9 Best Modular Synth VST Plugins 2022

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Best Modular Synth VST Plugins

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With complex wiring schemes, plenty of tweakable parameters, and a near limitless palette of unreal, warm analog musical sounds and noise, modular synthesis is in vogue again.

Most things analog translates well to digital, so it’s no wonder that someone thought to introduce the world of modular synthesis to digital recording.

While digital modular synthesis may not sound exactly like the hardware they’re supposed to be emulating, it’s fast reaching a point where the software is sounding just as good.

In this guide, we look at the best modular synth VST plugins.

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Modular by Softube – Best Overall

Modular by Softube – Best Overall

Count on Softube to outclass their competition. Modular closely approximates a Eurorack system with Intellijel or Doepfer modules and has been praised for being the closest thing to authentic in the soft synth space.

The developer, in fact, worked alongside Doepfer to put an accurate recreation of an analog modular synthesizer at your fingertips.

Modular includes six modeled Doepfer modules and 20+ utility modules. There are also a variety of modules from highly regarded Eurorack vendors available for purchase. Softube, of course, intends to make more and more modules available as time goes on.

This could be one of the reasons Modular hasn’t received a perfect rating, however, as some buyers don’t like the idea of having to purchase more modules when they could have just about everything, they want in one larger purchase.

Either way, Modular has been designed with a workflow that should be familiar to Eurorack users. Simply add modules, connect them with patch cords, and adjust the parameters and switches until you’ve achieved the desired result.

Modular features true dynamic circuit emulation, authorized emulations of modules from well-known Eurorack brands, compatibility with Softube Heartbeat drum channels and EQ, 200+ presets, and high internal sample rate. Plus, it can be used as an effect or instrument for your DAW.

As noted earlier, the basic system includes six Doepfer modules (A-110-1 VCO, A-108 VCF, A-132-3 Dual VCA, A-140 ADSR, A-118 Noise / Random, and A-147 VCLFO), as well as 20 utility modules (MIDI to C/V gate, mixers, slew, sample & hold, switches, multiples, delay offset, sequencers, clock dividers, logic and signal tools, and a polyphonic MIDI to C/V gate module).

Softube was up against some stiff competition this round, so we debated whether to make it our best overall option but given its feature set and affordability (though you will pay for extras), we couldn’t think of a better selection.

That said, it can’t hurt to explore the other synths in this guide, because they are all quite capable.

Softube Modular sounds exceptional right out of the box. Check out the video below to confirm this truth for yourself:

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Zebra2 by u-he – Best Premium Option

Zebra2 by u-he – Best Premium Option

We don’t want to give the impression that we’re unilaterally impressed with everything u-he has ever created, but so far, we have yet to come across any duds, even among their free offerings.

Zebra2 has been called a masterpiece by some, and u-he likes to think of it as a sound-design playground (suggesting that it would be quite viable for composition).

This “wireless” modular synth features many types of synthesis, a powerful modulation engine, an easy to use and unique patching system, resizable editor window, alternative skins, and more. To that extent, we sort of think of it as a “hybrid” synthesizer, because it would be quite capable without the modular part.

Altogether, Zebra2 features four powerful wavetable (16) oscillators with integrated spectral effects, unison (one, two, four, or 11 times) with detune and stereo spread, polyphonic (up to 16 voices), duophonic, or mono and legato modes, and four FM oscillators with eight alternative waveforms.

There’s also two wavefolder modules, four regular filters with 23 modes, four cross-modulation filters (XMF), 12-slot modulation matrix with depth modulation from second source, 4×12 voice patching grid, 3×6 effects patching grid, four ADSR envelopes, four syncable multi-stage envelope generators, four per-voice LFOs and two global LFOs, 21 stereo effects, four assignable XY pads, microtuning, preset browser, and more.

All this sounds quite impressive already, I’m sure. If you’re done with talk and just want to hear the presets, the video below is a great resource.

Is this the ultimate option for everyone? Perhaps not. There are a lot of great synths featured in this guide, and depending on your needs, you might go with something else.

Zebra2, however, fits the bill as our best premium pick.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

PS-20 by Cherry Audio – Best Budget Option

PS-20 by Cherry Audio – Best Budget Option

Cherry Audio’s PS-20 polyphonic synthesizer was inspired by the legendary Korg MS-20. The onboard dual highpass / lowpass filters recreate the MS-20’s raunchy, squelchy, screaming tones.

