Five FM Softsynths That Are Worth Your While
Post date:Wed, 10/31/2018 - 07:49
Analog synthesizers get a lot of love these days, so it is no surprise that there is a lot of focus on and fuss about software synths that can emulate them accurately. One of the reasons why FM synthesis is often dismissed is due to the reputation it has for being overly complex and very long-winded. However, these synths are also able to produce unique types of sounds that simply cannot be reproduced by analogue synths. The good is is that while frequency modulation is does indeed involve complex theory, the modern software FM synths on the market are much easier to figure out than what people may believe. If you have ever had the desire to dabble with FM synths, but did not want to risk it with expensive hardware, then the following FM softsynths might be worth your while. It could help your sound to stand out from all of the analog tunes out there at the moment and you might even have some fun in the process.
Native Instruments FM8
Price: $149 (Demo Available)
If you decide to go all-in with FM synthesis, then you might as well go with FM8, which is one of the biggest and best on the market. It does come at a price, but luckily it also runs in demo mode, so you can try out some of the functionality before putting down your cash. It has a matrix where you can connect any two operators, which also takes the pain out of adjusting frequency modulation parameters. In addition to a concise overview of all FM connections with the matrix, FM8 also detailed editing page for each operator. FM8 also has an arpeggiator that can transform your MIDI input into rhythmic lines and melodic patterns. Thanks to twelve high quality effects FM8 gives you plenty of scope for altering your sounds. Finally, in addition to 960 presets, you can also load patches from classic FM hardware units with FM8.
Crystal Soft Synth
If you are not quite ready to give up subtractive synthesis, but would like to try out frequency modulation synthesis, then Crystal should be on your radar. It is a semi-modular software synthesizer that is available for free and it comes with a whole host of interesting features. Some of the highlights include 90 parameters that can be modulated along with numerous built-in effects, multi-stage evolves and much, much more. The software even allows for wave sequencing, granular synthesis, MIDI learn, program morphing and the option to import soundfonts.
Image Line Toxic Biohazard
Just like Crystal, Toxic Biohazard has a hybrid synthesis engine, which enables you to work with both FM and Subtractive synthesis. Unlike Crystal, it is not free, but you get a lot of features for your money. According to Image Line they have built the sound from the ground up using their own mathematical calculations, which provides the software with one of the most crisp and clear Frequency Modulation engines in the world. The Toxic Biohazard oscillators are completely alias free and uses less CPU resources as they are calculated at extremely high speeds. You also get access to several effect modules, 64 steps sequencer and analog-modeled, multi-mode filter.
Tone 2 Nemesis 1.5
FM can be incredibly complex, but if you want a VST that can simplify things considerably, then Nemesis 1.5 by Tone 2 is worth a look. It covers all the important aspects of traditional FM, but it is also able to offer much more. You can use drag & drop, or the matrix to connect modulation sources to sound parameters in Nemesis. Not only does Nemesis feature 22 digital synthesis type, but it also offers an exclusive feature, known as NeoFM. It basically combines phase modulation and real analog FM, giving you the advantages of both, but eliminating all the weaknesses.
Dexed is not the best looking FM softsynth, but it is multi platform and free, which makes it a good starting point if you are short on cash. What makes this synth interesting is that it is modeled on the Yamaha DX7 and it was actually designed as a tool/companion for the original hardware. The result is a VST that sounds remarkably close to the actual hardware and you can use it as a patch editor or sysex manager with a native DX7/TX7. In addition, Dexed has 144 DAW automatable DX7 parameters available if you want the unique sound without delving too deeply into FM.
These are some of the better known FM softsynths on the market, but there are of course plenty of other ones as well. Many Digital Audio Workstations also includes FM softsynths, such as Sytrus, which is included with FL Studio, so you don't need to spend more money in order to try out other VST's. Other notable softsynths include Serum, Sytrus, u-he Bazille and Ableton Operator.
Let us know what you think about FM synthesis in the comments below or on our forums. Do you think it is overly complex or have you tried it out yourself and liked what you found? Also, let us know what is your favorite FM synthesizer and why.