If you’ve just started your music production journey, VST synth plugins can take your music-making process to the next level.
In fact, synth plugins are an essential part of every modern software-based studio setup.
You can even get them for free – and that’s where this guide comes in.
In today’s reviews of the best free VST synth plugins, we’ll introduce you to the top synth plugins for your DAW
And we’ll cover everything from Wavetable to FM and virtual analog synths.
Let’s dive in!
1. Vember Audio Surge XT
Vember Audio Surge XT is introduced as the sound designer’s dream.
Surge re-emerged in recent years as a free and open-source plugin, so you can use it for free.
It’s a plugin with a long-standing reputation, providing great effects, improved filter models, and MPE compatibility.
It has a hybrid engine combining elements of virtual analog, wavetable, and FM sound generation.
All things considered, Surge XT is a great music production tool for producers of all levels.
And with its enhanced features, it definitely deserves a place on this list.
2. VCV Rack
VCV Rack is another great option for anyone who wants to learn modular synthesis.
This free/open-source software can host plugins of its own, and it can mix and export multiple audio channels.
Since it models nearly every module available for the Eurorack format, it’s rather unique.
It can also be used to create full-track arrangements.
That said, VCV Rack works like a DAW, which ultimately makes it a very convenient and useful tool for making music at home.
So if you want to upgrade your home studio and get a real modular experience, VCV Rack is an excellent choice
3. Matt Tytel Helm
Matt Tytel Helm is a free, cross-platform, polyphonic synthesizer with a powerful modulation system.
It runs on GNU/Linux, Mac, and Windows as a standalone program.
It’s generally well-designed and easy to use, and it offers everything you need, including a sequencer, an arpeggiator, and a poly LFO.
As a virtual analog synth, Helm blends elements such as multimode oscillators and resonant filters with a few more unusual features like a formant filter, tuneable feedback, and stutter effect.
This is hands down one of the best free VST plugins in the market, and it won’t let you down, regardless of your level of expertise.
4. Vital Audio Vital
Vital Audio Vital is probably one of the most advanced synth plugins on this list.
It’s a rather new wavelength synth in the market, providing a wide range of advanced features, such as audio rate modulation, stereo LFOs, multiple filter models, and MPE control.
The drawback is that it comes with a reduced library of source wavetables (25) and available presets (75).
If you decide to upgrade, you’ll also get additional skins and unlimited access to Vital’s unique text-to-wavetable feature
Nevertheless, the free version of Vital Audio Vital still has plenty to offer, and it’s a good way to start.
5. U-He TyrellN6
TyrellN6 by U-He is another popular free VST synth.
It’s based on characteristics of a hardware synth, featuring analog sound and improved features.
In fact, it’s based on a design similar to Roland’s classic Juno 60.
And it will provide you with all the basic tools for creating, such as VA oscillators, resonant filters, and ADSR envelopes.
TyrellN6 will undoubtedly meet your expectations, regardless of your level of experience.
After all, it’s made by U-He, a German developer known for developing some of the best synth plugins in the market.
If you want to use a U-He branded synthesizer plugin for free, you should also check out Zebralette.
Zebralette is free to download for Windows, and it’s also available for macOS and Linux.
It features 24 spectral effects including filter, sync, scatter, and phase distortion as well as polyphonic (up to 16 voices), monophonic, and legato modes.
It also comes with 300 factory presets and good modulation options.
Zebralette is a great introduction to Zebra2’s powerful oscillators, and it’s a top choice for music makers with a limited budget.
7. TAL Noisemaker
TAL-NoiseMaker is a virtual analog synthesizer worth checking out.
It’s an improved version of TAL-Elek7ro, featuring a completely new synth engine and numerous improvements in usability and sound.
Just like its predecessor, it has syncable oscillators and self-oscillating filters ideal for vintage basses and leads.
It has plenty of modulation options and effects such as reverb and delay.
And it provides amazing sound and power.
So if you’re looking for a sophisticated software synth you can get for free, you can’t go wrong with TAL-NoiseMaker.
