Best Soft Synths of 2022
What was the best software synth of 2022? Many re-creations of classic synths have been made to satisfy our love of nostalgic sounds. Likewise, we were greeted by some weird and wonderful software synths that offered new and interesting sounds and textures. Here are my picks for the best and most interesting softsynths of the year…
Whether you describe it as a software synthesizer, VSTi, or virtual synth, there is an opportunity to innovate beyond the scale of hardware. They can do the unimaginable and unleash an amazing amount of creativity within our computer or his DAW. But this year, homages and emulations to synths from long ago seem to dominate. It’s all beautifully captured and gives you access to hardware sounds most people can’t own. So while I seek innovation, I also like to indulge in nostalgia. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy both.
Gforce Oberheim SEM
GForce software did a great job this year. They started it off by revitalizing his M-Tron emulation, then the Oberheim OB-E 8 voice reworked his emulation to sound so great that Tom Oberheim approved it. The Oddity, an emulation of the ARP Odyssey, also received a long-awaited update. But it was the SEM that hit the mark for me.
The Oberheim SEM emulation pulls one of those creamy-looking mono synths out of the OB-E 8-Voice. This gives you the most perfect Oberheim-sounding mono-synth experience. it’s just lovely. These two of his VCOs play happily with each other and ooze through a 12dB filter for a classic vintage vibe. Gforce added a third modulating oscillator, modulation routing, an arpeggiator and some nice effects to turn it into a very playable standalone synthesizer.
SEM is a great synth with some great and inspiring presets, and if you want to have the 8-SEM all to yourself, you can even load them into the OB-E.
Cherry Audio GX-80
Cherry Audio also released some great software synths this year. Paying homage to the 1980s hybrids he created Dreamsynth, then he reimagined the Minimoog into his Minimode which is very simple and classic. It was followed by a slightly unusual Lowdown Taurus emulation and his Elka-X which is stunning and unusual. The Sines synth was perhaps the year’s most innovative release, with its erratic waves, layering of tones and folded timbres. The GX-80 has to declare that he is one of the best synths ever created.
The GX-80 is an emulation of the classic Yamaha CS-80 combined with elements of the classic GX-1. A giant hunk of synthesizer with unfamiliar labels, weird controls, and an outdated interface, but wow, this sounds great! Spending hours soaking up great presets before touching anything I can.
The interface takes some getting used to. It has a strange mix of envelope elements and unusual waveforms that can be a bit confusing. But when you delve into the mechanics and beauty of it all, it rewards you. It has become an instrument that is easy to play and easy to play.
The Wavestate, Modwave, and Opsix synthesizers made no attempt to hide their software origins. Every time I turned it on, I watched the synth kick up some kind of internal computer and breathe life into it. So it’s no surprise that Wavestate and Opsix came first, and more recently Modwave as his VST synth. Each one is good, but the one that excels for me at taking on that tricky FM synthesis business and turning it into a fresh, playable instrument is Opsix.
Opsix is a modern, streamlined approach to FM synthesis. The interface has a Native Instruments feel to it, with very clear and defined zones and parameters. And what immediately hits you is the sight of those six sine waves of his. These are his six operators for building algorithms. But that’s not all. These corrugations can be bent, shaped, and even blended additively and subtractively. The filter section shines and the modulation options go to unexpected places. It always has the heart of a very cool FM synth. Never thought FM could be so easy and fun.
Noise Engineering Plugin Bundle 2
This year we had two plugin bundles from Noise Engineering. Bundle 1 contained some percussion, synths and weird reverbs, but it was bundle 2 that really blew my mind with software versions of Loquelic Vereor and Mani Iteritas.
These are synths like no other. They’re drawn from the same notably named Eurorack module and bring a whole new sensibility to DAW-based synthesis. Nothing is obvious here. This is all new and exciting territory and a lot of fun to explore.
Loquelic Vereor is a complex oscillator that utilizes three different synthesis algorithms. These are phase modulation, summation, and VOSIM, and you’ve never heard of all three. It self-modulates in an amazing and wonderful way, crashes on itself and cuts through the mud of any track. Nuts.
Mani Iteritas is thankfully simplified a bit by using familiar terms like addition, subtraction and FM synthesis. It uses sawtooth waves, moving and shaping into the most prominent sounds.
This bundle also comes with Imitor, an experimental delay plugin that can make any sound interesting. Together you’ve got an amazing bunch of synths that will get you out of your comfort zone with a sound like no other.
- Noise engineering website.
- Details from noise engineering.
Clev Grand Tomophone
Quietly showing up at the end of the year was Klevgrand’s Tomofon. It’s called Real Audio Synth and it’s the most innovative software instrument I’ve seen this year. Tomofon is all about wavetables, but it feels more like a sampler. In fact, he’s probably a mix of the two and a lot more that I didn’t even think of. Generate sound by extracting and structuring thousands of waveforms from an audio file. So I guess it turns the samples into wavetables.
Tomophone then constructs an instrument from vibration waveforms mapped to pitch zones. The synth engine can morph between zones, from waveform to waveform. This brings a whole new level of confidence to note transitions. Very expressive and full of dynamic response to playing. It allows for breathtaking realism and a curious and interesting synthesis that loves to move.
Things get more interesting when you start importing your own audio files. Tomofon can automatically do business or start working on distributing content. The interface, like all Klevgrand’s, is well designed, with not much business on the front end and the main synthetic elements hidden under tabs. Awesome animated dots fly around to show you what’s going on. An absolute pleasure to play.
It has some of the most amazing sounds I’ve heard all year, put together in a very interesting synth.