Serum is a 2-oscillator wavetable synthesizer with 450+ Presets and 150 Wavetable + impressive functionality, filters and effects. Serum has been lauded as the best overall synthesiser ever made. Phase Plant is a semi-modular synth, with wavetable, sample, analogue & FM capabilities. They are available with a monthly subscription or can be bought instantly for $189 and $205 for Serum and Phase Plant respectively.
We have both Serum and Phase Plant in the complete list of best VST plugins, instruments, synths and effects. So, you can imagine they're both f*cking good!
Here's a quick table comparison of Serum vs Phase Plant:
|Synth VST Plugin:||Kilohearts Phase Plant||Xfer Serum|
|Subscription:||$12/mo||12 months of $9.99/mo to own, 0% interest & freezable.|
|Type:||Semi-Modular Synthesizer (Analog, FM, Sample, Wavetable, Noise)||2-voice Wavetable Synthesizer|
|Factory Content:||400+ Presets, Wavetables and Samples||150+ Wavetables and 450+Presets|
|Effects:||Host for Kilohearts snap-ins, sold separately. Base purchase comes with EQ, Delay, Limiter, Chorus, Gain and Stereo||10 Built in effects|
Phase Plant Review
KiloHearts is a comparatively small developer from Sweden, yet, they've confidently attempted to tackle the quest for the ultimate VST synthesizer. Their incredible Phase Plant is the result of this. With a semi-modular workflow, Phase Plant can essentially be any synth you may ever want, in one package.
Phase Plant currently offers four signal generators, Analog, Wavetable, Sample and Noise, which you can insert multiples of in one patch. The added utility modules allow you to group generators and mix them, before sending them through to effects.
When you've just opened Phase Plant, the plugin is a blank canvas, and unlike Serum, will not produce any sound. Within the UI you have 3 main sections, Generators, Effects and Modulators. Simple enough, right?
Generators will be your sound sources, which you can select to go through effects on the right side window. The Modulators will be your sequencers, arpeggiators, LFO's and so on, all of these can be bound to any single knob or setting within Phase Plant.
In addition to this, Phase Plant comes with a great selection of factory presets, suited for a lot of musical styles. Creating your own Presets is also very easy and intuitive.
How does it sound?
To give you a better idea of how Phase Plant sounds, here's a few of our favorite factory preset sounds:
✅ Streamlined semi-modular workflow
✅ Easy to use
✅ You can have up to 30+ sound generators in one patch
✅ Great Modulation
✅ Awesome Factory Presets
✅ Hosts all other kiloHearts Snap-Ins
✅ KiloHearts' subscription package is great
❌ No micro-tuning capabilities
❌ If you want all snap-ins, it can get quite expensive
The base price for Phase Plant is just above $200 and can be purchased from Plugin Boutique.
The base version of Phase Plant comes with the entire synth engine, as well as the FREE KiloHearts Toolbox. The Free Toolbox includes Snap Heap, 3-Band EQ, Chorus, Delay, Gain, Limiter and Stereo, with other effects available separately.
If you want everything kiloHearts has to offer, the KiloHearts Ultimate Toolbox costs around $600.
With that being said, KiloHearts offers a subscription package for £8 or around $12/month. This subscription will give you every single KiloHearts plugin, in addition to their Content Banks, as well as any other new product, as soon as they're released.
Xfer's Serum needs no introduction, it's been the king of soft synths for years and years. If you've never heard of Serum, then this is probably the first time you're googling VST synths.
With that being said, Serum is just as awesome as it was when it was released in 2014. Serum is a wavetable synthesizer, with two wavetable oscillators, as well as a sub-oscillator and a flexible noise oscillator.
TIP: Did you know you can also create wavetables from pictures? Try it out by dragging a .PNG file into the wavetable window.
You get an awesome selection of modulation possibilities, that are easy to route to any control within Serum, you might want to. In addition to this, the FX section of Serum is awesome, with ten stellar effects to choose from.
The effects can also be modulated, combined and re-arranged, to create a bespoke signal path for your sound. While you can't route live audio through the Serum fx section, there is a separate plugin called Serum FX, which does just that.
As stock, Serum comes with over 150 different wavetables to use, which leads to an immense amount of possibilities. You can also easily create your own wavetables from samples, and morph between two wavetables to create entirely unique sounds.
While it's not as outright versatile as Phase Plant, Serum is not meant to be ultimate one-beats-all package. Serum is a wavetable synth, and without a shadow of a doubt, the best wavetable synth out there right now.
✅ Easy To Use
✅ Awesome FX chain
✅ Flexible and creative wavetable oscillators
✅ Support for skins, with a massive selection online
✅ Splice rent-to-own subscription
❌ Default factory skin looks dated
❌ Can be difficult to comprehend for beginner producers
How Does It Sound?
Serum is one of the best sounding, low CPU hit synth VSTs available on the market. It's also incredible value for money, and accessible with the rent to own plan.
You can make anything from hair standing dubstep basses, to warm analog lo-fi sounds. But, while we can tell you it sounds great, we'll let you be the judge.
Below are a couple presets from our Lo-Fi pack
You can purchase Serum from ADSRsounds.com for $189. This is the full Serum package, with everything the plugin has to offer. A Free 3-day Trial is also available, if you want to test Serum out before purchasing it.
