Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The internet has its ups and downs as far as musicians go, but one of the great things is the abundance of free software available to pros and beginners alike. While the comparatively smaller user base means there aren't as many freebies for Mac as there is for PC, there is still some great stuff out there available for absolutely nothing. (Although many developers of freeware, do accept donations.)
Insert Piz Here Mr. Alias 2
Most synths use oversampling and other techniques to prevent their oscillators from aliasing, but not Mr. Alias 2. Instead, this synth's oscillators are designed specifically so they do alias. Capable of all sort of insane shrieks and digital noises, but can also achieve some more musical, almost chip tune type sounds. Available in AU and VST for Mac, and VST for PC. Also available for Linux.
Green Oak Software Crystal
Although it has been around for quite some time, Crystal is still an amazingly full-featured semi-modular synth by anyone's standard. Featuring subtractive, granular, FM, wave sequencing, built-in effects, insanely extensive modulation, sound font import, morphing between presets, and more. Not the prettiest interface in the world, but quite easy to use once you get a handle on it. Not really a freeware equivalent to Absynth (which was actually freeware itself before Native Instruments bought it out), but capable of some similar types of sounds. Available in VST and AU format. Also available for PC.
Togu Audio Line Uno-62, Bassline, and Elekt7o
Togu Audio Line (or TAL for short) have made a lot of waves lately with their excellent line-up of free synths and effects, and if you've tried these intruments, you'll know why. Uno-62 is an emulation of the classic Roland Juno-60. It actually sounds quite a bit like the real deal and is great for basses, poly synth sounds, analog strings, etc. Bassline is based on the Roland SH-101, although it offers some features not found on the original, such as a unison mode. It doesn't sound all that much like the real thing, but it can yield similar results and is a fine, simple monosynth in its own right. Elekt7o was TAL's first non-emulation synth and is the most full featured of the three without being difficult to program. AU and VST format. Also available for PC.
Another synth that has been around for quite some time, but still holds up nicely. Two oscillator synth capable of hard sync, tempo synced modulation, unison mode, randomly generated presets, MIDI learn and more. Another synth that is quite simple to program. AU format.
Native Instruments Kore 2 Player
Based around the synth engines of Native Instruments well-known commercial instruments, Kore 2 Player comes with 150 presets (with more available for purchase). While it isn't fully programmable by users, each sound offers a handful of parameters that can be tweaked. Also includes Native Instrument's helpful sound browser that allows you to categorize sounds by various criteria making it easy to find the sounds you need quickly.
Native Instruments Kontakt 4 Player
A sample player based on Kontakt 4, this free instrument comes with 50 smaller-sized instruments based on those in the Kontakt library. In fact, Kontakt 4 Player is pretty much the same thing as Kontakt, with most of the deep programming options removed. The catch is, it will only load libraries created specifically in the Kontakt 4 Player format. It will load normal Kontakt sounds, but it will function in demo mode where it only allows you to work with that sound for 30 minutes (still plenty of time to get stuff done if you're laying tracks).
From the company that released the commercial synths Albino and RMV, comes a free version of their Alpha 3 synth. Featuring dual oscillators, multimode filters, a single tempo-syncable LFO, extensive modulation capabilities, etc. Good for bread and butter type analog sounds. If you need something a bit deeper, the commercial Alpha 3 features more voices, ring modulation, 2 additional LFOs, filter FM, free-running oscillators, filter saturation, a unison mode and more. Available in VST, AU, and RTAS for Mac and VST for PC.
Another sample playback instrument (more like a ROMpler really) with a small, but decent included library and expansion available through commercial soundsets. The downside is it requires an iLok. Booooooo.
That's just a start. Obviously, there are more free soft synths for Macs out there, but these are some of the most useful. Computer Music Magazine often has exclusive instruments (not always Mac-compatible), and the KVR developer challenge every year usually yields some Mac freebies as well. Any great ones I missed?