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The 13 Best VST Instruments Every Producer Needs

The 13 Best VST Instruments Every Producer Needs

VST instruments are virtual tools for creating sound in your DAW.

From synths to samplers and sound generators, a good collection of VST plugins is essential for every modern producer.

But there are more virtual instruments available now than ever before. If you’re just getting started, it can be intimidating to know which ones to use.

You may have already seen some free VST synths or audio effects available to download online.

These can be great tools, but many of the top plugin choices are paid software from respected developers.

Luckily, you can still get deals on plugins with rent-to-own options or subscription plans.

No matter how you prefer to get your plugins, you’ll still have to find out which ones work best for you.

In this article I’ll break down 13 VST instrument picks to help you create your unique sound.

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Here’s the essential list of the best VST instruments and synth plugins

  1. LANDR Chromatic
  2. Spectrasonics Omnisphere
  3. Analog Lab Lite
  4. Xfer Serum
  5. Native Instruments Massive
  6. Lethal Audio
  7. Native Instruments FM8
  8. Arturia V Collection
  9. UJAM USynth
  10. Native Instruments Kontakt 6
  11. Reveal Sound Spire
  12. u-he Hive
  13. REFX Nexus 2

Use this list to choose the best synth plugins from the cream of the crop.

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1. LANDR Chromatic

Price: $9.99 USD / month

Preview of youtube video

I’ll kick this list off with our top choice for an inspiring VST to add to your plugin folder. Chromatic is the first original instrument from LANDR.

Brought to you by the team that built LANDR Samples, Chromatic is a loop-based virtual instrument that turns sampled sounds into playable parts at the touch of a key.

Using a MIDI controller, Chromatic lets you go hands-on with exclusive, artist-approved loops and manipulate them with effects in real time.

With an expanding library of inspiring loops built by top producers, Chromatic lets you browse by mood to find the perfect sounds to start a song or fill out an arrangement.

If you like loops but you prefer an alternative to the cut and paste workflow of traditional packs, Chromatic is a great choice to get ideas fast.

Find instant inspiration with LANDR Chromatic

2. Spectrasonics Omnisphere

Price: $499 USD

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Spectrasonics Omnisphere is one of the biggest names in software synthesizers. This massively powerful instrument packs an almost overwhelming amount of functionality.

There’s so much going on under the hood in Omnisphere that it might be a little intimidating to new users.

But there’s a super helpful community around this synth to guide you on your journey—and plenty of resources available if you’re feeling stuck.

If all else fails you could get lost in the sheer number of presets and discover some incredible sounds without ever once needing to do any tweaking.

Omnisphere is a powerful experience!

Omnisphere is a powerful experience!

3. Arturia Analog Lab Lite

https://blog.landr.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Analog-Lab-Lite.png

Some of the best virtual instruments are more like collections that offer the highlights of many different devices in one.

That’s the idea behind Arturia Analog Lab Lite. It includes some of the best-loved presets from Arturia’s respected V collection in a lightweight package that’s inspiring and easy to use.

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4. Xfer Serum

Price: $189 USD

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Xfer Serum is usually next on the list of the most essential soft synths.

Serum is a wavetable synthesizer. Unlike the hardware synths of the past that rely on wavetable technology, Serum has no processing limitations—and it shows.

Serum’s wavetable tech is incredibly powerful. Even for simple waveforms, its expertly implemented wavetables sound ultra-clear and clean.

This gives the synth a crisp and clean sound that can be quite intense!

Serum has a dedicated user base and plenty of third-party sounds available, including great free presets from respected sound designers.

5. Native Instruments Massive

Price: $149 USD

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Native Instruments’ Massive has been around since the early days of softsynths, but it’s an all-time favourite for a reason.

This synth is designed to make basses. Massive basses—and it works.

Its easy to use virtual-analog subtractive design will seem familiar and intuitive, even to new users.

Its extremely fat sound has defined a generation of producers and continues to be a great option for plugin synthesis.

Hot Tip:

Massive has just received a significant update with NI Massive X.

Massive X is an entirely new synth plugin reimagined from the ground up to bring the classic VST into the modern era of music production. It just might end up being more legendary than the original!

6. Lethal Audio Lethal

Price: $199

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Lethal by Lethal Audio is a ROM based powerhouse that includes thousands of sounds and presets and 24 genre-specific expansions.

It’s also the first rent-to-own plugin from LANDR…

We know, we know: we’re a bit biased. But we had to put it on this list because we’ve been enjoying it so much in our own productions lately.

