What are the best synth plugins? This ICON Picks roundup features ten popular virtual synthesizer instruments that deliver big on sound and features.
What Are the Best Synth Plugins?
It is an exciting time to be a music producer. Virtual instruments continue to evolve in impressive ways. Many modern software synthesizers offer unique features that create and shape sounds like never before.
However, choosing the best synth plugins is difficult. There are several excellent synth plugins that offer immersive features and amazing sound. Picking the best synth for your needs is also a personal choice. You’ll want to look for something that fits your workflow and is capable of creating sounds that work with your music. There’s also a learning curve to consider. Do you want to spend a week learning a new synth or making music?
Moreover, music producers and sound designers commonly have multiple synths for different jobs. For example, many music producers have a dedicated synth for leads, basses, pads, etc. That’s because many synths have features and character better suited for certain sounds.
This guide lists ten popular synth plugins that offer excellent sound sculpting features and quality sound.
1. Xfer | Serum
Serum is an innovative wavetable synthesizer from Xfer Records. Former ICON Instructor and Serum’s lead developer Steve Duda has successfully created a “dream synthesizer.” Serum delivers high-quality sound, an immersive feature set, and unmatched sound sculpting possibilities. Moreover, you can create, import, edit, morph, and modulate wavetables with its workflow-oriented interface. Serum also features 10 effects, drag-and-drop routing, and a heap of presets.
2. u-he | Diva
Diva is a modeled analog synthesizer from u-he. This rich-sounding synth captures the sound and features of iconic hardware synthesizers. Diva’s modular design features a selection of analog modeled oscillators, filters, and envelopes. Moreover, you can recreate an old favorite or mix-and-match modules to design a unique hybrid. This synth delivers authentic analog sound!
3. Spectrasonics | Omnisphere 2
Omnisphere 2 is a full-featured synthesizer from Spectrasonics. This versatile synth plugin combines several types of synthesis with a massive amount of sound-sculpting options.
Omnisphere 2 offers over 500 oscillator waveforms, 57 effects, morphing wavetables, new granular synthesis, an innovative browser, and over 14,000 sounds. It also features a crazy amount of modulation options, filtering, complex patch-layering, multiple arpeggiators, and so much more. In addition, you can import audio files and manipulate them in creative ways to create something new and unique!
4. Native Instruments | Massive
Massive is a wavetable synthesizer from Native Instruments. It’s an awesome synth for basses and leads. This versatile synth also has a hybrid digital-analog design. It features several modulation options, drag-and-drop routing, morphing step sequencers, 17 effects, and more. As the name suggests, this OG synth brings a massive sound!
5. LennarDigital | Sylenth1
Sylenth1 is a virtual analog synthesizer from LennarDigital. This flexible synth has been a long-time favorite in the music industry. It does a fantastic job at creating huge, lush supersaw chords, pads, and leads.
Sylenth1 features 4 unison oscillators, analog sounding filters, several modulation options, an arpeggiator, and 7 effects. With 512 voices and 32 filters, Sylenth1 delivers big on sound! It’s also one of the easiest synths to use.
6. Native Instruments | Kontakt
Kontakt is an industry-leading sampler from Native Instruments. This diverse sampler brings you a universe of sampled instruments. There are over 600 licensed instruments from other manufacturers that run in Kontakt. You can play any instrument or sound imaginable with Kontakt.
Moreover, Kontakt comes loaded with a huge library of realistic sounding sampled instruments. There are also instruments that combine wavetable synthesis with sampled content. It also sports several effects, extensive sound design options, and hardware integration. In addition, Kontakt offers creator tools that enable you to design custom instruments.
7. Reveal Sound | Spire
Spire is a polyphonic synthesizer from Reveal Sound. This versatile synth combines multiple forms of digital synthesis with classic analog synthesis techniques. It also delivers big on sound and usability.
Spire features 4 multimode polymorphing oscillators, advanced modulation options, multimode filters, 6 effects, and over 900 factory presets. It also offers a step sequencer and an arpeggiator.
8. Future Audio Workshop | Circle2
Circle2 is a wavetable synthesizer from Future Audio Workshop. This full-featured synth focuses on streamlined workflow and creativity. Moreover, its modular design shows every control in one window. There are no submenus, multiple windows, or hidden controls.
Circle2 also makes modulation fast and easy. It offers an extensive amount of modulation options using drag-and-drop color-coded circles. You can create unique sounds with minimal effort. Circle2 also features a new morphing synthesis, 110 wavetables, several effects, and a Smart Browser loaded with over 300 sounds. In addition, it offers a step sequencer, an arpeggiator, Native Instruments NKS Support, and more.
9. Vengeance Sound | VPS Avenger
VPS Avenger is a hybrid synthesizer from Vengeance Sound. This versatile synth has 1,000 oscillators, tons of smart, modern features, and a growing library.
VPS Avenger is a ‘Power Synth’ that delivers big time. It unites analog, sample-based, and wavetable synthesis. It also features an immersive set of modulation options, 30 effects, 47 filter types, and over 950 presets. Also onboard is a drum sequencer, arpeggiator, step sequencer, a guitar player/chord detection module, a wavetable editor, and much more. It’s nutty how much this beast brings!
10. u-he | Hive
Hive is a virtual analog synthesizer from u-he. It’s another flexible synth that aims at streamlining workflow and modern sound design. Hive also comes packed with features. It sports 4 oscillators, 2 multimode filters, 7 effects, an arpeggiator, and a step sequencer. Moreover, Hive offers a modulation matrix, drag-and-drop routing, wavetable editing, XY control, 2,700 presets, and a ton more.
There are a lot of excellent synth plugins on the market. It makes it hard to narrow down the top ten. Below are ten more synth plugins worth considering:
1. Twin 2 by FabFilter
2. Iris 2 by iZotope
3. Zebra2 by u-he
4. FM8 by Native Instruments
5. Nexus by reFX
6. SubBoomBass 2 by Rob Papen
7. Strobe2 by FXpansion
8. Trilian by Spectrasonics
9. Reaktor 6 by Native Instruments
10. SynthMaster by KV331 Audio