Software synthesizer


The state of Linux audio has improved hugely over the last few years, thanks to the many applications that now help us make music. But we still need more tools to help us make sounds; in particular, we need more software synthesizers. There are a few amazing ones (see above), also notably Helm and VCV Rack, but we don't get any of the mainstream releases you'll find on macOS and Windows, even when they're open source. Which is why we're trying to shine some attention on synister, a wonderful open source VST plugin that will work on any VST-compatible Linux host (we used Ardour). It hasn't been updated in some time and doesn't even officially support Linux, but it's worth the trouble of either building it yourself or tracking down a pre-built binary that you can simply drop into your VST system path.

The synth is built around three oscillators and can generate a beautifully rich set of sounds. The layout design is also easy to understand, which makes it ideal for beginners as a first synth – especially on Linux where there is less choice. In particular, modifying the sound of one element with the output of another, a process known as modulation, is brilliantly handled with a simple destination drop-down menu next to each source or destination. Use one of the oscillator source modulation menus to select an low-frequency oscillation (LFO) to modulate the pitch, for example, or control the amount of filter with the aftertouch value from your MIDI keyboard. Each section of the synth is easily separated by colorful horizontal sections, including the oscillators, envelopes, LFOs, filter, and effects, just as you'd find on a modern hardware synth, as is the sound, which is like a 70s-era analog polyphonic classic.

Project Website

If you can hunt down the binaries, installing this synth is as easy as learning how to play it.

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