Best 20 Free Synth VST/AU Plugins of 2020!

Last Updated on August 14, 2020 by Facundo

Synths are one of the most fun things to use on your tracks.

They sound fantastic, which allows you to create warm chord sounds, ambient chimes, psychedelic and weird sounds, and much more.

The issue with analogue synths is that they are big and expensive…

Here’s where synth plugins come in!

All you need to do is load them up in you DAW ad you’re ready to rock!

What’s that you say?… most plugins are expensive?… I’ve got you covered!

Here’s a list of the best Eighteen Free Synth Plugins available that sound fantastic!

1. Dexed by Digital Sub Urban (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Dexed is a Free multi platform and multi format frequency modulation Synth which is based on, or closely modeled to, the Yamaha DX7.

It isn’t the simplest synth to use… there is definitely a learning curve to it, but I honestly think that it’s well worth it to do the effort and learn it properly.

It is also a MIDI cartridge manager for the DX7 meaning that any of the .syx files in the cartridges will be available from the “Cart” window.

You can access this directory by pressing the “Cart” button and then the “Show Dir” button.

Download it for free here.

Related: Even though all of the plugins on this list are absolutely fantastic, you might also be interested in the best Premium Synth VSTs.

2. Surge by Vember Audio (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Surge is an opensource Synth VST that sound fantastic and is probably the best synthesizer plugin currently available.

It is a hybrid subtractive synthesizer with a dual synthesis engine.

Each patch contain two ‘scenes’ which are separate instances of the entire synthesis engine that can be used for layering or split patches.

In addition to this, it also features three oscillators per voice, 8 oscillator algorithms (Classic, Sine, Wavetable, Window, FM2, FM3, S/H Noise and Audio input), Two filter units in 8 different configurations, 12 LFO units available, 6 are per voice and 6 are global for the whole scene, 7 deformable LFO waveforms plus a drawable/step sequencer waveform, and more.

As far as effects go, it features Delay, Reverb, Chorus, Phaser, EQ, Distortion, Conditioner (EQ, stereo-image control, and limiter), Rotary speaker, Frequency shifter and Vocoder.

Surge used to be a premium plugin and sold for roughly $99, but now it’s free and opensource.

What’s great about this is that it’s receiving consistent updates, meaning that there will be bug fixes over time and the plugin itself will get better and better.

Download it for free here.

Looking for Premium Synth Plugins? Here’s a post I wrote about the best ones.

3. Tunefish 4 by Brain Control (Windows, Mac, Linux)

There are four versions of Tunefish on their website.

Tunefish 4 was developed as a smaller replacement for Tunefish 3 with about the same power.

It was developed for the intro of “Turles all the way down”. If you want to see the video then here’s a link to YouTube where you can watch it.

One thing that they improved over the previous version is the UI, which will visualize all modulations.

Download it for free here.

Looking for free guitar VST plugins? Here are the 15 best ones.

4. Helix by Audjoo (Windows, Mac)

Helix is a CPU-friendy, highly versatile Synthesizer with a surprisingly high sound quality.

It comes with a lot of presets and built-in effects.

You need to pay $75 to get the license, but the trial version is virtually fully functional.

This means that it’s actually free and you can pay for it if you want to.

Most people tend to underrate free software because they think that if they were better, they would be able to sell them.

However, Helix is an excellent Synth that should be used in every serious music production.

Download it for free here.

Interested in free compression VST plugins? Here’s a post about the 12 best ones.

5. Synth1 by Ichiro Toda

Despite its old age, Synth1 is still extremely relevant today, and this is why I included it in this list, plus it works on both Windows and MacOS on 32bit and 64bit systems.

This is one of those synth plugins that you should always keep in your arsenal since it sounds absolutely fantastic; it’s right up there with Surge and Dexed, at least as far as freeware synths go.

Synth1 is modeled on the Nord Lead 2 Synthesizer and you can download hundreds of presets for it.

It features two oscillators and one sub-oscillarot, FM modulation, ring mod., synchro, 4 types of filters, distortion, two LFO, arpeggiator, and much more.

It’s extremely light on the CPU and works on almost any OS and DAW.

Give it a try!

Download it for free here.

Interested in free reverb VST plugins? Here’s a post about the 15 best ones.

6. TyrellN6 by u-he (Windows, Mac, Linux)

TyrellN6 is a compact synth that is based on concepts and ideas for a hardware synth: a few modules, novel features, analogue sound and low-cost.

It sounds very good, I really like this little plugin, plus it’s free!

