In the past, buying a synthesizer would’ve been an expensive proposition for most people. Even buying a lower-end model could easily run the average person thousands of dollars and top end models could cost even more. Nowadays, circumstances have changed a bit. That’s because they have not only become cheaper but have also become more powerful. Which makes these instruments an indispensable piece of equipment for any musician.
Having stated that simple fact, there are a few things that need to be considered before running out and buying a synth for yourself. There is not only the price of the unit to consider, but it’s also important to consider the features that can be found on the device. Below are just some of the top models worth considering.
Our Top Picks for the Best Synthesizers
#1 Moog Sub Phatty 25-Key Analog Synth
Priced far cheaper than many other Moog Models, the Sub Phatty is a synth that allows just about anyone to enjoy its power and a wide range of features. It has 25 semi-weighted keys, has 13 switches and 31 knobs which control specific functions of the device and gives the user the kind of control they’ve always dreamed over their sound. This tool has a 100% analog signal path, has 2 stable variable waveshape oscillators and has a square wave sub oscillator located in the mixer section. And since this synth uses a reactive drive system, the user can sweep their sound any way they want.
#2 Arturia MicroBrute Analog Synth
Utilizing an analog audio signal path and equipped with 25 mini-keys, this monophonic analog synthesizer is ready for some serious audio work. It’s equipped with 3 waveform VCM, a Steiner-Parker filter, a modulation matrix, overtone generator, and a step sequencer. It also has a MISI in that has a 5-pin DIN connector, has a 1/4-inch audio output and a 1/8-inch headphone output, plus USB MIDI in and out features. Not only is this synth capable of producing some truly beautiful sounds but it’s also extremely powerful. And the whole device is built with the high-quality components one would expect out of a much more expensive synth.
#3 Korg 16-Key Volca Beats
The 16-key Volca Beats system is one that’s designed to deliver six different traditional analog sounds. These sounds include Hi-Tom, Low Tom, Snare, Kick, Open Hi-Hat, and Closed Hi-Hat. Each of these analog parts is easily editable using one knob for each function. This unit also features 8 memory patches, has Sync In & Sync out for clock syncing several different instruments and has to stutter for delay effects. It also has a MIDI in for note entry and it can be literally played anywhere thanks to its built-in speaker. All things considered, it’s a great device for editing sound.
#4 Korg Monotron Delay Ribbon Synth
The Korg Monotron Delay is a tool that’s designed to take ordinary sound and make it extraordinary. It features VCO with pitch control, has a handy built-in speaker for transmitting sound and is battery powered. This unit also offers a 4-octave range, and it has a design that allows the sound’s pitch to be dynamically and very aggressively manipulated. All of which makes it a great instrument for any DJ to have with their kit. This unit is also equipped with a headphone jack, so if the user wants some privacy, then they can have it quite easily while they play.
#5 Yamaha Reface CS Portable Analog Synth
The Yamaha Reface CS is a synth that has labeled itself as delivering legendary sound but having a compact size, which is pretty much true. This synth is capable of producing a nice, rich sound but it is small enough to take just about anywhere. It features an 8-note polyphony, has an integrated phrase looper and has 37 mini-size keys. It also has a built-in speaker that reproduces sound very well. Whenever the player needs a tool that can deliver fast and accurate playing, this tool is ready to give them what they need. And its dual line 1/4-inch line outputs can be connected to a variety of devices for capturing or for mixing.
#6 Yamaha Reface DX Portable FM Synth
Anyone looking to create a large sound will find the Yamaha a most appropriate tool. It has a 4-operator FM sound engine that delivers expressive and dynamic synthesis to anyone’s play. It features 32 voice memory locations, integrated phrase looper capabilities and has 37 mini-keys. This tool also has a built-in speaker system that delivers clear sound no matter where it’s used. Powered by only 6 AA batteries, this tool can deliver up to five hours of playing time. And it’s easily connected to any iOS device or computer by using a USB cable. All of which makes it a great device for anyone looking for a synth they can take on the go.
#7 Novation Ultranova Nova Series
Equipped with 37 full-size keys for playing convenience and with an updated Supernova synth engine, this synthesizer is ready to provide the sound the player needs. It has a 2-in and 4-out USB audio interface, and it’s more than capable of being bus powered. This tool also has touch-sense controls that enable the player to shape their sound according to their personal preferences. Also included with this instrument is a software plug-in editor that allows the operator to edit their sound according to their needs. Overall, it’s a powerful tool worth taking a look at and one that will satisfy the synth needs of most players.
