The Best Hardware Synths For Beginners 2023

29 Best Hardware Synths For Beginners On All Budgets | integraudio.com

For this post, we carefully picked 29 best synths that beginners should consider. List includes all kinds of synths from various categories, so you can find the one that would work for you.

In a nutshell, here is the list of the best hardware synths for beginners:

1. Novation Summit

2. Roland Jupiter-X

3. Korg OPSIX

4. Erica Synths DB-01 Bassline 

5. Arturia MiniFreak 

6. Yamaha MODX6 

7. Yamaha Reface DX FM Synthesizer 

8. Moog Sub Phatty

9. Behringer Crave

10. Novation Bass Station 2

11. Behringer DeepMind 12

12. Roland JD-Xi

13. Arturia MicroFreak

14. Moog Subharmonicon

15. Behringer TD-3-MO Synthesizer

16. Korg Volca Sample 2 

17. Grandmother

18. Roland TB-03 Bass Line

19. Moog Minitaur 

20. Waldorf Blofeld 

21. Roland Aira Compact J-6 Chord Synthesizer

22. Modal Craft Synth 2.0 Portable 

23. Moog Mother-32 

24. IK Multimedia UNO Synth

25. Korg Monotron Duo 

26. Novation MiniNova

27. Teenage Engineering PO-20 arcade 

28. KORG microKORG XL+

29. Moog DFAM 

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1 The 29 Best Hardware Synths For Beginners 2023 (All Budgets)

The 29 Best Hardware Synths For Beginners 2023 (All Budgets)

1. Novation Summit (Advanced Synth, Though, Beginner-Friendly)

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Summit by Novation is a 16-part digital-analog hybrid wavetable synthesizer.

It has 61 keys and 16 voices of polyphony, such that each voice has three oscillators. The workflow of the synth lets you layer and split two different patches/sounds together to produce innovative and thicker sound textures. In addition, the intuitive interface has the major controllers and functions, like FM routing, LFOs, arpeggiator functions, etc., displayed on the front.

Character & Sound: 

The sound engine is based on the FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) chip and produces organic analog sounds from its high-quality waveforms, two analog filters, multi-stage analog distortion, and VCA, all coupled up with a great range of effects and processing, including distortion, reverb, delay, etc.

That gives you a huge range of colorful sound design options, warm analog textures, and a wide scope of sonic shaping.

Key Features:

  • Expansive wavetable synthesis
    The wavetable sound engine allows you to explore unlimited waveforms, morphing capabilities, and sound design possibilities that go beyond the typical wavetable workflow. The wavetable editor is expansive and flexible. In addition, it has exclusive content from top EDM producers Noisia and space-themed audio, direct from the NASA sound library.
  • Customizations
    You can do live editing and draw and edit the waveforms using the drawing tools and Live Edit Mode in the wavetable editor. The wavetable architecture allows you to rapidly drop in audio waveforms and create customized oscillator shapes and waves from them.
  • Updated software
    The new firmware takes the wavetable synthesis sound design workflow a notch up and lets you expand your creative scope and horizon to give you greater flexibility and freedom. There are new tools for stereo shaping, a MOD matrix, flexible modulation capabilities, and effects like chorus, flanger, phaser, etc.
  • Sound design engine
    The instrument consists of 3 NCOs (New Oxford Oscillators), with the option to do subtractive, FM, or wavetable synthesis. In addition, it has dual analog filters, VCAs, an arpeggiator, and a three-stage effects processor.

Pros: 

The best part about Summit is its hybrid workflow between digital and analog. In addition, it comes with a three-year warranty, Ableton Live Lite DAW software, and Novation sound collective access. The multitimbral engine and sound stacking enable you to create warm, thick, experimental, and uniquely textured sounds. Lastly, the workflow is easy, intuitive, and

Cons: 

One con of Summit is that you cannot copy any parameters. Another is a bug that gets you stuck in the FM settings. In addition, there aren’t any CV/audio outputs on top of the USB/sequencer, the LFO delays have a lesser range than you’d expect and there aren’t any pan controllers.

2. Roland Jupiter-X (Same As With Novation Summit)

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Jupiter-X by Roland is a 4-oscillator synthesizer with an I-arpeggio and 61 keys.

The I-arpeggio is an artificial intelligence-based arpeggiator that allows you to rapidly play rhythmic, melodic, and polyphonic patterns by clicking a few buttons or keys. It’s great for instant inspiration and musical ideas and adds better movements to your chords. In addition, it allows you to change the algorithms, rhythms, tempo, duration, shuffle, and more properties of the arpeggiator.

Key Features:

  • The workflow
    The synth consists of four oscillators which allow you to select the type, modulation, pitch, and detune. In addition, there’s a mixer section, a filter, an amp, two envelopes, and an effects section that includes effects like reverb, delay, drive, chorus, etc.
  • Great vintage sound
    The instrument is designed to emulate the sounds of analog beasts like Jupiter-8, Juno-106, XV-5080, RD-pianos, SH-101, and more. In addition, Jupiter-X is a one-stop shop for all vintage sounds and textures.
  • Hands-on control
    The synth allows you to creatively express yourself with its 61-key piano with aftertouch control, pitch bend and mod wheels, and 256-note polyphony. In addition, the metal chassis makes it a robust machine that you can carry around for tours.

Character & Sound:

Jupiter-X is based on the cutting-edge ZEN-Core sound engine with sound sources emulating various styles of analog synths. In addition, it features polyphony and multiple layers to give you the warmth, shimmer, and impact you require in your sounds. It’s best for vintage sounds and different genres of electronic music.

Pros:

It has a great sound and high-utility arpeggiator with performance capabilities exceeding expectations. The aftertouch-enabled keyboard is a joy to play, and the build is tough and rugged. The effects include some great sonics, from the classic Juno chorus to the precise delay sound.

Also, the layering capabilities are insane, and the digital-analog interplay is on point! Lastly, the cherry on top is its great-looking metal body and design.

Cons: 

The sounds are loosely organized and may need clarification if you go through the manual first. Plus, the PC editor needs to be better. The PC connectivity and virtual settings are loose, tedious, and time-consuming. The sounds can come across as “not modern” as it’s a vintage-based instrument. 

3. Korg OPSIX (Simple To Use, Yet Powerful FM Synth)

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Korg Opsix is often compared with the well-known and industry favorite Yamaha DX7, and is claimed to be its recreation.

However, if we look beyond that, this machine has many more capabilities. Primarily, it is a 37 keys FM synthesizer with six operators. It has five internal sound engines: Subtractive/Filter, FM with forty different algorithms, Filter FM, RM, and Wave (21 waveforms including white noise) folder, which can do expansive digital synthesis.

It has six oscillators that can work in any of these synthesis engines. The subtractive mode has extensive filter types like the MS-20 and Poly-6. Forty algorithms organize each of the six operators in different structures, giving you feedback loops and interactions you could work around. As an FM synth, this allows us to set any operator as the carrier or the modulator waveform.

The subtractive synthesis sound engine is great for creating pluck bass, Reese bass, and 8o8 bass, and FM & RM can help you create interesting FM bass and wobble bass sounds.

Key Features:

  • Futuristic approach to FM Synthesis
    We get a decent number of hardware controls on the Korg Opsix, which gives us a good hands-on approach to bass synthesis. By using the screen, we can also see the envelopes, parameter values, algorithms, and presets we are choosing.
    Each operator has its slider and a dedicated envelope generator. We can select a waveform, out of 21 different waveforms, for each operator and set algorithms in which these operators modulate each other. We can easily do data entry using the rotary encoders.
  • Extensive sound engines and programming capabilities
    The five different synth algorithms give us the option to shape our sound to create tonal variations from the operators feeding from and into each other. There are three envelope generators for modulations, 3 LFOs with 23 LFO waveforms, 12 virtual automation patches, and one multimode filter.
    The arpeggiator comes with seven different patterns, and there are 30 effect types that you can apply to your sounds.

Character & Sound:

The Opsix is great for creating gritty and glitchy bass sounds, especially percussive & plucky bass and kick sounds, for the cyberpunk music era. Not just limited to bass, it’s also great for creating lush and soothing ambient sounds that sound full and can easily fill up any space.

The digital characteristic is at the core of the sound. This synth is versatile due to an intuitive hands-on interface being like an upgraded version of the DX7, just with more capabilities.

Pros:

The biggest pro of this instrument is that it makes FM easier and offers immense flexibility and control. Due to the control it offers, along with a room of randomness, it gives us a scope to innovate and create & discover new sounds. That is great when you’re doing bass sound design for dubstep music.

Five hundred in-built patches and an interactive interface make it easily usable and programmable. With a lightweight of fewer than three kilograms, it’s easy to carry around and is one of the best synths to design 80s sounds.

Cons: 

The sequencer has up to 16-tracks only, within which one has to stay limited to 16 steps and hence 16 lanes of automation. It responds to aftertouch only as a MIDI device and not otherwise, and the keys are narrow, making it hard to play.

4. Erica Synths DB-01 Bassline (Beginner-Friendly Interface + Amount Of Features Make It Great For Novices)

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Erica Synths DB-01 is an analog monophonic synth with the prime objective of being the ultimate bass synth. 

It’s a powerful mono synth with a transistor-based gritty sub-oscillator, along with overdrive, detune, and analog delay knobs/effects that can further make your sounds punchier and huge. The sound is massive, and you get FM and a noise oscillator to spice things up. It has snappy, highly responsive, easy-to-use envelopes and LFOs for plucky sounds and instant modulations

Key Features:

  • Detune knob
    The detune knob is not what you think it is; it is two analog bucket brigade delays, each with their independent LFOs that move the delay speed and creates an interesting pitch-shifting effect, wobbly textures, and thickness in the bass sound. That also adds some interesting harmonic structure to the sound, making the sounds bigger and more upfront, and it works great in subtleness.
  • Sequencing workflow
    The sequencer allows you to lock parameters to the lanes of the sequencer. So, for example, you can add a different cutoff frequency at each step of the sequencer. That can create some lanes of automation and result in some unique & interesting movements.
  • Analog feel
    The voltage-controlled oscillator, adjustable between saw, square, and triangle waves, and the transistor-based sub oscillator result in some great-sounding analog warmth to get started with. In addition, the synth sounds fairly analog because of its Polivoks-inspired filter, analog drive, and BBD detune effect.
  • Other features
    The 64-step sequencer with an arpeggiation option, mod slides, and per-step pitch envelope is a great feature too. Further, the LFO has varying wave types and can be synced to the tempo. Lastly, you can use a multidirectional analog clock, and triggering with MIDI and CV/Gate is also possible.

