If you’re looking to get into designing your own virtual instruments and effects plugins without needing to code, SynthEdit is the perfect tool for you.
SynthEdit has been around for a long time, but many haven’t yet realized its potential.
What Exactly Does SynthEdit Do?
In simple terms, SynthEdit is a visual programming environment tailored specifically for building VST plugins from scratch.
The interface resembles a virtual modular synthesizer, where you can drag and drop different modules like oscillators, filters, and effects.
You then patch them together with virtual cables to route audio and control signals.
Once you finish designing your synth or effect, you can export it as an instrument or effect plugin that is compatible with most DAWs and VST hosts.
The SynthEdit license even allows you to share or sell your SynthEdit creations without paying any additional royalties.
Why Choose SynthEdit Over Programming Languages?
For many music tech enthusiasts, coding plugins with languages like C++ is a hard ask.
SynthEdit eliminates the need to worry about low-level programming logic by providing you with pre-made modules for virtually every building block of a plugin.
The visual interface is also far more intuitive compared to working in raw code.
You can see exact cable connections and signal flows, making debugging much easier.
SynthEdit simplifies the development process tremendously. Even for advanced coders, it can help accelerate prototyping ideas.
Key Features of SynthEdit
Here are some of the most notable features that make SynthEdit stand out as a plugin creation platform:
- Modular drag-and-drop interface for designing synth engines, effects, samplers
- Export plugins directly to VST2, VST3, and AU formats
- Support for virtual analog, FM, phase distortion, sampling synthesis methods
- Live playable via MIDI keyboard with full parameter mapping
- Record or playback audio tracks within the environment
- Graphical debugging tools for tracing signal flows visibly
- SDK is available for developing your own custom modules with C++
These capabilities combine to provide an incredibly flexible workflow for constructing professional-grade plugins.
The fact that you can bring in 3rd party VSTs opens the door for even more advanced hybrid designs.
What Licensing Options Are Available?
On SynthEdit’s official website, the developer hasn’t explicitly stated whether it comes with a perpetual license or is subscription-based.
So, to clear the clouds, I reached out to Jeff, the master brain behind SynthEdit. Fortunately, he replied, and this is what he said:
So, for the last 10 years, SynthEdit updates have been free for existing users. So technically, it’s kinda perpetual.
But Jeff also expressed his plans to put a price for the 2.0 version update of SynthEdit. This signals that a new and improved SynthEdit is coming soon.
Currently, you can buy SynthEdit licenses directly from the SynthEdit website at $100 + tax per license.
This ensures you receive fully unlocked features, timely updates, and direct assistance from the developer if needed.
You can get the software at a reduced per-license cost if you are getting it in bulk (10 or more licenses at once).
There is also a version distributed through the Microsoft Store at a lower price, though I recommend purchasing directly instead.
The store version risks being an older build without the newest improvements and can limit the direct customer-developer relationship for support.
Currently, SynthEdit only works on Windows OS. If you are a Mac or Linux user, consider other alternative VST development environments.
What SynthEdit Alternatives Exist?
There are a number of additional visual programming environments for audio plugin development. Some of the most popular SynthEdit alternatives include:
- VCV Rack: Open-source virtual modular platform focused mainly on Eurorack synthesis. Fun to use but less suitable for commercial plugins.
- Max/MSP: Long-standing visual audio environment by Cycling ’74. Very deep but has a legacy UI.
- PureData: Another open-source visual programming option similar to Max. Steeper learning curve.
- FlowStone: Commercial editor based on SynthEdit’s SDK. More programming knowledge needed.
- Cabbage Studio: Lightweight tool for building Cross-platform audio plugins. Newer project with fewer modules.
While the other options have strengths in certain areas, SynthEdit remains the best solution if you specifically want to export pro-grade VST instruments and effects on Windows.
Our Final Verdict on SynthEdit
If you’ve been hesitant about coding your own audio plugins or found other visual programming platforms overly complex, don’t sleep on giving SynthEdit a try (there is a demo if you are not ready to pay).
It breaks down many of the traditional barriers to designing synths and effects.
The simple logical workflow empowers both amateur sound designers and seasoned professionals.
You’d be hard-pressed to find another environment that makes constructing release-ready VSTs accessible for beginners and experts alike.
In the end, the quality and usability of the plugins you make will depend on the time and effort you put behind it to learn the software and the fundamentals of synthesis.
Whether you just want to experiment with new sound creation ideas or launch a full-on plugin business, SynthEdit does deliver!