6 Better Serum Alternatives (Free Synths Included)

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While there aren't many synths that are better than the fan favourite, beloved Serum, there are a few good picks (that are free) and match the quality of it. We personally use Serum in everything, and would never replace it, but if you don't have the budget for it, we understand. In this article we'll cover some great Serum alternatives that are free and paid. We've tested all of these and chosen them based on merit, using our 8 years background in music production and sound design.

What is Serum?

Serum is a wavetable synthesiser with 3 oscillators, a suite of high-quality effects built-in and a fantastic modulation matrix, with a sleek interface. It's a digital synthesiser plugin that many producers use in their productions, and for good reason. It's one of the best synths to have come out in the last decade.

In Serum you'll find a great range of tools to help you design sound, with the possibility to modulate any source, have access to a huge library of wavetables (with the ability to create your own), a huge selection of filters (some unique to Serum that make sound design incredibly intriguing) and a whole lot more.

Although it only has 3 oscillators, it is extremely versatile and has the potential to make anything. With the great sound, light CPU and brilliant design, it's why it's loved by so many people.

Is Serum Really That Good?

Serum is exceptionally good. It is the best wavetable synthesizer for beginners to learn on, with an amazing interface that's easy to understand, a vast array of tutorials and patches available, and a affordable price point. You can make anything with Serum, and we recommend you learn it inside and out.

We have personally used Serum to create entire sample packs from scratch, using layering sound design techniques.

It is extremely versatile if you learn how to use it fully, and is very easy for a beginner to learn and pick up quickly compared to more advanced synths. We personally recommend learning sound design in Serum first before moving onto other synths.

The reason being is that Serum has a vast amount of tutorials online, free packs and resources you can use to pick apart sounds and learn what makes them sound that way. Not many other synths have this big library of tutorials available.

You can make real-sounding violins, guitars, deep gritty basses, lush pads, 80s synthwave, and pretty much any genre under the sun, just utilizing Serum's fantastic synthesis engine and sampling.

Additionally, inside Serum you get an in-depth modulation matrix, a huge suite of professional effects, and filters that are unique which I haven't found in many other synths. These filters are fundamental in creating sounds that make you stand out and sound different.

One downfall is that it can become limited when you progress in your sound design journey, so this is why many look for alternatives.

Anyway, I'll stop touting the benefits of Serum and leave some sound examples of what we've personally made using Serum only:

All patches made in Serum – Purple Slush Lofi Pack

All songs made with sounds from (created with Serum) – Purple Slush Lofi Pack

All synths made in Serum – Redd Velvet Hyperpop Pack

All songs made with Serum patches from – Redd Velvet Hyperpop Pack

I would highly recommend trying the 3 day free trial out. However, if you want som

How Can I Get Serum Cheaper?

Some people may look for alternatives due to the high price tag of Serum, and don't know of the RTO plan available on splice.

You can get Serum cheaper using Splice's Rent To Own plan, costing $5.99/month, with the ability to freeze payments and pick up where you left off. The plan doesn't have any interest added, at 0% interest and is and affordable way to get access to Serum without shelling out a huge amount.

Serum Alternatives List

Here is a list of the best Serum alternatives:

  1. KiloHearts Phase Plant
  2. Massive X
  3. Parawave Rapid
  4. Omnisphere (For Advanced Users)
  5. Vital Synth (Free)
  6. Waverazor

KiloHearts Phase Plant (Best Serum Alternative)

Compatibility: Win7, Win8, Win10, Win11, Apple Silicon, VST, VST3, AU, AAX 64-bit
Price:
$199, or $7.99/month

Pros

βœ… Offers a wide range of synthesis methods, including wavetable, FM, subtractive, and sample-based synthesis, giving you endless sound design capabilities

βœ… Clean and easy to navigate UI, for beginners and professionals

βœ… Modular architecture, giving you the possibility to create extremely complex patches easily. Also gives you a blank canvas to create as you please

βœ… Very good sound engine offering high-quality sound and a small impact on the CPU + RAM

βœ… Unique features, like being able to create custom wavetables, add samples and more

Cons

❌ No built-in effects directly in the plugin, you have to install “Snap-Ins” from KiloHearts. Many are free, but some are paid.

