In todays world the sheer selection over new and existing synth plugins can be overwhelming and bewildering. We get it you have some money in your bank, you're in the market for a synth and you just want to make noise.
With literally thousands of free and paid ones available how do you separate the good from the bad? One way is to hone in on some of the most popular options.
The producer hive mind and their collective consciousness has a unique way of filtering out the bad synth stuff whilst the good synth stuff quickly floats to the top - that's the stuff we hear about from following our favourite producers on social media, visiting our favourite production forums as well and other areas across the plugin market.
So whilst sniffing out underrated synth gems can be a good thing there's also something to be said for just wanting to focus your attention on a high quality synth plugin which is both well established and well tested by the music production community and has become popular for a reason.
From scouring synth search datasets from Google, data from vst synth sites alongside synth plugin databases we've listed the top 10 commercial synth plugins by popularity and explore what it is about each one that appeals to the vast majority of the synth and music production community.
We've also verified most synth plugins on this list the support cross platform formats of AU and VST formats so whether you use Logic on the Mac or Cubase on the PC or any other DAW you should be safe with these.
... So what are the most popular synth plugins?
U-he Zebra 2
Billed as "the workhorse synth" - perhaps that's why producers get so much from Zebra, because it excels at just doing what we as producers and artists want from a synth plugin: make good sound, make it good, give it to me easy and if I want more complex I'll ask for it... and Zebra2 has enough surface features to sonically get you where you need quick and easy whilst retaining enough depth to go deep and program all kinds of sonic goodness.
Used by the likes of big name Dance artists like Armin Van Buuren and Junkie XL, scoring neo 80's Synthwave style bangers with The Midnight to all the way into scoring Hollywood blockbusters like The Dark Night with Hans Zimmer at the controls.
It's got that U-he sound quality with everything one could want or need from a synth plugin. Whether its your first or your last synth it'll still find relevance in your synth library and plugin folders.
Diva - Back on yet another top ten synth list!
It's hard to not see Diva's appeal, with it's easy to grasp semi modular approach to subtractive synthesis you don't need to be a synth nerd to coax relevant sounds from it regardless of style. It offers a sound quality that's nothing short of awesome and the built in FX are great for anyone short on third party DS.
It has a huge collection of third party free and commercial sound packs available for it and is essentially multiple synth emulations in one. When you consider what's on offer in the complete package you come to realise it's priced very fairly.
Lennar Digital Sylenth1
What keeps Sylenth1 so popular? The light CPU, its edgy yet somehow creamy tones? The fact you get essentially 2 synths in one? Or its ease of use from the 1 panel layout design?
Clearly all of the above. In isolation none of those elements seem that impressive but Sylenth1 brings it all together with an intrinsic quality to its sound and an uncanny ability to just sit right in the mix.
It's been used in major musical hits across the globe and its understated but distinctive tonal character means you probably don't even know it - it does what it does so well that you'll find it in most professional producers plugin folders just getting on with the project at hand.
NI Massive X
The original Massive plugin really defined the Wavetable style synthesis and easy point and click modulation system that's now been adopted by other synths such as Xfer Serum and U-he Repro amongst others.
Massive X capitalised on the best bits of the Massive Synth and refined them into Massive X. Like most good wavetable based synths it has a clean and pristine character to its sound and the easy point and click modulation made the original Massive really popular really fast within the Drum and Bass, Dubstep and Hip Hop genres for classic wobble style leads and bass.
Quickly gaining ground with other producers it grew to find a place in many plugin folders and now at the Massive X iteration with a brand new sound engine it remains as popular as ever.
Endorsements from legendary producers such as Deadmau5 is always do wonders for any software synth plugin but its not without merit. Serum is a synth plugin powerhouse.
Crisp clean sounds, big back catalogue of sound packs and the easy to grasp drag and drop modulation links really do well at introducing newcomers to synthesis.
Being relatively light on CPU the inclusion of high quality onboard FX (which can also be used as a separate effects plugin) coupled with the enduring updates it's no wonder this is one of the most popular synth plugins ever to grace our plugin folders.
It's genre agnostic and sits in plugin folders from cinematic to D&B, to Synthwave to ..well everything really - a testament to its versatility, sound quality and ease of use.
Another semi-modular synth plugin to hit our popularity radar. The range of SynthMaster is quite staggering with synthesis methods ranging from VA, Additive, Wavetable, Wavescanning, Phase Modulation, Frequency Modulation, Pulse Width Modulation, Ring Modulation, Amplitude Modulation, Physical Modelling and SFZ Sample Playback synthesis - got all that?
Winner of over 5 accolades and awards including gear of the year and a hardcore user base.
Much like U-he Zebra - there's so much on offer it can easily be your only synth and you'd want for nothing. A high quality synth engine over 11 different FX and hundreds of modulation points. It's priced very competitively - being more affordable that many of its peers offering probably the best bang for buck out of all the synth plugins to make this list.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere way back in 2013 - Spire synth plugin has been consistently updated since then, with oft new features being added. In fact in 2022 there's been new reverb types, 140 additional sounds added and other enhancements such as GUI scaling for certain DAWS.
It has a sonic quality that really cuts through the mix and is a true mid-range synth machine with a high quality tonal sheen that gives it a unique flavour of its own. Sounding unlike any other synth, good feature set, slew of tonally matched FX and reams of available synth presets appear has endured over 9 years and shows no signs of giving up any time soon.
Spectrasonic Omnisphere 2
Is it synth or is it rompler? It's both but has enough of its own synth engine and synth controls to hit our synth radar.
It comes complete with one of the largest sound libraries you're likely to see on any synth and a breadth of sound that'll see you well from Skank DnB to Ambient soundscapes or traditional instruments for contemporary scoring. It's got everything and if everything's not enough then you can pick up some of the hundreds of Omnisphere sound packs available.
High quality sound, FX inclusion and that inbuilt library means it could be your only synth plugin purchase and you'd still have everything you need to create and produce hit tracks.
NI Reaktor 6
NI Reaktor is a graphically modular synth engine. It comes as both a pre-boxed collection of Synths and synth related plugins alongside the ability to literally create your own synth from scratch which can be used, shared and sold via the free Reaktor Player
Native Instruments tout it as a 'Modular DSP hub' and that's not just marketing ploy. You can build samplers, DSP effects, Synths and sound design tools.
For those producers who want to go the extra mile to define 'their' sound Reaktor offers a true sonic sandbox to achieve that. This expanse of tonal opportunity is why reaktor as a synth plugin been around so long.
Phaseplant jumped out of the abyss over the last few years and very quickly risen in popularity and built a loyal following.
Wha takes it such a popular synth plugin? It could be the high fidelity sound quality or the fact it offers the very affordable rent-to-own subscription making the barrier of entry for newcomers very appealing.
It's got a solid catalogue of high quality sound packs that find good ground for anyone producing more current genres and an absolute ton of onboard effects some of which are really unique and not found on any of the alternative synth plugins. Its definitely aimed at more current genres but finds that place well and does what it intends to do incredibly well.
So to summarise. Here we have it in black and white right from the data these are officially the 10 most popular synth plugins on the market right now.
But the VST Synth Plugin market is fluid and one persons Moog is another persons Monstrosity.
We'll keep the data fresh to make sure this list stays current so if you're in the business of just getting stuff done rather than procrastinating on synth purchase decisions for weeks you can always find what synths plugins are well tested well established and provide solid value for money here.