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The best VST synth plugin bundles 2021: which is the best soft synth collection for you?

Steinberg Absolute 5
(Image credit: Steinberg)

Everyone loves a good deal, and if you’re looking to stock up your hard drive with VST/AU synth plugins, then a bundle offer might be the quickest and most cost-effective way to do it.

Why invest in a plugin bundle? The most obvious benefit is value - all the packages below offer at least some form of discount compared to purchasing the contents individually. Savings range from just shy of €100 at the low end to well over £5,000.

Of course, value in this context is about more than pure financial savings. It’s all well and good picking up hundreds of plugins at a knockdown price, but if it turns out that the majority of them simply don’t suit your way of working then it’s still not such a great deal. As much as anything, value here comes down to whether a particular package gives you what you need. 

Some bundles here are limited to purely synths, while some also add in effects, samples or percussion instruments. Whether you see these latter elements as adding value will depend on how useful you’re likely to find them.

For those looking to build a software production setup from a standing start, these more varied packages can be a great way to quickly flesh out your plugin library. If you’re purely interested in capturing the sounds of classic gear, though, then something like Arturia’s V Collection or IK Multimedia’s Syntronik might be the way to go.

Check out what each package includes and price up how much you’re saving by buying in bulk. It could be that buying single synths is still the better option, in which case head for our round-up of the best standalone synth plugins.

The best VST synth plugin bundles 2021

Arturia V Collection 8

(Image credit: Arturia)

The best synth emulation bundle

Price: €599 (4-instalment payment plan also available)
Bundle contents: 27 emulations of classic instruments, plus Analog Lab preset hub/player
Three highlights: Buchla Easel V, ARP2600 V, DX7 V
Reasons to buy
+A varied and extensive range of top-tier hardware emulations+UIs are well-designed, with built-in tutorials and added advanced features
Reasons to avoid
-Strictly focused on emulating vintage gear

Arturia’s V Collection is one of the best-known synth collections on the market. It packs in 28 individual plugins, each of which is a carefully-created - although largely unofficial - emulation of some hardware instrument plucked from the past 50-odd years of music technology. 

There’s an impressive breadth to the selection here. You get staple classics such as the Minimoog Model D, Roland Junos and Jupiters, Yamaha DX7 and several Oberheim synths. There are a good few leftfield and creative choices, too, such as the Buchla Music Easel, Synclavier and a full Moog Modular system, plus a solid crop of electric pianos and organs.

All of Arturia’s plugins share some nice design touches, including hideable ‘advanced’ views and interactive tutorials, and they often add additional features such as effects or sequencers.

The bundle also comes with Arturia’s Analog Lab plugin, which is effectively a ‘best of,’ offering simple, user-friendly access to staple sounds drawn from across the collection.

As for downsides, while the V Collection has previously dabbled in drums, there’s nothing percussive here in version 8. It’s also a shame that Arturia’s original synth plugin, Pigments, isn’t included, as this would balance the collection out with a touch of modernity.

Korg Collection 3

(Image credit: Korg)

A must-have for fans of ’90s dance music

Price: $399
Bundle contents: 9 emulations of classic Korg synths, an ARP odyssey emulation and one effect unit based on the Korg Triton
Three highlights: KC Prophecy, KC Wavestation, KC Odyssey
Reasons to buy
+Includes a winning mix of virtual analogue and digital synths+Plenty of iconic sounds from the ‘80s and ‘90s
Reasons to avoid
-Sounds lean heavily toward ‘retro’

Korg’s Collection is one of the oldest synth bundles out there, having started life as the Legacy Collection back in 2004. 

While ‘legacy’ has been dropped from the name over the years, this is still very much about celebrating Korg’s heritage. The 11 plugins here are all digital recreations of hardware instruments from Korg’s back catalogue - plus one outsider in the shape of the ARP Odyssey, which Korg reissued in hardware form a few years ago.

