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Top 15 VST Synth Plugins

  • Xfer Records - Serum
  • Arturia - Pigments
  • Native Instruments - Massive X
  • Vital Audio - Vital
  • Kilohearts - PhasePlant
  • u-he - Zebra 2
  • Spectrasonics - Omnisphere 2
  • Parawave - Rapid
  • Arturia - V Collection
  • Lethal Audio - Lethal
  • u-he - Diva
  • Reveal Sound - Spire
  • REFX - Nexus 3
  • NativeInstruments - FM8
  • Future Audio Workshop - Sublab

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Xfer Records - Serum

Serum, made by Ofer Records, the same developers at the popular free OTT plugin, offers a complex array of oscillators, filters, effects, and more. You get a sub, noise generator, 2 oscillators, multiple filter options, 3 envelopes, 4 LFOs, and a velocity and voicing controller.

Then you can introduce multiple effects, alter the routing, and affect some global controls.

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Arturia - Pigments

Pigments is similar to our first synth, but with some additional generator options - you get two “Engines” which can be set to traditional oscillators, a wavetable, a sample, or harmonics. The utility engine offers 2 noise generators, and another simple oscillator - while to the right we get 2 filters.

At the bottom, we can control our velocity, aspects of the keyboard, envelopes, and more. Up top, we can introduce FX and sequencing.

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Native Instruments - Massive X

Massive X offers 2 oscillators with options for classic or incredibly unique waveforms - noise generators, a filter, and multiple effects can be introduced to the right. At the bottom are our sequencers, envelopes, LFOs, mixed modulation section, and velocity, pitch, and gate functions - all can be linked to other functions.

Additionally, the routing section lets you reroute various functions, giving you additional flexibility.

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Vital Audio - Vital

Vital gives you control of up to 3 oscillators and a sample - these oscillators can be viewed and edited as 2d, 3d, or the spectral waveform, while various filters and phase adjustments can be made to the right. You can utilize 3 envelopes, 4 LFOs, and 2 randomization filters.

At the bottom, you can introduce global filters, and adjust the number of voices. Up top, we have our effects which are easy to reroute, a matrix, and an advanced section where you can enable oversampling and set other global options.

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Kilohearts - PhasePlant

PhasePlant is broken up into 3 main sections: Generators, Effects, and Modulators. Start by clicking and introducing one or more generators, like a sine or saw wave - then include one or more effects, and lastly, some generators like LFOs, envelopes, or velocity processors, before the signal is routed to the output.

You can introduce up to 64 voices with this synth , and everything is included on this main page which makes it a little easier to use.

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u-he - Zebra 2

In the middle of Zebra 2, you can introduce 4 oscillators, 2 noise generators, filters, and other effects, and visualize the routing is it relates to 4 primary tracks. To the left, the units in the middle are represented, allowing you to alter their parameters.

The 4 channels can then be routed to various envelopes and LFOs. At the bottom are multiple segment envelope generators that let you control the pitch, velocity, envelopes, and other aspects of the synth.

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Spectrasonics - Omnisphere 2

Omnisphere is both comprehensive and easy to use - to the left we have assess to multiple patches, each giving a sample when you click on it which is a nice touch. The Orb lets you change the stereo positioning, which the main window shows your various oscillators.

These oscillators can be edited further under the A, B, C, and D windows and can be either synth generated or samples. Additional filters can be introduced in these windows and effects and arpeggiator are available as well.

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Parawave - Rapid

Rapid is unique in that it allows for up to 24 oscillators by including multiple layers - this is great if you want an incredibly complex and unique sounding synth. Within the oscillator, you can edit volume, panning, voicing, tuning and introduce some effects for that oscillator.

Global filters, inserts, LFOs, envelopes, sequencers, an arpeggiator, and effects can be introduced on the right side of the plugin.

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Arturia - V Collection

The V Collection includes about 30 sampled and synthesized vintage instruments - all of which can be accessed in the Analog Lab V plugin. The main window gives you access to presets, based on the instrument, who designed it and other factors - once you select one you can edit the instrument’s setting.

This plugin works from the simple to the more complex in that it starts with easy-to-use presets but then you can work your way toward the smaller details of each instrument.

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Lethal Audio - Lethal

Lethal is great if you feel a little overwhelmed by how many options some of these synths provide - since it keeps things simple and routes the signal intuitively. When starting, select an option from the library, then edit the envelope, LFO, and curve as it relates to the amplitude.

Then the same functions relate to the filter, and to the pitch.

Add some noise, tuning and voices, vibrato, and other modulations to the right. Then work in an arpeggiator if wanted, and some effects via the bottom tab.

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u-he - Diva

This is a great option if you’re more interested in creating an analog synth sound than having a lot of amenities. Alter the oscillators in the top left and use the tab to change their initial setup - the introduce some feedback and affect the ADSR.

The LFOs can be affected in the bottom left, then affect things like your tuning, voicing, and modulation, or view your waveform or presets via the bottom middle tab.

Last, some effects are available on the bottom right.

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Reveal Sound - Spire

Spire is unique from some of the other plugins on this list in that it works well both as a melody synth and as a percussive synth. Like the other instruments on this list we have multiple oscillators, envelopes, LFOs, and so on, but the percussive aspects set it apart.

So if you’re looking for both percussive and melodic options housed within one plugin, this is a good option.

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REFX - Nexus 3

If you prefer presets as a start to a plugin, Nexus is a good option, as it offers roughly 1,000 of them. On the parameter of the plugin, we're offered some macro effects - in the middle tab we can access an arpeggiator, sequencer, modulation and matrix options, and effects.

Then we can look at, and enable or disable the layers included in the preset we picked.

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NativeInstruments - FM8

FM8 is another sample-based or preset-centric plugin that lets you quickly pick a sound and go from there - what I personally like is that the sounds aren’t too in your face and have some room to edit them. Additionally, you get a lot of effects to introduce.

There’s an arpeggiator, and macro editing section, and an expert section if you want to affect the waveforms and matrix.

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Future Audio Workshop - Sublab

Last up we have Sublab which is designed for 808s and other percussion low-frequency effects. The oscillators are broken up into a drum synth, sampler, and a sub-harmonic generator which also lets you introduce higher-order harmonics to add some punch and clarity.

In the synth section, we can affect the volume’s envelope, filter’s envelope, and the pitch’s envelope.

Below is our pitch and filter, and to the right, we have distortion and compression.

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