Character & Sound:

The synth is great for creating pluck bass of different types due to its fast response to analog filters & envelopes, which makes it suitable for house, techno, future pop, and other EDM genres. The DB-01 has great sub-bass which is perfect for films & trailers’ sound design & scoring, and also for creating thumpy 8o8s in trap, drill, and hip-hop music beats.

Sonic LAB - Erica Synths DB-01 Bassline

Pros:

Overall, Erica Synth DB-01 is a powerful bass machine and sound design tool, with commendable analog circuitry that lets you create gritty and punchy bass lines, and one can also sequence or program funky bass movements. MIDI and CV/Gate connections are huge pros and allow us to use it as a monosynth too. 

Other huge pros are the FM and overdrive controls that let you make aggressive bass sounds and even upfront & punchy lead sounds.

Cons:

Except for the master volume control, which is hidden in the settings menu, the synth has a few more gaps. One of which is its envelope which is too basic, and another is that you can’t save presets on it. A screen giving some visual feedback could have been a good addition to the synth. 

5. Arturia MiniFreak (Great To Learn How Arpeggiator/Sequencer Works & Also – Clean GUI/Panel, Amount & No-Nonsense Features Makes It Ideal For Beginners)

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MiniFreak by Arturia is a dual oscillator wavetable synthesizer with 37 keys.

It has an oscillator section, an analog filter section, 2 LFOs, a cycling envelope, digital effects section that lets you add up to three effects, and finally an ADSR section. In addition, there’s a built-in arpeggiator, a sequencer, a chord mode, a Glid knob, a modulation matrix, two Macros, a pitch bend modulation wheel, an octave shifter, and more.

Character & Sound: 

MiniFreak has a great synth engine based on Virtual Analog, FM, Additive, Wavetable, and many more synthesis techniques. It has unparalleled polyphonic potential and great versatility to help you manifest your creative ideas. The analog filters and VCA add the required analog warmth and the arpeggiator and sequencers add the required movement and energy to your sounds.

Key Features: 

  • Sound Sources
    The instrument allows you to select the type, wave, timbre, shape, and volume of the oscillators. You can also fine-tune its pitch and go to the sound editor/panel to edit, save, and select presets.
  • Easy workflow
    Whether it’s the velocity-sensitive keyboard, 20 playing modes across a 6-voice polyphony, or all the sound design controllers, the instrument proves to be a great tool. In addition, you also get a MiniFreak V plugin that you can use to expand your horizon of sound design.
  • Sonic shaping
    Everything from the powerful effects suite consisting of ten effects to the customizable multi-segment LFO, FM/Ring mod, and multi-purpose randomization tools are great for uniquely sculpting your sonics. In addition, there’s a 7 x 13 modulation matrix, 256 factory presets, and 256 open preset slots.

Pros: 

The VST is a high-quality counterpart and digital doppelganger of the MiniFreak, which is a huge pro! In addition, the instrument is compact, sounds great, is intuitive, and easy to use. Plus, it’s also versatile as the sounds can range between anything from soft and mellow to hard-hitting, underground, and industrial.

Cons: 

It’s not suitable for a piano player or a live performer who needs a keyboard with more keys. Secondly, the workflow may seem a bit weird to people who are exposed to and used to traditional synthesizers.  It has 22 algorithms and many synth engines but lacks the depth that some of its competitors have.

6. Yamaha MODX6 (Beginner-Friendly For The Amount Of Features & Minimal Design)

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Yamaha MODX6 is a 61 keys keyboard workstation that combines the capabilities of a keyboard (with the traditional sound of pianos, organs, etc.) and a synthesizer (oscillators, sequencers, modulators, etc.). It has semi-weighted keys and is based on Yamaha’s flagship montage range of keyboards.

It has an AWM engine that is fully programmable and features accurate controls over the pitch, amplitude, envelopes, etc. Additionally, there are Yamaha’s Motion Sequences features that you could utilize to create interesting rhythmic patterns in your synth parameters in real-time. An envelope follower is also present that could control parameters based on the envelope shape to receive from another audio, along with a unique vocoder effect.

Key Features:

  • Versatile Sounds & Patches
    The patches in the keyboard, both acoustic and digital, are realistic and of high quality, with various options to choose from like drums, bass, piano, guitars, and various orchestral instruments. You could also create sounds from scratch using its AWM2 and FM-X sound engines, along with immense modulation and effects options.
  • Sound Engine
    The FM-X is an 8-operator FM synthesizer known for its dynamics and sonic capabilities. The AWM2 has a great data compression algorithm that doesn’t compromise sound quality, delivering high-quality sounds without any lags or delays. MODX6 has in total 192-note polyphony: 128-note stereo AWM2 + 64-note FM-X. For modulations, there are 9 LFOs, a three-band equalization, and 18 types of filters to choose from.
  • Interactive Interface
    The menus are intuitive and easy to navigate, thanks to its large colored touch screen and interactive and robustly-built multi-function knobs and sliders. 

Character & Sound:

Virtual Circuitry Modeling (VCM) re-models the sound and behavior of vintage effects and signal processors, and the sound engine gives you the scope to create high-quality and dynamic sounds. The presets & patches are universal and editable. Compared to real analog polysynths, it has a polyphony of remarkable standards.

Yamaha MODX Synthesizer REVIEW + Sound Demo & Sound Design Tutorial

Pros:

The MODX is a synthesizer for the masses, with its price, versatility, multi-purpose functionality, and ease of use. It has 5.67 GBs of samples as presets and 1 GB of user memory. It’s an attractive hybrid of sample-based subtractive and FM synthesis. It has much potential to layer sounds and creates and utilize sounds from varying genres. Its 61 keys make it a great instrument for keyboard players and performing musicians & sound designers.

Cons: 

A huge problem with MODX is that it’s not sound design focused, and hence programming from scratch could be a lot of hard work, as direct knobs are missing, and the onboard sequencer doesn’t have as many features making the process even more tedious.

7. Yamaha Reface DX FM Synthesizer (Easiest To Use & Best Good Way To Learn How FM Synthesis Works, Yet, With Massive Sound)

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The Reface DX is part of Yamaha’s series of portable mini-keyboards, each uniquely different from the next. It offers FM synth nostalgia with a hint of modern tone in a rather compact and slim case.

Yamaha’s Reface DX is a polyphonic, analog FM synthesizer with a user-friendly interface for operator tweaking. Like the rest of the Reface series, it has built-in speakers, can run off six AA batteries, supports USB and MIDI connectivity, and uses a 37-note mini keyboard.

Key Features:

  • Four Adjustable Oscillators
    Since the DX uses FM synthesis to create its range of sounds, you will have access to four oscillators that can each be set to act as either a carrier or a modulator. You will have access to up to twelve combinations for sculpting your FM tones.
  • Four Adjustable Envelope Generators
    Each operator has a dedicated ADSR envelope generator. For each EG, you can adjust each envelope stage’s level and length.
  • Feedback
    By default, the operators output a sine wave, but you can use feedback control to morph an operator’s waveform to form either a sawtooth, a square wave, or a combination of the standard sine wave and either of the two additional waves to create your interesting waveforms.
  • Built-In Effects
    The Reface DC has seven built-in effects for you to use. You will have access to distortion, touch wah, chorus, flanger, phaser, delay, and reverb. In addition, each effect has two parameters for adjusting the qualities of the effect.
  • Phrase Looper
    You will be able to record and playback passages with the phrase looper. It can record up to 2000 notes or 10 minutes at a BPM of 120. In addition, you can overdub phrases to create multi-layered loops, transpose loops, and edit patches seamlessly.

Character & Sound:

Yamaha’s Reface DX supports up to 8-notes polyphonically and has a mono mode. The sounds vary from pads, brass, bells, and percussion to bass, electric piano, and synthetic lead tones.

The sounds can be smooth and groove well, or they can be loud and in your face. Overall, the Reface DX offers a wide variety of tone options.

Pros:

The interface for modifying sounds is very user-friendly and easy to use, which makes sculpting your sounds easier than with other FM synthesizers.

In addition, with built-in speakers, a headphone jack, and the ability to operate off battery power for up to five hours, you can use them on the go comfortably.

Cons: 

Unfortunately, any loops created are lost once the synthesizer is turned off, and there are no ways to save them, so if you come up with chart-topping loops, you will need to record them. Adding to the woes, some may find the mini-keys uncomfortable.

However, the keys are slightly longer than the standard. And lastly, since the polyphony only supports up to 8 notes, some may find the voicings limited.

Summary:

Yamaha’s Reface DX is a powerful, portable synth that makes FM synthesis more enjoyable and less painful. They are a welcome addition to anyone’s rig, especially if you are new to FM synthesis.

8. Moog Sub Phatty (Essential-Only Functions/Features Makes it Great Analog Synth For Beginners)

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Sub Phatty by Moog is a sound design tool and a bass instrument known for its aggressive sound and punch.

It has a dark and gritty sound engine based on the classic analog Moog circuits. In addition, it features two octaves of full-size keys and 31 knobs that give you immense hands-on control over the device.

Key Features:

  • Sound engine
    It features two variable wave shape oscillators, a pink noise generator, and a sub oscillator for maximum range coverage. The multidirectional circuit by Moog adds warmth at lesser mix levels and delivers a high-distortion effect at higher levels. Lastly, it has modulation, filter, and envelope control windows to add more movement & depth to the sound.
  • Free software editor
    There are 51 hidden parameters in the editor/librarian software version that you can tweak and get greater hands-on control over your sounds. You can also tweak, manage, and share presets using that.
  • Analog sound
    The circuitry and sound are 100% analog and can be polyphonic and monophonic. The keys are semi-weighted, and pitch bend & mod wheel controls are also present. Further, the live arpeggiator lets you create interesting motion and groovy bass lines.

Character & Sound:

The synth almost always sounds overloaded, even at very minimal settings, as it is designed to be aggressive and hard-hitting. It sounds overdriven naturally but can get even more fierce when the multi-drive feature is activated. On top of it, the sub-bass on it can drive your system crazy!

Moog Sub Phatty Analog Synthesizer Demo

Pros:

It has a powerful PWM, and you can choose the initial waveform from triangle to sawtooth, and the low pass filter has various slopes. Overall, its high-quality build and material seem clunky, rugged, and durable. It also runs on Mac and windows without problems and has good connectivity.

