Soft synth plugins for Linux

Before starting with a new Soft synth project for Linux I decided to track what kind of synthesizers are already out there available. I focused on LV2 plugins, since LV2 is the plugin standard I want to use. LADSPA is outdated and DSSI doesn’t seem to be as widely used as LV2.

With the aim to provide a clear separation between the synthesis engine, the LV2 integration and the GUI I focused also on architectural aspects.

So here is a list of LV2 soft synths for Linux in no particular order.

Calf plugins

Calf plugins provides a set of plugins available as LV2, including a flanger, an organ synth, a phaser, a reverb, some filters, a chorus and a rotary speaker simulator.

Calf Monosynth

The Calf Monosynth is a monophonic subtractive soft synth.

Calf Organ

The Calf Organ is a mixture of a traditional drawbar organ and a subtractive synth.

Calf Fluidsynth

The Calf Fluidsynth is a frontend for the Fluidsynth Sampler engine.


The YC-20 is a divide-down combo organ designed in the late 60’s. The foo-yc20 emulation faithfully copies the features, sounds and flaws of the original organ.

Foo YC20


The Newtonator is a LV2 soft synth that produces some unpredictable sounds.



The LinuxSampler is a streaming capable open source pure software audio sampler with professional grade features.


The Minaton is a fat sounding mono subtractive software synthesizer.



ll-plugins provides several synth and utility plugins and a GUI-capable host.

Composite Sampler

Composite Sampler is a LV2 plugin that acts as a MIDI-controllable sampler.


lv2-mdaEPiano is a native LV2 port of the famous mdaEPiano VSTi.


mda-lv2 is an LV2 port of the popular VST mda plugins.

Russolo Suite

The Russolo Suite consists of the CrazySynth Synthesizer and the “the do-it-all effect” Omnifono.


So-synth-LV2 provides unofficial LV2 ports of 50m30n3’s synthesizers.


Zyn provides an LV2 port of Zynaddsubfx.


Qin is a LV2 synth plugin for plucking sounds


Minicomputer-LV2 is a softsynth for creating experimental electronic sounds


lv2_guitar is another String synth

This list has been assembled from the contents of the following two webpages:


Here is also an overview of the used programming languages and GUI toolkits in each plugin:

Name Languages GUI Remarks
Calf Plugins C++ GTK+ UI is defined in XML, knobs are created from SVG files and rendered via Cairo
foo-yc20 C/C++/Faust GTK+ Faust is a functional language for DSP design
Newtonator C++ GTK+
LinuxSampler C++ Qt4 Qt4 is only one GUI option, there is also a Java based UI
Minaton C++ FLTK
ll-plugins C++ GTK+ ported from DSSI plugins
Composite Sampler C++ part of bigger Composite audio system effort
lv2-mdaEPiano C++
Russolo Suite C
So-synth-LV2 C
Zyn C/C++ extracted Synth engines from ZynAddSubFx
Qin C
Minicomputer-LV2 C
lv2_guitar C

From this overview can be seen that most of the GUI-less plugins have been written in C++, whereas the plugins with GUIs have been mostly written in C++. GTK+ is prefered over Qt and FLTK as a GUI toolkit.

Popular Non-LV2 synths

As the LV2 plugin is still quite new, there are lots of great established soft synth projects that are not available in LV2 format.

Here are some of the more popular options:

Name Languages GUI Remarks
amSynth C++ GTK++ Subtractive synth with 2 Oscillators
Bristol Audio Synthesis C ? Emulation of various vintage keyboard synths
Qsynth C++ Qt4 Popular Qt based frontend for FluidSynth
ZynAddSubFx C++ FLTK Very popular synth with three different synth engines
Hydrogen C++ Qt4 Popular drum machine
hexter C GTK+ very good Yamaha DX7 synth emulation
WhySynth C GTK+ Versatile multi paradigm soft synth