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

Image-Line Drumaxx

There are only few percussion synthesizers available on the market. Most recognized freebies are MiniSpillage (Mac OSX only) and e-phonic Drumatic.
How about commercial stuff ? There's a whole pallette of D16's products - recreations of classic Roland drum machines and there's Sonic Charge MicroTonic (89 $), which a lot of producers seem to love.

2010 year seems to be a Drum / Percussion synths year. First Audio Damage released their new toy - Tatoo (79 $) and now we have another entry - Image-Line Drumaxx. It's a percussion modelling instrument which gives you total control over 16 physically modelled drums that can be routed to independent outputs for external effects processing. I didn't have enough time to fully explore it but it sounds very good and I love the workflow - was able to create interesting drums section very quick.

Best thing about it ? It's a quality product which can compete with other percussion synths but until 31th March 2010 it also offers amazing pricing model. I know it's February but so far it's the biggest bargain of the year :) You can pay what you think Drumaxx is worth with a minimum price set to 9 EUR / 13 $.

Previously, I was wondering: why do I need a drum / percussion synth if there are tons of drum samples ? First Ableton Collision (uses physical modeling technology to reproduce real-world instruments such as xylophones, marimbas and glockenspiels - it turned out to be a great instrument for these short blips, plucks we hear in Minimal / Tech House for example) changed my mind. Just like all of these percussion synths, it gives a lot of flexibility - which means a lot of new ideas and ... fun :) Grab the Drumaxx before the "promotion" is over.

ps. There are some bugs with Mac OSX version and Logic DAW so download demo and test it. More info here.

PRICE: minimum 9 EUR / 13 $ (until 31th March 2010)

More info: Image-Line Drumaxx

Digital Illusions - Wusikstation soundset released

Digital Illusions - a soundset for Wusikstation V5 comes with 63 dreamy, warm, with a small touch of analogue feel, presets suited for all kind of music genres.
All presets are available as WusikPRST files - native Wusikstation's preset format.

Just like my other releases, Digital Illusions soundset is available at unbeatable "price" - just donate any amount you want (if you have some moral problems with it then 5 $ will make me happy) and the soundbank is yours. Donations are used to keep vstcafe.com and designasound.com websites alive (aye, and a little bit of beer :) ).
Please allow up to 24 hours for donation processing.

Don't forget to download and test free, demo soundbank (which contains 14 presets) as Digital Illusions requires some Wusik SoundSet files.

Each demo sound is produced by one instance of Wusikstation - no presets layering, no external effects used

More info: Digital Illusions - Wusikstation V5 Soundset

Casio CZ-101 & Novation X-Station Free Samples

Xavier from www.plasticalien.com has released two sample packs. The first one contains 21 free Casio CZ-101 sounds, recorded in 24-bit, separated into bass, leads, pads and drums. The second has 30 Novation X-Station 24-bit sounds separated into bass, leads, pads and drums. Overall, that's more than 200 mb samples.

Download: plasticalien.com

Making the Prodigy - Voodoo People

Remember amazing "Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up" Ableton Live recreation made by Jim Pavloff ? It's time for another track: "Voodoo People" :) Respect to Jim Pavloff for finding samples and putting this all together, and of course respect to Prodigy - they use sampling in very creative manner.

ps. These videos are perfect Ableton Live software promotion :)


Fighting frequencies

Jason, from musicsoftwaretraining.com has created pretty nice video tutorial about fighting frequencies.
One of the most frustrating subjects for someone who is new to mixing music (or even intermediate), is how to deal with fighting frequencies. Fighting frequencies occur when you have 2 or more parts in a song fighting for the same frequency range. This causes one or both or those parts to lose their clarity, punch and impact. Some common examples are Kick drum and Bass, Guitars and vocals but conflict can happen pretty much with anything. Without properly addressing the problem you aren’t likely to end up with a professional sounding mixdown.

ps. If you're sidechain freak ;) then you can download 29 band sidechain compressor rack (for Ableton Live). Each band has it's own sidechain compressor available. This gives the ability to sidechain more than one frequency range from the instrument. Pretty clever :)

More info: Fighting frequencies and a 29 band sidechain compressor

Synthesis Made Simple - Waveformless Tutorials

Synthesis Made Simple is a guide (it contains 12 parts) dedicated to synthesis, synth programming, published on Waveformless blog. It covers basic aspects of synth programming such as: waveforms, oscillators, noise generators, filters, modulation, envelopes etc. but of course more advanced readers will find it very informative too.

