30 VST Plugins Worth Checking Out
By Chris Loeffler |
Our friends at GuitarSumo reached out recently with a roundup of VST plugins they'd been enjoying recently, and we wanted to share them with Harmony Central!
Author Credit- Erica Mays
Want to step up your producing and introduce new sounds to your mix? Here is our list of what we consider to be the current 30 best VST plugins available that every producer should try.
1. Audio Damage Eos 2
The Audio Damage Eos 2 is simple but highly effective. It features three algorithms that create a great sounding reverb. The hardware is ideal for those looking to use it on percussion instruments, and it ranks as one of our go-to plugins for everyday projects.
2. Softube Modular
This cross-platform modular synth features six Doepfer modules and more than 20 other utility modules. The circuit emulation of all the modules have not only been authorized but also approved by their original creators. Bundled with the plugin comes a sizable preset library that will keep you experimenting for weeks.
3. Synapse Audio Dune 3
The Synapse Audio Dune 3 delivers a three-oscillator synth that features significant effects, sequencing, and arpeggiation. Two of its best features include the ability to set the Oscillators 1 and 2 independently to the Virtual Analogue, FM mode, or Wavetone. It has delivered an enormous collection of unison voices. It provides a unique sound but can also help you create a full range of static and sequenced sounds. This VST plugin is an excellent value for its money and is extremely easy for people to use, even with little experience.
4. PSPaudioware MixSaturator
The PSPaudioware MixSaturator is taken directly from the highly rated SPMixPack 2. This plugin is the comprehensive solution to what several other plugins provide, which is a bundled sort saturation switch. Additional features of the MixSaturator 2 include emulating sounds of valve circuits and analog tape, which it does exceptionally well.
5. iZotope Iris 2
The iZotope Iris 2 has improved effects, an easy to use interface, and plenty of extended modulation options. Despite all of these improvements, the plugin software still contains four sample layers, which also allow for a more straightforward interface than before. Overall, the inclusion of the new oscillator bank and modulations help lift this plugin to new and exciting levels, all while keeping in mind the 'music-friendly' sounds.
6. Propellerheads Reason While some wouldn't call Reason a real VST plugin, is classified as a "shapeshifting" synth and is now available in both VST/AU formats. The "shapeshifting" refers to the fact that this plugin is a wavetable synth that provides you with various ways to transform and module the raw oscillator waveforms prior to them becoming audio signals. Using mathematics, the 33 wavetables and modeled string algorithm can be manipulated to create unique sounds. Europa can create a complex sound that has tons of depth, but it also can deliver bass lines, elemental leads, or even workhorse pads.
7. Audio Damage Phosphor 2
The Phosphor 2 helps to make additive synthesis more approachable to people just exploring it for the first time. It is a two-oscillator synth, which means that each oscillator will create a wavetable of a series of sine waves at multiples of the partials or harmonics. It uses high-frequency harmonics to create a creative signal shaping that will help you create an unforgettable tone. The Audio Damage Phosphor 2 especially adept at generating leads, chiptune-style noises, pads, and FX.
8. PsPaudioware N20
The successor to the PSP Nitro, the PsPaudioware N20, is a powerful yet complex semi-modular effect plugin. This software allows any musician to be able to use up to four different operators and four modulators simultaneously. Whether you are looking to layer in a vocal piece for sound improvement, a guitar to distort, or a synth pad to develop a rocky riff, the N20 is the choice for you.
9. Reveal Sound Spire
Spire might be classified as just another trance n' dance machine, but it is actually much more than that once you dive into the features of it. Thanks to unison oscillators, it can produce a massive tone. Once you get an understanding of this plugin, you can start to uncover some of the more clever features it offers that allows you to generate all types of sounds, from huge, brassy, to more crystalline digital tones.
10. Image-Line Harmor
Brought by the developers of Fruity Loops, we can’t expect anything less than grandiose. Harmor is a synth that might appear intimidating at first but reveals its power quickly once you start to familiarize yourself with it. It features an additive/subtractive synthesizer and a richness in tone that producers will find inspirational with every use.
