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 Charlatan by BlauKraut Engineering is a Virtual Instrument Audio Plugin. It functions as a VST Plugin.
Product Charlatan
Developer BlauKraut Engineering
Price (MSRP)
Type / Tags Synth (Analogue / Subtractive)Synth
Plug-in, App & Soundware Format(s)
Operating System Availability
Download Released
Downloads Released
Miscellaneous Information
Copy ProtectionNone

Charlatan, a freeware polyphonic, subtractive virtual analog (VA) synth with focus on sound quality and easy usability. It comes with a flexible, yet not overwhelming feature set which encourages artists to start tweaking instead of just relying on presets. Inspite of it's simplicity, Charlatan's architecture is flexible enough to create both classic sounds and rather experimental noises. While making no compromise about sound quality, the sound engine has been highly optimized for efficient CPU usage making Charlatan well suited as a "bread and butter" synth even in projects with a large number of plugin instances.

Key Features

  • 2 oscillators with shape modulation.
  • Oscillator hard synchronization and ring modulation.
  • Unison mode with upto 7 voices and stereo spread.
  • Stereo noise generator.
  • 2 ADSR envelope generators.
  • LFO with host tempo synchronization.
  • 3 filter types modeled after classic analog hardware: 4-pole (24 db/oct) and 2-pole (12 db/oct) lowpass, bandpass.
  • 3 voice modes: Monophonic, Monophonic Legato and 8-voice Polyphonic.
  • Ultra-low CPU usage.
Latest User Reviews Average user rating of 4.29 from 7 reviews

Reviewed By Will Zégal
March 7, 2019

I'll make it short : I've nothing else to add and to cut off to all the good things said about this synth by other reviewers.

Charlatan sounds pretty good, is simple, efficient with low CPU consomption. What else ?

It's my workhorse when I want to make a sound with no hassle.

This only cons is the lack of internal preset management. It uses the host one... if it has one.

Of course it's a encouragement to do sounds by ourselves and that's easy with this synth. But when I do a sound in a DAW and want to use it in a soft that doesn't offer VST presets management (like Maschine), I have to mimic the tunings by hand, like on a oldschool hardware synth with no memory. An incongruity in the digital world.

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Reviewed By The Chase
December 29, 2015

This is a remarkable instrument. You can tell it was made not just by a good programmer trying to engineer a synth in the ways that sound good on paper, but by an artist who knows how to tweak a synth to make it sound good musically.

Softsynths don't really get a better core sound than this. The oscillators and filters are perfect, very crisp and full. Great brightness without harshness, and warm low-mid presence without muddiness. The envelopes have great curvature, snappy decays and nice attack/release fading on pads. Unison detune rings out with good texture instead of the waveforms clashing into noise the way a synths' unisons do.

Great interface. Parameters left-to-right along the signal path, and is attractive and responsive. This is a very well-made plug-in. I've had no glitches or odd behavior even with many instances running at a time.

I couldn't believe this thing is a freebie. It would have fetched a few hundred bucks just a decade ago.

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Reviewed By oscillian
March 8, 2015

It's hard to describe why I keep going back to this plugin even if I have a ton of other commercial alternatives. Maybe it's the great sound. Maybe it's the intuitive interface. Maybe it's just the stripped down features. Or maybe it's all of the above.

Plenty of character, lovely filters and actually just the right feel of how a slider or knob responds in the GUI (So many plugins just misses this detail) and all of this for free makes it a no brainer.

This is a track I made using only Charlatan for all sounds, including drums. Not one time did I feel the need to load another plugin and that is the true mark of a great instrument.


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Reviewed By fese
May 13, 2013

Charlatan is very limited:

  • It does not have 3 Oscillators with heaps of waveforms.
  • It does not have 64 modulation slots.
  • It does not have any effects.
  • It does not have an arpeggiator.
  • It does not have a photorealistic GUI with wooden sideparts.
  • It has only 16 knobs, 8 sliders and 31 buttons.

I like that.

When I first saw Charlatan, I instantly took to the GUI. It is extremely user-friendly, well layed-out, and all GUI elements are big enough so they can be easily handled with a mouse. And it is red, because red synths obviously sound better, according to "stanlea" from the official thread.

Once you get used to the limited feature set and remember that the elders of yore actually got some nice sounds out of their similarly limited minimoogs and pro-ones, you will discover that Charlatan is in fact quite versatile and capable of creating lots of different sounds. The limitations here need to bee seen as a feature, you are not overwhelmed by endless possibilities but can concentrate on creating good sounds that you can actually use in a song instead of just listen to in a preset.

All that would be useless of course if the sound wasn't good, but fortunately, it is. Charlatan has a very pleasant basic sound, nice and round with a beefy low-end, maybe not the last word in analogue emulation, but I don't think it is intended to be.

