There’s been a surge in the best VST plugins ever since the emergence of Steinberg’s VST software in 1996.
It’s easily one of the most significant aspects of digital music technology, opening the doors to an array of avenues.
With plugin effects and instruments to consider, let’s help you find some of the best free and paid VST plugins out there.
Best Paid VST Plugin Reviews
1. Fabfilter Pro Q3: $179
This EQ plugin is easy, free, and extremely powerful since it offers precise EQ without any sonic prompts.
With an easy-to-use interface combined with a seamless workflow, it’s one of the best options available.
You’ll find it boasts mid-left, right, and side settings without any latency, which is highly unique.
This plugin also features dynamic EQ and 24 different bands that you can use to sculpt a track.
You’ll love the filter shapes as well as the full 96dB/oct slope support.
- Easy to use
- Seamless workflow
- Easily addresses overlapping frequencies
- Dynamic EQ could be clearer
- Not ideal for multiband compression
2. Sylenth1: $168
If you’re searching for performance and quality, Sylenth1 is a fantastic VSTi synthesizer.
It stands up to the significant demand and standards of hardware synths, allowing you to work from a producer’s view.
You’ll have access to superior production and performance for optimal clarity and warmth.
Users will appreciate the intuitive graphical interface, allowing you to excel creatively.
There are a ton of features with Sylenth1, including modulation, filters, and alias-free oscillators.
You’ll also have a collection of seven professional master effects, including reverb, distortion, and delay.
Its performance is not understated since you’ll have impressive sound quality for effects and voice.
By using SSE instructions and optimized coding, CPU usage is significantly reduced while still offering powerful features.
- Very easy interface
- Produces fantastic sound
- Useful effects
- High-quality presets
- Not compatible with Mac
- Doesn’t have a dedicated PWM
3. Summit Audio EQF-100: $199
This emulator is designed uniquely after the rack unit, which is ideal for tonal EQ.
You’ll find yourself using it to help add sweetness to tracks while also adjusting tonal variations.
Another huge advantage is that it’s a phenomenal option for working on boosts.
There’s plenty of character in this equalizer, making it one of the best in its league.
This point is especially true for when you start working on boosted frequencies.
- Phenomenal sound
- Contemporary features
- Produces warm EQ
- Realistic emulations
- No sweepable EQ frequency
- Narrows on EQ frequency
4. Maag Audio EQ4: $229
Another option for sweetening tracks is Maag Audio EQ4, which allows for an airy feeling with high integrity.
Two of the most exciting aspects are the “Sub” and “Air” bands.
With sub-bands, you can access boosts and cuts at 10Hz, while air bands offer a shelf boost.
Engineers can adjust the shelf boost anywhere from 2.5 to 40kHz, or you can opt to turn it off entirely.
The top end of this EQ is one of its spectacular features, especially when it comes to vocals.
Some of the world’s top tier producers use this EQ for the most outrageous effects.
- Creates easy sound characters
- Restores natural openness
- Impressive band settings
- Built-in ground-lift links
- High mains will hum
- Too complex for true stereo EQ
5. Cthulhu: $39
When it comes to working on chords, Cthulhu is one of the better options available.
It is designed to be a chord player and memorizer but also allows for reworking and innovative creation.
There are over 150 different factory presets and an unlimited amount of chord progressions to wield.
Users can import MIDI chords or record them directly into the engine.
The program then analyzes the chords and offers a vast number of sorting actions.
You’ll then have an easy-access catalog of your most used chords for easier track creation.
Another exciting feature of the plugin is that you have an arpeggiator designed on patterns.
Artists can rhythmically manipulate incoming chords and notes in a variety of ways.
It’s far more unique than other arpeggio software since it allows for ties, velocity sequencing, intelligent transpose, and more.
- Highly inspirational
- Large chord selection
- Educational chord generator
- Useful arpeggiator
- Challenging to use with Logic
- No chord suggestion feature
6. Kilohearts Carve EQ: $79
This EQ is quickly on the list of one of the best modern EQ plugins on the market.
