Synths are the backbone of every electronic music producer’s plugin arsenal. These are the best free synthesizer VST plugins for digital audio workstations on PC and Mac. For more software categories, return to free VST plugins.
The VST synths featured on this page aren’t listed in a particular order. Every virtual instrument mentioned in the article has at least one outstanding feature that makes it better than other free synth VST plugins.
Check out the best free synths below and find more info about each instrument further down the page. We provided additional details about the virtual synths listed in the article.
You might also be interested in our free VST instruments article.
A big THANK YOU to all BPB readers who helped us improve the article with their suggestions in the comments section.
Best FREE VST Synthesizers (2023 Update)
These are the best free synth VST plugins:
- Vital Basic
- Tyrell N6
- Exakt Lite
- VCV Rack
- HY-Poly Free
- Odin 2
- kHs ONE
Scroll down for more info about each virtual instrument.
Surge by Vember Audio
Surge by Vember Audio is the best free synthesizer VST plugin right now. It is an insanely powerful hybrid subtractive synth with a dual synthesis engine, three oscillators per voice, eight algorithms per oscillator, two multi-mode filters with eight filter types, twelve LFO modules per voice, eight FX slots with ten different effects, and more.
The oscillators feature classic analog waveforms, frequency modulation, and wavetable synthesis. Surge can even use the audio input as the sound source. A modulation matrix is also included, as is a preset manager for storing and editing your custom sounds.
Thanks to one of the most recent updates, Surge features a fully resizable user interface that will fit any screen.
And speaking of updates, Surge has consistently improved with bug fixes and new features since it went open-source.
The programmers who are currently developing the plugin are updating it almost daily. Music producers who want to use the latest version of the plugin at all times can even access the nightly builds. That’s a rare feat for any music production software, especially one that’s completely free to download and use.
Another recent update introduced the new Royal Surge skin and the ability to create custom GUI designs. Keep an eye on the GitHub project page to stay informed about the latest surge updates.
It’s worth knowing that Surge wasn’t always a free synthesizer VST plugin. The instrument was priced at €99 when Vember Audio first announced it in 2006. It wasn’t until September 2018 that Surge became open-source.
It’s worth noting that the same team is currently working on ShortCircuit XT, an open-source sampler plugin based on ShortCircuit by Vember Audio.
More info: Surge
Vital Basic by Matt Tytel
Vital Basic is the freeware version of Matt Tytel’s wavetable synthesizer Vital. Feature-wise, the free synth is just as powerful as the paid ones. Vital Basic only comes with a smaller collection of wavetables and presets.
So, what’s so great about Vital Basic? Simply put, it’s a free synthesizer plugin that rivals flagship synths like Xfer Serum and NI Massive.
Vital Basic is an insanely versatile synthesizer with many hidden features and almost limitless modulation capabilities. You can create some crazy sounds by using the oscillator section alone. Combine that with universal filters, modulators, and effects, and it becomes clear that Vital Basic is one of the best virtual synthesizers.
On the other hand, the carefully thought-out user interface makes Vital a synthesizer that is enjoyable and easy to use. No matter how many crazy modulations are in a patch, you will never feel lost or confused by which source modulates which parameter.
The free edition of Vital comes with 75 presets and 25 wavetables. You can upgrade to Vital Plus to get 250 additional presets and 70 wavetables. The most advanced version, called Vital Pro, comes with over 400 presets, 150 wavetables, text-to-wavetable functionality, and exclusive perks.
More info: Vital Basic
Tyrell N6 by U-He
Before Surge was a free synthesizer, there was Tyrell N6. If you asked us what our favorite free VST synth was until Surge became open-source, this synth gem would be the answer. Tyrell N6 was developed by Urs Heckmann, the DSP programming maestro behind virtual synth classics like Zebra2 and Diva.
Furthermore, Tyrell N6’s feature set follows the blueprint provided by Amazona.de forum members who joined forces to create a concept for their ideal synthesizer. You read that right; Tyrell N6 was developed by Urs Heckmann, following a “dream synth” concept developed by the members of an online forum. These are incredible times for us synth geeks.
Ideal or not, Tyrell N6 is a virtual instrument that deserves to be in every music producer’s synthesis arsenal. At its core are a pair of oscillators with an additional noise generator and ring modulation. Further down the signal chain, the synth features a couple of snappy ADSR envelopes, a twin filter design from an early prototype of U-He Diva, and a pair of host-syncable LFO modules with eight waveforms.