❌ No built-in arpeggiator or sequencer, these come as “Snap-Ins” again, which can be annoying to some.

❌ Very hard to learn. Because of the semi-modular nature, it can be overwhelming, especially with a blank canvas. We recommend starting with presets to learn how they are made

❌ Quite expensive when purchasing extra Snap-Ins and packs

❌ The preset library is unfortunately small compared to other synthesizers in the same price range, which offer the same capabilities

KiloHearts' Phase Plant synthesizer is a dynamic and robust wavetable synthesizer that grants an innovative means of tailoring sounds. Its varied selection of tools encompasses a hybrid synthesis engine, drag-and-drop modulation, and comprehensive routing selections, rendering it a compelling substitute to Serum.

Phase Plant stands apart from Serum because of its modular construction, giving users the freedom to craft unique signal flows. You start from a blank canvas, and are able to load Oscillators, effects, modulation, enveloping modules and more. It is free for you to route the synth however you like, whereas Serum is more robust and doesn't allow as much creativity.

The Hybrid synthesis engine also sets Phase Plant apart, using a mix of FM, wavetable, subtractive, and sample-based synthesis techniques to provide limitless potential for sound design. You can blend all these types of synthesis together for truly unique sound design.

However, this makes Phase Plant much harder to learn than Serum. Although the possibilities for sound design are greater, for beginners, this synth is extremely hard to wrap your head around. And, often, less is more (especially when learning).

Additionally, Serum has FM, subtractive capabilites in filter types and oscillators, being able to modulate FM from OSC B to A for instance. This is more stripped back, but don't be fooled into thinking that more is always better. The possibilities for sound design you have with Serum are incredibly big, and to learn how to use it properly and to its max ability will take a lot of time.

Phase Plant doesn't allow you to create your own waveforms from samples, and also has fewer online resources for learning. It is more CPU intensive and falls back on the filtering and effects suite, when compared with Serum.

Serum comes with some great, unique filters like flanging, phases, and misc filters like allpasses that are some of the best I've ever used for unique sound design that sets you apart. Additionally the FX suite is far more in-depth, giving you a better workflow and professional sound.

Phase Plant offers a drag-and-drop modulation system, which simplifies the creation of intricate modulation routings. Its user interface is user-friendly, with an intuitive layout and color-coded signal flow, making it easy to comprehend.

Conversely, Serum boasts a broader range of presets that features an extensive collection of wavetables. With this in mind, novice sound designers can easily dive into the process. Additionally, Serum flaunts a wavetable editor, enabling users to exercise greater command over the wavetables.

The two synthesizers present distinct characteristics, serving as fantastic substitutes depending on individual user requirements. Phase Plant proves to be ideal for those inclined towards a modular sound designing method, while Serum suits those in search of a simpler workflow.

To put it concisely, Phase Plant and Serum each come with their own pro's and con's. For instance, Phase Plant boasts a modular layout alongside intricate modulation abilities. On the other hand, Serum has an ample preset collection in addition to a wavetable editor built-in, filters and effects suite.

In the end, it's up to the user's personal preferences and requirements when it comes to selecting either of them.

Vital Synth (Free Serum Alternative)

Compatibility: Win10, Win11 Apple Silicon, macOS 10.12+ VST, VST3, AU, AAX, LV2, 64-bit
Price: $0, $80, or $5/month

Pros

βœ… Wavetable synthesis with 3 oscillators, incredible range of effects and filters

βœ… Endless modulation possibilities with a simple drag and drop approach, which allows you to modulate anything

βœ… Very similar layout to Xfer's Serum, making it very easy to use and some calling it the free version of Serum, however the sound engine is entirely different

βœ… UI is intuitive and easy to navigate, with a sleek and modern design.

