALS

Wellcome to our periodic round-up of the BEST DEALS available on music production VST Plugins. Here, we help you spend your hard-earn money on new toys and virtual gear. So without further ado, here is our list of five of the BEST DEALS on VST Plugins and their end date:

  1. Izotope Complete Your Suite Sale – up to 80% off. Yes you heard that right, up to 80% off select Izotope VST Plugins in order for you to have more of the same quality and usability. There are also offers for upgrades here. Deal ends February 16th 2021 and can be found here.
  2. Iceberg Audio – The Sub VST Synth – 33% off introductory price. This one is also on the usability side, and it’s a straightforward sub bass synth. For 33 Eur you get one envelope, glide and drive, so not that much BUT the sound quality is out if this world. It is an instant favourite our ours and the deal can be found here. It is only live until Februray 10.
  3. Native Instruments Komplete 13 – huge discount on bundles. If you’ve been waiting for a great deal to get into Komplete, now is the time. They have heavily discounted their bundles, including Ultimate and Collector’s Edition. They did this also for the starter packs, and you can get them for as low as 199 Eur for the Select bundle. The deal can be found here, and there is no end date specified, so go ahead and try your luck.
  4. W.A. Production has a 68% off sale on preset packs for the most popular synths out there like Serum, Spire, Sylenth and much more. If Techno and House are your things, then this is for you. All major VST Synths are supported on this preset pack, and the deal ends on the 28th of February. Shop here!
  5. 55% Off Eden2 by UJAM and Bassroom by Mastering the Mix. Again, if dance music, especially Techno and House are your things, These two tools are indispensable. I am particularly fond of Bassroom, it is very useful on the master channel to round out and smooth your bassline. UJAM is a very nice drum machine too. This deal ends on 14th of Februray.

So there you have it, enough to get you through the end of Winter. Make sure you subscribe to our newsletters for more deals:

Roland Jupiter 8 emulation – TAL-J-8 review and special introductory price

The TAL-J-8 Roland Jupiter 8 emulation is good. I mean, really good and also enjoyable. Who doesn’t know the Jupiter 8? This is a rhetorical question, if you are on this website and you regularly follow the content here, you are no stranger to synths. Now, this one is actually THE synth. Top of the line.

Roland has made a couple of good synths and a couple of bad synths. They have also made some excellent pieces of music production hardware. The Jupiter 8 is one of them, and for me it is the ultimate polyphonic subtractive experience. It sounds T-H-I-C-K. It sounds classy. It NEVER sounds outdated.

A lot of replicas have tried to recreate it’s unique, full and organic sounds. We have of course the Arturia replica, which is our opinion captures it pretty well. Then we have of course the Roland Cloud offering the sound. Then we have a lot, and I mean a lot of presets in other VSTs that are trying to give you a piece. If you want more information about emulating the Roland Jupiter 8 in VST form then we recommend this brilliant article here.

Or better yet, for the ones that can affort it, we actually recommend buying the hardware itself. If you can find a serviced, fully working model that is. I mean, just look at it:

For today though, we will come back to earth from Jupiter and discuss the newest addition to the synth’s ever expanding arsenal of VST Plugin emulations. I am talking about the TAL-J-8 product.

Tal has been in the space for quite some time now, emulating (successfully in our oppinion) Roland gear.

They have done the Juno pretty well. They have recreated the SH-101. They actually offer the Juno chorus as a separate VST. We love Tal, and we think that their output truly helps out music producers.

But let’s dive straight in to their newest offering, the TAL-J-8 Roland Jupiter 8 soft synth. And for our lineup of BEST general-purpose VST Synths, head on down to our article here.

This VST captures the brassy, powerful but also mellow sound of the Roland Jupiter 8 very well.

Yes you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, the most accessible example for me right now is Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Just listen to those gorgeous pads and the harmony that this 8 voice VCO powered monster can create.

The synth is truly cosmic, one of a kind. It can be powerful, it can be smooth, it can be in the background and it surely can be in your face. It can sound classy and it can also be new age. As you can see, I love the Jupiter 8. I could not fit it into my studio in the keyboard, standard version, so I did the next best thing and bout the 2U Rack version, the MPG-80 (Rev.4 of course). It is cheaper and it is much more compact, but it lacks the front panel (sold separately). No problem, i’ll just use the VST editor.

