Producers are always on the lookout for new plugins in the quest for sonic diversity. We at LessThan3 have decided to aid in that search by launching a bimonthly series called Stay Plugged In, which will showcase plugins available as free downloads. These babies will not make a dent, dimple, or blemish in your wallet–your money back if not completely satisfied.
In this, our inaugural installment of Stay Plugged In, we have five free synthesizer plugins that fit the 64-bit requirement and are available for Mac and Window as VST and Audio Units versions. Using the popular 64-Bit DAWs Logic Pro X and Ableton Live 9 as hosts, we installed each plugin and gave them a whirl to assure proper playability and optimum knob and slider tweaking fun. Do note that some free plugins are stripped down teasers that entice you into buying the full version of the software, so they usually don’t include a copious amount of presets. Additional presets can usually be obtained for free in user groups, and you can always “get your hands dirty” by creating your own.
Linplug Free Alpha
First off we have Linplug’s Free Alpha, a scaled down version of their Alpha 3 plugin. This subtractive synth has been around for a while, and with 30 waveforms plus four per voice, a modulation routing matrix, and eight-voice polyphony, it’s a great launching pad for making that sound you crave.
Check out this video of a previous version:
u-he is a name you will surely recognize, and yes, the Zebralette is just as it sounds: a scaled-down single oscillator version of the company’s ever-popular Zebra 2 plugin. For a free plugin, Zebralette packs quite a punch, giving some commercially available plugins a run for their money. Zebralette has two LFOs, a multi-stage envelope, plus chorus, EQ and delay effects. Should you decide to upgrade to Zebra 2, any presets you make in the Zebralette will still be compatible.
Green Oak Crystal
Crystal is, according to the product description, a “semi-modular software synthesizer featuring both subtractive synthesis and frequency modulation (FM) synthesis. It offers abundant modulation control with over 90 parameters which may be modulated, multi-stage envelopes with graphical editors, extensive tempo sync of envelopes/LFO rates/delay times, built-in effects for chorus/flanging/comb filtering/echoes, and a band splitter for effects processing by frequency band.” Crystal has seemingly limitless possibilities and is a full version software synth–not a scaled down or teaser plugin. The importing of soundfonts is also supported.
Here are two videos that show a good sampling of the sonic possibilities:
Kairatune has added 64-bit support with the release of version 1.2 in Dec. 2013. After launching Kairatune from my DAW, my first thought was “wow, look at all the knobs to tweak.” This soft synth does not let you down sonically, either. Geared toward the electronic musician, Kairatune is a single oscillator monophonic synthesizer that allows you to create great basses, leads, and sound effects.
Sound demo by the makers of Kairatune:
u-he Tyrell N6 V3
This “little synth that could” has an interesting backstory. It was conceived via a reader survey for online magazine Amazona.de. By the time it was decided that making the concept a hardware version would be too expensive, u-he founder Urs Heckmann volunteered his skills to develop a freeware soft-synth plugin version. Backed by u-he but still bearing the online magazine Amazona.de’s imprint, Tyrell N6 has gone through many versions and improvements to give you today’s V3.
Tyrell N6 is a great sounding synth backed by the u-he sound engine and possessing an intuitive interface. This synth is a must-have if you love creating sounds like those possible with the classic Roland Juno.