βœ… Very affordable price. It's either free or only $80 to purchase the pro version which unlocks everything

βœ… Nice library of presets to choose from which help aid the sound design process

βœ… Great modulation matrix that is easy to understand and use, allowing you modulate literally anything

βœ… Possible to load own wavetables, create wavetables from samples and load samples, meaning you don't have to purchase the full version

βœ… Active community that shares presets, wavetable packs and more

Cons

❌ Free version is stripped back, you only get a few wavetables to use

❌ Not as good as Serum, but offers a more affordable option to Serum

Many people say that Vital is the free version of Serum. While it has a very similar interface, the sound quality of the two synths and the results you can get from both are entirely different. However, for someone looking for a free alternative, with an almost identical interface, Vital is a great choice. You can learn on Vital for free and then upgrade to Serum down the line for instance.

Vital has one significant benefit over Serum – it's completely free to use. In contrast to Serum, which can be quite expensive, Vital is readily available for those operating on a shoestring budget or those just beginning their journey in music production.

However, the free version is not the full version!

Vital has 4 different plans you can choose from:

  • Free – comes with limited wavetables (25), presets (75), and filter types etc. but full synth can be used and wavetables can be imported
  • Plus ($25) – 75 wavetables, 250 presets
  • Pro ($80) – 150 wavetables, 400+ presets, custom skins, text to wavetable functionality, discord perks
  • Subscribe ($5/month) – All included in Pro, but with first access to new plugins and updates, as well as priority support

Vital boasts a robust modulation system with several advantages. It supports a range of modulation sources like envelopes, LFOs, and macros that can conveniently be linked to any parameter. Besides that, its exceptional spectral warping feature permits intricate modulation of wavetables, thereby producing incredibly original and vibrant auditory experiences.

Serum is renowned for offering excellent sound and adaptability. This software boasts a plethora of filter types, ranging from analog emulations to digital filters, ensuring countless tonal options. Its integrated effects, such as reverb and distortion, further expand the possibilities of sound design.

Vital and Serum are both equipped with wavetable synthesis; however, Vital boasts an extensive range of diverse wavetables. Furthermore, Vital comes with a distinctive attribute termed β€œSnapshots” that facilitates users to store and retrieve customized settings in a patch for effortless sound variations.

Deciding between Vital and Serum ultimately comes down to personal requirements and preferences. For users in search of a potent modulation system and a cost-effective alternative, Vital is the way to go. Conversely, Serum is the preferred choice for those seeking a top-of-the-line plugin that offers versatility and high-quality features with a higher budget.

Parawave Rapid Synth

Compatibility: Win7, Win8, Win10, Win11 Apple Silicon, macOS 10.13+, 11.6.5 No VST, VST3, AU, 64-bit, 32-bit
Price: $179.99

Pros

βœ… 8 different layers with 3 oscillators to choose from

βœ… Incredible library of factory samples, wavetables & presets

βœ… 32 modulation routes

βœ… Great sequencer which can be used to create constantly evolving and interesting sounds.

βœ… Arp control is extremely precise

βœ… Tonnes of MIDI & interesting arp presets

βœ… Easy to use interface

Cons

❌ A little overwhelming at first

❌ Not widely used yet, so 3rd party sounds rarely available

rhodes
lofi melody
trance melody
donk basss

The Parawave Rapid plugin is an incredible tool that allows users to explore endless possibilities of sound design. It presents a user-friendly wavetable editor that empowers creators to produce and adjust their sound waves in unprecedented ways, resulting in singular and distinctive sounds. Furthermore, the plugin's cutting-edge modulation system provides an extensive range of choices for fine-tuning and reshaping sounds to flawlessness.

Rapid, which is a powerful plugin, comes with numerous filters, effects, and an arpeggiator that can be utilized to enhance creative potentialities. Furthermore, it tops off with these features.

Rapid represents a cutting-edge design with a larger and more user-friendly interface than Serum. Also, Rapid's wavetable editor stands out for its increased sophistication, allowing users to exercise precise control over waveforms. Furthermore, Rapid's modulation system offers unbeatable customization options with more routes and sources. Users can fine-tune their sounds to meet their preferences.

Serum stands out from other software due to its vast collection of presets and a thriving user community. Additionally, the software provides a multitude of third-party preset packs that users can download. With an innovative unison mode, Serum lets you create complex and dense sounds while offering a comprehensive effects section.

