Discover the best software experimental Synthesizer releases of 2022, including wild concept plugins, standalone west-coast synths, and more.
It was that fast. It’s the last day of 2022. A year full of hardware and software synthesizers. Yesterday we looked back at the best hardware experimental Synthesizer releases in 2022. There were some very wild, fascinating instruments.
Today, it’s time to look back at the best software experimental Synthesizer plugins of the year. Since we have endless classic “best of” lists on other media websites, I focus on the somewhat special, crazy releases of the year, which often run under the radar. The software includes plugins, standalone apps, iOS apps, Max For Live, and more.
Best Software Experimental Synthesizer Releases 2022
In 2022, dozens of new Synthesizer plugins were released from big to small independent developers, including emulations of legendary vintage synthesizers, new modern virtual analog ones, instruments with the popular wavetable synthesis, new generation FM synths, and more.
Among these are many unusual Synthesizer plugins with experimental ideas that try to offer musicians new concepts of generating sounds. Experimental here refers to the concepts, interface, or produced sounds.
The order of the mentioned software experimental synths doesn’t mean anything. A software synth that is #3 or #1 doesn’t mean it’s better or worse in its quality. I just listed them randomly. I leave it up to you, my continuous-supporting readers, to choose which sound generators you like best.
The good things often come late. So also the new release of DAWESOME. With KULT, Peter V published an innovative Synthesizer plugin with an experimental chaos engine driven by 30+ synth models that take you on fascinating unusual soundscapes.
The rest of the feature set sounds more like a classic VA synth, including filters, envelopes, LFOs, and more.
The unusual, wild unfolds in Kult only when exploring and experimenting with the oscillator models and engine. Here you notice the organic, massive sound that is particularly suitable for big textures, drones, and esoteric FX sounds.
Kult is one of the best synth releases of this year. Unfortunately, it will be missing in many best-of lists from 2022 because many were already written at the beginning of December. It’s unique, novel, and different. Especially the sound leaves a big impression.
Available at my partner Plugin Boutique
Let’s stay with the late bloomers of this year. Klevgrand also released a new synthesizer shortly before the end of the year. Tomofon is a novel Synthesizer plugin that lets you turn audio files into a large set of fully-customizable audio model wavetables. Don’t worry, Tomofon is not a classic wavetable synth.
Powerful and new at the same is that you can have your own wave set for each note. So not the classic 2- or 3-oscillator architecture per patch. This unique architecture allows you to have patches with various sounds in a single patch, like a sampler plugin with multi-sampling capabilities.
There is also an intriguing morphing function for the audio models allowing you to create sounds that have a very organic and natural character. Experimenting with the built-in audio model generator/editor is fun. Loading custom samples in the editor and turning them into new audio models is super interesting because it’s always surprising what the engine creates out of it.
Sonically, Tomofon is something very unique and unusual. As written in the original article, don’t expect a fat sound of an analog modeling synth like Diva. Instead, you get very smooth, soft, and gentle-sounding patches. A bit like you are melting an acoustic with a synth instrument. It reminds me a lot of the previous Klevgrand synth Jussie and others.
Tomofon is an experimental Synthesizer highlight of the year because the plugin offers something new, is innovative, and inspires musicians with its bizarre sound.
Available at my partner Plugin Boutique
Cherry Audio Sines
The next plugin in this list came as a surprise to me. Cherry Audio is known to most of my readers and YouTube viewers for their affordable, great-sounding Synthesizer emulations. Also, in 2022, the US-based developers were super busy and released numerous excellent vintage recreations. But a release was different and refreshing.
That was Sines, a wild Synthesizer plugin with an interface with many knobs and buttons. The experimental on this synth isn’t the interface, although you can also see it that way, here’s the engine. In this release, Cherry Audio broke new ground by combining many elements of the Buchla world (west-coast) and east-coast synthesis (Moog, Oberheim…) in a new virtual instrument.
Thanks to its many “untraditional” features, Sines invites musicians to experiment with them. By simply turning, you can explore the individual, possibly unknown, functions and their impact on the sound. Even if the interface was ridiculed by many, it is perfect for these sonic experimentations.
What I particularly like about Sines is the musical fusion of the two synthesis worlds. You can make very classic sounds using your subtractive workflow but, at the same time, create absolutely explosive, wild, experimental sounds.
Sines caused a stir this year. It’s something new and different, and you’d like to see more from the developers of Cherry Audio. More unusual concepts with which you can immerse yourself in new sound spheres far away from the ever-recurring classics.
Available at my partner Plugin Boutique
Do you want sounds that crack, sizzle, glitch, dirty, or are super harmonic rich aggressive? Then visit the Noise Engineering software portfolio, which has grown massively in 2022. So far, Noise Engineering has mainly been a topic for Eurorack users.
From oscillators, effects, and custom DSP platforms to utilities, their modules are often characterized by fascinating novel concepts such as experimental synthesis models and more. In 2021 they made the leap into the software world with their great Freequel Bundle, three exciting free plugins.
Then in 2022, they released a line of wild, insane commercial synthesizers and effects. They published four Synthesizer plugins in 2022: Loquelic Vereor, Manis Iteritas, Basimilus Iteritas, and Cursus Vereor. All 4 are no ordinary virtual instruments.
