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.

What are the best VST plugins for Hip Hop

At first glance, hip-hop music might not seem as complex as, for example, hard rock or heavy metal.

There are no crazy guitar-shredding solo sections, fast-paced drumming in odd time signatures, or slick bass lines, but producing this type of music is just as hard and rewarding.

While rockers and metal-heads have it easier given the fact that they just have to record their instruments and send them over to a mixing engineer, hip hop artists need to come up with unique sounds, beats, and tones from scratch.

That’s why today we are going to answer one of the most popular questions regarding this particular type of music production – what are the best VST plugins for hip hop?

Stick with us for a while longer as we review the most versatile, best-performing virtual studio tools that will change the way you produce for good.

Vengeance PS Avenger

Plainly put, this is one of the best-rounded VSTs on the market that boasts an incredible array of highly versatile features, a ton of presets, and unparalleled sonic customization options.

It’s a professional tool designed for professionals by professionals, so be well-prepared to tackle its learning curve.

First and foremost, the Avenger rocks a total of eight OSC modules, each being equipped with individual Supersaw, LFO, Chorder, sub-OSC, and synthesis generators.

You’ll be able to seamlessly switch between dozens of octaves, voices, pan-spread settings, stackers, and even generate completely unique effects on every module.

Furthermore, it packs eight ARP modules, an eclectic arsenal of OSC-transformation EQ settings, eight SQ modules, eight mod-envelopes, eight pitch envelopes, four AMPs, four filters, shapers, and an all-encompassing drum sequencer.

The list of its built-in features goes on and on, but all you need to know about the Avenger is that it possesses everything you need to record and produce top-quality hip hop tracks.

It’s packed with dozens of individually-assigned effect slots, wavetable shapers, multiple macro controllers, and an exquisitely designed Mod Matrix system.

To top it all, it’s not nearly as expensive as some of the less versatile plugins out there.

Xfer’s Serum

Serum is a highly advanced multi-purpose VST that sports elements of waveshapers, compositional virtual tools, and eclectic mastering equalizers.

It’s significantly easier to use than the Avenger, and it’s also a bit cheaper, which is why we recommend it to hip-hop producers who are relatively new to the industry and who are on a budget.

One of the best things about Serum is that it features creatively designed oscillator panels put right next to the filter section.

You can easily toy around with your custom wave shapes while laying down the foundation stones of your new track on the bar right beside it.

Tinkering with any parameter will immediately and graphically be shown on the envelope and LFO bars below, allowing you to have instant feedback on the changes you’ve made to your tracks.

Although this VST doesn’t have an incredibly rich library of presets and samples, it does have a highly customizable virtual keyboard that will help you muscle through the initial stages of recording.

Spectrasonics Trillian

There’s a very obvious reason why Trillian is the go-to VST of many hip-hop producers; this is an all-encompassing bass module that will give you the edge you need in the fields of lower frequencies.

What’s so amazing about Trillian is that the entire module is based on instruments that were recorded in real-time.

It boasts a massive selection of various bass instruments along with controllable ‘techniques’, such as staccato, sustain, vibrato, slides, harmonics, and such.

Obviously, having a real bass instead of a clunky digital one on your tracks will help your tracks grow in a more organic way.

You’ll be able to pick and choose from the vast bass tone library, all of which are played on different instruments using different playing styles (electric, acoustic, fretless, picked, tapped, fingered, and so on).

Of course, there’s a ton of electronic tones and modules that you’ll be able to utilize into your analog-reinvigorated arsenal, or you can simply stick with a bit more traditional tones and timbres.

reFX Nexus 3

Those in need of creative samples and presets might want to check out what Nexus 3 has to offer.

This VST is basically one massive library of different sounds and tones that is complemented with a customizable digital keyboard and simplistic mixing features.

The Nexus is a VST program that complements the performance of other, a bit more ‘focused’ ones; even though its highlight feature is the library of over 8,000 factory presets (which is upgradeable, by the way), it does come supplied with basic filter, delay, reverb, and filter control knobs.

It’s remarkably easy to use, and it’s among the cheaper modules on our list of the best VST plugins for hip hop.

Addictive Drums 2

The AD2 is a dedicated beat-maker VST that offers fine-tune programming and presets, electronic and acoustic drum kit colors, and a variety of straightforward percussion FX tables.

One of the most notable features of AD2 VST is the ‘Kit selection’ panel; here you will be able to choose between dozens of actual drum sounds that were recorded in real-time.

Another very cool feature of this virtual studio tool is the ‘beat clicker’; basically, you’ll be able to click on any drum component of your chosen kit and simply ‘add’ these elements to your programmed beats if you think that something’s missing.

When combined with Trillian, you’ll be set with authentic instruments and ready to lay down some electronic vibes to the table.

Conclusion

In essence, you’ll need a wave-shaper, a mixer, a beat-maker, and a bass VST to start producing hip hop music.

You’ll quickly expand your library of plugins as you become more successful and professional, so finding your footing with versatile VSTs at the very start is crucial.

We hope you’ve liked our selection of the best VST plugins for hip hop and wish you luck in creating the most exquisite tunes.

Best VST Sampler Reviews- Sampling at Your Fingertips

Virtual studios are not exactly ‘studios’ without a massive library of samples; the most entertaining and enjoyable process of crafting unique tunes is introducing an array of pre-recorded, modified pieces of audio that are commonly called ‘samples’.

Now, you may have plenty of samplers and virtual instrument colors lying around; you may even have a beginner’s sampler and are looking for an upgrade; regardless of which scenario you’re found in, we’ve compiled a list of the top VST Samplers that the market has to offer, so let’s dive in:

NI Kontakt 6

You’ve probably heard about Native Instruments if you’ve been in the music industry for at least a month; this company has released a ton of cool software and programs, and it’s pretty safe to say that Kontakt 6 is, by far, one of their greatest accomplishments.

Essentially, this is a highly intuitive and exceptionally versatile program that is already packed with an array of presets, samples, customizable keys, banks, and much more.

It’s actually very rewarding to beginners who have just begun building up their VST instruments and sample libraries as Kontakt 6 already comes supplied with a plethora of both types.

Musicians use it, producers use it, and even movie composers rely on it for crafting film scores.

One of the best things about Kontak 6 is the fact that it features a well-designed interface that is both intuitive and versatile.