Rapid, despite being more expensive than Serum, provides a wider range of features and greater flexibility for sound design.

The potential for exceptional sound design and unique features are two standout qualities of the advanced wavetable synthesizers known as Rapid and Serum. Ultimately, personal preference and sound design demands will guide the decision-making process between the two. For users who prioritize a more diverse modulation system and a refined wavetable editor, Rapid is the optimal selection.

Alternatively, for those who value an extensive collection of pre-configured settings and sophisticated audio enhancements, Serum might be a more fitting choice.

Massive X

Compatibility: Win10, Win11, Apple Silicon macOS 10.5+, VST, VST3, AU, AAX 64-bit
Price: $179

Pros

βœ… Stunning sounding oscillators with great filters that sound analog, and can be used to further shape your sound design

βœ… Routing and modulation is really easy to use, you just drag and drop on certain effects and use the modulation matrix to further refine, making it great for workflow

βœ… Brilliant selection of modulators, LFOs, performance modules and more. If you're an original Massive fan you'll know how great the performer modulators are

βœ… Great selection of built-in effects that can be modulated and sound fantastic. Things like LFOs, envelopes can be applied to really technically shape your sounds

βœ… Wonderful selection of presets

Cons

❌ Quite expensive for a synth

❌ No ability to load your own samples or waveforms

❌ Not as versatile as other wavetable synths on the market

Native Instruments has produced a highly influential synthesizer called Massive X. It boasts an interface and engine that are both new and improved, permitting a greater choice of modulation and sound design alternatives. The wavetable engine includes various waveforms, and the synthesizer has many filter, effect, and modulation options. Unique among its characteristics is the modulation oscillator section, which enables other modulation sources to be used in sound design.

When comparing Serum and Massive X, it can be said that the latter has a more intricate interface and engine. This makes it well-suited for sound design and modulation at an advanced level. Additionally, Massive X offers a wider spectrum of waveforms as compared to Serum through its wavetable engine. Conversely, Serum is more user-friendly and easier to navigate, making it a more convenient option for those who are new to sound design or prefer a more straightforward workflow.

The selection primarily rests on the user's requirements and inclinations. If someone desires a synth with more intricate features and an extensive assortment of wavetables and modulation choices, selecting Massive X may be ideal. In contrast, if someone wants a synth that is easy to use, with a streamlined process, Serum may be the better option.

Waverazor

Compatibility: Win7, Win8, Win10, Win11 Apple Silicon, macOS 10.9+, VST, VST3, AU, AAX, NKS, 64-bit
Price: $159

Pros

βœ… A one-of-a-kind futuristic virtual synth.

βœ… Highly innovative β€œsplice waveforms” feature.

βœ… Excellent for self-oscillating drones and soundscapes.

βœ… Save time while creating complex dubstep Bass and Glitchy leads.

βœ… Two XY performance pads for automating your modulations.

βœ… Excellent graphics for an immersive experience.

Cons

❌ Very steep learning curve if you want to master it.

modulating chords
arp
melody

The Tracktion Waverazor plugin is designed to provide unparalleled futuristic and exclusive sounds. The plugin's synthesis engine is centered on an innovative technique called wave-slicing, where a waveform is split into smaller segments and then altered creatively. As a result, the sounds produced via this plugin are distinct from standard analog or digital synthesis.

Waverazor includes a specialized sound collection that outshines Serum's. Its true talent lies in crafting intricate sounds that cannot be replicated through other synthesis techniques. With a modulatory system and premium editing tools, the interface is simple to use and permits detailed sound sculpting.

Whilst Waverazor has an innovation in its sound-shaping abilities, it doesn't quite match Serum's broad range of sound creation possibilities due to its comprehensive wavetable library and adaptable modulation system. Despite this, any producer should consider adding Waverazor to their collection for its distinct sound capabilities.

The decision to use either Serum or Waverazor boils down to individual taste and the kind of auditory effects that one is trying to accomplish. Serum is a flexible and well-liked synthesizer that offers an extensive variety of sounds, whereas Waverazor is a distinct instrument that caters to those who aim to experiment with innovative sound design.

