A guide to ten of our favourite analogue-sounding soft synths, from light on the wallet to heavy on the CPU...
By most accounts, the first plugin synthesizer was Steinberg’s Neon, a single-oscillator instrument that came bundled with Cubase 3.7 in 1999. It’s telling that when the boffins at Steinberg decided to create a synth from scratch for their DAW, they went not with wavetable or FM or additive but analogue-modeling. The desire to recreate analogue synthesis in all its woolly, hairy, imperfect glory has remained a constant, with some manufacturers more successful than others.
With recent improvements in computer processing power have come more realistic soft synths, and it’s getting to the point where it’s become harder to tell the difference in the mix. Couple this with the astronomical price of vintage gear, not to mention things like upkeep, or even studio space, and it’s clear to see the ever growing appeal of analogue-style plugins.
In this list, we’ve chosen ten of the best-sounding analogue-style soft synths. While things like flexibility, complexity, and ease of use are all important, we’ve chosen to home in on the sound. Does it sound suitably “analogue”? Would you have trouble identifying whether it was software or hardware with your eyes closed? Does it have that coveted warmth that hardware analogues do? That’s what we’re looking (indeed, listening) for.
As always, this list is presented in order of ascending price, and we start with a freeware version of a Korg classic.