8. DiscoDSP OB-Xd
DiscoDSP OB-Xd is another widely-used freeware synth.
It’s known for its excellent sound and ease of use.
In fact, this is an emulation of Tom Oberheim’s classic OB-X polysynth, building on it with a morphable filter design and voice variation controls.
It features a pair of detunable oscillators with unison, a noise generator, a couple of envelopes, an LFO, and a quality filter.
And it offers a vast collection of presets.
This is truly one of the best free virtual analog synths you can find.
9. Digital Suburban Dexed
Digital Suburban Dexed is another free synth you can explore.
It’s a multi-platform (OS X, Windows, or Linux) and multi-format (VST, AU, LV2) synth.
Digital Suburban Dexed is closely modeled on the Yamaha DX7, providing top-notch features based on the original DX7 characteristics.
This also allows you to load or export patches compatible with the DX7.
Also, this is an FM synth – FM synthesis involves modulating the frequency of one waveform with another waveform.
Although FM synths have a reputation for being a bit tricky to program, you shouldn’t have any difficulties with Digital Suburban Dexed.
That being said, Digital Suburban Dexed is a great budget choice for beginners and more experienced producers alike.
10. Cherry Audio Sines – Best affordable synth
When you feel ready to step up your game and invest in a synth plugin, we recommend checking out Cherry Audio Sines.
You can get this popular synth for only $39.
It’s available in AU, VST, VST3, AAX, and standalone formats, and it offers a variety of useful tools and features.
Thanks to its unique synthesis approach that combines a multitude of styles, Sines is often presented as an innovative original polyphonic synthesizer.
It’s based on four sine oscillators, and each oscillator comes with a variety of controls designed to shift, reshape and combine waves, allowing you to create more complex tones.
These oscillators can also modulate one another.
All things considered, if you want to get a budget-friendly VST synth plugin that will serve you well for a longer period of time, you should take Cherry Audio Sines into consideration.
What Are VST Synth Plugins?
Virtual Studio Technology (VST) is an audio plug-in software interface designed to integrate software synthesizers and effects units into DAWs.
So, it’s a type of virtual instrument that creates (synthesizes) sound.
Synthesis tools used to be very expensive, but they’re now available in your digital audio workstation.
There are different types of plugins though, and VST synth refers to a plugin you can use inside your DAW, on a MIDI channel.
This is arguably the most popular synth plugin on the PC, and it’s supported by almost all major DAWs.
But you may also encounter standards such as AAX and RTAS – they are specific to Avid’s Pro Tools software.
There are also different types of VST synth plugins you can get, as each VST synth plugin allows you to design sounds in a different way.
And what kind of VST synth plugin you should get depends on your needs and goals.
How to Choose the Right VST Synth Plugin
If you’re a beginner, choosing the right synth plugin for your home studio might be a bit challenging.
There’s actually a variety of VST synth plugins to choose from, including:
- Subtractive synth
- Additive synth
- Wavetable synth
- Modular synth
- Virtual Analogue synth
- Frequency Modulation (FM) synth
- Power synth
Besides digital wavetables, some synth plugins use wavetables and samples, some model old analog hardware, and others use frequency modulation.
Virtual analog synths emulate the specific sound of analog synths, so they’re usually based on vintage instruments.
Wavetable synthesis uses a layered sample as a sound source, while FM (or frequency modulation) synthesis uses complex modulation to shape the sound.
By the way, sample synthesis is a term used for a variety of approaches that use recorded audio as the primary sound source.
Either way, if you’re just starting out with music production, you should get an easy-to-use synth plugin.
The digital wavelength synth is probably the easiest to use, so it’s suitable for beginners.
Some synths have more features and advanced options, so they’re a great choice for more experienced producers.
But they also tend to be more expensive, and most of the free VST synth plugins we mentioned today are suitable for beginners.
Best Free VST Synth Plugins – Final Thoughts
Hopefully, our list of the best free VST plugins helped you find what you were looking for.
If you’re new to sound design, synth plugins can take you to a new creative world and help you turn your ideas into reality.
And since you can try them out for free – there’s really nothing to lose!
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