This isn't aimed at teaching you everything about synth programming. It's just meant to help people who haven't tried making their own sounds get a basic understanding of the concepts in an easier to understand format than the sometimes cryptic manuals some synths come with.

More info: Waveformless - Synthesis Made Simple

Free Wave Alchemy samples for CM blog readers

If you need Minimal, Tech House drum samples, just head to Computer Music blog - there are 150 royalty free samples waiting for you :)
It's a small snippet from Wave Alchemy's commercial sound library - Drum Tools 01 – Minimal Techno & Tech House which contains 1950 samples.

Definitely, a quality stuff worth downloading.

More info: Computer Music blog

1 Year Anniversary

Yep, on 21th February 2009 Vst Cafe started so it looks like we have a 1 Year Anniversary :) Honestly, I wasn't a fan of blogging. It seemed weird - I mean, who would want to read some crap produced by one person ? ;) But somehow I realised that blogging can be funny, even for non native english speaking guy.

Vst Cafe "database" contains 68 Vst Instruments. Now I know that while it's quite easy to pick 10-20 best, free soft synths, it's much harder to introduce more plugins without turning the site into some kind of "best 10000 plugins" list ;) Selecting vst effects is even bigger challenge because, well during this year, I learnt a lot just by reviewing plugins but I'm not a professional. Effects require much more knowledge (at least that's my opinion :p) because there are so many of them - reverbs, delays, distortions, compressors, limiters etc. My goal is not to "overload" each category. That's why there are only three limiters, five reverbs and so on.

Sorry, that if I write about DAWs, it's 99 % about Ableton Live - it's just I use it all the time, I know it pretty well. I have quite good comparison with Computer Music / Future Music included tutorials and also I subscribe Sonicacademy.com tutorials so I can judge Ableton Live tutorials properly. Introducing tutorials for other DAWs would be too random...

I think about moving to wordpress but I'm not sure if I can handle it. Converting posts into wordpress seems boring and requires tons of work ;). Maybe someone has some experience with it ? But it's my fault - since the beginning I've planned to pick wordpress but was too lazy to setup it and buy hosting :D Blogger was quicker to setup hehe. On the other hand I wasn't expecting that I'll become addicted blogger ;)

Overall, I hope that you like the blog. If you feel that some plugins are missing, just comment or mail me. Also if you're "commercial" developer and you think that your product fits "Value for money" category - contact me. When I review instruments I usually look for two things: sound quality, something unique, unusual. Of course, it's all subjective. There are many subtractive synths so the selection is naturally pretty strict here. If some category (ie. Synthesized Drum Synths) lacks plugins then my selection is less strict.
About something unique, unusual. Hmmm. Sometimes it's about features (ie. MassTurboTar's ability to morph between presets, or FM modulation knob merged into "oscillator knob"), sometimes it's about presets (ie. latest addition - VOPM VSTi; I mean ~ 10000 sounds from old 16-bit Sega Genesis/Megadrive games requires some attention) and sometimes it's about fun factor (ie. Elektrostudio plugins) :)

Anyway, I'll drink for Vst Cafe today. One beer but still... :D

KVR Audio Ten Year Celebration

In February 2010, KVR Audio is celebrating 10 years as the number one news and information resource for audio plug-ins. To mark this special occasion they are having a huge giveaway contest for the whole year (until the end of Jan 2011)! Every month they'll give away a prize from a major software developer, gear manufacturer or educational institution.

