Free synth VST plugins keep improving year on year. And, where before you couldn't find a free synth that was capable or had the same features as a paid synth, now that's no longer the case.
In this article, we'll cover the best free synth VST plugins for new & advanced producers. There's a huge range of digital, FM and virtual analogue synths, so there'll be something for every sound design situation.
Analog, FM or Wavetable – Which is Best?
A digital wavetable synth will provide the most versatility and will be the easiest to learn if you're a beginner. Analog synths will sound the most vintage and give a thick luxurious sound, while FM is extremely difficult to learn, but has endless sound design possibilities.
None of the synths on this list is fully analog, rather they're virtual analogue – so they emulate the original thing.
Analog synths are good for retro, thick, warm sounds. They have a fairly basic setup, with only a few enveloping controls, LFOs and 4-5 wavetables *usually*. They're also pretty easy to learn, but some of the sliders can overwhelm newcomers.
Wavetable synths use wavetables, which are essentially samples you can cycle through and select a particular waveform from to use for sound design. You can use analog sampled wavetables to make them sound more analog. However, they won't replicate the circuitry emulation. They are digital synths that are precise and have an extreme amount of control. You can *usually* modulate anything you want and they'll often come with a suite of effects, filtering and more.
FM synths are the hardest to learn. They use operators instead of oscillators (which are essentially just sine wave oscillators). They work by adding frequency modulation to the sine wave, causing it to create harmonics. They then run these harmonics through algorithms to create a final result. You can create the most interesting sounds in FM synths, but they're difficult to get your head around.
What is The Best Free Synth for Beginners To Learn?
The best free synths for beginners to learn on are either Vital or Odin 2. Both have great functionality and a set of effects, waves and filters to play around with. They also have clean GUIs, which help when starting, because it's easy to find where everything is and what it does.
We would personally suggest learning on Vital over Odin. Although it's freeware, it's much easier to use and you're not too limited by the freeware version.
Either way, whatever synth you pick – stick with it until you fully understand it. Once you do, you can move on to others and they will be much easier to learn. It's almost like learning your first language.
Where Can I Find More Free Plugins To Download?
Some great sites to find and download free plugins are:
- KVR Audio
- Whipped Cream Sounds Free Plugin Articles
Can I Use 32-bit Plugins in My 64-bit DAW?
You can use 32-bit plugins in your 64-bit DAW, using bridging software such as J-Bridge (for Windows) or 32Lives (for macOS).
Unfortunately, you can't use 64-bit plugins in a 32-bit DAW. So, if you have a 32-bit system, then you'll miss out on some of the newer free plugins (which are usually the best).
What Are The Best Free Synth VST Plugins?
Here's the complete list of the best free synth VST plugins:
Compatibility: Win 10+, macOS 10.12+, Ubuntu 18.04+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit only
Vital Synth is a free wavetable virtual instrument created by Vital Audio. It is hands down the best free wavetable synth you will find, offering an extremely similar layout to the most popular wavetable synth (and our personal favourite) – Xfer Serum.
Offering a similar layout to Serum, with almost identical capability, some producers have crowned this the freeware version of Serum. However, they couldn't be further from the truth.
Although Vital offers a similar setup, including 2 oscillators, 1 sub oscillator a noise oscillator, 2 filters, a suite of effects and incredibly intuitive drag & drop modulation control – the sound quality is completely different. This doesn't mean the sound quality is bad, it's just not quite on the same level as Serum in terms of quality and versatility.
Despite that, Vital is the most versatile, best-sounding free synth we've ever used and the possibilities of sound design are virtually endless. You can make anything from warm, Synthwave basses in Vital, to crunchy dubstep growls, pads, chords, SFX and more.
With Vital's free synth, you get 25 free wavetables included along with an incredible bank of 75 free presets to choose from. With the paid upgrades this expands from 25 wavetables to over 150, with 400+ presets included in the “Gold” package worth $80.
If you're looking for a free Wavetable synth that has an indistinguishable GUI, sound quality, usability and versatility to that of a paid synth, you'll want Vital in your free plugin collection.
