Six of the best: Soft synths

Real-world synths are everywhere, with modular and other hardware synths as popular as ever. But soft synths are getting better and better, too, so ignore them at your peril. Here are six we’ve looked at recently…

Arturia V Collection 6

Best for classic synths: Arturia V Collection 6

Price €499
Contact Arturia | Source Distribution

You want every classic synth worth its salt ever made? Plus a few other keyboards that have reached classic status? What do you mean you don’t have limitless money to spend on the real thing? In that case, you need this, the software-emulation package for those in need of vintage-keyboard sounds. 21 classic synths and ’boards, over 6,000 sounds and the most emulation you will see for the cash…

We said “V Collection is the ultimate vintage-keyboard package. Nothing else out there does emulation and recreation so blatantly and so well. The new additions – the Buchla Easel V, Clavinet V, CMI (Fairlight) V and DX7 V – are great and worth the upgrade, too. If you’re obsessed with vintage, then V Collection is for you. Many analogue purists will laugh in the face of these digital equivalents, but they’re missing out. This collection has almost reached ‘classic’ status itself.”

Read our full review here

Best budget: Rob Papen Go2

Rob Papen Go2

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Price £41
Contact Rob Papen | Time+Space

It might have a familiar analogue-style interface, but Go2 is packed with Rob Papen quality, some 600 presets, effects, an onboard step sequencer and arpeggiator and a rather special morphing oscillator. Best of all is the price…

We said “Rob Papen has firmly nailed his colours to the mast with this one. Go2 is very affordably priced, but sonically,  it punches way above its weight. There are certainly more comprehensive soft synths on the market, but this is a synth which is far from basic and there is plenty to keep the more experienced user happy. If there were ever a synth to live up to its name, this is it. For the money, this will be very difficult to beat and if you’re dipping your toe into the Papen world for the first time, or have limited funds, Go2 will heavily reward you, with a synth that’s full of great sonic possibilities.”

Read our full review here.

Best granular: Audio Damage Quanta

Audio Damage Quanta

Price £77
Contact Audio Damage | Plugin Boutique

Quanta mixes some standard synthesis with more out-there granular synthesis. It’s a dual-oscillator synth: one a simple variable waveshape type with pulse width and tuning options; the other an even simpler noise oscillator. Quanta makes the whole synthesis process easy to mix, understand and create with. Some simply stunning sounds are to be had here and it’s dead easy to create more…

We said “Quanta updates and simplifies granular in an exciting way and offers some very different and incredible soundscapes. Thankfully, you don’t need a degree in quantum physics to get the best from the synth. Simply take something you like the sound of and it’s easy to load your own audio in to make it your own – instant sound design, your way! Quanta is a superb synth capable of outstanding, out-there and out-of-this-world tones.”

Read our full review here.

Best module: Gothic instruments Dronar Metal & Glass

Top 5 Software Instruments for Sound Design - Gothic Instruments DRONAR

Price £59
Contact Time+Space

The Dronar concept is all about taking software synth modules and assembling your own collection. But don’t go thinking this is some kind of hardware, modular-type Eurorack concept – it’s far weirder than that. Dronar is more a texture-based library, but includes loads of creative and hands-on controls, making it one of the more unusual soft synths in this round up.

We said “This has atmosphere in spades, but the emphasis is truly off-world. The results are extremely inspiring, with pads to die for. Extra synthesis options add huge flexibility, and are very easy to implement – Dronar’s modules produce very complex sounds, but they’re not hard to use and abuse. And to have this sort of power available for less than £60 beggars belief.”

Read our full review here.

Best ex-Reason only!: Propellerhead Software Europa

Propellerhead Software Europa

Price £134
Contact Propellerhead

Reason 10 was released in October 2018 with a great deal of fanfare – it was billed as Reason’s biggest upgrade yet and came with loads of extra synths, instruments and samples. The fare that garnered the most fan was Europa. In fact, this excellent and accessible wavetable synth received so much praise that the Props decided to release it for users of all DAWs…

We said “Part of its charm is that Europa is really pretty easy to get your head around. Those three main engines at the top left start a logical signal flow to the right and then move down, top-to-bottom. The Spectral Filter is a standout feature on Europa and offers some incredible sound-manipulating possibilities. Explore its sonic potential – now with your own audio – and you won’t be disappointed. Europa is a great bit of Reason for everyone, and is a great-sounding synth.”

Read our full review here

Best bass: Loopmasters Bass Master

bass master

Price £69
Contact Loopmasters

On the face of it, this is a rather simple two-oscillator synth, but with 217 waveforms to play with, over 350 presets and loads of filter, distortion and EQ options, it suddenly becomes a bass machine. Or master…

We said “You might think you have your bass sorted with other soft synths, but it’s amazing what a focused instrument can do to your workflow, and producers from all genres will benefit from Bass Master. Bass Master is an intuitive and inspirational way to provide the backbone to any track, in any genre. From your sub drones to in-your-face bass, it’s the master of it all.

Read our full review here.

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