Free Software Synth For Linux, Mac & Windows, Helm


Developer Matt Tytel has introduced Helm – a free, cross-platform, polyphonic synthesizer that runs on GNU/Linux, Mac, and Windows as a standalone program and as a LV2/VST/AU/AAX plugin.

It’s available now as beta release.


  • 32 voice polyphony
  • Interactive visual interface
  • Powerful modulation system with live visual feedback
  • Dual oscillators with cross modulation and up to 15 oscillators each
  • Unison and Harmony mode for oscillators
  • Oscillator feedback and saturation for waveshaping
  • 12 different waveforms
  • 7 filter types with keytracking
  • 2 monophonic and 1 polyphonic LFO
  • Step sequencer
  • Lots of modulation sources including polyphonic aftertouch
  • Simple arpeggiator
  • Effects: Formant filter, stutter, delay

Helm is Free Software, available to download via Tytel’s site. YouΒ are free to run Helm anywhere, without the pains of DRM, you can study and change the source code and you can redistribute exact or modified copies of Helm.

No audio demos are available yet at Tytel’s site. If you give Helm a try, let us know what you think of it. And if you have a demo to share, leave a link in the comments!

via rekkerd

33 thoughts on “Free Software Synth For Linux, Mac & Windows, Helm

    1. Helm developer here. Looks like people on Windows using Chrome and IE had some issues. Fixed it, so the website should serve you up the download now πŸ™‚

      1. also there’s no midi stand alone on mac, not sure if this is a bug or just not a feature

        hope to see more from you in the future and I hope to see some cool mods for this
        maybe even with tutorials, I have no clue where to start with programming and this could be a good intro into more complicated aspects of programming (there’s too many hello world tutorials out there)

        1. Standalone Midi works for me on Mac. Though right now it just connects to all midi inputs on startup, so if you plugin a keyboard in after you start Helm it won’t work. If midi still doesn’t work after restarting Helm could you email me? [email protected]

          1. figured it out, I had a midi network enabled which must have had priority
            once I deactivated that network then restarted helm, midi functioned correctly

  1. this synth is pretty cool, heavy on cpu and not the “BEST” sounding
    but still sounds good

    I love the modulation approach, very similar to bitwig, i think all synths (most) should use this approach for modulation
    it beats the mod matrix in intuitive(ness) and beats dragging fake modular cables in ease of use

  2. I love the fact that the developer has made all the source code publicly available. It’s JUCE-based of course, but this is a huge leg up for anybody who’s looking at building their own synth. I haven’t yet checked the code quality, in particular use of SIMD optimisations (or absence thereof which could explain the high CPU utilisation) but this is a really great project for others to build on and adapt. Porting it to iOS, iPad at least, should be a doddle too.

  3. Just grabbed it, and about to give it a go. Just from the one screenshot the GUI looks attractive and uncluttered. Let’s see what she can do.

    1. I installed it on OSX 10.8.5. The standalone is there in my applications folder and works just fine however I can’t get Ableton Live 9.2 to recognizes it. I can see the component and vst in my plugins folder, but when I open up Live it’s nowhere to be found.

      1. Some people have reported that Helm fails AU validation which might cause Live to ignore it. It’s validating on my machine so I’ll have to see why it’s failing for some people.

  4. Trying it out in Live and I can’t seem to get any external MIDI control over it other than note-on/off. Anybody know what i’m doing wrong?

  5. Wow – very intuitive UI. Wondering if there’s a way to latch the oscillators when playing via the QWERTY keyboard?

  6. Downloaded it, au didn’t pass logic x validation, so started up the app instead. Didn’t find my midi controller, so had a quick play using my mac keyboard instead.

    Not many patches but what’s there sounds nice and warm.

    Matt, on the helm site you say what it is and why, but you don’t mention what you hope to get out of it…specifically, do you want help making it better? do you want to encourage a bunch of new variants in the space? etc….

    Perhaps a FAQ would be advisable…

  7. Just got this synth tonight and I’m already using it in a track I’m working on. Some super sick, unique features in this synth. Amazing job. I especially like the internal stutter feature. That rules.

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