It’s time to conclude our roundup of the best soft synths that money can buy with our final six choices, Read the first part here
We want more emulations! – We’ve deliberately stayed away from soft synths that specifically model hardware synths. We (mostly) favour software being used to stretch what can be done with sound rather than emulating existing hardware. The ones we have included – namely Oddity and FM8 – have, for example, extended what was done by the original hardware so much that they have become synths in their own right, but don’t worry, classic-synth fans – we’ll be doing a proper emulation chart full of Arturia, Roland et al very soon!
1: Linplug Spectral
Contact via website
Parts of Linplug’s Spectral will make you think it’s an out-and-out dance synth; some of the presets without a doubt do lend themselves to many dance genres. But there’s both a simplicity and depth to it that allows you to take this synth pretty much anywhere you want to.
We particularly love the movement you can get with sounds and how easy it is to program this via the onboard arpeggiator, but there are other highlights, too. The waveform Spectral editor is obviously intended to be one of these, as it lends its name to the synth, and here you can get to the heart of the sound to shape the harmonics.
So it’s as simple as you like on one level and as complex as you like on another. Dance synth? Maybe, but also far more than that. We concluded: “Spectral offers inspiration, loops aplenty, core wave editing and a great atmosphere…”
2: Fabfilter Twin
Contact Fabfilter, via website
Fabfilter makes some very special outboard and effect plug-ins – indeed, we’ve scored pretty much all of them a 9 or 10/10 over recent years – but before the company made any of these, it made this spectacular synth plug-in which still stands up very well today.
Featuring some amazing (and very electronic and dance-based) presets, this is a virtual analogue that still cuts through any mix and still slots into many genres. Easy tweaking, routing and editing on the front panel and a sound that really works on many levels: one that will probably never go out of fashion. An amazing synth…
3: iZotope Iris
Price £209, £89.95 (upgrade)
Contact Time+Space – 01837 55200
Certainly one of the more unusual synths in this roundup, as it is more of a sampling resynthesiser, using audio samples as waveforms. It works by selecting parts of a sound from either a wave or spectrum, utilising iZotope’s groundbreaking technology in this area – essentially the same type of code used in the high-end RX software – so you can home in on a particular part of a sound.
The bottom line is not complicated at all, though: you can get some breathtaking sounds, complex as you like – and also sounds you won’t get anywhere else. When we reviewed version 2 recently, we said: “The true joy is in capturing your own sounds and transforming them into playable music, melodies and textures; a task now made even more flexible with the new modulation system. Still a fun and incredibly creative tool to use.”
4: GForce Oddity 2
Price £139.99 (currently £58.33 in a sale)
Contact via website
It was originally one of the best emulations of an ARP Odyssey you could buy in software, but Oddity 2 is now so extra-featured and powerful that it has taken on ‘life
after emulation’ status and become an incredible-sounding synth in its own right.
This is not least thanks to its ability to play in a Polyphonic Mode, meaning you have the exceptional sound of the original Odyssey multiplied into huge walls of spikey, aggressive and lush tones.
There’s unpredictability and a vast range of timbres across 1,000-plus presets and it’s easy to understand why the original was so beloved by so many synth icons. We said in our original review: “Oddity 2 is a triumph.
We love the extra mod options and using it as an effect, but best of all is Polyphonic Mode, a feature that takes Oddity to new heights. If ARP had carried on as a company, this is the synth it would have made now.”
5: Melda MPower Synth
Contact MeldaProduction, via website
MeldaProduction might be known to you by its range of plug-ins, for which it has a great reputation among producers. MPower is its first synth and the company seems to have concentrated on the ‘power’ part of the name. MPower has spades of creative options and you can create sounds or take the existing presets on all sorts of journeys with them.
There are 1,500 presets but, as we said in our review,it might be best to create your own to really get the best from them, as there’s so much power under the hood, it would be a shame not to use it.
We said: “Spend some time digging around and you will find that there is much to like. It’s a serious synth that rewards some investment of effort, but, crucially, it sounds great. An extraordinarily powerful synth, with literally endless programmability.”
6: Zero-G Epica
Contact Time+Space – 01837 55200
Okay, strictly speaking, it’s a library of sounds and not technically a soft synth like the others in our dirty dozen, but it makes synth noises and has synth controls so we’re including it, dammit! And, boy, what synth noises it makes.
Epica runs as a Kontakt instrument with all of the library management that that entails. Once loaded in, though, you won’t regret the hard drive space outlay because this thing sounds, well, epic. Huge sounds and enough control over them for it not to get unwieldy (and to label it a synth!). We said: “If you love synths, this could be the best £113 you will spend. As epic as epic can be…”
But why didn’t you include…
1. Reaktor? Yes, it could have been in the Top 12, but it’s more of a development platform than standalone synth (as good as it is)
2. Crystal – it’s free! Because it’s free and we’ll do a freeware list separately
3. Pow3r 3Z by Anonymous Software Ltd, or some such other title? Because this is a list of titles we have reviewed. By all means vote for your favourites in the comments below!