If you’re a music producer or songwriter, virtual instruments and software synthesizers are your best friend. And if you haven’t already developed an unhealthy obsession with plugins, you will eventually! The only problem with the plugin game is that it’s an expensive habit. Sure, you can try just about anything before you buy it, but sometimes there are pesky restrictions on features keeping you from getting the full experience. Before you spend hundreds on virtual instruments, take a look at some of the best free VST synth plugins from a variety of developers.
Watch – Top 10 Free Plugins
The Tyrell N6 was initially conceived to be a hardware synthesizer. Taking some cues from Roland’s classic Juno 60, the idea was to incorporate quality analogue sound and a few novel features in a low-cost hardware unit. When the developers realized it would have taken them years to design it, they decided to turn it into a free plugin instead. You can download it totally free here.
U-he describes its features as follows:
- Virtual analogue with classic architecture plus extras
- 2 oscillators, noise, ring modulator
- 2 LFOs with 8 waveforms, host-syncable
- Audio source mixer with authentic overdrive and filter feedback
- Twin filter related to Diva (early model)
- Unison with up to 8 voices
- Analogue-type ADSR envelopes, loopable or LFO-triggered
- Small modulation matrix with depth modulation from a second source
- Chorus effect with 3 modes
- MIDI learn / unlearn for hardware control
- Resizable UI from 70% to 200%
- Skinnable UI
- Over 580 factory presets
Lokomotiv is a retro analogue synthesizer with rave user reviews at VST4Free. Check out the developer’s specs:
- Mathematically generated high definition Oscillator without using wavetable or interpolation.
- Silky smooth 9 X detuned sawtooth wave.
- Pulse wave with self PWM.
- Shape morphing sub oscillator.
- MG ladder modeling multimode filter featured Zero Delay Feedback technology.
- Routable filter Drive. (Pre / Post).
- Natural Curved ADSR Envelope generator.
- Oneshot LFO which can be used as envelope.
Dexed is modeled on the Yamaha DX7—pretty neat to have in free VST synth form! The following features are available from the developers:
- Multi-platform (OS X, Windows or Linux) and multi-format (VST, AU, LV2)
- The sound engine music-synthesizer-for-android is closely modeled on the original DX7 characteristics
- 144 DAW automatable DX7 parameters available from one single panel
- Fully supports DX7 input and output Sysex messages; including controller change. This means that you can use this with a native DX7/TX7 as a patch editor and sysex manager
- Each operator have a realtime VU meter to know which one is active
- Can load/save any DX7/TX7 sysex programs. It is also possible to save a single program into a different sysex file.
Interestingly, the actual Yamaha DX7 manual can be used as a reference for working with Dexed.
If you want to create your own drum sounds with filtering, distortion, and modulation, MiniSpillage is a great free option.
MiniSpillage is a free professional quality drum synthesizer plugin featuring high resolution 64-bit DSP processing. MiniSpillage includes 3 exclusive drum synthesis algorithms along with distortion effects and resonant filters.
“Bass Drum – Single oscillator bass drum synth with pitch sweep, internal FM and harmonic controls.
Wood Drum – Flexible wooden drum model synthesizes natural and synthetic timbres from log drums to toms.
Hi-Hat – Six oscillators closed and open hi-hat generator with a noise source and dual resonant filters.”
LABS is an “infinite series” of user-friendly free VST synth plugins. They’re developed by London-based musicians and released monthly at absolute no cost to users. Piano, guitar, strings, synth pads, choirs, and more are all available as standalone synths. The collection is fantastic, as is the entire premise of the project!
A user favorite, no doubt, thanks to its intuitive interface and record-ready sounds from the jump.
From TAL: “NoiseMaker is an improved version of TAL-Elek7ro and has a completely new synth engine and a lot of improvements in sound and usability. The synth also includes a small effect section with a reverb, chorus and a simple bit crusher effect. A display shows the knob and slider values. This allows more control over the synth. A ringmodulator and a syncable triangle are also part of this synth. TAL-NoiseMaker includes new filter types as the self resonating 6dB low pass and a notch filter. Its improved amplitude ADSR is very suitable for slow pads as for really fast envelopes. 128 factory presets included, 80 made by Frank ‘Xenox’ Neumann / Particular – Sound.”
The best free VST synth plugins don’t have to cost an arm and a leg!
See more: TAL J-8 Review