GEAR EXPO SUMMER 2022: If you're working in hardware, be sure to check out our pick of the best upcoming new hardware synths right here. But if you're making great music inside the box then look no further. Our round-up of all that's hot and happening in the world of software synths is directly below.
Treat yourself to a whole new suite of 2022 plugins, or cherry-pick something boutique and bespoke. Whatever you're in the market for, our experts have got you covered. Here are the best, all set for 2022…
Arturia V Collection 9
Let's start with the big one. Incredibly, Arturia's retro collection of virtual synths is up to its ninth incarnation and this latest update is arguably the set's biggest yet.
For those new to soft synths, Arturia's V Collection is the premier bundle for those looking for super-accurate recreations of synths gone by. It's the stuff dreams are made of – flawless, easy-to-use, reliable, in-the-box versions of synths that ten years ago you could only ever dream of owning.
V Collection 9 offers a total of 32 titles, with this version of the bundle boosted by the inclusion of four new instruments: Korg MS-20 V, a clone of Ensoniq's under-rated digital SQ80 V synth and two new synth instruments - Augmented STRINGS – inspired by real world string sounds, given a synthetic twist – and Augmented VOICES – doing the same for the human voice.
Plus, four V Collection favourites - the CS-80 V, Prophet-5 V, Prophet-VS V and Piano V - have been disassembled, redesigned and rebuilt from the ground up, enhanced with all-new sound engines and extra features .
And, in recognition of the product launch, Arturia has made V Collection 9 available to registered users at a one-off introductory price for a limited time.
Cherry Audio Miniverse
Cherry Audio has joined the throng and finally got round to making its own special take on what, by our reckoning is THE most emulated synth of all time, Moog's Minimoog. Which begs the question… What's new?
Cherry Audio tells us that its emulation is based on studying and measuring “every nuance, every curve, and every response of the audio”. The interface, too, is lifted directly from the Minimoog.
Whereas some emulations offer additional features, the Miniverse (previously known as Minimode) stays pretty true to its inspiration, though as well as operating monophonically, you can also choose to use two, four, eight or 16 polyphonic voices.
There are plenty of presets, too - more than 250 of them - and you can save custom MIDI controller mappings to individual presets or globally.
Miniverse is available now for the introductory price of $39 (regular price $59; 30-day demo also available). It runs on PC and Mac in VST/AU/AAX formats.
Softube Model 84
1984 marked the arrival of a certain six-voice synthesizer (the Roland Juno-106) and now Softube has created the Model 84 Polyphonic Synthesizer plugin, which offers all the quirks and non-linearities of the original hardware.
The company applied its modeling expertise to a fully-serviced and calibrated 1984 unit, and the result is an exacting facsimile of the polyphonic icon.
The Model 84 delivers the sound of the ‘80s with expertly modelled voice allocation modes, unison phase, and an EQ section that mirrors the original hardware. While the expanded control panel - with added velocity and aftertouch parameters - makes fine-tuning sound and behaviour pain-free.
Onboard original and artist presets quickly recall everything from authentic patches to the synth-pop heard in the 1980s and today.
Air Audio new instruments
The new range covers both vintage and forward-thinking plugins, with each title available for PC and Mac in VST/AU/AAX formats.
The line-up starts at the bottom-end - Bassline (opens in new tab) ($89) is a vintage-style monophonic synth that features Air’s vacuum tube circuit modelling technology. Electric (opens in new tab) ($89), meanwhile, emulates Rhodes, Wurlitzer and FM pianos.
Next we have Hype (opens in new tab) ($149), a hybrid synth that includes wavetable, FM, virtual analogue and multisample engines, while Mellotron (opens in new tab) ($119) is a homage to the classic tape loop instrument.
Solina (opens in new tab) ($119) is another emulation - a polyphonic string synth that covers contrabass, cello, viola, violin, trumpet and horn sounds. These can be combined to create full ensembles.
Finally, there’s TubeSynth (opens in new tab) ($89), a subtractive synth that uses virtual analogue technology to deliver some of the most famous sounds of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Korg Wavestate and Opsix soft synths
We’re used to seeing vintage synths being remade in software, but plugin reboots of contemporary keyboards are less common.
But now Korg's modern hardware Wavestate and Opsix synths are both available in VST/AU/AAX and standalone formats for PC and Mac. What’s more, they’re fully compatible with their hardware counterparts, meaning that sounds can be exchanged seamlessly between the two platforms.