Charlatan may not be the most innovative synth, and especially nowadays where we soon have more virtual synthesizer plugins than ants on the planet, this seems a handicap. But as Charlatan has all the qualities of a good workhorse - good sound, ease of use and low CPU consumption - I am sure that it will find its way into many a song.

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Reviewed By Sendy
January 21, 2012

A relatively simple freeware synth with a real life and character of it's own. This freeware number can hold it's own around the supermodern VA's and new analog units coming out these days... and it won't let you down when it comes to bold analog-style sounds. The oscillators sound great detuned and the slew rate modulation going from triangle to sawtooth is always nice to have - I've no idea why this is such a rarity. Wheras PWM starts with a full spectrum and works a bit like a phased highpass filter as the pulse gets narrower, SRM starts with a full sawtooth and acts like a chalky, phased lowpass filter as the waveform approaches the triangle shape.

I kept wishing for more features, such as PWM on both oscillators, a wider detune range for wide octaved sounds, and the ability to have both envelope and LFO affect the filter. But I found creative ways around all of these problems. There are drawbacks, but that's part of the fun, I suppose.

Oscillator sync sounds very nice, as does the bandpass filter. In fact, the filter is very nice in general; It stays organic even in the high frequencies, which is usually where free VA's fail. It would be lovely to have a highpass in here, as well as a few extra odds and ends. But that doesn't detract from the vivid and lively sounds it produces, which don't need oversampling or effects to sound like something real. A must have for anyone into bread-and-butter analogue-style synthesis.

I'm working on a patch bank, also, because it's just one of those synths :)

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Discussion: Active
25 December 2011 at 11:27am

excellent synth, sounds great. perfect for all sequencer lines, with multiple

instances running. would like to see more from this dev in the future, taking

the concept a bit further. top-notch go-to machine. (would be nice to set different

background colour, too, next time ;) )

28 December 2011 at 1:28pm

That's also what we think and hope for (and more). Would be awesome to have a highpass filter and some more osc-options/waves f.e.

24 January 2012 at 6:16pm

I actually have grown to love this VST. The Organ 1 sound preset is so phat it's just awesome!

Great VST!

24 January 2012 at 9:30pm

sweet but solid sound. filter sounds great, would love to LFO and envelope modulation

thank you very much!

I hope for more...

12 June 2012 at 4:38am

Sounds great, especially the demo track on y'alls site. any chance of an OS X version for when I'm away from my Windows rig?

7 January 2013 at 12:16am

Just discovered the Charlatan synth, and I must say that for a free VST I am very impressed.

6 June 2013 at 9:43am

The best characteristic of this synth is that it is extremely simple and easy to use.

I like the sound especially playing keys and basses in poliphonic mode.

Would be fine add modulation to the LFO with the Mod. Envelope.




7 August 2014 at 9:54pm

Great sounds from a neat synth.

Will their be a better preset browser in future?

8 March 2015 at 9:40pm


Track made with 12 instances goes to show the scope of a lovely plugin.

10 March 2015 at 5:36pm

A beautiful demo! Great.

5 May 2015 at 5:02pm

Hello dominic I downloaded the 2.0 b file, except that it is version 1.4.1.

21 May 2015 at 1:56am

someday we will have a Linux version?

1 June 2015 at 1:15am

Im having trouble loading preset banks... I wanna use Charlatan in a DAW called Stagelight, but there is no button in the host to open complimentary files, like these preset files.

In Ableton it was easy to do because it offers a button to open preset files, but still, the presets won't show up in Stagelight. Is there another way to add presets?? I just don't see how within the GUI in Charlatan?

9 February 2016 at 8:36am

Please add the key tracking for the volume. I mean the key tracking that makes the volume for the notes different. Like the higher the note the lower the volume and vice versa.

Similar to the key tracking for the filter.

16 January 2017 at 10:16am

it ought to be possible to set up a multitimbral charlatan array with some sort of MIDI filtering and routing. i'll bet Reaper could handle that.

15 June 2016 at 4:13pm

Have just downloaded and instaled charlatan as i was its a good synth for a beginner so looking for a tutorial or help with using it.

16 January 2017 at 10:11am

this is an incredible instrument that has replaced (the previous king of freeware synths) for me. Charlatan is so ergonomic, easy to navigate, almost too simple, and it is almost impossible to make it sound bad. It is refreshing that it is not yet another clone of some other synth, and that it is a sincere attempt to deliver the goods without getting ahead of itself in terms of usability and expected behavior.

7 August 2018 at 6:01am

Very good filter sound. Quick GUI edit and a nice unisono option. Still state of the art and placed on one track in the mix.

Rack Extension?

1 February 2019 at 7:42am

I don't know do you still read that or not but we're looking forward Charlatan 3.0 :).

I'm kidding but if you have time it'd be really lovely.

Anyway Thank you a lot! It's great synth.

btw What's the trick? :).

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Average user rating of 4.29 from 7 reviews

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