TU-Berlin Students Release FREE Synister Synthesizer (VST/AU)


A group of nine TU-Berlin (Technische Universität Berlin) students has developed and released Synister, a free (open source) virtual synthesizer VST/AU plugin for PC and Mac based digital audio workstations.

Wow. If these guys are making such awesome instruments as students, I honestly can’t wait to see the stuff they’ll make later on in their lives! Synister is a very cool virtual synthesizer and it is one of the nicest freeware surprises for me so far in 2016.

Since I like Synister so much, let’s begin this quick review by mentioning the negatives and moving those right out of the way. My biggest dislike is the user interface. I dig the design of the control elements (knobs, sliders, etc.) and the color scheme, however the tabbed control layout makes it somewhat cumbersome to actually program this excellent synth. I would much prefer so see a larger single-panel GUI with global scaling (instead of tabs). Second con – no monophonic mode (or at least I can’t find it). And finally, the LPF in the delay FX module is placed outside the feedback path, so you basically get a static feedback signal instead of getting a different tone for each delayed copy of the input. And those are literally all the drawbacks I could find. Everything else about Synister is 100% top notch.

When it comes to the good stuff, let’s start with the fact that this instrument is completely free to download and use (it is open source, distributed via GitHub) and that it works as a plugin (VST/AU) or a standalone app on both major platforms (PC and Mac) with 32-bit and 64-bit support in either case. We often see great sounding instruments and effects that will only work on Windows (or on Mac, although those are still somewhat of a rarity) and sometimes even on 32-bit systems only.

But the best thing about Synister are the little features and details that set it apart from the other free (and paid) synths on the market. First off, you get three oscillators (each with a choice of pulse, triangle/saw and noise waveforms), all three of which can be modulated in a bunch of different ways. For every oscillator, you can modulate the volume, pan, coarse tuning and waveform shape with up to two modulation sources (three LFOs, three envelopes and various external sources like velocity, modulation wheel, aftertouch, etc.). Needless to say, this means that you can program some seriously complex patches without ever leaving the oscillator panel.

Next up are the three envelopes (one ADSR for volume and two ADSRs for modulation) which sound very snappy and which also let you modulate the envelope speed with up to two modulation sources. It is also possible to fine-tune the attack, decay and release curves. Awesome stuff! The three available LFOs are equally cool, allowing the user to modulate the speed of each LFO and apply a fade in to the LFO signal.

My favorite part of a synthesizer is the filter and Synister comes with two of those, offering four modes per filter (LPF, HPF, BPF and Ladder) and, once again, up to two modulation sources for the cutoff and resonance parameters. As all other modules, the filters can be turned off in order to reduce the CPU hit. Speaking of which, Synister is a very well optimized synthesizer and at behaves very well both in terms of stability and CPU usage.

Finally, you get a rather handy FX section (chorus, clipper, bitcrusher and the aforementioned delay effect), along with a great little step sequencer. The sequencer is quite fun to use, as it can generate a random sequence in any note range determined by the user, or it can generate random sequences in real time (every step is randomized while playing). Of course, it can run in sync with the host application and supports triplets and dotted notes.

So there you go, a great little synth that’s completely free to use, packed with some neat features and a solid synthesis engine. I’m definitely keeping Synister in my plugin folder and I’m looking forward to more stuff from these generous and seriously talented students!


Synister is available for free download via GitHub (5.22 MB download size, EXE installer, 32-bit & 64-bit VST/AU plugin format for Windows & Mac).

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About Author

Tomislav is a music producer and sound designer from Belgrade, Serbia. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief at Bedroom Producers Blog.


        • Tomislav Zlatic


          Are you referring to modulation sources? If so, there are eight external modulation sources to choose from. If you’re referring to MIDI learn (for direct control of the parameters), it is not supported (as far as I can tell).

          • Tomislav, back in the days developers gave the MIDI CC Numbers corresponding to the parameters of their synths (or any other midi capable plugin), so that one could set up your midi controllers faders / knobs to controll eg the filter cutoff and so on. Since the age of Midi Learn, Automap or implemented solutions like in Studio One to map each midi fader on your keyboard to any parameter, it’s not so common any more I think.

            • Tomislav Zlatic


              Oh, of course! But I never really used CC numbers to control a VST, since most (if not all) modern hosts come with some sort of MIDI mapping.

  1. Love to watch your videos tweaking those buttons, they lift up my spirit reminding me I’m not crazy looking forward to what’s waiting out there for me and everyone to explore, your tireless effort is greatly appreciated. I will check this one out – many thanks!

  2. Cute and fun synth. Although the Chorus/flanger sounds quite mediocre imo. Im missing a Pre-delay, feedback would be nice too. Also, i dont like the Ladder filter that much. The resonance should be more prominent right at the cutoff, not attenuated at higher frequencies which it is here. Although, the filter in general sounds quite nice. Im liking the synth. Cheers.

  3. I’ve been waiting for a synth with such easy pulse width adjustment for quite a while. I’ve got inspired and made a little chiptune. This isn’t showing everything this synth is capable of, but still uses some non-trivial pulse modulation to mimic NES hardware. https://soundcloud.com/ramziel/chipsyn Cheers to the devs!

  4. Dean (Nekro)


    Tomislav my friend, Thank you for the heads up on this one (amongst many other freeware audioware released), I’ll be grabbing this one and installing despite being far from a synthesizer programming wizard (I enjoy myself and entertain myself when it comes to Synthesis and Me). All the best your way as always

  5. I am loving this synth. I have a project that requires strictly 432hz synths (no mumbo jumbo i just like the tuning for this particular project) and I have noticed the Global tuning knob on this synth is almost impossible to get just right… if they can fix this one little bug (maybe with a box to type in the exact hz frequency required?) this will be one of my most used synths!

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