The TAL-J-8 VST also has MPE support, we can’t recall right now any other Roland Jupiter 8 emulation that has this.

This one is very interesting, and at this time this is the only Jupiter 8 emulation that can suport MPE. If MPE will not be huge in 2021, it will be extremely sought after in 2022. It is very interesting what you can actually do with just a keyboard, if it has the right sensors. For now you can use MPE to individually adjust the filter and volume on a per-note basis, with pitch pretty soon to follow I guess.

You can see the MPE controls in the screenshot below, showing the synth control interface.

We used it for two weeks, doing all kinds of sounds on it. it shines on classic analog synth stuff like bass and chords/harmony. The filter is very nice, and if you increase the resonance a little bit, you will get that trumpet like sound for which the Roland Jupiter 8 is famous. It is hard to integrate in contemporary electronic music, but still is nice, especially if you are into sound design for movies and games.

While the unison function is nice, we do not recommend you use it on a VST Synth as it will pale in comparison to real unison on a real hardware synth.

Oh and one more thing, the 8 number in the TAL-J-8 is only to reflect the Jupiter 8. It’s not a voice count though, because the TAL-J-8’s polyphony count goes all the way up to 12.

Also noted is the upper/lower system implemented in most high end synths of that era, like the Yamaha CS80, Roland Jx10 and the Prophet 10. You basically get to layer two separate synths, and can play them simultaneously or split the keyboard.

Delay is also a very nice addition to the virtual synth

The delay sounds very nice, reminding me on classic analog BBD style circuits. There is also a Chorus on board, with option I and II in very classy Roland fashion. It sounds tremendous, but even without chorus, this VST has a very surprisingly wide stereo image. Pop the Chorus on and it takes it to the next level.

TAL-J-8 presets and preset browser

As requested here on iDesignSound, we will provide you with our thoughts on the preset browser, as there are more and more musicians traveling and doing live sets (well, not right now due to COVID-19) so browsing through presets on your VST synths is very important. It is not very good for browsing in a live environment. You use your mouse to browse a drop-down style menu, with folders and sub folders. But the presets are really nice.

You get the original factory presets on the hardware, some original TAL sounds plus 6 other folders, with more than 500+ presets onboard immediately after you buy it.

You can get the TAL-J-8 Roland Jupiter 8 VST at a good price.

Yes it is time limited but still it’s a very good deal. TAL is a very nice VST company and I really enjoy their products.

Get the TAL-J-8 here with a 20% intro discount (until 28.02.2021).

If you prefer to pay a monthly fee and have access to a lot more VST Plugins, then we have a very nice comparison and review of the best rent-to-own VST services here.

Very interesting free VST – Lyra 8 recreation

For those that know and for those that don’t, Lyra-8 is a very interesting synth with a very interesting sound engine and layout.

I know, because I own it (the orange sunset colorway of course) and I can say that it is nothing short of incredible.

Lyra 8 is all about cross modulation and finding atmospheric chords

Yes, that’s right, there is no keyboard you don’t really get to play standard notes (western division into notes and semitones). There is also no MIDI so the VST version is interesting because you can get to play standard chords very easily. I got it mostly for that.

On the hardware unit you close the circuit and play the note with the two buttons on the bottom, by putting your finger or any conductive material on both for each oscillator. You only have knob tuning to select the note/pitch that each oscillator plays.

There is a also external processing on the hardware.

So having both the hardware unit and the VST makes sense if you plan to use the hardware for the BBD style delay and distortion on external sounds only.

Be sure to check also our list of 400+ free VSTs (regularly updated, we just added the Lyra 8 VST here as well).

Here is a video demonstrating the hardware, it is advised you check it first to see what to expect from the VST:

To be honest, it does not really matter what you plan to do because the VST is free. I fully recommend you test it out as I am sure you will find a place for it in your sound design pallettte.

The free VST can be downloaded here.

PPG Wave 3.V Plugin Review

Wavetable synthesis in a VERY convenient and affordable virtual instrument + X-MAS GIFT FOR YOU!

I guess we can’t really consider this a vacation, because it’s either that we are sad, struggling with the global situation in our inner circle or we are just so bored with 2020 that we can’t wait to get it over with. Still, it’s been a great year for musicians, as the companies behind our beloved instruments have helped us with good deals, new product and just more and more stuff for us as musicians to do.

