17 Best VST Instruments 2023

Best VST Instruments

VST instruments have never been more abundant or flexible. Broadly, they can be categorized as synthesizers, sample libraries, samplers, and drum machines. But many of today’s products seem to transcend even these narrow definitions.

For instance, it’s not hard to find VST instruments that combine the worlds of synthesized and organic audio material.

Ready to plunge into a world of exciting new possibilities? In this guide, we look at the best VST instruments.

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Hive 2 by u-he – Best Overall

Hive 2 by u-he – Best Overall

u-he’s Hive 2 is practically unmistakable. This baby consistently reaches the top of best virtual synth lists, and for good reason (although we’re not saying there aren’t plenty of other exceptional synths, some of which we cover later in this guide).

With Hive 2, you can tweak a few knobs and call it “done,” or go deeper into the many settings and parameters to dial in your version of synthesizer heaven.

With the shape sequencer, 12-slot matrix, swappable audio engine, signal routing options, wavetable support, effects, and more, the upper ceiling truly is as far as your imagination can take you. Best of all, with Hive 2, dialing in great sounds doesn’t need to take ages to achieve.

This soft synth features a total of three low CPU synth engines, two oscillators (with standard waveforms and 2D wavetables), drag and drop modulation, 12 x 2 modulation matrix, four XY control pads, eight-step shape sequencer, arpeggiator, and scale quantizer.

Further, it comes with seven arrangeable effects, two function generators, panel presets, solo buttons, microtuning support, over 2,400 NKS-ready factory presets, resizable UI, and much more.

We could go on about the features, but we really would be here all day. The point is, Hive 2 is a synth that needs to be experienced to be understood. And for everything you get, its price point is moderate.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

V Collection 9 by Arturia – Best Premium Option

V Collection 9 by Arturia – Best Premium Option

Why buy one Arturia V instrument at a time when you could get the entire collection for one very reasonable price?

To be fair, V Collection 9 is our best premium option and the most expensive. But it includes 32 keyboard and synthesizer instruments, which are going to prove much more expensive if purchased one at a time.

There are five new additions to this collection, including the Korg MS-20 V, SQ80 V, Augmented STRINGS (also seen elsewhere in this guide), Augmented VOICES, and Prophet-VS V.

If that wasn’t enough, you’re getting the Jun-6 V, Jup-8 V, Stage-73 V, OBXa-V, Mellotron V, CMI V, DX7 V, Clavinet V, B-3 V, CS-80 V, Matrix-12 V, Modular V, Piano V, Solina V, Synclavier V, VOX Continental V, Wurli V, among others. Some of these instruments have been updated too (Arturia is good like that).

In total, you’re getting 14,000 presets, in-app tutorials, high-resolution graphical interfaces, easy MIDI mapping, and much more.

If you have gaps in your keyboard and synth collection, this entry is for you. Of course, if you’ve got most of your bases covered, then you might be better off purchasing just the V plugins you need.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

The System 1000M by Tronsonic – Best Budget Option

The System 1000M by Tronsonic – Best Budget Option

Tronsonic’s The System 1000M is a Kontakt based modular style virtual synthesizer.

This baby comes with 500+ presets, 10 waveforms (with white and pink noise), modulation, and sounds that were sampled using vintage valve equipment to quarter inch tape in Bank 1 (for a distinctly analog sound).

If you love analog synth sounds, you will enjoy what The System 1000M has on offer. And wouldn’t you know it? It’s our best budget selection.

The System 1000M requires the full version of Kontakt, so if you don’t have Kontakt, you may not save any money here.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Circle2 by Future Audio Workshop

Circle2 by Future Audio Workshop

Simple yet incredibly powerful, Future Audio Workshop’s Circle2 is on the short list of the best electronic music virtual synthesizers available.

Circle2 finds the synth in its latest state of evolution, having originally come into being in 2009. From pop to electronic to underground, it has enjoyed its share of attention from a variety of high-profile creators.

