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Best free virtual synths - part III

It's time for the last part of "Best free virtual synths" article - a subjective list of 10 freeware synths I find the most useful.

Green Oak Crystal
Since 2002, Green Oak Crystal has been present in almost every "Top free synths" article. So, how does it look almost 8 years later ? It's still a very good synth, maybe even better than ever. Finally, I can say that it uses a moderate amount of Cpu instead of huge :)
Crystal is one of the most complex freeware synths available. It offers semi-modular design with over 80 parameters, which can be modulated by Midi CC, six LFO's or six modulation envelopes. Each envelope can use up to 9 points available (so it's not a classic ADSR envelope). There are 3 oscillators (voices) available with up to 24 voice polyphony possible. It's worth mentioning that Crystal is available on Mac too. What about sound banks ? There are enough of them + Crystal can import Soundfont (SF2) files.

So it looks like eight years later, I still can't ignore it :) Maybe I'm not a huge fan of it (it's just there was always some another synth I had tons of fun with :) ) but even now it's packed with tons of features. It features subtractive and FM synthesis as well as wave sequencing, granular synthesis. There are built-in effects available such as chorus, flanger, delay unit. Program morphing is another great feature. One "breed" button clicked and you have a new sound.

Crystal is capable of creating a huge of sounds, but it's the best for evolving, ambient pads, textures etc.

What would I like to see improved ?

The GUI is user friendly for sure, it was great for 2002 standards but let's face it - it's (just like Cakewalk Z3ta+, for example) outdated. Plug in too small and the consequence is that there are too many tabs.

Kx77Free Kx-Modulad V2
Kx-Modulad is a free virtual analog modular synth. Even if all modulations are pre-connected (no cables on the GUI) it seems one of the most complex freeware synths available. Take a look at screenshot - it's packed with tons of knobs, buttons :) While almost everyone can use, for example, Crystal, the Kx-Modulad is definitely not for beginners.
There are two oscillators available - each contains two waveforms + sub-waveform, beetwen you can mix. There's also a WaveTracer tool available - waveform generator (based on additive syntesis) usable with Kx-Modulad's oscillators. And there's one stereo Soundfont (SF2) player unit.
I won't go deeper into details - it's a very complex synth which requires bigger knowledge than usually. It's up to you to decide whether you're able to tame it or not. There are 128 patches available that cover 70', 80' sounds and I must say, I like these presets a lot. The synth has natural warm, "analog" feeling and it's capable of creating unique analogue-like sounds.

What would I like to see improved ?
The GUI seems a bit overwhelming, especially when you'll discover that there are like 15 small subpages and every subpage contains like 10-12 knobs hehe :)
There's one more concern - Modulad seems quite CPU intensive. Probably that's the most CPU intensive plugin from the whole 10 plugins recommended.

H.G. Fortune AlioNoctis
This may be a little surprise but it's more like a tribute to H.G. Fortune which offers commercial synths as well as "limited", free versions. AlioNoctis is another vst instrument which doesn't look like typical subtractive 3-osc synth. It's described as "Sounds from the other world" and ... that's a very good description :) If you're looking for "out of this world" atmospheres, soundscapes, textures or pads then there's actually just Green Oak Crystal and ... whole palette of H.G. Fortune's plugins.
AlioNoctis offers three PCM-wave oscillators, each one powered by 128 waveforms. There are two resonant filters available and plenty of various modulations which can be randomized by LFO-s or manually thanks to nice X-Y Pads.
There are three banks, 64 presets each, available which is not much compared to ie. 2000 Synth1 presets ;) but on the other hand - there are mostly atmospheres, pads, soundscapes and PCM-waves oscillators can almost guarantee a fast creation of new presets. I like this synth since the first time I've tried it. It's indeed very easy to create nice evolving atmospheres, pads etc. and X-Y pads (used instead of standard modulation matrix for example) are giving a lot of fun.

What would I like to see improved ?
Free, limited version offers just 5 voices which is not much but it's still an improvement compared to other HGF plugins which usually offer 3-4 voices. I mean, it's totally understable because it's like a better version of demo version but ... six voices would be great hehe. Even if that's only limited version, it's still a very nice, pretty unusual synth.

Minimogue VA
I had a real problem here. Last slot but at least few plugins that deserve to be here :) This time I decided to forget about complexity, weirdness and focus more on just solid, quality stuff. As a result, I picked a successful analogue synth emulation attempt - Minimogue VA. It can be used, just like a real Minimoog, for leads, basses or fx sounds. Sure, it's not as perfect as Arturia Minimoog V plugin or GForce Minimonsta but still it's the best freeware minimoog emulation.
MinimogueVA comes with 128 presets + there are few soundbanks available on official website. It also offers some additional features not presenent in the hardware, such as, five voice polyphony, an Arpeggiator, 16-note Step sequencer.

What would I like to see improved ?
Well, since it's an emulation then I would love to see the overall sound improved, to make it even closer to the real synth. But to be honest - I'm not sure if it's possible in freeware world :) Commercial emulations are not so perfect too and Minimogue VA really does it's job pretty well.
I would like to see one GUI related feature: double click on knob (especially "frequency") sets the knob to it's neutral position.

Green Oak Crystal
Kx77Free Kx-Modulad V2
H.G. Fortune AlioNoctis
Minimogue VA

Best free virtual synths - Part IV

Previous articles:
Best free virtual synths - part I
Best free virtual synths - part II


Anonymous said...

good synths...

floomers said...

Minimogue is GREAT...warm sounding, I just love it!!
I tried Crystal several times, but never fell in love with...features are amazing and available presets are impressive, but this synth is not for me...

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for this list!

Anonymous said...

Maybe more soundbanks ? Why you don´t make ? I don´t understand that. Why u use synth if you don´t want to make new sounds. If you want to do that use a piano.

Anonymous said...

If the people don´t make new presets we will stuck in the 70s and music never change.

Greeg said...

Actually, Minimogue VA Factory Bank contains around 10-15 presets created by me :)

I disagree with your statement ("why use synth if you won't make new sounds"). Ie. Michael Jackson in Bad album did use factory presets from Roland D-50 so I think it's pretty important if synth brings good factory bank :)

Anonymous said...

ok in some points you´re right. a synth should have a few good presets as basics. but i think too much people use only presets for their tracks and take a preset here take one there an so on. if all synth synths wouldn have no presets it would have more a personal touch of every person. i hope you understand want i want to say. but anyway good site :) greetz

Greeg said...

I totally understand what you mean because creating presets is pretty much my hobby :). I love tweaking knobs, sliders - it really makes me feel relaxed :)

I agree that people generally should try to develop their own, unique sounds rather than just using existing ones.

and thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Thats good to hear. I love to tweak on synth and make new sounds as use them for tracks. i totally understand what u say you feel relaxed when you do it. i spend hours and hours with playing on synths. ok thats all for now.

Anonymous said...

Hi !
MiniMogueVA link (the whole site) is blocked by my Emsisoft Antimalwere guard, also McAfee..... I just wanted to get the 2.2 version (new 24 filter)......
Any news about this?

best regards, Panos

Anonymous said...

It is a bug in your antivirus software. There is no malware in it. Some antivirus software will see the custom modules as a threat, I dont know why, but the antivirus softare is to blame. It is a known issue between synth-edit developers. We try to report false positives to the companies.

All the best

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