This is where the list of possibilities really becomes limitless. Although Ableton Live and Apple Logic Pro X both come preloaded with a huge range of samplers, effects, and other virtual instruments, sometimes referred to as “software synthesizers” or “VST” (short for “Virtual Studio Technology” , since many VST plug-ins were intended to emulate familiar hardware devices) – there are many downloadable pay-per-view sounds. In terms of versatility and quality, many inexpensive software instruments today are capable of sounds as rich and substantial as those produced by much more expensive hardware components – and some are designed explicitly to reproduce them. Arturia offers a huge range of software instruments that emulate hardware classics like the Yamaha DX7, Buchla Easel V and even the semi-modular ARP2600.
For many musicians, Native Instruments will be a good first stop. (Disclosure: I gave a paid talk at a Native Instruments workshop in early 2016.) The Berlin-based company, active since 1996, is one of the music software giants, and their Full software instrument suite ($ 599) offers an extensive collection of synthesizers, samplers, effects, acoustic emulators, sample-based instruments, drum machines, and more. (For the curious, there’s also the more rudimentary Komplete Start, which is free.) Komplete’s instruments include the heavyweight Massive (a favorite synth of dubstep and bass producers), the Battery sampler and drum sequencer. , the Guitar Rig amp simulator, and various sample-based instruments that painstakingly recreate different types of acoustic sounds. “I hardly use software synthesis these days, but I still really enjoy NI Komplete,” says Project Pablo. “This is the most diverse set of software you can get as a beginner. “
U-He from Berlin started out as a one-man operation, but these days software developer Urs Heckmann has turned his virtual instrument store into a formidable company with a growing range of products. The Zebra 2 ($ 199), the current version of a software synth that has been around for over a decade now, combines a variety of synthesis types with a powerful modulation engine to deliver a powerful, surprising and great sounding instrument. (Composer Hans Zimmer even used it on The black Knight soundtrack; you can buy his set of sounds and a personalized instrument update for € 99.) Any Cable Anywhere ($ 79) and Bazille ($ 129) both extend modular synthesis techniques to the virtual domain, while Diva ($ 179) exploits the classic synthesizer design to deliver incredible sound quality. For an alternative approach to modular style synthesis, you can try the excellent, Buchla-inspired Aalto ($ 99) from Seattle’s Madrona Labs, which particularly excels in creating dynamic and evolving sounds and sequences. If singing is more your thing, try Madrona Labs’ Virta ($ 89), a voice-activated synth with truly stunning effects.
For more effects, many musicians I interviewed swore by Valhalla DSP’s range of plugins like the Valhalla Plate classic plate reverb ($ 50), Shimmering Valhalla reverberation ($ 50), and the free Valhalla Freq Echo frequency shifter. Anthony Naples recommends Soundtoys plugins, like the Echo boy delay unit ($ 199)– the manna for dub fanatics – and the MicroShift stereo expander ($ 129), while Perko likes unfiltered audio Special operations ($ 99) multi-effect and Tooth 2 ($ 49) distortion unit, and Sui Zhen suggests unfiltered audio Instant delay ($ 29).
Galcher Lustwerk recommends reserving your plugin budget for effects – good reverb, compressor, equalizer – “which are generally less expensive and give your music more character”. Ozone 9 from Izotope package ($ 129 – $ 499) is a good effects starter kit “for fast radio-quality sound,” says DJ Seinfeld. “The presets are good and you can learn a lot about mastering and basic mixing by tweaking them. “
Likewise, Siete Catorce stresses the importance of learning the ins and outs of synthesis, no matter how easy the instrument is to use. “Knowing everything about your virtual synth to get the sounds you want is more important than having a million. “