Today I will be listening to some brilliant piece of music making nostalgia. Yes out with the SQUARE SAW SINE waves and in with the WEIRDOS. It’s time for some wavetable virtual goodness, so bring out your mulled wine and your slight holiday cheer and let’s get ready for the review of the PPG WAVE 3.V

And since it is that time of the year (no matter what year it is and how hard it was), I will give you 5 sounds that I designed on this plugin, in sample form, free of charge. There will only be one C note played, so you can load them in your favourite sampler and fit chromatically into your own tracks.

What is the PPG Wave?

This interesting piece of software is simulating one of the most sought-after poly synth of all time. If you know Waldorf, if you know or love german music instruments, you know the PPG Wave. A real legend. An inspirational piece of kit and let’s face it, a VERY good investment if you have the money, the space, and the storage conditions for the real thing. At it’s heart, it is like a regular analog subtractive synth. The original 80s beast even had analog filters (faithfully recreated in the VST). But the waves that generate the sound are not just created digitally with 0s and 1s (so extremely stable), but also much more interesting (in my opinion) than the classic geometric shapes that we are used to. So the sonic capabilities are extreme, even to this day. Just imagine how it sounded back in the day, when everybody was so used to those saw waves. The effects on it sound good, but the best part is that they are surprisingly customisable. I mean you can have a delay clock to 28/128. Don’t see this division very often on synths

What it’s not.

Sure, it is wavetable synthesis, but it’s a very very initial form of it. It is NOT competing with the likes of the Arturia Pigments in terms of modulation. No, there is no waveshaping. No, there is no Mod Matrix and of course there is only one LFO. This is not a tinker’s tool. People who want to play with the miracle of wavetable should buy a VIRUS C like I did and for me it is a dream come true. Sure, the Virus is limited to arround 60 waves, no wavefolding, but it is gear and not software (although it is digital) and it sounds much better than the Arturia VST can.

If you just want to go for the Wave’s authentic sound (and the “authentic” user interface), you are going to be extremely pleased with this VST. Plus you can load your own waves, which is always cool.

PPG Wave 3.v features

Feature list from the Waldorf website:

General

  • Up to 256 voices per instance (depending on available CPU power)
  • 8 part Multimode
  • 8 Stereo Outputs
  • Host automation of most parameters
  • MIDI Controller automation of most parameters
  • More than 100 new Wavetables created by Wolfgang Palm
  • Original Waveterm B Factory Sample Library
  • Original PPG Wave Factory Sounds

Per Voice

  • 2 Wavetable Oscillators
  • Sample Playback with 8 bit, 12 bit or up to 32 bit
  • Authentic Aliasing Emulation of the PPG Wave 2.2/2.3/2.V or no aliasing
  • 12dB / 24 dB Low Pass Filter
  • Authentic Filter Emulation of the PPG Wave 2.2/2.3
  • Overdrive behind Filter
  • 1 LFO
  • 3 Envelopes
  • Authentic Emulation of the modulation graininess (switchable with True PPG)


Per Part (up to 8 parts available)

  • Poly, Dual, Quad and Mono (8 voices) mode with 8 different semitone offsets to create chords or melodic lines
  • Arpeggiator with Up, Down, Alternate and Cascade (PPG special) mode
  • True PPG Mode switchable between PPG Wave 2.2, Wave 2.3 and Wave 2.V
  • 4-Band EQ
  • Overdrive with various types
  • Phaser with up to 12 stages
  • Chorus with up to 6 stages
  • Flanger
  • Stereo Delay
  • Reverb

Other Features

  • Sample loading via drag&drop or load file dialog
  • Multisample playback by using the 8 part Multimode
  • 8 adjustable Cutoff / Resonance deviations to simulate analog inexactness
  • Finer adjustments of several values in Fine Modulatione mode

How it feels

It feels extremely outdated, but nostalgic. The VST really captured the interface style, and we all know how important interfacing with our electronic music instruments is. It has these buttons to access parts of the interface labeled “Digi”, “Graph”, “Tune”, so retro, but after that you just click on the imitation screen on the parameter and use your mouse to change values pretty easily (to be honest I was expecting to click on left/right arrows all the time, so this is a relief). Browser is ok-ish, more cool than useful, but there is a simple windows explorer or mac finder option aswell.