11. Arturia Pigments Arturia Pigments is a dual-engine, dual-filter synth that allows you to play with multiple effects and a built-in sequencer. Where this VST plugin distinguishes itself from others is in the workflow, wavetables, and modulation system. The Arturia Pigments has two engines, which can switch from Analog to Wavetable modes. The pan-able filters mean that you can blend any sound. The Sequencer/Arpeggiator is one of the stand-out features of the Pigments. It comes with scale snapping, cyclically regenerating randomization engine, a Trigger Probability lane, and one of our favorite polyrhythmic sequencing. The Arturia Pigments excels in many areas of synth sound design and is a VST plugin you should consider.
12. U-20 Hive
If you are a fan of Synlenth1, then you might find that U-20 Hive fits your needs as well. It has a very similar architecture but adds in extra features that might sway you to pick up the U-20 instead. Hive has two oscillators, with each having the ability to run up to 16-voice unison. The u-he Hive has a good range of features and also produces a sound that is perfect for impersonating analog synths. Due to its duller but still warm timbre, it might be the ideal analog synth.
13. LennarDigital Sylenth
When you first look at this VST plugin, you might not think the Sytenth from LennarDigital is different from any instrument on this list. With two filters and a seemingly unimpressive and basic modulation section, it doesn't seem to deserve a place on this list. However, as soon as you start to use the Sylenth, you start to understand what makes it so special. It delivers an incredible sound, with a rich, warm tone. It can produce a wide variety of sounds and is a must-try for someone who wants to check out a vintage virtual instrument.
14. Audio Damage Kombinat
Kombinat is made up of a three-stage sound-mangling powerhouse. The plugin offers plenty of controls for the user. Various times the sound from the Kombinat might come off as digital, and other times it will sound very analog. These combinations help make this software an ideal choice for those who are into making electronic music, and for those who find a lot of joy in the ability to provide viable distortion effect on guitars.
15. UVI Falcon
By expanding on the previous UVI Workstation instrument, the updated UVI Falcon delivers a wide variety of ways to edit and even more forms of synthesis. Some of the patches come from Oscillators, Modulators, Effects, and Events, which can all be dragged into the interface. This is a reasonably powerful instrument that achieves a wide variety of sounds that will likely serve all your needs.
16. U-he Zebra 2
The Zebra 2 is a wireless semi-modular synth that has no patch cables. It is versatile enough to support a variety of techniques, but it focuses primarily on subtractive synthesis. It includes both FM and additive elements so that allows you to coax a more sophisticated tone out of this VST plugin that you can with others on this list. Not only does it have good presets, but it also is an energetically powerful sound design tool. While this isn't necessarily a beginner's synth, anyone could use it and good results out of it.
17. Native Instruments Absynth 5
Absynth has made a name for itself as one of the most potent soft synths in the industry. This versatile VST plugin has tons of features so you can draw waveforms, deep modulation capabilities, and definable multi-point envelopes. This latest upgrade doesn't change the core product that you have come to expect from Absynth, but it does give you the ability to create complex tone and sounds. Through the Mutator effect, you can transform a preset into something more by choosing descriptive tags. While the interface does take some getting used to, the overall sound it creates its phenomenal. If you want to create some truly unique sounds, then Native Instruments Absynth 5 might be the right one for you.
18. Sugar Bytes Wow 2
Sugar Bytes upgraded its original VST plugin to deliver a sound that can be morphed through the modulators. There are 21 filters that produce a wide range of tones, and you can even utilize the Vowel MOde, which includes nine human vocal sounds to incorporate humanoid sounds. It's a very compact GUI that doesn't mess around, with a Cutoff knob, Resonance and Overdrive Knob that helps add to the range of sound. The Sugar Bytes Wow 2 has everything you might want in a filter unit.
19. Parawave Audiodesign Rapid
Parawave is a newcomer into the industry and has already positioned itself as a strong competitor to Vengeance-Sound's VPS Avenger. Whether this was intentional is unclear, but there are several similarities between these two VST plugins. Both are built on extensive eight-layer architectures. Both products have vast, versatile libraries of waveforms, wavetables, and samples. Another similarity is that both have an insane amount of modulation options and effects. All in all, Parawave Audiodesign Rapid does a lot of things right and is well-furnished with 24 oscillators, 32 LFOS, step sequences, and envelopes, as well as 56 effect slots. It sets itself apart from others with little extra features like dual-wave LFOs, unique step sequencer editing, and filter offset.