Now with a new user interface, Circle2 aims to enhance your workflow. Unlike many modern synths, which may be more powerful, but have more controls than you know what to do with (with hidden menus, settings, and controls), Circle2 wants to put the joy back in experimentation by streamlining the entire process.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t loaded to the rafters with options though. In addition to 300+ patches, Circle2 features multiple sound sources (four analog oscillators, four wavetable oscillators, four VPS oscillators, noise source, feedback) and an array of modifiers, modulators, and effects.

Circle2 also comes with 32 voice polyphony, 110 wavetable oscillator shapes, drag and drop modulation system, 16 wavetable LFO shapes, 16 step sequencer with note output, MIDI note arpeggiator, randomize preset, visual MIDI learn, and more.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

CUBE by Lunacy Audio

CUBE by Lunacy Audio

What stands out about Lunacy Audio’s CUBE is its 3D interface for morphing between samples. You can use the orb at the heart of the interface to blend sounds any way you see fit. Move the orbs closer to the corners to make them louder.

The best part about the orb is that you can control it with your mouse, external hardware, or 40 automatic orbit motion paths.

Okay, but what is this thing anyway? Well, It’s like it a sampler and virtual instrument all in one.

In total, CUBE features over 100 sampled instruments and over 3,000 samples (with multiple dynamic layers), over 400 presets, over 40 orbits, eight samplers (with arpeggiator, step sequencers, filters, envelopes, reverse, monophonic, glide, pan, and tuning), and 13 FX modules.

It also comes with a modulation system (four LFOs, macro, and modulation matrix), custom graphics engine, orbit customizer, randomization algorithms, eco-mode, MIDI control, and user audio (for dragging and dropping your own sounds into the interface).

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

LuSH-101 by D16 Group

LuSH-101 by D16 Group

D16 Group’s LuSH-101 is a go-to multitimbral polyphonic synthesizer. Incorporating some of the best aspects of other popular modern virtual synthesizers, LuSH is both powerful and surprisingly simple.

Its feature set alone is quite impressive. LuSH-101 comes with a multilayer architecture (with eight layers), up to 32 voice polyphony, MIDI channel, keyboard zone, and audio output.

The synthesis engine includes oscillators (saw, PWM, noise, supersaw, HardSync), sub oscillator (with five waveforms), self-oscillating multimode filter, high-pass filter, up to eight-voice unison (with tune, cutoff, and panorama spread), two LFOs, and two envelopes.

Essential FX algorithms include chorus, string ensemble, phaser, flanger, tremolo, distortion, decimator, and vowel filter. As well, note velocity, note pitch, pitch bend, expression pedal, sustain pedal, modulation wheel, keyboard’s aftertouch, and arpeggiator output can all be used as modulation sources.

The arpeggiator comes with a step sequencer, six modes, chord mode, three hold modes, shuffle, and tempo multiplier. On the mixer, you’ll find parametric EQs, compressors, 11 stereo output busses, and send FX.

Finally, you also get over 1,600 presets (with five categories), preset browser, advanced MIDI, parameter mapping for automation, and selectable GUI size.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Novum by Tracktion

Novum by Tracktion

Tracktion’s Novum is different. That’s what probably makes it a standout VST instrument. In a word, it’s a sampler, but it’s more of a sound-shaping tool, instrument fuser, and granular synthesizer rolled into one.

Novum takes samples and breaks them into layers, and features six-layer granular synthesis, timbre and temporal editing, timbre flower for spectral modification, drag and drop cross synthesis, SYNTIFY subtractive with an analog filter and comb filter, modulation system, MPE support, and over 300 patches.

The Tracktion team originally dreamed up the concept as they were exploring prisms. They realized that they could split audio into its various tonal colors, which prompted the idea for Novum. The concept was developed over three years, with much experimentation and input from sound designers.

If you’ve ever wanted to take your samples and transform them into brand new, exciting sounds, you will love Novum. From creating pads to making your basslines more melodic, this is a fantastic tool for sound design, composing, and adding background layers to your music of any genre.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Solina Redux by SONiVOX

Solina Redux by SONiVOX

SONiVOX’ Solina Redux is like a hot rodded Arp Solina String Ensemble with two eight-step sequencers (fully programmable). In addition to the original Solina sounds that made the hardware so sought after, SONiVOX added a modern virtual analog synth to take their plugin over the top.