Compatibility: Win, macOS 10+ (M1 included), Linux, VST, AU, 64-bit
Dexed is a fantastic virtual analogue synth re-creation of the famous FM synth – the Yamaha DX-7 (you can actually use presets from your DX-7 with it). One of the only free FM synths that produces a quality sounding result, Dexxed is a must-try free VST instrument and so good we included it in our best synth VST plugins article.
Inside Dexed you'll find 6 operators. You can change the coarse, fine-tune and ratio of each to create some very interesting sounds. This applies frequency modulation to the sine source signal and adds harmonics to create unique, varying timbres and tones.
These harmonics are then run through a set algorithm, which changes the sound drastically.
Unlike the other free synths, Dexed unfortunately doesn't come with any effects built-in or filtering to control your sound. However, you do get the basics like enveloping, modulation and the edge of being able to create tones that other synths wouldn't be capable of.
FM synths are great to use and are virtually limitless when it comes to designing sounds. It's worth having one as part of your synth collection. They are a little confusing at times, but you'll get some fantastic sounding patches out of them if you stick with it.
Compatibility: Win Vista+, macOS 10.11+, Linux, VST, AU, Lv2, 64-bit
Odin 2 is a 3 oscillator free synth VST that has a huge array of features that would often be found in a paid synth. And, while you might be thinking “3 oscillators isn't much” – Odin 2 gives you the ability to switch those from Analog, FM, Wavetable, Multi, Vector, Chiptune, Phase Mod and Noise oscillators.
On top of the interchangeable oscillator modules, you'll also find a wide range of waveforms and settings to use with each, along with the ability to change the routing of the amp choosing how your sound source arrives at the effects section.
In the effects section, you get 5 different effects, including basic stuff like a Delay, Phase, Chorus, Flanger and Reverb.
However, where Odin lacks features in the effects section, it makes up for in the filtering – offering 3 filter modules, with low-pass. high-pass, notch, comb and formant filters, with emulations of analog filters like diode ladder, SEM 12 and more.
If you thought it ended there, Odin also offers a vast preset library already loaded with incredible sounds. And, to make it even better, you have an in-depth modulation matrix and arpeggiator located at the bottom.
The only downside to Odin is the GUI. It's fantastic looking, but if you have a semi-decent HD screen, it'll look blurry and there aren't many re-sizing options to choose from.
Compatibility: Win, Mac, VST, AU, 32-bit, 64-bit
WhispAir is a free software instrument that was adored by producers, that it won the prestigious KVR Developer challenge in 2021. With WhispAir you get 3 digital oscillators that have the ability to load different wavetable shapes, alongside being able to control the shape individually.
There are 3 banks of wavetables including:
- Standard Waveforms – classic sawtooth, triangle etc.
- Additive synthesis – waveforms that have been created using additive synthesis
- Resynthesis – waveforms resamples from classic analog synths
- User-defined – waveforms that can be imported from any other synth
WhispAir has an almost beautiful, analogue, vintage warmth and is capable of producing incredibly squelchy sounds all the way to thick, luxurious pads, harsh basses and more.
You also get a tonne of controls, all housed in a beautiful GUI. It won't have the same capability as something like Phaseplant or Serum. However, you do get 2 envelope controls, 2 LFOs, filtering sections (with low & high-pass filters) and an amplifier + chorus section, alongside a dedicated vibrato and detune.
All of this adds together to create an incredibly versatile wavetable synth, that is capable of producing extremely professional sounds that are unique and have a lot of texture. It's definitely one of the more feature-rich, entirely free synths on this list.
Another bonus of WhispAir is that it's capable of using micro tuning and comes with 14 built-in scales, as well as offering the ability to import different styles of scale. And, on top of that you can control everything using MIDI CC & MIDI Learn.
If you're looking for a very lightweight, easy to use, free VST synth – then you should download WhispAir.