To create big sounds you go to the right side of the “screen” where you can just assign multitimbral parts to the same midi channel, I found that to be the most interesting way to create complex stuff (mostly because like I said I own the Virus C which is a multi-timbral diamond). When you first play with it you feel overwhelmed, there is the illusion of infinite modulation, but for me at least it seems pretty limited by today’s VST standards (and pretty counter-intuitive).

How it sounds

It sounds great. Excellent for long pads, and hollow/weird sounds. Sub oscillator is really nice, but this is not going to be a fat synth. The filter does not self-resonate, nor is it smooth by any means. It gets very weird when resonance is up but i like that. There is a certain buzz about it that makes me understand just how complex the waves are, when compared to traditional analog subtractive. The filter shines well on mid frequencies, and with some modulation it will sound very profane, almost perverse.

I would not use the drive option on the filter, and for sure I would not expect a proper tube emulation, but the features are there if there is a place in your soundscape.

The envelopes are very snappy, they sometimes click pretty hard, but again, there can be space for this as well so tune it to taste. They are of course mostly suited for pads and slow cooked sound design. The Chorus effect is pretty decent, but as with most VSTs, you will not have a very realistic stereo image so don’t get your hopes that up. Still, sound design wise, it is impressive and interesting to play with, and the guys at the “factory” packed a lot of wavetables along, so you have a lot of source material to modulate, filter and arpeggiate. Some of these waves are actually design by the Wave’s daddy Wolfgang Palm.

As promised, here are five samples from the VST. They don’t do it justice because they are monophonic (only the C note), but I think they are both representative and also useful.

Best FM Synth VST- All budgets included

Frequency modulators (FM) synths are rapidly gaining popularity among musicians, DJs, and producers alike. Also, people that generally do sound design are much into FM these days.

These little software-based gadgets are devices that can be used to bridge various sonic gaps and obstacles, creating analogue-like sounds from scratch.

It’s only natural for aspiring players and performers to search for the best synths to use, and if so, we’ve got you covered.

Today we’re going to discuss some of the best FM synths on the market, starting with:

FM8

Native Instruments are among the biggest names in department of software electronics, so it’s quite obvious why we’ve decided to go with their flagship FM8 as our opener pick.

Although pricey, this FM synth program is by far one of the most versatile all-encompassing plugins that this brand has released so far, casting a long shade over its predecessors.

This is a fully digital VST that offers a total of 960 presets, each boasting crystal clear and remarkably authentic FM sounds. Furthermore, this software also packs a robust matrix platform, a dedicated arpeggiator, and well-rounded envelopes.

Although FM8 has its own patches (and downloadable upgrades), it’s also fully compatible with most external FM hardware devices, allowing you to mix and match different setups into a complete, well-rounded one.

The interface of FM8 is straightforward and plain, characterized by slightly oversized knobs and faders, and a 6-octave configurable keyboard.

While it may appear as a beginner producing program, NI’s FM8 is made by professionals for professionals.

Ableton Operator

The Operator is an integral component of the acclaimed Ableton Suite, and luckily for anyone who’s not using this platform specifically it’s a standalone VST that has only one requirement – Live9 Lite.

It’s substantially cheaper than most VSTs in this category, and it’s also significantly easier to use, mainly because it doesn’t have as many features.

Even though this could be perceived as a con, Operator’s forte is its simplicity.

It features petite, highly customizable sections and is meant as a background plugin that will help you orchestrate different tunes and timbres while working on the tracks simultaneously.

The neat little display takes the centrepiece of the Operator, showing you details regarding the most relevant and important parameters of its performance, such as attack, decay, release, peak, sustain, loop, velocity, waveshape, key, and such.

LFOs and filter sections are modest, to say the very least, but they feature everything you need to come up with unique sonic shapes and tones.

As a matter of fact, these sections can be cut off from the mix in order to preserve some extra CPU and RAM.

Speaking of which, Ableton’s Operator is not as spec-starved as some of its ‘bulkier’ counterparts. It’s not as hard on your computer/laptop’s memory, and you don’t need a fancy, super-strong setup to run it smoothly.

Needless to say, it works best with Ableton’s proprietary gear, but the fact that it’s compatible with external equipment speaks volumes about its versatility.

Bazille

U-He’s Bazille is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the strongest performing modular synthesizer VSTs out there.

Before we delve into its capabilities and specs, it’s important to note that it’s compatible with macOS, Linux, and Windows, which is not something many FM synth tools can boast about.

