For this article, we are going to focus on synthesizers for EDM. There are many different categories of VST plugins, like guitar VSTs or effects plugins like de-essers. We are going to look at the top free and paid EDM VST plugin synths.
What Are the Best Free EDM VST Plugins?
First, just a note. Stock Plugins that are found in your DAW are more than adequate to use in your productions. A lot of these synths are in their own right, high-quality plugins. So don’t overlook your stock plugins
Do you want to produce EDM but can’t afford premium plugins such as Serum, Nexus, or Sylenth1? Here are the best free EDM VST plugins that we found:
Vital by Vital Audio
image credit: vital.audio
This synth is by far the favourite of this list of free EDM VSTs. Vital is, in my opinion, the best free synth out there and arguably better than a lot of the paid synths. Of course, there is a pro version of Vital that has about 400 presets and 150 wavetables and more but the free version has everything you need to make amazing sounds.
Vital’s user interface feels a lot like Serum. It is super visual and the visuals are high quality. All the visuals are GPU optimized so that your CPU doesn’t get taxed. This is great because Vital does not use a ton of CPU power.
The synth has 3 oscillators that are all wavetables. Each wavetable is totally customizable through Spectral Warping or through modulating the wavetable. You can modulate the wavetable through 2 filters that you can drag and drop onto the oscillator. There are 3 envelopes and 4 LFOs that can also be set and dragged onto each oscillator.
Vital is also packed with great effects that can be stacked to create a truly unique sound. Save your presets, cause it will be hard to remember what you did with all the functionality.
Even though Vital is new, it has a growing community around it and there are plenty of presets made by users. I struggle to find anything negative to say about Vital so we definitely recommend grabbing a copy of it.
Synth1 by Ichiro Toda
image credit: daichilab.com
Synth1 is a very functional and organized VST plugin, but one that’s a bit rough on the eyes. Still, you can resize it, so it’s suitable for high-resolution displays, and you can change the panel and text’s colour separately.
This versatile tool that can get you electronic and retro sounds is one of the most widely used free synths. It has a huge community where you can find a vast number of presets. They’re either on the download page or on KVR under banks, patches, and presets.
The Synth1 VST plugin is excellent but not perfect. You have to be careful with particular presets with effects as they might behave unpredictably. The filter envelope velocity might change the volume drastically and distort your preset as well. Still, for a free synth, the sounds it offers for EDM are pretty good.
Helm by Matt Tytel
image credit: tytel.org/helm
Helm is a free, cross-platform plugin featuring a polyphonic synthesizer with an excellent modulation system. It has the best user interface among all free plugins with a sleek colour palette and design.
The overall sound quality of the synthesizer is great. However, an even better characteristic is its instrument set, as it has features you usually don’t see in free VST synths.
Its modulation controls are well-laid across the interface, making it easy to link multiple elements of the sound engine. This also lets you figure out which modulation source modulates which target quicker.
Overall, this synth can produce noises and rhythmic sequences suitable for electronic music. However, the plugin has some stability issues on some systems, but the developer is hard at work. You can download it for free from Matt Tytel’s website.
Surge by Vember Audio
Surge is a free and open-source hybrid synthesizer plugin. It used to be a priced product, but it was re-released as an open-source project once the developer, Claes Johanson, found himself too busy with other work.
This synth has several impressive features. It uses a hybrid subtractive synthesis method with a dual engine, three oscillators per voice with eight distinct algorithms, 183 wavetables. The plugin also has twelve highly customizable modules per voice, an excellent modulation matrix, and many exceptional characteristics.
This VST plugin comes with over a thousand presets organized in categories for convenience, and they’re impressive. For such a complex plugin, it’s also light on CPU resources.
The only problem you may have with it is its graphical user interface. It’s incredibly tiny. When you couple it with its complexity, it exacerbates the issue. Still, this set is very suitable for EDM producers.
Komplete Start by Native Instruments
Komplete Start is the perfect starting point for music production beginners, letting you produce tracks with over 2000 studio-quality sounds for free. This VST plugin features six virtual synthesizers, two effects, nine sampled instruments, and some freeware players, including Reaktor 6 and Kontakt 6.
Some of the synthesizers it offers are splendid for electronic sounds, such as the LazerBass, TRK-01 Bass, and Carbon 2. You can even enhance them with the Supercharge compressor it includes.
The World and Band instrument samples are significantly handy for any music composer as they provide access to pro-graded bass, classic and electric guitars, drum kits, and percussion instruments. Overall, it’s a fantastic plugin for electronic music, but it’s meant to be more of a free trial for the Komplete 12 bundle.
Dexed by Digital Suburban
Dexed is the best pure FM synthesizer available right now. It accurately emulates the classic Yamaha DX7, which is one of the most famous FM keyboards ever.