20. DMG Audio EQuality
The EQuality was created to be your go-to EQ for helping your mixdowns to stand apart from others. It delivers a high-end price without the expensive price tag and comes with great features like six bands, two shelf/bells, four bells/bells. It also features five EQ styles, a spectrum analyzer, foldable interface, and M/S processing. It comes with tons of features that deliver exactly what you would need from a guitar VST plugin.
21. ReFX Nexus2
While some might not classify this as a "proper synth" because it doesn't have as many features as some of the other VST plugins on this list, it still can produce a fantastic sound. If your goal is to find a unique tone, then the ReFX Nexus2 shouldn't be overlooked. It was created specifically for producers of contemporary dance music. In the Dance Vol 2 preset expansion pack, there are 128 patches to help make trance, hard dance, and electro house styles. Through the mix screen, you can adjust up to four layers and utilize some of the good effects that the ReFX Nexus 2 has to offer.
22. u-he Repro-1
The Repro 1 builts off a 35-year-old design, which means that its architecture is a little more basic than other VST plugins. It has two monophonic oscillators and a low-pass filter which as powered by several modulation sources, step sequencer, and an arpeggiator. For those who used the original version of the u-he Repro-1 fell in love with the authentic sound is produced, and the effects and extra modulators that were included. For those who are new to this VST plugin, they will love how easy it is to use as well as the rich tones it produces.
23. Native Instruments Massive Massive can combine multiple ideas and gets its influences from different genres. This hybrid synth comes with many different wavetable oscillators that allow you to produce nearly every type of tone imaginable. However, one downside is that there are more than 600 presets that come with this virtual instrument, and it means it might take you a while to get accustomed to using them all.
24. Plogue Chipspeech
For those who are looking for a vintage-style speech synthesizer, then the Plogue Chipspeech might be the perfect match. The software will translate English words typed into the program and
will use the CMU Pronouncing Dictionary to produce a near-perfect sound. You can fine-tune the sound as needed, and there are tons of opportunities to create any unique and beautiful voices.
25. KV331 Audio SynthMaster One
This synthesizer is a little less complex than others on the list, and because of that, it is probably the most beginner friendly. However, it can still be intimidating to those who don't have any experience using a serious synthesizer, and it might have a bit of a learning curve. It has two oscillators polyphonic wavetable and a single-screen interface. It also has basses, plucks, keys, leads, and all other patches. No matter what your skill level is, this is a VST plugin worth checking out.
26. Vengeance-Sound VPS Avenger
The first virtual synth that comes from Vengeance-Sounds is an ambitious project that is powerful and sounds incredible. It is coded by Keilwerth Audio, which means the architecture comes with tons of sequencers, filters, modulation, and effects. Every portion of the Avenger is powerful, and when they come together to form the VST plugin, it creates a synthesizer that is flexible and packs a punch. Expect a deep, textured sound to come from the Vengeance-Sound VPS Avenger.
27. u-he Diva
Using two oscillators, dual envelope generators, two LFOs, and multimode filters, u-he Diva distinguishes itself by delivering features from various instruments, that all can be recreated perfectly. It is a great way to create any type of basic analog sound and has the ability to do much more than that. It comes equipped with some advanced, powerful features like per-voice fine-tuning and modulation options that most other VST plugins on this list can't offer.
28. Xfer Records Serum
The Xfer Records Serum is an extremely advanced synthesizer that produces a clean and bright sound. You are able to import your own audio to help you create custom wavetables. With a huge range of modulation options, you will likely be blown away by the effects. It has five stacking modes, which means the effects are amazing. It has many advanced features that it is probably one of the best VST plugins you could get.
29. Native Instruments Reaktor 6
Reaktor is not only an instrument or effect plugin, but it can also be a standalone modular audio generation and processing environment. It utilizes modular hardware which is called Blocks, which allows you to have something like a modular analog synth. Thanks to the oscillators and filters, the sound is amazing and extremely flexible. For those who are looking for a VST plugin, and willing to put in the effort to learn the interface, it is worth the work.
30. Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2
As the second version of the extremely popular Omnisphere, Omnisphere 2 has big shoes to fill. However, Spectrasonics delivered with Omnisphere 2. It comes with a large audio soundtrack, with a powerful virtual analog architecture. It allows you to import your own audio and it has an
outstanding 400 oscillator wavetables. If you want to create a beautiful sound, then Omnisphere 2 should be considered.