Compatibility: Win, Mac (M1 included), VST, AAX, AU, 64-bit
OBD-Xd is part of a series of free VST plugins that recreates the classic analog synth – the Oberheim OB-X. It has an incredibly rich sound and has random micro detuning, which gives it a very unique style.
Anyone who's been into producing for a while will know how sought after the OB-X sound is, and the OBD-Xd does a pretty decent job at re-creating that sound (considering it's free).
With the OBD-Xd you get 2 oscillators with 2 built-in shapes, which are saw, triangle and pulse waves. On top of that you have an X-Mod control to blend the two oscillators together. You also get a 24db slope filter and a modulation section that can be used to apply the filter to certain sections of the synth.
Finally, you have a filter envelope, amp envelope and an extremely cool voice varition section that will automatically detune, pan and vary how the individual voices of your synth sounds. This is where the rich, unique, ambiguous texture of the OBD-Xd comes from.
It's a great sounding free analog synth, with a fantastic GUI. However, when comparing it to something like Diva (the best analog synth ever), it's nowhere near a match in terms of sound and usability.
It's a very stripped back synth that has one purpose – to sound like the OBD-Xd. It does that pretty well for free so it's definitely worth getting if you're on a budget.
Compatibility: Win 7+, macOS 10.9+, Ubuntu 16.04, Standalone, 64-bit
VCV Rack is an entirely free modular synth that emulates a classic Eurorack synth stack. It's a standalone piece of software so you can't use it as a VST plugin inside your DAW. However, it's an incredibly vast tool that will help you learn and get into the world of modular synthesis before blowing your life savings on hardware gear.
VCV Rack can get and can be a bit overwhelming to those who are new to synthesis, so it's recommended you try out something like Softube Modular or ModulAir if you want an easier ride.
The sound it produces is awesome and you can get lost inside this thing for hours creating weird noises. One bonus is that VCV is open-source, meaning there has been a lot of development and there is a huge library of modules you can install for VCV Rack for free.
On top of that you can even develop your own modules if you're good with coding. There are also some paid modules and to use those you will have to pay for the premium version of VCV Rack. However, the free version is great to get to grips with and use for endless fun.
Compatibility: Win 7+, macOS 10.12, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit only
Syntronik 2 CS is a cutting edge synth that packs a lot under the hood for free. It's a freeware version of the paid synths, but is still worth using just as a free piece of software.
With the free version of Syntronik you get access to an incredible 100 presets and 2.4GB of sound content. And unlike a lot of freeware (like the UVI workstation), you can actually go under the hood and change some settings in the patches.
This is great because it's not just a glorified sample player designed to get you to buy the full software. Inside the synth, you can mess around with the filtering, the fine tuning of the oscillators, and even change the modulation settings to your liking, being able to assign the LFOs, envelopes & more to whatever you like.
You have options to change the wavetable shape from sin, saw, saw ramp, triangle, square and noise. On top of this, you have the ability to choose from filtering options like low pass, high pass and bandpass.
To make this free synth even better, you have an analog effects suite including over 30 vintage processing units that focus on re-creating the warm, vintage sounds of analog compression, EQ and other processing units.
It's one of the best sounding, and unlimited free analog synth plugins available. With the paid versions you have a much larger amount of control and access to over 30 analog instruments, with emulated versions of their original interfaces.
Compatibility: Win 7+, macOS 10.7+, Linux, VST, AU, AAX, 32-bit, 64-bit
Tyrell N6 is a free VST instrument made from the same creators of Diva (the best analog synth going), Zebra 2, Hive and a number of award-winning synths. It's a fairly basic synth, with a beautiful and easy to use GUI, including 400+ presets.
Inside you'll get 2 oscillators, with 4 different shapes to choose from, with a mixer located centre and a filtering section that houses low-pass, band-pass and high-pass filtering options.
In terms of modulation, you'll get 2 LFOs, with a decent modulation matrix you can use to assign them to different parameters. There's also 2 envelopes you can use to control the amp and shape of your sound and assign the 2nd one for modulation.
Tyrell N6 is a great-sounding, retro-style synth which will be perfect for you if you're looking for something that's easy to use, learn on and create with.
