Best Free VSTs for Home Music Producers in 2021 - Careers in Music
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Turning your computer into a fantastic source of sounds doesn't have to be expensive.

In fact, if you follow our article you can do it for free. There are some remarkable virtual instruments that can revitalize your projects and expand your tones that won’t cost you a penny.

Here are our picks for 2021‘s best VST synths and instruments you can get for nothing:

  1. Spitfire Audio – Labs
  2. Eventide Pendulate
  3. Native Instruments Komplete Start
  4. IK Multimedia SampleTank 4 Custom Shop
  5. U-He TyrellN6
  6. Cheeze Machine 2
  7. ToneZ
  8. Roland Zenology Lite

Are free VSTs any good?

Many free virtual instruments and effects are promotional versions of premium plugins and are made to the same level of quality. They may have a reduced feature set or some limited options but they are going to be great for your music-making.

Some others are developed by enthusiasts who don’t have the backing of a brand and they can look a bit rough around the edges but also they can be full of creativity and original ideas. Besides, any plugin listed here is going to be top-notch.

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Where can I get VST plugins for free?

Always go direct to the source. I would be suspicious of any website offering downloads of software they don’t make themselves.

Some websites offer downloads of premium plugins and instruments and they are best avoided not only on legal grounds but because the downloads may well contain malicious software that you don’t want infecting your music-making computer. There are so many genuinely free VST instruments and plugins and this article will tell you where to get them.

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Best Free VST Instruments (2021)

Spitfire Audio – Labs

Although the Labs series has been available for a while now, new library keeps turning up and continues to bring us a host of new, creative, and esoteric sounds.

Currently in the collection, we have instruments like the Chinese Moon Guitar, Hand Bells, and a Music Box. There are atmospheric sounds in the London Atmos and creative collaborations in the Opia instrument of unconventional sounds. There are dulcimers, strings, pianos, choirs, and all sorts of experimental and yet completely useable possibilities like atmospheres from the Tundra and Granulated Whalesong.

Everyone should have this range of instruments in their plug-in folders. There are no excuses — even the GUI only has 3 controls so you can’t possibly get lost or bewildered.

spitfireaudio.com

Eventide Pendulate

An interesting take on West Coast-style synthesis comes to us via Pendulate from Newfangled Audio and Eventide. It revels in chaos and plays with you as much as you play with it.

Pendulate uses a double pendulum oscillator to spew anarchy into a wavefolder which mixes and drives tones through a low pass gate while being modulated and messed about with. It initially feels a bit random but you’ll soon have it pulsing on the edge of chaos or maybe just a little bit too far the wrong way. But you can pull out sweetness as well if you like.

It changes, moves, and excites, evolving from pandemonium to order, feedback to fractals, self-oscillation, and self-abuse. It is far too much fun and explodes in a very unexpected interface that really grows on you once you’ve got over being startled.
 
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

The Komplete bundle from Native Instruments contains an extraordinary amount of sounds and sonic possibilities. It comes in a number of versions for real money but Komplete Start is completely free and has over 2,000 studio-quality sounds.

Komplete Start comes with 16 pro-grade synths and sampled instruments plus effects, loops, and samples and it’s all the same stuff that comes in the premium versions. For synths, you get the TRK 01 bassline, Reaktor Blocks modular, Mikro Prism, Carbon, weird generative Newscool, and the deep Space Drone. For sampled instruments, you’re looking at a small band and orchestra, playful noises, electric pianos, and thousands of loops and beats.

For effects, you get to play with the all-new Guitar Rig 6 Player and the massive Supercharger high-octane tube compressor.

That’s plenty to get you started and you can buy more and expand your possibilities if you wish.

native-instruments.com

IK Multimedia SampleTank 4 Custom Shop

SampleTank is a vast workhorse synthesizer that can tap into every genre and style of music with an enormous level of motion and excitement. The Custom Shop version kicks off your journey with 50 sampled instruments and 200 MIDI loops for grooves and beat-making.

The 50 instruments draw from over 4GB of sound content, making them high-quality, professionally sampled and nuanced instruments to play. The interface lets you tweak the sounds and there are 4 groove engines that you can apply to break your sounds down into rhythmic adventures.

