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Modern computers can run a huge powerhouse of sound and synthesis where almost every imaginable sound is available to you. But which software synthesizers will give you the most rewarding experience?

Not all software synths are the same. There’s something in the design, the vibe and the sound that sets some VSTi synths above the rest. It can be about the way the interface works, the visual animations that reflect the sonic output, the sound of that filter, that effect or the way sounds can be combined and layered. When making music there has to be something about the software tools we use that elicits a creative or emotional response or they are just tools.

For this list, I’ve pulled together the finest selection of software synthesizers that I can find. Some have been around for a while and earned their place over time, others are perfect examples of a well-executed emulation and others just sound so good that they have to be part of your sonic library.

Our picks for the best synth VSTs of 2022 are:

  • Spectrasonics Omnisphere
  • Xfer Records Serum
  • Gforce Oberheim OB-E
  • Arturia Pigments
  • VCV Rack Pro 2
  • Arturia V Collection
  • U-He Diva
  • Korg OPSIX Native

Your questions about VST Synths answered

What synth VST should I buy?

Robin Vincent

You should buy Pigments from Arturia. It’s a superb blend of classic synthesis and modern ideas rolled into an engaging and accessible instrument that has great sounds and room for crafting your own. Pigments never disappoints and always delivers great sounds that can work brilliantly in your mix.

If you want something more classic then go no further than the Oberheim OB-E from Gforce. It’s authentic, beautiful and will remind you why we love vintage synthesizers.

What synths do professionals use?

Robin Vincent

Omnisphere is regarded as the most professional VST synthesizer available today. It combines the warmth of analogue with the versatility of modern tones and sampling. It’s capable of hugely evolving textures as well as devastatingly deep bass and leads. Omnisphere is like a universe of sound in an instrument that can even bring in the sound of your hardware synths and act as a bridge between the two.

Best VST Synthesizers 2022

On to our picks for the best VST synthesizers.

Spectrasonics Omnisphere

Omnisphere is a hugely expansive synthesizer. Originally designed for pads, it has evolved to become a versatile playground of sound, landscapes, and rhythms that can reflect hardware but also take you off to planets you’ve never explored before.

The secret of its huge and powerful sound comes from the layering of mixing of sounds within the engine. Each patch can have 4 layers of sound made from over 500 DSP waveforms, filtered by 34 types, modulated by 8 LFOs and 12 envelopes.

You can import your own audio and then have it pulled apart into individual grains and modulated to within an inch of its life. There’s a massive bank of 57 effects units to process and push your sounds into new zones. All of which can be modulated from the same synthesis engine. There are over 14,000 presets to play with. It has an “Orb” performance interface where you can set things in motion and spin it into sound morphing and discovery.

Omnisphere also has a unique relationship to hardware synthesizers. A growing list of over 30 hardware synths now supports a level of integration where Omnisphere becomes the synth engine of the hardware. Taking every hardware control and mapping it to parameters inside that pull our hardware-specific elements of Omnisphere. It brings that familiar layout of your favorite synth into the inner workings of Omnisphere.

Omnisphere is an extraordinarily powerful synthesizer.

Street Price: $479

Xfer Records Serum

Regarded as one of the most vital virtual instruments for EDM and contemporary pop music, Serum is a complex wavetable synthesizer that enables you to explore intense sounds through a playful user interface. Although it’s been around a while now it can’t be beaten on how effortlessly it offers up killer sound after killer sound.

Serum comes with 450 presets and 144 wavetables and so at a basic level, you’re not going to run out of ideas very quickly. Although you can design and import your own wavetables, Serum gives you loads of ways to mess about with what’s already there. You can frequency modulate, amplitude modulate, and ring modulate. You can dial in some oscillator sync and lean heavily on the Warp to push the waveform in all sorts of directions.

Modulation works by dragging and dropping connections between modulation sources and the knob you want to modulate. It’s instantly satisfying, controllable, and editable in the waveform display. There’s a wide range of filter types from regular low pass to comb, phasers, and flangers, and all of it ripe for modulation.

An effects rack of 10 effect modules makes Serum sound huge and you can play polyphonically or stack the voices up into huge unison modes for unbelievably fat sounds.

Serum sounds fantastic for the beginner and the seasoned professional. It’s instantly awesome and has bags of depth for those who want to dive deeper.

Street Price: $189

GForce Oberheim OB-E

The Oberheim OB-E is a fully fledge emulation of the legendary 8-Voice Oberheim synthesizer from the mid 1980s. It was a huge machine that pulled together 8 separate SEM monosynths into a single 8-voice instrument. A SEM on its own sounds lovely but when you bring together 8 of them there is nothing quite like it.

Gforce Software originally released their OB-E emulation of the Oberheim 8-Voice synth last year but it’s version 2 that got the attention of Tom Oberheim, the designer of the original synthesizer, who has officially endorsed the VST synth.

OB-E is a complete sonic adventure where you can tune each SEM individually and create epic and extraordinarily complex and evolving sounds. Or, through the beauty of modern software technology you can tie all the SEMs together and move one knob to move them all. You have this interplay between individual monophonic sounds and enormous layers of polyphonic loveliness.

The OB-E VST synth is a unique synthesizer journey that reminds you why we love old synths while giving you the modern tools to craft sounds quickly and easily. It’s simply breathtaking.

