Best synth plugins 2024: 10 of the best polyphonic synth plugins for all genres

Plugin synths can offer incredible value for money and sounds that you can’t find in the hardware world. Here are 10 of the best out there in 2024.

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Best synth plugins 2024

There are loads of reasons to opt for a software synthesizer over a hardware one. Software can faithfully emulate and expand iconic models, offer brave new sounds, and even present fresh ways to synthesise audio – all at prices that are typically far lower than their physical counterparts.

From legendary models to complex modular setups and newfangled instruments, there are countless software polys to choose from. We’ve rounded up 10 of our favourites, all with their own quirks that will keep you busy for hours on end.

U-he Diva: A synth stalwart that still holds up today

  • Price: $173/£138
  • Synthesis: Virtual Analogue/Subtractive

Diva is, without doubt, one of the most popular soft synths out there.

Originally launched in 2011 by U-he – which shows how well it holds up – Diva is renowned for its various emulations of iconic synth components, such as the oscillator sections based on the Moog Minimoog, Roland Alpha Juno-2, Roland Jupiter series, Korg MS-20 and Roland JP-8000. There are also filters based on the Moog Ladder filter, Oberheim SEM filter and more.

Even now, ten years after its original release, producers are taken aback by its pristine, detailed sound, and its performance against vintage analogue synthesizers. The Trimmers panel allows you to go all-out on making Diva sound more analogue, with voice detuning per oscillator, voice drift and more. If you’re in the market for some retro synth flavours, Diva should be one of your first stops.

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Arturia Pigments 5: Inviting and powerful — one of our favourites

  • Price: $206/£164
  • Synthesis: Subtractive, wavetable, sample-based & additive

Arturia’s Pigments is now in its fifth iteration and more powerful than ever. This synth plugin looks and feels inviting to play thanks to bright and detailed visualisers and its drag-and-drop-style modulation stacking. It sounds rich and detailed, too, thanks to its five sound engines, which provide a wide range of sonic possibilities for users to explore and manipulate. You’ll also find loads of flexible filters and effects, including eleven filter models and 18 high-quality effects, so you can further shape your sound.

Pigments is so good, that its past three editions have all deservedly been awarded 10/10 by MusicTech. In our review of Pigments 5, we confirmed that it is still “one of our absolute favourite synths”.

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GForce Oberheim OB-X: Fat, vintage sounds

  • Price: $139/£111
  • Synthesis: Virtual analogue/Subtractive

GForce’s OB-X is the first-ever officially endorsed emulation of Oberheim’s iconic OB-X synth, having been created in close cooperation with Tom Oberheim himself.

The GForce Oberheim OB-X captures its authentic sound, offering monophonic, polyphonic, legato, and unison trigger modes, as well as programmable Aftertouch. It goes further than the possibilities of hardware, with expanded Velocity controls and a robust preset browser offering over 400 production-ready presets. It also incorporates GForce’s X-Modifier technology for comprehensive sound modulation.

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UAD x Moog Minimoog: The icon in your DAW

  • Price: $250/£199
  • Synthesis: Subtractive/Virtual Analogue

Oberheim and GForce aren’t the only brands to have worked together on a software emulation of a legendary synth. In 2023, Universal Audio and Moog officially launched a plugin version of the legendary Minimoog Model D, initially launched in 1970.

This plugin synth, you could argue, is as good as you’re going to get when it comes to recreating this classic synth. Using custom robotics for precise knob measurements, it accurately replicates module-to-module coupling and impedance, resulting in near-zero latency. Universal Audio has also effectively rebuilt Moog’s renowned ladder filters, oscillators and detailed pitch tracking anomalies, making for distinctive, distorted, off-kilter hardware Moog sonics.

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Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2.8: Vast sound palette with an intuitive layout

  • Price: $479/£339
  • Synthesis: Sample, wavetable, granular, FM

Spectrasonics’ flagship soft synth is not to be overlooked. Omnisphere uses its unique STEAM synthesis and sampling engine to deliver over 14,000 inspiring sounds that you can manipulate using granular, wavetable and FM synthesis, among other timbre-warping techniques. You can load up to 20 oscillators per patch and modulate them using eight LFOs, 12 envelopes and 34 filter types, with the Flex-Mod modulation matrix helping you get detailed with sound design. There are then 58 modulatable effects units to further develop your patches.

