6 Best Granular Synths Of All Time (Paid and Free Options)

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  • Granular synthesis is great for sound designers, film composers, and electronic musicians.
  • We look at the best paid and free granular synthesizers!

Granular synthesis is an invaluable tool for sound design. It allows you to manipulate any sound in many new and exciting ways.

Briefly, granular synthesis is the process of slicing up a sample into tiny “grains”, then manipulating and rearranging them into a new sound.

It has the capability to warp even the most simple samples into completely unrecognizable, unexpected textures. For more details on how this works, you can read our guide to granular synthesis here.

The problem when approaching granular synthesis is there are too many granular synths to choose from. In this article, I’ll sort through the best ones on the market.

What Are The Best Granular Synthesizers?

The best paid granular synthesizers are:

The best free granular synthesizers are:

Portal by Output

Portal By Output

With PORTAL, granular synthesis takes your sounds to another dimension. Easily alter any audio input – VSTs, drums, vocals, live guitar, you name it – in a new and musical way.

Why We Love It:
  • Sleek and sci-fi UI
  • A multitude of powerful presets
View Portal

Overview

Technically Portal is not a granular synthesizer but rather a granular effect, but I’ll let that slide because of how cool it sounds and looks. Due to the sample-based nature of granular synthesis, using granular effects yields very similar results to granular VSTi synths anyway.

Portal Macros and UI

The first thing to note is its incredible UI, which is simple and futuristically stylized. Two macros control an array of functions, which can also be tweaked by advanced users.

This design recalls Output’s other synthesizers like Analog Strings, which also uses a few sleek macros to modulate a rich sound.

Beyond the typical granular controls, there are 7 built-in effects modules, which combine to create all types of sounds.

The built-in presets attest to its stunning range, and they are sorted into categories by instrument sounds (like “vocals”) and characteristics (like “glitchy”).

So without prohibiting advanced experimentation, Portal allows for a degree of predictability via categorization; this is particularly valuable given how unpredictable granular synthesis can be. portal presets

Features

  • X/Y control pad
  • 7 built-in effects modules
  • Scale Quantization

Pros

  • Sleek and sci-fi UI
  • Premapped X/Y pad and dry/wet controls provide maximum modulation effects with minimal effort
  • A multitude of powerful presets that can be used on all types of sound sources

Cons

  • Expensive

The Mangle by Sound Guru

Sound Guru: The Mangle - Granular Synthesizer Plugin

Stretch out rich harmonics from acoustic sounds. Turn field recordings into ambient soundscapes. Or bring in synth sounds to be shredded, exploded, and recombined with intricate patterns and cloud effects.

Why We Love It:
  • Cheap!
  • Sequencers allow for complex variations
View on Sound Guru

Overview

What appears to be a rather bland sampler is actually a multi-timbral granular synth, with surprisingly musical results.

The Mangle’s main page consists of a waveform viewer. But this waveform viewer also acts as a large X/Y pad.

A fun feature is the mouse trigger mode, in which you can click and drag to create morphing sounds, changing the sample position along the X-axis and the amplitude on the Y-axis.

The Mangle Mouse Mode

Now imagine this morphing sound stacked atop itself eight times, and you’ve got The Mangle. Yes, you can use 8 different samples at the same time!

To aid the musicality of your experimentation, you can both tempo sync the grains and specify different scales for the pitch controls, meaning you can experiment at will, while staying on beat and in key.

Features:

  • Tempo synced grain functions
  • 8 simultaneous samples
  • 4 sequencers per voice, for a total of 32 sequencers

Pros:

  • Cheap! Only $27
  • Mouse mode allows you to create new textures with the swipe of the cursor
  • Multi-timbre sounds with even more complex variations enabled by the sequencers.

Cons

  • Small collection of presets

Palindrome by Glitchmachines

Palindrome – Glitchmachines

With its 4 granular samplers, morph-plotting system, 8 multi-breakpoint modulation envelopes, dual effects processors per sampler, shape presets, 4-note polyphony, deep randomization system, global reverb, 1.4GB sample library and numerous factory presets, Palindrome brings sound designers a powerful new sound sculpting tool.

Why We Love It:
  • 1.4 GB Sample Library and 70+ Presets
  • Speedy sound design process
View Price on Glitchmachines

Overview

Palindrome is a multi-layered granular synth with four samplers built-in.

Each of these samplers on its own is not that unique. However, they are combined in a special morph plotting system, which takes center stage in the UI.