Cons:

Many of its parameters are latent in shift modes and hidden functions, which is frustrating and non-intuitional. It’s hard to play it as a solo instrument due to its small size. Apart from that, it lacks aftertouch, has only one LFO for modulations, and doesn’t have a separate control for headphones level. Lastly, cheaper alternates are available in the market, and it also lacks sufficient memory for presets.

9. Behringer Crave (Go-To For Beginners For The Amount Of Features Looking For Semi-Modular Synth)

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The Behringer CRAVE has been designed to emulate the sounds of synths from an era of iconic synthesizers. They use a ladder filter based on Moog’s 24dB ladder filter. And they sonically pay homage to Sequential’s influential Prophet-5.

Behringer’s CRAVE is a semi-modular monophonic synth. Despite being monophonic, they can be chained to additional Crave units for up to 16-Voice polyphony.

In terms of features, you will have a single VCO, a VCF, an LFO, and an EG at your fingertips. To top it all off, you will have plenty of patching options since they have up to 18 inputs and 14 outputs.

Key Features:

  • Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO)
    A single oscillator is available for creating tones. The Voltage Controlled Oscillator can be set to either a pulse wave or a reverse-sawtooth wave. You can adjust the pulse width to create a square wave when the pulse wave is selected. In addition, the tone can be adjusted up or down one octave.
  • Voltage Controlled Filter (VCF)
    You can use the Voltage Controlled Filter to create your desired tone by using a high-pass or low-pass filter that attenuates frequencies by 24db/octave. The low-pass filter removes frequencies above the cutoff frequency, creating a darker/lower tone. The high-pass filter removes frequencies below the set cutoff frequency, creating a thinner/higher tone.
  • Modulation
    A controllable Low-Frequency Oscillator allows you to modulate the main tone of the synth and the filter used to shape the wave. The LFO section only allows control over the LFO’s oscillation rate and the waveform shape used. The two waveforms offered are a Square wave and a Triangle wave.
  • Envelope Generator
    The envelope is used to control three of the four waveform sections. You will be able to adjust the attack, which is the initial start of the tone up to its loudest point, and the decay, which is the time the tone takes to lower from its loudest point to a consistent volume and sustain, which is the consistent volume until fading to silence. The decay control also adjusts the release of the tone.

Character & Sound:

Despite the limited VCO, VCF, and EG, the tones available are diverse and can fit many areas. You can create deep bass lines, velvety synth tones, chaotic or face-melting leads, percussive smacks, and mystifying pads.

Pros:

Behringer’s CRAVE offers exceptional versatility in a single package, especially if you can make the most of its available features. The oscillator can create a various deep to piercing tones with its flexible filtering options.

Cons: 

As for downsides, the manual included can be difficult to decipher. If you struggle, you can leaf through the Mother-32 manual since the two synths operate similarly.

Like a few synths on this list, they do not offer a ¼” Jack output connection, so you will need an adapter for when you want to send the output to any outboard gear.

Suummary:

The CRAVE is a great choice if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to Moog’s Mother-32! Otherwise, if you’re looking for an analog synth that offers a lot of tones and sculpting for a low price, then this one is for you.

10. Novation Bass Station 2 (Go-to For Beginners Looking For Instant Bass Gratification With Analog Low-End)

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Bass Station 2 by Novation is an analog mono synth that you can control digitally. 

It’s a hundred percent analog synthesizer with digital controls, such that it has two switchable oscillators with four adjustable waveforms, either of which can be easily edited. In addition, you can set the course and fine pitch of the oscillator, along with a modulation envelope, LFO, and a pulse-width knob.

The instrument consists of a four-knob arpeggiator with an adjustable tempo between 40 and 240 BPM. You can set the rhythm between a bar and 1/32 bar, select arpeggiator octaves up to the four octaves, and control the direction of the arpeggiation.

Key Features:

  • Connections
    You get a headphone, line output, external input, sustain pedal switch, MIDI i/o, USB connection to use with a computer, and a DC power supply. Hence, you can connect external equipment, including a computer, to the system.
  • Sturdy-built and hands-on-control
    The knobs, sliders, switches, pitch bend/modulation wheels, and other controllers are high-quality and tweakable, along with an LED display and a 2-octave keyboard with an after-touch.
  • Synth engine
    There are two main oscillators, one sub-oscillator and a noise oscillator, to start with. Then there’s a filter with cutoff, resonance, overdrive, and LFO 2 & envelope knobs. Finally, you also get an arpeggiator, 2 LFOs, an ADSR envelope, and a distortion effect knob.

Character & Sound:

Bass Station 2 is great for programming progressive and dark bass lines, especially the type that Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor make. The dark, mysteriously underground, gritty soundtracks like that of Delhi Crimes, The Social Network, Limitless, and Tron Legacy could be best created by the synth due to its analog texture and the arpeggiator movements, tweakability, and flexibility

It has a warm analog characteristic and can easily adapt to cool movements with the opening & closing of LFO-modulated filters.

Pros:

The extended filter options increase the scope of your sonic horizon with a heavy-duty arpeggiator, step sequencers, and good hands-on onboard control. The sound is fairly analog, and the ring modulation & square and saw waves enable you to create dirty bass sounds, which are harmonically rich. 

Cons:

Its aftertouch is not as sensitive and requires a lot of pressure. Also, it’s very similar to the Arturia MicroBrute and doesn’t have a control voltage input or output. You cannot trigger the arpeggiator/sequencer from an external source, and the instrument size is limited.

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The Behringer DeepMind 12 is a digital synthesizer that utilizes a 12-voice polyphonic architecture and features two oscillators, filter types, and expansive effects.

It also includes several performance-related features, such as a chord mode and a sustained pedal input. It has a user-friendly interface with a large display and intuitive controls, making it easy to create and edit sounds. The synthesizer can produce various sounds, from classic analog tones to modern, digital-sounding patches.

The Behringer instrument is a versatile and powerful instrument suitable for various musical styles and applications.

Character & Sound

In terms of character, the Behringer DeepMind 12 is known for its warm, rich sound and ability to produce a wide range of classic analog synth tones. It can produce a wide range of timbres, from smooth and creamy to aggressive and edgy, making it a versatile instrument for various musical genres.

Key Features: 

  • Sonic capabilities and patch management
    The instrument has several onboard effects, including reverb, delay, and chorus, which can add depth and character to your sounds. The synthesizer has 100 patch memory locations, allowing you to save and recall your favorite sounds quickly and easily.
  • Ease of use
    The synthesizer can be connected to a computer via USB, allowing you to use it as a MIDI controller or to transfer patches to and from the synthesizer. The DeepMind 12 is relatively compact and portable, making it easy to take with you on the go.
  • Comprehensive workflow
    The synth has several physical controls, including knobs, sliders, and buttons, allowing users to shape and manipulate their sounds easily. In addition, it has a dual-layer architecture, allowing users to split the keyboard and assign different sounds to each layer.
  • Affordable price
    The DeepMind 12 is generally considered an affordable synthesizer, making it a good option for musicians on a budget. In less than $1000, you get 12 independent analog voices, each with its oscillator, filter, and envelope generator. This allows you to create rich, layered sounds and use the full range of the keyboard.
  • Expandability
    The synth has an expansion port, allowing users to add additional functionality through expansion cards. In addition, it has onboard memory for storing patches and settings. It also has USB and MIDI connectivity, allowing it to integrate easily with a computer or other MIDI devices.

Pros: 

The synth is relatively inexpensive compared to other analog synthesizers on the market, making it a good choice for those on a budget. With 12 voices of polyphony, the DeepMind 12 can produce complex, multi-layered sounds. In addition, the synthesizer includes a range of effects, including reverb, delay, and chorus, which can add depth and texture to your sounds.

Lastly, it has a large display and intuitive controls, making creating and editing sounds easy. The keyboard has 49 full-size keys, making it easy to play melodies and chord progressions.

Cons: 

The keys may feel less quality and unresponsive, and some knobs and controllers could be loose or faulty, as the users have complained about. In addition, it generates noise while playing some patches. Lastly, the onboard effects sound somewhat basic and lack depth compared to dedicated effect pedals.

The Behringer DeepMind 12 is a relatively affordable, feature-packed synthesizer suitable for various musical styles and applications. However, it is not without flaws, and some users may be disappointed by certain aspects of its performance or build quality.

12. Roland JD-Xi (Very Well Explained Controls & Fewer Features, Yet, Not Limiting In Sound, Makes It A Great Synth For Beginners)

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The Roland JD-Xi is a hybrid synthesizer that combines analog and digital synthesis in a compact, portable package.

It features a four-part analog synth engine, a digital synth engine, a drum engine, and a built-in vocoder and arpeggiator. The analog synth engine allows you to create deep and analog synth sounds using analog oscillators and filters, while the digital synth engine provides access to a wide range of digital waveforms and sound-shaping options.

The drum engine includes a selection of drum and percussion sounds and a drum sequencer for creating beats. The vocoder lets you use your voice to control the synth sounds, while the arpeggiator allows you to create intricate patterns and melodies. The JD-Xi also includes a 37-note mini-keyboard and a range of performance controls, making it a versatile and powerful tool for creating music.

Character & Sound: 

The tone and sound of the Roland JD-Xi are generally described as warm and rich, thanks to its analog synth engine, which allows you to create a wide range of classic synth sounds, from smooth and mellow to punchy and aggressive, using a combination of analog oscillators and filters.

The digital synth engine also provides a wide range of sound-shaping options, including various digital waveforms and effects. The drum engine includes a selection of high-quality drum and percussion sounds that can be easily edited and shaped to create a wide range of beats and rhythms.

