The rise of software synths has been nothing less than meteoric, with thousands of developers large and small offering up their take on synthesis techniques alongside new and innovative designs. Whereas hardware synths are limited in terms of number of oscillators, filters and other components, in the software world we can combine a huge number of such elements, perhaps excessively stacking oscillators for massive-sounding waveforms. Although an analogue-modelled Minimoog soft synth might not equal its hardware counterpart, consider the fact that you can layer up multiple instances and also use it in polyphonic mode.
However, while many companies look to offer more flexible, software versions of classic synths, others endeavour to create new techniques for sound-design using resynthesis, convolution and granular techniques. Instruments such as iZotope’s Iris enable you to select a portion of an audio file from a spectrogram display using an array of drawing tools, then use this as an oscillator sound source. There’s also Camel Audio’s Alchemy, which has a powerful additive synthesis engine that can accurately resynthesise audio, allowing you to manipulate it in ways that are impossible with sampling alone. If you’re looking for an instrument for cutting-edge sound design, these kinds of soft synths are good starting points as they excel at creating complex and detailed sounds. However, if you’re intending to write warm, analogue-sounding house, you might find these textures a little too complicated and end up cluttering your mix. Ultimately, you’ll probably want to select several synths for different tasks. Just be wary of mixing and matching too many different flavours of synthesis together as you may end up confusing your listener – and yourself!