PS-20 also comes with a modular-style patch panel that takes after the MS-20, except with a reconfigured design, with added patch points for oscillators, filters, and VCAs. They also removed any confusing terminology to improve the modular synth’s overall usability.

PS-20 strives to be an improvement on the original, with features like 16-note polyphony, a three-layer, eight-step sequencer (with flexible CV outs, 1/2-step quantizer, and tempo sync), and integrated effects (distortion, modulation echo with stereo spread, and a digital reverb with plate and spring emulations).

Cherry Audio calls the PS-20 one of the most unique and quirky instruments they’ve ever put together. With a filter behavior that’s beyond prediction, and with the sheer customizability of the patch panel and sequencer, there isn’t a ceiling on the creativity you can unleash with this baby.

PS-20 also features over a billion presets(!), single-key chord memory mode, Voltage Modular patch panel cabling system, external signal processor with sidechain input, unison detune, MPE support, four user-selectable color themes, full MIDI control, and DAW automation for all controls.

In the video below, you get to see whether the PS-20 sounds like the MS-20. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t sound exactly like the MS-20, but it does come quite close!

For the price, you’d be hard pressed to find better. The PS-20 qualifies as our best budget pick.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Modular V by Arturia

Modular V by Arturia

For fans of classic Moog synths, Arturia’s Modular V is sure to be a point of especial interest. This baby sounds just as versatile and great sounding as the original, groundbreaking, and inspiring hardware it was modeled after.

Created in partnership with Bob Moog himself, Modular V is a recreation of the very synth that introduced synthesizers to the masses.

For this release, Arturia recreated a massive collection of the best Moog modules, with up to nine oscillators, three filter slots, two LFOs, six envelopes, VCAs, mixers, 24-step sequencer, and more.

Additionally, Modular V includes 16 auxiliary VCAs with modulation inputs, a filter bank (with 14 bandwidths), 600+ presets, mono / polyphonic functionality (up to 64 voices per instrument), soft-clipping, stereo delay and chorus, 12-step phaser and ring modulator, 24 dB / octave low pass filter, TAE engine, and support for 24 bits / 96 kHz.

TAE, by the way, means True Analog Emulation. This technology was developed by Arturia to reproduce the sound of analog synthesizers to the greatest extent possible.

Modular V also comes with some nice bonuses, like a built-in preset browser and resizable GUI.

The video below features a massive sound test of the Modular V. This is a great place to start if you want to know how this soft synth measures up. The sheer number of sound possibilities is enough to make your head spin, but after all, you did ask for a modular synth, didn’t you?

For fans of the original Moog and Moog synths in general, this baby is a must see.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Factory by Sugar Bytes

Factory by Sugar Bytes

Sugar Bytes’ Factory is a great looking plugin with powerful features, versatility, and an easy-to-use interface.

This poly synth comes with mod-matrix and sequencers, 2×10 oscillator engines, sub-oscillator with ring modulation, noise generator with five colors, 8×10 mod matrix with 36 targets, morph fader, two states, copy/paste, sample & hold, eight-voice VA-sync, wavetable, waveguide, and fractal synthesis.

Factory promises to deliver complex, organic sounds you’ve come to know and love from the best modular synthesizers. It comes with a variety of powerful features, like looping envelopes, oneshot LFOs, bipolar sequencers, “Arpiculation” arpeggiator / intonation, morph function for morphing multiple sounds, and more.

In the video below, you’ll be able to hear the creative synth in the context of a full mix. That’s always a good way to get a sense of how a synth is going to fit into your workflow.

So far as downsides are concerned, Factory doesn’t have many. While it’s a bit nitpicky, some of the presets are a little “hot,” requiring you to drop the volume before they become usable. That’s about the only thing that you need to look out for. Otherwise, Factory is great!

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Multiphonics CV-1 Modular Synthesizer by Applied Acoustics Systems

Multiphonics CV-1 Modular Synthesizer by Applied Acoustics Systems

Multiphonics CV-1 Modular Synthesizer lets you assemble and play patches with ease. With a complete library of modules and presets built in, Applied Acoustics Systems’ modular soft synth is great for experienced players and beginners alike.