Spectrasonics Omnisphere

Compatibility: Win7, Win8, Win10, Win11, Apple Silicon, macOS 10.15+, VST, VST3, AU, AAX, 64-bit
Price: $499

Pros

βœ… Omnisphere has a massive library of over 14,000 sounds, and 70GB of samples, wavetables, analog synth wavetables etc.

βœ… Omnisphere's sound engine is top tier, offering the most pristine, clear waveforms you've heard and even accurately modelling some analog synths and real life instruments with a combination of synthesis and sampling work.

βœ… The sound design capabilities are endless, including granular synthesis, wavetable synthesis, and sample manipulation.

βœ… And to add to that, incredible built-in effects, including analog emulations of old hardware units, reverb, delay, and distortion.

βœ… Modulation possibilities are amazing

Cons

❌ Very expensive, making it inaccessible for some users (but it's worth it)

❌ Very CPU and RAM heavy, do not try to use on less than 16GB RAM and Quad Core CPU

❌ Overwhelming for a new user and difficult to learn, but very worth the effort.

❌ 70GB of space is a lot for a plugin to take on your HDD. You can use an External HDD, but make sure it's 7200RPM or an SSD or it will be slow

❌ Once you buy Omnisphere you'll want the entire Spectrasonics collection, which will set you back a large amount of cash

compositions made with omnipshere & keycape

Spectrasonics is the maker of Omnisphere, a software synthesizer with a wide range of applications and an impressive sound database. Omnisphere is a blend of different types of synthesis techniques, which include virtual analog, wavetable, granular, and sample-based synthesis. Furthermore, it features a selection of sound-altering effects and a state-of-the-art arpeggiator and step sequencer.

The dissimilarities between Omnisphere and Serum are apparent upon comparison. Noteworthy distinctions between the two include the significantly larger and complicated nature of Omnisphere. It has an extensive sound library (70GB) and sophisticated synthesis capabilities that aren't included in Serum. The cost of Omnisphere is additionally higher than that of Serum, reflecting the greater magnitude of features it possesses.

Both Omnisphere and Serum are exceptional software synthesizers that bring refreshing and diverse features to the table, irrespective of their differences. Serum boasts of its sleek and contemporary sound output, as well as its visually engaging interface. On the other hand, Omnisphere stands out for its vast sound library and its state-of-the-art synthesis capabilities.

The choice of which plugin to use ultimately boils down to the individual's preferences and specific requirements. For those seeking a streamlined interface and a sound palette with a specific focus, Serum is an ideal option. On the other hand, if one seeks a more comprehensive plugin with an extensive library of sounds and advanced synthesis capabilities, Omnisphere would be the better choice.

Summary

So, by now you should have a good understanding of some different Serum alternatives. These are all fantastic plugins of their own accord, but none really can fill the hole that's missing if you don't have Serum. They all operate differently, and it's completely up to your preference which is best.

However, we personally think Serum is best over all of these alternatives, for the simplicity, the amazing depth of resources online, and the versatility of it. It's simply the best synth to learn sound design on and can create an incredible array of sounds.

If we were to pick an alternative on this list, we'd choose Phase Plant for paid, and Vital for free.

Phase Plant is a step up from Serum and has way more features that can level up your sound design game, but is very hard to learn and doesn't include the same great filtering and FX options you have in Serum. However, it is definitely better for advanced users when deciding on a synth for in-depth sound design.

Vital is free and very similar to Serum in terms of interface. This is in no way a match for the sound capabilities Serum offers, but it's a fantastic synth to learn the ropes of for free, and then subsequently upgrade to Serum or Phase Plant afterwards.

Whatever you choose, learn it inside and out and you will be equipped with the skills to use any synth. Pick one, learn it inside and out and progress from there.

To recap, here's the list of the best Serum alternatives:

  1. KiloHearts Phase Plant
  2. Massive X
  3. Parawave Rapid
  4. Omnisphere (For Advanced Users)
  5. Vital Synth (Free)
  6. Waverazor
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