Buyers Guides

Audiotuts+ Top 6 Software Synths


I remember discovering pro synths way back in 1982. I was amazed - with one instrument you could create almost any sound you could imagine. I fell in love with them. Now we can do all that with software.

About a month ago I asked you what you thought was the best software synth. You answered. Five synths stood out above the rest. In this article we explore them.

[Update August 3rd: After I read NaitaOni's comment, I added a section for Synth1.]

1. Zebra2


Cost: $199

Description: "Zebra is our wireless modular synthesizer. It combines many different types of synthesis with a powerful modulation engine. Imagine – you can create any additive, freehand or spline-based waveform you like, apply a vast selection of spectral effects, morph between those waves and send them through classic synth filters. Perhaps use that entire sound as modulator for an FM oscillator, or route it through a comb filter – the building block of physical modeling synthesis. All generator modules, all signal paths, all effects are stereo."


  • Zebra. I mean…… Seriously….. (Victor)
  • Only ZEBRA2!!! My favorite synth for all! Fat bass, strong lead, sweet pads & crazy FX! (Vadim Miner)
  • +1 for u-he Zebra. It’s a complex yet extreme flexible beast. (Markus)
  • I love Zebra too – so many great sounds – organic to totally twisted – still learning how to program it properly, but there’s so many great patches available to play with anyway! (Niggles)

2. Sylenth1


Cost: €139 (ex VAT)

Description: "Sylenth1 is a virtual analog VSTi synthesizer that takes the definitions of quality and performance to a higher level. Until now only very few software synthesizers have been able to stand up to the sound quality standards of hardware synths. Sylenth1 is one that does. Sylenth1 is not just another synth. It was built from a producer's point of view. It was built to produce superior quality sound and music. It was built to perform. A lot of research has been invested in order to achieve unheard warmth and clarity. The graphical interface ensures the highest level of usability so you can fully unleash your creativity."


  • I havn’t really tried many but I do like Sylenth a lot. (Andrew)
  • I have to say Sylenth, its my most used synth then Sytrus. (m4rt3z)
  • I’ve personally become very found of the Lennar Digital Sylenth. Great sound, very dynamic, and has tons of great presets to get you stated off with. Just match it with a decent compressor (the compressor in the plugin kind of sucks) and you’ll have sweet synth sex in w/ DAW you’re using. I use it on Logic and Ableton on my PC. (AnDrew)
  • It would have to be Sylenth for me for its quality analogue sound, great filters even in high frequencies and easy of use. (George Mitropapas)



Cost: $489 from Amazon

Description: "KOMPLETE 7 is the latest version of the ultimate software collection from Native Instruments. Now bigger and better and featuring 24 KOMPLETE Instruments and Effects, this 90 GB package is bursting with more than 10,000 production-ready sounds for all styles and genres. KOMPLETE 7 features renowned flagship products like KONTAKT, GUITAR RIG and the redesigned REAKTOR 5.5 plus all-new instruments and effects from Native Instruments and brands like Abbey Road and Scarbee."


  • Native Instruments Massive. You can make virtually any sound imaginable. The unique and odd waveforms supplied help create ridiculously complex sounds, but you can also do so much with just a saw wave. Anything from guitar sounds to 808 kicks are very easy to make with Massive’s easy-on-the-eyes set up. It’s a great synth to learn synthesis on, but also, in my opinion the most powerful out there now. (Pierce Guderski)
  • I’m a big fan of Massive or anything really in the NI Komplete Collection. (Andrew)
  • Native Instruments Massive and Absynth. (Hartzet)

4. Reason 5


Cost: $349 from Amazon

Description: "Reason is a virtual studio rack with all the tools and instruments you need to turn your ideas into music. With its generous sound bank and intuitive flow, Reason helps you along in creative process, and is the music software that never gets in your way."


  • Propellerhead’s Reason. It’s about as comprehensive as you can get for a synth. A very deep application with infinite combinations. A large support community supplying a lot of free sound refills. (Stevo)
  • I am a huge fan of the Reason soft synths. Malstrom and Thor are extremely powerful, and I use them for most things. The other package I use is the Korg Legacy Collection. They’re getting older now, but they’re still very useful. (Matt)
  • Reason 5′s Thor. The sound crafting abilities are amazing! (Andrew Olten)

5. Albino 3


Cost: $179

Description: “Pads, leads, basses, weird noises, bell tones, FM-style purity or analogue grit - Albino can do the lot. In this respect, it could conceivably be the only soft synth you need”


  • That one you know well! For me its “Synth 1″ and Rob Papens “Albino”. (Toni)
  • Linplug Albino 3. It can be used almost for everything. (Serge)

6. Synth1


Cost: Free

Description: “Software synthesizer that supports VSTi plug-in format. This software is freeware. Functionally, it is modeled on the synth Clavia NORD LEAD2 Red.” (Google translation of Chinese text)


  • I have to give a vote to Zebra as well. Incredibly powerful modular synthesis, super-cool oscillator effects, slick user interface, and a healthy community of patch makers. In the free instrument world, you gotta give credit to Synth1 for its solid programming, CPU friendliness, and wide range of classic sounds. (Karl)
  • That one you know well! For me its “Synth 1″ and Rob Papens “Albino”. (Toni)

Other Synths Mentioned

Which synth is your favorite? Which did we miss? Are you tempted to check any of these out? Let us know in the comments.

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