6 of the best freeware synths

From emulation to experimentation, the best free synths out there…

1Martin Lüders PG-8X

Martin Lüders PG-8X

Roland did make a great range of classic synths back in the 80s and the freeware community does pay homage in abundance and this is our second classic reimagined, this time the JX-8P. Rather than the synth getting shown in the UI, it’s the optional original PG programmer, which makes sense. Make sure you download the presets via the developer’s Facebook page and you’ll have a very capable – and surprisingly varied – synth on your hands. Donations are encouraged.

Mac/PC, 64-bit. More info here.

2TAL U-No-62

TAL U-No-62

TAL Software has had many freeware titles featured in past MusicTech ‘Best Ofs’, including the Elek7ro Virtual Analogue and BassLine, based on a Roland SH-101. U-No-62 maintains that Roland theme, as it is modelled on a classic Juno-60. This one can sound authentically lush and vintage, although it’s only 32-bit for OSX users (64-bit for PC) so Mac heads might have to upgrade to paid for U-NO-LX (for around £55).

Mac/PC, 32/64-bit. More info here.

3u-he Podolski

u-he Podolski

u-he makes some of the best synths money can buy, like Diva and Hive, and also some of the best that no money can buy (just check out Triple Cheese and TyrellN6). Podolski was developed in 2005, but has had many updates, the most recent of which (1.2.1). It is basic in structure, but the arpeggiator/sequencer and chorus and delay effects really do help create a lot of lovely presets – there are over well over 500.

Mac/PC, 32/64-bit. More info here.

4Xhip

Xhip

Xhip, or Extended Chip is a dual-oscillator synth with effects, waveshaping and good modulation capabilities. There’s more to it than just making chip-tune sounds (which you might think after checking out the SoundCloud demos). It does great leads, basses and effects and has been constantly updated to run on newer machines across the board. And make sure you download the presets folder for a good range that cover its capabilities.

Mac/PC, 32/64-bit. More info here.

5NUSofting Sinnah

NUSofting Sinnah

One of our classic choices gets an inclusion again, thanks to an update to v1.1 a couple of years back. Sinnah has, on the face of it, a simple architecture, but also boasts a large delay matrix and waveshaping for a sound that can be both acoustic and very electronic, so can be used for a wide variety of tasks and genres. It comes with a good range of presets with 50 free extras from julianraymusic.com.

Mac/PC, 32/64-bit. More info here.

6Matt Tytel Helm

Matt Tytel Helm

Another one of our previous choices gets resurrected, largely because its GUI stands head and shoulders above everyone else’s. Thankfully, Helm sounds as good as it looks, especially when you tweak those inviting controls that include oscillators, envelopes and a step sequencer. It’s the effects that make it, though, with stutter and formant drama alongside traditional delay and reverb. Great sound, and fantastic to use, with loads of great presets, too.

Mac/PC, 32/64-bit. More info here.

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