There are hundreds, if not thousands of VSTs out there, all with different shapes, sounds and price tags. Luckily for those on a budget, there are just as many free alternatives but like their paid-for pals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and end up with a hard drive full of instruments and FX that you never use. We’re here to help with our round up of the best free synths you can download right now that will give any VST – free or otherwise – a solid run for their money.
Togu Audio Line are legends in the plugin world, having created a host of great plugins both free and paid-for. Their Juno-60 chorus emulator (now available in pedal format) is a firm fave of ours, while the TAL-Sampler emulates classic 12-bit samplers with amazing results. Pick of the bunch though is their TAL Bassline synth, an SH-101 clone that’s capable of some powerful low end and raspy filter FX. Grab it here.
Yamaha’s DX-7 was the sound of the ’80s, its FM tones gleaming and glistening across ballads, pop records and electronic music. It’s not only for re-creating Whitney, artists like Derrick Carter and Legowelt swear by the DX and FM sound. Dexed is a DX-7 clone plugin that re-creates the classic sound as well as giving owners of the real thing the chance to store and edit their own patches before sending them to the synth. You don’t need to own the hardware to download though, so get stuck in and re-create the authentic sound of the ’80s. Download it here.
U-he’s reputation for quality synths is up there with the best. Their paid-for offerings Diva, Zebra and Repro have all received rave reviews for their huge sound and powerful sound design options. Now you can get in on the action for free with their synth plugin Tyrell N6. Starting out as a project with German synth company Amazona, Tyrell ended up as something of a Juno-60 clone with some extra features thrown in. It’ll rival any major poly synth, in everything but price. Pick it up here.
Synth1 from Ichiro Toda became was one of the first ultra-popular freeware synths and despite it’s primitive GUI, is still used today. It models Clavia’s famous Nord Lead 2, a staple synth in thousands of electronic music records and – like most free synths – is optimised for the lightest CPU load possible. A great all rounder for pads and leads. Download it now.
Native Instruments’ Prism is part of their Komplete package and was created inside their modular software builder Reaktor. Based around what NI call a ‘Modal Bank’, it uses multiple resonators and filters to create otherworldly sounds and FX. Cut down from the full version, Mikro Prism is definitely the most unique on our list and is a good entry point to both Reaktor and NI as a whole. Grab it here.