Key Features: 

  • A great choice for synthwave
    Its analog synth engine provides access to classic synth sounds often associated with synthwave music, such as warm, rich pads, punchy basslines, and bright, sweeping leads. Its sonic manipulation options include various digital waveforms and effects that can also create modern and futuristic sounds.
    Plus, the built-in arpeggiator and drum sequencer allows you to create intricate patterns and rhythms characteristic of synthwave music.
  • Vocoder
    To use the vocoder, you’ll need to connect a microphone to the JD-Xi and set it up as the vocoder’s input source. You’ll then be able to use your voice to control the synth sounds in real time, either by singing or speaking into the microphone. The vocoder includes a range of parameters that you can adjust to shape the sound of your voice, including the filter frequency, formant shift, and envelope settings.
  • Vocal effects
    In addition to the vocoder, the instrument also includes an auto-pitch effect, which can automatically adjust the pitch of your vocal input to match a specific musical scale or key. This can be useful for creating harmonies or creating more polished, professional-sounding vocals.
    Plus, it also includes a range of vocal effects, such as reverb, delay, and chorus, which can add depth and character to your vocals.
  • Sequencing capabilities
    Its pattern sequencer allows you to create and edit sequences of notes and rhythms for both the analog and digital synth engines and the drum engine. You can input notes and rhythms using the step-by-step input mode or record them in real time using the recording mode.
  • Versatility
    The synth can produce many tones and sounds, ranging from classic analog synth sounds to modern digital sounds and beats. In addition, the JD-Xi’s vocoder and vocal effects can be useful tools for creating vocal-based music or adding a unique, expressive element to your synth sounds.

Pros: 

The JD-Xi’s compact size and portable design make it a convenient option for producing music on the go. Plus, its pattern sequencer includes a range of editing tools, such as transpose, copy, and delete, which can be used to refine your patterns. In addition, you can also save and recall your patterns for later use, making it easy to build up a library of sounds and ideas.

Cons: 

The synths size may be a limitation for those who prefer a larger keyboard or more extensive control options. In addition, it has a limited polyphony of four voices for the analog synth engine and eight for the digital synth engine. Due to its relatively limited number of inputs and outputs, the synth may not be sufficient for more advanced studio setups.

13. Arturia MicroFreak (Clean Navigation, Amount of Features & Straightforward Display Makes It Great Choice For Beginners)

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The Arturia MicroFreak is a hybrid synthesizer that combines digital oscillators with analog filters and an expressive touch plate.

It offers a wide range of synthesis methods, including wavetable, waveform, digital, granular, and more, and allows you to create a wide range of sounds. It has a compact and portable design, making it a great option for musicians on the go. It also has a built-in sequencer and arpeggiator, as well as a variety of modulation options, allowing you to create complex, evolving sounds.

Character & Sound: 

Its digital oscillators and analog filters can create a wide range of classic synth sounds, including rich, warm pads and aggressive, punchy basses. Its wavetable synthesis can create sweeping, evolving sounds, while its granular synthesis can create more experimental, textural sounds.

Key Features: 

  • 12 Oscillator Engines
    Arturia has packed twelve sound design engines, including wavetable, virtual analog, FM, Waveshaper, Formant, Additive, Modal, Chords, Speech, Karplus, Formant Engine, and Modal resonator. Furthermore, for each of these, the timbre, shape, and other characteristics of sounds can be edited.
  • Futuristic design
    Microfreak features a useful and visually pleasing OLED screen that provides good visual feedback for the selected parameter, preset names, waveshape changes, etc. In addition, it has a matrix knob that lets you assign the target and source for modulations (like Envelope, LFO, CycEnv, Press, Key/Arp, etc.). Similarly, it has many knobs and buttons for various functions built in unconventional styles.
  • Rhythmic powerhouse
    MicroFreaks’ built-in sequencer and arpeggiator can help you create the rhythmic patterns that are often a key part of synthwave music. Its touch plate can also add expression and nuance to your performances. Plus, its poly aftertouch makes it natural and dynamic. The synth’s hybrid synthesis capabilities and wide range of sound design options make it well-suited for creating the retro-inspired sounds often associated with synthwave music.
  • Connectivity
    The MicroFreak has a USB port for connecting to a computer and a MIDI input and output for connecting to other devices. It also has a headphone output and line outputs for connecting to speakers or an audio interface.
  • Presets
    Its presets cover many sounds, including classic synth sounds and experimental textures. They are organized into categories, such as basses, leads, pads, and arps, which can help you quickly find the type of sound you’re looking for. You can also create and save your custom presets, which is useful if you want to save your sound creations for later use.

Pros: 

The built-in presets in the synth provide a useful starting point for sound design and can help you quickly find the type of sound you’re looking for. In addition, it offers several different synthesis methods, including wavetable, waveform, digital, granular, and more, which can be used to create a wide range of timbres.

It’s also portable and compact, gives you hands-on control, and allows free and expressive sound design.

Cons: 

It has a polyphony of 4 voices, and its interface is relatively simple and may not offer as much in-depth editing as some other synthesizers. It does not have any built-in effects, such as reverb or delay, and the memory for storing new sounds is limited.

14. Moog Subharmonicon (Great For Beginners Looking For Rhytms & Sequences)

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Moog has stepped into the arcane world of complex rhythms with the Subharmonicon. These rhythm-focused synthesizers reward exploration and provide plenty of inspiration along the way. Read on if you are looking for a unique chord or percussion-focused synth.

Moog’s Subharmonicon delivers spellbinding polyrhythmic and subharmonic tones all within a compact, Moog vertical tiered rack and Eurorack compatible casing. In addition, it offers a healthy amount of modular patch points and a tremendous amount of character that is great for accompanying a variety of synthesis setups.

Key Features:

  • Six Oscillators
    Up to six oscillators build the tones generated. Two oscillators form the basis of the tones, while up to four sub-oscillators add depth and harmony. The main oscillators have a four-octave range—from middle C to C at the 8th octave—and are accompanied by two sub-oscillators each. Lastly, you will be able to set each oscillator to output one of three waveforms: a square wave, a sawtooth wave, and a pulse wave accompanied by sawtooth waves.
  • Interval Quantization
    The oscillators share a quantization control. You can use the quantization parameter to automatically set the frequency of the oscillators to the intervals of a scale. The four quantization settings are Chromatic Equal TemperamentDiatonic Equal TemperamentChromatic Just Intonation, and Diatonic Just Intonation. Chromatic quantization limits the interval to eight steps, and chromatic limits the interval to twelve steps.
  • Two 4-Step Sequencers
  • Each core oscillator is hardwired to its own four-step sequencer, i.e., oscillator one is connected to sequencer one and vice versa, and provides the basis for which you can create your rhythms. The dial for each step controls the pitch of the step. You can set the octave range for each pitch control to within a range of 5, 2, or 1 octave above and below the initial pitch.
  • Four Polyrhythm Controls
    The polyrhythm features take the set tempo and divide it by a specified value between 1 and 16. Then, the rhythm generator layers the divided rhythm over the chosen sequencer to create a complex polyrhythm. You will be able to lay four separate rhythms over either sequences 1, 2, or both.
10 Tips with the Moog Subharmonicon for Wicked Techno Melody

Character & Sound:

Since Moog makes them, you can expect the iconic smooth Moog tone, but they also offer snappy percussive sound, atmospheric soundscapes, and punchy rhythm arrangements. You can find short recordings of the Subharmonicon in action on Moog’s Soundcloud page. The built-in features makes it perfect synth for Techno music.

Pros:

Since they use an analog audio engine, the sequences sway and drift organically with each cycle. As a result, no two playthroughs will sound the same, which gives the Subharmonicon an authentic characteristic.

In addition, the clock generator can receive and output a clock signal to sync external hardware.

Cons: 

They do come with a steep learning curve, so you will need to take the time to view tutorials and flip through the manual a few times before you can summon the mystifying rhythms contained within.

Unfortunately, you won’t be ahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bpqbwbfyjAble to save presets, so if you come across any fantastic tones while exploring, you will either need to use Moog’s Patch Sheets or take a photo of the interface for future reference.

15. Behringer TD-3-MO Synthesizer (For Its Compact Size, Easy Navigation & No-Nonsense Features, Makes it Great Beginner-Friendly Synth, Especially For Techno Music)

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Behringer has taken to releasing their rendition of a modified TB-303, called the Devil Fish—created by Robin Whittle of Real World Interfaces. It features many of the same modifications made to the TB-303, along with a couple of extra features that add to the grittiness that made the mods great.

The TD-3-MO is a monophonic, analog bassline synthesizer. It offers a heft of new features over the TD-3 that allows more envelope control through additional attack and decay dials, musical expression with the sequencer through their slide and accent controls, a thicker tone through a sub-oscillator, and a variety of CV, gate, and filter inputs and outputs.

Key Features:

  • Single VCO
    The VCO has a three-way switch for switching between two waveforms and an off position. You can use either a biting sawtooth or a hollow square wave to form the basis of your bass lines. Also, you can add a sub-oscillator with a 3-pole switch for the level that plays one octave below a sequence.
  • 4-Pole Low Pass Filter with Keyboard Tracking
    The low pass filter attenuates frequencies above the cutoff point by 24 dB per octave and has a comprehensive range, extending as low as closing the sound off completely to roughly 5 kHz for squealing runs. Moreover, the filter does track the keyboard, so the filter’s cutoff shifts depending on the note, which gives bass lines a slightly more natural characteristic.
  • 16-Step Sequencer
    The sequencer has an adjustable step range that reaches a maximum of 16 steps in a sequence. You can set the timing for each step to either a sixteenth note, to tie sixteenth notes, or for a sixteenth note rest. In addition, you will be able to add accents and slides to the individual notes in your loops.
  • Track & Pattern Modes
    Similar to the TD-3, the MO has four selectable pattern banks with individual A and B banks; overall, you can store up to 16 patterns on the device. Once you have your selection of patterns, you can create a sequence of patterns changed together in track mode.Seven tracks are available, each corresponding to a particular pattern bank. 
Behringer TD-3 MO & Model D - Techno Performance

Character & Sound:

By default, the tones are smooth and deep, but because of the filter’s extensive range, you can create highly sharp/squelching tones. If you need to add an extra level of grit to the signal, the overdrive effect offers a warmer, saturated tone to the mix without becoming overly distorted. And outside of the filter, you can use a muffler function to tame harmonics.   TD-3-MO is definitely great choice for electronic music including Trance, Techno.

Pros:

They feature great control for creating musical passages. Steps in a sequence can be accented for a more dynamic sounding pattern. Moreover, the decay for accented and normal steps have separate dials, so that you can create a fluid distinction between the two.

Unlike the TD-3, you will have access to a filter FM input with dedicated control for adjusting the amount of frequency modulation for the filter.

Cons: 

The manual provided lacks in-depth explanations for the controls. It gets the job done if you just want to know what the various controls are. But, if you want to know what the controls do, you may find the explanations underwhelming.

16. Korg Volca Sample 2 (Great For Beginners Looking For Jamming)

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Korg Volca Sample 2 is an easy-to-use, portable, and versatile sampler & drum machine with capabilities beyond just sampling. 

