Best Free Software Synths

Don’t you just love synths? We all do! Synths have been at the forefront of today’s modern music, as well as film and game scoring. We see more and more modern types of scores done with synths alone. Software synths do a pretty great job nowadays, almost as good as hardware ones. That comes at a price of course, but when on a tight budget freeware can do some great stuff. I’ve met many people who use freeware synths on their day-to-day projects. So here is our round up of the best and most interesting freeware synths currently available for you to try out.

1. Dexed

This is a Yamaha DX7 embodiment in software. Basically the creators of ‘Dexed’ analyzed the actual DX7 chips and created a software version of it. And the great thing is that ‘Dexed’ can easily load and save sysex files from a hardware DX7. So if you own a DX7 then you know the ordeal of creating sounds with it from scratch. ‘Dexed’ makes it a lot easier to create your own sounds. If you are a fan of FM synthesis, this one is for you.

2. TAL-NoiseMaker

This synth is a great tool if you are just starting your synth discovery journey. The interface is pretty straightforward and accessible, and let’s not forget the beefy sound it produces. This is a great analog sounding software synth, with two oscillators, 2LFOs, a filter and envelope section, mix section and a great set of built-in effects. Currently it’s one of our favorite free synths out there.

3. OB-XD 2.1

This one is a software emulation of one of the greatest analog synths out there, the Oberheim OB-X. The famous intro to Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ is the OB-X, and you can have this amazing software emulation for $0. The ‘OB-XD 2.1’ is a faithful reproduction of this rich-sounding synth, implementing randomized micro-tuning to achieve similar tones. The dual-oscillator plugin features some modern additions in order to expand on the sound-shaping possibilities of the original hardware synth, and it includes a bendable multimode filter. You can’t go wrong with this one.

4. Daichi Synth 1

This one is for all you 16-bit era SEGA fans out there. Even though the interface is not eye-candy, the sounds it produces are great if you are creating retro music for games. Kind of a strange thing, because the designers claim it was modeled after the Nord Lead 2 and the arpegiator seems interesting for fiddling around with. There are cool presets, but it is also fairly easy to dial in your own sound.

5. VCV Rack

A must-have for any modular enthusiast out there! Modular synths are a whole different universe and the patching possibilities you have are almost endless. That is, if you are brave enough to dive into the world of modular. Luckily, to save your budget from a modular shopping spree, there’s the ‘VCV Rack’ which is a perfect training tool for an upstarting modular enthusiast.

This is a freeware virtual Eurorack environment which allows you to hook up a plethora of virtual modules and create some truly otherworldly and weird sounds. Aside from hooking up the thing inside the box, ‘VCV Rack’ offers an option for MIDI output which enables you to control your actual hardware with CV gate, CV midi and CV cc modules. Of course some additional modules come at a price but the standard version of ‘VCV Rack’ is totally free for the taking.

6. Helm

‘Helm’ is an amazing open-source polysynth that sounds as great as it looks. The GUI is really modern and easy to understand so newcomers won’t have any issues with understanding the controls and what they do. There are loads of great presets as well as some really cool effects like stutter and formant. What’s great and unique about this synth is that it runs on almost every OS out there, be it OSX, Windows or Linux and it’s a 32bit and 64bit software as well. You can modify the source code if you’re crafty enough and create your very own synth out of it.

Written by Nikola Nikita Jeremic