It features a spectral analysis tool as well as a Match tool that adds to its user-friendly design.
Producers can use their precise adjustments or be more heavy-handed, depending on their preference.
You’ll find an assortment of cuts and boosts, as well as a fast user interface for seamless production.
The Match tool is one of the most innovative concepts of the plugin that you’ll love.
When you upload a track or song, the plugin calculates whether the source has already been EQ’d.
The technology then provides an EQ curve based on the specifics of the source audio.
You’ll appreciate how easy it is to use when you first start working on a track.
- 31-band EQ
- Built-in spectral analysis
- Sounds amazing
- Displays in 1/3 octaves
- Lacking presets
- Cannot create a profile with AIFF or MP3
7. Serum (Digital Synth): $189
You can guarantee Serum is a name you’ve heard before among producers who love wave-table synth.
It’s easy to use while it also keeps things interesting so you can harness its real power.
You’ll have optimal freedom as well as top-notch results, which is a significant advantage to modern mixing.
Along with its user-friendly interface, it also boasts incomparable sampling, allowing you to import audio.
When imported, you can create a specific wavetable that connects you to impressive and unheard sounds.
If you don’t want to shell out the full amount for the plugin all at once, you can opt to pay installments of $9.99.
- Provides detailed and clear sound
- Convenient wavetable use
- High-quality effects and filters
- Intuitive interface
- Weighs heavily on processors
- Consumes too many modulator connections
8. Omnisphere 2 (Digital Synth): $499
When you talk about quality, Omnisphere 2 is a household name you should consider.
It can do relatively any task you set it to, allowing it to be one of the most versatile options.
You can open the door to complex envelope generators and granular synthesis modes.
There’s also an assortment of phenomenal presets that are most often used by composers for films.
As a bonus, users have access to phenomenal wave-tables that are direct comparisons to old hardware.
It’s easily one of the most useful and versatile VST plugins on this entire list.
Over the years, it has seen many upgrades, including hardware synth integration.
It also includes an expanded hardware sound library that contains over 1600 new patches.
You’ll love the extensive collection of FX units, including but not limited to:
- Solina Ensemble
- Vintage Compressor
- Classic Twin
- Foxxy Fuzz
- Analog Flanger
- Extensive guitar variety
- Many usable airy and warm pads
- Over 15,000 presets
- Easy to tweak
- Unimpressive EDM choices
- Too many unusable sounds
9. Roland Cloud Jupiter-8 (Analog Synth): $19.95/month
The Jupiter-8 has been one of the most sought-after synths since 1981, as it’s used by Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, and Michael Jackson.
The physical hardware can cost you up to $20,000, making it relatively challenging to get a hold of.
With that said, their VST plugin is a phenomenal alternative for the same prestigious analog sound.
You’ll have an assortment of modern features combined with the original specs of the unit.
It allows for impressive articulation from the circuit level and remarkable enhancements.
Also, if you opt for the subscription service, you get the Jupiter-8 along with other emulators.
- Impressive sound
- High-quality plugins
- Produces on-par retro sounds
- Modernized features
- Drains the CPU
- Poor mouse integration
10. Arturia CS-80V (Analog Synth): $149
Arturia has taken a vintage sound and added modern features for the most impressive synth experience possible.
By using the original Yamaha CS-80 layout and combining a new arpeggiator and voice modes, it’s all you’ll need.
If you’re a fan of big classic sounds, this is a phenomenal plugin to keep in mind.
In line with the Jupiter-8, this is easily one of the best hardware synths you’ll find.
It features exquisite sounds with the ideal modulation routing you’ll find in more modern synths.
You’ll be able to master sounds akin to Peter Gabriel, Toto, and Stevie Wonder.
- Sounds just like CS80
- Plenty of voicing abilities
- Can create complex sounds
- Very straightforward
- Too many crashes and bugs
- Poorly working effects
11. FabFilter Saturn 2 ($999 Total Bundle)
FabFilter has a way of turning challenging concepts into something that everyone can grasp.
With their Saturn 2 plugin, you’ll have an easy-to-learn interface with an onboard multi-band saturation unit.