You can add and manipulate different samples and sounds in it flexibly and intuitively. Compared to Volca beats, it is not as analogue, and beat-making/drum programming focused. Instead, you change the samples on each pad by rotating a knob and browsing through a bunch of cool sounds, from drum samples to melodic sounds. You have controls over speed, filter, attack, and decay for pitch and amplitude, pan, and more. You can also stretch samples by manipulating their decay or speeding them up.

Key Features:

  • Additional effects for sonic shaping and expression
    The machine has a great-sounding reverb that you can assign to different elements in your beats and add a sense of room and ambience to your loops/beats/grooves.
    Secondly, the swing control is great for adding more human touch, funkiness, and a twist to your rhythms. Further, you can play around with filters, envelopes, and other audio manipulation tools to sonically shape and re-imagine your samples.
  • Compactness
    Korg Volca Sample 2 is just 8 inches wide and weighs less than a pound, which makes it highly portable, as it could literally be slipped into a backpack. Additionally, within the small setup, it carries decent functionality.
Techno live with the Korg volca sample 2

Character & Sound:

It sounds fairly digital and is primarily for electronic music production, especially drums and bass. You can add any samples from any genre to it via USB, but the sampling architecture allows for groovy and experimental electronic sounds.  

Pros:

Apart from its portability, its interface is simple and smooth to use, can also be used by a newbie, and is probably the only beginner-friendly hardware sampler on the list. The in-built samples are decent quality, and in terms of connectivity, you have MIDI IN, a USB, a SYNC i/o, a headphones jack, and more. The analogue isolator is an interesting feature that can apply analogue textures to your sounds.  

Cons: 

Being a pocket-sized sampler with decent memory, connectivity, and sample management, it is good for flexible music programming but is not versatile. In addition, it doesn’t have the capabilities of a multi-purpose sampling device. Lastly, Korg does not include a USB lead in the package.  

Choose If:

You want to create innovative and interesting sounds, for example, French electro, LoFi, Japanese Pop, 80s Retro pop, and more genres can be created using Volca Sample 2, as it is a fun, easy, and inspiring tool to use, with ease of connectivity, the good quality sound engine, and creative modulation & sound design capabilities, especially for grooves and bass. 

17. Grandmother (Great For Beginners For Its Amount of Features/Clean Interface Divided Into Sections)

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The Grandmother has received more than a few remarks because of its name and color scheme. However, Moog offers a great vintage-Moog-inspired sound with tremendous functionality and a rewarding experimental experience.

Moog’s Grandmother is a monophonic, semi-modular synthesizer with a built-in keyboard, sequencer, and arpeggiator. It offers all you need for a standalone synth and can easily integrate into a Eurorack system.

Key Features:

  • Two Oscillators
    You can use two oscillators to sculpt your tones, and each oscillator can output one of four standard synth waveforms: a triangle, sawtooth, square, or pulse wave. In addition, you can adjust the pitch of each oscillator within a four-octave range.
  • Classic Moog Filter
    The Grandmother uses Moog’s 24dB/oct ladder filter to remove frequencies above the cutoff point. In addition, you can use keyboard tracking to adjust the cutoff point automatically based on the note being played.
  • ADSR Envelope Generator
    You will have complete control over how your sound unfolds. The envelope generator can independently adjust the sound’s attack, decay, sustain, and release times. In addition, the envelope generator has three patch points available for you to modulate the envelope of your sound.
  • Adjustable LFO
    The modulation section houses a low-frequency oscillator to provide adjustable modulation to three areas. You can adjust the modulation depth for the oscillator’s pitch, the filter’s cutoff frequency, and the pulse width for each oscillator’s square or pulse wave. Also, the LFO can output as a sine, sawtooth, ramp, or square wave.
  • Arpeggiator
    Using the arpeggiator, you can loop melodic lines by playing on the 32-note keyboard. You can adjust the tempo of these lines to play within a range of 20 to 280 bpm. In addition, you will be able to set the arp to play arpeggios in the order the notes were played, forward then backward, or at random.
  • Sequencer
    The sequencer can store up to 256 steps per sequence. In addition, each step is made up of four notes. Aside from the number of steps, you can store three separate sequences to recall later. Like the arpeggiator, you can control the order the sequence is played back in.
  • Built-In Spring Reverb Tank
    They feature a spring reverb effect created by a tank built into the synth. Unlike most built-in effects, which merely emulate the sound, you will be able to mix in an authentic spring reverb tone to add depth and space to your designed sounds.
Unlocking Grandmother's Secrets: Review, ideas and tips for Moog's latest semi modular synth

 

Moog’s Grandmother excels at capturing a vintage analog synthesizer tone that you can use to create smooth, biting, or funky lead tones, thick, growling bass grooves, driving kicks, and immersive ambient sounds.

Pros:

You’ll get a synth with a lot of character, a durable build, and great functionality, both with or without an accompanying modular setup. If you dislike the pastel-colored interface, Moog does offer an all-black alternative.

Cons: 

You won’t be able to save presets of the brilliant sounds you’ve sculpted, which is unfortunate considering the wide range of tones you can create. And the power connector, located at the back of the device, is flimsy enough to disconnect accidentally with the slightest touch.

18. Roland TB-03 Bass Line (Beginner-Friendly Minimal Synth, Great For Techno Basslines)

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Roland TB-03 is a recreation of the classic TB-303 Bass Line Synthesizer. 

Roland has recreated the single octave TB303 without changing its layout control and keeping the sound intact with its futuristic ACB (Analog Circuit Behaviour) technology, which authentically mimics the original synth, and has added some new features to it to make it fitter for the modern use. For example, it has a 4-units LED display for better visual feedback and more efficient programming.

Key Features:

  • Effects
    It has onboard digital effects like overdrive and delay that lets you add a new dimension and depth to the sound, so they can be more upfront and easily fit the space. The overdrive is a single-knob effect that lets you control the intensity of the effect using the knob, and delay uses time and feedback knobs to set the effect right.
  • Studio expansion
    The synth is not just for live performance but can also be used as a great instrument for studio purposes; with its MIDI and USB ports make it act like a sound card and can also be used to transfer signals to the computer or the interface.
  • Ease of use & portability
    It’s the perfect bass instrument for touring as it can operate on 4 AA batteries and be powered via USB. In addition, it also has a mini speaker on it, for instant inspiration and feedback. Further, the hands-on control over parameters like cutoff, resonance, envelope, etc., gives you great command and expression with the sounds.
  • Programming capabilities
    You get a built-in sequencer that can switch between write and play modes. Writing modes are also available for time, pitch, and step expressions. Further, the pattern creation features, tempo control, overdrive and delay effects, and the LED display contribute to its efficient programming.
ANSR - Techno Live Jam #060 with Roland TR-8S + TB-03
Roland TB-303 Bass Line In Action

Character & Sound:

Sonically, the synth works well in the dark and filled spaces with huge monitoring systems and has a fat, warm, and punchy analog sound that can surely rock underground parties, Techno/EDM festivals, stadiums, and even works well as a recording instrument for studio & playback, and can also connect with DAWs.

Pros:

Its connectivity is also open to external analog gears via its CV/Gate output, by which it can command, program, and sequence other instruments. Lastly, it has a high-quality sound, compact packaging, flexibility, portability, and a decent overall build & workflow.

Cons:

It lacks a real-time recording mode and a power supply. Apart from that, it’s pricy and unnecessarily small.  Lastly, you cannot control it with an external device.

19. Moog Minitaur (Great For Beginners Looking For Massive Low-End)

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The Miniataur is a compact analog bass machine that can also integrate with your DAW.

It’s the latest addition to the Taurus family of analog bass by Moog and is great for performing live and using it in a studio by integrating it with a computer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a dedicated keyboard, so it needs an external MIDI keyboard player to use as a LIVE instrument. However, it’s a great tool for creating huge, upfront, and analog bass sounds.

Key Features:

  • Sound engine
    Miniature starts with two VCOs which can be mixed in different proportions to create the sound, which you can switch between square wave and saw waveforms. Then, there’s a filter section, an ADSR envelope section, and an LFO modulation section to shape the sound further. Finally, its polyphony is another feature that needs to be highlighted.
  • Software control
    The free software accessible with the Miniataur allows you to access various hidden parameters and store & recall 128 presets. Further, the DAW integration allows you to access a new possibility of sonic shaping & control. You can control every onboard control via MIDI.
  • Huge sound in a small package
    The bass device can fit into your backpack, it’s so small, yet it sounds massive. You can easily integrate it into a keyboard stack, DJ rig, or studio room. It’s also extremely light, which makes it highly portable and easy to use.
  • Connectivity
    The backside of the device includes a headphone Jack, a quarter-inch plug, an audio Jack out, external audio input, and 4 CV inputs. In addition, there are USB type B and MIDI connectivity available.

Character & Sound:

Despite being a monophonic synth, it sounds powerful and is great for designing and composing bass lines that stand out and shake the room, stage, club, or wherever it is you’re playing. Its fat analog oscillators with square & saw textures make it cut through and translate through every sound system.

GREEN VALLEY 2022 - Moog Minitaur Analog Bass Monosynth Performance

Pros:

Some features are not available on the main panel and can only be accessed using the editor or shift functions. Apart from that, the instrument is quite versatile, as it can produce a wide range of bass sounds and can also be used to create fat and upfront lead sounds. In addition, the DAW and VST/AU compatibility expands its horizons and makes it an even more attractive instrument.

Cons:

It lacks a keyboard and hence can’t be used as a performance instrument, and it could have expanded to more than being just a bass instrument, as it has great functionality. Without the MIDI CCs and editor, you can’t use the device to its fullest.

20. Waldorf Blofeld (Beginner-Friendly For Its Minimal Interface)

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Blofeld is an affordable desktop wavetable synthesizer.

It has three oscillators, two filters, modulators like filter envelope, amplitude envelope, LFO, a modulation matrix, an effects section, and an arpeggiator. Plus it also has a display screen and two controllers for it. It combines analog-modeled circuitry with modern digital controls and features.

Character & Sound: 

The synth has analog characteristics and more than a thousand sounds from Waldorf, that are completely tweakable. You get a huge range of tones at your disposal that you can adjust as per your sensibilities with the flexible controllers of the synth.