The result is a mix of modern and vintage sounds, which you can alter and combine in any way you please. The two synths include send effects, LFO modulations, a multi-mode filter, and amplitude and filter envelopes.

You also get access to three effects, a vibrato, phaser, and the infamous Solina “Ensemble” effect.

It’s not a new entry per se, but the Solina Redux still sounds good, and as you can imagine, the best thing you can do with it is play to its strengths – combining vintage and modern sounds to create unique patches.

The only potential downside is its cost.

Have a listen and see what you think.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Augmented STRINGS by Arturia

Augmented STRINGS by Arturia

No matter what style of music you might be working on, strings are essential. And if you haven’t found need for them yet trust me, you very likely will at some time in the future.

As with most Arturia products, Augmented STRINGS isn’t your run of the mill strings plugin. There are plenty of those out there already. This VST instrument aims to set you up with modern sounds, incorporating synthesized strings along with breathtaking samples.

This hybrid string instrument features two layers, each with two customizable sound sources, a string sample library with violin, viola, cello, and double bass, solo and ensemble strings, close and far mics, 60+ articulations, synth engines with TAE technology, granular engine (with warp, glitch, and stretch), harmonic engine, and wavetable engine.

You also get a morph control (for moving between Layers A and B and affecting up to eight custom destinations), seven macros (time, color, motion, FX A, FX B, reverb, delay), two LFOs, two function generators, two random generators, four modulation sources, vibrato, and tremolo.

But that’s not quite it. Additionally, you’ll find two FX slots per layer with 14 FX, delay and reverb sends with spatial / time-based algorithms, 16-step arpeggiator, over 250 presets, as well as MPE and MTS-ESP ODDSOUND micro-tuning compatibility.

Basically, if you need a modern, versatile string VST instrument, there aren’t many that feature the power of an Augmented STRINGS.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Aparillo by Sugar Bytes

Aparillo by Sugar Bytes

Sugar Bytes’ Aparillo is an FM synth featuring a 16 voice design and a sound perfectly suited to sound design and composition.

Aparillo features formant shifting, wave folding, shifting, a multi-mode filter with spatializer, orbiter for sound morphing, two LFOs, 500 presets, 10 modulation sources, as well as NKS support for Komplete Kontrol and Maschine.

From dirty basses and rich drones to warm leads and space-filling pads, Aparillo is an excellent synth, especially for the price!

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

CR8 Creative Sampler by Waves

CR8 Creative Sampler by Waves

Waves’ CR8 Creative Sampler was designed to be powerful and easy to use. This plugin is perfect for beat making, looping, sound design, instrument creation, and the like.

All you need to get started with CR8 is to drag in a sample and alter It as you see fit – stretch, loop, sync, stack, layer, reverse, freeze, modulate, and even take advantage of analog synth modules.

The 800+ presets and 2,500+ free samples should be more than enough to get you started.

Altogether, you can layer up to eight samples with CR8. It also comes with five stretching options (voice, beats, melodic, harmonic, classic), key and BPM detection, drag and drop LFO / sequencer, and ADSR modulators. CR8 also integrates with the AI-powered sample finder, COSMOS.

Learn more: Waves

SubLab XL by Future Audio Workshop

SubLab XL by Future Audio Workshop

Deep, rumbling lows is an essential in modern music production. And without a tool like Future Audio Workshop’s SubLab XL, it can be very difficult to achieve the impactful bass sounds you hear on modern hip-hop and electronic music productions.

SubLab XL features nine factory bass packs, covering an array of sounds – Future 808s, Pure Subs, Analog Machines, Supersaw, Crushed, This Hits Hard, Reese Bass, Sean Divine Signature, and Richie Souf. This gives you access to over 300 analog drum machines and modulars samples.

This synthesizer also comes with an engine tailor made for bass, mix and match FX (use up to four at a time) with six distortions, tape with hiss and wobble, bitcrusher, and compressor, as well as LFO modulation with 18 routing options, multiple waveforms (sine, triangle, saw, square, noise), rate control, and BPM sync.

