The 22 Best Free VST Instruments (2021)
In this list we are gonna go over the best free VST instruments with those for a budget. All these have the best price which is free.
First we need to clarify a difference to avoid a confusion about this list.
VST Instruments: This is all the virtual synthesizers or instruments samples that produces audio. Examples can be FM synthesis, pianos, rhodes, strings, guitars. So this is what this list is about.
VST audio effects: These affects the sound of the audio and changes it in someway. Examples is reverb, delay, distortion, compression.
All these are free with optional to donate to the developer. So without further ado let's go.
1. VITAL Spectral warping wavetable synth
This is by far the most insane synth that is free. Many call it the Serum killer which I don't agree with completely, both is great synths but that shows what quality of a synth this is.
It's like Serum and Phase plant had a baby.
This is a synth that has spectral warping wavetables, LFO's (you can modulate everything drag & drop), FM, tons of filter options with really high-quality clean oscillators.
Has it's own effects tab to process your sounds with multiband compression (really similar to OTT), delay, reverb, phasers and much more.
It has a text-to-wavetable feature which means you can type any words and it'll generate a wavetable you can scroll through to make the synth talk, really unique.
The scalable interface is really intuitive and FUN to use.
Could talk forever about this synth, the free version is the full synth with almost no limitations.
Also check out my Lofi essentials preset pack for vital to get even more presets.
Vital available Mac, PC & Linux
2. Komplete Start (Native Instruments)
Native instruments mostly famous for their Komplete collection which features Kontakt sampler, massive synthesizer and plugins has released a free edition.
With this you get over 6GB of sampled instruments, audio effects and samples, it's insane value for the cost of free.
With the Kontakt 6 player you get a couple of standard libraries such as World, Band, Vintage and the play series collection which has some good analog synthwave instruments.
Also with the free Kontakt 6 player you can import 3rd party libraries.
And you get some cool audio effects including guitar rig 6 player for guitar amp simulations.
Komplete Start available Mac & PC
3. Spitfire LABS
Spitfire Audio from London offers a free sample player called LABS, with it you can download and import free libraries from them.
The sounds are recorded orchestras, guitars, synths and drums. They sound really lively and organic. The soft piano library sound warm and each note sounds a little bit different each time you hit it.
New libraries are added monthly, you can simply download them with one click in their launcher.
You'll be blown away by the quality and you have to try this one out.
Spitfire Audio LABS available mac & PC
4. SampleTank 4 (IK Multimedia)
Sampletank 4 is a huge instrument library for free, 50 instruments and over 4 GB big!
Got a clean easy to use sound browser and a mixer with 70 effects.
It has all kinds of instruments such as warm and wide grand piano's, organs, strings, horns, guitars, sampled drums EDM/hip hop kits and much more.
It's definitely a must have!
SampleTank 4 available mac & PC
5. Ample Bass P / Guitar M / Percussion Cloudrum
For some more sampled instruments Ample sound got you covered.
Here are three free instruments:
Ample Guitar M Lite: A acoustic guitar which samples a Martin D-41 acoustic guitar. I'm not a guitar player but this has a realistic guitar sound that makes it easy to play on your keyboard.
With the settings you can turn on doubling for wider sound, fret sound but most importantly it has a strummer section where you can turn it on to make it play chords and strum like a real guitar player.
Ample Bass P Lite: A realistic bass guitar instrument which is modeled after a Fender Precision Bass sound. It features sustain, hammer on and pull off's.
6. Tyrell N6 (U-he)
Tyrell N6 is a great analog synthesizer emulating the 80s sound. It's roughly based on Roland juno 60 and has a classic synth architecture.
2 analog oscillators, noise, ring modulator and 2 LFOs with 8 waveforms.
It has over 580 factory presets with a preset browser to flick through, ranging from basses, keys, pads and synthesized drums.
Tyrell N6 available on Mac, Linux & PC
Again from same developer we have Zebralette which is like a stripped down version of it's big brother synth Zebra2.
But it's still a powerful synth with 300 factory presets. It has only one oscillator but it has waveform editing to make your own waveforms and four drawing modes geomorph, spectromorph, geoblend, spectroblend.
Which basically means you can morph and blend between the different waveform shapes to create unique sounds.
Bundle that up with 24 spectral effects like filters, phase distortion, 2 lfo's and you'll have a really solid synth to play around with.
Zebralette available on Mac, Linux & PC
Helm is a free open-source synth made from the same developer on Vital (Yes one person, so talented!).
This synths has it all, everything in one place can look a little messy but it works fine.
2 oscillators + 1 sub oscillator, a filter to morph between HP, BP, LP much like in Vital. 3 LFO's with multiple shapes, 32 Step sequencer, distortion, arpeggiator ,delay and reverb.
Over 200 presets included and it's feels like a early version of Vital.
HELM available on Mac, Linux & PC
9. DSK Virtual Instruments (Guitar, Music Box, Saxophone)
DSK music has some good sampled instruments available on their website you can check out but I chose three i particularly liked.
