For some of us, summer brings with it more free time. Time we don’t often have when we trudge through the grind of working regular jobs. This list of the best 5 free VST synths was compiled to lessen the searching time of audio enthusiasts, hobbyists and professionals alike, in search of the best quality free synth plugins available so far this year.
Sonigen Modular – Sonigen
Oddly enough, we’ll start out with a 32-bit VST synth from Sonigen. (Dare to be different, right?). Sonigen Modular is a fully modular software synth with surprisingly great sound quality. It has 28 individual modules from what I counted, any number of which can be connected to form a preset or patch. There is also what Sonigen calls a “WaveMaker” which can be opened in a separate window. It has an FFT display and offers the ability to load, edit, and save your own waveforms and wavetables.
Sonigen Modular comes with an exhaustive number of very usable presets. However, you could have a great time just tweaking the presets and loading different modules to see how they affect the sound. The presets are organized into helpful categories for easier browsing. Clicking the Browser button at the top of the interface switches the GUI from the main modules window to the browser window. There is no menu diving as all controls are displayed directly on the main interface. The cables can easily be clicked and dragged to change their position and double-clicked to switch between automatic straight and curved shapes.
To make this synth even better, it was designed to have very low CPU consumption. I don’t use very many 32-bit plugins these days, but this is one that gets a lot of burn on my system. If you are using a 64-bit system, you would need a bit bridge like jbridge to be able to use Sonigen Modular. It’s compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10. This is a very flexible modular software synth that I have been using for years on almost every project. It won’t cost you anything to download and try out and believe me…it’s worth it!
Tyrell N6 by uHe
You will find Tyrell N6 in or at the top of many best free VST synths lists all around the web and for good reason. It has stood the test of time and remains as relevant today as when it was released years ago. Tyrell N6 was based off of a hardware design similar to the Roland Juno 60. While the presets are great to begin with and tweaking them is relatively easy, this synth is a lot deeper than it appears on the surface.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that there are only 2 oscillators and 1 sub oscillator. This synth has plenty of modulation targets and sources to craft those oscillators into some very interesting sounds and for various genres of music. The interface is straightforward with all controls clearly displayed on the face of it. I would also recommend this synth to those just getting started with sound design because of it’s easy of use. Tyrell N6 is available in 32-bit & 64-bit format for Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 and Mac OSX 10.5 or newer.
*Also check out other great free synths by uHe: Beatzille, Repro-1 Zebralette and Podolski.
Kairatune – Futucraft
There’s something to be said for software synths with only one main display. Kairatune, like the 2 plugins before it in this list, puts all of its controls on the face of the GUI making it much easier to map it to your hardware controller and intuitive to tweak. It is not however an all-purpose synth plugin. This digital monophonic synth was designed to produce lead, bass and SPX sounds in particular. It has only 1 multi-oscillator
It has low CPU consumption so you can use quite a few instances in your project without worrying about maxing out your memory. All of the sounds have a unique quality to them and there are a healthy set of presets to get you started. Kairatune is available in 32-bit & 64-bit VST/AUi plugin format for Windows and Mac.
Sinnah VA – NUSofting
Here’s another free vst synth that is quickly making its way up through the ranks. Sinnah is an interesting little gem. I haven’t had much time to play around with this one yet, but I have heard some of the presets and they are quite good. NUSofting describes it as:
“a synth based on a single complex oscillator that includes five waveshapes with increasing spectral complexity, harmonics level for all waveshapes, noise level, and a delay matrix.”
Those 5 waveshapes have since been increased to 9 in the latest update. Sinnah is available in 32-bit & 64-bit format for Windows 7/8/10 and Mac OS.
Dexed – Digital Suburban
Dexed is probably the best known free emulation of the classic Yamaha synth, DX7. It is also a MIDI cartridge librarian/manager for the DX7 hardware synth, for those of you who have one laying around. This means that you can use Dexed as a patch editor for the real DX7. There are no less than 144 DAW automatable DX7 parameters available. It also comes with a generous amount of patches. Definitely worth the download especially if you are interested in FM synthesis!
Dexed is available in 32-bit & 64-bit format for Windows 7/8/10 and Mac OS.