First things first, the versatility of Bazille is practically unparalleled. It boasts two individual LFOs and four separate oscillators, each boasting their own set of configurable parameters and settings.

The oscillators sport multiple gate and semitone modulation knobs, as well as a dedicated ‘Fractalize’ section that you can use to carve out fresh, new tones and sounds.

You’ll also be able to utilize numerous pink & white noise slots, a simplified (and highly responsive) sequencer, four envelopes, and a huge array of highly customizable filters, including gain, spread, resonance, and many others. On top of everything, it’s actually pretty affordable.

Image-Line Sytrus

If you’re mainly working in Fruity Loops Studio (FL Studio), you may want to take a look at Sytrus. This FM synth was developed by Imagine-Line, the same brand that’s ‘responsible’ for one of the finest beginner-friendly DAWs on the market, and it’s actually available for a free preview via your FL software.

Sytrus is an excellent choice even if you’re using other studio tools and platforms.

It’s based on a wonderfully-designed sound engine and sports six user customizable and fully independent operators, frequency modulators, ring modulators, partial-harmonic editors, a massive array of EQ sliders and knobs, and more importantly, a comprehensive Matrix that provides a clear overview of active and passive features.

Furthermore, this VST offers three fully independent filters; speaking of which, there are thirteen types of filters as well as five cutoff-slope features.

Another remarkably interesting feature of the Sytrus is the built-in waveshaper, although most people will probably be more thrilled to utilize the shapes provided by the enormous sample library.

There are a couple of things we didn’t like as much about it, though; namely, it’s slightly harder to use than an average FM synth VST, and some of its features are available exclusively via FL Studio.

Even so, you’ll have to spend quite a bit of time to find a better-rounded frequency modulator for the buck.

Nemesis

Nemesis is Tone2’s creation, and its performance is far beyond formidable.

One of the main reasons why we’ve decided to pull down the curtains with this plugin is that it offers a completely unique NeoFM feature that takes frequency modulation to a completely different level.

A huge number of tones, sounds, and timbres that Nemesis can create are literally unattainable via different software.

Apart from its uniqueness, we also liked most of its more traditional features, such as thousands of patches, top-shelf sound quality, a very intuitive interface, and the sheer fact that it’s incredibly easy to use.

In essence, this VST is wild, exquisite, and much different in comparison to similar plugins. Even though it’s beginner-friendly, you’ll still need some time to get accustomed to the features it comes supplied with.

Granular Synth VST- What is it, and what are the best ones for 2020?

Dozens of synthesis methods exist – subtractive, additive, frequency modulation, S&S, vector, phase distortion, soft, virtual, and so on.

Now, without getting too much into the scientific realm, today we’ll talk a bit about what Granular synthesis is, why granular synths are important, and what some of the finest granular synth VSTs on the market are.

What is Granular Synthesis

In short words, granular synthesis resembles what most people call ‘sampling’. It picks up the signal and atomizes it into tiny bits and pieces, playing them back at ultra-slow pace.

Now, these bits are commonly referred to as ‘grains’ (hence the name) and in spite of being different from ‘traditional’ samples actually share some similarities with them.

Grains are much easier to manipulate and stack, which are just some of the numerous reasons why more and more people are starting to toy around with granular synthesis.

Ideally, you’ll want to try experiment with multiple methods and approaches (FM & wavetable, for instance) for the most exquisite, unique effects; granular synth VSTs are an excellent starting point, so let’s see some of the most popular ones on the market:

The Fruity Granulizer

Fruity Loops virtual sound tools and instruments are both budget and beginner-friendly, which are the two main reasons why we’ve decided to open up our review of the best Granular synth VSTs with the Fruity Granulizer.

Essentially, this a plain, straightforward granular plugin that can be utilized in practically any rig, although it goes without saying that it works best with the FL Studio setup.

It is minimalistic and remarkably easy to use, but doesn’t take away the fact that it’s still a very well-rounded tool.

The Fruity Granulizer offers you the means to fine-tune the grains, reinforce the effects, modify the transients, and spice things up with a bit of time-altering finishing touches.

It also rocks a relatively basic wave-shape graphic that will help you have a clear overview of implemented effects and the initial signal.