The instrument banks are neatly organized and clearly visible while you can also ‘pop out’ several different plugin screens, allowing you to both compose and mix your tunes simultaneously. 

It’s a perfect choice for professionals, seasoned veterans, and newbies alike, but its most notable downside is that it isn’t exactly available cheap.

Nevertheless, its well-roundedness and exceptional sampling capabilities more than make up for the somewhat hefty price tag.

MOTU Mach Five 3

Essentially, the Mach Five 3 is an eclectic plugin that combines the aspects of mixing consoles, composing programs, and samplers.

It’s not as intuitive as the Kontakt 6 from NI, but it’s relatively easy to use, even by beginners.

The first thing you’ll notice about this sampler (plugin) is that you will be able to fill the screen with numerous panels, including equalizers, VST instruments, tracking bars, pitch benders, volume mixers, and so forth.

Its generous versatility and well-roundedness are the main reasons why this has been one of the first choices for many music producers, but these are also the reasons that have probably dissuaded many beginners from even trying it out.

Although the relatively cramped-up design of the Mach Five 3 program may appear as intimidating, its learning curve is actually pretty straightforward.

You’ll be able to learn the ropes of how it operates within weeks, and you can always pull back a couple of notches by simply focusing on its individual aspects and segments if you’re an immediate beginner in the world of VST sampling.

Ableton Simpler

Ableton is a synonym for both one of the most massive brands in the VST world and ‘quality’.

Most DJs and music producers think of the ‘Ableton Live’ when the name pops up simply because this was the brand’s biggest release, but they also offer a huge and eclectic catalog of standalone plugins and programs, Simpler being one of them.

In essence, Simpler is an integrated plugin that is built into every version of the Ableton Live (with slight differences depending on the version in question).

It’s incredibly easy to use, hence the name, and it’s absolutely perfect for greenhorn producers, musicians, and DJs.

It was designed in such a way that its interface can be placed atop the main interface of any mixing, mastering, or music production program; it’s exceptionally convenient if you’re into multitasking and experimenting, but it’s a definitive go-to choice for people who are looking for an easy-to-use VST sampling software.

TAL Sampler

The TAL Sampler looks pretty old-school and vintage, but what’s so great about it is that it actually packs bleeding-edge technologies with a neatly organized interface that is remarkably easy to work on.

It features multi-layer VST tracks, several onboard equalizers, a ton of integrated controls, and a decently spacious integrated sample library, as well as an onboard piano that you can use to check out each and every color, tone, and timbre at your disposal.

On the downside, it’s not as versatile as some of our previous choices; ‘what you see is what you get’ basically, and the sad thing about TAL Sampler is that its display can’t quite be tweaked with or rearranged.

On a bit brighter note, it’s fairly cheap and one of the easiest VST sampling programs that the market has to offer.

Steinberg HALion

Although Steinberg is mainly famous for its Cubase software, they are just as renowned for HALion; this program has been around on the market for quite some time now, and even today it’s still recognized as one of the finest DAW samplers available.

In a nutshell, this is a robust sound-designing software that can sculpt, mold, and shape audio files with authenticity and realism.

That’s just one of the reasons why many people don’t consider it as a ‘sampler’ primarily; this is an exceptionally well-rounded and balanced tool that features a huge library comprised of VST instruments and samples, so it’s pretty much all you need to start recording and producing straight off the bat.

DiscoDSP Bliss – honorable mention

Essentially, this is a very basic and straightforward sampler that is best used by immediate beginners and neophytes in the music business.

Its library is modest, to say the very least, but it’s fully compatible with most plugins and third-party programs.

Due to its versatility and easy accessibility, it’s one of the better samplers for people on a budget.

Conclusion

There are dozens and dozens of VST samplers on the market, and all you have to do is to decide which models are capable of catering to your personal needs.

Some are free and straightforward; some are cheap and easy to use while others are a bit less affordable but offer superior features.

Arturia Pigments Review- The Polychrome Synth for the masses

The ‘arms race’ for the best VST instruments, samplers, sequencers, digital synthesizers, wavetables, granular instruments, and software has not yet been concluded, and the tides have dramatically turned with the coming of Arturia’s Pigments, which basically wrapped the elements of all the aforementioned goodies in a neat, convenient little package.

Basically, Arturia’s Pigments is a top-shelf Polychrome Software Synthesizer that offers an abundance of highly versatile features tailored to cater to the needs of music producers, musicians, DJs, and pretty much everyone who’s even remotely into music composition.

In short words, it’s a program comprised of virtual instruments, sequencers, samplers, EQ stages, and a plethora of functionalities that are as unique as they are practical.

Today we’re diving into the Pigments’ specs and features, so stick with us for a while longer if you’re searching for the ultimate compositional software piece on the market.

Design and Interface

One of the first things that you’ll hear about Arturia’s Pigments is that it’s a program with a ridiculous amount of features.

Now, before that dissuades you from trying it out, we should point out that it possesses an incredibly intuitive, beginner-friendly interface.

The main screen of the Pigments is chopped up into smaller logical fragments, which are both intelligently connected and highly discernable from one another.

Each part features different kinds of colors, graphics, and visuals that will help you set them apart from very early on.

Engine and Filter section

The Engine and Filter sections are located in the upper-most corners of the interface. These parts take up the bulk of the display, but all of the features contained therein are self-explanatory and relatively easy to use.

The upper sections of the Pigments offer simplified filters, equalizers, and modulator controls. Here is where you will get to mix individual instruments, play them together or atop of one another, modulate separate sections of your tunes, and master the basic settings, such as volume, frequencies, and similar parameters.

Waveform macros

The tiniest section of this software is essentially the Waveform Macro part; this is where you’ll filter your creative juices in, as this is the part that basically alters and shifts whichever notes you’ve programmed with the built-in keyboard.

The macros are colored differently, and you can pick a preset, shape your own, activate the ‘random’ function to generate brand-new ones, and even combine several for relatively unpredictable results.

Keyboard

The integrated keyboard is pretty basic; it features only four octaves, and it’s precisely its minimalistic design that appeals to beginners the most.

Of course, you’ll be able to move along the octaves with the little slider buttons on the left side of the piano, as well as regulate its volume (which does not affect the ‘master’ volume; it’s purely a feature for your own convenience and comfort).

