Retro 80s sounds are more popular than ever. Their nostalgic tones can be heard in music genres such as synthwave, vaporwave, outrun and many pop tracks. Retro sounds are being used by producers more and more often, even by hugely well-known artists such as Dua Lipa and The Weeknd.
80s synths provide a warmth like no other modern sound. And what’s even better, you can emulate the sound of many popular retro instruments with 80s synth VST plugins.
So to recreate those sweet nostalgic sounds, you’ll need a good collection of plugins for your digital audio workstation (DAW). Here’s our list of the best twelve 80s synth VST plugins.
Table of contents
Best 80s Synth VST Plugins
When it comes to 80s synths and retro sounds, Arturia V Collection 9 is an absolute force. V Collection 9 is the most comprehensive collection of virtual analog instruments. It includes a full range of analog emulation sounds and tools, with over 33 instruments and 9,000+ presets.
This premium collection includes a range of instrument plugins that have been expertly engineered to emulate some of the 80s’ most evocative analog synths, keyboards and sounds. This includes the Korg MS-20 (release year: 1978), Prophet-5 (release year: 1977), Ensoniq DQ80 (release year: 1987), and many more 80s instruments from the golden age of analog synthesisers.
V Collection 9 also includes an interesting selection of key instruments, such as mellotrons, pianos and keyboards.
Check out some of V Collection 9's vintage sounds in this video:
The best thing about Arturia V Collection 9 is that it is designed completely for today’s digital production techniques. So whilst you’re getting a premium collection of analog emulation synths, they’re also extremely easy to use and fit seamlessly into your existing workflow.
- 33+ instruments
- 9,000+ presets
- Easy-to-use centralised interface
- Emulates classic 80s hardware synthesisers
- Overflowing with analog attitude, designed for modern production.
U-he Tyrell N6 is a free 80s inspired synth plugin, based on concepts and ideas from retro hardware instruments. It incorporates many classic hardware synthesiser features, with analog-type ADSR envelopes, 2 oscillators, 2 LFOs and 8 waveforms.
Tyrell N6 comes with over 580 factory presets, so you’ll never be short of 80s synth sounds. As a free plugin, N6 makes a welcome addition to any music producer's toolkit.
Roland Cloud offers another comprehensive bundle of 80s synth instruments. Each instrument in this bundle emulates one of Roland’s own hardware instruments, bringing an analog character to your digital music production workstation.
This includes many emulations of classic 80s synthesisers and instruments, such as Jupiter-8, Juno-106, TR-808, TB-303, JX-3P and many more.
This VST plugin collection is available in a yearly and monthly subscription option, but is not available as a one of payment. So if you’d rather pay for your 80s synth plugins upfront, this might not be the best option for you.
When you subscribe to Roland Cloud, you get access to over 50 virtual instruments, all available at your disposal.
Check out what's included in the video below:
KORG Collection 3 is another VST plugin bundle that offers a range of 80s synth instruments. This includes a range of digital instrument plugins that emulate classic 80s KORG hardware instruments, including the KORG M1, Polysix and MS-20.
Following its predecessor, KORG Collection 2, KORG Collection 3 introduces three new retro synth emulation plugins: the miniKORG 700S, the MOSS Tone Generator-powered Prophecy, and the Triton Extreme.
The collection celebrates a circuitry of nostalgic analog synthesisers from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, making it a highly versatile plugin collection for a range of music production styles.
KORG Collection 3 includes 11 analog-inspired VST plugins:
PG-8X is a free VST plugin that emulates the classic Roland JX-8P.
Whilst it delivered a seriously impressive sound, the original JX-8P lacked the control and functionality that we are accustomed to in modern instruments. In fact, Roland even rolled out the PG-800 controller, an external device that allowed users to program the JX-8P with much more ease.
PG-8X brings all of this greatness together in one VST plugin interface. It gives a close emulation of the JX-8P’s incredible 80s sound, whilst integrating the control and functionality of the PG-800 controller.
What’s great about the PG-8X plugin is its sound quality. For a free instrument, it offers a truly impressive emulation of analog-like sounds, making it a great plugin for synthwave and 80s inspired music.
