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Helm Synthesizer Review: Good, free, open source. What's not to love?

Helm is a free, open source, and cross-platform polyphonic synthesizer that comes in VST, AU, AAX, and LV2 plugin formats. You can get it precompiled in 32-bit or 64-bit formats, or compile it yourself.

The first thing that stands out: it's loud. Very, very, very loud. When I first started using it, I had to put a limiter on to keep from triggering automute.'s also good. I seem to come up with some new and interesting sound every time I tinker with the knobs and buttons.

  • Open source. Check out the plugin's GitHub page. I haven't tried building it, but the instructions are straightforward. No dependency hell you usually see on open source stuff.
  • Straightforward. VST interfaces tend to be a mystery unless you want to read every one of their 50 page manuals. As a fiddler, I like to figure stuff out by touch, and Helm makes this easy.

  • LOUD. Depends more on presets. The pesets that come with it are mostly okay, but the presets you can find vary a lot. Loudness may be a pro depending on your perspective. :)
Grab the source or an already compiled plugin. You can find two Helm preset packs at KVR. They're good, but can be resource hogs.