The keyboard section has a couple of functions; it features the ‘bend range’, which basically governs the octaves; the ‘tuning’ is self-explanatory and very convenient, especially if you wish to tweak and spice up pre-recorded songs; and lastly, we have the ‘play settings’, which offer a couple of exquisite features, including the glide time, and ‘mode selector’ knob.

Who is Arturia Pigments perfect for?

In a nutshell, this is an incredibly versatile program that is as useful in the hands of professional studio producers as it is in the hands of beginner musicians and DJs.

It’s laden with a plethora of functionalities, which may appear a bit overwhelming at times, but essentially it’s not that difficult to use.

We could go as far as to define the Pigments as‘scaling’ software; this is a program that evolves as you begin to master it, opening new doors to your creativity.

Most of the features it comes supplied with are limited only by the bounds of your creative genius.

Pros:

  • One of the most versatile music-production programs on the market
  • Limitless wave-shaping potential
  • A bundle of highly intuitive features
  • Packed with top-quality presets and sequencers
  • Simplistic mixing and mastering features
  • Ideal for both professionals and neophyte producers and DJs

Cons:

  • The sections can’t be customized
  • Can appear intimidating for newcomers and beginners at first

Pigments 2 – newer, a bit more expensive version

The Pigments 2 is the brand-new, upgraded, re-polished version of Arturia’s original Pigments PSS that brings a huge array of new features and benefits to the table.

Obviously, it’s slightly more expensive than the original, and it’s just slightly harder to use due to an increased number of selectable and customizable settings.

The first improvement is the brand-new sample engine; it features a redesigned interface and a couple of tweaks regarding the playback/load tracks.

The second most notable addition to the Pigments 2 is the additional Synth Mode; essentially, this function is comprised of additional digital knobs and wheels that will provide you with even more eclectic opportunities to shape and reconfigure your tones and effects.

Furthermore, there’s another Sequencer aboard the Pigments 2; this is essentially an integrated feature that allows you to rearrange chunks, bits, and pieces of your sounds, track sections, and fragments in whichever order you want.

Last, but not least, we should also mention that the Pigments 2 comes equipped with a variety of new features, such as the new interface, the re-imagined undo and redo buttons, advanced modulation bars, MPE capability, as well as with a selection of additional presets.

While Arturia’s Pigments (1) is fairly beginner-friendly, Pigments 2 is better suited for seasoned producers and DJs.

Conclusion

Arturia’s Pigments brings so many benefits to the table that it’s pretty fair to say it’s worth every single cent of the price.

It’s one of the most eclectic, most versatile tools a musician can have, especially if you’re feeling like you’re lacking creative outlets.

Pigments sports elements of virtual instruments, digital percussions, mixing consoles, equalizers, sequencers, and many other convenient programs that you would otherwise have to obtain elsewhere, but in this case, they’re stacked together in a convenient, easy-to-use package.

Free VST like Omnisphere- High end Synths on a budget

Spectrasonics flagship VST Omnisphere has been on the radar of many skilled and seasoned producers, but let’s face it, not everyone can afford it.

Although it packs some of the most amazing features in the virtual instrument world, there are ways to emulate its performance with other free VSTs.

We’re here today to showcase some of the finest free VSTs that can provide you with fairly similar benefits to that of Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere, so let’s get to it, shall we?

Omnisphere in a nutshell

Just like you would expect from a boutique VST, Omnisphere packs a massive, eclectic array of well-rounded features.

It packs an enormous library that boasts over 10,000 sound types, including various effects, samples, colors, timbres, and all sorts of other tone-shaping bits of sonic pieces.

The newer version (Omnisphere 2) is even more versatile, bringing thousands of additional patches to the table.

In comparison to many budget and free VSTs, Omnisphere rocks more than 100 wavetable formats, eight LFOs, and twelve envelopes. Its base engine is staggeringly fast and reliable, and to top it all off, the main platform screen is easy to navigate and operate even by beginners.

As mentioned earlier, it is pretty expensive, so it’s no wonder you’re looking for a bit cheaper alternatives. Now that we’ve established that Omnisphere boasts a ridiculously high level of performance, let’s proceed to free VSTs that are capable of getting close to it.

Tyrell N6

Tyrell N6 is, essentially, a simplistic synth VST that offers easy accessibility, dozens of highly customizable features, and most importantly, a very intuitive layout of its numerous settings.

We really liked the fact that it combines analog elements with traces of digital settings, although its main platform is old-school to the bone.

To put things short, N6 features a dedicated Oscillator modification panel, fine-tune oscillator controls, a relatively simplistic mixer table, standard filters, two LFOs, two envelopes, and one matrix channel.

First and foremost, the main reason why N6 can’t really compete with the versatility of Omnisphere as a standalone VST is the fact that it offers only a handful of selectable waveforms.

Naturally, this is pretty common for free VSTs; on a bit brighter note, you’ll be able to create your own shapes once you get the hang of this virtual studio tool.

The mixer channel features two oscillator faders, a sub fader, noise, ring, and feedback faders, all of which can be adjusted between levels 0 and 10.

The filter channel is relatively similar, sporting four faders (key-follow, cut, res, and mix), but it also features two digital source panel, and two mod panels where you can fine-tune the sounds you’ve loaded.

All things considered, this is a powerful tool, and even though it seems pretty basic, it offers high versatility to those who are patient enough to toy around with its plain-looking features.

OhmForce SymptOhm

The SymptOhm is free VST software that can easily come in handy where other similar programs fall short.

Simply put, SymptOhm is a no-brainer if you’ve just started out as a music producer or a DJ.

It doesn’t sit well with sound engineers as it doesn’t offer many mixing options, but as far as the compositional side is of concern, it’s got you covered.

It features more than a thousand presets and built-in samples and MIDI chunks, and most importantly it’s absolutely the easiest VST you can use.

Now, the main downside of SymptOhm is its overly accentuated focus on the presets while mixing is almost completely neglected.

It’s very easy to use, and obviously it’s absolutely perfect for beginners, but that does not necessarily mean that it will be useless to professionals; in fact, it’s quite the contrary.

The creative, quirky, and to a certain extent idiosyncratic samples and presets contained within SymptOhm’s library feature numerous gems that might be exactly what you were looking for.

None of the built-in sounds and tones is overly processed, and there’s plenty to choose from. 

Kairatune

Kairatune is, essentially, a Sci-fi-looking VST packed with a variety of very unique features. It boasts hundreds of presets and samples, a pitch-bending platform, multiple oscillator panels, and a full arsenal of other mixing features.