The emulation is so precise that you can use the plugin to load DX7 presets. This means that this synth can load DX7 patches as long as you have a SysEx manager and a patch editor.
Dexed’s featured instrument set resembles a Yamaha DX7, but it comes with the benefit of being a software synthesizer. As every synth engine parameter is laid bare for DAW automation in the front panel, the interface may be hard to get used to, especially if you don’t have experience with FM synthesizers.
Regardless, this one is more of an honourable mention. It’s a great choice if you want a retro or classic sound, but it’s hard to get it to output a modern one. Still, you can download it for free from its GitHub page.
What Are the Best Paid EDM VST Plugins?
It can be intimidating to put your money in one place when it comes to paid synth plugins. After all, picking the best one for your music is a challenging process. Still, all it takes is a little knowledge to solve the problem. Here are the best EDM VST synths.
Serum by Xfer
Countless producers and electronic music artists use Serum. It’s a wavetable synthesizer with incredible features. For instance, you can import your audio to create a custom wavetable and sounds, but it also has a full editor for experienced users.
It has a splendid, workflow-oriented user interface that makes the process of creating and altering sounds a fun one. Still, the synth provides the features necessary to go all-in whenever you desire.
This synth has a significantly clean oscillator. Its built-in method can suppress the artifacts that constantly appear during digital resampling, making it one of the best-sounding synths out there.
The modulation system of Serum uses an intuitive drag and drop method that allows you to see everything in one place.
Every characteristic mentioned only scratches the surface of this plugin. It has numerous incredible features that are impossible to summarize. Overall, Serum is probably a must-have VST plugin for any music production, not just EDM, and it comes at the cost of $189.
Nexus 3 by reFX
Nexus 2 was already an invaluable tool for many producers, but the new installment gave it an overhaul. It included several characteristics that every modern music producer needs to make a hit.
It’s easy to craft unique sounds with this VST because of the latest additions. For example, editing presets is quicker due to four accessible macro controls and 20 slots for modulation. The mod-matrix has simple parameters that are helpful for beginners trying to delve into the more advanced music production aspects.
Its effects engine received a considerable improvement too. Now it’s easy to create sounds ready for implementation for a full mix. Apart from that, the reverb sounds are exceptional, and the menu is straightforward.
With these characteristics, it’s no wonder that famous artists like Tiesto and David Guetta use the Nexus for their EDM productions. However, even the starter pack has a somewhat high price of $249. If you use the Nexus 2 and mostly rely on the sample and preset options it provides, you can hold out on upgrading for a bit.
Sylenth1 by LennarDigital
Sylenth1 is another VST synth that takes performance to a whole new level. There aren’t many software plugins that can compete toe-to-toe with hardware synths. Still, this classical yet modern one does.
The Sylenth1 produces superior sound and music quality as it was built to achieve utmost warmth and clarity. It also has many third-party presets that expand the sound pallet, thanks to its thriving community. This plugin does have fewer characteristics, but it also means you can get your track done quicker.
For a synthesizer released in 2006, it holds up better than ever. EDM circles still regard it as one of the best as it can create any sound they need at the required level. It’s also one of the cheaper options at €139.
Omnisphere by Spectrasonics
Omnisphere is among the most used plugins globally. It has an enormous library with over 14.000 sounds which include an unbelievable variety of instrument sets. As if it wasn’t enough, you can also use your audio files as a sound source.
It offers an innovative Hardware Synth Integration feature that transforms popular synthesizers into firsthand controllers for its extensive synthesis capacities. In other words, it can make you feel the unique workflow experience of hardware synths as it bridges the gap between them.
This VST isn’t the simplest one, so if you’re a beginner, it would be helpful to pick another one. Still, it’s one of the best synths available for electronic music. If you’re pursuing a career as a producer, you should consider investing in this $500 tool at one point.
Spire by Reveal Sound
Spire is a hybrid subtractive synthesizer that offers a wealth of features. It has a beautiful interface that provides a fluid workflow thanks to the minimization of tree navigation and lack of hidden pages. The controls are laid in an organized manner but are somewhat hard to use.
Its most remarkable feature is its versatile oscillators. The synth offers four of them, and they are beyond conventional. It has a superb modulation architecture as well. The Spire has everything VST synths need to create a great EDM track at the cost of $189.
The Bottom Line
There are many excellent EDM VST plugins available. Some free synths are more than capable enough to make excellent-sounding music. Still, there are times where they might fall short. Paid ones, however, don’t have that disadvantage. They usually have exceptional routing and modulation options and a vast number of presets. Regardless, you can find the best EDM VST for both right here.
Producing EDM isn’t all about the plugins. Take a look at our guide for EDM Music Production if you are looking to get started in EDM.
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