That line-up includes several analogue icons, including the MS-20, Polysix and Mono/Poly, all of which do a convincing job of emulating the sound of original circuitry in virtual form. 

For our money, though, the highlights here are Korg’s digital instruments of the late-’80s and early-’90s, such as the M1, Wavestation and Prophecy

Not only do these instruments nail the sounds of the originals - which were staples of ‘90s dance genres such as IDM, jungle and ambient - but in many cases they improve on their designs, which often hid complicated digital synth engines behind small screens and endless menus.

Native Instruments Komplete 13

(Image credit: Native Instruments)

A well-rounded package of classic sounds, cutting-edge synths and handy effects

Price: £539 (also available as Komplete Select for £169 or Komplete Ultimate at £1,079)
Bundle contents: 14 synthesizers, also includes a further 54 effect and sampled instruments and 24 Expansion Packs
Three highlights: Massive X, Reaktor Blocks, Super 8
Reasons to buy
+Includes a massive amount of instruments, effects and samples for the price+Features a strong mix of cutting-edge and modern classic soft synths
Reasons to avoid
-Some included plugins are looking a little dated-Probably more content than you’ll ever need

Komplete, the bundle package from German software titan Native Instruments, is about more than just synths. Combining standalone plugins with sound packs and instruments designed to run in the company’s Kontakt and Reaktor hosts, Komplete 13 features synthesizers, beatmakers, effects and a wealth of multisampled sounds.

That said, it’s the soft synths that are the big-hitters here. Komplete 13 mixes lauded, if perhaps a little dated, classics like Massive, FM8 and Monark, with cutting-edge sounds courtesy of the excellent Massive X, virtual analogue poly sounds from Super 8, plus a few more oddball instruments like the sample-mangling Form.

Komplete also contains the latest version of Reaktor, NI’s flexible synth-building environment. This offers access to a vast library of user creations, along with the excellent virtual modular system Reaktor Blocks.

Komplete is available in several different sizes. Alongside the standard version, NI also offers Komplete Select - more affordable, but a bit lacking on the synth front - and the all-you-can-eat Komplete Ultimate, which also adds the excellent additive synth Razor, and oddball synth-come-sampler Skanner XT.

Roland Cloud Apple M1

(Image credit: Roland)

Official recreations of some of the most iconic instruments in electronic music

Price: $29.99/y (Core), $99/y (Pro), $199/y (Ultimate)
Bundle contents: A selection of 19 vintage synth emulations, plus sample-based instruments, effects and expansion packs, dependent on subscription tier. See Roland Cloud site for full details.
Three highlights: D-50, TR-909, Juno-60
Reasons to buy
+Impressive recreations of many of the most iconic instruments of all time+Includes synths, drums, samples and effects in one package
Reasons to avoid
-Subscription model means you’ll need to keep paying-Sample-based instruments are a little hit-and-miss

Between its TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines, which provided the foundation for house and techno, synths like the SH-101, Jupiters and Junos, and digital classics like the D-50, Roland has been responsible for a broad swathe of highly influential instruments.

With Roland Cloud, you get access to virtual versions of all of these and more, such as the company’s more recent System-1 and System-8 synths. Emulations are powered by the company’s impressive Analog Circuit Behavior tech - essentially the same engines as in Roland’s TR-8S hardware and Boutique series - and offer some of the most authentic vintage recreations around. Alongside those classics, Roland Cloud users also get access to the sample-powered Zenology synth, plus a growing range of samples, effects and expansion packs.

The downside, arguably, is that all this is based on a subscription model. Prices start at $30 per year for the Core tier, but this doesn’t include any of the ‘Legendary’ instruments - ie, the classic gear emulations - and as such isn’t really worth bothering with. The $99 per year Pro tier lets users activate a choice of two ‘Legendary’ emulations, while a $199 per year Ultimate subscription offers access to the whole shebang.