This is mainly a post-production VST that will allow you to customize and fine-tune the tone of your tracks in great detail.

Furthermore, it works in perfect synergy with the SymptOhm, and fills the gaps that are its most notable pitfalls.

While it’s certainly much more complex, it’s also very fun to use due to all the LED-simulated colors and neatly ordered sections, so it’s pretty hard to get lost.

Again, this is a free VST that doesn’t necessarily provide the same level of versatility and well-roundedness as Omnisphere per se, but when combined with other free virtual studio tools you will be able to achieve very similar effects.

Honorable mention: HoRNet Harmonics

Most free VSTs come supplied with modest wave-shaping abilities, so we’ve decided to add one that specializes in this particular field of performance.

HoRNet’s Harmonics is a virtual studio tool that fulfills a singular role – it’s meant to help you create the most exquisite waveforms in the simplest fashion possible.

It features individualized digital harmonic manipulation, customizable level & phase settings for every individual harmonic, ten different artificial harmonic generators, and excellent compatibility with most modern systems.

Obviously, it’s one of the most straightforward VST software models that you can find out there, but it’s extremely limited as a standalone program.

Conclusion

There are hundreds, if not thousands of free virtual studio tools on the Internet, and sifting through all of them is excruciatingly time-consuming, to say the very least.

We’ve taken the liberty of handpicking only the most useful ones that, when combined, can provide you with the same amount of versatility and tonal qualities that using Omnisphere would.

Some of these plugins are very simplistic while others are fairly complex, so it would be fair to say that you’ll need some time and skill to utilize them in your arsenal.

Shure SM58 vs Sennheiser E835

Sennheiser and Shure are the names most musicians who are worth their salt have heard already; these brands are ‘responsible’ for numerous groundbreaking instruments and gear pieces that have graced the shelves of both physical and virtual marketplaces worldwide, and today we’ve decided to take a gander at SM58 and E835.

These are, in essence, two low-end microphones that boast performance levels which greatly surpass their price tags.

They sound awesome, they’re pretty versatile, and we aim to delve deep into details that could explain their exact value for the money.

Without any further ado, let’s get straight into it.

Shure SM58 in a nutshell

In simple words, Shure’s SM58 is a dynamic microphone with a super cardioid pickup pattern; it boasts a frequency response range of 50 Hz to 15 kHz; its output impedance is measured at 150 Ohms, and it is light as a feather with only 0.66 pounds of weight.

It sounds great, especially given the fact that it’s barely more expensive in comparison to an average budget microphone, and it’s certainly built to last.

It kind of looks a bit basic, though, and it’s only available in one color style option.

Sennheiser E835 in a nutshell

If it weren’t for the color and size, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the E835 from SM58.

This is a dynamic microphone with a super cardioids pickup pattern (exactly like Shure’s SM58), and it weighs almost the same (0.73 pounds).

The frequency response range of the E835 is a bit broader, spanning from 40 Hz to 16 kHz, and its output impedance is almost twice as strong in comparison to the SM58 (350 Ohms).

Design and aesthetics

Just like we’ve mentioned a second ago, Sennheiser’s E835 and Shure’s SM58 share the same type of design; they’re both dynamic microphones with super cardioid pickup patterns; this makes them extremely versatile for musicians; at the same time, it makes them really hard, and maybe even a bit unwieldy for podcasters, influencers, YouTubers, and such.

In terms of aesthetics, the Sennheiser’s E835 features a grey finish with a black screen whereas Shure’s SM58 has a black finish with a silver screen.

This is entirely a matter of subjective preference, especially given the fact that these are basically the only colors available.

All things considered, we have an obvious draw; both microphones are designed the same, and they look pretty much alike.

Durability, size, and weight

The dimensions of Shure’s SM58 measure 6.3 inches by 2 inches while the dimensions of E835 measure 7.08 inches by 1.88 inches. Obviously, the SM58 is just slightly smaller, but the difference is so small that it’s negligible.

In terms of weight, the SM58 weighs 0.66 pounds while E835 0.73 pounds. Again, we see a bit of a difference, but it’s too small to be discerned unless put under a ‘microscope’.

Now, as for the durability part; Shure’s SM58 is built to last, just like the vast majority of Shure microphones. It features a robust metal construction, and it pretty much feels durable to the touch.

The windscreen also excels in this particular field of performance, which is the reason why many live performers lean on it as their go-to instrument.

The situation with Sennheiser’s E835 is not much different; it’s made of almost exactly the same materials, which provide it with almost the same level of durability. In fact, even the windscreen is as robust as the one that SM58 comes supplied with.

Again we don’t have a clear winner; it’s obvious that there are little differences that set these two microphones apart, but none that are significant enough to actually have an impact on their overall performance.

Frequency response

The first actual difference between SM58 and E835 is their frequency response range. Let’s remind ourselves – Shure’s SM58 has a frequency response range that spans from 50 Hz to 15 kHz while Sennheiser’s E835 has a range of 40 Hz to 16 kHz.

Now, even though the SM58’s range is way better than average, Sennheiser’s E835 beats it by hair’s length. Its range is extended in both ways, which means that it can pick up on even lower frequencies (by 10 Hz) and even higher frequencies (by a full kHz).

Performance in action

These microphones are similar in a plethora of ways, and that includes their intended application.

Both SM58 and E835 are excellent-quality microphones for both on-stage performing and recording.

The main reasons why they are so versatile are that they come supplied with top-shelf features and excellent frequency response ranges.

Price

Ironically, these microphones cost almost exactly the same. In fact, the difference might be a couple of cents, but they’re in the exact same price range, without even a full dollar separating their price tags.

Similarities

It probably would be easier to point out the differences first (since they are in smaller number), but for the sake of formality, let’s number the many similarities that these microphones share between themselves:

  1. Same design (cardioids)
  2. Similar aesthetics
  3. Almost the same price range
  4. Both are great for live performances and studio work
  5. Both are built to last for decades
  6. Excellent sound quality
  7. Phenomenal screens
  8. Adequate impedance levels

Differences

It was pretty hard figuring out which difference between these two microphones was actually the most important one, but after taking the fact that there aren’t so many into consideration, we’ve figured it’s the frequency response range.