Also included in the toolkit are direct access to MIDI control and expression signals, sync to DAW, macro parameters, a tutorial series, and more.

The developer had the likes of Clifton Develle, Benoit Charland, David Kristian, Gabriel Vigliensoni, Richard Veenstra, Venus Theory, and many others design patches for Multiphonics CV-1.

The factory library comes with sounds organized by category – chords, basses, drone, grainy, generative, leads, percussions, rhythmic, sequences, sound effects, stabs, strings, sweeps, tuned, and unclassifiable.

The latest version of Multiphonics CV-1 comes with two brand-new modules – a Ladder Filter (East Coast synthesis staple), and a Low-Pass Gate (borrowing from West Coast synthesis ideas), with 15 new patches utilizing these modules.

Multiphonics CV-1 has been meticulously modeled, and as result, it sounds great. It’s highly flexible, and a ton of fun.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

SynthMaster 2 by KV331 Audio

SynthMaster 2 by KV331 Audio

KV331 Audio calls SynthMaster 2 a semi-modular software synth and effects VST plugin.

This beast comes with 2,000 factory presets and a variety of synthesis methods (VA, Additive, Wavetable, Wavescanning, Phase Modulation, Frequency Modulation, Pulse Width Modulation, Ring Modulation, Amplitude Modulation, Physical Modeling, and even SFZ Sample Playback synthesis).

The 2,000 presets were crafted by the likes of Bluffmunkey, BigTone, Kevin Schroeder, Arksun, Rob Lee, Nori Ubukata, Vorpal Sound, Gercek Dorman, Michael Kastrup, and others.

SynthMaster 2 also features stereo oscillators with unison / voice stacking with stereo output, basic oscillators with sine, squar, triangle, sawtooth, pulse, and noise, wavetable oscillators, as well as additive and vector oscillators.

The semi-modular architecture is built on an arpeggiator, two oscillators, four modulators, two filters, four ADSR envelopes, two multistage envelopes, two 2D envelopes, two LFOs, and four keyscalers.

In terms of filters, you’ve got VAnalog filters, Multimode filters, dual filters, and comb filters.

Additionally, there are 11 effect types (six-band EQ, distortion, LoFi, ensemble, phaser, compressor, vocoder, delay, chorus, tremolo, reverb), arpeggiator, microtuning, preset browser, multiple skins, and more.

Some synths come with insane versatility but don’t live up to the hype. SynthMaster 2 isn’t one of those. If anything, it’s the opposite. For all that it offers, it’s kind of underrated and it deserves more attention. To hear some cool SynthMaster 2 sounds, click play on the video below:

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

ACE by u-he

ACE by u-he

u-he’s ACE stands for Any Cable Everywhere. This soft synth puts classic modular synthesis at your fingertips, with the ability to patch any output to any input you desire. With a near limitless set of possibilities, you aren’t going to run out of patch creation options any time soon.

ACE promises to be easy to use, even for beginners.

Modules include two LFOs, two ADSSR envelopes, two VOC, two VDF, two VCA with pan, two multiples with modulation input, a mixer, ramp generator, mapping generator, noise, and three global effects (delay, chorus, and two tone).

Overall, ACE features a semi-modular architecture, routing like ARP 2600, 25 signal sources, over 30 signal targets, up to eight times unison with +/- octave detune range, filters (with self-oscillation capabilities) LFOs (usable as VCOs and vice versa), sync, FM, cross modulation, custom LFO waveform “tap map,” and microtuning.

In the video below, you can listen to ACE’s various presets – basses, leads, keys, pads, chords, deep house chords, Detroit house chords, and rhythmic. There are a lot of sounds here, so it might be a lot to take in, but it will give you a good idea what ACE is capable of.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Voltage Modular Ignite by Cherry Audio

Voltage Modular Ignite by Cherry Audio

Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular Ignite has now been around for a few years. But with a consistently high rating, great sound, and relative affordability, it’s still a very viable option present day.

This virtual modular software synthesizer was created to be powerful, customizable, easy-to-use, and great sounding.

Voltage Modular Ignite is like the perfect starter pack for those who want to dip their toes into software based modular synthesis but aren’t sure whether they want to commit to endless exploration just yet. The “modest” Ignite bundle includes 45 modules and 296 presets.