The ‘grains’ section is comprised of the attack, hold, granular spacing, and wave spacing knobs; the ‘effects’ portion of the Fruity Granulizer doesn’t actually feature built-in effects, rather it provides tweaking capabilities in terms of pan, depth, and speed.

The ‘Transients’ and ‘Time’ sections are far simpler, featuring a single knob and several selectable options.

Ribs

The ‘Ribs’ granular synth VST is brought to us by the Hvoya Audio, and what’s most fascinating about it is that you’ll get a free tutorial on how to use it as soon as you download it.

Another interesting thing about Ribs is that it is free to download, although you can contribute to the brand by pitching in a couple of dollars (or more) should you wish to do so.

Now, let’s switch gears a bit and return to the practical elements of Ribs. Basically, this software is pretty difficult to use, but it’s as eclectic as they make them.

In fact, most of its features are pretty much incomprehensible by beginners, mainly because the parameters and functions are not as self-explanatory as with Fruity Granulizer, Polygon, or BioTek 2.

Ribs is split into three logical pieces, with the centrepiece being the wavetable graphic editor, followed by effects, envelopes, and sync sections, and lastly a comprehensive, well-balanced EQ that boasts wave-shaping, tone-shifting, and various tweaking capabilities.

The biggest downfall of Ribs is that it is not compatible with .wav formats, but it’s certainly worth checking out.

Polygon

GlitchMachine garnered quite a bit of attention with their flagship Polygon, and now they’ve improved it and tweaked it to the point where the new rendition is so superior that it can stand on its own two feet and even challenge the performance of its predecessor.

This eclectic VST plugin is exceptionally versatile, but it’s also friendly to beginner producers and DJs to a degree.

It features four samplers and four sequencer panels, a detailed oscillator board, a built-in frequency modulator (and a dedicated modulation oscillator), simplified master controls, global effects, and global filters.

In a nutshell, the Polygon is the Jack of all trades in the world of granular synths, and despite the fact that it’s laden with a ton of features it’s actually fairly easy to tackle its learning curve.

The Mangle

Sound Guru’s Mangle is an eclectic granular VST that is available at a dirt-cheap price. You can download the free trailer video for free that showcases its main features, and we’re pretty sure that you’ll like what you see.

Mangle sports a detailed wavetable connected to the various wave-shaping features, and it also sports numerous LFOs, envelopes, and oscillators, as well as a fairly comprehensive mod matrix. There aren’t many drawbacks you should be aware of, although the UI does seem like it could use a bit of work.

The main features selection panel is squeezed tight, but the good thing here is that you will be able to split modulators from the key map area, the positioning chart, and the matrix for a better view.

Ultimately, Mangle is simple, but versatile, cheap, and exceptionally rewarding to both beginners and experienced producers.

P&M Granulizer

Aside from manufacturing this remarkably simple granular synth, Plug & Mix also provided a detailed tutorial that explains every little feature it comes supplied with to the letter.

 This is, by all means, a beginner’s granular VST, although it does come outfitted with a bunch of cool features that could come in handy to seasoned veterans too, such as the eclectic ‘grains’ customization panel, the pitch-shifting section, and the ever-so-needed signal mix feature.

Its simplicity also hides its inability to actually do much in terms of EQ mixing, though.

Granulizer is compatible with both Mac OS and Windows, and it is available in a variety of formats aside from VST (such as RTAS, AU and AAX Native).

It’s remarkably cheap, and instead of purchasing the user-bound software, you’ll be able to install it on up to five different computers with the same key.

Top Soft Synths- For all budgets and tastes [2020]

‘Soft’ synths refer to software-based synthesizers, which is something more and more people are picking up on.

While the authenticity of hardware (actual) synthesizers can’t be replicated, it can be compensated for with extra flexibility and versatility.

These are just some of the many reasons why soft synths are so popular and actually incredibly useful these days.

We’ve taken the liberty of handpicking some of the best-performing soft synths in 2020 for your convenience, so without any further ado, let’s get straight to it.

Iris 2

When iZotope launched the original Iris many people have praised its versatility and well-roundedness, but it didn’t get as much attention as it deserved; it’s often regarded as unorthodox simply because it comes supplied with rather unconventional patches and samplers.

Iris 2 made things a lot simpler and substantially more intuitive, bringing it closer to beginners and moderately skilled producers, designers, and DJs.

First things first, the Iris 2 boasts a highly intuitive UI with plenty of space for each segment of features.