The interface has a very “Grungy” look to it and it’s quite intuitive.

To download it you can’t do it through their official website but actually through the Amazona.de website which is in German… quite an issue for anyone who doesn’t speak it.

Download it for free here.

And if you’re interested, here’s a link to their official Website (you can’t download it there).

7. MiniSpillage by AudioSpillage (Mac)

MiniSpillage is a free professional quality drum synthesizer that features a high resolution 64-bit DSP processing engine and a custom set of synthesis algorithms designed for electronic percussion sounds.

MiniSpillage isn’t based on any existing Drum Synth but instead is focused on creating an original electronic percussion sound.

Note: It only works on Mac OS, so for all you Windows users out there, this one won’t work for you.

Download it for free here.

Looking for free Drum VST plugins? Here are the best ones.

8. Tal-Bassline by Tal-Software (Windows, Mac)

Tal-Bassline is a synthesizer especially made for bass which will give you a super beefy bass tone.

It gives you those acid tones and effects that you hear everywhere.

It’s mostly used in Trap, EDM and other kinds of music where the Bass in emphasized.

If you’re looking for a synth to enhance your song’s low end, Tal-Bassline might be the one for you.

Download it for free here.

Related: Here’s a list of the best free auto-tune plugins which you might find useful!

9. Crystal Synth by Green Oak (Windows, Mac)

Crystal is a semi-modular software synthesizer featuring both subtractive synthesis and frequency modulation (FM) synthesis.

It offers over 90 parameters which may be modulated.

Multi-stage envelopes with graphical editors.

Extensive tempo sync of envelopes/lforates/delay times.

Built-in effects for chorus/flanging/comb filtering/echoes, and a band splitter for effects processing by frequency band.

It also offers wave sequencing, as well as granular synthesis, MIDI Learn, and more.

The interface isn’t the easiest to use, but it definitely sounds amazing.

Download it for free here.

10. Lokomotiv by Archetype Instruments (Windows, Mac)

Lokomotiv is an analog retro synth which sounds absolutely phenomenal as well as being extremely easy to use.

The UI is simple and doesn’t look overwhelming at all which is great for anyone who is new to this kind of software.

The way it sounds reminds me of some Prince songs, which is something I love.

Download it for free from the VST4Free website.

11. Digits by Extent of the Jam (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Digits is a phase distortion synthesizer plugin which was inspired by the Casio CZ line.

It comes with over 100 presets which include; basses, leads, pads, pseudo-realistic instruments, brass sounds and more.

It provides some effects like an analog chorus, flanger, harmonic bit crush, asymmetric pitch-bend and more.

This plugin is fairly easy to use and actually sounds great.

The interface is also pretty simple which is great for beginners.

The only issue is that when you change some parameters the audio can sometimes click a bit, but other than that it’s an amazing plugin.

Download it for free here.

12. Tal-NoiseMaker by Tal-Software (Windows, Mac)

Tal-NoiseMaker is based on the Tal-Elek7ro but with a new synth engine and some sound and usability improvements.

It features some effects like reverb, chorus and a simple bit crusher.

The number of presets you get is huge: 256… and they also sound fantastic.

This free plugin is definitely one that you should try since it sounds great right from the get-go and the interface is really clean and easy to use.

Download it for free here.

13. Thump by Metric Halo (Windows, Mac)

Metric Halo is primarily designed to synthesize low frequency audio to add low-end to a track or to generate another sound completely.

It looks at the pitch and the dynamics of its audio input and adjusts the oscillators accordingly.

It is typically used to add low-end to drums or any other low-end percussive sounds.

It can also be used to recreate the classic synth drum sounds, and more.

Download it for free here.

14. PG-8X by Martin Lüder (Windows, Mac)

The PG-8X is inspired by the Roland JX-8P with the PG-800 programmer.

You can make some amazing analogue style sounds with it, including string ensembles, cool pads, huge bass sounds, which is what I like most about it, and more.

This is one of my top picks in this entire list, and once you try it out, you’ll see why…

Download it for free here.

15. Charlatan by BlauKraut (Windows)

Charlatan is a polyphonic, subtractive virtual analog synthesizer plugin that focuses on sound quality and ease of use.

It’s a fairly simple to use plugin which encourages users to learn how to tweak the sounds instead of only relying on the presets.

Charlatan can create your typical classic synth sounds as well as some interesting experimental noises.

Just like the previous one on this list, the PG-8X, Charlatan is one of my top recommendations, even though it’s only for Windows.

