The future of music

10 Best Synth Plugins

December 29, 2023
best synth plugins

When it comes to music production, synth plugins can take you to a new creative world.

Whether you need something to upgrade your home studio or it’s time to replace your synth plugin, you’ve come to the right place.

Today we review the best synth plugins in the market.

We’ll point out their features and highlights so you can choose a synth plugin that suits you best. 

Let’s dig in!

1. Arturia Pigments – Best power synth plugin 

Arturia Pigments - Best power synth plugin 

Arturia Pigments is hands down one of the best synth plugins you can find.

It stands out from the crowd because of its multi-engine design – there’s virtual analog, sample/granular, wavetable, and additive.

That said, Arturia Pigments offers a lot of versatility, but it also offers a perfect blend of depth and accessibility.

It’s well-designed and reliable, and it will provide you with top performance and smooth workflow regardless of what type of project you want to use it for. 

So, it comes as no surprise that Arturia Pigments often makes it to the list of the best synth plugins in the market. 

Whether you’re an aspiring producer or a professional, this multifaceted plugin won’t let you down. 

2. u-he Diva – Best virtual analog synth 

u-he Diva - Best virtual analogue synth 

Developed by u-he Diva is probably the best-sounding analogue synth out there.

By recreating the host of classic synths, this eye-catching plugin will meet the needs of every ambitious producer and musician.

And thanks to its easy-to-use interface, it’s suitable for beginners as well.

Moreover, the Diva is very easy to handle, yet it has plenty to offer, especially in terms of the quality of the sound.

After all, this is a semi-modular faux analog synth that draws influence from a selection of legendary hardware instruments. 

It features top-notch oscillators, filters, and envelopes, so you can get a sound that is almost like the real deal – it’s hard to tell the difference, to be honest.

3. BA-1 BABY Audio – Best for a classic feel

BA-1 BABY Audio - Best for a classic feel

And if you’re looking for a synth plugin that combines a vintage feel with modern features, you should check out BA-1 BABY Audio.

This popular synth plugin is inspired by the iconic 80s Yamaha CS01 analog mono synth.

Some of the highlights and improvements include increased polyphony, a second blendable oscillator, and frequency modulation.

The sidechain input with Internal and External routing modes is another highlight, alongside the ‘Re-Gen’ button for patch creation.

And there’s a guitar-pedal-like overdrive and hardware tones for reverb, chorus, and delay.

However, some of the features have that unique vintage feel, such as the effects chain modeled after 1980s rack hardware and a resizable interface with a retro aesthetic.

All in all, BA-1 BABY Audio provides all the tools you need to create sounds and turn your vision into reality.

Plus, it’s really fun!

4. Xfer Records Serum – Best wavetable synth plugin

Xfer Records Serum - Best wavetable synth plugin

Xfer Records Serum is an advanced wavetable synth plugin available as VST, AU, and AAX 64bit.

It features customizable wavetable oscillators and a variety of unison tuning modes, presets, and tutorials.

You can stack a single oscillator to use up to 16 voices.

On top of that, there’s a real-time wavetable manipulation, so you can manipulate the waveform itself in a separate real-time process referred to as Warp. 

And the sound is simply amazing – if you’re looking for a punchy sound with animated basses, look no further than Xfer Records Serum.

In terms of functionality and efficiency, this reputable plugin provides visual and creative workflow.

All things considered, if you’re looking for a reliable synth plugin with advanced features, you should consider buying Serum. 

5. Cherry Audio GX-80 – Best vintage synth emulation

Cherry Audio GX-80 - Best vintage synth emulation

Although the Cherry Audio GX-80 may look intimidating at first glance, it’s definitely worthy of consideration.

This is arguably one of the best vintage synth emulations you can find.

And yes, it’s huge, but if you’re looking for a beautiful, authentic sound, you can’t go wrong with the GX-80.

The thing is, Cherry Audio combined the most sought-after synths of all time and created a powerful hybrid.

With support for all major plugin formats and standalone mode, it’s very convenient.

Just like with other modern synths, MIDI learn is implemented and managed via right clicks and the dedicated MIDI pop-out panel.

Last but not least, the GX-80 is also very affordable. 

6. Kilohearts Phase Plant – Best for flexibility

Kilohearts Phase Plant - Best for flexibility

Phase Plant is a multi-award-winning, semi-modular softsynth that offers top-quality processing, creative freedom, and an intuitive workflow.

And if you ask any music producer or sound designer, that’s a perfect combination.

With an array of generators, modulators, and effects, you can play with sounds and find your own original sound. 

And thanks to its open modular architecture, you’ll have the freedom to design anything from compact synths to complex evolving patches.

On top of that, there’s a wide range of presets for you to explore, and once you buy a license for any Kilohearts plugins, you will get all future updates for free. 

All in all, if you’re looking for a customizable and flexible synth plugin, this might be a great option for you. 