You’ll also have access to impressive distortion, allowing you to work on any source you need.
Users will fall in love with the precise controls to work on dynamic range, frequency, and volume.
They also help to saturate bass, which assists with working on guitars.
It’s easily one of the popular go-to’s for saturation.
- Mute and solo options
- Precise controls
- Multiband processing
- Sidechain operation
- Not recommended for beginners
- Poor graphics with old GPU
12. RX-8 Advanced: $999
It can be an investment, but RX-8 Advanced is well worth the money since it offers unparalleled performance.
Mixers can easily access a ton of innovative processing effects to help with many significant concepts.
You’ll have audio repair, dialog editing, de-noising, spectral processing, and many other features.
It’s only bound to improve since it seems to have a consistent flow of new features.
For example, intelligent programming detects percussion, vocals, bass, and instruments per mix.
You’ll also find the latest version supports surround sound for cinematic pieces.
There’s plenty to take advantage of, even acapella, which far outperforms the competition.
- Trusted by industry leaders
- Designed for heavy post-production
- Restores noisy audio
- Leads in audio signal processing
- Doesn’t have significant upgrades
- Not recommended for small budgets
13. GullFoss: $199
GullFoss is one of the most innovative plugins you’ll find since it combines audio mixing and theoretical physics.
Using a computational auditory perception model, this AI helps analyze and correct your signal.
The program is designed to have signal chances 100 times per second to eradicate audible artifacts.
You’ll love using it primarily for improving the clarity of tracks and mixes in a unique way unheard of by other EQs.
The algorithm’s intelligence is not understated, as it automatically adjusts the audio signal and frequency range.
If you find the adjustments are too harsh, you can bring them down to an appropriate level.
It’s interesting to grasp for beginners but is also a go-to tool for professional engineers.
- Adds natural clarity
- Works on entire spectrum
- User-friendly interface
- Ideal for mixes and sub-mixes
- Challenging for beginners
- Has a significant learning curve
14. Waves Smack Attack: $29.99
When it comes to working with percussion, Waves Smack Attack is what you need.
It allows for phenomenal effects as a transient shaper, which helps attack and release transient portions.
You’ll find it more comfortable to adjust each track’s impact to offer more or less of a punchy tune.
What sets it apart is that it also assists with shaping gain control envelopes by detecting transients.
With the colorful user interface, it’s fun to navigate and use to your advantage.
- Sounds great
- Easily control envelopes
- Convenient threshold adjustments
- Added guard modes
- No multiband option
- More challenging to use
15. Keyscape: $399
Finding impressive piano emulations can be challenging, but Keyscape makes it substantially more straightforward.
It has one of the largest inventories of collector keyboards worldwide, making it a Holy Grail option.
You’ll find an introduction to stunning common and rare keyboards, allowing each track to come alive.
Users will find classic Fender Rhodes sounds as well as vintage harpsichords for an old-world feel.
They also offer hybrid duo patches, which allows you to combine two sounds.
As an added benefit, Keyscape is fully compatible with Omnisphere, allowing you to download the entire library into the engine.
- Perfectly sampled
- Catalog of useful effects
- Phenomenal preset library
- Exquisite vintage key multi-samples
- Limited velocity editing
- Too many creative options
16. Addictive Keys: ($149 Duo Bundle)
If you want to create your digital studio, Addictive Keys is the answer.
It provides an excessive number of samples that sound akin to traditional pianos and keyboards.
You also have full control over a broad spectrum of changes so you can make each sound unique.
To enhance the experience, be sure to check out the mic placement feature.
You’ll be able to use different microphones placed in specific areas around your digital space for particular sounds.
It’s likely one of the most customizable piano plugins that you’ll find.
- Useful mic options
- Flexible processing and editing
- Small imprint with fast loads
- Patches have previews
- Lacking MIDI library
- Low-quality graphics
17. Native Instruments Kontakt: $259
Kontakt is one of the most used plugins by professional engineers worldwide.
It has received a ton of praise for many reasons, especially since it has deep-rooted benefits for you to experience.
