A Free Virtual Synthesizer: ZynAddSubFX 4 comments


ZynAddSubFX is a virtual synthesizer, open source and free, but whose biggest problem is to have a very unpronounceable name. It was designed in 2002 by Paula Nasca, a programmer who also developed various sound synthesis algorithms implemented on numerous software. Nasca is also known for having developed Paulstretch, a software for extreme sound stretching. In 2005, this synthesizer was also presented at the International Conference on Linux.

ZynAddSubFX is a polyphonic VST synthesizer and mutlitimbral, allowing you to take even a microtonal writing. It was equipped with all the technology of any other virtual synthesizer, so you can find the classic reverb, echo, chorus, phaser, a kind of vocoder called AlienWah, wave shaping, EQ and dynamic filter. These can be used in an unlimited number, depending on the needs and, clearly, of the capacity of your processor.

Clearly supports the Midi technology and, less obviously, also supports JACK, of which I wrote in a past article.

ZynAddSubFX is distributed with an equipment of over 300 instruments already installed and ready to use. Instruments that can be organized in different kits, and used simultaneously. A big problem, at least according to the current version (June 2014) is that no allows the use of external samples, but only the synthesis of original sounds.

If someone wanted to get an idea, you can listen to a collection of tracks that only use sounds made ​​with ZynAddSubFX. This is the link.

An image that shows what it looks like a tool in ZynAddSubFX.

An image that shows a ZynAddSubFX instrument.

The most interesting feature of this software should be the three sound synthesis engines:

  1. ADsynth: is an engine that allows the generation of complex sounds by overlapping a potentially unlimited number of voices, each of which characterized by 128 oscillators and connected to its own group of filters, effects, envelopes, and so on;
  2. SUBsynth: from the name it is clear that works for subtraction of frequencies from a white noise;
  3. PADsynth: for the creation of pads and other instruments that you can exports for use with other programs.

ZynAddSubFX is available for Linux and WIndows. To download it I recommend you check the download page directly on the official website which you can reach by clicking here. For any other question I would still recommend taking a look at the official website.

If you want to get an idea before using the software, you can watch you some of the tutorials published on the YT channel of its developer: click here.

An image showing the simultaneous use of multiple instruments, arranged on several levels.

This picture showing the simultaneous use of multiple instruments, arranged on several layers.

If you already started downloading the program, then I suggest you start reading the appropriate manuals as well, since the use of ZynAddSubFX, while having an intuitive graphical interface, it is not as simple as it might seem.

On the official website html manual is available in English. I have made ​​a pdf version which I publish here:

Finally I point out other interesting documents, useful as an introduction to some basic notions useful for the realization of the instruments, an overview of the GUI and a paper on the Midi controller.


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4 thoughts on “A Free Virtual Synthesizer: ZynAddSubFX

    • Christopher Oliver

      As developer of ZynAddSubFX, I’m saddened by this comment. Mark McCurry, the current project lead, has put considerable effort into improving JACK integration and real time performance. We have parity as far as JACK MIDI. We develop on Linux, so I don’t know how one can now suggest that ZASFX is less optimized for Linux than Yoshimi. There was a time that ZASFX didn’t use all the compiler optimizations available, but that was very long ago. Also, ZASFX is very actively developed: our last commit to the master branch happened just today. Our last formal release (2.5.2) was in mid November of 2015. We have project for added new sound design options and a radical rethink of the user interface in the works. Please don’t sell us short! Thank you.