Key Features: 

  • Sound sources
    You get access to up to 25 voices and three oscillators per voice. Plus, it has all microwave II/XT/XTk wavetables installed into it. You can adjust the shape, pitch in semitones, detune, and level of each oscillator.
  • Other features
    It includes effects like Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Overdrive, Triple FX, Delay, and Reverb. In addition, the 2 TS analog outputs, 1 TRS output, MIDI i/o, and USB connectivity. Lastly, it’s compact and great for touring musicians/DJs. 

Pros: 

Blofeld has great presets, and you can create some incredible sounds with it. The best part about it is that it costs only about $500, which is great given its capabilities. The LED display, the seven endless stainless steel dials, and the overall intuitive workflow are its biggest pros.

Cons: 

It doesn’t have a MIDI output port and overall limited connectivity. The build quality is not at par, and you may have to be careful with it. Lastly, there could have been more controllers, knobs, sliders, etc., to get a more hands-on feel to it. With the current workflow, it may take a few clicks and steps to do even something simple.

21. Roland Aira Compact J-6 Chord Synthesizer (Minimal Chord Synth For Novices)

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The Roland AIRA Compact J-6 is a synth sequencer designed to help you effortlessly create loop-able chord progressions to simplify your songwriting process. In addition, they offer a range of features to help you get the creative juices flowing and get the most out of your creativity.

Roland’s AIRA Compact J-6 is built for playing chord sequences. You will have access to sound banks, a fantastic chord library, playful and fun styling options to create dynamic progressions, and various patterns to get you started.

Key Features:

  • Preset Soundbanks
    You will have access to eight different sound banks, each filled with eight different sounds, making up sixty-four preset sounds to start your J-6 journey. In addition, each sound is based on the iconic JUNO-60’s voicings.
  • Preset Chord Library
    You will have a hundred sets of chords at your fingertips with up to twelve chords per set. Each set is comprised of chords for a specific genre. The genres range from jazz, RnB, and blues to house, trance, and synth-wave. Roland has even included chords for cinematic songs. Overall, there are roughly seventeen different genres and various genres to choose from. Once a genre has been selected, chords are programmed to play with the press of a single key. You won’t need to know chord shapes to create lavish sounds.
  • Chord Style
    Alongside easily playing chords based on genre, you can adjust the style used to play the chord. By adjusting the style, you can add flair to the chords played. There are up to nine different styling options and twelve variations for the first five styles. The style options include arpeggio variations, rhythmical timing options, and simple and rhythmic chord strumming.
  • Filter & Effects
    The Juno-6 is rather barebones for filtering and effects offered. The lack of complete control over the sound shows they have been built more for musicians and less for sound designers. You will have access to a simple low-pass filter to control the brightness of the chords, a resonance control for accenting the filter’s cutoff point, and an envelope control to adjust attack and decay/release time. The synth uses two dials and a shift button to access these four features.
Roland J-6 AIRA Compact - Make Great Chord Progressions Instantly!

Character & Sound:

You will be able to conjure up a healthy variety of tones. As mentioned above, the sound banks available are similar to what you would find with the Juno-60, so you can expect some quintessential 80s analog synth tones.

The sounds range from low and smooth triangle waves to biting and harmonically rich sawtooth wave tones.

Pros:

The chord library and styling options are great for simplifying and sprucing up the chord progression creation process or just stepping out of the box you may usually place yourself in when creating music.

Cons: 

Some may find the sound design and sound bank options limiting, in which case it would be better to look for something that offers more of a DIY approach to sculpting sounds.

Summary:

The AIRA Compact J-6 is highly recommended if you want a chord sequencer to accompany your song arrangements. Also, they can be great tools for any musician looking for a simple aid for the songwriting process.

22. Modal Craft Synth 2.0 Portable (Great For Beginners For Its Minimal Design & Fewer Features)

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Modal Electronics is a company that creates fairly powerful synthesizers, and their CRAFT synth is no exception!

Modal’s CRAFT Synth 2.0 is a compact monophonic wavetable synthesizer that offers eight adjustable oscillators split into two WAVE groups, a variety of effects modulation, envelope generators, filters, and an arpeggiator.

Key Features:

  • 8 Adjustable Wavetables
    When deciding the tone, you will have up to eight banks of five wavetables for the first wave dial. You will have up to nine banks for the second dial. Each bank contains a handful of unique waveforms, from standard audio waveforms to mathematically-generated, waveforms from the Modal 002 synth and waveforms from an assortment of formants and vocal sounds.
  • 2-Pole Resonant Filter
    The chosen wavetables’ tone can be adjusted further using the resonant filter. You can choose to filter the tone using a low-pass, band-pass, or high-pass filter. By default, the filter uses a low-pass, and as it is turned clockwise, the filter changes to a band-pass filter at the midway point and, finally, a high-pass at the maximum setting. You can use a resonance control to emphasize the frequencies at the cutoff point.
  • Four-Stage Envelope Generator
    You can use the envelope generator to adjust the attack, decay, sustain, and release of the filter, amplifier, or modulator. Each EG can be adjusted independently or simultaneously, depending on the settings used while adjusting an EG.
  • Sequence Arpeggiator
    You can use the arpeggiator to create a variety of arpeggiated sequences. You can either use the sequencer to input the pattern you want the arpeggiator to use or play the sequence yourself, and the arpeggiator will learn and apply that sequence.
Modal Craft Synth 2 - Portable, Affordable Desktop Synth

Character & Sound:

The tones available vary widely since the possible unique waveform combinations are tremendous. You can achieve Vocaloid style tones, warm and full pads, and eccentric lead lines that cut like a hot knife through butter.

Couple this with the ADSR control and LFO options, and you have more tonal possibilities than one could need. To top it all off, you can use the spread control to detune the two oscillators to create interesting textures or increase the spread to the point that they play within certain intervals of each other.

Pros:

The CRAFT synth offers astonishing functionality and potential for such modest size. You will have almost complete control over the sound, particularly if you use the companion app for tonal tweaking.

Also, multiple CRAFT synth units can be chained together to turn this monophonic synth into a true polyphonic synth.

Cons: 

Powering via the micro USB connection can introduce noise to the signal. To get around this, it is recommended to use the battery power route by inserting three AA batteries into the allocated compartment within the device’s base.

The biggest drawback would be the unreliable build. The interface has a penchant for being unreliable, with certain dials and features not working. To get around this, you can rely on the companion, app-which does offer a more intuitive interface to configure the synthesizer. Lastly, the eight-key keyboard is limiting, so connecting the device to a controller is recommended to get the most out of them.

Summary:

The Modal CRAFT Synth offers an incredible amount of potential for its price. Of course, unreliability is a significant drawback, so only you can decide whether it is worth the gamble. But they will be a welcome addition to any rig should they work.

23. Moog Mother-32 (Beginner-Friendly Because of Compact Size & Fewer Features)

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The well-known Mother-32 started Moog’s line of semi-modular synthesizers. The pint-sized synth is not only an awesome standalone analog synth but offers versatile modulation options and Eurorack support, making them a small-yet-mighty addition to anyone’s arsenal.

Moog’s Mother-32 is a monophonic desktop semi-modular synthesizer. It offers one VCO, a bipolar filter, two modulation sources, an AD envelope with sustain switch, and a 32-patch point patch bay.

Key Features:

  • A Voltage Controlled Oscillator
    The oscillator has a one-octave frequency range that can emit a sawtooth or a pulse wave. The pulse wave does have a dedicated pulse width dial. In addition to the internal oscillator tone, you can mix a white noise generator or external audio source with the VCO’s tone.
  • Hi-Pass & Low-Pass Filter
    The Mother-32 has a standard Moog high-pass and low-pass ladder filter that attenuates frequencies by 24dB per octave. The filter includes resonance control that self oscillates at high settings creating a sine wave. In addition, filter parameters can be modulated using the LFO to create a trippy wobble effect. Otherwise, the EG can modulate the filter to create a one-shot warping effect.
  • AD Envelope Generator
    The envelope generator controls the attack and decay of the amplitude by default but, as mentioned, can be patched to modulate the filter. A sustain switch accompanies the attack and delay dials. The switch controls whether the envelope will pass through each stage as soon as the attack segment has passed or if the note will sustain while a key or keys are pressed.  
  • 32-Step Sequencer
    A 1 octave/13-note keyboard is used to create sequences. Despite only being 1 octave, you can transpose the octave within a range of 8 octaves. In addition to transposing octaves, you can transpose sequences to a different root note while retaining the interval relationship. And lastly, you can make your sequences more musical using a swing parameter and input accents.
Moog Mother-32 Semi-Modular Synthesizer | Reverb Demo Video

 

Despite the seemingly limited tonal options available, based on the controls offered, the tones you will be able to create can be rich and complex, sharp enough to cut through a mix, and deep and smooth enough to lay a bed for the rest of your music to lie on.  

Pros:

They offer an exceptional tone and many features for semi-modular synths at this price point. Despite only having one oscillator, the range and depth of tones you can create make up for it. In addition, since they are semi-modular, if you want another oscillator, you can purchase an external module and connect it to the M-32 using the patch bay.

Cons: 

The small interface is cluttered with dials, making it fiddly when adjusting parameters. Adding to the interface woes, there is a slight learning curve with navigating it, so you should flip through the manual and familiarize yourself with all the controls and sections.

24. IK Multimedia UNO Synth (Minimal Approach, Clean Interface & Smaller In Size, Makes It Go-To Synth For Beginners)

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IK Multimedia has created a David-sized synth with Goliath-sized potential with the UNO Synth. The bite-sized device offers plenty of functionality for a synth within its price point and is highly recommended for any synth lover.

The UNO Synth is a true analog monophonic synthesizer that features two Voltage Controlled Oscillators to adjust the waveforms created, a noise generator, a filter, a VCA to control output, two envelope generators, and a low-frequency oscillator for modulating the waveform.