All you have to do is fill out our quick survey once and you will be entered into the prize draw with the chance to win one of the prizes every month! And, of course, you have a chance to learn a little bit about KVR history :)
I (Ben Turl) started KVR Audio Plugin Resources in February 2000 for something to do to pass the time, and to teach myself this web design malarkey ;) VST Instruments (Virtual Studio Technology Instrument - VSTi) burst on to the scene in late 1999 with the introduction of version 2.0 of Steinberg's VST SDK and the release of Cubase VST v3.7, the first VST 2.0 host. My initial plan was to upload a few banks of patches for the nascent VSTi scene, Neon, Atom, er, LM-4, the SC plugs and maybe add a few more every now and then...

More info: KVR Audio Ten Year Celebration

VOPM VSTi - Yamaha YM2151 Chip Emulation

VOPM soft synth is an emulation of the Yamaha YM2151 (OPM) four-operator FM sound chip. OPM chip was popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. Videogame fans will most likely be familiar with the Sega Genesis (Megadrive), whose sound chip is a slight variation on the OPM - the OPN. The chip has also been used in countless arcade games including Paperboy, Outrun, Metal Slugs 1-5, and Street Fighter II.

Originally VOPM offers few soundbanks nicely grouped. There are basses, bells, pianos etc. There are more than 300 presets but it's just the beginning :) One of the KvrAudio forum members converted tons of Sega Genesis/Mega Drive VGM soundtracks into OPM format which can be imported into VOPM synth :) Since the zip file contains around 10 000 soundtracks, and each track uses few sounds, it translates into thousands of new chip 16-bit / 8-bit sounds :)

VOPM doesn't offer any effects like reverb or delay - just use external plugins :)

VOPM Audio Demo:

Download: Official VOPM Website (japanese)
Link 1: OPM Soundtracks
Link 2: KvrAudio VOPM / OPM topic

Rhythmic Gating in Ableton Live

In this video tutorial, you'll learn how to use "dummy clips", in Ableton Live, to create automated gated patterns and add interesting, complex rhythms to your pads or lead sounds. Great tutorial :)


Togeo Studios – Simple Synths Bundle

Togeo Studios has released a compilation package bundle of their products from 2008-2009. The bundle contains 2269 instrument presets, 480 samples and weights 247 Mb unpacked. Overall, it's huge sound library with a large assortment of drums, basses, synths, keys, leads, pads and atmospheric soundscapes that will be the inspiration for many new musical creations.

It's repacked as a single Live pack so it will install automatically into your Ableton library.

Download: togeostudios.com

37 Music Production Tips by MusicRadar

37 Music Production Tips from experienced professionals, that originally appeared in Computer Music and Future Music magazines.

Liam Howlett, Prodigy
"Buy Superman albums. Y'know, big theme tunes from films. You get a horn section playing a chord and just sample a short section of that. If I hear a chord I like I sample it."
Not a rocket science, but still pretty nice article... ;)

More info: http://www.musicradar.com

Roland JP-8000

The Roland JP-8000 is an analog modeling synthesizer released by the Roland in 1997 to compete with many other analog modeling synthesizers of the period such as the Access Virus and Clavia Nord Lead.
It combined the fat, powerful sounds associated with vintage analog synths with the flexibility of digital technology and MIDI.

The JP-8000 had several features that differed it from other analog modeling synthesizers of the time. Most notably, Roland's unique oscillator types ("Feedback" and "Supersaw") and the use of sliders instead of knobs to edit patch parameters. The idea behind the Supersaw is to emulate the sound of more than one sawtooth oscillator using just one oscillator. The waveform is described as a freerun oscillator and it's shape is produced from 7 sawtooth oscillators detuned against each other over a period of time.

Just like the legendary TB-303 was characteristic for Acid styles, the JP-8000 was very popular in certain subgenres of Trance music called "Epic Trance", "Anthem Trance" (and also Euro Dance music).

Of course, it would be very wrong to limit the appeal of this synth to the Super Saw - JP-8000 is a fantastic, all round performer, capable of a myriad of beautiful, innovative and powerful sounds.

It's just trance producers abused it to create far too many, similar euro dance, trance leads, pads...

