In contrast to years prior, there are now a great many serum synth alternatives. Plenty of these are very high quality and some are even free. If you’re looking for the best free serum alternative, check out the reviews below.
Note: since Xfer’s Serum is a wavetable synthesizer, we’re going to be looking at wavetable synthesizers only for the purpose of this article.
Among the free options, this is right up there with the best. A self-proclaimed “visual synthesizer”, the user interface is both clean and animated, giving clear feedback as you tweak. There are all kinds of cool features, including the ability to turn text into wavetables, as well as support for MPE devices. Note that while the basic version is free, there are three paid options one of which is a subscription. Whereas the basic and free version will limit you to 75 presets and 25 wavetables, you can upgrade this to the top level, called ‘Pro’ for more. It is also possible to find free or paid preset packs.
Just be aware of Vital’s current limitations: it simply can’t match the 3D wavetable view in Serum. You might find some settings you’re looking for aren’t there either, for example a level knob on the distortion setting. Lastly, Serum has a very large number of presets available, both free and paid, and these can be great time savers when you don’t wish to design your own sounds or are working to tight deadlines.
Surge XT by Vember Audio
SurgeXT is open source and the recipient of multiple reader awards. This free serum alternative comes packed with more than 2,800 patches as well as 700 wavetables. Like Vital and Serum, you will also find that it has native compatibility with Apple silicon. Surge XT may not have quite the same glossy appearance as Vital, but CPU usage has been reported as lower, and the huge number of presets make it an excellent option for getting started quickly.
You’ll find a host of extra features as with Vital too, including MPE support and microtuning. Based on exceptional user reviews, this may be the best free alternative to Xfer’s Serum out there. Be sure to check out the community and Discord for more tips and presets.
Ableton Live – Wavetable
A brief mention: if you happen to own or are considering purchasing Ableton Live Suite, you will find Ableton’s Wavetable synthesizer included for free. This is a solid alternative and also allows you to import your own custom wavetables. It runs within Ableton Live as a Live instrument.
Native Instruments’ Massive X ($199)
When it comes to paid serum vst alternatives there are some hefty synths available on the market. One of those is the well known Massive X from Native Instruments. This Serum vst alternative comes with plenty of wavetables and presets, but what really sets it apart is its customization and incredible control over routing and effects chains.
Massive X does have its limitations. There is currently no MPE support and it is not possible to import your own wavetables. With that said, there’s just something about the sound of Massive X that is extraordinarily satisfying. Remember to check Native Instruments for special deals and pricing. Whether it be one of the semi-regular discount coupons, or purchasing one of the Komplete versions, there are various ways to pick this synth up without paying full price.
Arturia Pigments 4 ($199 and latest version released December 2022)
On sale for $99 right now: https://www.pluginboutique.com/product/1-Instruments/4-Synth/5018-Pigments
Another heavy hitter in the wavetable synth space is Arturia’s Pigments synthesizer. When it comes to serum synth alternatives, Pigments with its clear and crisp user interface is a great all-rounder. It also happens to be one of the deepest in terms of sound design possibilities and comes packed with an incredible 2,000 presets. MPE support is included and the recent update to version 4 is significant, with improved workflow and the addition of numerous extra wavetables as well as high quality effects.
Overall, Pigments is a highly capable synth across an amazingly wide range of genres. In addition to its powerful synthesis it also includes an engine to create your own arpeggiations and sequences. Despite the regular price of $199, you’ll often see discounts to $99, such as the offer running on Plugin Boutique right now!
Worthy also of mention in the paid category are Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere ($499), Kilohearts’ Phase Plant ($199) and Hive by U-he Audio (149 Euros). Check out our full review of Omnisphere here: https://musiclibraryreport.com/software-reviews/spectrasonics-omnisphere/
If we had to pick, we would probably say that Surge XT is a top choice for a free Serum alternative. In the paid category, Arturia’s Pigments is a fantastic option for a wavetable synthesizer.
Article written by Mercer Lincoln.