Key Features:

  • Two Wave Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO)
    The two oscillators can sweep between a triangle, sawtooth, square, pulse waveform, or a combination. You can adjust the square wave’s width from fifty percent at the standard square wave setting to ninety percent at the pulse setting. Alongside altering the waveform of each oscillator, you will be able to adjust the tuning of each wave independently and mix in a noise generator. The tuning dial allows you to sharpen or flatten the tone by up to a hundred cents; then, it adjusts the tuning in semi-tones up to one octave.
  • Low-Frequency Oscillator
    The low-frequency oscillator has seven shapes for modulating the output’s tone and a rate modifier to adjust the oscillating speed. You can set the LFO to produce sine, triangle, square, rising sawtooth, falling sawtooth wave, random waveforms, or sample and hold. The LFO Rate function can cycle up to 30Hz and be set to free-run for organic-sounding modulation, or you can sync the rate with the master tempo for rhythmic modulation.
  • Arpeggiator
    You can use an arpeggiator to play an arrangement of notes that make up a chord or to arpeggiate a note using multiple octaves. In addition, the arpeggiator can be set to play using specified variations: upward, downward, up-and-down, up-and-down-repeat, down-and-up, down-and-up-repeat, random, as-played, two-times-up, and two-times-down. You can use each variation to create engaging and complex melodic ideas when paired with multiple synths.
  • Range of Selectable Scales
    The UNO Synth can be set to play each note on the keyboard in a preset scale without knowing the notes that make up a particular scale to maximize your musical ideas. The scale control offers 13 selectable scales ranging from the standard chromatic, major, and minor scales to the exotic, Hungarian Gypsy, and Japanese.
  • UNO Synth Editor
    IK Multimedia offers a standalone application and DAW plug-in for their compact synth that allows you to effortlessly adjust parameters using either an iOS device, Mac, or PC. Outside of the standard controls offered on the synth, the app adds extra controls to fine-tune the tone further and easily save presets. In addition, the UNO Synth can be used as a midi controller when using your DAW.
Bad Gear - IK Multimedia UNO Synth

Character & Sound:

IK’s UNO Synth offers a wide variety of sounds that are only limited by your ability to patch them. The oscillators smoothly transition from a standard triangle wave to a sawtooth to a square wave with variable width.

If you wish to dirty up your signal, the oscillator features a noise generator and can be coupled with a drive feature under the filter controls to capture a grittier tone. The filter controls also sport a low, high, and band-pass filter which provides complete control over the frequency range of the tones.

In addition, each of these controls can be adjusted for each of the sixteen steps when using the sequencer.

Pros:

The device is small, lightweight, and portable. They can be powered by a USB or four AA batteries inserted into the device’s base. They offer a hundred presets to sift through to whet your synth palate, and you can use eighty of those presets to store your musical creations.

In addition, you will have a sixteen-step sequencer available to record loopable passages and phrases. You can use the sequencer to record in real-time or in steps. Once a pattern has been created, you can use alt recording to alter parameters for each step while the sequences play back.

Cons: 

The companion application can save patches to your mobile or desktop device. However, only one patch can be saved and loaded at a time, making transferring whole batches of patches a tiring affair.

Especially when looking into downloading third-party patches since if the batch covers all eighty tweakable patches, you would need to load each one individually up to eighty times. In addition, the USB connection for powering the UNO Synth can create a noisy output.

Therefore, IK recommends using a USB isolator when connecting the synth to a device. Lastly, the companion app is only available on apple based mobile devices.

Summary:

The UNO Synth is highly recommended for any studio or traveling musician. They are packed full of potential and can easily integrate with any DAW. The lightweight frame and compact design make it easy to store and travel with. And the synth’s surface is flat, barring the seven dials at the top of the device.

If you use an iOS device, you can get the most out of the UNO when using it on the go.

25. Korg Monotron Duo (Great To Learn Very Basics)

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KORG released their first pint-sized analog synth in 2010 and have, a few years later, added to that collection with the Monotron Duo. They offer features similar to the original Monotron and a few welcome changes that make them a great addition to any studio.

The KORG Monotron Duo is a monophonic analog synthesizer that offers two VCOs, pitch control, cross-modulation, a VCF, and scale quantization.

Also, the unit is powered using two double-A batteries and has a 3.5mm aux input, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a built-in speaker.

Key Features:

  • Ribbon Controller Keyboard
    Much like the original KORG Monotron, the Duo features a ribbon keyboard. The keyboard covers just over an octave of notes and has an added feature of quantizing the notes to three standard scales and a continuous scale using a small button on the rear of the chassis. You will be able to quantize the keyboard’s notes to a chromatic, major, and minor scale. The continuous scale option is akin to how a fretless instrument or theremin would operate.
  • 2 Voltage Controlled Oscillators
    You can use a single or a duo of oscillators to produce sound. Similar to the original Monotron, the housing features a three-way switch. The switch allows you to either bypass the device, use a single oscillator, or use both oscillators together. The oscillators produce a square wave with a touch of sawtooth to give the tone some grit. The pitch of each oscillator can be adjusted separately, up to four octaves. The second oscillator’s pitch is relative to VCO 1, so the higher VCO 1’s pitch, the higher VCO 2’s pitch.
  • Cross-Modulation
    The two voltage-controlled oscillators also allow a controllable cross-modulation effect initially found in their Mono/Poly synthesizers. The X-Mod control adjusts the intensity of the cross-modulation. You can add a biting distortion to the tone at low levels, and at high levels, you can expect an FM synth-style tone.The second oscillator’s pitch alters the cross-modulation characteristics, further expanding the available tones.
  • Voltage Controlled Filter
    The filter available is the same filter used in KORG’s MS-10 and MS-20 semi-modular synthesizers. In terms of controls, they are more spartan than other synths in today’s article, but the filter is fantastic nonetheless. You will be able to control the filter’s cutoff frequency and the cutoff frequency’s peak emphasis. These two parameters will allow you to create smooth, warm pad tones to cutting lead tones when combined.
In The Studio: Korg Monotron Duo; Monotron Delay

Character & Sound:

The Monotron Duo’s sound isn’t as malleable as other synths we are looking at today, but they are just as powerful as long as you do not rely on the built-in speaker. Overall, the oscillators produce a well-rounded and buzzy square wave. When coupled with the cross-modulation, you will be able to play tones with more bite, and at higher levels, the cross-mod adds a chunkier mix of a square and sawtooth wave tone. The filter adds to this by creating a smoother tone as the harmonics are rolled off. As a result, you can expect a much sharper sound when the filter is turned up.

Pros:

The scale quantization makes playing on the small, recessed ribbon keyboard much easier, especially if you wish to play lead lines. In addition, a 3.5mm aux input allows you to use the Duo’s filter for any outboard audio and send it back to a console using the 3.5mm headphone jack.

And lastly, since two AA batteries power them, they are incredibly portable, making them great for tinkering on the go.

Cons: 

The built-in speaker cannot reproduce the sound effects effectively, so it is highly recommended you connect it to an external speaker system or use headphones. Otherwise, you can expect a tinny output. Also, an LFO is not offered, limiting the modulation possibilities.

Summary:

If you are looking for a barebones synthesizer with only a couple of bells and whistles, the Monotron Duo is for you! Or, if you are looking for something small and light to doodle with, then the Duo is a great option.

26. Novation MiniNova (Very Nice Arranged/Organized Interface With Features Make It Great For Beginners Looking For Hardware Vocoder Synth)

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Mininova is a three-octave mini synthesizer with a powerful sound engine of the UltraNova. 

It has 37 velocity-sensitive keys, a pitch and modulation wheel, a filter knob, four performance knobs, and a switch for adding effects

Key Features:

  • Animate effects
    You have eight pads that you can use to arpeggiate and animate your sounds. Using this, you can add cool articulations and effects to your sounds, using custom animations and activating multiple animations simultaneously. You can also save the patches you like by using the Favorite button.
  • Arpeggiator
    There’s a tempo knob you get under the Arp section in which you can sync the arpeggiator’s timings to the tempo. A latch button lets you keep hearing the sound without having to hold on to the keys. Finally, you get a switch by which you can flip the pads from being animated to being arpeggiated.
  • Sound Engine
    You get 14 types of highly-responsive and smooth filters, including high pass, low pass, and band pass, with different variations of slopes and resonances. There are six envelopes, out of which four can be applied to any parameter. These envelopes are snappy and responsive, so you can sculpt your sound however you want.
  • Attractive Price Point
    At a $399 price point, the features you get on the portable and highly-functional MiniNova are insane at the time of writing this article. It has the sound engine of the UltraNova so you can load its patches into the instrument.
Novation Mininova, All The Vocoder Presets

Character & Sound:

There are 256 pre-loaded presets in the synth that you could go through and 128 available slots to save your patches. You can browse through the sounds using a data knob and select categories of type (bass, keyboard, pads, etc.) and genre (dubstep, house, rock, pop., etc.). 

You can also load external sound packs from online sources or the Novation website. Overall, it has a versatile range of sounds, given its analog-style oscillators with a wide frequency range and immense punch, combined with oscillators, envelopes, and other modulators and effects for sonic shaping

Pros:

It’s well-built and one of the most affordable yet feature-heavy sound design tools. Its portability makes it great for touring and instant music production during inspiration. In addition, it has a great aesthetic, simple workflow, and dials & knobs that let you scroll through the options quite easily. 

Cons: 

The biggest con of the synth is that it’s mono-timbral. Apart from that, the Vocoder is a bit disappointing in terms of clarity, and the reverb and other effects could have been better. There’s no battery power, and the keys are also very small for live-performing keyboard/synth players. 

Choose If:

You want a portable sound design machine that is reasonably priced and that is optimized for electronic music production. In addition, the Vocoder and mic increase its usability and scope and make it more versatile. 

27. Teenage Engineering PO-20 arcade (Great For Beginners Looking For Chiptune Sounds)

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The Teenage Engineering PO-20 arcade is an analog modular synthesizer and sequencer built to create that iconic chiptune, 8-bit video game-style sound on the go, at home, or in the studio.

Having one of Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operators is like having a tiny arcade band in your pocket that you can whip out at any time to create scores of songs. These powerful devices offer a host of sounds you can use to create music.

For example, the PO-20 arcade offers eight drum samples, eight melodic samples, 16 chords, and 16 effects to add to your sequences.

Key Features:

  • 16-Step Sequencer
    Up to 128 patterns and 128 chords can be chained together using the 16-step sequencer. Also, you will be able to record steps in real-time, or you can input each step and then play the sequence once you are done. You can use drum sounds and melodic tones within your sequences. The melodic tones even include an arpeggiator. In addition, you can supplement these beats and melodies with various different chord sequences to create complete songs.
  • Built-In Effects
    You can sequence various effects to add to the music you have created. These effects include soloing specific sounds, e.g., drums or chords or drums and lead or drums and bass, low-pass or high-pass filter, glitches, and fill-in for machine gun kick drum fills. You can even fill your sequences with a short cascading arpeggio.
  • Sound Parameters
    Each sound can be adjusted using an A and B rotatable pod. For melodic and chord sounds, you will be able to adjust the note of the sound and automate note changes to program creative melodic and chord sequences. Also, you will be able to control the drone of the individual chords and the amount of side-chaining to create a pulsating rhythmic effect for each chord.
TEN MINUTE TRACK: PO-20 ARCADE!

