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Synth and Software’s Top 10 Soft Synths



KV331 SynthMaster ($99, on sale for $59)

If there’s one soft synth every electronic musician should own, it’s SynthMaster, from Turkish developers KV331. Dollar for dollar, its usability and versatility are unmatched. SynthMaster encompasses virtual analog, additive synthesis (with up to eight harmonics), physical modeling, vector synthesis, and wavetable synthesis that scans through as many as 256 waveshapes. It imports audio files as either single cycles, samples, or multisamples via drag and drop. In addition, SynthMaster’s audio input allows you to process external signals with the aid of a threshold trigger and an envelope follower.

Each SynthMaster voice comprises one or two layers. Each layer has two oscillators, two filters with continuously variable slope, and a host of modulators. Envelope generators are plentiful: four ADSRs, two multi-segment envelopes (with up to 16 stages), and two 2-dimensional envelopes (which are easier to demonstrate than explain). Each of the arpeggiator’s 32 steps has its own velocity, note length, and slide parameters. You can import MIDI patterns into the arpeggiator, too. SynthMaster’s generous modulation matrix has 64 slots for assigning 48 mod sources to hundreds of destinations.

Hundreds of included patches cover all the bases, and an impressive number of third-party expansion packs are available from KV331 at reasonable prices. If you have no interest in programming your own patches, though, SynthMaster Player ($29, currently on sale for just $14) lets you edit just enough parameters to tailor your performances. It comes with 1,800 patches and plays all the expansions, or you could get a free version with 550 patches. Also free, SynthMaster Player for iOS can import all the patches from your computer. SynthMaster boasts so many features at such a bargain price, you simply can’t go wrong with any version.

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