Additionally, Splice Rent-To-Own platform offers Serum for .99/month for 19 months, after which, you fully own the plugin. No hidden fees or interest, this is probably the way most people have come to own Serum. Splice also offers a 3-day Free Trial, to try Serum out before purchasing.
Phase Plant vs Serum Verdict
So the question you've all been waiting for, which one is better, Phase Plant or Serum? You'll probably hate us for this, but it's not that simple.
If Phase Plant and Serum were the same kind of synth, it'd be easy to compare and weigh the differences. At its core, Serum is a wavetable synthesizer, it does what it has to, better than any other wavetable synthesizer.
Phase Plant, on the other hand, is a versatility giant. By inserting sound generators, you can easily beat the sheer amount of wavetable voices and modulation possibilities of Serum. That being said, this is not “bigger number better synth”, since Serum's wavetable voices are way more customizable and editable, than Phase Plants.
Phase Plant does however shine with two of it's main points.
First, the workflow and usability of Phase Plant is incredible and designing new sounds is super easy and fun. And second, You can literally have a patch, that is 5 different wavetables, a sub, with sampled percussion on top, and 3 arpeggiated fm loops, all being individually modulated, and passed through effects.
The keyword here would be, limitation. Serum is limited to your two wavetables, a sub and noise generator. The limitations make serum what it is, and has proved time and time again, how much you can do with arguably so little.
Phase Plant however has seemingly no limit. Certainly not one that you would try to reach on a regular basis. Strangely enough, the amount of possibilities isn't crippling, as it can be on other “ultimate” synthesizers, and this is owed solely to the awesome workflow and UI design.
In terms of what you get with each synth package by default, neither Serum or Phase Plant can occupy a solid first place. Both synthesizers offer a wide selection of wavetables, samples, and patch presets.
We haven't counted, but serum feels like it has more presets than Phase Plant, however, some of them can be hit and miss, while Phase Plants presets are more often than not, awesome and inspiring.
This might not be as much of a consideration, but it needs to be mentioned. Serum is much more visually customizable than Phase Plant.
With a large community of third-party skin makers, there are tons and tons of awesome Serum skins out there, both free and paid. If you're looking for some new free Serum Skins, check our list of the 20 BEST FREE Serum Skins out there.
While there isn't a rich selection of third party skins for Phase Plant, we recently learned, that by editing the colors.conf file in the kiloHearts folder, you can change colors, or even insert a background image for Phase Plant as well as other snap-in modules like MultiPass.
When comparing the pricing of Phase Plant vs Serum, you can start to see similarities.
Both Phase Plant and Serum have monthly subscription options, which allow you to own either plugin, for around 10$ a month. The difference between these is that With Serum you get just serum, with all the things that come with it.
With the KiloHearts subscription, you get every single thing KiloHearts has to offer. It is however a few dollars more expensive per month, than Serum.
Additionally, With rent-to-own, you eventually will come to own Serum fully. The KiloHearts subscription does not have this option and will be a perpetual monthly charge.
Subscriptions aside, the price difference between Phase Plant and Serum is just about under 20$. With serum costing 189$, in comparison to Phase Plant, which comes in at slightly above 200$.
If you want all of the KiloHearts effects and snap-ins, as well as the other plugins they offer, the Ultimate KiloHearts toolbox costs around 600$.
If we were stranded on a desert island and could only have a computer and one synth available, we'd go for Phase Plant. Its versatility and ease of use are inspiring and creatively satisfying. To the point, where we're struggling to come up with negatives for this Kilohearts masterpiece.
That being said, there's a reason that Serum ranks higher than Phase Plant on our Top 50 Best VST Plugins list. The influence and ubiquity that comes with the territory of being considered by most to be THE best synth ever created, is a testament to how good Serum is.
It's hard to pick a definite favorite, and if you have the chance, get both. If you only have money for one, choose Phase Plant.
|Kilohearts Phase Plant||Xfer Serum|
|Subscription||Kilohearts Subscription ~12$/mo||Splice Rent-to-Own 9.99$/mo|
|Type||Semi-Modular Synthesizer (Analog, FM, Sample, Wavetable, Noise)||2-voice Wavetable Synthesizer|
|Factory Content||Lots of Presets, Wavetables and Samples||150+ Wavetables and tons of Presets|
|Effects||Host for Kilohearts snap-ins, sold separately. Base purchase comes with EQ, Delay, Limiter, Chorus, Gain and Stereo||10 Built in effects|
Hopefully, we've helped you decide on which synth fits your style better. Whether you're using it for sound design, or real-time performance, both Serum and Phase Plant are incredible synthesizers.
Whichever you end up choosing, you'll have no buyer's remorse after getting either.
Did you enjoy this article? If so, check out some of these other tutorials and reviews, you'll probably like them!
Toms is a music producer & DJ, born and raised in Post Soviet Latvia. Currently based in Brighton, Toms has had over 6 years of experience with all things production and in that time, he's done a tonne of cool stuff! He's played multiple festivals, had experience in the field with mixing & mastering and even become a freelance journalist in the music industry.
Toms currently creates music under the alias Sovereign. Producing music that's intimate and subtle, while full of edge and energy, the young producer combines the artistic sounds of Trip Hop artists like Massive Attack, with the energy and youthfulness of producers like Flume, Jamie XX and Yaeji. You can check his stuff on Soundcloud.