The Best Synth Plugins Every Music Maker Needs

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Last Updated: November 2022

Every beat maker or music producer needs AT LEAST ONE really great synth. And there are a lot to choose from.

Whether you make beats, do sound design, scoring or anything audio related, this guide will put you on to the best vst synths across a variety of types, genres and uses.

We’ll go over the best pick for each category, what makes it great, product details and more. All of these plugins will make your studio headphones rumble.

If you want to learn more about what VSTs (virtual studio technology) entails check out this article.

Let’s get right into it…


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The Top 10 Synth Plugins

Here are our picks for the best sounding synth VSTs overall (not in any particular order!):

  1. Native Instruments Monark (Best Analog)
  2. Output Substance (Best Bass)
  3. Roland TR-808 (Best Drum)
  4. Native Instruments Reaktor (Best Modular)
  5. Xfer Records Serum (Best Wavetable)
  6. Native Instruments Razor (Best Additive)
  7. Native Instruments Spark (Best Subtractive)
  8. Spectrasonics Omnisphere (Best Hybrid)
  9. Native Instruments FM8 (Best FM)
  10. Arturia V Collection (Best Vintage Keyboard)

Top Synth Plugins Comparison Chart

Plugin NameSynth TypePricing# of Presets
NI MonarkAnalog Emulation$99 USD383Read More
or
Get Synth
Output SubstanceBass Sampler$199 USD300Read More
or
Get Synth
Roland TR-808Drum Machine$149 USD11 drum partsRead More
or
Get Synth
NI ReaktorModular$199 USD70 instrumentsRead More
or
Get Synth
SerumWavetable$189 USD or $9.99/mo450 presets, 144 wavetablesRead More
or
Get Synth
NI RazorAdditive$99 USD320 waveform partialsRead More
or
Get Synth
NI SparkSubtractive$49 USD200 presets, 1400 variationsRead More
or
Get Synth
OmnisphereHybrid$499 USD12,000Read More
or
Get Synth
NI FM8FM$149 USD1200Read More
or
Get Synth
Arturia V CollectionVintage Keyboard Emulations$499 USD or $24.99/mo14,000Read More
or
Get Synth

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    Best Analog Synth VST

    There are a few really great choices for analog emulations out there. The one that comes up in most posts is DIVA by u-he – and there’s no doubt it’s a powerhouse. But our pick for the best analog synth vst is something from one of our favorite pro audio companies – Native Instruments.

    Native Instruments Monark

    Analog Synth VST

    Monark is a monophonic synth vst that tries to emulate the legendary Minimoog true analog synth. And it sounds GREAT – a very good attempt at emulating one of the most famous synths to ever exist.

    There have been a lot of attempts at capturing the sound of the Minimoog and some have come closer than others, but NI has done a lot of calculating and fine tuning to try and recreate a true representation of the classic original.

    Unfortunately, it isn’t the best analog synth plugin for creating lush chords or other polyphonic content. There’s only one voice, which makes it a killer for leads and basslines like the very synth it’s based on.

    It loads in NI’s REAKTOR framework which allows it to eliminate the sample delay often seen when trying to emulate analog synths.

    At A Glance

    • Made by: Native Instruments
    • Price: $99 USD
    • Synth Type: Analog modeled, monophonic (minimoog emulation)
    • Features: 3 Oscillators, filter/amp envelopes, mod/glide controls
    • Number of Presets: 383

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    Best Bass Synth VST

    Bass synths are important. Because BASS is important. There are a lot of synths out there that can make bass sounds, that’s not the issue here. But what we want is something that can make amazing bass sounds that will rumble entire buildings when you want it to. There are a lot of options out there, including Monark, and we used to love Trillium from Spectrasonics. But now we have a new favorite bass plugin…

    Bass VST

    Output Substance

    Output is a newer plugin company that has an entire lineup of amazing products that we love. But Substance is something else. It’s an amazing new bass synth vst that lets you construct deep, rumbly sounds that add so much texture to a track.

    Now technically speaking, Substance IS NOT actually a synth. It’s a sample-based engine that runs inside Native Instruments KONTAKT player.

    But it combines several sound sources and allows you to manipulate them to come up with your perfect bass sound. So we think it’s a great choice for a bass instrument that combines electric, acoustic, and synth sounds into something new and unique.