DSK Dynamic Guitars: 3 Different guitar types: Nylon, Steel & Acoustic. Simple ADSR control with reverb and pan. But with the range knob you can chose how it reacts to how hard you hit the keyboard (velocity). So there are different samples depending how hard you play, so playing softly has a soft sounding guitar sample etc.
DSK SaxophoneZ: 3 Different saxophone type: soprano, alto, tenor. What's good with this one is that when you hold a note longer it has a vibrato effect like a real one. Aka making the pitch slightly go up and down not just a straight note.
DSK Music Box: Simply a good clinky toy music box, no settings just open and go.
Dsk instruments available on Mac & PC
10. VSCO2 Orchestra
VSCO2 Orchestra has a rompler with over 2000 samples recorded for over 25 instruments.
All instruments are in one plugin so you can simply use the dropdown menu by clicking instrument name to choose one. It has all kinds of instruments such as clarinet, harp, marimba, flute, tuba and more.
Kinda basic feature with just ADSR, pan and a reverb.
Not as good if you wanna make a real sounding orchestra with expensive sound libraries, but it's good value for being free and definitely worth checking out.
VSCO2 Orchestra available on Mac & PC (VST or .NKI Kontakt)
11. Dexed FM Synth
Dexed is a free open source synth that is closely modeled after 80's analog Yamaha DX7 synth.
Can be a bit daunting as the HELM synth where everything in one place but if you look there are six oscillators where each has it's own "block", if you think like that it's a bit simpler.
At the bottom is also where you have the frequency modulating with different algorithms you can choose.
Great for retro sounds such the 80's FM sound and comes with over 1000 presets.
Dexed available on Mac & PC
12. Keyzone Classic
Keyzone classic is a great wide & very open sounding sample based piano vst. It's velocity sensitive and has 5 different pianos included:
Keyzone Classic available on Mac & PC
13. Piano One
Again another piano but you can never have enough pianos. This one is sampled from a Yamaha C7 concert grand which is a classic masterpiece in the professional piano world.
With it you can adjust the amount of noise from pedal & strings and adjust the tone and harmonics to your liking.
Piano One available on Mac & PC
14. Darksichord 2
Yes another piano but this is great if your looking for a more dark/creepy piano or a blend of an organ and piano.
What's new in this version is that you can adjust the levels of the sub / texture / harpsichord to your liking.
Darksichord 2 available on Mac & PC
TAL-Noisemaker is a great first synth to learn how a synth works. Simple interface with great filters.
2 Oscillators with 1 Sub oscillator, Juno chorus with different modes, bitcrusher, ability to FM and Ring modulate.
Comes with 256 presets and definitely worth a install.
TAL-NoiseMaker available on Mac & PC
Surge is a open-source hybrid synthesizer that's been around for a long time, but it has been getting regularly updates with recently updating the interface to make it look much more modern.
It's really an underrated synth but can be a bit daunting first. The features of this synth could be a book, it's really powerful.
But don't worry if you don't like to program your own patches it comes with 1725 factory presets and 523 wavetables!
Surge available on Mac, Linux & PC
Odin2 is a free open-source synth to please the gods as they call it and it sure do.
It got 3 oscillators where you can choose analog, chiptune, noise waveforms or draw your own waveforms and more.
It has some fat sounding filters of emulating the filters of Moog-ladder or the Korg-35.
Odin2 available on Mac, Linux & PC
18. Sitala (Drum Sampler)
Sitala is a drum plugin and a standalone, with a beautiful clear interface that displays clearly how the audio is shaped.
For each sample you chose there are six knobs shape, compression, tuning, tone, volume and pan.
It comes with a built-in 808 kit such as kick, snare, hi hats, toms and so on but you can also import your own drum samples and from there you can shape them how you want.
Not technically a synth or instrument but worth a spot.
Sitala available on Mac, Linux & PC
19. Exakt Lite
Exakt Lite is a great FM synhetizer that has a friendly user interface where you can see how the waveform is shaping.
4 different operators each has different waveforms as standard sinne, saw, square and triangle wave but it also has 8 classic waveforms from Yamaha TX81Z.
Not much stock presets though but still worth a download.
Exakt lite available on Mac & PC
20. OB-XD 2
OB-XD 2 is an emulation of an old 80's analog synth called Oberheim OB-X.
This one actually emulates it well sounds warm & analog, it's programed in such way to have some randomness like a real one for example it randomly detunes a little.
Over 1500+ factory presets to play around with.
OB-XD 2 available on Mac, Linux & PC
21. ProjectSam The Free Orchestra
The Free Orchestra is 1 GB of high quality orchestra sounds. It offers orchestral string staccatos, percussion and brass clusters.
It can be used from the free Kontakt player which you can get from Komplete Start.
Sounds great if you make trailer & movie music.
The Free Orchestra available on Mac & PC
22. MiniSpillage (Drum Synth)
MiniSpillage is a drum synthesizer where you start with a simple sine wave kick and add distortion, click attack and filters to make it exactly how you want it.
You can also synthesize a woodrum snare and hihats.
Quite simple and fun to tweak around with.
MiniSpillage available on Mac only (AU)
That's all, enjoy!