Virtual Instruments, also known as VSTi, or Soft Synths, or just Synths, are fundamental for digital music production. Essentially, you need them. At least one. So, which one?
Let me guide you on your journey to your first, or second, VSTi with the following run down of the Top 5 Synths beginners should go for and why!
Now, this is my list of 5 Synths you should have as starting points. They are not in any particular order and, of course, the list is subjective. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of options out there and each has its own pros and cons. What I am focusing on is which is the best to help a beginning producer get started on their journey.
- Things I will be considering for this list are, of course, over sound quality plus ease-of-use vs. complicated processes, versatility, presets, CPU considerations and price.
- Things I will be excluding from this list are VSTi that are single instrument focused. Like, virtual instruments that are electric piano or guitar only.
VPS Avenger by Vengeance Sound (~$220)
The VPS in VPS Avenger stands for Vengeance Producer Suite. All three of these words should be important to you for one reason or another.
First, Vengeance. This is a world renowned brand. You have undoubtedly heard some of their samples in modern music, especially their drums samples. They also have a number of popular VST and VSTi. Vengeance is a brand you can trust to bring their A game each and every time.
Second, Producer. This is what we are talking about. Simple. You want to be producers or else you wouldn’t be reading this post.
Third, Suite. This is it. Seriously, VPS Avenger is truly a suite. The list of features is as stunning as it is long. You have 8 oscillators (OSC), sequencers, arpeggios, 30 built-in FX, and even a full on Drum Sequencer stacked with samples and patterns from Vengeance. In my humble opinion just the drum samples, sequencer and preset patterns are worth the price tag of this synth. A true master piece in value.
CONS for Beginners
It might be a bit daunting to start off as your first synth because of how feature rich it is. The modulation routing and other complex features are very intuitive in terms of functionality, but, if this is your first rodeo, then you might struggle to get your head around everything which might make you feel overwhelmed.
Luckily, to make up for that, VPS Avenger comes with over 1,000 presets – extremely high quality presets to be precise – which you can use as starting points on the patch to learning this beast of a synth.
Check out VPS Avenger by Vengeance Sound at Plugin Boutique.
Serum by Xfer Records (~$189)
If you have been watching tutorials or following famous producers or Plugin Boutique’s Twitter account, then you’ve probably heard of Serum. And, rightfully so. The sound quality of Serum has made it the stand out wave table synthesizer of the past few years and has yet to see rival. Serum has become what Native Instrument’s Massive was 4 years ago.
If you are trying to be a producer with anything bass focused – Dubstep, Deep House, Break Beat, Drum & Bass, Etc – then you should seriously consider Serum. Not to say Serum isn’t capable of leads and pads, because it absolutely is, but Bass?…. oh, my. Serum is the God of bass in all its forms.
CONS for Beginners
Serum is incredibly CPU intensive. Also, to make those incredible lush and rich sounds of the highest quality will most likely require a good deal of Modulation Routing. That means you will need to spend time in the Mod Matrix as well as get your head around LFOs and Envelopes. That being said, those are things most synths will have and require you to use, so understanding and being able to use them should be on your list of priorities anyway.
Check out Serum by Xfer Records on Plugin Boutique.
Thorn by DS Audio (~$119)
This synth just came out in the tail end of 2018 and it has quickly made its way into my rotation. It has a number of very unique features all of which are easy to use, and for those sections that are a bit more involved there are presets and randomizers to get things cooking quickly.
Things of note in Thorn is first that fact that it uses a form of Spectral Synthesis to create sounds. Don’t worry though, while it sounds and indeed the science complicated it has been made extremely easy to use. Then there is the grid based glitch sequencer, the harmonic filter and the arpeggiator. All of which can deliver amazing results!
Add to that the drag and drop modulation routing system and an intuitive mod matrix and you have a synth worth owning!
CONS for Beginners
There aren’t any downsides to think of. It’s decently priced and you get a great bang for each and every dollar.
Check out Thorn by DS Audio on Plugin Boutique.
Sektor by Initial Audio (~99)
This is another synth that came out in 2018 and has quickly found itself in my rotation. Sektor is a wavetable synth like Serum but for about half the price.
It comes stocked with 750 presets for all genres imaginable and 200 wavetables for those looking to make their own. One of my favorite features of Sektor is the sequencer. It’s super easy to find a preset patch that you like and then apply and manipulate preset sequences to get ideas and creativity flowing!
CONS for Beginners
The audio fidelity feels a bit lacking at times, especially when compared to Serum, but not anything that would prevent you from making lush character driven patches. Also, the modulation routing is a bit different than other synths. However, as I said earlier, once you get a handle on it, you’ll love it and always be using it. I would just say it might take a bit to get to a point where you’re completely comfortable.
Check out Sektor by Initial Audio on Plugin Boutique.
Synthmaster by KV331 Audio (~$99)
This is another beast of a synth and is consistently on the top of any reputable top 10 list…. and that price tag? It’s almost unbelievable!! The list of features for Synthmaster is incredibly long and it reads like some of the best gear-porn imaginable. This truly is a synth’s synth!
You will find something for anything in the over 1,250 presets. The sound quality coming out of Synthmaster when things are done right is mouthwatering. There are 65 modulation sources with 650+ modulation targets so getting movement and character is more than possible!
CONS for Beginners
The bar to entry on Synthmaster is much higher than most of the other synths on this list. You need to get a handle on it’s routing and modulation systems which will take some time, it will be worth it in the end, but still… be prepared. I included it here because of the shear number of presets compared to the price.
Check out Synthmaster by KV331 Audio on Plugin Boutique.
If you are looking for something like Synthmaster, but less involved and less daunting there are two other version for you.
Synthmaster One (~79) is like Synthmaster’s little brother. It has way less routing and modulation options and gives the synth engine a more streamlined approach. I would say much more user friendly.
The Synthmaster Player (~$29) takes out almost all of the customization options, therefore much MUCH easier to use, but gives you all of the Synthmaster presets to use. This is by far the most beginner oriented synth. So, why is Synthmaster on the list as a focus and not the Synthmaster Player?
I want you to grow as producers. That means jumping in and getting your feet wet. Synthmaster will force you to get an understanding of how synths work and that is incredibly important. However, if you are just looking for great sounds quickly, any one of these synths by KV331 Audio are well worth it!