Finally, SubLab XL includes macro controls for transforming your sounds on the fly.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Chromaphone 3 by Applied Acoustic Systems

Chromaphone 3 by Applied Acoustic Systems

Applied Acoustic Systems called their Chromaphone 3 an “acoustic object synthesizer.” This two-voice virtual synth allows you to mix and match eight physically modeled acoustic resonators, which makes its sounds more lifelike.

It comes with a two-voice multitimbral (stacked or split) design, four performance macros per layer, over 1,000 sounds, FX, arpeggiator, new macros, remastered Chromaphone 2 library, improved microtonal tunings with Scala scale files, expanded multi-effects module, and more.

If you’re looking for a synthesizer that lets you create unique textures, you will love Chromaphone 3.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Nepheton by D16 Group

Nepheton by D16 Group

Taking after the classic 808 drum machine, D16 Group’s Nepheton comes with 17 synthesized modules that make it sound just like the original.

The virtual drum machine includes 12 output configurations, MIDI control, and an internal sequencer.

It also comes with scaled knob ranges, dynamic output reassignment with Master Out and Trigger Output, disable / off for each module, multiple control variations, external mode, internal sequencer (with 96 simple patterns, 16 extended patterns), shuffle mode, tap mode, randomizer, two sync modes, preset manager, and more.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

TAL-U-NO-LX Synth by TAL

TAL-U-NO-LX Synth by TAL

Based on the infamous Roland JUNO-60, the TAL-U-NO-LX Synth is quite faithful to the original, while maintaining a very low cost.

In addition to everything that made the original hardware great, this soft synth includes an arpeggiator (with various sync modes and a hold function), portamento, and new filter LFO waveforms.

Altogether, the TAL-U-NO-LX Synth features up to 12-voice polyphony, over 300 factory presets, a preset manager, self-resonating zero feedback delay filter, MIDI learn and automation, alias free oscillators, arpeggiator, portamento and mono modes, LFO manual trigger button, sustain pedal support, and MPE support.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to listen to how this plugin sounds yet, I suggest clicking on the video below.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

TAL-BassLine-101 by TAL

TAL-BassLine-101 by TAL

TAL’s TAL-BassLine-101 is another go-to favorite, thanks to their knack for creating excellent bang for buck VST plugins.

This monophonic bass synth offers a decidedly analog feel, with a simple and easy to use GUI.

When you get TAL-BassLine-101, you’re getting a six-voice poly mode, over 300 presets, self-resonating zero feedback delay filter, alias free oscillators, MIDI learn / automation, arpeggiator, step sequencer (with MIDI export and drag and drop), linear and portamento mode, de-clicker mode, and more.

If you need to add some fat basslines to your tracks, TAL-BassLine-101 is more than worth a look.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

PunchBOX by D16 Group

PunchBOX by D16 Group

One of the toughest aspects of getting a pop, electronic, R&B, hip-hop, or reggaeton track just right is getting the kick sounding huge. D16 Group’s PunchBOX was created to fill this void.

This VST aims to furnish you with high quality kick sounds by fusing the best of synthesized sounds with samples of real instruments.

PunchBOX comes with four sound generators (click, tops, tools, kick), audio-to-effect send per generator, optional MIDI velocity sensitivity and pitch tracking, effects rack (with EQ, bitcrusher, distortion, filter, and limiter), 1,100 samples, 800 presets, tag-based preset and sample browser, MIDI learn, randomizer, direct export, and more.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In A VST Instrument Plugin?

As you’re surely stating to see, “VST instrument” is a broad term describing an array of different types of VST plugins for song writing, soundtrack work, composing, sound design, and more.

There are highly versatile virtual instruments that can do just about anything. Conversely, there are more specialized virtual instruments that are good for specific purposes.

So, we know that navigating this maze of endless options isn’t necessarily easy. What you need is clarity, because clarity will lead you to the right conclusions.

Fittingly, we’ll be looking at several key criteria that will help you gain clarity on this purchase. They are:

  • Sound quality
  • Project requirements
  • Features
  • Budget

Let’s dive into each.