    It’s definitely worth picking up, even if it’s not actually a synth, technically speaking…

    Note: If you want an ACTUAL synth for bass sounds, then choose MONARK (above) as your best bass synth vst because of it’s amazing Minimoog (the king of bass) emulation

    At A Glance

    • Made by: Output
    • Price: $199 USD
    • Synth Type: Not a synth – sample based
    • Features: 3 layers of sound sources, arpeggiator, macro sliders and effects
    • Number of Presets: 300

    Best Drum Synth VST

    Drum machine synths are a great way to give an electronic flavor to any track. They’re different than drum samplers which simply play back a pre-created drum sound. The drum synths actually generate the drum sounds using different sound waves and shaping characteristics. They definitely have a distinct sound, but can still be used successfully in many different genres.

    Roland TR-808 Software Rhythm Composer

    Drum Machine VST

    The 808 is one of the most well known sounds in music today. And the TR-808 that first made it possible is probably the most known and most loved drum machine that’s ever been created. And now you can get it inside your DAW thanks to the official software emulation made by Roland themselves.

    If you’re looking for realistic or “traditional” sounding drums, you’re better off going with a sampler. But if you want iconic electronically synthesized drum sounds, this VST drum synth is your best bet.

    The team at Roland used their “Analog Circuit Behavior” technology to try and faithfully emulate the actual analog circuits that gave the TR-808 it’s true sound and character. It’s not just a sampled version of the drum machine, but a full on emulation.

    But the beauty of virtual studio synths means you can recreate the original, and add new features which the company has done.

    At A Glance:

    • Made By: Roland
    • Price: $149 USD One Time or Available w/ Roland Cloud Subscription
    • Synth Type: Drum synthesizer with on-board sequencer
    • Features: Original sounds + level/tone/tuning controls, overdrive, drag/drop MIDI, hardware integration
    • Number of Presets: 11 voices/instrument parts

    Best Modular Synth VST

    Modular synths are some of the most fun looking pieces of music equipment around. Modular synths are basically setups that contain plug-and-play style “modules” (hence modular) that you mix and match to almost “build” your own customized synth. The problem is, that’s an expensive little habit to develop. Thankfully there are some great VST modular synths that you can get started with.

    Native Instrument’s REAKTOR

    Modular VST

    Another NI Pick, Reaktor is a modular synth vst engine that you can use just like a hardware version. It’s a fully customizable drag-and-drop interface with over 70 instruments included to mix and match and experiment with.

    Beyond the included instruments, REAKTOR BLOCKS is an opportunity to truly create a unique modular synth on your own by mixing and matching different sound generating and sound shaping “blocks” together.

    It’s probably one of the best computer-based “modular” experiences in existence.

    The modular synth plugin comes with a dozens of instrument presets as well, but can be used to create some of the most stunning and interesting sounds (and synths) with super high quality output. But just like with any hardware modular setup, the learning curve on this plugin is pretty steep.

    Thankfully, there are also a lot of free and paid third party releases featuring sound from lots of known producers and sound designers out there.

    At A Glance:

    • Made By: Native Instruments
    • Price: $199 USD
    • Synth Type: Modular synthesizer
    • Features: Various synthesis modules, anti-aliased oscillators, zero-delay feedback, hardware integration, vibrant creator community + user library
    • Number of Presets: 70 instruments

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    Best Wavetable Synth VST

    Wavetable synthesis is when you have something called a “wavetable” which is a collection of wave forms. Wave forms are basically primary sounds that you can generate. A wavetable synth chooses a random position on the wavetable to play a single waveform once, and modulate it to generate a unique sound. You can get some really interesting textures and timbres with this style of synthesis.

    Xfer Records Serum

    Wavetable VST

    Serum is one of the most popular vst synths out there. It’s absolutely huge in the EDM community and is used in everything from Pop to Hip-Hop. It’s easy to see why as the sounds you can generate with it truly sound great.

    Some of the best uses of serum are for really luscious and grand pad sounds or sharp leads and gritty basses. It’s a very versatile wavetable VST. It seems intimidating at first, but you can quickly find your way around the intuitive sound design controls if you spend a bit of time watching some tutorials online.

    The routing is very easy to use (drag and drop), and it comes with hundreds or presets and wavetables to get you started. You can also import your own custom wavetables.

    Because it’s a polyphonic synth, it’s the ideal for creating chords and harmonic parts.

    And like our last pick, because Serum is so widely used there are a lot of third party creators who do sound packs you can use in the synth.

    At A Glance:

    • Made By: Xfer Records
    • Price: $189 USD One Time or $9.99/month on Splice Rent-to-Own
    • Synth Type: Wavetable synthesis
    • Features: 3 oscillators, 4 filters/LFOs, 10 effects, 16 voice polyphony
    • Number of Presets: 450 presets, 144 wavetables

    Best Additive and Subtractive Synth VSTs

    Additive and subtractive synthesis is a very fundamental type of sound design. With an additive synth you basically start with nothing and start combining single wave forms together and manipulating them to generate a sound. Subtractive synthesis is just the opposite. You often start with a simple waveform (or any sound source) and then start to remove sonic content and manipulate it to generate the sound.