Users will have an extensive catalog of multi-instrument sounds, as well as fully programmable features.
If you have extensive programming knowledge, the plugin will quickly meet all of your professional needs.
There’s even the possibility for custom scripts so that you can craft your sound engine.
Above all else, its instrument catalog is the most impressive on the market.
- Powerful sampler
- High-quality SSL EQ
- MIDI file playback
- Third-party support
- Unnecessary upgrades
- Too powerful for beginners
Best Free VST Plugin Reviews
1. Spitfire LABS
LABS is an interesting option, especially if you want to help charity with your purchase.
This standalone VST was designed using a Kontakt plugin, which offers an extensive collection of sampled instruments.
There are plenty of different packs that you can choose from, each costing three dollars with a portion donated.
However, it’s important to note that the VST is entirely free, making it one of the best options available.
You’ll find a catalog of experimental sounds, ambient sounds, and granular sounds that are highly unique.
- Superb library
- Extensive range
- Experimental sounds
- Third-party support
- Inefficient processes
- Challenging to learn
2. Soundmagic Piano One
This VST is designed from the Yamaha C7, a hefty option if you prefer concert grand pianos.
It has its modeling engine, which captures the authenticity of the C7.
You’ll find a combination of realistic samples as well as modeled playing abilities, adding responsiveness to tracks.
There’s a punchy realistic tone to each sample as well as several controls for you to use.
It’s quite simple to customize relatively any aspect, including key noises and tuning systems.
You can also opt to listen to tracks from a player or audience perspective for optimal enjoyment and review.
- Onboard hybrid modeling tech
- Fast loading time
- Built-in reverb engine
- Adds realism to sounds
- Unrealistic release sound
- Creates high pitch squeaks
Charlatan is one of our favorite options because it’s incredibly user-friendly and flexible.
The features are extensive without being too overwhelming, which makes it simpler to tweak your tracks.
You’ll find its flexibility is precisely what you need to create experimental or classic sounds easily.
With all of its built-in features, you’ll be glad to know that it doesn’t compromise sound quality.
Also, it’s designed to help reduce CPU usage, which makes it one of the best free synthesizer plugins to consider.
You’ll have many key features to use, including three voice modes, two ADSR envelope generators, stereo spread, two oscillators, and more.
- Low CPU consumption
- Efficient layout
- Ideal core sound
- On par with top-tier options
- Lacking preset management
- May have some glitches
The Full Bucket 3300 is designed for Mac and Windows 10 with the iconic sound of the KORG PS-3300.
It offers incredible performance, low CPU usage, and a ton of distinctive features.
Users have access to many of the same controls as the original hardware, as well as spot-on emulation.
There are three independent polyphonic blocks built-in, as well as two-pole lowpass filters.
You’ll have access to micro-tuning, semi-modular features, and envelope generators.
With the onboard MIDI Learn component, you can control every feature with MIDI CC.
- Original hardware controls
- Microtuning options
- Independent synthesizer blocks
- Offers additional samples
- Will require moderate tweaking
- Low-quality graphics
5. Creative Intent Temper
Two of the most significant components of Creative Intent Temper is unique phase distortion and saturation.
You can add curves to improve any sound’s edge or warmth, helping to build a better character.
You’ll also find a lowpass filter and feedback path to help boost the punch of your tones.
The unique phase algorithm adds a unique element to any mix by improving clarity and energy.
Users will be able to view their audio spectrums’ input and output in real-time to visualize sounds.
It’s also convenient since it works in multiple modes, including VST, VST3, and AU.
- Seven parameters
- Modern digital distortion
- Adds character to the mix
- Attractive for beginners
- Userface is too simple
- Basic visualization
6. Glitch Machines Hysteresis
There’s nothing more exciting than a little bit of glitch delay in your tracks.
Hysteresis is geared towards producers who want to create musical malfunctions and robotic artifacts.
You’ll find an assortment of processing capabilities for synths, drums, vocals, and guitars.
You’ll have optimal control of signal mutations, allowing you to craft an array of unique effects.
There’s modulation FX, over 100 factory presets, stutter effects, and feedback-based delay.