Street Prices: $149

Arturia Pigments

They call it a “polychrome software synthesizer” and it combines wavetable, virtual analog, granular, and sampling in one engaging and organically flowing machine. Pigments is emotional — it’s all about movement and engaging all of our senses in the exploration of sound and synthesis.

Right from the start Pigments oozes life and visual excitement. It wears its modulation front and center with graphical representations of every wave, every curve, and every possibility. You can almost program this synth visually and know exactly what it’s going to sound like.

Getting into the details: you have 2 synth engines that can handle any of the available types of synthesis and then combine and modulate through each other. With the sampling side, you can load up to 6 slots of samples and play them like a sampler or route them through a granular engine to pull out the grains and generate new soundscapes.

There are multiple filter types including SEM and Buchla low pass gates to sculpt your sound and then you can create the most amazing amount of movement through the many-faceted modulation engine.

You can trigger automation from the keyboard, wrap it in envelopes, move it with LFOs, create mathematical functions, randomize and combine modulators to form new modulators. This is crazy town. And once things are moving you can work it all through the step sequencer with lanes of further automation and explorable randomization.

Pigments has awesome architecture and a workflow that’s easy to use and fun to stumble through.

Street Prices: $199

VCV Rack Pro 2

VCV Rack is a wonderfully deep, complex and versatile emulation of the world of Eurorack modular synthesis. It has ballooned into an extraordinary universe of sound and possibility that will expand your mind and work your computer to the edge of its capability. Previously only available as a standalone product the new Pro version 2 can run as a VST synth inside your DAW.

There are hundreds and hundreds of individual modules available for VCV Rack. Each one bringing its own flavor to your recipe of modular madness. You have oscillators, modulators, filters and sequencers, utilities, logic, effects and mixing, blending, shaping, bending and granulating. Anything you can imagine can be found in VCV Rack.

However, it’s not going to that easy. With VCV Rack, as with a modular system, you’re going to have to patch it together yourself using virtual patch cables and some idea about what you’re doing. If you’re new to concepts of synthesis then you’ll have to learn pretty quick about signal flow, control voltage and modulation. But once you’ve got through the surface then there are limitless possibilities inside and not a preset to be found.

Street Prices: $149
VCV Rack

Arturia V Collection

This is cheating and I fully embrace it. The Arturia V Collection isn’t a single virtual synthesizer; it’s a collection of all the most important and desirable classic synthesizers you could ever need. It’s an extraordinary bundle of Synth VSTs that authentically captures the legendary sounds and interfaces of 28 vintage synths.

You have the expected legends like the Minimoog and Moog Modular, SEM, Jupiter 8, and ARP 2600. But then there are more unusual machines like the Buchla Easel, Synthi, and Yamaha CS-80. And it’s not all analog as we have a Fairlight, Synclaviar, and DX-7 to play with. And going beyond synthesis into acoustic and electric pianos, string machines, and organs.

The V Collection is a stunning range of instruments, each of which would keep any synth fan happy for a long time. It also comes with a huge curated library of presets and, via the Analog Lab plugin, you can run the sounds together without loading up the individual synths.

At $499 it’s a decent investment that’s worth every cent.

Street Prices: $499

U-He Diva

Diva is a lovingly fat synthesizer. It encapsulates the greatest analog monophonic and polyphonic synthesizers that we’d all like to own. Diva is analog synthesis emulation done right.

It has 5 oscillator models based on all the Moog-style warmth with detuning and sync, all ready to push, thicken and wobble your basic sound sources in remarkably pleasing ways. There are 5 filter models that will sculpt your sound into all those delicious and familiar places. Modulation is provided by 3 envelope types and a pair of LFOs. It’s not supposed to be complicated — this is synthesis at its purest and best.

You can tune it, glide it, widen it to 16 voices while modulating the amplifier, and arpeggiating the melody. A couple of effects round off the signal flow with just the reverb and delay you need.

Diva is brilliant because it captures everything we love about old analog synths and presents in a clear, usable, and thoroughly rewarding way.

Street Prices: $179

Korg OPSIX Native

FM synthesis has always held a fascination for its uncanny realism, weird undertones and experimental nature. Korg seemed to find the perfect balance between the complexity of the synthesis and the love of the sound with the OPSIX hardware synth. Now they’ve taken the sound engine and released it as a fantastically accessible software synthesizer.

The original FM synthesizer like the Yamaha DX7 were almost as famous for being impenetrable as they were for the sound. With OPSIX Korg lays all the parameters out on the screen in such an engaging and visual way that you start to feel less intimidated by the sound design. It’s amazing seeing those waveforms bounce around as your experiment with algorithms, feedback and ratios. The envelopes and modulation inside start to make sense and you are free to make real decisions on how you want this to go.

Part of the beauty of the OPSIX hardware was the motion sequencing which gave such animation to the sounds. That is captured right here in the software along with the benefit of big-screen editing. And FM synthesis is only the framework. Within OPSIX you’ll find subtractive, semi-modular, analog, additive and waveshaping features that go way beyond what an FM synth would normally do.

If you enjoy the digital sound of DX synths and want to explore the evolution of FM into the future then OPSIX Native is for you.

Street Prices: $149

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