Inspired by Korg’s classic Wavestation, Wavestate Native is powered by Korg’s Wave Sequencing 2.0 engine. It uses multiple sound layers, each of which can contain a wave sequence of multiple PCM samples or a standard multisample patch, and can be stacked or split across the keyboard.
Opsix native, meanwhile, takes the six-operator (geddit?) FM synth engine from the hardware and puts it on your desktop. This software version features a redesigned user interface that promises to make it easy to understand the workflow. You get oscilloscopes for each operator, and the theory is that you’ll get an understanding of how each sound is created.
Opsix Native (opens in new tab) and Wavestate Native (opens in new tab) are available now for the introductory prices of $149 each (regular prices, which will apply after 5 April, are $199 each). Owners of either of the hardware synths, meanwhile, can bag the software versions for just $50.
GForce Software OB-E v2
This is the first time that Tom Oberheim has ever given his personal endorsement to a software instrument. He worked with GForce to refine the new improved OB-E V2’s detune feature and to implement a new Vintage knob, which dials in additional “realistic musical inaccuracies” to make the synth sound more like the 8-Voice than ever before.
Commenting on OB-E and the improvements, Oberheim said: “I was pretty amazed by OB-E, it was pretty damn close right out of the shoot. It was ‘wow!’. I like listening to that. With OB-E v2, it’s like you have the hardware with you.”
The new V2 also features a new reverb, more than 100 new patches and the ability to zoom in on the sequencer. There’s also a drum mode that enables you to play each of the eight SEMs on a dedicated key (10 presets are included to showcase this) and PC compatibility has been added, too.
OB-E v2 is available now for the introductory price of $140/£120 (regular price will be $200/£180) and is a free update for existing OB-E owners. It runs on PC and Mac as a standalone application and in VST/AU/AAX formats.
Find out more on the GForce Software website.
GForce Software M-Tron MkII
GForce Software has introduced the M-Tron MkII, a new plugin emulation of the Mellotron MkI/MkII, which is considered by some to be the ‘Holy Grail’ of tape-based keyboards.
The MkI/MkII was a dual manual tape-based instrument that enabled you to trigger rhythms and accompaniments using 35 of the keys, and lead sounds on the other 35. The original hardware came with 18 rhythms and accompaniments and 18 lead sounds, but the M-Tron MkII goes way beyond this by offering 66 of each. In fact, it comes with 132 tape banks, some of which have never previously been released.
There’s also a Dual Rhythm mode that enables you to layer two rhythms and accompaniments from the Chamberlin and Mellotron MkI and II, giving you the chance to create unique hybrids.
M-Tron MkII is available now for the introductory price of £250 plus VAT. Find out more on at GForce Software.
Cherry Audio Dreamsynth
More great synths from Cherry Audio, starting with its first original virtual instrument plugin: Dreamsynth.
There are three dual-waveform oscillators, equating to six simultaneous virtual analogue or PCM sample-based oscillators with up to 16 voices of polyphony. As a bonus, you also get an additional 16-voice string synth that can be layered and split across the keyboard, independent of the primary synth. All combined with a massive modulation section and filters inspired by the Oberheim OB series.
Dreamsynth comes with more than 1,000 presets from a roster of pro sound designers, with programming of your own patches taking place on a vintage-style interface. It’s available now for the introductory price of €39 (regular price €59) and runs on PC and Mac in VST/AU/AAX formats. There’s also a generous 30-day demo.
Find out more on the Cherry Audio website.
Cherry Audio Lowdown
Beloved by prog rock outfits such as Genesis and Rush, Moog’s Taurus was a ‘70s pedal bass synth that you could play with your feet. Now Cherry Audio has used it as the inspiration for Lowdown, a new dual-oscillator synth plugin that’s designed to produce similarly booming tones.
Lowdown is based on modelling the Taurus’s circuits and features an animated foot pedal ‘keyboard’ (you can choose from 14 different styles, including our favourite with the distinctive carpet from The Shining below it…)
It even comes with more than 40 presets and a bargain introductory price of $25 (regular price will be $39). It runs on PC and Mac in VST/AU/AAX and standalone formats, and you can download a 30-day demo on the Cherry Audio website.
Looking for more great new gear? Get all our round-up, news, features, tutorials, tips and more at our Gear Expo Summer 2022 hub page.