    Both our picks are by NI and play in the REAKTOR framework we covered eariier.

    Native Instruments RAZOR

    Additive Synth VST

    Razor is a really great sounding dynamic additive synthesizer VST with a visual component that lets you see what you’re doing. It was created by Berlin producer Errorsmith and gives you a really “up front” sound. You can get really creative with the “partials” (single sine waves) and the filters and the modulation options and still get a detailed sound generated.

    It also includes a “vocoder” style module to synthesize voice parts across 34 different bands. The synth has a compact interface and is fairly easy to wrap your head around if you know the basics of additive synthesis. It’s also a great instrument to use for performances, not just studio work.

    At A Glance:

    • Made By: Native Instruments
    • Price: $99 USD
    • Synth Type: Additive synthesis
    • Features: 14 oscillator waveforms, 11 filter types
    • Number of Presets: 320 Waveform Partials

    Native Instruments Reaktor SPARK

    Subtractive Synth VST

    SPARK by NI is a subtractive synth VST that also runs inside the Reaktor framework.

    It’s adds an unpredictable randomness to traditional subtractive synthesis.

    The dynamic nature of the synth can make it great for both subtly and warm sounds as well as screaming, chaotic sounds.

    It’s a very unique way to do this type of synthesis.

    At A Glance:

    • Made By: Native Instruments
    • Price: $49 USD
    • Synth Type: Subtractive synthesis
    • Features: 2 oscillators, 6 modulators/filters/effects, LFO/envelope control
    • Number of Presets: 200 presets and 1400 sound variations

    Best Hybrid Synth VST

    A hybrid synthesizer is really the best of both worlds when it comes to sound design and manipulation. With pure synthesis, you’re taking waveforms and manipulating them to generate different sounds. With hybrid synthesis, you can use waveforms, sure, but you can also manipulate sample based audio (i.e. recordings) along with waveform manipulation. It’s a very powerful way to create your sounds.

    Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

    Hybrid Synth VST

    Another legendary and renowned piece of software, Omnisphere, is the ultimate synth/sampler hybrid. It’s a beloved plugin used by producers in literally every genre. It’s one of the most popular vst plugins, period. In any category.

    The hype around this beast is likely due to its versatility and flexibilty. You get so many different starting points – from waveforms to wavetables and, of course, samples. But you also get manipulation effects and even a granular synthesis engine. The possibilities are limitless.

    But Omnisphere doesn’t stop there – you can also import your own sound sources for manipulation. It’s no wonder why so many of the hits produced in the last decade have used Omnisphere sounds. Because it’s an epic machine that could be the only thing you own, and never get boring.

    And the sounds themselves are just absolutely phenomenal. It’s a great pick for any music producer or beat maker.

    The only problem is it’s VERY expensive. And there’s no convenient “rent-to-own” option. So save those streaming pennies up for this one.

    Note: Because of it’s superb granular synthesis engine, Omnisphere is also our pick for the best granular synth vst.

    At A Glance:

    • Made By: Spectrasonics
    • Price: $499 USD
    • Synth Type: Hybrid – granular, waveform/wavetable, sample-based
    • Features: 2 filters (30 types), 58 effects, 500 waveforms/wavetables, granular synth engine, 65 GB sample library
    • Number of Presets: 12,000

    Best FM (Frequency Modulation) Synth VST

    FM synthesis is a type of sound generation that takes a waveform and then modulated it’s frequency range. Some type of modulating input source either increases or lowers the frequency (how many times and how fast) a waveform plays. It’s a method that can be used to create beautifully harmonic sounds or just straight up noise if you want.

    Native Instruments FM8

    Frequency Modulation VST

    The FM8 frequency modulation synth is the latest (but still older) update to Native Instruments’ FM7. The FM7 was the company’s take on emulating the coveted Yamaha DX7 digital synthesizer for the DAW. The original DX7 was one of the original FM machines and became one of the best selling keyboards on the market.

    The tech was new and very interesting. Of course, it’s not new anymore but the power of FM synthesis shines through in the clean and easy to use interface of FM8.

    Because the FM8 lives in the virtual studio realm, a lot of cool features were added like the ability to create varied effects chains, tube simulations, overdrive capability and so much more. It’s also got it’s own pattern generator that works like a step-sequencer.

    It even features a couple of effects and sound libraries from the original FM7 release. All in all, it’s the best fm synth vst on the market.