However, it's a little dated when compared to some of the other free synths on this list and some of the sounds can feel a little unpolished in 2022.
It's still an exceptional free synth you should try downloading but doesn't deserve to be any higher on this list.
Compatibility: Win XP+, macOS 10+, Linux, VST, AAX, AU, Lv2 32-bit, 64-bit
Helm is a fantastic free wavetable synth that offers 2 oscillators. Before Vital came along, Helm was considered the best free wavetable synth, so it's still worth having in your collection if you get a little bored of Vital.
With Helm you get a single filter, some basic effects included (such as stutter, distortion and formant), alongside a great modulation section including LFOs, envelopes and more. When compared to Vital it's much more stripped back, but can still produce great results if you know what you're doing.
One bonus Helm has over Vital is that it's fully open-source software, which means you can install it and mess around with the code if you know what you’re doing. If you're an open-source DAW user, then Helm could be a very worthwhile download.
Besides being great-sounding, compatible with most OS environments, and being open-source, Helm additionally has a fantastic, clean GUI that is a dream to use.
Free plugins often have terrible interfaces, so this is a breath of fresh air.
Compatibility: Win, Mac, VST, AU, AAX, 32-bit, 64-bit
ModulAir is a great, completely free alternative to VCV rack. It's an entirely modular free synth VST plugin that will work inside your DAW.
Inside ModulAir, you 18 different module slots, including things like oscillators, filters, amplifiers, modulators, effects and more. These modules are completely customisable and you can route them anywhere – just like you'd expect to in a modular synth.
There aren't any fun wires to patch around, which makes ModulAir harder to get a taste of the modular world, before spending obscene amounts of money on gear, so VCV Rack is better in this regard.
However, if you want a modular plugin, that's openable in your DAW, easy to use and that sounds great – ModulAir is a fantastic choice.
Compatibility: Win, Mac, Linux, VST, AU, 32-bit, 64-bit
Tunefish V4 is a free wavetable synthesizer that was designed to be easy on your CPU and still produce a great sounding result. It uses a single additive wavetable generator to produce the waveforms and sound. You can add harmonics to your waveform to alter it from sine, saw, square, triangle etc.
Although having only 1 oscillator, Tunefish V4 makes up for this with the incredible range of control it offers over modulation and shaping.
One of the most feature-rich free synth plugins, Tunefish offers a full modulation matrix, a suite of effects to use for flair, 2 envelopes, LFOs and low, high + bandpass filters.
When put next to Vital and Helm, Tunefish pales in comparison. However, if you don't have a newer machine, you won't be able to run those two – so Tunefish V4 is a great alternative, offering a wide range of control and creative freedom to design sounds.
Compatibility: Win, Mac, VST, AU, 32-bit
SYNISTER is a very stripped back wavetable synth. It has an extremely simple GUI, offering 3 oscillators and a minimal 3 wavetable shapes to choose from. Unlike the two beastly free synths above, you won't get the same modulation or control that they boast. However, simple isn't always worse.
As a result of its simple nature, Synister is usable on virtually any system and won't cause any CPU problems to your machine (unless you're running something built in the stone-age).
With Synister you also get 3 envelopes included. One controls the shape of your sound and the amp gain of your synth. The other two can be used for modulation control, which can help add texture to your sounds to make them more interesting.
It's nowhere near the level of the above free virtual instruments mentioned, but we understand that not everyone has the power or space on their computer to run those beasts. So this acts as a great little idea machine.
One bonus is that it's open-source software and can be found over on GitHub, which means you can download it and tinker with the code if you’d like.
To recap, here's the complete list of best free synth VST plugins:
With over 8 years of hands-on experience in the music industry, Harry has run successful raves, played alongside industry heavyweights such as Max Chapman, DJ EZ, DJ Zinc and more (pictured below), had music played on national radio, DJ'd on live radio, produced until he hated every song, mixed until his ears bled, created sample packs from scratch using just a Zoom H1n and some sound design skills… and pretty much anything related to music production – he's done it, tested it, tried it.