A Free Plugin Every Producer Should Know About

A free VST along with thousands of free presets online and an active community? If you didn’t already know — thank God you’re here now

Photo by Ryunosuke Kikuno on Unsplash

Synth1 is a completely free open-source analog-modeling subtractive virtual synthesizer developed originally by Ichiro Toda with Daichi Laboratory. This plugin is a dream-come-true for those music producers who love browsing presets for inspiration (sometimes ad nauseam), and a match-made-in-heaven for those of us who are looking to replicate a vintage or lo-fi sound from their synths — think Ariel Pink, Washed Out, Toro Y Moi. If you love the warm and often gritty sounds of analog synths but might not have the cash to buy one, then this free virtual plugin is my Christmas present to you.

image of the VST window kvraudio.com


I’ll admit Synth1 isn’t the prettiest plug-in I’ve ever seen. Fortunately though for us, its aesthetic isn’t what sets this free virtual synthesizer apart from its peers. The big pull for Synth1 is the vast and varied libraries of free present banks online. And the pull is big, as Synth1 is one of the most downloaded free VSTs of all time. Surrounding Synth1 is a large community of producers and music-makers alike, who contribute to the increasingly massive online collection of presets for this noteworthy plugin. You can find Synth1 sound banks all over the internet with a quick search, but if you want a one-stop-shop to download a large collection of free presets then click here.

Adding Sound Banks

To add sound banks to Synth1 you’ll need to first make sure you have the latest download of Synth1 installed then start up your DAW of choice (in my case it is Ableton Live 10) then follow the following steps:

  1. Click the bar at the bottom of the VST window showing the current patch (next to “OPT” button)
  2. Click an empty slot in the path window then find and select your preset folder
  3. Confirm at the top right and press okay.

NOTE: Synth1 preset banks will come in zip files, do not unzip them. You’ll be selecting the zip files directly when adding them to your VST

Artificially-Generated Synth Patches

If you’re a fan of AI or you just like inserting some randomness into your productions you can download banks of procedurally generated random patches from this website by James Skripchuck — click on the floating synthesizer to download a random bank of patches. This is a good time to mention that Synth1 was developed to functionally resemble the Clavia Nord Lead 2 Red Synth (the floating synth you’ll find on James’ website). Inspired by “This DX7 Cartridge Does Not Exist”, Skripchuck uses a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) that pits two neural networks against each other to create synth patches. You can read more about James and his project on his website.

If you enjoyed this article and want more stuff like this, follow me on Medium or if you want to check out some of the lo-fi music I make on my computer, you can check it out at this link… or this one.

Check out the links below to read more about Synth1 and the community that supports it.

Learning and teaching how to do useful stuff, usually with code

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