There's something magical about hardware synthesizers: objects of desire, instruments of wonder, exploring uncharted sonic landscapes ushered in by just our hands, fingers and imagination. Although software synths may lack some of that mystique, if we put nostalgia argument aside then it's clear software synthesizers are here to stay, and thanks to leaps in computing power they're better than ever, and often far more reliable than their material brethren - this article is here to round up ten of the best offerings available right now, in alphabetical order:

Arturia Pigments 3

After many years of earning a top reputation for their emulations of some of the best vintage synths, Arturia finally decided to carve its own path with a "from scratch" original design. Although this is a fresh new piece of software they have not entirely abandoned the 'classics', as Pigments combines both vintage and contemporary elements by bringing together classic filters with an oscillator section that explores an entirely uncharted territory for the brand. Wrapping everything up together is a highly flexible modulation system and an intuitive layout that makes it a very appealing option for those looking for new colours for their palette.

Native Instruments MASSIVE X

It was quite a wait, but the long-anticipated update for Native Instrument’s best-selling synthesizer Massive has finally arrived - and it’s no small update. Massive X takes it up several notches to deliver a cutting-edge synth that surpasses the original version and in the process has become an even a bigger hit. Now equipped with more oscillator options than ever, Massive X also revamps its routing system and gives users the freedom to seamlessly patch at any point of the synth's audio/processing path which will enable myriads of modulation possibilities and certainly make both newcomers and old-timers smile.

Native Instruments Reaktor 6

A true reference point when it comes to virtual modular synths, Reaktor has stood the test of time and thanks to some key updates it arrives in its sixth iteration in the best form of its comparatively long life. Now capable of integrating with “real”(hardware) modular synths and easier to approach in general with the introduction of the 'Blocks' modules, it's safe to say Native Instruments hasn’t been seriously challenged with this type of modular virtual instrument, and yet this fact hasn’t stopped them from pursuing much continual improvement of their flagship patchmaker.

Reveal Sound Spire

Up-and-coming developers Reveal Software made quite a splash with Spire, their debut virtual synthesizer that displays quite a robust feature set and has quickly found its way into many of our members’ plug-in folders. At its core lies a set of four 'polymorphing' oscillators that can produce nearly any sound, combining analog and digital techniques in a soft synth that delivers on both the versatility and sound quality fronts. Don't let the lack of name recognition put you off - these guys could very well be the next big thing.

Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2.6

Spectrasonics Omnisphere is far more than a mere virtual instrument, it’s a sound-making powerhouse and offers one of the biggest synthesizer catalogues in software form - that makes it a preferred choice for those looking for a "one synth to rule them all" solution. A recent update enabled both the control and also the sonic integration of hardware synths for a tactile and very unique sound design experience, and it also got even bigger with the arrival of Keyscape a few years ago, a standalone 'dream keyboard rig' virtual instrument which can also fully integrate into Omnisphere to give you near limitless sound design possibilities.

Synapse Audio Dune 3

Synapse Audio Dune arrives at its third iteration with more features and a patch library that seems to never cease expansion, now delivering over a thousand onboard presets. Dune now has two multimode filters, new effects and more modulators, which alongside the updated oscillators will make for a mature software synthesizer that can excel at subtractive, FM and wavetable synthesis. A very versatile choice.

U-He Diva 2

U-He’s creations are second to none when it comes to software synths, with products like Zebra and Bazille captivating the GS membership with deep feature sets and top-quality sonics. Diva is perhaps their biggest hit to date, merging the most interesting bits and pieces from classic synthesizers into a superbly-coded virtual instrument that gets as close as possible to the analog pieces that inspire it without the accompanying electricity and maintenance bill. On top of that U-He went beyond what vintage units can offer and added more tuning options, a couple of onboard effects and modulation processors to round out the package. The end result is just another classic from Urs & co!

U-He Repro-1

As hinted at by its name, the Repro-1 is a painstaking recreation of the famed Sequential Circuits Pro One that breaks the code right down to component-level emulation to faithfully reproduce the glorious analog tone of one of the most coveted vintage monophonic synthesizers of all time - all done with U-He’s utmost quality (as we've come to expect). As with Diva, Repro-1 displays a familiar layout based on classic designs that should be easily approachable and also packs a handful of additional (and useful!) effects to give it that extra spice. You will quit your hunt for a real one after just a few minutes with this...

Vengeance Sound VPS Avenger

A true soft synth behemoth, Vengeance Sound’s VPS Avenger boasts no less than eight OSCs with a whole bunch of sound shaping options, effects and modulation options to open up a huge world of sonic possibilities. Vengeance has been known for their success amongst electronic music producers, with their plug-ins getting heaps of praise from those crowds, but the Avenger packs so many features and produces such a vast array of sounds that it reaches a far wider audience these days.

Xfer Records Serum

One of the GS community's favourite virtual instruments and a superstar when it comes to wavetable synthesis-in-software form, the Xfer Serum is another good example of a soft synth that started out as a cult instrument amongst the electronic music niches but ended up reaching a much bigger crowd once the secret got out to establish itself as one of the top contenders in this game.

We hope these instruments provide everyone with loads of inspiration and may many great songs come out of their virtual line-outs. There are many other awesome soft synths out there that our GS membership love, so honourable mentions go to Lennar Digital Sylenth1, IK Multimedia Synthronik and UVI Falcon. Please drop a comment below and share your favourites with us.

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