It rocks adjustable individual sample tracks, a comprehensive sidebar of classic track tools, a straightforward compositional keyboard, and a well-balanced EQ.

It packs multiple wave-shaping features, and an array of simplified virtual knobs that can be used to tweak any parameter from the overall volume, over the soundstage, down to tiny details regarding the samples themselves.

Another thing most people really like about the Iris 2 is the fact that it sports a massive library of WAV files; obviously, WAV formats take up drastically less space, so your RAM will not be as encumbered.

On the downside, Iris 2 is one of the most CPU-starved soft synths on the market. Be it as it may, it still does an amazing job for the buck.

Synapse Dune 3

Our next recommendation is the Dune 3 VST synth plugin. This is a mid-range soft synth that offers a tremendous amount of control over your tracks and samples.

Despite its well-roundedness, it’s still pretty easy to use, as its interface is well-designed and all of its components are clearly visible.

Even if you didn’t have the opportunity to use some of the previous iterations of Dune, the third version offers a premium-quality multimode filter, 2 arpeggiator units, top-notch oscillators, and a plethora of high-quality effects.

Most people like it for its simplistic and highly responsive wavetable editor, which allows you to tweak existing and create brand-new waveforms.

The plain and straightforward approach to this feature makes it very easy to use, even by immediate beginners.

Among the numerous features that this remarkable VST comes supplied with are also included 0-delay feedback filters, 4 graphical envelopes, 3 LFOs, a top-shelf modulation matrix alongside all the proprietary FX parameters, and full patch compatibility with the previous version of Dune VST plugin.

Last, but certainly not least, Dune 3 is actually fairly affordable given the broad arsenal of settings it is packed with.

In a nutshell, this is a beginner-friendly professional VST that will certainly help you create exquisite, unique sounds and tones.

Spire

Spire is developed by Reveal Sound, which is a brand that many professionals rely on despite its straightforwardness.

One of the reasons why we’ve included the Spire on our list of the top soft synths is that it’s very flexible and highly upgradeable.

The base package is comprised of four multimode oscillators packed with five effects (classic, noise, AM Sync, Saw PWM and Noise), nine unison voices built into each oscillator, two multimode filters, a comprehensive FX processor, a ton of modulation features (including LFOs, envelopes, macros and matrix slots), arpeggiators, and a top-shelf wavetable.

Now, back to the upgradeability of the Spire; it’s compatible with all Reveal Sound patches (all of which are fairly cheap, just like the VST itself); although these patches are well-rounded and versatile, they’re mainly focused on electronic music, which is a bit of a downfall.

Diva

U-He’s Diva is in the same price range as the Spire, and frankly it’s even easier to use. 

Diva is an analogue soft synthesizer plugin that offers impeccable sonic customization capabilities and versatility.

Starting from the very top, Diva features a dedicated wavetable segment, which packs tune mods, shape mods, and range controls.

The Mixer stands on its right side, featuring volume, feedback, and noise. There’s a simplified VCF Ladder control panel where you can manage sonic cutoff and emphasis.

Now, the bottom bracket of the UI is where the fun work begins.

Diva offers two separate LFOs, a dedicated amplifier section, and two completely different effect sections.

Even though one could argue that Diva is a relatively basic soft synth, it’s actually pretty well-rounded and well worth the buck.

SynthMaster

KV331’s Synthmaster is our final pick, and it encompasses everything a quality soft synth needs to have.

It is a bit more expensive than most VSTs we’ve covered so far, but its performance is also drastically superior.

The first and most notable feature of the Synthmaster is the Filters panel; basically, you’ll have three customization options (parallel, series, and split), which will make the UI a bit easier to handle in terms of aesthetics.

There’s also a variety of effects at your disposal; they’re split into two separate types (layer & global), which means that you’ll be able to affect the entire track or fine-tune tiny little details with extra precision at the same time.

It also has an incredible library of samples and presets which is fully upgradeable.

KV331 also offers an abundance of downloadable and purchasable patches that you can use to further increase the versatility of your library.

As mentioned earlier, the only potential downfall that might dissuade you from trying the Synthmaster out is the fact that it’s slightly pricier than average.

However, it’s one of the best-rounded soft synths available, and to top it all, the brand also offers a considerable discount on the Synthmaster 1 & 2 bundle in case you want to get the most value for your buck.