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 free synthesizers featured on this page aren’t listed in any particular order. Every virtual instrument mentioned in the article has at least one outstanding feature that makes it better compared to other free synth plugins out there.
Check out the best free synth VSTs below and find more info about each instrument further down the page. We provided additional details about the virtual synths listed in the article.
A big THANK YOU goes to all BPB readers who helped us improve the article with their suggestions in the comments section.
Free Synth VST Plugins
These are the best free synth VST plugins:
- Vital Basic
- Tyrell N6
- Exakt Lite
- VCV Rack
- HY-Poly Free
- Odin 2
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 offer a selection of 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 is being improved with bug fixes and new features ever 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 piece of 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 back in 2006. It wasn’t until September 2018 that Surge became open-source.
More info: Surge
Vital Basic by Matt Tytel
Vital Basic is the free version of Matt Tytel’s wavetable synthesizer called Vital. Feature-wise, the free edition 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 plenty of hidden features and almost limitless modulation capabilities. You can create some crazy sounds by using the oscillator section alone. Combine that with versatile filters, modulators, and effects, and it becomes clear that Vital Basic is one of the best virtual synthesizers around.
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 there 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 absolute gem of a synth 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 is 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 there are dozens of free sound banks 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 (and a great one, at that), 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 an abundance of 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 is an accurate emulation of the most famous hardware FM keyboard ever, the classic Yamaha DX7.
In fact, the emulation here is so precise that the plugin can be used to load DX7 presets. That is, 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 that of the Yamaha DX7 with the added perk of being a software synthesizer. Most importantly, all 144 synth engine parameters are available for DAW automation right from the front panel. The user interface can take some time getting used to, though, especially for users who aren’t familiar with FM synthesizers.
If you find that FM synthesis is too complicated but still want to try something different, be sure to 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 previously mentioned 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 that are 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 have to know the ins and outs of FM synthesis to use this plugin. The controls are intentionally simplified so that anyone with even a basic understanding of synthesis will be able to 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 also 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 only, 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 useful learning tool before moving on to a monster modular synthesizer that is VCV Rack.
More info: VCV Rack
ModulAir by Full Bucket Music
ModulAir is a modular virtual synthesizer with 31 different modules and support for 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.
Be sure to 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 an abundance of 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 and a noise generator, and a pair of multi-mode filters.
That’s an already 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, as well as 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 clearly 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 manages to keep 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 that is perfect for making glitchy and pulsing sounds. Another great addition is the arpeggiator module, which works great in tandem 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 on October 9, 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 and one sub-oscillator, a multi-mode filter, two LFO modules, two envelopes, an arpeggiator, and several built-in effects. The instrument’s sound flavor is purely digital and relatively tame compared to VA synthesizers that try hard 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. Its 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. This can lead to some exciting sounds with complex timbres and the type of 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 Juno-style dual chorus. Thanks to its relatively advanced synthesis engine, TAL-NoiseMaker can be used to generate both classic analog sounds and more complex patches for use in modern electronic music.
More info: TAL-NoiseMaker
Charlatan by Blaukraut Engineering
Simplicity goes a long way. When it comes to synthesizer 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 analog synthesizer sounds that sound authentic.
If lightweight synthesizers are your thing, be sure to check out Deducktion as well. This lovely little synth doesn’t match Charalatan’s unique sound character. It does, however, feature an equally streamlined user interface and a far 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, both in terms of sound character and features. Music producers looking for 80s analog sounds should look no further.
With its warm pads, fat bass sounds, and analog leads, PG-8X is the free synth VST instrument of choice for synthwave, vaporwave, and other 80s-inspired electronic music genres.
For more analog synthesis nostalgia, take a look at 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 some 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 pair of envelopes, an LFO, and a great-sounding filter. The interface is well-designed and the plugin is a joy to use. It can work as a great starting point for users who are 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
MauSynth by Pekka Kauppila
One quick listen to MauSynth and its set of cutting-edge presets is enough to understand that this is the perfect free synthesizer VST for EDM producers. After all, its name is a nod to none else than DeadMau5.
MauSynth features a relatively simple synthesis architecture, but what makes it stand out are the great-sounding individual components. The band-limited oscillators and a zero-delay feedback filter provide a great starting point, whereas the stereo unison module and the built-in delay effect take MauSynth’s overall sound to a whole new level. The instrument sounds modern, fat, and larger than life.
You will notice that multiple UI options are available for download on the product page. Our vote goes to the one featuring the black skin created by ENV1 (who also designed the lovely pg-8x synthesizer).
MauSynth is the free synth VST plugin to download if you’re looking for modern EDM sounds.
More info: MauSynth
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 userbase.
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 the fact 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. All of Voyager’s signature features are there, including continuously morphable oscillators, a pair of ladder filters, oscillator sync, and two modulation busses.
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. It was initially priced at $35, but 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 it doesn’t emulate any particular hardware synth, the sound is very reminiscent of digital classics like the Korg DW8000 and the Ensoniq ESQ-1. Those synths used digital oscillators in tandem 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 very easy 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 that is based on the physics properties of a double pendulum. The oscillator section is followed by a wavefolder and a low-pass gate, both of which are 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 a number of 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. These include a wavetable oscillator, an FM oscillator, vector, and chiptune oscillators, and an oscillator with customizable waveform shapes.
The filter section is equally impressive, with three modules and thirteen filter types to choose from. You can choose between various modern filters and some vintage filter emulations like the Oberheim 12 filter, Diode Ladder, and more.
Odin 2 is currently in beta and the developer is regularly adding 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
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 a very good set of filters and 2X oversampling to prevent aliasing artifacts.
- SuperWave P8 is capable of some seriously fat sounds. The secret ingredient here is the emulation of Roland’s legendary supersaw waveform that was 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 is enhanced with a stereo expander, as well as the delay and phaser effects that are 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 the freeware synthesizer of choice 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.
Free Synth VST Instruments – The Conclusion
As you can see, there are dozens of excellent free synth VST plugins on the market. If you’re new to sound design, our suggestion is to learn 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 that some other free synth VST should be added to the list, let us know in the comments section below.
For more freeware instruments and effects, return to our Free VST Plugins page.