Last week I posted my list of favorite free vst effect plugins. I thought I would follow that up with my favorite 10 free vst instruments for the PC. There seems to be twice as many free synth vsts than effect vsts. Going through them all to find the good ones is a chore. For as many as I have saved in my plugin folder I have deleted just as many that just weren't that good. It seems almost anyone can make a synth with Synth Maker or Synth Edit which is great for people learning to make plugins :)... but it makes finding good and usable free ones a bit more difficult. Here is my list of favorites to date.
1. Superwave P8 by Superwave
I can't believe this synth is free actually. It uses a combination of additive and subtractive synthesis to create its big sound. It has 2 oscillators, but in "superwave" mode it plays 7 wave forms. It also has 2 filters, 2 LFOs, as well as delay. It is warm and fat and conjures up memories of old Gary Numan & Jean Michel Jarre records.
2. Amphetamine by Easytoolz
While were on the subject of nice and fat...lets talk about Amphetamine. This is a 6 oscillator synth that has great pads. The filters are funky sounding and that's what I like best about it. It also has a primitive gate sequencer in it as well. This was entered in the 2009 KVR challenge. It didn't place, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good pick.
3. Originally my choice in this spot was 23 Words by XOXOS, but his site has been down for over a week now so I can't recommend it anymore.
This is a sample playback vst. What makes it so interesting is you can load up to 23 different wave snippets into the vst and then play them back in order or randomly. This yields some very interesting and inspiring results. I find that it is good for loop creation and ideas.
4. Augur by Smart Electronix
Augur, according to its maker's website, is an "ongoing attempt at a Prophet VS clone". I don't think it comes close to the richness and beauty of the Prophet VS, but its still worth downloading. The vst uses the same modulation matrix diagram that is printed on the actual synth and allows you to make modulation choices by clicking radio buttons in the diagram. This is a pretty intuitive design.The modulation possibilites are very interesting on this vst. I like the way its layed out and I like the sounds I can mangle from it. The UI isn't pretty and that may make it unusable for some folks, but I like making sounds on this vst and its easy to make usable ones.
5. Crystal by Green Oak
This is another synth I couldn't believe was free. This is a semi-modular synth that has elements of FM synthesis and subtractive synthesis. It has synthesized wave forms and sampled wave forms to choose from as starting points. There are multiple modulation envelopes and a modulation matrix that lets you assign sources and targets for modulation. This synth can create some incredibly creative sounds and it sounds good. Its not only good for musical sounds but also for sound design.
6. FMMF by de la Mancha
This vst is based on FM Synthesis and has a nice intuitive interface. It has 4 operators and multi-stage envelopes to mess about with. I haven't had tons of time to play with this one, but I think the presets are interesting. This synth was the 3rd place winner in the 2009 KVR Challenge. One thing to note is that the web page does warn of possible crashes on multi-core machines if you run more than one instance of FMMF. I haven't had this issue yet though.
7. EMU Proteus VX by EMU
I think this one has been available for awhile, but none the less I think its solid. The presets are all pretty good and straight forward and there is a lot of tweakability here. The 1000 free pre-sets come from the Proteus 2000 MIDI sound module. You can also load any sounds from the Emulator X library into it as well.
8. TAL-UNO 62 by Togu Audio Labs
This is a virtual emulation of the Roland Juno 60. This UNO-62 is the most current version of the plug in, there was a previous version call the UNO-60. Togu Audio Labs refactored the old TAL-UNO 60 to make it a more accurate representation of the Roland Juno 60. I like it because it does sound pretty convincing and I can always manage to fenagle a buzzy bass sound out of it that can cut through the mix when other vst synths fall flat in this category.
9. MinimogueVA by Glen Stegner
This emulation of the Mini Moog has some additional features like a step sequencer and arpeggiator. It sounds pretty close to the real thing. You're never going to completely emulate those fat filters in a vst I think, but none the less for a free vst this is pretty darn good.
His Arp 2600 vst synth sounds pretty nice too, but I haven't had good luck with its reliability in Ableton LIVE, so I can't personally recommend it. It crashes alot for me.
10. Kore Player by Native Instruments
This is NI's free instrument player that also comes with some free sounds (Make sure you download the free Holiday 2009 pack). The sounds are really polished,solid, very usable AND tweakable to some degree. NI also has an arsenal of sound packs for the Kore player that you can purchase online at their site.
So there it is. My list of the top 10 free VST instruments. All of these have been tested and used in Cubase 4 and Ableton Live 8.1 on a computer with Windows XP. If you have any favorites I missed I'd love to know about them.
- Until next time... Over N Out