... but I still love that typical trance "epic pad" at 0:28 :)

Tony's Chords Session File for Ableton Live

"In music theory, the circle of fifths (or circle of fourths) shows the relationships among the twelve tones of the chromatic scale, their corresponding key signatures, and the associated major and minor keys. More specifically, it is a geometrical representation of relationships among the 12 pitch classes of the chromatic scale in pitch class space. Musicians and composers use the circle of fifths to understand and describe those relationships.
The circle's design is helpful in composing and harmonizing melodies, building chords, and moving to different keys within a composition."

Tony's Chords Ableton Session File is just a container for many midi clips organized around the circle of fifths. An author uses it as a reference and a compositional aid. Every note's major and minor key are described by the I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII and VIII chords that are grouped under it's heading. The chords grouped under each heading all sound good in that track's key.

Why is it so useful ? Well, in Ableton you can preview midi clips of one project and drag & drop them to another (ie. the one you're working at), you can map the chords to your midi controller - so it's quite intuitive and it can help those who are not so musically skilled ;)

ps. The Video quality is not the best one, but at least you'll get an idea how to use this session file.

Download: Tony's Chords Session File for Ableton Live

Poise Drum Sampler

Drum Synths, Drum Samplers, Step Sequencers, Loop Workstations - Vst Cafe doesn't shine here ;) Well, I have a good reason - quality stuff is pretty much commercial and expensive.
Short example:

# FXpansion GURU (249 $) - complete Loop Workstation with advanced beat slicing, step sequencing, sample editing and other features.
# Native Instruments Battery (179 EUR) - state of the art Drum Sampler.
# Linplug RMV (139 EUR) - drum synth & drum sampler with huge sampled and synthesized drum library.
# Audio Damage Tattoo (79 $) - latest drum synth (no samples, drums are synthesized) & sequencer with strong randomization features. Nice value compared to price.
# FXpansion DR008 (99 $) - 8 year old :) but still powerful drum sampler & drum synth with 96 pads.
# Ableton Impulse / Drum Rack - intuitive and user friendly drum samplers available only for Ableton fanboys ;)

All of these plugins are top quality but at the same time they're expensive. How about free stuff, then ?

# E-Phonic Drumatic 3 - nice free drum alternative (but much more limited) for Sonic Charge Microtonic drum synth.
# Tatapoum 4 - drum sampler with quite strong step sequencing features. Actually, it nicely surprised me when I first tested it.

There's also Computer SR-202 distributed freely with Computer Music magazine, there's Odo DR-Fusion drum sampler and that's pretty much it.

Are there any 'Akai MPC series' software clones ? :) You know, 16 pads, amazing workflow, good features, pure fun ? There is one option, quite unknown to be honest. It's Poise, from One Small Clue, 16 Drum pads sampler, heavily inspired by Akai MPC series. The official website states:
"Direct, straightforward, no frills and no bloat! Poise aims to make working with drum samples quick and painless, allowing you to focus on making music. "
and it's all true. Poise was designed to be quick, intuitive, powerful (and at the same time simple) and painless alternative for these "big" loop workstations.

First - GUI. Not too big and not too small. It's very clean and it's skinnable. I like the dark one skin but I'm sure that you'll find the one you like (ie. with white background). Overall, design gives nice feeling.
Sample Browser is the first thing that got my attention because "small details" start here :). All you need to do is to use "add folder" option, choose your drum samples folder and you're set. Then you can drag & drop samples (Poise supports WAV, AIF, SND formats) on the drum pad and have some fun. So, where are the "small details" ? :) Each folder is opened with one click not double click. You can quickly preview each sample thanks to included preview function - there's even a knob to set the volume preview...

Bigger details ? Layers. Just drag and drop up to 8 samples per drum pad and play them in round robin, random, layered or velocity switching mode. Isn't it great ???! Another one ? Outputs. There are up to 16 outputs, so you can route (send) each pad to it's own channel bus (in your DAW) and add a touch of reverb or compression. This is really huge. As Ableton user, I use this feature all the time with Ableton Drum Rack.

Going back to small details. Each layer on a pad can be tweaked separately or grouped. You can copy or swap one pad to another. There are hotkeys available (turned off by default) to improve the navigation even more, ie. F5 Opens/Closes browser.

