Vital Synth Review: The Best FREE Synth Plugin?
Vital is a spectral warping wavetable synth produced by Matt Tytel. He spent over three years developing this VST, and on release in November 2020 it quickly became one of the most talked about plugin releases of the year.
In this article I'll be giving you the low-down on why Vital has become an instant hit with both amateur and professional producers alike, and taking an in-depth look at the many incredible features it has to offer.
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Why is Vital the Best Free Synth VST Plugin?
First off, the synth is insanely powerful, with a feature set that rivals products costing hundreds of dollars. Add to that an amazingly intuitive user interface, great sound creation and modulation options, as well as some quality effects, and you've got yourself a winner.
The best thing about Vital however...is the price.
Vital Pricing Options
Vital is available from the Vital Audio store in four different pricing options:
The Vital Basic tier is completely free and includes 75 presets and 25 wavetables. The synth is fully functional apart from unlimited use of the text-to-wavetable feature.
The Vital Plus option costs $25 and includes 250 presets and 75 wavetables, but still lacks unlimited use of the text-to-wavetable feature.
The Vital Pro tier costs $80 and includes 400 presets and 150 wavetables. You also get additional skins, an exclusive Discord perk, prioritised support, and unlimited use of the text-to-wavetable feature.
The Vital monthly subscription costs $5 per month, and includes all the Vital Pro benefits, as well as $5 store credit per month, subscriber-only packs, additional skins, and priority access to new features and plugins.
The great thing about the pricing structure is that the free Vital Basic option allows you to try out all the synth's features with hardly any limitations. This allows you to experiment with the synth first before committing to any of the premium tiers.
All versions of Vital are available for either Mac, Windows, or Linux.
Vital Synth Features
On first impressions the Vital graphical interface may bear a passing resemblance to Serum by Xfer Records. But don't let that fool you, as Vital is much more than just a Serum clone.
Vital is a very visual synth. By this I mean that the animations for the controls, filters, and modulators all provide pleasing visual feedback, which makes it easier to see exactly how your adjustments are affecting the resultant waveforms.
All animations run at 60 frames per second, and are optimised for your GPU, which improves performance by taking the load away from your CPU.
One of my favourite features of the Vital interface is that ever since version 1.07, users can now install and make their own custom skins. If you're interested in switching-up the aesthetics of Vital then checkout this article where I review the best skins available and tell you how to go about creating your own: Best Vital Skins.
Oscillators and Waveforms
Vital features three high quality oscillators with plenty of wavetable options available. There are also two separate warp modes; a standard warp mode, and a spectral warp mode which allows you to choose from 11 unique settings which each affect the waveform's harmonics differently to produce some really interesting sounds.
In addition to the provided waveforms, Vital also gives you the ability to convert your own samples into a wavetable and create waveforms from scratch using the built-in editor. You can even generate wavetables from entered text in a variety of different languages, which is pretty incredible!
Vital provides you with three very capable filters, two on the front panel, and a third dedicated FX filter. As you'd expect, the two main filters can be assigned to oscillators independently in parallel, however they can also be used in series.
The filter types available for selection include the expected default options, which can be customised by changing parameters such as the resonance and drive settings.
Interestingly, the filters can also be key tracked, which allows them to respond to the pitch of the note being played, either increasing or decreasing the filter cut-off as the pitch changes.
Modulator controls work in an intuitive drag and drop fashion similar to Serum, so if you're coming to Vital from that synth then you should immediately feel at home. For example, to modulate the filter cut-off from envelope 2, you simply need to click ENV2 and drag onto whichever function you wish to modulate, such as the filter cut-off. Easy!
You are also given a preview of the results of any modulation before you commit, which allows you to experiment freely without being worried about ruining your sound.
The main LFO section gives you four LFOs to use as modulation sources. To change the shape of an LFO you can either use one of the many included presets or create and save your own custom LFO shape by selecting and dragging around the nodes until you're done.
Vital also gives you two random LFOs that allow you to add randomness to a sound in a variety of different ways. This is great for adding some perceived movement to your patches to keep them sounding interesting.
Further modulation options include the ability to use MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) parameters and aftertouch with your controller of choice, as well as using stereo modulation to split the right and left channels to achieve extra wide stereo effects.
Lastly, it's worth noting that not only does Vital allow you to use an LFO to control oscillator parameters directly, but you can also use an LFO to control the amount to which a second LFO is affecting the oscillator. i.e You can setup an LFO to control another LFO! This is really unique, and I'm not sure I'm seen this amount of control in any other synth.
Vital comes complete with seven super nice FX modules: Chorus, Delay, Reverb, Distortion, Phaser, Flanger, and a Compressor, as well as an EQ and dedicated FX Filter. These modules allow you to add even more customisation and layering to your sound.
Although effects are included as standard in most synths, with Vital it's the fantastic graphical animations here that really make the effect modules a joy to use.
The amount of included presets depends upon which pricing tier you choose, however even with the free Vital Basic option, the 75 bundled presets give a good indication of what this synth is really capable of.
One of the downsides of Vital is that because the synth is relatively new, the amount of community generated patches available is still limited. If you dig hard enough though you can still find some decent free preset packs. To save you some time I've listed my personal favourites in this article: The Ultimate List of FREE Vital Presets.
Vital is quite simply an incredible synth, with bags of great features and a crazy amount of modulation options which are a sound designer's dream.
When you also consider that the entry-level purchase tier costs you absolutely nothing, then it makes owning this synth an absolute no-brainer.
So, is Vital the best free synth plugin? In my honest opinion...Hell yes!
If you're in the market for a DAW but don't have any spare cash, then check out this article where I compare the very best free DAWs available: Best FREE DAW