Steinberg developed Virtual Studio Technology in 1996 to bring synthesizers and effects into digital audio workstations. It’s a plugin format that numerous major DAWs host, like Ableton, Logic, FL Studio, Digital Performer, and Reaper, amongst others. VST instruments are a specific kind of plugin that generate sound, and many of them emulate some type of analog synthesizer. These are 21 of the best free VST instruments you probably want to know about!
Best Free VST Instruments
In no particular order, here are a ton of the best free plugins to up your production quality today. Just click the title of each instrument to learn more and download for free!
A simple freeware synthesizer based on classic analog stylings. u-he makes great stuff, and even their free plugins are no exception. Make your own patches, or get a head start with any of the nearly 600 presets that come with Tyrell N6.
This is another quite simple synthesizer designed solely for great sound without too much fuss. It comes with one oscillator, one sub oscillator, one LFO, one filter, and one envelope generator. Easy, breezy free virtual instrument!
Yamaha DX7. It’s one of the most famous and best-selling synthesizers ever produced, and here it is in much of its original glory, right inside your computer, for free.
This is a really nice electric piano that sounds like the real thing. To download you’ll need to toss them a FaceBook ‘Like’ or YouTube sub, but that’s a small price to pay for a quality free VST!
MiniSpillage is a very cool free drum VST. It has three algorithms that reproduce kicks, wood drums, and hi-hat sounds. You can lay down the foundation of pretty much any electronic track with this instrument.
LABS is incredible. Spitfire Audio already makes some of the finest VSTs ever, and this ‘infinite series’ of free plugins is just amazing. If you download nothing from this list but LABS, you’ve done an amazing thing for your instrument library.
This a chamber orchestra plugin that comes with woodwinds, brass, keys, mallets, strings, and percussion. Highly versatile and the perfect addition to any collection. It’s a free virtual instrument—does life get much better?
This is another virtual analog synthesizer that’s not overly complex, sounds great, and comes with a ton of presets to get to the music-making part faster. The interface is clean and the sound is impeccable. Easily one of the best free VST instruments money can buy. Har, har!
Native Instruments generously provides musicians 6GB of instruments, effects, loops, and samples in Komplete Start, for free. The suite contains 18 different instruments and effects, including synthesizers, sampled instruments like drums, and even effects like tube compression. It’s awesome.
If there was any good thing born out of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was this virtual Hammond B3 organ. A very recent free plugin, this was designed to help musicians stay creative during global lockdowns in a time of uncertainty and distress. What would we wretched folk do without our betters? Thank you, Sampleson!
You can never have too many digital analog synthesizers. Digital analog—sure, that’s a thing! Surge was nominated KVR Audio’s Favorite Free Virtual Instrument in 2020 by the community, and there’s definitely a reason for that. The interface looks amazing, and most importantly, Surge sounds phenomenal.
Here’s a faithful recreation of the iconic Yamaha C7 concert grand piano. Yamaha also makes motorcycles and lots of stuff that has nothing at all to do with music, which is weird and confusing, but anything they’ve done with a ‘7’ in the name tends to be great. Get it!
Variety is the spice of life, as the cliche goes, and your virtual instrument library is no exception. Think of it like the spice rack in your kitchen. A dash of acoustic guitar never hurt anyone, right?
Here’s an awesome free plugin that mimics the classic Fender Precision bass. The incredible thing about free virtual instruments is that it gives anyone the ability to make fantastic sounding music, right in their bedroom. The democratization of music-making is really a beautiful thing!
This is a free Native Instruments KONTAKT library (which is also free). Sennheiser and Neumann paired up to meticulously sample an acoustic drum kit with their own microphones, and the result is a gorgeous free drum VST.
Here’s something unique on this list. VCV Rack is the premier Eurorack modular synthesizer simulator for your DAW. Modular synthesis is daunting at first glance, but playing around with this instrument is a killer way to spend an afternoon and discover more about modular.
A saxophone VST is a novel thing. For the sake of this list we’ve highlighted the sax as one of the most interested DVS plugins, and if you follow the link above, you’ll find a whole collection of free VSTs as well!
Sinnah is a self-described ‘lush’ that questions whether it’s a sin to sound like it does. The engine’s based on one complex oscillator capable of a whole slew of different sounds.
u-he calls Zebralette their ‘Trojan horse.’ It’s free, of course, and is a stripped down version of their Zebra2 synth. The catch is that this lite version is so good you’ll want the real thing!
You—and I cannot stress this enough—can never have too many free VSTs! This cool synthesizer contains three oscillators, three envelopes, three LFOs, a super sweet and easy-on-the-eyes interface, and it’s open source. Win!
This is actually a remastered free plugin back by popular demand. The OG Cheeze Machine debuted in 2007, and the latest has some significant improvements. In a nutshell, the Cheeze is a string synthesizer based on the vintage classics. Plenty of vibe for tons of fun.
- SEE ALSO: AU vs VST: What Are Audio Units?
Conclusion: Best Free VST Virtual Instruments
Acoustic guitar. P bass. Saxophone! It’s all here. These are some of the best and most popular free VSTs you can get in 2023!