There are a great many resources online where you can get a softsynth for less than something, but I usually find that you have to sort through a whole heap of bollocks before you get lucky and strike gold.
For that reason I’m calling on you to post one or a few of your own favourites, so that other users may try their luck with them. If one of these threads already exist I kindly ask that you point it out for me so I can leave my contribution.
Helix (2 rec.)
A very flexible synth. Comes with a fully loaded preset bank.
Oatmeal (1 rec.)
An easy-to-work synth. Skinnable too - visit kvraudio.com for some skins and patches.
Blockfish (3 rec.)
An absolute must have (along with the other fishphones), my goto vstcomp for vocal - use in opto mode, and make use of the back panel settings too!
edit: I intend to give each plugin a quick looksie before adding it to the list in order to make sure the URL is correct and functioning, etc. For that reason this post might take some time to update (I try to have other things to do during my spare time as well )
Eventually, it’ll all be up here in one, hopefully, concise and organized list.
We need a site like Loopproject.com to organise a review system for something like this, but without turning it into another KVR. Tricky matter… Nevertheless, a thread is a good place to start…
Freebies I love:
Blockfish - An absolute must have (along with the other fishphones), my goto vstcomp for vocal - use in opto mode, and make use of the back panel settings too! Density - The cleanest most transparent comp I’ve come across so far. Rescue - great as either a mastering or channel processor, used for controlling punch and width. Tessla - Amp saturation, quality. Echolive - My goto dub echo box, and my secret weapon for getting epic filtered soundscapes. mda plugin pack - What are you waiting for? Get it! The standout is the mda combo, cab simulator. dfx bufferoveride - The classic glitchy stutter sound. skidder - Versatile volume throbbing device, with randomising features that are great for adding shimmering emotion to pads etc. transverb - Delay feedback based pitch shifter, great for adding sparkly high versions of stuff. scrubby - Crazy pitch mangling device, fun for glitchy stuff. dblue Glitch - Every Renoiser should have this plugin! No need to say anymore! A0 Parametric EQ (the DDMF ones are better but are commercial) - Clean low phase EQ with added saturation. Ruby Tube - Great little tube saturator with a limiter: really excellent for tightening up quick transients like snappy snares. distroyr - Need six different types of distortion all of supreme quality? Excellent on drums. Cyanide2 - Top notch filtered distortion. Ambience - Fantastic comb reverb with many parameters, and a nifty little ‘hold’ function for epic ambient pads. RMS-Buddy - Use this on your master chain, great for monitoring levels when mastering. SSL X-ISM - Use this on the end of your master chain, monitoring for intersample peaking. StormGate1 - Host-sync’d volume enveloper, great for making VSTIs throb when pattern effects can’t. The Classic Series - The phaser, chorus and flanger of this series are really quality. W1 Limiter - Simple but clean-as mastering limiter. GlaceVerb - Lush and unique sounding verb, great for that icy depth Grungelizer - Get your vinyl sound here! Got grit? Instajungle - Hook this buffer repeater up with your midi gear and you have live ffffffffffun. The Modern Series - Great series of compressors and amp devices model off real hardware. SupaTrigger - Another buffer mangler that comes in handy for light weigh glitching. Throbber - Inspired by the band Throbbing Gristle, this little beauty is fantastic for LFO-based sonic weirdness. SideKick - Until Renoise gets modular routing for plugins this side-chain-compressor is an absolutely must have for ducking your bass from your kick (and other assorted cool volume based tricks). Moneo - Filter L-R channel mixer excellent for taking a stereo signal and making it mono or swapping the L+R to any position you like!
Chimera - Three noise oscillators for making the most haunting and eerie pads and leads. Synth1 - Great for basic sounds. Taurus - Excellent bass synth or acid riff machine, has a clear and nostalgic sound. SuperwaveP8 - Classic Juno sound, great for leads and pads. Oatmeal - Need FM quickly? Look no further. Olga - Dirty beast with a quality sound. mda E-piano - Extremely usable rhodes emulator. Mr Tramp - Classic Wurlitzer sound, instant 70s. Phadiz - Great little synth useful for leads and pads. Arpy - Lovely sounding lead synth with a unique sound using the clipback feature. Cygnus - A strange hybrid FM that has some truly awesome spacey sounds, brilliant for unsettling drones. Drumatic 3 - Smooth and usable drum synth with many classic drum machine sounds. Highlife - Loads samples and you can control the sample fully like a VSTI synth. LazerBlade - You can get some densely textured sci-fi sounds out this thing. Ixox Flute - Sampled flute at your finger tips! LightBag II - Classsic warm organ sound, will take you back to the 60s and 70s. mellowsound - Useful bank of 3 mellowtron sounds, great for Phil-Spector-type-epics! MiniMogue VA - Modeled after the classic Moog design. ProtoPlasmTS + STS synths - The transition synths have sounds out of this world. Awesome for cinematic evolving pads. QuadraSid - Get quality sounding nostalgic chip sounds here.