There are of course sample editing features like Amp Envelope, Pitch Envelope. You can change the overall volume, balance, pitch of each layer. There are effects available: Distortion, Low Pass / High Pass Filter and Ring Modulation. There's also small and neat "reverse" sample option.

I was trying to find some weak sides but it's not that easy - Poise is a complete drum sampler :) It comes with 30 drum kits - honestly, I don't know if they're good or bad because I used my own samples all the time :) You can load / save your custom drum kits using Poise DKT format. Well, there's one downside - it's Windows only plugin.

Here's a nice video (I'm not the author) which covers most of Poise features.

Ahh, almost forgot ;) The price. It costs 49 $ which I belive is very fair price. We have a quite unique plugin here. All Akai MPC lovers will love Poise and those who never tried such workflow will find it great too. Up to 8 samples / layers per pad is really an amazing feature. Poise definitely has great value compared to price. If you're still not sure, there's demo version available.

PRICE: 49 $

More info: One Small Clue - Poise

Rhythm Lab Twin Delay Plugin

Rhythm Lab Twin Delay is a nice delay unit with few unique features. It was designed to create beautiful and original delays, frequently used in such genres as IDM, Experimental, Breaks and especially Dub, as well as genres that use Dub elements: Dub techno, Dubstep, Dubwise and etc.

Twin Delay offers standard delay (four algorithms) effect synced / unsynced with the host tempo, ping pong delay with possiblity to choose the starting point (left or right channel) and some filtering options (Low- and High- Pass Filter).
Additional features are:
1. Smooth knob which softens the attack of delayed sound
2. Drive knob which emulates lamp overdrive.
3. I like "channel delay" option quite a lot. It is possible to set each channel to ie. 1/4 (which results in mono signal, if we don't use ping-pong) and additionally set the delay between the left and right channel. I must admit that I haven't seen such feature in any free delay plugin.

Overall, Twin Delay is a nice alternative for ie. Classic Kjaerhus Delay. If you know any other free (and of course good) delay plugins - use comments :)

ps. Be careful with feedback group of controls (Feedback and Cross-Feedback knob) - setting them to maximum can result in excessive high signal buildup. Or you can, just like me, learn one lesson - during plugin testing use Brick wall limiter on your Master Bus :)

Download: Rhythm Lab Twin Delay

10 198 Royalty Free Sampler - Music Radar

SampleRadar is MusicRadar's weekly giveaway of pro-quality, royalty-free samples (you can use them in your music in any way you like). Currently there are 10 198, 24-bit WAV samples available but the library is getting bigger and bigger :) The latest addition is 316 "Parisian-style" samples.

All the samples originally appeared on either a Computer Music or Future Music magazine cover disc. Really, worthy download :)

Download: Sample Radar (10 198 Samples)

Paul's Extreme Sound Stretch

Paul's Extreme Sound Stretch is a small but neat tool which can transform any music (ogg and mp3 format) into looong textures, atmospheres, ambient pads etc. It produces high quality extreme sound stretching of the audio (like 50x) and applies special effects by "spectral smoothing" the sound. If you want "less extreme" time stretching - use other programs.

It really works nicely for some genres, ie. stretching classical music (an author even found some small errors on choirs ;) ).

Download: Paul's Extreme Sound Stretch

ps. Ondrej - thanks for this tip :)

Daft Punk - High Life Remake

Remember The Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" Ableton remake ?
Creativity + power of sampling = ? Amazing tune.

Time for another video presenting some sampling skills.
It's legendary French duo: Daft Punk - High Life. Original tune (the original sample is: Tavares - Break Down For Love) here:

and then a Ableton remake by Lionel Bonnaz

Imagine doing such things 5-10 years ago. Hours of sampling, tweaking, tons of hardware. Now, all you need is just a software...

20 Ableton Live Tips & Tricks in 8 Minutes

These Tips & Tricks are actually usable :) Grain delay, merging projects, grouping and routing tracks and lot more. Amazing video...