Synth Britannia - 1:30h video

Depeche Mode, OMD, Pet Shop Boys - Synth Pop generation documentary Watch

15 interesting synths

Virtual synths that somehow went under the radar Read article

NI Kontakt instruments

Free and affordable NI Kontakt libraries Read more

Sylenth EDM Soundset

165 modern presets, created by me, for Lennar Digital Sylenth synth. Visit

400 Modern presets for V-Station

Tons of presets that will bring a new life to the Novation V-Station synth Visit

Cakewalk Z3ta+ 2 presets

155 Synth / lead and bass presets inspired by many modern electronica genres. Visit

Free Organ synths / samples

Best, free organ synths / multisamples Read more

Soft Synths released in 2011

Interesting soft synths released in 2011 Read more

Free String Machine vsts

Freeware String Machine plugins Read more

Best free virtual synths

“Best free virtual synths” article is a subjective list of freeware synths I find the most useful. No samplers, romplers, effects – just pure synths (subtractive, fm, additive etc.).

I’ll try to write down some attributes I value the most (random order):
# Overall quality (some synths don’t bring anything new on the table but they’re extremely well developed – ie. Lennar Digital Sylenth)
# Unique features
# Presets (Quality and Amount)
# Fun factor (some synths almost invite you to use them)
# GUI design (no, it’s not about shining knobs 😉 It’s about utility )
# CPU usage

Synth 1

Released in 2002 (and updated till 2006), the Synth1 is still one of the greatest free virtual synths ever.

Inspired by the Clavia Nord Lead 2 Red Synth, this subtractive VA synth is packed with many features such as FM modulation, Ring modulation, Sync, Unison, as well as effects such as EQ, Delay, Chorus / Flanger, Distortion. Two oscillators are enough to create a wide range of sounds – currently there are more than 9000 of presets available to download !!!

Most freeware synths offer 6 or 8 voice polyphony but not Synth1 – it has 16 voice polyphony. Very low cpu usage is another reason to take a closer look at this synth. It’s much lower than all SynthEdit made plugins. You can easily run few instances of this softsynth and still you’ll have plenty of CPU left for another actions.

What would I like to see improved ?
A little bit too small, and too crowdy GUI. Mainly that’s because, this synth received quite a lot of features over time. Well, if you’re using pretty oldschool audio workstation then this small GUI may be an advantage.

+ Very low CPU usage
+ Huge presets library
+ 16 voice poly
+ Lots of effects
– Seems not developed anymore


Fuzzpilz Oatmeal

I remember the time when Fuzzpilz Oatmeal‘s author released this synth and wrote a note about it on KVR Audio forum. It was pretty much like: “here’s my mediocre synth”. While the GUI was indeed mediocre, the features were great – especially ability to draw your own waveforms and use them in Oscillator was rather unusual.

During time, Oatmeal, thanks to skin designers, received a new, skinned “face” which not only looks much better than original but also improves usability. Fuzzpilz Oatmeal has probably the second biggest patch library available – just after Synth1 plugin. Well, I didn’t count because there are so many soundbanks ;). It’s good that actually all skins, all soundbanks are packed into one zip file.

Generally there are two oscillators with ability to use custom drawed waveforms. There are all basic effects available such as delay, reverb, chorus, distortion unit as well as nicely done 5 band EQ.

The biggest weapon of this synth is 32 voice polyphony and up to 16 voices chorus and unison units which actually make this synth nicely suited for all kind of pads for example. It uses not much CPU so you can for example layer it…

What would I like to see improved ?
It’s pretty complete 2 Oscillators synth. It has nice preset library, it has plenty of effects available, nice modulation possibilities. Synth1 seems to be the most popular freeware synth but I recognize Fuzzpilz Oatmeal as quite similar and overall really strong challenger with it’s own character.

+ 32 voice polyphony
+ Huge preset library
+ Fully skinnable
– Default GUI is awful 🙂


U-He Tyrell N6

Designed by Amazona.de online magazine readers and then programmed by Urs Heckmann (yep, the same guy who developed award winner U-He Zebra synth), U-He Tyrell N6 almost instantly gained fame in the freeware world. Why ? Because it’s the true gem – professional sound quality, more than 500 presets and some very interesting features. Also, great preset browser is worth mentioning – it’s probably the best preset browser freeware plugins ever had.