In our review, we said: “Thanks to some genuinely innovative features, not to mention a wealth of extra sonic material to play with, it’s hard to imagine any software instrument delivering the same breadth and sheer sonic excellence as Omnisphere 2.”

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Kilohearts Phase Plant: Endless playground of sound design

  • Price: $201/£160
  • Synthesis: Wavetable, FM, Granular, Subtractive, Sample

From the old and trusty to the new and fresh-faced: Phase Plant is an award-winning, cutting-edge semi-modular soft synth by Swedish brand Kilohearts that lets you modulate your sound in plentiful exciting directions.

Its open modular architecture lets you create everything from simple synth riffs to complex and diverse patches. With Kilohearts’ built-in effects and advanced modulation capabilities, including FM modulation and MPE compatibility, Phase Plant is a solid choice of soft synth if you’re looking to shape your sound in cool new ways.

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Vital: Unbelievable free synth

  • Price: FREE
  • Synthesis: Wavetable

The 2020-launched spectral-warping wavetable synth Vital by Vital Audio, maintaining itself as a free-to-download piece of software years since its launch, remains one of music tech’s biggest mysteries. Yes, the Basic package doesn’t cost a dime (Pro costs $80, unlocking 400+ presets and 25 wavetables), but even in its free form, it seriously holds up against other high-end soft synths in this list, delivering sonics of a similar quality. That makes Vital a – dare we say it – vital asset for your soft synth library.

The synth is known for its wavetable synthesis capabilities, intuitive user interface, and vast number of modulation options. With features like custom wavetable creation, spectral warping, and intuitive modulation, it acts as a no-brainer for music producers on a budget – or not, frankly.

Download for free.

Xfer Records Serum: Essential synth for EDM

  • Price: $189
  • Synthesis: Wavetable

Deadmau5 and Steve Duda’s Xfer Records spawned a powerful go-to synth for a myriad producers in 2014. Ten years on, it’s still an essential synth for many in the EDM world. It’s consistently top on Splice’s plugins chart, and is used by Deadmau5 himself, Flume, What So Not and Marshmello, among others.

Serum is an advanced wavetable synth with 144 wavetables, 10 effects modules, drag-and-drop modulation routing and custom wavetable creation. Its pristine sound and intuitive interface make Serum a dream to navigate and create with, whether it’s big EDM leads or thick pads. It’s known to be a little heavy on the CPU, though, so do try before you buy and check if your system can handle it.

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Cherry Audio GX-80: Best way to get a CS-80 sound

  • Price: $64/£51
  • Synthesis: Virtual analogue/Subtractive

The 1977-launched Yamaha CS-80 is an iconic synth whose sound you’d recognise on VangelisBlade Runner soundtrack or on tracks by the likes of Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre. That’s evidence enough to show you how powerful this instrument can be, and Cherry Audio’s respectful software emulation, the GX-80, gets you impressively close to that rich sound.

The Cherry Audio GX-80 plugin synth, which also takes inspiration from Yamaha’s GX-1 Dream Machine, has features that make it even more powerful than the relatively limited hardware original. It has dual synth layers with 16 polyphonic voices per layer, octave-up triangle wave, invert filter envelope control, additional waveforms with variable resonators, a split keyboard mode, polyphonic aftertouch simulation, a sub-oscillator LFO for each layer, 1,000 presets, and studio-quality integrated effects.

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Roland Cloud Juno-60 v2: Everyone needs a Juno

Price: $244/£195
Synthesis: Virtual Analogue/Subtractive

Roland’s Juno-60 is without doubt a legend in the synthesizer game, used by countless producers. Released in 1982, the Juno-60 embodies the spirit of music during that legendary decade, giving off a distinctive fat analogue sound.

As part of Roland Cloud’s Legendary Series v2 rollout, the Roland Juno-60 v2 plugin version of the synth still gives you the iconic sonics but with added features. Enhanced with ACB technology, this 8-voice subtractive soft synth features classic filters, a lush chorus, authentic effects, real-time circuit modulation, adjustable polyphony, envelopes, an arpeggiator, and a vintage-inspired interface for seamless integration and control.

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