Basically, the only edge E835 has over SM58 is the fact that it has a slightly broader range (both lower and upper); it might be worth mentioning that SM58 is slightly lighter, although both are basically equal in terms of durability.

Conclusion

Although E835 is slightly better than SM58 in a couple of performance aspects, they’re very much alike.

In fact, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between these microphones, aside from bands that are tuned in either super-low or super-high tunings.

Overall, you won’t make a mistake by picking either one.

Best Tremolo Pedal

Musicians all around the world are always in search of the perfect, most exquisite, and unique tone. Some resort to their ability to manipulate different sounds, others resort to using different kinds of gear.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. A good musician knows his limits and aims to compensate his weaker points with better instruments and amps.

However, the best musicians are constantly challenging themselves, pushing the boundaries, and are consistently improving and upgrading their arsenal.

Truth be told, the diversity of instruments, accessories, and gadgets a guitar player could introduce to his rig back in the day wasn’t as eclectic.

There were only a couple of renowned brands, and the price ranges were substantially narrower.

There were cheap pieces of gear, and then there were expensive, boutique models available to the most prestigious players via sponsorships and endorsements.

Nowadays, luckily, a guitar player can easily morph and shift his (or her) sound with even the most heavily limited budget.

You may need a couple of months to save up enough money for a
decent amp; you may need a couple of weeks to save some cash for an instrument upgrade; luckily, you’ll need much less time to come up with even money for a new pedal.

The vast majority of guitarists already have at least a couple of pedals in their rig, most likely a distortion/overdrive, a delay pedal, and maybe a basic compressor.

What we recommend to players who are looking for a new way to approach their instrument is a quality tremolo pedal. If you don’t know where to start your search for one, you’re in the right place:

J. Rockett Audio Designs Tour Series Mr. Moto Tremolo Pedal

Even though J. Rockett might not be as famous as Boss or TC Electronics, you can rest assured that the quality of pedals this brand has released is equally strong.

Mr. Moto is a highly customizable, fairly sensitive pedal that can accommodate pretty much every musical style or genre.

It packs two standard control knobs that govern the tremolo’s depth and speed, but it also allows you to modify the actual shape of the tremolo effect with the ‘wave’ function; at the same time, you can also introduce a fully independent reverb effect with the ‘Verb’ knob.

Although this is a highly versatile pedal, its straightforward design makes it ideal for both beginners and experienced guitar players.

Walrus Audio Monument V2 Harmonic Tap Tremolo Pedal

If you are a skilled player who’s into classical styles of music as well as into experimental and improvisational genres, we strongly believe you are going to love the Monument V2.

Essentially, this is a highly versatile pedal that features two separate sets of Tremolo modes – harmonic and standard.

This pedal will allow you to tweak the volume, the division, rate, depth, and shape of your tremolo, but it will also allow you to completely alter your guitar’s voice with as much as a flip of a switch.

You may need some time adjusting to its responsiveness, but you can rest assured that the rewards are guaranteed.

TC Electronic Pipeline Tremolo

TC Electronic is one of the industry leaders in the guitar accessory department, and their Pipeline Tremolo pedal is a true representative of their quality.

At first glance, this is a relatively plain pedal that has a small footprint and is easy to use, but looks can be deceiving.

As a matter of fact, the Pipeline Tremolo is as eclectic as can be; it features six pre-set tremolo shapes as well as a custom bank, and it rocks depth, speed, and volume control knobs that offer superb well-roundedness.

Furthermore, you’ll be able to switch between vintage, tone print, and square tremolo voices; this makes this pedal an excellent choice for both starter guitarists and veterans.

Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo Pedal

Beginner musicians have heard of Ernie Ball’s strings; more experienced players have probably played on the Music Man guitar while those who’ve really dug deep know that this brand also offers a variety of instruments and accessories.

The Expression Tremolo pedal features the design of a wah-wah pedal with a ramped foot platform, a built-in spring reverb complementary effect, and five pre-set tremolo waveforms, including slow-rise, slow-fall, harmonic, square, and sine.

What’s more, it’s actually not even that expensive, even though it offers substantially more versatility and unique features than typical mid-range guitar pedals.

EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V4

Pedals designed by EarthQuaker Devices are not for the faint of heart. Most of their models offer wild, often unpredictable results, which makes them perfect for experimental musical endeavors.

The Hummingbird is one of the chirpiest and grittiest tremolos in the middle price point category that offers a ton of different voices, ranging from old-school vintage-like timbres, over classic and nostalgic tones, to modern, new-age hues.

This pedal features three different active modes, adjustable rate, depth, and level. In fact, out of the myriad of EarthQuaker ‘Devices’, the Hummingbird is actually the most consistent and reliable one.

BOSS TR-2 Tremolo Guitar Pedal

Boss is arguably one of the most iconic names in the guitar pedal world, and here we have their TR-2 Tremolo pedal.

Essentially, this is a vintage-sounding pedal tailored for musicians that have an eclectic taste for all things sonic, and it’s packed in a neat, very familiar casing comprised of solid, stainless steel.

It features Rate and Depth control knobs, as well as wave-adjustment controls that are as easy to use as they are sensitive.

JHS Tidewater Tremolo Guitar Effects Pedal

Let’s pull down the curtains with JHS Tidewater, which is one of the best tremolo pedals you could possibly find while on a cash-strapped budget.

It’s one of the tiniest pedals on the market that could easily fit in any kind of pedal rig and its versatility is more than you’d bargain for the money.

It offers volume, mix, and speed control knobs, as well as a 3-way mode switch. Even though it might be a bit clunky due to its peculiar (crowded) design, it’s still among the best-sounding, best-rounded tremolo pedals out there.

Guitar Pedal Guide- When and Why to Use each One

The search for tone is a never-ending quest most musicians embark on after trying out a couple of different instruments and amps.

Most of tonal ‘originality’ is in the fingers of the players, though, but there are other means by which you can influence how your instrument sounds like.

Not many people are in such a position where they can afford to buy dozens of amps and guitars, so the best alternative is to shape up your sound with guitar pedals.

Today we are going to talk about when and why you should use different kinds of guitar pedals, which work in harmony, and how to create the ultimate setup in the easiest way possible.

A foreword about guitar pedals

Guitar pedals are meant to introduce ‘effects’ that directly influence the behavior of the instrument.

Some alter its tone slightly while others drastically change it, and knowing which pedal to use will mean the difference between shaping up a unique set of voices and ruining your guitar’s tone.