The instrument comes with over 500 presets, and dozens of free sound banks are available online. Check out the download area on U-He’s website to download a bunch of free presets for Tyrell N6, one of the best free synths in the world.
More info: Tyrell N6
Zebralette by U-He
Several readers asked us to include Zebralette on the list, even though it already included a U-He synth plugin (Tyrell N6), so here it is. Zebralette is a freeware synthesizer based on an oscillator module from U-He’s flagship Zebra2 synthesizer.
If a single oscillator can work as a standalone synth, can you imagine how incredibly powerful the actual Zebra2 is?
Described by its developer as a “Mini Zebra,” the Zebralette plugin features a single oscillator with a 16-slot waveset. The user can freely customize the waveform with GeoMorph, SpectroMorph, GeoBlend, and SpectroBlend modes, each offering a unique method of manipulating the waveform shape.
Things get even more interesting when Zebralette’s 24 spectral effects come into play. Use them to warp and mangle the frequency content of the sound in ways that could never be achieved with a basic subtractive synthesizer.
Zebralette is a 16-voice polyphonic free synth VST plugin with a 32-stage envelope generator, 2 LFOs, and many modulation options. If all of that sounds complicated, you’d be happy that U-He provided 300 presets to help you get started with the plugin.
More info: Zebralette
Dexed by Digital Suburban
Following a couple of instruments relying on subtractive synthesis, let’s add a pure FM synthesizer to the list. The best free FM synthesizer available right now is Dexed. It accurately emulates the most famous FM keyboard ever, the legendary Yamaha DX7.
In fact, the emulation here is so precise that the plugin can load DX7 presets. Dexed can load DX7 patches as long as you have a DX7 patch editor and a SysEx manager handy.
The instrument’s feature set resembles the Yamaha DX7, with the added perk of being a software synthesizer. Most importantly, all 144 synth engine parameters are available for DAW automation from the front panel. The user interface can take some time to get used to, especially for users who aren’t familiar with FM synthesizers.
If you find FM synthesis too complicated but want to give it a go nonetheless, check out Digits 2. It is a free-phase distortion synthesizer that emulates the Casio CZ-101 keyboard.
More info: Dexed
Exakt Lite by Sonicbits
Another FM synthesizer you need to check out is Exakt Lite by Sonicbits. Unlike the Dexed plugin, which emulates the vintage Yamaha DX7 synth, Exakt Lite does its own thing. It is a user-friendly FM synthesizer plugin for the modern age.
Exakt Lite features a four-operator, twelve-voice FM synthesis engine with eight classic FM algorithms. The aliasing-free operators have four standard waveforms (sinewave, saw, square, and triangle) and eight emulated waveforms borrowed from the Yamaha TX81Z synthesizer module.
You also get five-point TX envelopes for volume modulation, a resonant multi-mode filter, and a syncable LFO. A real-time waveform display is included, too.
The thing that sets Exakt Lite apart from most other FM synthesizer plugins is its intuitive interface. You don’t have to know the ins and outs of FM synthesis to use this plugin. The controls are intentionally simplified so anyone with a basic understanding of synthesis can get some cool sounds out of this FM freebie.
Exakt Lite is available in VST, VST3, and AU plugin formats for digital audio workstations on PC and Mac. The same developer has released Sphere, a freeware reverb plugin based on a modified Schroeder reverberator model.
More info: Exakt Lite
VCV Rack by VCV
VCV Rack is a free modular synthesizer. The software is standalone, but an unofficial port called VeeSeeVSTRack will let you use it as a synthesizer VST plugin in your favorite digital audio workstation.
Users who want the power of a virtual modular synthesizer in a slightly more compact package should check out ModulAir by Full Bucket Music. If you’re entirely new to the world of modular synthesis, ModulAir could be a helpful learning tool before moving on to a monster modular synthesizer like VCV Rack.
More info: VCV Rack
ModulAir by Full Bucket Music
ModulAir is a modular virtual synthesizer with 31 modules and up to eighteen modules per patch. Unlike the previously mentioned VCV Rack instrument, ModulAir doesn’t support third-party modules. On the other hand, it’s much easier to use as a VST plugin in your DAW of choice.
There’s plenty to like about ModulAir, especially if you’re into modular synthesis. The plugin offers up to 64 voices of polyphony, with extra features like double-precision audio processing, MIDI learn, and importing TUN/SCL micro-tuning formats.
