7 Top Virtual Synths for EDM Production

With more software synths available than ever before, choosing the right one can be tricky. To help, Sara Simms shares her top 7 synths specifically for EDM productions (in no particular order).  

#1 - u-he Diva

Diva

Diva is a fantastic sounding soft-synth that authentically replicates analogue sounds. Just like a real Diva, this synth is demanding and will take up a fair amount of your CPU processing power. The synth's layout is reminiscent of classic analogue equipment and is clearly laid out and labelled on a tasteful maroon panel. Diva comes with a wide range of excellent quality presets that include everything from vintage bass sounds, squelching leads to dreamy pad synths and far out effects. All of the presets are carefully sorted and can be easily located using the Patches tab. 

Diva patches

In the Main tab, nearly every panel can be customized, and users can choose between triple, double, 'double eco' or digital oscillators. The filter section features Diva's zero-delay-feedback-filter' and a choice of filter types that each replicate classic analogue filters. There are two envelopes available and users can select models based on classic synthesizers. Diva can be run in variety of modes depending on how much intensity your CPU can handle. For best results, use in 'Divine' mode.

Price: $179 plus VAT in EU

Available from: http://www.u-he.com/diva


#2 - Rob Papen Blue II

Rob Papen Blue II

This is another amazing synthesizer that features FM, subtractive phase distortion and wave shaping synthesis. Its a very flexible synth that's packed with a wide range of great sounds and thoughtful features. Blue II features a mixer-like section layout, with six oscillators that each have precise tuning and wave shaping parameters. The best part of the oscillator section is the big selection of waveforms that are available. The wave form banks include: Analog, Additive, Spectral, Samples, Tuned Percussion and Percussive, and a few more. Each bank includes anywhere from 10 to 42 waveforms, giving users a huge selection of sound design options. If you'd rather create music using presets, there's no less than 3, 200 presets in total, ranging from spacious pads to analog bass to synth sounds. On top of this there are four FX processors, and a fun-to-use XY pad.

XY section

The XY pad allows you to move between the first four oscillators of the synth, increasing the volume as you move towards each corner. Any of Blue II's parameters can be assigned to the up and down movement, which gives an incredible new level of control to Blue II's sounds. The synth also includes a sequencer and a highly useful arpeggiator. Blue II provides an incredible amount of quality presets and tons of features, yet is still surprisingly easy to use. It's a great value for producers who want to create music with cutting edge or retro-inspired sounds.

Price: $179 USD or available as an upgrade from the original Blue for $49 USD

Available from: http://www.robpapen.com/blue2.html

#3 - Native Instruments Massive

Massive

Massive is one of my favorite synths for music production, I've been using it to effectively create deep basslines and compelling leads for years. Massive features three oscillators with controls for pitch, wavetable position, intensity and amp. Each oscillator offers a wide variety of waveforms, which gives this synth incredible sound design possibilities. There are two filters available, and the LFO or envelopes can easily be assigned to the filters. Massive also features tabbed sections for further parameter controls, including Oscillator, Voicing, Routing and Global sections. There's also two inserts, a noise section and two FX and EQ. 

There are many presets that are included in Massive, but I think many of the best sounds can be created by programming them on your own. There's a lot of tutorials available here on AskVideo and online that can help you to create your own original sounds. No matter whether you'd like to make growling bass for dubstep or leads for Melbourne bounce style tracks, Massive is one of the easiest synths to learn and is a solid investment.

Price: $199 USD or as part of the Komplete package

Available from: http://www.native-instruments.com

#4 - Arturia Oberheim SEM V

Oberheim SEM V

The Oberheim SEM V replicates the famous tone of the Oberheim SEM, a classic analog synth. This soft-synth increases the possibilities of the original and includes polyphony, MIDI control and an arpeggiator. Overall, the Oberheim SEM V excels at producing rich, warm and phat sounds with retro sounding tones. This is a top-notch synth that's great for basslines, or adding a touch of analogue-sounding richness to your productions. The Oberheim SEM-V has two oscillators, which each offer sawtooth and variable-width pulse waveforms with PWM, LFO, 12 dB/oct Filters with low-pass, high-pass, band-pass and notch, and two ADS envelope generators. Other highly useful features include a new LFO, noise generator, a sub-oscillator and overdrive, chorus and delay effects. If you're new to synthesis, there's no shortage of great sounding presets included in Oberheim SEM V that will inspire you to create. The best thing about the Oberheim SEM V is the unique sound that this synth offers, and the richness of its tone. The Oberheim SEM V makes the legendary sound of the Oberheim SEM accessible for the new generation of producers.

Price: $99/€99 or as part of Arturia's V-Collection

Available from: http://www.arturia.com

#5 - Spectrasonics Omnisphere

Omnisphere

Omnisphere is the successor to Spectrasonics’ popular Atmosphere instrument, and is powered by Spectrasonics' STEAM engine. It's a powerful synthesizer that uses real-time hybrid synthesis techniques and allows users to delve deeper into sound design as they explore Omnisphere synthesis' capabilities.

