There's no denying that there's been a boom in hardware synth sales over the past couple of years - particular of affordable analogue ones - but if you want to benefit from great sound, convenience and tight integration with your DAW, it's hard to argue with what the best of today's plugin synths have to offer.
Sure, many of the cutting-edge instruments impose a considerable CPU hit, and others are either clearly-labelled or thinly-veiled emulations of hardware synths from the past, but being able to call upon a vast range of incredible synths with just a click of a mouse remains a joy, and something that no one who started making electronic music in the pre-VSTi/AU days will ever take for granted.
What follows is our guide to the 54 best VST, AU and other native format plugin synths in the world today. Compiled over the course of several years, it’s been updated to reflect the market in 2014, and is bigger and better than ever.
The countdown is decided by MusicRadar users’ nominations and votes. We’ve also included our own star ratings and links to full reviews of the synths that have made it into our prestigious list.
A couple of things to bear in mind before we dive in: we're dealing with synths only here (so you won't find any drum machines or samplers) and only paid-for instruments are included. If you're looking for freebies, check out the 27 best free VST plug-ins in the world today.
Got that? Let’s get started then.