Check out the other freeware synths available on Full Bucket Music’s website. The developer has released a range of excellent virtual instruments, including several emulations of classic Korg synths.
More info: Modulair
HY-Poly Free by HY-Plugins
Those looking for a subtractive synthesizer with abundant modulation options should check out HY-Poly Free by HY-Plugins. This freeware synth is based on the premium HY-Poly plugin with some feature limitations.
We won’t compare the free and the paid versions of HY-Poly here. Instead, here’s a quick look at what this excellent free synthesizer VST has to offer.
HY-Poly Free features a pair of oscillators that can morph between the saw and pulse waveforms. The oscillators also offer PWM, vibrato, and oscillator sync capabilities. You also get a sub-oscillator, a noise generator, and a pair of multi-mode filters.
That’s a decent feature list, yet HY-Poly Free offers even more synthesis goodies in the mod section. The plugin includes four ADSR envelopes, a pair of LFOs, a trio of step sequencers, and S&H. It also features three built-in effects (delay, chorus, and a utility tool).
The best thing about HY-Poly Free, though, is the modulation workflow. Making modulation routings is super easy, and there are plenty of options for adding movement to the preset that you’re working on. All modulation connections are visible on the GUI, so you won’t lose track of what’s going on, even with those extra complex patches that sound like R2D2 after a rough night at the bar.
More info: HY-Poly Free
Helm by Matt Tytel
Helm is a capable subtractive synthesizer that works on all major operating systems. You can use Helm as a standalone app or a synth plugin in Windows, macOS, and Linux.
The instrument features a modern-looking interface that provides the right balance of flexibility and ease of use. Despite its extensive feature set, Helm keeps all the controls on a single UI panel without the need for menu diving. This speeds up the programming workflow and makes the synthesizer more user-friendly.
Helm offers everything you’d expect to see in a subtractive synthesizer, with a few added features that you won’t find in most other freeware synths. One such feature is the stutter effect, perfect for making glitchy and pulsing sounds. Another great addition is the arpeggiator module, which works together with Helm’s built-in step sequencer.
More info: Helm
Synth1 by Ichiro Toda
Synth1 is a legendary freeware synthesizer plugin that has been around for ages. Ichiro Toda released the first version of the instrument back in 2002. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most downloaded VST plugins of all time.
Yet, despite its age, Synth1 remains a relevant virtual instrument. The three things that make Synth1 stand out are its characteristic digital sound, incredibly low CPU hit, and the abundance of freely downloadable presets. Seriously, there are hundreds of Synth1 sound banks that you can download free of charge, some of which were crafted by well-known professional sound designers.
Synth1 emulates the Nord Lead 2 synthesizer. It features three main oscillators, one sub-oscillator, a multi-mode filter, two LFO modules, two envelopes, an arpeggiator, and several built-in effects. The instrument’s sonic character is purely digital and relatively tame compared to VA synthesizers trying to sound analog.
The unobtrusive sonic character makes Synth1 suitable for layering on top of other instruments in a busy mix.
More info: Synth1
TAL-NoiseMaker by Togu Audio Line
TAL-NoiseMaker is a versatile free synthesizer plugin with dual oscillators, a multi-mode filter, two LFO modules, and a set of built-in effects.
The instrument’s most distinctive feature is the freely editable envelope module. The custom envelope can be used as a complex LFO shape for modulating the filter cutoff, oscillator tune, output volume, or even the frequency modulation and ring modulation amount.
The custom LFO shapes can lead to exciting sounds with complex timbres and modulation that could hardly be replicated by most other virtual analog synthesizers on the market.
The instrument also features a great selection of built-in effects, including a reverb module, a delay, a bitcrusher, and a Juno-style dual chorus. Its relatively advanced synthesis engine allows TAL-NoiseMaker to generate classic analog sounds and more complex patches for modern electronic music.
In July 2021, TAL-NoiseMaker was updated with a brand-new user interface.
More info: TAL-NoiseMaker
Charlatan by Blaukraut Engineering
Simplicity goes a long way. When it comes to synth VST plugins, Charlatan is the very definition of simplicity.
Charlatan boasts a barebones subtractive synthesis engine with two oscillators, a single multi-mode filter, two ADSR envelopes, an LFO module, and unison. However, the instrument’s lifelike oscillators, fat resonant filter, and snappy envelopes make it an excellent tool for creating authentic analog synthesizer sounds.