From its retro pads, to its classic analog bass sounds, the PG-8X shines through as a truly 80s inspired VST synth.
Togu Audio Line (TAL) are well known for making quality free VST plugins. TAL Noisemaker is their free flagship virtual analog synthesiser, offering over 128 presets of 80s synth goodness.
This retro plugin comes with:
- 3 oscillators
- ADSR modulation
- 2 LFOs
- Built in reverb, delay, bit crusher, drive and chorus effects
Its interface makes Noisemaker easy to use. If you’re familiar with music production, you’ll have no trouble diving into some 80s synth sounds with this plugin.
Arturia’s recreation of the Roland Jupiter-8 has a big and bold sound. 80s synth aficionados have long sought a software solution to the Jupiter 8, and Arturia’s Jup-8V delivers exactly that – and more.
Channelling the power of the classic Jupiter-8, this plugin features a stunning range of 80s pads, arps, synths, bass, and other sounds. Jup-8V delivers analog sound in all its glory, enhancing this with a range of upgraded digital features. This includes unison detune and voice dispersion, both designed to add analog imperfection to your sounds.
Jupiter-8V is loaded with over 130 presets, including bass, lead, pad, sequence, key and string sounds.
Check out the video below to listen to the sounds included with Jup-8V:
Another retro plugin from Togu Audio Line, the U-No-LX is an excellent emulation of Roland’s Juno 60 – an iconic 80s hardware synthesiser well known for its vintage sound.
This VST plugin is a great replacement for any analog device, designed with an easy-to-use interface for modern music production. It is perfect for synthwave or creating a dreamy 70s or 80s vibe.
TAL-U-No-LX’s fey features include:
- Up to 12 voices
- Portamento and mono support
- 300+ factory presets
Vice is a retro themed drum machine plugin designed for genres such as Synthwave and Chillwave. It offers ten 80s-inspired drum kits, which each offers its own retro twist. Vice also comes with built-in loops, grooves and fills to make retro beat-making a breeze.
You can control Vice’s drum sounds with a range of controls and effects, including volume, pitch, decay and filter modulation. With sweep, saturation, and ambiance controls, you’ll be able to create unique 80s drum sounds in a range of retro styles.
UJAM Vice includes:
- 10 drum kits
- 690 groove patterns
- 30 styles of music
- Intro, verse, fill, chorus and breakdown variations
Soundtoys PrimalTap is an 80s inspired delay plugin, modelled from the classic Lexicon Prime Time Delay 93. It has many of the original features from the hardware instrument, including the multiply control, which doubles the delay time whilst halving the sample rate at different rates.
PrimalTap also includes the Lexicon Time Delay 93’s VCO (voltage controlled oscillator) modulation controls, which adds variation to your vintage 80s echos. It also has a ‘freeze’ mode, which is perfect for creating atmosphere in your tracks.
No 80s inspired track would sound quite right without a vintage, tape-like character. Cassette by Wavesfactory delivers just that – a tape saturation plugin that emulates high-end tape machine sound processing.
This gives your sound a distinctly retro character, perfect for making your 80s synth sounds more authentic. Cassette comes impressively close to sounding like a real hardware tape machine, emulating the finer details of tape processing to sound and behave just like the original tape machines.
This is one of the most satisfying vintage tape emulator plugins to use, with a clean, simple interface.
Another vintage inspired VST effect on the list, iZotope’s Vinyl plugin emulates the stunning imperfections of vinyl records. This adds some retro character to your mix, with dust, crackle, warp and scratch sounds.
You can control each element and add just the right sprinkle of vinyl magic to your track. The best thing about iZotope Vinyl is its versatility, it goes perfectly with 80s synth plugins, but can also be used to add warmth and character to a range of genres and sound styles.
So there you have it, the best 80s synth VSTs in 2022. One of the greatest things about modern music production is the effort to keep classic hardware synthesisers alive. 80s hardware synthesisers can be hard to come by, and not to mention expensive.
But now, modern producers can enjoy creating 80s sounds with retro emulation plugins – designed to provide classic analog sounds in a digital world.