SampleTank 4 features an all-new mixer with 70 effects for processing your sounds and grooves. As with some of the other instruments here, you can use the Custom Shop function to add more sounds, more library, and build your perfect selection of sounds.

ikmultimedia.com

U-He TyrellN6

It’s the little sports car of synth-based hardware synthesizers and ready to give you a virtual analog experience that’s all about the power of the sound.

Built like a trusty analog subtractive synth, you get 2 oscillators, noise, and a ring modulator with 2 LFOs with multiple waveforms and a screamingly good dual filter. Separate envelopes for the amp and filter give a load of dynamic control and a nice vintage Chorus at the end of the chain keeps things fat.

TyrellN6 comes with over 580 presets which takes all the guesswork out of it while the very cool GUI gives you all the control you could ever need. This is a seriously awesome synth.

u-he.com

Cheeze Machine 2

Back by popular demand is the reworked and thoroughly lovely Cheeze Machine 2 from 2getheraudio. It’s designed as a vintage string machine in the style of the Solina Strings.

You have dual oscillators with fat, thin, warm or buzzy shapes, pulse width modulation, and detuning. You have independent envelopes for the amp and filter. And then there’s the classic Ensemble effect at the end with Phase, Vibrato, and a nice big reverb.

It has a super-thick tone with over 60 presets of vintage string, brass, bass, pads, and keyboard sounds. The interface is a thousand times better than the original and it’s lovely to play with.

2getheraudio.com

ToneZ

ToneZ is a polyphonic synthesizer designed for EDM. It has a modern interface and is ready to go with supersaws, leads, basses, plucks and much more.

It has 4 oscillators with 12 morphing waveforms and up to 8 voices. You have control over detuning and stereo width for some really pumping sounds. There are 4 envelopes and 2 LFOs with a complete modulation matrix. There are two filters to carve your tones.

There are loads of effects: Distortion, EQ, Chorus, Delay, Reverb, and Compressor. And it all sounds completely awesome. The layout is professional and inviting and the Expert Detuning section is particularly good at bringing up the power of this synth.

t0nit0rmx.github.io/

Roland Zenology Lite

Legendary synthesizer makers Roland have a new synthesis technology called ZEN-Core that can be found in both their hardware synthesizers like the JUPITER-X and a new software VST instrument called Zenology.

Zenology Lite is a fully working version of Zenology that comes with 176 tones and 6 drum kits covering a range of synthesizer and instrument sounds. The sound quality is excellent and you get performance control over the filters and effects. It also gives you an idea of what’s possible with this futuristic-looking synthesizer.

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

FAQ

What is the best synth VST?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

The best free synth VSTs are:

  • Oberom
  • Trap Door Audio Coalition
  • Trap Door ChupaSAWbra
  • Trap Door WaveAssault
  • DPMF
  • ToneZ

If you’re in the market for some synth VSTs with that aren’t free, we like:

  • Softube Modular
  • VCV Rack
  • Voltage Modular
  • Reaktor 6 and Block
  • Audulus
  • Full Bucket Music ModulAir
  • Propellerhead Complex-1

All of these get a detailed rundown in our blog on the year’s best synth VSTs.

Are free VSTs safe?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

Yes, just be smart about it. Do your research, see if any reputable blogs have reviewed the free VST you’re considering, and download (when possible) from the sites that have created the VSTs.

For example, if HY-Delay4 Free is available from the hy-plugins.com website, download it from there rather than from a site that sounds or looks fishy.

Do I need VST plugins?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

No, you don’t really need VST plugins. You can record and produce music just fine using just your DAW. However, VST plugins open up new possibilities.

Imagine you’re a painter with just a small palette of watercolor paints. Sure, you can mix those paints and create new shades but wouldn’t you rather have a larger palette to work with? VST plugins are that larger palette.

For example, maybe you think all the keyboard samples on your DAW sound cheesy. You can easily download VSTs that sample some of the most legendary synths, pianos, and keyboards on the planet. Suddenly, all those sounds are available on your desktop. Problem solved.

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