If lightweight synthesizers are your thing, be sure to also check out Deducktion. This lovely little synth doesn’t match Charalatan’s unique sound character. However, it features an equally streamlined user interface and a more powerful modulation section.
More info: Charlatan
PG-8X by ML-VST
PG-8X is an emulation of the Roland JX-8P hardware synthesizer. The virtual instrument comes incredibly close to its analog counterpart. Music producers looking for 80s analog sounds should look no further.
With its warm pads, fat bass sounds, and analog leads, this JX-8P clone doesn’t spare nostalgia. PG-8X is the free synth VST instrument for synthwave, vaporwave, and other 80s-inspired electronic music genres.
For more analog synthesis nostalgia, consider the OB-Xd virtual synth by discoDSP. It emulates the Oberheim OB-X, OB-Xa, and OB-8 hardware synthesizers. Interestingly enough, OB-Xd’s filter sounds so good that it was also used in Dexed, the FM synthesizer we mentioned earlier.
More info: PG-8X
OB-Xd by discoDSP
OB-Xd is another classic analog synthesizer in the form of a plugin. It emulates the Oberheim OB-X, OB-Xa, and OB-8 analog synthesizers with intentional differences and improvements. The sound isn’t a 100% accurate simulation of the original hardware, but OB-Xd captures the sonic character of its analog counterparts.
The features are mostly borrowed from the Oberheim OB-X. The plugin features a pair of detunable oscillators with unison, a noise generator, a couple of envelopes, an LFO, and a great-sounding filter.
The interface is well-designed, and the plugin is a joy to use. It can be a great starting point for users learning about subtractive synthesis.
OB-Xd also features a vast collection of presets that deliver those classic Oberheim OB-X sounds. The software is compatible with all VST plugin hosts on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Also available is an iOS version for portable devices.
Don’t miss this free synthesizer VST plugin if you’re a fan of old-school analog synths.
More info: OB-Xd
Crystal by Green Oak
Green Oak’s Crystal is an old-school synth plugin. It’s been around for ages, but Crystal still has a devoted user base.
Crystal’s interface design looks like a relic from the past, but the synthesis engine remains impressive. It is a semi-modular affair that boasts a combination of subtractive and FM synthesis. The synth has substantial modulation capabilities (up to 90 synth engine parameters can be modulated) and a wide selection of built-in effects for added sound design firepower.
The feature list doesn’t end there. Crystal can also do wave sequencing, program morphing, and even a bit of granular synth action. And if you’re old school, you’ll love that Crystal can use SoundFont files as the sound source.
Despite its old age, Crystal is still being updated to remain compatible with modern digital audio workstations. As of February 2020, the plugin supports macOS Catalina.
Crystal is not a free synthesizer VST plugin we would recommend to beginners. It’s more of an advanced synthesizer that will truly shine in the hands of experienced sound designers.
More info: Crystal
VK-1 Viking Synthesizer by Blamsoft
Another ex-paid synth VST gone freeware, Blamsoft’s excellent VK-1 Viking Synthesizer emulates the Moog Voyager hardware synthesizer.
First released as a Rack Extension priced at $59, this monophonic synthesizer later became available as a freeware VST and AU plugin for PC and Mac.
The Viking has a lot going for it, as the plugin closely resembles the features and the control layout of Moog’s highly acclaimed Voyager synth. Voyager’s signature features are all there, including continuously morphable oscillators, a pair of ladder filters, oscillator sync, and two modulation buses.
Add to that a collection of over 200 presets, and you get a free synth VST that’s well worth downloading. VK-1 Viking Synthesizer is highly recommended for fans of the Moog Voyager sound who can’t afford the real thing.
More info: VK-1 Viking Synthesizer
Cobalt by Leslie Sanford
Cobalt is a free synthesizer VST plugin that is easy to recommend. Initially priced at $35, the developer Leslie Sanford re-released the plugin as freeware in 2016.
Fans of the late 80s hybrid digital synthesizers will instantly fall in love with Cobalt. Although Cobalt doesn’t emulate any particular hardware synth, its sound is reminiscent of digital classics like the Korg DW8000 and the Ensoniq ESQ-1. Those synths used digital oscillators with analog filters, resulting in a subtly lo-fi yet unmistakably warm tone.
Cobalt includes a set of 26 digital waveforms that are paired with an analog-modeled filter. There are quite a few presets to choose from, too, and most of them will take you right back to the age of those classic 80s synth soundtracks.