Sound Quality

Sound quality is foundational, especially when we’re talking VST instruments. This doesn’t mean all sounds need to be organic and realistic to be useful (this is the opposite of what synthesizers are anyway), but it certainly helps if you like what you hear.

Have you thoroughly explored the options you’re considering? All plugins have videos you can watch and samples you can listen to. I would strongly recommend that you spend some time listening to each so you’re clear on what they can do and if they will work for your projects (more on this in a moment).

Nowadays, it’s getting much harder to find bad sounding plugins than it is good sounding ones. That said, personal preferences are always a factor. If you’re confident that you can sculpt your sounds into any shape you want, then maybe it’s not a concern.

But even then, it is much easier to start with a sound that’s close to what you want than it is to start with material that’s only vaguely resembling what you want.

The rest will mostly come down to…

Project Requirements

I know that “project requirements” is a broadly applicable heading. What we’re talking about here is how you intend to use the plugin and for what types of projects.

Depending on what you’re up to, you may have competent virtual instruments already. But if there are gaps in your VST arsenal, this would be a good opportunity to fill them.

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to think ahead. What projects are you going to be working on into the future? If you’re just working on a one-off right now, is it worth sinking a lot of money into?

But if you know you’re going to be using the VST instrument well into the future, it could prove more worthwhile, right? These are good purchases to prioritize.

Although I can’t necessarily tell you exactly what you need, I can help you get into the right ballpark of what you need. So, let’s talk about a few considerations.

First, are you planning to make electronic music? It doesn’t matter whether it’s pop, R&B, hip-hop, or trap, if the music is primarily made up of electronic music, it fits under this heading.

If this is what you plan to work on, then you need synthesizers, a sub bass synth, a kick builder or enhancer, sampler, and a drum machine. As noted earlier, you may have some of these components already, so pick and choose as applicable.

And yes, electronic music producers generally do use more than one synthesizer. This can obviously get a little costly, though, so if you don’t have the budget for it, start off with a versatile option like Hive 2 or Circle2 and augment from there.

Second, are you planning to compose or work on a soundtrack? You will probably be drawn to competent keyboard sounds, strings, and of course, sound design tools.

That means V Collection 9, Augmented STRINGS, Aparillo, and maybe even Novum if you’re feeling a little cheeky.

Third, are you working on rock, progressive rock, metal, or some form of experimental music? A synthesizer is certainly not a bad idea, and you may even want a drum machine. But a granular synth would be killer, and you might look at strings too.

Fundamentally, though, there’s no one right way to do this. It depends entirely on your preferences and what’s going to work best for your projects. So, if you aren’t sure yet, think on this.

If you think you might have a good handle on this now, let’s talk about…


While you can do straight comparisons across synthesizers, samplers, or drum machines, you can’t compare, for instance, a sample library with a granular synthesizer. There’s simply no basis for comparison.

So, it may be worth pitting one synth against another, or one sample library against another, but otherwise, you’ll get off in the weeds, losing your footing on proper analysis.

If you’re thinking about buying a virtual synth, do you know what features you need? It’s much easier to identify what you need now and work towards your goal than it is to start moving in the direction of an unidentified target.

I can’t necessarily tell you what you need. Also see the section on Project Requirements. But you can do a bit of your own research.

Also, it’s worth knowing that you will generally pay more for plugins with more features. More features aren’t always better though. There are times when you’ll be well served with a specialty plugin. But there are certainly other times when versatility can make a difference.

Which brings us to…


Expect to spend anywhere from $55 to $600 per plugin depending on which one you’re planning to buy. This may not seem like a lot, but it will add up fast if you’re buying multiple VSTs.

We encourage you to purchase the plugins you require. Just don’t go into debt doing it. How are you going to enjoy making music when you’re worried about credit card bills you can’t pay? The answer is you won’t!

Top VST Instruments, Final Thoughts

VST instruments are available in abundance. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a drum machine, generator, Kontakt instrument, sampler, synthesizer, or otherwise. There are options far and wide matching a variety of needs.

We’ve looked at some of the best VST instruments here, but these aren’t the only ones out there, and if you’re looking for something more specialized, it’s worth continuing your search.

We hope you had fun. Let us know how you get on.

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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