The smartest way to approach guitar pedals is to get to know your instrument a bit better and see which models will complement your axe the most.

Guitar tonewoods & pedals that work best with them

Guitars made of alder and basswoods are in a very balanced position on the tonal spectrum, sitting right in the middle between warm and bright.

Pedals that drastically affect the tone will have a slightly diminished effect on them, but on the upside, these guitars typically work great with every guitar pedal type.

Mahogany-made guitars are dominant in the lower-end price point categories; cheap guitars typically feature these tonewoods and are much warmer than, for instance, guitars made of Walnut.

Maple is one of the brightest-sounding tonewoods while Rosewood is one of the warmest.

The reason why you should consider the composition of your guitar is quite simple; axes made of bright-sounding tonewoods typically work best with overdrive and distortion pedals, pitch-shifters, and phasers while warm-sounding guitars tend to get the most out of wah-wah pedals, delays, and other ‘cleaner’ effect types.

At the end of the day, you can always even out the differences your guitar has with tone knobs on the amp you’re using, but it wouldn’t hurt to go with the flow rather than trying to ‘swim upriver’.

Guitar amps & pedals

There are far more amp brands and manufacturers than there are guitar tonewoods, which makes the issue of choosing the perfect pedals for your amp a fairly complex question, so let’s stick with the basics for the time being.

The most common types of guitar amps are analog and digital amps. In short words, tube amps lend their unique tone and tonal versatility to pedals while digital amps are basically meant to be used as they are.

Regardless of whether you have a solid-state or a tube amplifier, analog amps will help you find a ‘starting’ tone, which you will be able to shape even further with guitar pedals. Think of an analog amp as a sketch of a painting that requires the finishing touches.

Digital amps normally feature ‘artificial’ presets based on analog amps. Even though you’ll be able to make tweaks and adjustments on them, a good deal of your pedal’s tone-shaping potential will be lost on them.

In conclusion, you should avoid major tone-altering pedals, such as distortions, phasers, and pitch-shifters if you are using a digital amp, whereas you are free to use any pedal you like if you own an analog one.

Types of guitar pedals and when to use them

Let’s get started with the main course – when and why to use each guitar pedal type. In this section, we will briefly explain the most notable characteristics of each guitar pedal before stating where they can be efficiently used, where they should be avoided, and why.

Distortion effects

Whenever there’s talk of guitar pedals, most people immediately picture a distortion pedal.

Basically, distortion effects form a category that consists of various sound-distorting effects, such as overdrive, fuzz, crunch, and obviously, distortion effect pedals.

What all of these pedal types have in common is that they ‘clip’ the guitar’s audio signal; this way they are reshaping the structure of the instrument’s waveforms by adding warm and bright overtones at the same time.

Plainly speaking, distortion effects add ‘grit’ to the tone in varying intensities. Overdrive and fuzz pedals are a bit ‘weaker’ than rock-hard distortion pedals, but they’re all meant to recreate the sound of a high-gain analog amp.

Interestingly enough, these pedals work perfectly well with analog amplifiers, and you might think ‘why do I need a high-gain amp sound if I can already achieve it on my amplifier?’; basically, gain ‘stacks’, and you will be able to merge different gain stages of different gain frequencies this way.

When to use:

You should use distortion, overdrive, fuzz, and crunch pedals to add punchy overtones to your tone, and this can be done in any number of scenarios. In mellower musical styles distortion effects are used to pronounce solos or dynamic bridges whereas these pedals are active non-stop in genres such as rock and metal.

Distortion effect pedals are clear-cut and very pronounced, so they generally don’t leave much space for experimentation with music genres they aren’t already popular in. 

When not to use:

On the flip side, there are certain music styles where distortion effects would work against you. Genres such as polka and pop music, as well as musical styles that do not have the guitar in their spotlight wouldn’t welcome distortion pedals with open arms.

You may hear faint and weakly distorted guitars in certain pop songs, but you may not necessarily need a distortion pedal to achieve such sounds and timbres. Usually, a mediocre analog amp is all you need, provided that it has at least a 3-band EQ.

Amplitude effects

Amplitude effects alter the dynamics (volume) of your guitar. Several types of pedals fit into this category, including Booster pedals, Compressors, and Noise Gates. Since these three serve three distinctly different purposes, let’s address each of them separately.

Boost pedal

Boost pedals (boosters) enhances the audio signal’s amplitude. In simple words, it ramps up the volume, exceeding the limit of the amp.

When to use:

Boosters are ideally used for guitar solos, as they can be used to immediately strengthen your guitar’s volume without any signal loss.

When not to use:

Prolonged use of booster pedals will inevitably make other players struggle to keep up with the audio output, so it shouldn’t be overused.

Compressor

Compressors are basically catalyst pedals that balance rampant sounds and noises. They are capable of taming punchy lows and calming thundering highs automatically. Generally speaking, compressor pedals ‘crop’ the dynamic range of your instrument, preventing the sounds from leaving the pre-configured bounds.

When to use:

Compressors are a necessity in complex, multi-pedal signal chains where the signal is all over the place. These pedals create a safety net that will prevent the tone from becoming unexpectedly warmer or brighter, which makes them perfect for any kind of pedal chain.

When not to use:

The only time you don’t need a compressor is if you are not using other pedals, to begin with.

Noise gate

Noise gate operates in a way that is completely different from compressors; rather than containing the frequencies, they keep background static and hum at a minimum.

In that sense, noise gates actually ‘expand’ the guitar’s dynamic (lower) range, allowing the quietest, barely audible sounds to replace bass-driven tones.

To put it plainly, noise gate pedals do not ‘eliminate’ hums, hisses, or static; they simply replace these sounds by even quieter ones that can’t be perceived by human ears.

When to use:

If you are standing close to your amp on stage, or if some of your pedals are creating feedback or static, a noise gate pedal will be able to take care of the issue.

When not to use:

Sometimes static and feedback sounds are what musicians are after, especially in rock and metal music genres. Noise gate pedals will prevent you from finding these sounds.

Filters

While dynamic-altering pedals set frequency-based ‘borders’ around your tone, filter pedals strengthen or weaken different frequency regions.

While dynamic-altering pedals are generally active all the time, filter pedals are passive most of the time and are only activated when such effects are needed.

