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Which soft synth for sound design / sound effects?


New Member

I am searching for a vst synth for general use in creating sound design and sfx stuff.
Mostly I created sound effects via recordings and manipulating the hell out of it(granular stuff, stretching, pitching, saturation/distortion etc).
But I think (maybe I am wrong and the most sound effects are made from recordings) creating for example an "ice magic spell /magic shimmer sound" would be more 'direct' if they are created by synths, than recording crushed-ice and pitch or timestretch the sounds until it fits.
Do you have any experience in creating sound effects via synths?

The synths I already own are mostly subtractive working and analog sounding ones like the u-he Repro’s or Sylenth1. I used these for musical usage only. So I didn’t have any experiences with wavetable, FM etc...

Cheers :)

PS: I know asking for “one synth to rule them all” is kind of silly and it ever depends on what is needed, but I think there are some vsts which are more suitable for sfx than creating a warm moog style baseline or lush pads and so on.


Senior Member
Falcon 2. Lots and lots of oscillators*) to fool around with. Sample based mangling with the Ircam Timestretching stuff. 4 operator FM. Additive oscillators. Great filters. Great sequencers for serial music type stuff. And a fully modular setup for all your sound design needs, ever! Plus imho it sounds good.

*) edit: including extensive wavetable
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Senior Member
Another vote for Falcon as it can do deep sampling if you want to use more then one sample for your sfx (Omnisphere is limited to one sample per layer) and it has one of the best sets of fx and tools onboard.
Halion 6 is also a great thing to look into and want to add VPS Avenger also to the list


Subscription! Get off my lawn.
Simon Stockhausen has done some excellent programming for Falcon. His videos will give you a pretty decent overview of the sounddesign capabilities I gather.
He has loads of videos for loads of different gear on YT.
Patchpool is where he sells patches etc.
You can enjoy his videos without having an interest in burying his patches.
There are a few of his on my radar such as gongs and overtone singing.


Senior Member
Some other great tips:

Izotope Iris2. Get it really cheap though. I recently saw it bundled with some of Izotope’s Elements mixing and mastering stuff in the $40 range (for the bundle). Really cool vst for sample mangling.

In the same region of coolness: Steinberg Padshop2. If you look hard there may be sales. The spectral filtering of that instrument is also extremely cool for sounddesign purposes I find.

And mister Stockhausen has tons of videos on both!
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Senior Member
Pretty sweet deal, for Iris2 alone...



New Member
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whoa thats fast! Thank you for your recommendation, so basically the difference between Omnisphere and Falcon 2 is the limitation of one sample per layer? But omnisphere is way more expensive.
All in all the mentioned synths are sample or wavetable based? For me it is kind of hard to think in a way to create sound effects like magic spells, explosions, shimmer things with synths than creating melodic or musically stuff.
What is your opinion with xfer Serum? The "dubstep" sound demos reminds me on robotic, Transformers like sfx^^


Senior Member
Falcon2 is UVI’s Kontakt in a way. It is a top notch sampler, real professional grade stuff. All UVI’s multisampled libraries are made with it. This means it has a scripting language and really all the tools one would ever need to create one’s own sampled instruments. Other than Kontakt, it ALSO is conceived as a modular synthesizer environment*). So, you can load up your own samples and work with those, or load up a host of other types of oscillators and “build” your own synth from scratch. This can be subtractive, additive, FM, wavetable or granular in nature, or all of the above at the same time. And then there is a whole host of other stuff: sequencers, arpeggiators, and very good effects - all of which can be modulated / effected from within the same modular (synth) environments. Falcon will also let you build your own macros and controls for a patch. All in all, this could be every synth you’d ever need.

*) maybe Kontakt can also do all of this stuff, but for me it is mostly “merely” a sampler / sample library player / “platform”. In terms of GUI and workflow Falcon2 is way more geared towards sound design and synth usage imho

Omnisphere is one that I don’t know that well. It seems geared more towards “musical” keyboard players’ use cases? But that may be a severely shortsighted view really. It is Eric Persing’s baby and he is one of the best synth programmers that ever lived. So it may be perfectly suitable for your needs...

The Iris2 and Padshop2 synths are more focused on taking one to four sample layers and really mangle those through really extreme (spectral) filter effects. More of a filtering / layering kind of approach. Very interesting soundwise, but a more “hardwired” synthesizer architecture in both I’d say. No wavetable options there.

xfer’s Serum is another great contender for sound design. Although I have it, I haven’t really done a deep dive yet. It is looked upon by many as a go-to synth for wavetable sound design. It sounds really good. The reason I mentioned Falcon as the first one that came to mind, is its versatility, as it has almost ALL types and forms of synthesis “on board”.

But one can also easily argue that just taking one synth and REALLY learn how to program it, will render the best results ultimately. And another way to approach sound design may very well be to check what (stock) synths and fx you already have (e.g. as part of your DAW) and use that for sound design. A good reverb like Audiority’s XenoVerb or Valhalla Shimmer or their free SuperMassive may be enough to create very lush and nice droning sounds!

So, I bet all of the suggestions here sound good in one way or another. Even dirt cheap synths can sound good. I don’t subscribe to “premium” instruments and notions like that, at least not in the sense that only expensive stuff can sound good.

What works for me is to watch videos by people like Stockhausen, Venus Theory and SamiRabia and just get inspired. Cheers!
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Rasmus Hartvig

Senior Member
Some great suggestions here. Be careful with Omnisphere though, as it has a pretty restrictive EULA when it comes to creating sound effects. Basically you can only use it for sound effects if you only use the synth oscillators or your own imported sound sources.


Senior Member
Also, maybe try and read up on how people like Suzanne Ciani used to use synths in the seventies and eighties for sound design for radio and television advertisements... really creative and inspiring stuff ;)



Hans Shenk
I second the Iris 2 nomination; it might be a way to do what you’re already doing, but a fast, simple approach. Also, if you’ve got Komplete, then you might also want to take a look at Form, and poke around the Reaktor User Library.


Active Member
Really? Wow....
From their FAQ:

Can I use Omnisphere in multimedia/game music projects?
Yes, this is OK unless you want to put samples created with Spectrasonics Virtual Instruments directly encoded into the game. That requires a special license. Remember, music use is allowed, but non-music use (example: SFX) is not permitted without a special license for this type of use. Please contact Spectrasonics if you wish to encode the samples into a game system.


Senior Member
I'm surprised nobody mentioned Zebra. It's my go-to for complex synthesis (no samples though).

Another option is PhasePlant which I'd consider even more powerful than Falcon or Zebra (at least until Zebra 3 is released :P). It can load samples but also has audio rate modulation (pretty much anything can modulate anything). See this intro:



Active Member

Dexed or FM8. Great for FX and tons of presets available. Programming FM is simpler but more difficult than analog. Quite different.
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