With their cross-synthesis engine, they can generate sounds that only a few other soft synths can imitate. Here you go on a crazy trip full of bizarre, dirty, harmonic-rich, or horrifying sounds. Noise engineering synth plugins are great for adding a special touch to tracks. They are also great tools for noise, industrial or experimental musicians.
The user interfaces of the NE plugins are just as experimental as the sound. Unlike Arturia and co, they avoid eye-catching realistic GUIs but instead use very simple scalable interfaces that promote a fast workflow. Unusual at first, but you will quickly realize the concept behind this rather “boring” GUI. They are ready for experimentation and give you fast results without long detours and distractions.
Noise engineering can be called the king of experimental plugins with a clear conscience. Here you don’t get “more of the same.”
Not only plugins have inspired us this year. Some developers follow a different way with their software products—for example, Giorgio Sancristoforo, who created some exciting, unusual virtual instruments in 2022. His decision to design standalone synths and not plugins is already a minor point in listing them here.
He wants to show you can also work with software in a DAWless situation. Without having them directly integrated into a DAW, you work with these instruments differently and more directly. Like a real instrument.
Two synthesizer releases, in particular, drew me into the experimental synth world. They listen to the Japanese names Ongaku and Bento.
Ongaku is a unique west-coast flavored standalone Synthesizer packed with probability and randomizers. Visually, the synth is very beautiful, and you almost think the developer has given its Synthesizer a blue kimono. And internally, Ongaku is also a very fun, playful experience.
The mix of west Coast elements (wavefolding, FM, lowpass…) and the untraditional sequencing options (probabilistic triggers, clocks…) make it a very experimental rhythmical synth. Also, the integration of an emulated tape machine for sound recording in Ongaku gives the whole thing another unusual out-of-the-box charm.
If you want to experiment with rhythms and west-coast synthesis, this is the place for you.
The second release is Bento, and it explores a very different experimental sonic realm than Ongaku. This is about creating organic noisescapes and textures using shaky oscillators, feedbacks, ring modulators, and more.
For me, the experimental character comes out even more strongly in the Bento Synth. That’s because the industrial interface only consists of strange Japanese characters. Anyone who doesn’t know Nihongo is lost at first sight. Don’t worry, that’s the concept of Bento. The user should not know which functions are available on the interface.
So no sound design automatism switches on, but you discover the engine and learn the Bento step by step like a physical instrument. A fascinating experimental instrument that makes a lot of fun to discover through trial and error. If that’s too crazy and strange for you, there is also a manual and a video where you can get to know all the functions.
iOS synths should not be missing in the best software experimental Synthesizer releases 2022 list, either. Unfortunately, there weren’t many apps that went far from the normal path this year. But I decided to add an iOS synth app that offers experimenting with sound as easily as no other this year.
On a quiet summer month in August, Virsyn released the Terverse Synthesizer for iPad, iPhone, and macOS. At first, I thought it was another synth player. However, it is more. The great-sounding Tera Pro Engine works internally. Instead of a classic playback engine, Harry from Virsyn implemented an engine that allows you to perform the built-in presets using pre-defined parameters spread around the universe interface.
It is very nice that you can morph the sounds very smoothly. Even if they are only ready-made presets, you can only experiment with sounds with a simple finger swipe.
On these trips, you can achieve in-between results, which are only created through pure experimentation by the user. A very simple app at first glance, but one that is a lot of fun and can go deep if you delve into the low-level experimentations.
More information here: Virsyn Original article
We started with a DAWESOME synth, and we’re ending with one. At the beginning of the year, Peter V released Novum, a novel granular Synthesizer. Here, granular and spectral synthesis collide in a colorful, playful way not available in any other synth.
In Novum, a decomposition engine is used, which decomposes each inserted sample into 6 different layers.
Exciting is here that you can change the character of a layer (envelope, spectral content, temporal evolution…) in seconds with another layer. Additionally, you can experiment with a unique timbre flower with spectral variations of the actual layer. By simply clicking through the dots, you shape the spectrum of your layer. Resulting in fascinating timbres.
So you can take a guitar sample but experience it with the timbre and characteristics of a piano. You could make a plugin out of that novel technology alone. But on top of that, you can mangle the layers with CZ-style phase distortion and granular synthesis, giving you very interesting results.
Novum is different, offers no granular repetition, and invites you to experiment. Features like the Timbre Flower and the Decomposition Tool invite you to go crazy in sound design. After Kult, Novum is the second DAWESOME plugin that ranks high among the best synth plugins of 2022.
In the linked demo at 5:14, I combined Novum with the Arturia DIST COLDFIRE plugin.
Available at my partner Plugin Boutique
In 2022, a lot of software synthesizers were released. Many of them were of a more classical nature. However, the article shows that there are crazy and innovative ones that often fly under the radar.
For 2023 I wish for more experimental software synths that go far beyond the tools we have now. We don’t need another DIVA, another Serum, or Pigments. Yes, they are financially more attractive, but we need synths that are innovative and dare something new. This also applies to the iOS cosmos. That’s why I write these “Best Software Experimental Synthesizer Releases 2022” to make them more popular.
I’m already looking forward to 2023 with more new synthesizer plugins—especially the unique and novel ones from developers with new concepts. Until then, I wish you all a happy new year and thank you very much for your support in 2022. You have been a great community here, and I hope it will continue to grow in the new year.