Omnisphere includes no less than 2740 inspiring 'sound sources' and over 5,000 patches in its incredibly vast sound library. Musicians and sound designers will appreciate these high-quality sounds which range from all types of analog and organic instruments to percussive and atmospheric sounds. To create the sound library, brand new types of sampling have been used, including “Psychoacoustic” and Spectrasonics' Composite Morphing Technique, which morphs the harmonic characteristics of one instrument to another. Omnisphere offers a built-in browser to help you to navigate the huge sound library and tags can be added to each sound to help you remember and quickly find your favorites. The sound library is close to 40 GB, so it's best to install the plug-in on your desktop and the sound library on an external drive.

Omnisphere Orb.

There are eight available parts in this synth, each one a complete instance of Omnisphere, and the parts are composed of two layers. Each layer can be an oscillator or sample-based sound and when all sixteen layers are combined together, the sounds can be massive! Performance artists will appreciate that Omnisphere can be played in Live mode, which allows you to transition from one patch to another seamlessly. Sound designers will enjoy using Stack mode, which allows you to layer the eight parts together. One of my personal favorite features of Omnisphere is the arpeggiator, which includes several presets as well as full customization, and an innovative Groove Lock integration system, which allows the arpeggiator's pattern to instantly lock to the feel of a MIDI drum loop. Overall, this is a very impressive synthesizer that will open a whole new world of creative possibilities for producers of any EDM genre. It's definitely a synth for those who are serious about their sound!

Price: $499

Available from: http://www.spectrasonics.net/products/omnisphere.php

#6 - reFX Nexus2

Nexus 2

Nexus2 is a 'ROM synthesizer', close to being a rompler synthesizer (which is an electronic music instrument that plays audio samples stored in ROM chips to generate sound). It contains over 1100 patches that are perfect for EDM production in a wide variety of genres. The real strength of Nexus2 is its library collection; each sound can be quickly loaded and the plug-in requires very little CPU usage. Each preset contains up to sixteen layers, which can be adjusted and balanced in the mix tab. Any tweaks or changes that are made to the presets can be easily saved.

Nexus2 features two filter sections; the first is the Filter modifier, which proportionally modifies all sixteen layers. There's also a useful multi mode master filter which is applied to entire output signal. This type of filter is especially useful for intros or break, where the cutoff filter is increased or decreased. Nexus2 also features a master reverb from Arts Acoustic & a master delay, 4 insert effect slots, and 13 effect types. Two effects are located before the master-FX (i1 & i2), and two are behind the master FX (m1 & m2). The latest version of Nexus, 2.6.5 includes and impulse response reverb, which has its own tab on the mix page. The IR-Reverb is designed to add realistic sounding room reverb, mainly for acoustic sounds (like reFX's Hollywood 2 libraries). The IR-Reverb can be used simultaneously as the Arts Acoustic Reverb and adds extra sonic sweetening potential to Nexus2.

Nexus2 mix tab

This synth features a mod matrix that you can use to assign Nexus2's parameters to MIDI controllers. Another cool feature is the 32-step arpeggiator that comes with presets or can be programmed. There's also a trance gate, which can be used to create interesting effects and can be used in many genres, not just trance. For those who would like to explore more of reFX's sounds, there's a big library of Nexus2 expansion packs available. Nexus2 is a great-sounding synth that will help both novice and seasoned producers to make contemporary EDM productions that will sound great on the radio and in the clubs.

Price: $299

Available from: https://refx.com/products/nexus/summary/

#7 - Lennar Digital Sylenth

Sylenth

Last but not least is the little beast of a synth, Sylenth. This is a synth that's widely used in the EDM community, due to the large number of default sounds that are created for dance music producers and its sheer sonic power. Its layout is straightforward; it features four oscillators, two analog sounding filters, two ADSR envelopes, two LFO's and a master FX section that includes an arpeggiator, distortion, phaser, chorus/flanger, EQ, delay, reverb and compressor. It's easy to use and there's a large community of online tutorials that can help you to create any sound you desire. Simply put, it produces incredible sounds and its reasonably priced. Sylenth is extremely popular and has become the 'go-to' synth for many of today's EDM producers. It's a must-have for every producer's soft-synth collection.

Price: $139 Euros

Available from: http://www.lennardigital.com

Want to learn how to become a synthesis whizz? Check it >>>

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Sara Simms captivates the world as an innovative musician, DJ, turntablist and electronic music producer. She's a multi-instrumentalist who's known for her love of music technology. Sara makes her mark in the music community by crafting diverse sets with styles ranging from pulsating techno to house. She balances technical skills wi... Read More

Discussion

William
I'd use Spire instead of Rob Papen Blue II. And if we're gonna talk Rob Papen , I would've included Predator
Svepe
hey guys, I think there are two newer synths missing:

1. Xfer records Serum - this synth is awesome, could be the next swiss army tool for sound creation - so easy to program, making unbelivable things possible with stunning sound

2. Spire - with presets packs especially designed for EDM

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