It's no secret that music production can be less than kind to your bank account and when it comes to finding a synth you like it's difficult to see the full potential with a free trial. There are plenty of free plugins out there but we wanted to create a list of synthesizers that are not only free, but also create high quality sounds as well.
Pendulate – New Fangled Audio
Released by New Fangled Audio in September of 2020, Pendulate is a free monophonic visual synthesizer that takes the basic components of a synthesizer and adds a unique back an fourth pendulum effect to it's chaotic oscillator. Using a wave folder as a distortion technique the plugin folds the wave forms in on themselves to create distortion from it's own harmonics. What this means is that you can create unique and textured monophonic sounds with a wide analog warmth. The waveform animations created in Pendulate lend a cool visual component in your sound design, making it easier to see what you're creating as you go. With several unique color schemes and 136 presets Pendualte is a must have for any producer regardless of your budget!
Vital – Matt Tytel
Vital, released by Matt Tytel in November of 2020, is a new wavetable synthesizer that rivals some of the greats like Serum or Sektor. Vital is the complete package boasting 3 wavetable oscillators, multiple envelope & LFO parameters, a host of macro options, and an in depth routing matrix. The base version of Vital is free, but plus and pro tier payments are also available. Not only does Vital support Roli keyboards and other MPE enabled devices, it doesn't eat up your CPU in the process. Vital has creativity in mind with it's aesthetic interface and has no shortage of sound design options. The free version of Vital comes with 75 presets and 25 unique wavetables to take your sound design to another level.
Dexed – Digital Suburban
Dexed is an open source fm synthesizer created by Digital Suburban. Modeled closely after the Yamaha DX7, Dexed uses 6 frequency modulating oscillators to create complex monophonic and polyphonic sounds. Dexed is a great synth for anyone looking to experiment in modulation or fm synthesis. With 32 starting presets and a host of programmable features, you can really dive deep into what Dexed has to offer.
Helm – Matt Tytel
Helm is a free / open source polyphonic synthesizer created by Matt Tytel. Using subtractive synthesis to modulate frequencies, Helm offers a unique system of monophonic and polyphonic LFO tools to shape and create new sounds. With an versatile array of effects including formant shaping, distortion, delays, and a step sequencer there's so much you can do with Helm. Helm is totally free and includes over 30 high quality lead, pad, bass, fx, and arp presets.
Komplete Start – Native Instruments
Komplete start is a free Kontakt bundle of 7 synthesizers and 9 sample instruments with over 2000 high quality sounds. If you haven't heard of Kontakt before now is the time to start. Kontakt is a sampling plugin created by native instruments. With over 600 3rd party libraries to choose from and a plethora of native owned libraries, Kontakt is an industry standard in sampling. The Komplete start kit includes monophonic, polyphonic, bass, drone, and procedural sound generating synthesizers. You'll also find a variety of loops and sounds to add to your creative library.
Surrealistic MG-1 Plus
The Surrealistic MG-1Plus by Cherry Audio is a faithful recreation of a classic 80's synthesizer sold in Radio Shack's across the country. With funky retro-styled analog modeling this synth brings nostalgia to a whole new level. Released in November of 2020 The MG-1 is a great addition for anyone looking to experiment with 80's style music or just trying to add some analog warmth to your tracks. With monophonic and polyphonic oscillators, tone modulation, and over 130 presets the Surrealistic MG-1 Plus has the sound of high end analog recreation for the producer on a budget.
Zebralette – u-he
Zebralette by u-he is a precursor to the company's more advanced synth Zebra2. Zebralette has only one waveform oscillator but it boasts an impressive 16 voices of polyphonic synthesis. You have complete control over your waveform. Similarly to other wavetable synths Zebralette allows you to warp and draw in your waveform however you want, using different warping modes to edit and mangle your sound. There are also 24 different spectral effects you can use to creativity design your sound. Zebralette is a great tool for producers just getting starting with wavetable synthesis and is a great stepping stone to other powerful synths.
Expensive gear doesn't always equal great gear. How you use the tools you have is a huge part of music production. Samples, synths, and plugins can really build up your producer's library but the way you use them creatively will go a long way. Go check out these synths and experiment. You never know what you might create!