Top five favourite free synth plugins
Good synth plugins don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, in fact there are some amazing free synth plugins that do a stellar job too.
These free synth plugins aren’t all brand-new, however they’re all really useful in their own way.
Whether you’re just starting out with music production and you’re looking for a bunch of new sounds to choose from, or you’re looking for your next sound design workhorse – here’s a list of our top five favourite free synth plugins…
by Vember Audio
What is it:
Surge is a hybrid subtractive synthesizer that used to be available as a commercial product, however it recently went open-source. It’s now available for free download, and it’s probably one of the most advanced free VST plugins around. In my opinion, it is on-par with some commercially available paid-for VST synth plugins.
- 2 Scenes for layering and split-keys
- 3 Oscillators per scene
- 8 Oscillator algorithms (Classic, Sine, Wavetable, Window, FM2, FM3, S/H Noise and Audio Input
- 2 Filters with 8 configurations each
- Huge modulation capabilities
- Great sounding internal effects
Surge comes packed with over 1000 patches and 183 wavetables, and features everything you need to make some really good sounds from scratch. It’s available for Windows and Mac and comes as a 32-bit or 64-bit VST plugin.
by Matt Tytel
What is it:
Helm is a really cool VST synth plugin, particularly for creating Psy-trance synths and leads, it’s got an internal stutter and formant filter which are very widely used in the genre, alongside a variety of other great features.
- 2 Main oscillators, a Sub oscillator and a basic Noise generator
- Feedback module for creating interesting distortions before the filter
- State-variable filter with various settings and internal drive
- The “stutter” section is a quick retrigger generator for creating glitchy effects
- Dedicated Formant filter
- Various modulation capabilities with some unique capabilities
- Master effects section comprising of distortion, delay and reverb
Helm is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s also open-source – meaning you can download the code to edit or study to learn a bit about how it was created.
What is it:
Kairatune is an intuitive synth plugin, aimed more at beginners or those who don’t need to dive too deeply into sound design, but need a good-sounding free synth plugin with a variety of presets to choose from. It’s got various features that lean towards creating leads and bass sounds, although it is pretty capable once you learn the ins-and-outs.
- Single oscillator with wide multiplication and modulation capabilities
- Intuitive pitch section with quick controls for creating vibrato, trills and other LFO-based effects
- Independant Low-Pass and High-Pass filters, each with their own dedicated modulation
- Internal effects – EQ, Phaser and Delay
Kairatune comes bundled with some great sounding presets, categorized into relevant types. It’s a very intuitive synth plugin, especially for those who aren’t that well versed in advanced synthesis. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.
T-Force Alpha Plus 2
by Mastrcode Music
What is it:
T-Force Alpha Plus 2 is a synth plugin that seems rather basic at first glance, however when you dive into the more advanced capabilities – it really starts to shine. Unfortunately it’s currently only available for Windows.
- 3 Oscillators with a wide range of controls, and a further Noise oscillator
- Variety of filter models – Ladder (Moog-style), Diode (303-style), Sallen Key (Korg-style), State-Variable and more
- Advanced drop-down menus for Modulation, Trance Gate and Effects (Distortion, Crusher, Delay and Reverb)
- “Drift Mode” which simulates the slight inaccuracies of vintage analog synths
T-Force Alpha Plus 2 is a very capable and easy to use synth plugin, it’s great for both beginners and more advanced synth users.
by Ichiro Toda
What is it:
Synth1 is not a new synth plugin by any means, however its so highly regarded that it deserves a mention. It’s modelled on the Clavia Nord Lead 2 in functionality and it may not look as enticing but believe me it sounds great.
- 2 Oscillators with FM, Ring mod and Sync
- 4 Classic filter types
- Synth1 is incredibly light on CPU, so if you’re struggling with GUI intensive plugins, definitely check this out
Synth1 comes bundled with only 128 factory presets, however there are a huge variety of user-made soundbanks floating around the web due to its popularity. Its available as a 64-bit plugin for Windows and Mac.
Find the one that suits you and learn the ins and outs…
Remember that having every single synth plugin available is not always a good thing, presenting yourself with too much choice can sometimes slow down the creative process.
It is important to find plugins that suit you and learn everything about them before moving onto the next ones. That way you know exactly what to expect every time you use them.
A good place to start is with these free synth plugins that we recommend 😉