Shortcircuit - Great for playing sample libraries. Stringer - Brilliant for getting that 80s sounding string synth ‘Solina’, abused and loved by many. StringSynth - Clean and versatile string synth, great for pads. Triangle I (not II, I) - Retro sounding lead synth with a whole host of unique and cool sounds. Voyager - Complex but interesting lead synth, great for lead sounds that sound like no other.
Here is a hand picked list of the most interesting/useful plugins from a special issue of Computer Music. Ive omitted quite a few for time sake, but the ones listed below i assure you were the standout plugins from the magazine. Ive tried all the mac plugins listed, they are awesome.
Here are some free plug-ins that I often use in my songs:
Crystal: an old beauty…
Synth1: I like its sound and its ability to remap nearly all its parameters to MIDI CC’s (1)
Oatmeal: those little knobs could be a pain to set A PRECISE VALUE, but it does so much for you. Hey, it even suggests a name for your preset!
AlphaCM: Actually I have purchased the full version, but I still use this plug-in offered by COMPUTER MUSIC(2). Great sound, easy on the CPU (esp. on a single-core CPU) and the choice to use the modulation matrix or MIDI learn.
FabFilter One CM Edition: I’ve also purchased the full version because I wanted polyphony. Long before that, I’ve used the CM Edition in many songs. For many of the same reasons I like the plug-ins listed above, I like this one, although it has just one oscillator and one envelope generator.
Dominator: Another great one from COMPUTER MUSIC. I don’t think there’s another free synth I encountered which could brutally synch oscillators like it can! I also like the chord mode, esp. when using pulse-modulated waves.
Helix: I fear when the developer would turn it into a commercial offering…I’m turned off by the GUI, but few synths, whether you pay for them or not, have so many options and sound as good. (3)
Lizard2: I like its sound. It was one of the handful of plugs I had with some FM capability until I got an Internet connection.
StringZ2: Perhaps the best plug-in out of KRAKLI, in my humble opinion. Once in RENOISE I automated the hey out of it! I like the option to use the modulation wheel to affect filter cutoff.
Anvilia CM: Lately, lately, this one is getting my attention. I’ve used Protoplasm Free by H.G. Fortune some time before but I think Anvilia is better. It gives out textures that are often surprising and convey emotion. (Sorry if I sound conceited )
DSK Minidrumz: Only if it had multiple outputs! Many of those drums I wish I could have composed with in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In other words, PHAT…
Kjaerhus Classic Series: Originally I overused the Compressor and Master Limiter. The Classic Reverb sounds good to me; I could get good results from it quickly. Many times I’ve used the Classic Phaser to slightly liven up a mono audio file which happens to be in stereo format. The Classic EQ is my equalizer of preference. Usually I don’t have much patience using EQ’s and compressors.
ephonic TapeDelay: It does the job, and it’s simple to use.
crazyator (by Matthias Becker): I liked to think of flangers as fussy to use until I encountered this one.
CM-101: This little plug-in is in many of my songs. The filter could be brutal if the cutoff is modulated by the LFO and a shape for the LFO other than sine or triangle is used.
(1) I checked the usual link provided to see if there was an update, but it takes me to the Japanese Yahoo website log-in screen. Is it just me?
(2) Well, actually this plug-in (and some others listed) aren’t free because you have to buy COMPUTER MUSIC to get them…
(3) Actually I haven’t used Helix that much, but I checked out most of the factory presets, and I downloaded a few more from KVRAUDIO.
There are some more plug-ins, but when I wrote this I couldn’t think of them. Peace to all.
I’m sorry if I’ve mislead anybody about this plug-in. This variation of Anvilia could only be had, as far as I know, purchasing COMPUTER MUSIC Special Issue No. 30. If you visit H.G. Fortune’s website, there’s a free version of Anvilia but with 3 voices of polyphony.