The 10 Best Free VST / AU Synths
If you’re looking for the best VST synth plugins for 2019, you’ve come to the right place. Under one roof, we’ve gathered the best free synth of every sort – virtual vintage, 80s, digital, obscure, and more – to get your virtual instrument collection up to scratch for no money down. Here, we’ve gathered the best PC and Mac, 32 bit and 64-bit synths for your perusal.
Two oscillators, two LFOs and three envelopes make TAL-Noisemaker a great place to start for the budding synthesist, putting the standard synth controls right under your nose and at your fingertips for no money.
With oscillator waveshape controls, Phase, Pulse Width, Noise, LFO Rate and Sync, and an editable third envelope to control FM, Ring Modulation and more, if you’re looking for a solid free synth VST or Audio Units plugin, TAL-Noisemaker is a simple yet powerful choice.
This free Audio Units and VST synth is a tribute to the classic 80s Oberheim polysynths, giving you a nostalgic sound with a very versatile set of tools to control it. You can even download and change the interface with new skins for OB-Xd.
Available in this retro-style interface are two oscillators and a load of inspirational ways to blend them. There’s also a juicy filter, filter and amplitude envelopes, stereo spread, and lots of voice tweaking to get a handle on those unison and detuned sounds.
OB-Xd’s Modulation section is a unique take on simple modulation, letting you set the rate, the pitch and even Pulse Width, then switching in what you want that signal to affect with – naturally – LED-spangled rocker switches.
Anyone looking for a classic free synth will want to check out Syntronik Free, which offers not just one but 17 instruments modelled from classic synthesizer keyboards. Whether you’re looking for a free Moog VST, a free Jupiter-8 VST or a free Prophet-5 VST, Syntronik Free gives you a version, and much more besides, including keysplitting, arpeggiation, and a choice of 38 effects.
Naturally, there are some limitations with Syntronik Free compared to the full-fat version of Syntronik, but these are remarkably small. The synths themselves are, for the most part, very tweakable, with a hugely analogue tone. When it comes to presets, though, Syntronik’s Free version sees the most limits
If you’re looking for a free 80s synth VST, hardly anything will beat Dexed to put you right in that digital zone. Dexed is based on the Yamaha DX7 synth, the hit FM synthesizer whose sounds and presets are peppered all over classic 80s hits. From clanging bells to complex pads and piercing synth leads.
Dexed also has the ability to import and export SysEx MIDI messages, meaning that it can trade patches and setups with other DX7-based synths like to Korg Volca FM and the original Yamaha hardware – something to keep in mind for the future.
Tyrell N6 doesn’t exactly follow the design of a particular synth. Rather, in this free VST and AU instrument for Mac and PC, u-he’s top-drawer analogue modelling skills have gone into creating a new concept for an analogue synth that ‘could have been’.
With two oscillators that get a wide array of options for modulation at the source, plus a Sub oscillator and Noise oscillator, ring modulation and feedback, the tones you can draw from Tyrell from the very start are a versatile lot.
Next, there’s Filtering and LFO stages, with two envelopes to keep you busy as well. In the modulation matrix, you can make assignments to some of the most useful and sonically interesting targets making Tyrell N6 a curated, visionary softsynth that won’t cost anyone a thing.
This cross-platform synth can run on PC, Mac and Linux in 32 bit or 64 bit modes. Along with the synth itself, Helm’s source code is also distributed for free, offered to developers to inspect and change.
Compared to a lot of freeware synths, Helm is remarkably put-together, with its GUI making sense of the two oscillators (plus sub oscillator), filter, three envelopes, three LFOs, step sequencer, and even the onboard effects, which include Stutter, Formant, Distortion, Delay and Reverb.
Helm is a hugely comprehensive package for a free synth VST plugin, and is an easy candidate for the best synth plugin for 2019’s producers.
Korg’s original PS-3100 was a single-oscillator polyphonic synth that was released in 1976. It’s the subject of Full Bucket’s emulating in their FB-3100 VST/AU plugin. For Korg, after the PS-3100 came the PS-3200, which was practically two 3100 units packed together as one instrument. With a doubling of controls came something more than a doubling of power. Full Bucket’s FB-3200, naturally, follows suit and models this synth.
Korg’s PS-3300 was effectively three PS-3100s in one synth, providing three oscillators and a bunch of signal shaping tools. Accordingly, Full Bucket have replicated this one too. Full Bucket’s FB- series synths sound great, and give you a number of options for a variety of sounds – these were some of the best free VST plugins of 2018, and we’re expecting to use them just as much in 2019.
For all the programmability that some synths have, sometimes you just want a simple instrument loaded with diverse sounds and decked with easy controls. SyndtSphere is a great free keyboard VST that lets you ‘navigate’ a virtual ball covered in presets. There’s little knowledge required as you browse the sphere for synth sounds made from Klevgrand’s commercial Syndt instrument.
SyndtSphere is totally easy to get started with on Mac or PC, and provides everything from musical plucks to deep and evolving bassy tones.
Spitfire Audio is a top brand of sample merchants, selling meticulously sampled orchestral and classical instruments. Their sampling talents have recently been extended to this excellent series of free instruments for VST and AU formats on desktop systems.
The main LABS plugin is actually a shell to host the separate instruments, which have been sampled by the best in the business. There’s Drums, Strings, a unique Soft Piano, an Amplified Electric Cello Quartet, a Charango instrument, Electric Piano, Pads and Choir available for the platform at the moment of writing – all for free, and all sounding great.
This free VST synth is in a category of its own. Thump is actually an effects plugin that tracks your input audio for pitch and amplitude, and generates its tones based upon that. Thump specializes in low frequencies, with its two synth oscillators pumping out 440Hz at maximum pitch.
The idea is to use Thump for some low-frequency reinforcement, tweaking its oscillator pitches and enveloper followers to beef up kicks, toms, basslines and anything else that you want to give more weight.