What would I like to see improved ?
It’s quite CPU intensive. If you have Quad CPU then ok, but if you have some older Intel Core 2 Duo then most presets easily take more than 20 % of CPU. But it’s the sound quality we’re paying for. Most DAW applications offer options such as freeze which reduce CPU usage a lot.

Also, from sound designer perspective, I would love to see some effects included such as Reverb, Chorus but on the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with using external effects.

+ sound quality
+ very good preset browser
+ MAC available
+ pretty damn unique synth
– high CPU usage
– lack of effects (reverb, chorus etc.)


U-He Zebralette

Another great freebie developed by Urs Heckmann. It’s just one of Zebra2’s oscillators packed into some nice features (3 effects, multi stage envelope + LFOs) + clean GUI. By default, Zebralette offers around 170 presets but we can easily find some more patches because Zebra2 patches … can be imported. Of course the sound will be different, limited to one oscillator but still, it gives plenty of sounds 🙂

Zebralette (especially compared to u-he Tyrell or ACE) is low CPU hungry. Overall, don’t be fooled by only one oscillator. It’s the best oscillator in freeware world perfectly enouh to create some amazing sounds, for example there are few amazing pad presets. And of course the sound quality is lovely…

What would I like to see improved ?
Seriously, it’s a complete synth. I would like to have just another oscillator 😀

+ very good preset browser
+ MAC available
+ very powerful and lovely sounding oscillator
+ resizable GUI
– ?


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.

+ Mac available
+ 24 voices polyphony
+ Program morphing
– moderate CPU usage
– small GUI


Morfiki MassTurboTar

Morfiki can always come up with something interesting and creative. First their Redu(p)cer – very nice vst effect focused on signal degradation, destruction and then MassTurboTar – hybrid synthesizer.
Unique feature ? Morphing capabilities. The basic goal is to let you manipulate your sound easily. How does it work ? Every preset has up to five so called MORFIKI sub-presets. Thanks to “morph” knob, you can morph between these sub-presets. It’s very easy, very intuivite (and fun too :D) and actually it helps to quickly create (almost instantly) interesting presets.

I really like the FM Modulation functionality merged into one knob along with Oscillator’s Waveforms. It’s amazingly easy to create nice presets just by tweaking 2-3 knobs (Osc1 Ctrl, Osc2 + Morph knob). Clean design, low CPU, very intuitive. I think that everyone who likes creative synths should try MassTurboTar – it just brings a lot of fun.

I guess it’s worth mentioning that MassTurboTar in yearly KVR Audio Developer Challenge 2009 (ended on December 2009) reached 5th place in general classification and it was a 2nd best synthesizer.

What would I like to see improved ?
More presets. Such synth requires more than 64 presets 🙂

+ very easy to create new, interesting sounds
+ fun
+ good GUI
– 64 presets only. We need More 🙂


Jeremy Evers Atlantis

Jeremy Evers Atlantis is a real monstersynth in the freeware world. It offers 3 oscillators with 15 wavetables and possibility to load custom single cycle waveforms. Not enough ? Add waveshaping possibilities such as morphing between two waveforms, offset, phasing plus everything nicely shown on the oscillator panel and you’ll receive a synth which is somewhere between Audjoo Helix and Cakewalk Z3ta+.

No other synth in the freeware world can match Atlantis in the terms of available effects. Shaper section allows to pick compressor, limiter, reverb and few kinds of distortion. There’s a delay section and four other slots where you can put filter (almost 50 different filters available !), phaser, flanger, chorus etc.
I also like randomizer option – you can set random filter, osc, delay, modulations or just click random all button and pray for new, usable sound 🙂
Those who tried Jeremy Evers Atlantis long time ago and didn’t like the GUI (I didn’t like too) should try this synth again. The GUI is now fully skinnable and thanks to some nice skins it looks like commercial products.