#8 Nektar Impact LX25+
The Nektar Impact LX25+ has 25 synth-action keys, 8 hyper-sensitive backlit pads and is equipped with pitch bend and modulation wheels. An interesting feature found on this synth is it 2-octave buttons and its 2 transpose buttons. These buttons allow for adjustments on the fly, even when the player is playing it. With the press of a button, this unit’s pots are assigned to 8 channels on the Daw’s mixer. There is also a fader that’s conveniently located, so the player always knows how to immediately find it. And finally, this tool has a price tag that’s easy on most people’s budgets.
#9 Arturia Mini Brute Analog
Although the Mini Brute is somewhat intimidating to behold at first when this synth is properly wielded it can be an extremely powerful tool. This product uses a pure analog signal path, and it sets a high bar for how a synth should operate. This tool features a Steiner-Parker multimode filter, analog innovations include Ultrasaw and Metalizer and have a VCO wave mixer. It also features a 25-note keyboard with aftertouch and has dials for both pitch and modulation. And since it has MIDI, USB, and CV connectivity, this model allows the operator to record their sounds anyway they see fit.
#10 Korg Koassilator Pro+
This synthesizer is unlike most of the models on the market today. That’s because it doesn’t use a keyboard like some other models but instead uses a touchpad. Just by rubbing or stroking or tapping this touchpad, the operator can control tone, pitch, and modulation. This unit also has 25- sound programs that cover a wide range of musical styles. Also equipped with loop recording, this model allows the musician to play their music intuitively and then record it for later manipulation. And since this unit comes with dedicated editor software, it’s easier than ever for musicians to edit their notes and sounds.
A Guide To Purchasing An Entry-Level Synthesizer
Since popular music has been trending towards electronic musical instruments for quite some time now, more and more musicians are opting to purchase synthesizers. This is especially true since improved technology has made these devices not only cheaper but also more powerful. Now just about anyone can have the power of a symphony at their fingertips.
Of course, with an increase in power and features also comes an increase in complexity. And this can leave many musicians wondering how they can purchase the best synthesizers for their needs. Although we’ve tried to review the models that we felt the best, we do understand that some of our readers would prefer to search for their own synthesizers. That’s why we went ahead and penned this guide—a guide that gives our readers everything they need to know to purchase a synthesizer with confidence.
Step One: Determine If A Synth Is Needed
Before running out and purchasing a synthesizer with all of the features, we recommend that musicians think about whether they really need one or if they just want to explore if they’re right for them or not. If they’re not sure, they might want to save themselves some money and buy a MIDI controller with a software synth option. This will allow the musician to try out different synth styles before they commit to an actual one.
For consumers who already know that they want a synth, however, we would like to suggest that musicians try one with a keyboard. Keys make synths easier to operate and allow the musician to compose music on the fly better. Of course, for advanced users, a keyboard might be an unnecessary distraction.
Step Two: Consider The Price
If the musician is an absolute newbie when it comes to synths, then they might want to carefully look at the price tag of the synthesizer. While advanced users might need the features that come with a $1000+ synthesizer, novices aren’t going to need all of those features. Therefore, anyone who is new to synthesizers is probably going to want to limit how much they spend on one to under $500.
Step Three: Consider A Sequencer
Another thing that the musician might want to consider a sequencer—especially if the consumer’s musical ability is limited. Having a sequencer will allow the consumer to build their bass line or melody one note at a time, and do it while leaving them to tweak resonance, flow, or cutoff. It also allows the consumer to add sound effects.
Step Four: Is A Speaker Needed?
Some synths have built-in speakers. That makes them useful for musicians who just want to mess around crafting a sound without having to worry about hooking their synth to a mixer or a sound card. While most synth speakers are less than impressive, they do make the synths more portable and allow the consumer to just create a bass line without having to get all technical about it. However, if the consumer also plans to play it while they’re in public, they might also want to make sure that it has a headphone jack so they can listen to it privately.
Step Five: Consider Your Setup
It’s also extremely important for the musician to think about their current setup. While the temptation to buy the latest synth with all of the bells and whistles might be great, it’s not going to do the musician any good if all they have are a set of sub-par headphones and a laptop that’s more than 5-years old./ so the musician should keep in mind their current setup and make sure they buy a synth that will work with it.
Step Six: Consider Additional Options & Features
Now that we’ve gone through some of the main synthesizer features that consumers are going to want to parse through before they purchase their next synth, we wanted to conclude this guide by talking about some of the additional features that some musicians might want to think about. Although not all musicians or potential synth users are going to need the following features, they can make an otherwise good synthesizer a great one, so the consumer might want to give them some thought.
- Assignable Mod Busses
- DAHDSR Looping
- The Amount Of Headroom
- Number Of Presets
- FM Sound Engine
Finding the best synthesizer doesn’t have to be a big deal, as we hope that we have shown our readers. As long as the musician spends some time thinking about their needs, doing their homework, and considering their budget, they should have no problem finding the best synth for their needs. One that will elevate their musical compositions to the next level and allow them to exercise their creative forces.