    At A Glance:

    • Made By: Native Instruments
    • Price: $149 USD
    • Synth Type: Frequency Modulation
    • Features: Multiple “operators,” overdrive/tube/cabinet/flange/wah/etc, “Easy Edit” page, Arpeggiator
    • Number of Presets: Over 1200

    Best Vintage Synth Keyboard VST

    There’s nothing quite more sought after than the vintage synth keyboards of yesterday that produced the most iconic sounds from the most influential producers in music as we know it. The only problem is, these finicky keyboards are only available on thee re-sale market – and they go for THOUSANDS of dollars each. Add to that the fact that they often need maintenance and care and getting the best emulations of these vintage synths and keyboards makes a lot more sense for most producers.

    Luckily, there’s a much better (i.e. PERFECT) option for us living in the 21st century.

    Arturia V Collection

    Vintage Synth VST

    Arturia’s V Collection of hardware keyboard emulations are some of the truest representations of the vintage and classic keyboards they are based on. This is by far one of the (if not THE) best vintage synth collections available on the market today.

    It does come at a hefty price tag but what you get is definitely worth it. These retro synth VSTs are very fun to play with and do a great job at mimicking the original hardware pieces.

    If you’re looking for the best Yamaha CS-80, Prophet 5, or Juno VST emulation, Arturia is the one.

    It comes with 13 different analog classic synths and they all sound great. You also get 7 digital keyboards and 9 classic pianos like the coveted Mellotron.

    You get all the same controls and sequencers as the original hardware keyboard in plugin format. If you’ve got a great midi controller like the Komplete Kontrol series by Native Instruments, then you can also get a true hands on experience.

    Here’s everything that’s included: Korg MS-20 V, SQ80 V, Augmented Strings, Augmented Voices, Emulator II V, Vocoder V, Jun-6 V, OP-Xa V, Mellotron V, Synthi V, CZ V, Analog Lab V, Clavinet V, CMI V, DX7 V, Buchla Easel V, Synclavier V, B-3 V, Mini V, Piano V, Stage-73 V, Matrix-12 V, Farfisa V, Solina V, SEM V, Wurli V, Jup-8 V, ARP 2600 V, CS-80 V, Prophet-5 V, Prophet-VS V, VOX Continental V, Modular V

    Note: Arturia’s V Collection is also our pick for the best VST synth collection overall!

    At A Glance:

    • Made By: Arturia
    • Price: $499 USD One Time or $24.99/month on Splice Rent-to-Own
    • Synth Type: Vintage Keyboard emulations
    • Features: Includes Analog Lab for single interface browsing/editing sounds, in-app tutorials, proprietary engines to mimic original circuitry
    • Number of Presets: Over 14,000

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the Best Overall Synth VST?

    The best plugin ever, of all time is… subjective. Because there are so many great sounding plugins, the best overall pick will be individual to what you’re looking for. But if we’re talking about the most popular synth VSTs you could point to either Serum or Omnisphere – they are two of the most widely used plugins by music producers and beat makers.

    Why Are VST Plugins So Expensive?

    Not all plugins are extremely expensive – there are tons of free options. Unfortunately when you want something that sounds truly spectacular, though, you usually need to pay for it. That’s because it takes a lot of work and effort to create the synths (especially if they’re hardware emulations) and honestly, the market just isn’t that big. That’s why when you have truly spectacular plugins, you can end up paying hundreds of dollars for them.

    What Does VST Stand For?

    VST in the music world stands for “Virtual Studio Technology.” It’s a software interface that allows programmers to use digital signal processing in order to simulate real studio hardware in the digital realm. It was first introduced to the world in 1996 by Steinberg – the company that makes the DAW “Cubase.”

    What is the Difference Between VST2 and VST3?

    VST3 is a second upgrade to the software interface Steinberg created in 1996 for virtual studio technology. It uses your computer processor more efficiently to run a higher number or higher-intensity plugins without wasting resources. The other major difference is that version 3 supports multiple inputs/outputs.


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    Final Thoughts and Wrap Up

    There you have it – our take on the top 10 synth plugins available on the market today.

    There are many more types of VSTs we could get into, but this has been a pretty long article as it is.

    These plugins can become pretty expensive if you try to get them all, but don’t worry about that. Think about which one appeals to you the most and start there.

    Even having ONE synth plugin from our list is enough to keep you busy making amazing sounds for a long time.

    Also, have you heard Splice has rent-to-own options for some of the plugins featured in our list? Read our full Splice review here to learn more.

    Thanks for checking out our full look at the best synth VSTs on the market today.

    We hope it was helpful!

    Back to Main Music Production Section

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    About The Author:

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    Omar Zulfi

    Omar Zulfi is a music producer, rapper, singer, songwriter and digital entrepreneur. He is the founder and head writer at Deviant Noise. Learn more about what he's doing by clicking here.


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