Best Free VST Synth 2022: Surge XT

There are lots of free VST synthesizers out there and several worthy contenders for my pick of the best free VST synth 2022 but recent workflow improvements and updates to the open source Surge synth has made it my number one free synth of the year.

What is Surge XT VST?

Surge XT is a subtractive hybrid synth. Sounds are generated by combining up to 6 oscillators which can make use of any of the 12 different oscillator algorithm types.

Originally a commercial product (Vember Audio Surge), Surge has been a freeware, open-source software synthesizer since 2019. In January 2022 The Surge Synth Team updated and relaunched Surge as Surge XT 1.0.

Surge XT now runs on the JUCE framework, making for a far more stable plugin. As well as being less prone to crashes, Surge XT boasts an expanded modulation section with all new vector modulators plus a new Formula modulator. A new modulation list lets you navigate and modify all modulation routings in one view.

The Surge FX section has also been expanded, allowing twice as many FX per patch and adding new FX including a new Spring Reverb and the number of waveshapers has been expanded (from 5 types to 43).

Surge XT also boasts a new filter model in the form of a Tri-Pole filter.

Surge XT features new microtuning features, including an extensive tuning editor and analyzer and numerous bugs have been squashed and new UI features and keyboard shortcuts. Finding sounds is now easier thanks to the addition of ‘Patch Search’ and ‘Favorites’ options in the patch browser.

Surge XT ‘Scenes’ Explained:

At the heart of Surge are the ‘scenes’. All Surge XT patches are made up of two scenes (A & B) plus an effect-section. A scene is similar to a traditional synthesizer patch as it stores all the information used to synthesize a voice. Because there are two scenes in each patch, it’s possible to create ayered or split soundswithin a single patch.

Surge XT oscillators explained:

Surge XT uses 3 oscillators per scene with 12 oscillator algorithms to choose from: Classic, Modern, Wavetable, Window, Sine, FM2, FM3, String, Twist, Alias, S&H Noise and Audio Input to choose from. See the table below for an overview of the different oscillator types:

ClassicMorphable pulse/saw/dual saw oscillator with a sub-oscillator and hard sync.
ModernMixable saw/pulse/triangle oscillator with an optional sub-oscillator mode for triangle (which can also change to sine or square) and hard sync.
WavetableA wavetable in Surge XT consists of up to 4096 single-cycle waveforms. This oscillator can import third party wavetables including Serum wavetables
WindowWavetable synthesis. Multiplies any Surge waveform with by one of 9 wavetables specifically made for the window oscillator.
SineSine waveform generator with FM feedback, filterm unison detune & more.
FM2 A single sine carrier is modulated by two sine modulators,
FM3The modulators have a larger range than the FM2.
StringTwo filtered waveguides to emulate plucked or bowed string sounds.
TwistBased on a very famous Eurorack macro oscillator. Offers 16 different oscillator modes
AliasDesigned to subvert the ‘rules’ of clean, pristine, digital sound.
S&H Noise‘Sample and Hold’ Noise generator. Works like a pulse oscillator, but instead of always switching between +1 and -1, the levels used are determined stochastically.
Audio InputRoute external audio into the voice architecture of Surge XT or route the audio output from Scene A into Scene B.

*Most oscillator algorithms (except FM2, FM3, Twist and Audio Input) offer up to 16-voice unison at the oscillator level.

Does Surge XT have effects?

Surge XT includes 27 effects types including filters, vocoder, chorus, phaser, flanger, delays and reverbs.
You can use 16 effect units in total arranged as 4 inserts (per scene), 4 sends and 4 master effects.

Is Surge XT any good?

Surge XT might be free but is it any good? The launch of Surge XT has seen a number of welcome improvements and helps ensure this is a stable, modern software synth that can hold its own against more expensive commercial products. When it comes to sound quality Surge XT can certainly hold its head high and it ships with 2779 varied patches and 614 wavetables.

This synth sounds magnificent – huge, fat and lively. If we were to judge Surge on its analogue abilities alone, we’d give it very high marks for sound quality (in fact, in this area, it trounces many more expensive dedicated virtual analogue instruments).

Music Radar

Surge XT reminds me somewhat of the venerable, and hugely popular, SynthMaster synth. SynthMaster has the edge in terms of features and polish but Surge XT does have the advantage of being 100% free.

Don’t be put off by the GUI which lacks the polish you’ll find in some commercial synths (you can always check out the free skins if the default look is not to your taste) – Surge XT is an essential download for any a musicians or produers looking for a free virtual synthesizer.

Does Surge XT VST run on Mac?

Surge XT is an Intel/Apple Silicon universal binary. Intel Macs require macOS 10.11 or later, Apple Silicon Macs will run Surge XT with any Apple Silicon version of macOS. Make sure your Mac has a minimum of 4 GB of RAM and you’ll ned a VST3 or AU compatible host application.

Does Surge XT VST run on windows?

You can run Surge XT on any suitable PC running Windows 7 or later and at least Pentium 4 or above.
Make sure you have a minimum of 4 GB of RAM and you’ll need a VST3/64-bit compatible host application.

Does Surge XT VST run on Linux?

You can run Surge XT on a PC or ARM system running a Linux distro. You’ll need a x64-compatible CPU, OS and host ito use the 64-bit version; for ARM processors you can build Surge for ARM on Raspberry PI and similar.
Minimum of 4 GB of RAM plus a VST3 compatible host application.

Download Surge XT VST for free:

You can download the latest version of Surge XT from the official Github page:

Team Surge VST with a free drum machine VST: