Best Free Synth VSTs for Your Home Studio in 2021 - Careers in Music
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You can totally make complete tracks, projects and soundscapes with free synths.

There’s an extraordinary amount of sonic potential tied up in these plugins. Each has a unique approach to familiar synthesis styles and concepts and lets your creativity fly from sampling inspiring presets through to crafting your own sounds. Sure, if you pay money you’ll get more but without shelling out a dime you have plenty of synth to keep you busy.

While we call these “VST Synths” they are often available in multiple plugin formats such as AU and AAX or can run standalone outside a DAW. Check the specs for the synths you’re interested in to ensure they’re compatible with what you’re running.

Here are the best VST synths you can get for free today:

  • Noise Engineering
  • Surge
  • Eventide Pendulate
  • Native Instruments Komplete Start
  • U-He TyrellN6
  • Vital Audio VITAL
  • DEXED
  • Roland Zenology Lite

Are There Any Free VST Synths?

Yes! Check out this list of the best free software synths you can have running on your computer right now. No need to shell out a load of cash of the latest flashiest VST plugin (unless you want) when you can have fantastic sounds from these awesome and free synths.

Are Free Synths Any Good?

Of course! They are marvellous bits of software that offer premium sounds and loads of editing that you could easily pay real money for if they weren’t in fact free. Gone are the days when freeware software was poor quality or just an half useless advert for something expensive. All the synths in this list are more than a match for premium synthesizers and should never be overlooked.

What's the Best Free Synth?

The best synth is always the one that fits into your workflow and the sounds you are trying to work into your music. Maybe you need glassy FM sounds in which case DEXED is for you, or maybe zany modulating waveforms are your thing and so Noise Engineering and Pendulate need to be on your system, or perhaps you need the big fat hybrid sound of layers of synthesis that you’ll find in Surge. The great thing about free synths is that you can have them all and decide as you go.

Best Free Synth VSTs (2021)

Let’s check out which of these free synths is going to end up on your computer.

Noise Engineering

Noise Engineering make complex and fascinating Eurorack modules for hardware modular systems but recently they’ve been developing some extraordinary plugins. They are based on the algorithms found in their hardware modules and expanded to become more complete synths and effects.

If you sign up to Noise Engineering’s Customer Portal you can get access to two beta version synthesizers and one effect plugin for free with more in the pipeline.

The first is Sinc Vereor (don’t worry about the names, Noise Engineering loves strange Latin based names for their stuff) which is based in their Sinc Iter module. It has 3 modes of sound generation from classic waveforms, to noise for percussion and Super mode for 6 phase-offset oscillators. Then through a single Tone slider you can fold and morph the waveforms in delicious ways.

The second is Virt Vereor which has 3 unique algorithms for Bass, Harmonics and Supersaw sounds. Both synths have the “Vereor” dynmaics sections which includes an ADSR envelope, amplifier, multimode filter and vintage Chorus.

They have a simple and dazzling interface which is really responsive and easy to navigate and comes with a bunch of presets to show you what it can do. There’s also a very cool distortion plugin.

noiseengineering.us

Surge from Vember Audio

Surge is a free and open source hybrid synthesizer that combines many different synthesis techniques into quite a stunning plugin. It layers up two “Scenes” which are like two separate synthesizers running together to create huge and evolving sounds. Each scene can use up to 3 oscillators which can run any of the 12 oscillator algorithms. You’ve got classic waveforms, wavetables, FM, strings, twists, noise and many more. You can also morph the classic waveforms and add a sub-oscillator and hard-sync. Each algorithm has it’s own unique band of parameters and movement.

In the filter section you have two filter layers with 8 different configurations with low, high and bandpass, comb, notch, Allpass and Sample & Hold. The filters are based on the classics and through the open source nature of Surge more have come along to expand the palette.

For modulation you have 12 LFOs, 6 for each voice and 4 for global modulations. Each LFO can also be a 6-stage envelope or be constructed from 7 deformable waveforms or step sequencers.

At the end you have a massive digital effects engine with 8 effects units arranged as 2 inserts per scene, 2 sends and 2 master effects.

Surge is crazy powerful and more than a match for many premium synthesizers. It’s always looked a bit strange with some odd colour choices but the most recent update introduces skins so you can transform the interface into something far easier on the eye.

surge-synthesizer.github.io/

Eventide Pendulate

Pendulate from Newfangled Audio loves to explore the more esoteric side of synthesis combining East and West coast forms in a zany mix of fascinating waveforms.