The wah-wah pedal is a perfect example of a filter pedal; it alters the entire frequency spectrum of the guitar when activated, creating unique and peculiar noises.

When to use:

Filter pedals change the guitar’s tone drastically, and they are best utilized when you want to accentuate certain parts of the song, such as the ending of a solo for example.

When not to use:

Filters rarely work well when used as standalone pedals, so you shouldn’t rely on them too much if you don’t have a quality distortion/overdrive pedal in your rig as well.

Modulators

Modulator effect pedals change the strength of the signal, by either mixing it with another signal or by splitting it in two. Some of the most popular modulators are chorus pedals, flangers, phasers, tremolos, and vibratos.

Generally speaking, all of these effect pedals affect the strength of your guitar’s signal, creating different variations in terms of pitch.

Chorus pedals aim to replicate the effect of actual choirs or string orchestras; these pedals split the signal into numerous smaller fragments, each being slightly different than the next in timbre.

Flanger pedals create artificial effect sounds that resemble those that airplanes make; phaser pedals are quite similar, but instead of mixing two distinctly different signal parts, only one part is actually altered (phased).

When to use:

Modulation effects can be dramatic or mellow, dramatic or subtle. They can completely change the dynamic and feeling of a song, or they can simply add nuanced details, making a riff a bit fuller, but unchanged.

These pedals are generally great to use in practically every scenario as they enrich the guitar’s tone and timbre by adding extra layers to the signal.

When not to use:

Modulators are very difficult to master, and oftentimes they can lure musicians into thinking that they need ‘more’. Actually, ‘less is more’ applies here perfectly, especially if you don’t have a well-shaped idea of what fragments of the song you want to modulate.

Time-based effects

The pedals that fall under this category are so different that a general definition wouldn’t be able to encompass them all.

What they all have in common is that they all change the time at which the signal ‘hits’, whether it be by delaying it, making it ‘echo’, or playing it back as a ‘loop’.

Delay pedals ‘duplicate’ the signal, playing the second one back right after the initial one. The duplicated instances and the speed at which they are emerging after the original signal can be specified with most pedals.

Loop pedals are basically used to create ‘backing tracks’ or better said, ‘backing riffs’. Musicians can record a lick with them and play it back within a repeating cycle.

Reverb pedals can be used to simulate sounds that would have otherwise be produced in acoustic spaces, like for instance halls or churches. 

When to use:

Just like modulators, time-based pedals can be used to fill in the sonic gaps in your guitar’s tone regardless of the situation. They can make your tone sound a bit fuller, and they are perfect for experimentation with other guitar effect pedals.

When not to use:

Time-based effects create ambiance but take away the ‘clean’ bit of the song. They shouldn’t be used with hooks and parts that are meant to be ‘catchy’.

Conclusion

Guitar pedals are wonderful tools that can completely reshape how an instrument sounds and projects through the amp.

We hope that we’ve provided you with useful tips on how different types of pedals can be utilized, and keep in mind that these are only pieces of advice; you are free and even encouraged to experiment and think outside of the box. After all, that’s what music is all about.

Cheap Synthesizers for Beginners: What to Buy in 2020

Sound engineers, mixers, producers, and artists know that a cheap synthesizer wasn’t always an option.

High-quality sound engines used to be premium hardware for only the most dedicated and well-equipped studios.

Now, keyboards, modules, and even pocket-sized synthesizers can be purchased for a relatively low cost.

The size of the synthesizer, whether it’s analog or digital, the features it offers, and the reputation of its brand all play into which cheap synthesizer is the best for beginners.

Since not all beginners are the same, there may not be a one size synthesizer to fit all sound engineers.

That’s why we compiled this list of the 5 best cheap synthesizers for beginners, including their pros and cons and main features.

We also made a buying guide to help you compare the major features between not only these brands but also any that you may find on your own.

The best synthesizer is a combination of your needs with the value you can get on your budget. This list should help you narrow it down.

5 Best Cheap Synthesizers: Reviews

Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer

Arturia is an innovative company and this hybrid synthesizer is our top pick all around for beginners.

It’s not the cheapest synthesizer on this list or the most portable, but it has a balance of features and high-end technology that makes it a great pick in general.

This 25-key paraphonic synth has a modern aftertouch keyboard. The hybrid hardware features a ton of high-end options for mixing and producing, including a wavetable, digital oscillator, modulation matrix, and analog filters.

The touch plate offers an unconventional way to control compositions but the options for sound palettes and sonic templates are amazing for the price.

Among these modes are enough software options for any beginner to try out different things and get the feel for their new synth. These include Harmonic OSC, KarplusStrong, Texturer, and Superwave.

The Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer is versatile in both its hardware options and its sound output.

Real-time sequence creation, randomization, and an arpeggiator are just a few key options that let composers get an incredible range of sound out of this cheap synth, with enough variety to make it a perfect pick for beginners.

Pros

  • Expressive touch plate
  • Hybrid software options
  • Wavetable and digital oscillators
  • Analog filters
  • Small size

Cons

  • Touch sensitive keyboards aren’t for everyone
  • Factory presets are a bit outdated

Korg MS20 Mini Analog Synthesizer

We couldn’t do this list without an entry by the upscale synthesizer manufacturer, Korg.

However, you should know that this mini analog synthesizer is the priciest on this list, which is why it’s our premium option out of all the “cheap” synthesizers out there.

Beginners that want to come out of the gate with a big investment in their mixing or composing career should consider the Korg MS20 as the most expensive beginner’s synthesizer they should be looking at.

The Korg Mini Analog Synthesizer has self-oscillating high and low-pass filters with an external signal processor and flexible patching system.

It plugs in with a USB MIDI as well as a 5-pin MIDI. Those who are familiar with the Korg MS-20 should be familiar with its reputation – this is the same tech in a smaller package.

The same vibrant leads and resonant bases can be produced with the same premium features, including two VCFs, two VCAs, a noise generator, and more.

If you’re a beginner who knows they want to get into premium analog mixing and feel like you’ll shell out for a premium model eventually anyway, this Korg MS20 Mini is the cheapest of the high-end premium options from the company that makes it the best of the best.

Pros

  • Vibrant leads and resonant bases
  • Adaptable mixing technology, including two VCFs and two VCAs
  • Two ways to plug in
  • High and low-pass filters
  • Noise generator

Cons

  • Premium price for the cheap list

Roland TB-03 Bass Line Boutique Synthesizer

This cheaper version of a full-size Roland TB-303 Synthesizer features the same realistic recreation of the TB-303’s baseline features.

