Also this year numerous Synthesizer plugins came on the market, whereby wavetable synthesis dominated the topics. To give you an overview, here’s my pick of the best Synthesizer plugin releases in 2018!
The year is slowly coming to an end and as usual you can see everywhere lists of the best products of 2018. Also this year many Synthesizer plugins were released. From classic virtual analog, FM, granular to wavetable synthesis, the year 2018 was again a great for soft synths.
In addition to the many releases, there were also exciting updates for old synths with many new features and free instruments. Also I have collected the best releases of the year 2018 for you!
Rob Papen Go2 – The Beginner Synthesizer Plugin Of The Year 2018
Synthesizer plugins tends to be overflowing with features. If a new release does not have this and this function, one will put on the scale with the concurrence. With the release of Go2, Rob Papen has unveiled a soft synth this year that’s easy-to-use, not overcrowded with features but can do a lot. His engine is very simple: a morphable oscillator, a multi-mode filter, HP filters, three envelopes, an LFO, a mod matrix, some effects and versatile arpeggiator / sequencer.
Even if Go2 only has only a single oscillator or LFO and some features are missing, it made into this ranking because it does a lot of things right. So Go2 has a perfect interface in my opinion that every user understand immediately, includes many presets and doesn’t have infinite possibilities (100x envelopes, function generators…) that the beginners quickly overcome.
Check out here the full review!
Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2.5 – Best Updated Synthesizer Plugin Of The Year 2018!
For the most part, the Superbooth 2018 is a paradise for hardware Synthesizers. But every year also software companies visit Berlin to show their latest developments. Omnisphere 2.5 update from Eric Persing Spectrasonics was one of the secret highlights of the show this year even thought it’s a plugin.
With the new hardware synth integration, the Spectrasonics team has taken the haptic problem of plugins to heart and developed a system that makes it very easy and clever to turn many well-known hardware synths into controllers. No hassles with MIDI mappings, less time consumption but more time for making music…
Full Bucket Music ModularAir – Best Free Synthesizer Plugin Of The Year 2018
“For limited time, you can get our latest synth plugin for 199$/€”. This type of sentences we have often found on the pages of developers when they launched their newest product. Not only synths of big companies have swept our interest this year, but also of small ones, even those who are available for free.
One of the rock stars of the plugin industry of the year 2018 is of course Björn Arlt of Full Bucket Music. What he did this year, I have to say clearly: respect! All its plugins are free, compatible with PC & Mac and sounds damn great. One of the highlights is ModulAir, a modular Synthesizer without cables which is still in beta. The plugin currently has 38 different modules (as of December), can be played with up to 64 voice polyphony and is completely free. No restriction, no time limits just free!
Where the module number and feature set ends is unknown, but what he has developed so far is very exciting. There are a few bugs here and there, but nothing that killed my anticipations for a first complete version. In my opinion, Full Bucket Music should be mentioned in every best of synth plugin article because he deserves it.
If you use FBM plugins frequently, it would be great if you can donate something for his work. Other companies require a lot of money for simple plugins, he makes it out of passion, fun and for free. That should be rewarded!
Voltage Modular – Best Software Modular Synthesizer Plugin Release Of The Year 2018!
Not only in the hardware area was modular in 2018 a big topic but also in software. A modular synth that was initially announced big (January 2018 NAMM), then became very quiet but restarted big the end of the year, is Voltage Modular by Cheery Audio. Of course, Voltage Modular is not the only Eurorack inspired Synthesizer plugin, since there are also VCV Rack (freemium), Softube Modular and many others.
Why Voltage Modular is one of my highlights lies at two points. For one, the interface is easier and more intuitive in my opinion, like in VCV Rack, for example. It offers visual feedback that is completely lacking in others and it offers faster workflow (instant multies, faster cabling, etc.). I like here that it offers users the beloved Eurorack feeling but with the benefits of software such as: the visualisation or support for touch screens.
The other point for me is the sound quality. After a few tests, I like the sound better in Voltage Modular than in VCV Rack, for example. You can personally built quicker more classic sounds here, which you can easily play with a MIDI keyboard like fat basses, leads etc. For me, VM summarizes everything that is otherwise known from plugins but in a modular environment but without directly emulating the Eurorack format.
I also like the fact that you can now build polyphonic patches, use it as plugin/standalone version without hassle and third party companies can develop new modules for it. I’m very interested to see what the developer are planning for the years.
Audiaire Zone Synthesizer – Best Sound Design Focused Synthesizer Plugin Release Of The Year 2018!
Massive, Serum, Sylenth etc. are among the most popular software Synthesizers in 2018. Also Zone or? Unfortunately not, but nonetheless with Zone the young company Audiaire has released one of the most interesting Synthesizer plugins of this year in the sound design domain. Zone is powered by two oscillators (wide range of waveforms & ability to import own single-cycle waveforms), a lot of oscillator mod options (FM, RM, AM…), different filters, 22 creative and high-quality insert FX types coded by the high-talented guys of Sinevibes and more.
Sounds no so special, since many synths have this as well. What’s makes Zone unique is the powerful built-in sequencer with which you can not only playback notes but also modulate all the parameters. So you can quickly design super complex sounds with unlimited lanes. Each of them can be run in up to 27 different rates from 8/1 to 1/128th of host tempo. So you can modulate each parameter at a different rate what makes it super powerful.
The interface scores above all because of the intuitive one-window design. No extra page, no deep sub-menu etc. The sounds are very versatile and I like the quality. It certainly does not sound like the top-notch virtual analog Synthesizer that tries to emulate a Minimoog but has an own character, thanks to the many possibilities in the oscillators. It’s a pity that Zone is mentioned so little in the Synthesizer communities.
Audiaire first Synthesizer plugin is one of the highlights of this year because it goes a different way with it’s deep parameter sequencing feature. I hope more people get to know Zone in 2019. It’s a very nice plugin with a lot of potential.
Arturia Pigments – Biggest Synthesizer Plugin Surprise Of The Year 2018!
Arturia provided the biggest software surprise in 2018. The company from Grenoble (France) is actually known for many great Synthesizer emulations. In December, just before the holidays, the company conjured up its first own designed software synth that does not emulate a well-known instrument from the past. It combines virtual analog and advanced wavetable synthesis with many modulation possibilities (FM, PM…).
I like here that Arturia not only breaks new ground for the first time with Pigments, but also incorporates old familiar features for which they are longer known. So here are the filters available, which can be found in their award-winning emulations, such as the ladder (Mini-V) or the state-variable filter (SEM-V). Easy say: new ideas with a touch of back to the roots.
Why Pigments is available in this list is not only because of the surprise but also because of the innovative visual modulation section. With a clever and simple color system, the developers have made the modulation workflow in Pigments much easier and faster to use. So you can quickly see which parameters are modulated.
Also on the side of the available modulators, it has more to offer than other wavetable synths (Serum, Massive…). In addition to classic LFO’s and envelopes, there are versatile function generators, various random generators or even combinators that allows you to create unique modulators.
Although the wavetable synthesis form is nothing groundbreaking new, Arturia showed with Pigments this year how to make synth plugins easier and more intuitive.