Steinberg Absolute 5

(Image credit: Steinberg)

5. Steinberg Absolute 5

A generous, comprehensive collection of synths, drums and sampled sounds

Price: £429
Bundle contents: 28 instruments and 130GB of sound content, including a variety of virtual synthesizers as well as sample-based synth content for HALion and HALion Sonic
Three highlights: Retrologue 2, Padshop 2, Anima
Reasons to buy
+Broad selection of sounds to suit most genres+Impressive value
Reasons to avoid
-Volume and variety means that many producers will likely never use much of what’s included

The Absolute bundle from Cubase developer Steinberg rounds up a broad range of synths, samples and sound packs suited to pretty much any genre or application you can think of.

On the synth front, highlights include virtual analogue instruments such as Voltage and the powerful Retrologue 2, and the lush granular polysynth Padshop 2. The bundle also includes Steinberg’s sampler instruments, HALion 6 and HALion Sonic 3, which can act as players for a wealth of synth and acoustic instrument sounds. 

Beyond this, Absolute packs organs, pianos, a host of cinematic sound libraries and a variety of drum and percussion sounds.

All in all it’s impressively varied and comprehensive, particularly for those working in fields like soundtrack composition or commercial music projects. However, that variety does mean that it’s hard to imagine any single producer who won’t find at least some of the Absolute content irrelevant to their needs. 

Best plugins 2020

(Image credit: Future)

6. u-he All Synths Bundle

Get the full line-up from one of the most respected soft synth developers out there

Price: €780
Bundle contents: 6 virtual synthesizers
Three highlights: Diva, Hive 2, Bazille
Reasons to buy
+All six plugins are impressive in their own right +Includes some of the best VA synths on the market
Reasons to avoid
-You don’t get as much for your money as some other bundles-Saving compared to buying all 6 individually isn’t massive

German developer U-he is one of the most respected names in the plugin synth game. This bundle collects all six of its current soft synths into a single package.

While this makes it one of the smallest bundles in this round-up, there’s no filler here. Each of u-he’s synths is impressive in its own right, and together they cover a lot of ground.

Diva is one of the finest virtual analogues out there, and has long been a secret weapon of many of the world’s best electronic artists. Hive 2, meanwhile, is one of the most user-friendly - yet still deep and powerful - takes on wavetable synthesis we’ve tried.

On the negative front, the price doesn’t offer a huge discount on what buying all six plugins individually would set you back. You’re looking at a saving of around €95, which is certainly nothing to scoff at, but it might not be enough to convince you that you wouldn’t be better off just picking up two or three of the plugins separately and coming back for the rest later.

IK Multimedia Syntronik

(Image credit: IK Multimedia)

A comprehensive, sample-powered selection of vintage synth sounds

Price: €299
Bundle contents : 17 virtual instruments based around samples of 38 vintage synthesizers and keyboards
Three highlights: Galaxy, String Box, Minimod
Reasons to buy
+Sampled oscillators offer authenticity+Interfaces are stylish and easy-to-use
Reasons to avoid
-Sound design capabilities are limited -Sample library requires a hefty chunk of hard drive space

Syntronik is slightly different from the other bundles included in this roundup. Whereas most of the others offer a selection of distinct plugins, Syntronik is effectively a single instrument, albeit one that offers a variety of different UI styles replicating the look and sound of multiple vintage synthesizers.

Syntronik makes use of sampled sounds mixed with some basic virtual analogue synthesis tools. The core sounds are based on 50GB of samples recorded from 38 vintage instruments. These cover iconic synths from the likes of Roland, Oberheim, Moog and Yamaha, plus some interesting choices such as a variety of string machines and a few early digital keyboards.

Each Syntronik instrument lets users tailor sounds using a virtual analogue filter and amp, with envelopes and an LFO for modulation. However, since the base sounds themselves are samples – often with filtering and/or modulation already involved – there are limits to how far you can take sound design. Fortunately, the 2000+ presets offer a broad range of starting points, and what Syntronik loses in flexibility it gains in authenticity.

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