This portable version, however, features an LED display, MIDI control, overdrive and delay effects, fine tempo control, and other pattern creation modes.

Other than that, the Roland TB-03 Bass Line Boutique Synthesizer has the same sound and user interface as the original version, with hands-on control over parameters like resonance, envelope mode, cutoff, decay, and accent.

This synth is battery powered and can send its control information to a studio controller via a USB or MIDI port while also functioning as an audio interface.

With similar but smaller construction and the same features as the premium TB-303 synthesizer from Roland, this portable analog synthesizer should work perfectly for beginners.

Pros

  • Sturdy construction
  • LED display
  • A variety of programmable effects and creation modes
  • Portability and multiple interfaces

Cons

  • The accent isn’t as good as the premium synth model

IK Multimedia UNO Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer

Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer from IK Multimedia has 2 oscillators and a multimode filter. It can be easily programmed with 100 presets and taken on the go anywhere.

It has a 2-octave multi-touch keyboard, which is ideal for a portable synth, and it comes with an arpeggiator and step sequencer.

The IK Multimedia UNO Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer can be used on the go or plugged into a computer sound station or MIDI keyboard in the studio. It can be battery or USB-powered as the need arises.

IK Multimedia is famous for its hands-on programmability and advanced synthesis features.

Multiple independent VCOs, different waveforms, real-time sequences, an editor app optimized for Mac, PC, and iOS, onboard presets, and a 2-pole multimode filter with band-pass filtering round at an inclusive package for a beginning sound designer.

Pros

  • 2-oscillator monophonic system
  • All-analog audio
  • Multi-mode filter
  • Arpeggiator and step sequencer
  • Intuitive touch keyboard

Cons

  • No lit buttons or display

STYLOPHONE GEN X-1 Portable Analog Synthesizer

For those looking for the cheapest and most completely portable synth out there, this Portable Analog Synthesizer from STYLOPHONE is a perfect pick.

It has two interfaces: a mini keyboard to play notes and a sound strip that can slide between pitches. Battery operated and with a built-in speaker, this synthesizer is the ultimate choice for portability.

It has an audio line out for headphones or speakers as well as a low pass filter, envelope effect, and LFO. It can be switched between octaves and modulated with a pulse width switch to create a chorus effect.

The STYLOPHONE GEN X-1 Portable Analog Synthesizer is a great portable secondary model for a professional or a budget pick with some great features for a beginner.

Stylophone is an iconic model and this cheap, portable version of its next-gen technology is a great starting point for anyone’s music design gig.

Pros

  • Rich sound with effects features
  • Portability
  • Internal speaker
  • Sub octaves
  • Two interfaces
  • Budget price

Cons

  • Stylus wire is too short

Best Cheap Synthesizers for Beginners: Buying Guide

In order to buy a synthesizer that’s perfect for your needs, you should compare the features you value and your personal budget against the models we listed.

They feature a range of prices and technology, so one of them is bound to be a good fit for beginners looking for cheap synthesizers.

Technology

Each synthesizer comes with different modes, presets, mixes, and features. We tried to summarize them for you in the individual product reviews.

Since you’re a beginner and don’t know exactly what you want, you should choose a synthesizer with a ton of presets and different manipulation modes.

Being able to freely control the music mode and the mix is essential when you don’t know exactly what you’re buying.

We chose respected brands so you would have a pick of well-built technology with different wavetables, digital oscillation, modulation matrices, and analog filters.

Interface

The interface factors into the technology but should be its own separate concern for beginners. Some synthesizers have a touchpad keyboard and others have a regular keyboard.

Some feature two full octaves and others switch between them. Since the interface will allow you to mix and design music, your creative flow depends on an intuitive setup.

We listed good options for either interface in this article, but since you can’t get both, you may just have to guess what you will prefer.

The ability to plug into a studio computer or external speakers also makes a difference in terms of the interface, and thankfully that’s much easier to plan for just by looking at the specs.

Construction

You want a sturdy synthesizer, especially if you plan on making it portable. The size of the device factors into the kind of work you hope to do, whether you plan on mixing with headphones on a car or plane ride or prefer to keep the synth at a workstation in a studio.

We put options on this list for both preferences so that no matter where you plan on using this synthesizer, it will work for you so long as you keep this criterion in mind.

Construction and portability also factor into the power source. Some synthesizers are battery-powered and some can run on USB power, which makes a difference if you want to take it on the go.

Some are pocket-sized and some are full keyboards: it just depends on what you’re looking for.

Analog vs Digital

Digital synthesizers have some advantages of technology and can be hybrid devices, like our top pick, the Arturio MicroFreak.

In general, digital synths have more complicated interfaces, more advanced displays, and lit keys.

This isn’t the general recommendation for beginners since they can be more complicated to operate and can run more expensive.

We recommend saving on cost and on headaches with the interface to opt for analog synths or hybrid models.

For those that aren’t positive what they’re doing, analog synths should prove more efficient.

Cost

The cost range on this list is large: from less than a hundred dollars to over five hundred.

We did this so you could find something for your needs no matter your budget, whether it’s a cheaper pocket synthesizer or a full studio-ready model with displays and all the bells and whistles of hybrid analog and digital technology.

The Takeaway

A synthesizer is an indispensable piece of equipment for a budding sound designer, producer, mixer, or composer.

These machines can run into the thousands of dollars, however, and beginners need cheap options so they can make a name for themselves and maybe buy the big stuff later.

This list of 5 options offers any beginner the chance to add quality sound equipment to their studio without breaking the bank.

Some are more budget-friendly than others, but we tried to give you a heads up on where each one fits into the market spectrum and the features they offer.

For many beginners that don’t know which features they need yet, prioritizing a good interface and a ton of modes could be the best bet.

That’s why we chose the Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer as our best overall pick for cheap synthesizers for beginners to buy in 2020.

Its after-touch keyboard is slick and modern while its hybrid hardware offers a ton of premium features at a mid-low budget range. These include a wave-table, digital oscillation, modulation matrix, and analog filters.

Once you’ve discovered which features are important to you, you may be able to shell out for a more premium synthesizer.

Until then, use these budget options to find your feet, gauge how much optimization you need, and get your audio mixing, composing, or designing career off the ground.