Lethal by Lethal Audio is a ROM based powerhouse that includes thousands of sounds and presets 24 genre-specific expansions.

This soft synth puts some of the most in-demand tones in modern production right at your fingertips with it’s easy to use preset browser.

From there’s plenty of room to sculpt them with effects and powerful synthesis features.

Plus its light enough on your processor that you can create an entire track using just Lethal.

If you’re looking for simplicity and great value, Lethal is the perfect synth for you.

7. Native Instruments FM8

Price: $149 USD

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Native Instruments FM8 is another longtime favourite soft synth from the classic plugin manufacturer.

FM8 uses frequency modulation synthesis like the iconic Yamaha DX-7 that defined the sound of the 80s.

FM8 uses frequency modulation synthesis like the iconic Yamaha DX-7 that defined the sound of the 80s.

This method can seem complicated, but FM8 focuses on putting all the control you need at your fingertips.

Plus, FM8 takes FM synthesis much further than classic hardware.

All the delicate, crystalline bells and keys you might associate with FM are there, along with all kinds of inspiring new sounds and textures—FM is cool!

8. Arturia V Collection

Price: 499$

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The Arturia V Collection is truly incredible because it gives you access to a library of legendary vintage synths.

It’s hard to express just how incredible it is that you can download and emulate genre-defining synths like the CS-80 or the ARP 2600.

Having access to a literal library of classic synths opens up your production capabilities to levels that producers of eras past could only dream about.

9. Ujam USynth Core

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USynth Core takes all the complicated aspects of synthesis, the jargon, the programming and fiddling around and leaves all the best part behind—playing with great sounds.

This synth features a simplified, minimal interface that comes with a few easy-to-understand knobs let the user make changes any of its many presets.

The stripped-down interface is designed to make it easy for anyone, especially producers with minimal sound design experience to quickly find interesting synth sounds and start writing music.

Hot Tip:

USynth Core now comes with yearly LANDR Studio subscriptions, alongside access to a curated selection of powerful plugins, LANDR`s game-changing AI mastering engine, digital distribution, royalty-free sample marketplace and more.

10. Native Instruments Kontakt 6

Price: $519

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Kontakt 6 is a collection of sample-based instruments from Native Instruments.

It’s essentially a platform that plugs into your DAW and gives you access to its three Play Series synths, Retro Machines MK2 and its original Factory Library.

The Play Series synths come with three synth engines—Analog Dreams for classic analog-style synths, Ethereal Earth for atmospheric pads and Hybrid Keys for interesting Rhodes style sounds.

Retro Machines is Native Intstruments’ retro synth offering that gives access to 16 re-creations of classic vintage hardware.

And of course, the Factory Libary comes with 1000s of stock samples you can freely use in your tracks.

11. Reveal Sound Spire

Price: $189 USD

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Reveal Sound Spire is a hybrid synthesizer that covers everything from analog modelling to “HardFM.”

Spire’s powerful unison modes allow for up to 9 unison voices per oscillator

And its internal effects system is like a built-in sound design tool, complete with its own LFOs and matrix slots.

Onboard mixing tools like EQ and compression make Spire a one-stop-shop for designing tones that work great in a mix.

12. u-he Hive

Price: €149 Euro

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u-he Hive is a sleek and lightweight multipurpose synth with tons of functionality. Hive’s effective workflow can get you started creating great sounding patches right away.

It’s ability to support microtunings and unique mix of synthesis styles makes it unique and it’s extensive modulation matrix and function generators make it flexible.

But at heart Hive is a two oscillator subtractive synth. That means that even if you’re still getting comfortable with the basics of synthesis, there’s nothing here you can’t handle.

13. REFX Nexus2

Price: $249 USD

Nexus has made its way into the studios of some pretty big names, but the sound quality speaks for itself.

https://blog.landr.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/10_refx-nexus2.jpg

REFX Nexus2 is another ROM based plugin with an extensive library that’s fully loaded for EDM production.

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Nexus has made its way into the studios of some pretty big names, but the sound quality speaks for itself.
Nexus is expandable via a huge amount of downloadable content and expansions on REFX for every style of music.

Synthetica

Synthesizer plugins are one of the most exciting parts of digital music production.

No matter what sound you’re chasing, there’s a soft synth out there that will help you get it.

These are the best synth plugins to check out next time you’re GAS-ing for a powerful new plugin to add to your arsenal.

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Various contributors from the LANDR team of music mentors.

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