Overall, Voltage Modular Ignite has a very vintage sound indeed, and just as advertised, we think it’s a good starting point for newbies.

For more power, you may also want to check out Voltage Modular (without the “Ignite”).

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In A Modular Synth VST Plugin?

Modular synth VST plugins are a blast. Whether you want to craft your own synthesizer sounds from scratch or develop crazy, otherworldly, unique patches, they are up to task. But even if you aren’t much for patching cords, turning dials, and flipping switches, most plugins come with enough presets to give you a running start (simply tweak from there).

The market isn’t huge, and there aren’t a ton of options to choose from, but there are just enough to make the buying process a little tricky.

Perhaps you have a bit of an idea based on the products we’ve explored already, but if not, don’t sweat it. There are a few factors worth considering if you haven’t settled on a specific VST plugin yet.

When considering a modular synthesizer VST plugin, we recommend examining the following factors:

  • Sound quality
  • Workflow
  • Features
  • Budget

Let’s dive in.

Sound Quality

It’s hard to imagine a criterion more important than sound quality when it comes to modular synthesis, though there may be the occasional producer that puts other factors above how the synth sounds.

Most if not all modular synth VST plugins are emulating or modeling the best modular synths of all time, from Moog to Korg to Eurorack, either in an official capacity (like Softube or Arturia), or more in an unofficial capacity (most others).

So, you should ask yourself what sounds you like, as well as which sounds you can see yourself using in your projects (most of the time, it’s the same answer, but not always).

Additionally, are you using a modular synth because you like to explore endless sound possibilities and stumble on “happy accidents,” or are you more of a preset browser? This is something to think about both in terms of sound quality and features because your answers to these questions will lead you in different directions.

If you plan to learn as you go, then it’s fine to take advantage of presets. But if you only plan to use presets, you’d better ensure the synth offers quality sounds you will use plenty.

Workflow

If there’s one thing, we know about recording software and hardware, it’s that workflow is individual.

As everyone was getting into Pro Tools, I was getting into Waveform, because I rather preferred its workflow.

In real life, modular synthesis, from one machine to another, the workflow doesn’t change that much. But transferred over to the software world, different developers have different approaches to choosing modules, patching technique, parameter tweaking, and so on.

The best thing you can do is check the videos to see which workflow is going to work best for you. Sound is still more important than workflow, so I don’t necessarily advise making workflow your number one consideration, but it is worth thinking about, nonetheless.

One last thing on workflow – there are multiple plugins in this guide that are very beginner oriented, so if you’re new to modular synthesis, these would be worth exploring first. It can be discouraging to try to take in a lot of information only to end up with unusable sounds. Modular synthesis is complex and will take time to master.

Features

There are basically two types of VST plugins in this guide – modular, and semi-modular.

The modular synths are basically what you’d expect from a modular synth – it comes with modules; you can mix and patch them as you see fit and tweak the parameters for desired tones. And it’s much faster and easier to do it in the digital world than the real world.

The semi-modular synths may come with some of the same functionality as modular synths, except they are generally capable synths of their own merit, with plenty of powerful features built right in.

As you begin exploring and comparing features, it’s worth separating the plugin types in a couple of different categories, as it will make your buying decision easier.

Beyond that, it’s mostly a matter of what modules are included, and what they’re emulating (which goes back to sound quality). If you know what you need, then you will have an easier time selecting a VST plugin.

Budget

Software modular synthesis is a far more affordable hobby than hardware modular synthesis, but a VST plugin will still cost you $50 to $200 a pop, and if you’re buying into a “here’s a store with additional upgrades” ecosystem, you could end up spending considerably more than $200.

Look, we know you’re prepared to spend some money. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be here.

We simply want to caution against overspending and going into debt. Music is meant to be fun, and consumer debt has a way of getting in the way of enjoying your passion. If you don’t have the money for a more expensive option, save up for it.

Top Modular Synth VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

Modular synthesis is everywhere. And while hardware modular synthesis is still considered the holy grail, software modular synthesis offers an easier and faster workflow. And today’s plugins are starting to sound just as good as their hardware counterparts.

Modular synthesis, however, is mostly for those who like to experiment and tweak endlessly. It’s perfect for people like that, because all kinds of happy accidents can happen with modular synthesis.

You now know everything you need to know to make a buying decision. We wish you all the best!

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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