Character & Sound:

You can expect a low-resolution and chiptune sound that brings back the memories of walking into your favorite arcade with a pocket full of coins and a hunger for adventure.

Overall, the assortment of drum and melodic sounds comprises a series of modulated beeps, bloops, ticks, and laser gun-like shots. And the A and B sound parameter controls allow you to filter the tone to create smoother ensembles.

Pros:

The PO-20 can be chained to other Pocket Operators using a line connection to create an arrangement of mesmerizing, entertaining, and sometimes complex songs, which can then be connected to a mixer for recording. Otherwise, you can sync a master device to control the tempo.

Cons: 

The sounds fit a niche area that may not apply to various genres. And the device can be complicated to get the hang of, so fiddling with the various functions and watching a tutorial or two is highly recommended so that you can start making music as quickly as possible.

Summary:

The PO-20 Arcade is a slim yet robust modular synthesizer and sequencer that allows you to create scores of songs. If you are a fan of chiptune, then this is your synth. Otherwise, they are fantastic for breaking out of the box and tinkering with something new and unique to get the creative juices flowing.

28. KORG microKORG XL+ (Same As With Novation MiniNova)

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Microkorg XL+ is 37 keys, eight-voice synthesizer with a sixteen-band vocoder. 

It resembles a typical digital piano with an LCD screen, USB connection, and varying effects algorithms. It features the classic Radius sound engine, giving it its analog warmth and texture. It also makes it versatile, as it can create fat bass sounds to punchy leads to thick pads. 

Key Features:

  • Sound selection knobs
    The knobs let you browse the sounds by genre and instrument categories, so you can easily find the sound you’re looking for. In addition, you can layer sounds, split them, and layer them with an external source to expand your sonic horizon.
  • Flexibility of use
    Its battery-charged option enables you to play it in a car, park, or studio, anywhere you like. It can also be used as a USB/MIDI controller and can work with phones. It doesn’t necessarily require a laptop/computer. On top of that, it’s compact and easy to use.
  • In-build Vocoder
    You can use its detachable gooseneck microphone to perform vocals with vocoding effects in real time. The Vocoder has 16 bands, and you can use the external source(s) of sounds.
Vocoder DEMO | Mini Korg XL+

Character & Sound:

Apart from the 128 onboard sounds, you can load 640 more free sounds on the device by running its editor/librarian software on your computer. Sonically, it has great vintage sounds, including the KORG’s SGproX stage piano, the M1, and the VOX organ. On top of it, you can add two master effects from Kaoss, delays, 17 different effects algorithms, and more effects. 

You can find program categories like Poly Synth, Bass, Lead, Arp/Motion, Pad/Strings, Keyboard/Bell, Sound Effect/Hit, and Vocoder/Audio In on the synth

Pros:

It has a small size and an optional battery power mode. The oscillators are voltage-controlled, and the filters are multi-mode, contributing to its great sonic abilities and feature-rich sound engine. The effects: Delay, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Vocoder with 16-band Filter, and 2-band EQ are also huge pros.

Cons: 

The build quality is not high-end, so it may not be rugged enough to carry around for touring musicians. 

29. Moog DFAM (Great For Beginners Because Of Fewer Features)

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The Drummer From Another Mother follows on from the Mother-32 and compliments its predecessor wondrously! And adds to their list of eccentric product names.

The DFAM is a monophonic, semi-modular synthesizer specializing in percussive and rhythmic tones. It integrates seamlessly with other synthesizers and support installation into a Eurorack system.

Key Features:

  • Two VCOs, A Noise Generator, & An External Audio Input
    You will have access to four different sound sources for creating your percussive soundscapes: two voltage-controlled oscillators, a white noise generator, and an external audio source. Each voltage-controlled oscillator can output either a harmonically rich square wave or a biting triangle wave, and you can adjust the octave for each oscillator within a ten-octave range.
  • Two-Way VCF
    The VCF can filter the sound by 24dB per octave using either a high-pass or a low-pass filter that attenuates the sound. Also, the resonance control will allow you to emphasize the filter’s cutoff point to create punchy bass tones to sharp percussive tones that cut like a hot knife through butter. The timber of the filtering is controlled using a single dial. The Filter EG dial lets you control how dynamic and aggressive vs. how tame and dull the envelope modulation sounds.
  • 8-Step Sequencer
    The percussive and rhythmic sounds can be arranged using a basic 8-step sequencer. The sequencer offers six controls, two of which are step specific: Tempo, run/stop, trigger, advance, pitch, and velocity. The overall tempo can be adjusted using the tempo dial; otherwise, if the pitch/velocity output is patched to the tempo input, you can adjust the timing of each step individually. And lastly, you will be able to manipulate the individual steps using the pitch and velocity dials.
  • Modular Patch Bay: 15 Inputs & 9 Outputs
    You can expand on the sounds and features using the 24 patch points available. All parameters of the DFAM can be routed for external modulation or to modulate various parameters within the synth. And it does support integration into a Eurorack setup.
A love letter to the Moog DFAM (that also explains it)

 

The various sounds available are tailored to percussive and rhythmic sounds but can also be shaped to play drawn-out atmospheric tones. If you are curious about the tones available, you can find recorded sound samples on Moog’s SoundCloud page here.

Pros:

The interface is painless to navigate since the controls are clearly marked and flow intuitively across the face of the synth. The patch bay may not offer a wide variety of options, but it does expand upon the already great tone exponentially. 

Cons: 

Unfortunately, the Drummer From Another Mother does not allow you to save sequences or presets for recall later, but Moog does have printable patch sheets that you can download from their website should you want to make a record of any sounds you discover.

Bonuses: For Beginner With Basic Knowledge

1. Korg Modwave

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The Korg Modwave synthesizer combines digital wavetables with analog filters in a futuristic synth design.

The instrument is a great sound designing tool featuring multiple morphable waveforms and wavetables, motion sequencing for creative and expressive playing, the Kaoss pad, and expansive built-in effects like ring modulation, tremolo, waveshaper, etc., for intensive sound-shaping.

Character & Sound:

The synth is great for animated sound effects, morphing sounds, and rhythmic sequences. Its Serum-compatibility makes it even more expansive and versatile. With 4 envelopes, 5 LFOs, and aftertouch, you can exploit its modulation capabilities. With two oscillators, 32- voice polyphony, and dual-timbrality, you can get thick, wide, and stereo audio outputs.

Key Features: 

  • Millions of wavetable variations
    It has 200+ wavetables, with 64+ waveforms, that you can further manipulate with Modwave’s morphing features and modifiers. In addition, you can also import wavetables from Serum by Xfer Records. In addition, it includes a PCM library which you can use to add a more realistic and organic quality to your sounds.
  • High-quality filters
    The filters in the synthesizer are taken from the classic MS-20 and Polysix synthesizers. In addition, these filters include 2- and 4-pole lowpass, highpass, bandpass, and band-reject filters.
  • Kaoss Pad
    Kaoss Pad is a dynamic effects/sampler instrument and has been used by experimental sound designers/producers/artists like Brian Eno, Radiohead, Muse, etc. The synth also includes Kaoss Physics, modeling the behavior of a bouncing ball for any parameter automation.

Pros: 

Motion Sequencing has a “Lanes” workflow that provides a unique way to manipulate pitch, time, step sequencer values, and other properties of sound. In addition, there are thirteen morph-type filters for stretching, squeezing, and altering wavetables in real time. The synth is overall compatible and feature-rich.

Cons: 

The plastic body makes it light and portable but also takes away from the ruggedness and physical sustainability of the instrument. The internal jacks are of low quality, making the overall construction and build disappointing. Also, the complex workflow requires you to do some menu diving.

2. Modal Argon 8

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Modal Argon 8 is an 8-voice and 37-key polyphonic wavetable hardware synthesizer.

It’s an expansive synthesizer with 100+ effects presets, including Chorus, Flanger, Lo-fi, Tremolo, Rotary, Delay, and Reverb. It has many knobs, buttons/switches, and a display screen to support the process. In addition, there are 500 memory slots (with 300 factory presets) that you can utilize to store, process, and manipulate sounds.

Character & Sound: 

It consists of 32 high-quality oscillators working alongside two waveshapes that can be selected from more than a hundred morphable wavetables. You can create thick and dense sonics with a stack of four oscillators per voice. With a wavetable synthesis, your horizon expands infinitely.

You can use knobs like Spread (glide) to slightly detune and widen your sounds. You can also change the Oscillator Mode and add modulations from the two LFOs and three ADSRs. You can add up to three effects and sculpt your sounds flexibly.

Key Features: 

  • Rich in effects
    It’s a feature-rich machine with multiple effects processors, like de-rez, waveshaping distortion, a great-quality effects engine, filters with insane movements, and envelope generators. You can get great distortion, morphing, and ambient effects with the Argon 8.
  • Momentum
    You get access to an expansive arpeggiator and a 512-step sequencer which lets you create rhythmic melodies and patterns that could add great momentum to your productions and arrangements.
  • Durability
    The synth has a steel and aluminum chassis which gives it a great protective physical layer, especially in the studio and live shows, where the equipment is exposed to heat and other adverse conditions. With its rough and tough packaging, the synth is perfect for live touring!
  • Connectivity
    The synth has a 1/8″ TRS aux input and two 1/4″ main outputs alongside USB MIDI I/O. The USB connectivity is of type-B, and its software version, “MODAL App Software Editor,” is compatible with a Mac OS X 10.10 or later and Windows 7 SP1 and higher operating systems, and iOS 10 (or later), and Android 6 (or later) mobile software.

Pros: 

Its biggest pros are the high-quality build of the synth, thick textures, a built-in arpeggiator, and the modulation capabilities of the Argon 8. In addition, the four-axis joystick, which has a great response rate and high-resolution controllers, gives you hands-on control over your instrument.

Cons: 

The synth is quiet, and you may have to ramp up your amp or audio output to get it into full effect. Its sound design capabilities are great, but it has comparatively lesser controllers than other similar synths in the market. Also, the workflow isn’t intuitive and may require massive menu diving and practice before you can exploit its full potential.

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