Download it for free here.

16. Helm by Matt Tytel (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Helm is a cross-platform, polyphonic synthesizer which runs both as a standalone synthesizer or as an LV2, VST, VST3 or AU plugin.

It comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

This plugin is open source which means that you can modify it and even redistribute your modified versions.

It’s a very visual plugin and at first it can seem a bit intimidating, but it’s far easier to use than what it seems.

Download it for free here.

Looking for free Modulation VSTs? Here’s a post I wrote about the best ones.

17. Podolski by u-he (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Podolski is a very simple, CPU-efficient virtual analogue synthesizer with one oscillator, one filter, one envelope and two LFOs, it also features a Zebra-style arpeggiator/sequencer plus chorus and delay effects.

Features

  • Oscillator with variable symmetry (sawtooth to triangle, PWM) and glide
  • Polyphonic (up to 16 voices), mono, legato and arpeggiator modes
  • 4 envelope modes: ADSR or HDSR, linear or exponential. Sustain has Fall/Rise control

Download it for free here.

18. Scorpius by Meesha (Windows)

Scorpius is a 3 Oscillator analog Polysynth which is great for creating some psychedelic sounds.

It sounds pretty good, but the interface isn’t the most intuitive one…

This is because it was designed to be used with two Behringer BCR 2000 units. That’s why the layout is the way it is.

It will take you some time to get used to it.

Download it for free here.

19. T-Force Alpha Plus by Master Code Music (Windows)

T-Force Alpha Plus is the advanced or improved version of the T-Force Alpha TS.

It provides all the same features plus some additional ones and some updated functions; new synthesis (subtractive and FM synth), revised oscillators, new Mod Envelopes and a new integrated sidechain FX.

While not the best plugin on this list, it’s still completely free, so why not give it a shot?

Download it for free here.

20. Zebralette by u-he (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Zebralette is a very powerful synth which sounds fantastic.

It is just one of Zebra2’s oscillators packed into a simple, easy-to-learn framework, but you have everything you need to make some pretty amazing sounds.

It’s a great starting point, especially since you can later upgrade to Zebra2, which will make it easier for you to understand it.

It is a fantastic plugin for EDM and electronic music, but it can be used to create all kinds of sounds.

Download it for free here.

Honorable Mention

This one didn’t make the list because it’s not strictly a synth, but it sounds awesome and it’s completely free which is why I included it.

LABS by Spitfire Audio

Spitfire Audio released a series of instrument plugins which they called LABS.

These aren’t synths but rather sampled instruments, but they sound awesome…

Spitfire Audio is known for making extremely good sounding sample libraries and these ones are no exception to this rule.

Here you will have a huge variety to choose from, from scary strings, to modular piano, cool sounding choirs, synth pads, drums and more.

They offer a huge number of options so here’s the link to the official website where you can check all of them out.

Spitfire Audio LABS official Website.

My top recommendations

It’s definitely hard to choose only three plugins out of the eighteen on this list, but my top choices would have to be;

And last but not least…

How can you learn to use a Synth the right way?

If you really want to learn as much as possible about synthesizers without wasting too much time, then I’d recommend enrolling in an online course like Beginner’s Guide to Synthesis.

This course covers all the basics and all the essential knowledge you need about synthesizers in order to produce modern music.

You’ll need a MIDI Controller

In order to be able to use these plugins properly, you will need some sort of MIDI Controller.

While you can use your mouse to map the MIDI in your DAW, it’s a lot faster and easier to do it with a keyboard/controller.

My recommendation here is for you to get something like the M-Audio Oxygen 25 MK IV MIDI Controller which you can find at Amazon at a very affordable price, plus it comes with some extra software like Pro Tools First.

Conclusion

Since all of these synth plugins are completely free, I’d recommend that you try as many as possible, especially since each one might be a bit better at doing something in particular.

I hope this list was useful to you!

Have a great day!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a VST synth?

VST Stands for Virtual Studio Technology and it is an audio plug-in software interface that integrates software synthesizer and effects in digital audio workstations. VST and similar technologies use digital signal processing to simulate traditional recording studio hardware in software

What is a VST effect?

VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology and there are three different types of VSTs;VST instruments: These plug-ins generate audio and are either virtual synthesizers or samplers that emulate how the original hardware sounds.
VST effects: Effects process audio instead of generating it. These effects are; Reverb, Relay, etc.
VST MIDI effects: MIDI plug-ins process MIDI messages and send MIDI data to other VST instruments and hardware.

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