Most notably, the lowpass filter also has an internal LFO that allows for impressive frequency cutoffs.
- Full of features
- Wide range of effects
- Useful for Windows and MacOS
- Creates quality FM tones
- Requires in-depth adjustments
- Has a learning curve
7. Native Instruments Komplete Start
Native Instruments is home to a ton of professional-quality VST plugins that can be costly.
However, Komplete Start is a free option with an astounding number of options for beginners and professionals.
In the kit, you’ll have over 2000 studio-quality sounds that you can produce and perform with.
Users have access to 16 professional-grade synths, effects, samples, loops, and more.
You’ll be able to browse through the catalog, preview each sound, and play it in your chosen software.
Apart from their synth collection, you’ll also find percussion, bass, acoustic instruments, atmospheres, effects, and more.
There are 13 versatile options for your vocals, drums, and any other instrument you can imagine in terms of effects.
It’s simple, fast, easy to update, and easy to install, making it one of the best free options.
- Industry-standard sample library
- Plenty of professional options
- Useful across genres
- High-quality tools
- Overwhelming options for beginners
- Relatively CPU heavy
8. TDR Nova
Nova is an elegant option for someone searching for a parallel dynamic equalizer.
Its interface is designed to emulate traditional parametric equalizers, including full dynamics sections.
You’ll love the drag-and-drop functionality as well as the classic knobs that allow for smooth adjustments.
There are four dynamic EQ bands for you to use and high and lowpass filter sections.
It’s equipped with more than enough features for exotic, modern, and classic opportunities.
You’ll find an extensive number of tasks that it brings to the table, including:
- Multi-band Compression
- Dynamic Equalization
- Wideband Compression
- Parametric Equalization
- Frequency Selective Compression
Workflow is also a significant benefit of this plugin since it’s perfectly enhanced for convenience.
You’ll find a manager that handles your presets as well as detailed documentation.
Users can copy and paste, drag and drop, as well as undo and redo selections.
- Highly adaptable to sound
- Impressive dynamic EQ
- Smooth HP and LP filtering
- Great for acoustic instruments
- Can be too complex
- Not a primary multiband compressor
9. Flux Stereo Tool V3
Flux Stereo Tool V3 is one of the best-suited options for stereo analysis and imaging.
The precision that it offers is unmatched, allowing you to master individual left and right pans.
You can also customize individual gain for accurate feedback.
There are many features, including the Vector Scope Display, which provides visual signal stereo feedback.
You’ll love the phase inversion, allowing for incoming right and left channel signals.
There’s also a built-in parameter morphing slide with intuitive automation.
The integrity of your mix can easily be adjusted using the phasing information.
With a simple click, you can flip the polarity and reverse channels to get back into the correct phase.
It’s convenient, versatile, and ideal for professionals.
- Creates clean sound
- Assists with stereo sound
- High-quality tools
- Ideal for phase inversion
- Heavy CPU usage
- Low-quality interface
One of the unique features of Helm is that it’s free, open-source software.
You can tinker with its code as well as redistribute modified copies without jumping through legal loopholes.
It’s designed to be a standalone synthesizer, but it can also work as a VST, LV2, VST3, or AU plugin.
There is an impressive number of features and characteristics that it offers, entirely for free.
You’ll find three different feedback modes, four oscillators, as well as a mixer and formant.
Users have six separate filters, three delay functions, as well as reverb tools and modulation.
The versatility doesn’t stop there since it also provides keyboard changes, a step sequencer, and an arpeggiator.
All-in-all, it’s one of the most well-rounded options that you’ll find for free.
- Limited CPU usage
- Outstanding GUI
- Useful for beginners
- Crisp and clean sound
- Not recommended for bright sounds
- Low-quality filters
Best VST Plugins: Final Thoughts
Finding the best VST plugins is easy, whether you want paid or free versions.
You can guarantee you’ll get your hands on some powerful tools to allow for tinkering, professional mixes, and casual enjoyment.
With user-friendly interfaces, impressive emulation, and the ability to transform many tracks, they’re essential.
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