Another bonus is that Cobalt is straightforward to program, thanks to its intuitive and uncluttered interface. If you’re making synthwave or 80s-inspired music, this free synth is a must-have.
More info: Cobalt
Pendulate by Newfangled Audio
Pendulate is a free synth VST developed by Newfangled Audio and released by Eventide. The plugin doesn’t require an iLok, and you can download it completely free of charge from Eventide’s website.
The synthesizer features a new type of oscillator technology based on a double pendulum’s physics properties. The oscillator section is followed by a wavefolder and a low-pass gate, both inspired by the work of Don Buchla.
Pendulate truly shines as a generator of dark and glitchy sounds. The instrument’s robust modulation architecture allows for up to 169 simultaneous modulation routings, including several internal and external modulation sources. If that sounds too complex for your taste, Pendulate comes with 136 presets to help you get started with sound design.
More info: Pendulate
Odin 2 by TheWaveWarden
Odin 2 is a 12-voice polyphonic hybrid synthesizer with an unusually versatile synthesis engine. It features three oscillator modules, each offering eleven different oscillator types.
The oscillator section includes a wavetable oscillator, an FM oscillator, vector, chiptune oscillators, and an oscillator with customizable waveform shapes.
The filter section is equally impressive, with three modules and thirteen filter types. You can choose between modern and vintage emulations like the Oberheim 12 filter, Diode Ladder, and more.
Odin 2 is in beta, and the developer regularly adds new features. This impressive free synthesizer is available in VST3 and AU plugin formats for digital audio workstations on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
More info: Odin 2
kHs ONE by Kilohearts
kHs ONE is a free synthesizer plugin with a sound engine that sounds analog and a user interface that is perfect for beginners.
You get a couple of main oscillators, a sub-oscillator, two filter modules, three envelopes, two LFOs, a waveshaper, a chorus, a delay, and a modulation matrix. There are multiple filter modes, including the Vox filter, which is somewhat of a rarity in modern synthesizers.
Once you spend some time with kHs ONE, you’ll appreciate the intuitive user interface and the quality of the included oscillators and filters. Like Charlatan by Blaukraut Engineering, it sounds fat and analog without straining the CPU. However, it is a lot more versatile than Charlatan.
kHs ONE was priced at $99 initially, but Kilohearts discontinued it and now offers it as a free download. So, you’re getting kHs ONE for free, but keep in mind that the plugin is no longer being developed.
More info: kHs ONE
Free Synth VST Plugins – Honorable Mentions
Here are a few more great free synthesizer VST plugins that aren’t included in the main list:
- BrainStormer is a freeware virtual analog synthesizer with added FM and ring modulation capabilities. It is a decent-sounding VA synthesizer with an excellent set of filters and 2X oversampling to prevent aliasing artifacts.
- SuperWave P8 is capable of some seriously fat sounds. The secret ingredient here is Roland’s legendary supersaw waveform used in the JP-8000 synth. Use SuperWave P8 for fat leads, huge pads, and larger-than-life bass sounds. The plugin was recently updated to support 64-bit DAWs, and it includes a good selection of presets to help you get started.
- Kairatune is a monophonic synthesizer that excels at generating bass sounds, crisp leads, and complex SFX noises for electronic dance music. The sound engine features a stereo expander and a few effects (delay and phaser) responsible for the synthesizer’s fat sound.
- Fathom Mono by Seaweed Audio is the freeware version of the Fathom synthesizer, featuring the same state-of-the-art synthesis engine minus the polyphony.
- T-Force Alpha Plus 2 is a freeware synthesizer designed for trance music production.
- Lokomotiv is a virtual analog beauty that should be in your arsenal if you’re into vintage synthesizers.
- Blocks Base is a free modular synthesis starter kit by Native Instruments.
- Soonth Blocks is a beginner-friendly modular synthesizer.
- OctaSine is an open-source FM synthesizer VST plugin.
Free Synth VST Instruments – The Conclusion
As you can see, dozens of excellent free synth VST plugins are on the market. If you’re new to sound design, we suggest learning the basics of subtractive synthesis with simple plugins like Charlatan and Tyrell N6.
Once you’ve covered the basics of sound design, start exploring the limitless capabilities of virtual instruments like Surge and Vital Basic.
If you think some other free synth VST should be added to the list, let us know in the comments section below.
Return to our Free VST Plugins page for more freeware instruments and effects.