What would I like to see improved ?
I would organise this synth a little bit different. Presets are not included in default atlantis.zip package – you need to download an additional file which contains around 200 presets (and it’s actually pretty hard to find an info where to actually unpack this file) in ats format (you can use fxb, fxp files too). But this ats format means that you need to load every single preset over and over. No simple scrolling to the next / previous preset. Whole presets library organised into fxb file would improve the usability a lot.

Also I don’t like the default preset. It has all 4 filters enabled and as a result it eats 10 % of my CPU 🙂 Just disable them and everything is going back to normal.

+ Loading custom wavetables
+ Waveshaping
+ Huge list of effects
+ Randomizer
– Default skin
– Unfriendly patch management


TAL Elek7ro

TAL Elek7ro naturally seems to be a nice bass synth and it’s features confirm that. Basic waveforms (Sine, Triangle, Saw, Square), 2 Oscillators, additional sub-oscillator (and noise osc), FM modulation, Hard-sync – everything you need to create nice Elek7ro bass 🙂

Overall, I must admit that I’m not 100 % convinced with TAL Elek7ro. Mainly that’s because, I know that Patrick is great developer and he can develope much better plugins (+ I really didn’t like the filters). Maybe my expectations were too high ? 😉 After all, in the freeware world it’s still a very good plugin. It’s worth noting that this plugin is available for MAC.

There are no effects available – no chorus, delay, reverb, EQ. I would love to see at least delay. Equalizer would be great too – well, at least there’s an additional HighPass filter which helps to shape the sound a little bit. The GUI looks and feels great – very good plugin for starters to learn about subtractive synthesis

What would I like to see improved ?
Well, at the beginning TAL Elek7ro sound quality was pretty bad. Mainly because of filters – I didn’t like them at all. 12db & 18db filters sounded just poor and muddy. Luckily, version 1.20 introduced two additional filters – especially filter based on previous plugin U-No-62 called “U-No-62 24db” filter is rather big sound quality improvement. While the sound is noticably brighter, there’s one downside: none of the factory presets (around 120 presets) use this improved filter. But I’m sure it’ll change soon…

Update: there is an improved version of TAL Elek7ro called NoiseMaker.

+ MAC Available
+ Quite nice Hard-Sync
+ nice LFO routing options
– Presets based on old version filters


Elektrostudio Or2v

It’s time for the first audio plugin which tries to recreate some famous, old analog synthesizer. In 1975, Oberheim company created their Oberheim Two Voice synthesizer and achieved polyphonic sound not yet seen in ARP and Moog gear. The major drawback and actually something that makes this synth unique now is that polyphony was achieved by having multiple modules. What does it mean ? Each voice has it’s own filter, own envelopes, own portamento – it needs to be independently programmed. Definitely not the easiest synth to play real-time. Imagine doing filter sweeps for example – it’s almost like you’ll need a third hand 🙂

Who played this synth ? Mostly some unknown artists – the guy named Vangelis and the other one. What was his name ? Hmm Vince Clarke :))

Thanks to Elektrostudio Or2V plugin you have a chance now to challenge this two voice analogue beast. There are, just like in original hardware synth, two independent Synthesizer Expander Modules hard-wired together and voila – your 2 voice synth is ready. Each voice has it’s own 2 oscillators, 2 envelopes, portamento. Both share the same sequencer + Robert added some features such as delay and possibility to pan each voice. There are 64 presets available, not many, but enough to have fun.

One thing I really like about Elektrostudio plugin(s) is that they’re extremely playable. I mean, you don’t have hundreds of options but actually every knob “means” something. You turn the knob, and there’s an instant effect. All you need to do is just – open the plugin and … have fun 🙂

If you expect to find a synth packed with XXI century features then maybe it’s a better idea to pick for example FXpansion DCAM SynthSquad but if you just want to play, want to “feel” the history and at the same time have a lot of fun – download Elektrostudio plugins because this actually applies to whole pack of 10 plugins which recreate famous analogue synths. I’m not saying that this synth is the best. The sound is not 100 % same as hardware – to be honest, quite often it can be totally different. It’s also not a monstersynth which can be used in your every tune, because it has just 2 voices. But in this case it’s about feeling 🙂

What would I like to see improved ?
Well, it was updated on 14 October so I’ll just say that everything seems ok and works ok with my Ableton Live DAW 🙂

+ Extremely fun to play with
+ I almost feel the touch of history
– Need more presets, more presets


Ugo Rez

VA monosynth just with one Oscillator and sub oscillator doesn’t seem to be enough but … it does it’s job pretty well 🙂 There are 256 presets available – quite wide range of sounds. Actually I’m stunned that you can achieve all of this just with one Oscillator.