Pendulate feels a bit random but it harnesses a double pendulum oscillator to push anarchy into a wavefolder and through a low pass gate while being modulated and moved by the powerful modulation engine. It seems to switch effortlessly from chaos to sweetness, from self-oscillation to self-awareness and is far too much fun to play with.

The interface is a bit alarming and unexpected at first but somehow the way the display bleeds through the interface neatly sums up the disorder and fearlessness of this synthesizer.

Pendulate would be great as a premium instrument but it’s awesome for free. And if you really like it then you can upgrade to Generate which unleashes 5 times the madness.

eventideaudio.com

Native Instruments Komplete Start

While this has far more inside it than just synths the Komplete Start bundle is something everyone needs to have and within this bucket of effects, instruments and sound generators you’ll find a handful of sweet synths that’ll find a place in your pile of favorites.

There’s the TRk-01 Bass that will rattle your windows, Mikro Prism for sci-fi effects, Lazerbass for cutting mono sounds, Carbon 2 for all your synth sounds, Space Drone that you can listen to for hours evolving into sounds of the cosmos and Newscool that nobody knows how to use or why it does what it does but it’s an enjoyable place to play.

Alongside is an introduction to modular synthesis and the Blocks system found in Reaktor 6. Blocks Base gives you 24 patchable blocks and over 30 inspirational rack to explore the very nature of synthesis.

These synths are all fabulous and we’ve not even mentioned the GigaBytes of sampled instruments and fascinating effects also included and there are upgrade paths to so much more when you have money to spend.

native-instruments.com

U-He TyrellN6

A powerful little synth that emulates the hardware experience and analog sound that we all find so familiar and perfect for every occasion.

You’ll find a classic synth layout with 2 oscillators, noise and a ring modulator. You have a twin filter section with multimodes and lots of resonance. Modulation is provided by a pair of LFOs with 8 waveforms plus loopable ADSR envelopes. At the end of the chain is a lovely vintage chorus.

TyrellN6 has it all in the right places like a classic sports car and comes with 580 presets for a journey through synthesizer history. It looks great and the GUI is even skinable to look exactly how you want it.

u-he.com

Vital Audio Vital

Vital is a fantastic wavetable synthesizer that can warp waveforms in all sorts of interesting and unexpected waves. Wavetables need movement and Vital has that in abundance.

The free version comes with 75 presets and 25 wavetables which is more than enough to get you started but if you want to expand the possibilities then there are upgrade routes to pack it full of further adventures. But as standard you get great filters, modulations and effects that are of the same premium quality whether you spend money or not.

What’s really great about Vital is how you can reshape the waveforms, generate harmonics and push in modulations. All the while the interface is visually reflecting what’s going on and it seems to come alive with flowing signal and responsive movement.

Vital looks and sounds awesome, it’s enjoyable, intuitive and you’ll never feel like it’s a cheap or limited version.

vital.audio

DEXED

Dexed has been around for along time but it’s still the most comprehensive and free emulation of the classic Yamaha DX7 FM synth you’re ever likely to find. It’s so good that you can actually use it as an editor/librarian for the DX7 itself.

It has a slightly imposing from panel but what they’ve done is to pull out all the parameters from each of the 6 operators to give you an overview of exactly what’s going on behind the scenes. In all there are 144 automatable parameters available on that front panel and you can see exactly which ones are active and which algorithms are being used to configure the flow of audio and modulation between the operators.

FM synthesis can be complex but Dexed does a great job of making it accessible and if nothing else you can enjoy playing with the genuine and authentic DX7 presets. They also built in a filter which wasn’t a feature of the original synth but it does give you an extra way of sculpting tones.

asb2m10.github.io/dexed/

Roland Zenology Lite

Zenology Lite uses the core of legendary synth maker Roland’s futuristic ZEN-Core synth engine that forms the heart of their flagship Jupiter-X hardware synthesizer.

It comes with 176 classic tones and 6 drum kits taken from all sorts of Roland synths and sound generators from decades of building some of the most revered synthesizers. The sound quality is superb and you get decent control over filters and effects. You won’t get into full synthesis editing modes until you upgrade to the full Zenology software but there’s plenty here to be getting on with and it definitely shows you what could be possible.

It comes as part of a free Roland Cloud account which also includes a free version of Roland’s Zenbeats music creation software. For a few dollars a month, you could upgrade to the full version of Zenology and enjoy a huge wealth of classic and futuristic sounds.

rolandcloud.com

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