7. Applied Acoustics Chromaphone 3 – Best physical modeling synth 

Applied Acoustics Chromaphone 3 - Best physical modeling synth

If you believe you should get a physical modeling synthesis type of engine, you should check out Applied Acoustics 

Chromaphone 3 is a two-voice synthesizer based on eight physically modeled acoustic resonators.

It’s very versatile, and it’s good for both realistic emulation of instruments and more unusual sounds.

Its multi-layer design allows you to create more complex sounds.

There’s an individual effects setup for each layer, as well as a third effects chain for the master.

But this plugin is more approachable than other physical modeling synths, and you can use it with ease even if you’re a newcomer.

Nevertheless, Chromaphone 3 is probably best for producers with some experience, who can appreciate highlights like sonic depth and versatility.

8. Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2.8 – Best innovative synth plugin 

Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2.8 - Best innovative synth plugin 

Omnisphere is widely known as the flagship synthesizer of Spectrasonics.

With Omnisphere, you can rest assured you’ll get top performance and sound quality.

It’s a widely used synth plugin and award-winning software that will certainly meet your expectations.

One of the best things about this instrument is the Hardware Synth Integration feature, which makes using Omnisphere feel like using a hardware synth.

Other highlights of the Omnisphere 2.8 include an enhanced arpeggiator with an upgraded presets library, a new hardware sound library, and an expanded synthesis engine.

You can use your own audio file as a sound source,  and there are many creative tools for you to explore, including Granular Synthesis, Harmonia, and Innerspace.

Plus, there’s a newly redesigned, high-resolution interface with support for HiDPI displays. 

This is a truly innovative solution for creative producers who want to upgrade their studios. 

9. Cherry Audio Sines – Best on a budget 

 Cherry Audio Sines - Best on a budget 

Speaking of innovations, Sines is often presented as an innovative original polyphonic synthesizer. 

It stands out from its competitors because of its unique synthesis approach that combines a multitude of styles.

It is based on four sine oscillators, and each oscillator comes with a variety of controls designed to shift, reshape and combine waves.

This way, you can create authentic, complex tones that will enrich your tracks and mixes. 

These oscillators can also modulate one another, and that’s also very cool. 

Another reason why Cherry Audio Sines became so popular is the price – this is one of the cheapest synth plugins on this list. 

So if you’re looking for a budget-friendly synth plugin that offers great value, this might be a good option for you. 

10. NI Massive – Best for basses and leads 

NI Massive - Best for basses and leads 

Developed by Native Instruments, Massive is a commercial wavetable software synthesizer that is flexible in the studio as well as on stage.

It features a comprehensive library with 1,300 presets and macro controls that enable you to customize any of the presets.

The sound synthesis is based on a unique Wave Scanning algorithm, combining the highest sonic quality with flexibility.

Also, Massive comes with 85 specially designed wavetables, and each one comes with a unique combination of waveforms and particular sonic characteristics.

And there are several types of modulation sources that can be assigned to any of its parameters without hassle. 

All things considered, NI Massive has plenty to offer, and it’s an excellent choice for bass music and electro producers.

How to Choose the Right Synth Plugin

As you can see, there are many great synth plugins for you to explore.

But if you’re a beginner, choosing the right synth plugin for your home recording studio might be a bit challenging.

Generally, synth is designed to create (synthesize) sound – so, a synth plugin is a type of virtual instrument.

Now, a VST synth is a plugin you can use inside your DAW (digital audio workstation), on a MIDI channel.

This is arguably the most popular synth plugin on the PC, and it’s supported by almost all major DAWs (see my guide on the best DAWs).

But you may also encounter standards such as AAX and RTAS – they are specific to Avid’s Pro Tools software. 

music studio synths

There are also different types of VST synth plugins you can get.

Each VST synth plugin will allow you to design sounds in a different way, and each plugin comes with its pros and cons.

Depending on your needs and preferences, you can get:

  • Subtractive synth
  • Additive synth
  • Wavetable synth
  • Modular synth
  • Virtual Analogue synth
  • Frequency Modulation (FM) synth
  • Power synth 

Apart from 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.

To make things clearer, sample synthesis is a term used for a variety of approaches that use recorded audio as the primary sound source. 

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.

But some synths have more features and advanced options, so they’re a great choice for more experienced producers.

Either way, you need to determine what you want, explore all the options, and choose a synth that meets your needs. 

Best Synth Plugins – Final Thoughts 

The world of synth plugins might be a bit confusing for newcomers.

But once you figure out what type of synth plugin you need, everything will be easier.

Our list of the best synth plugins contains all kinds of products, from virtual analog to wavetable synths.

And all of the synths we reviewed today will provide you with top sound quality, smooth workflow, and the possibility to boost your creativity and improve your skills.

You may also like: Best Synthesizers

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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