The main secret weapon is an amazing resonant lowpass filter (and phaser) which can create screaming leads, mad basses etc. Personally, I think that Ugo Rez audio plugin has the best filter a freeware synth world has ever seen 🙂

Since Ugo Rez is a monosynth and it has this great resonant filter, it’s suited best for all kind of wicked, aggressive, screaming sounds…

What would I like to see improved ?
Actually, I would love to see a cloned version of this synth just with another oscillator added 🙂

+ Amazing resonant LP filter
– One osc is limitating for sure



I didn’t put KX-Synth-X16 in my initial “the best of” list because of one thing – Midi CC automation didn’t work properly for most pins / knobs + I knew that developer is working on it 🙂 During that time, an author released two updates and the current version has a prefix V3.
KX-Synth-X16 is inspired by EMS VCS3 – portable analog synthesizer with a flexible semi-modular voice architecture, initially made in 1969 by Peter Zinovieff’s EMS company. KX-Synth-X16 has three variable shape oscillators and noise generator. It also has very usable X-Y Joystick but the main feature is huge matrix with 256 pins available to adjust the modulations.
One thing I like the most in KX-Synth-X16 – it’s a creative, free synth. Even If you don’t understand 90 % of pins, you can just randomly put some here and there, and you’ll end up with great, unique sound you would never achieve in other synth. Everytime I use X16, I have a feeling like I’m touching the history – which means big modular synths and truly analog feeling.

It’s probably the best free synth in the old, semi-modular virtual synths area. There are 128 presets available and each preset fits X16 perfectly.

What would I like to see improved ?
CPU usage is still noticeable higher than simple subtractive synths but an author worked very hard to improve it, and there are effects. I have XILS3 LE, commercial plugin which is also an emulation of EMS VCS3 and the CPU consumption is similar to X16. So, I would say it’s much better than it was few months ago and it’s actually pretty acceptable 🙂

+ unique synth architecture in the freeware world
+ love that old, analog feeling
+ quality presets
– little bit complicated for beginners


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.

+ Analog, modular feeling
+ Nice presets
– CPU intensive
– Crowdy GUI


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.

+ Best free Minimoog emulation
+ Nice filter
– Maybe more soundbanks ?


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.

+ X-Y pads
– Only 5 voices in free version


Elektrostudio Sixth Month June

Sixth Month June is inspired by Roland Juno-6 – the first in a series of quality synthesizers from Roland’s amazing JUNO, a six voice polyphonic analog synthesizer. It’s an inspiration, not an emulation so Sixth Month June does not necessary sound like Juno 😉 It also has some features added like unison, delay unit but I don’t see any problem here. I belive this freebie brings it’s own, unique flavour on the table. There are 64 presets available – all very playable. Actually all Elektrostudio plugins are about playability, about some fun and Sixth Month June is a great example. It’s just … I like it 🙂

Ok, so far there’s MassTurboTar with some creative design introduced (morphing). There’s KX-16 with some advanced synth architecture and nice, old analog feeling. What does Sixth Month June bring ? Hardware feeling. It’s like during 80′. You bought a synth and you just played it 🙂 Sixth Month June is the same. It’s about using it, playing. It’s extremely playable just like other Elektrostudio plugins.

While not everyone may appreciate it, there’s certainly something about this plugin.

What would I like to see improved ?
Honestly, I don’t know. It feels pretty completed synth. You’ll like it or not 🙂 Maybe a lack of presets (there are 64 presets only).

+ low CPU
+ very playable
– 64 presets only