Top 12 Synth Brands 2022 – Analog, Digital & Modular Synth Manufacturers

Top 12 Synth Brands - Analog, Digital & Modular Synth Manufacturers | Integraudio.com

From modest monophonic analog synths to modern wavetable and granular magic machines, these top 11 synth brands have been responsible for pioneering the way music is produced.

When we talk about hardware synths, we picture an iconic Minimoog, a Yamaha CS-80, a Prophet 5, or perhaps the jungle of wires that is the ARP 2600. Back then, these synths cost a fortune, thanks to the development and manufacturing costs. And while I wouldn’t say that modern synths are necessarily cheap (especially for a budding musician), they are undoubtedly more accessible and, when reaching the same prices as the classics, offer way more features.

One of the reasons behind the change in price is the competition. Higher competition means researching ways to lower production costs. Hence, we now have many brands producing feature-rich synths at highly reasonable prices than in the past. The following are twelve of the veteran brands that have been around for a long time and are producing exciting products even today in 2022:

Top 12 Synth Brands Of 2022

1. Roland

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Founded back in 1972, Roland Corporation is responsible for many synths that have changed the course of music history.

Roland is a Japanese electronic instruments manufacturer that produces a large variety of products, including some of the most famed synthesizers like the Juno-106. The founder, Ikutaro Kakehashi, focused on affordability and simplicity, targeting home musicians and hobbyists. That decision made Roland responsible for bringing electronic musical instruments to a massive number of households. The brand also had crucial involvement in the development of MIDI.

Humble Beginnings:

Although later known as a revered synth manufacturer, Roland’s debut product was a drum machine named Rhythm 77 (TR-77). The same year, the brand also released TR-33 and TR-55. However, Roland unveiled the very first compact synthesizer manufactured in Japan, the SH-1000, the following year, followed by SH-3. The latter was a monophonic analog synth that featured both subtractive and additive synthesis, a remarkable feat for a vintage synthesizer.

Soon after releasing the synths, Roland expanded into other territories. By 1975, you could find Roland guitar effects pedals and amplifiers. Then, they built one of the earliest music sequencers, the MC-8 MicroComposer, and the first guitar synthesizer, GR-500.

Claim To Fame:

While the brand went off with huge success from the beginning, it wasn’t until the 80s when Roland became a worldwide sensation. First, in 1981, the Jupiter-8, an 8-voice polyphonic subtractive synth, was a major hit, and in 1983, they released the TR-303 bass-synth following the venerated TR-808 and TR-909 drum machine. The latter three have become the foundation of many electronic genres like hip-hop, techno, house, etc. You’ll find their emulations built by many software developers and hardware manufacturers even today after over 40 years since their introduction!

Roland Jupiter-X Synthesizer: Unboxing & Jam

Contemporary Offerings:

Currently, Roland manufactures a wide variety of products ranging from effect pedals and guitar amps to electronic drum kits and synths. Under their synth category, you’ll find modern iterations of synthesis inspired by the rapid changes brought about by computers and software. However, fortunately, Roland hasn’t let go of the classic analog synths that modern producers love even today. Here are four of their synths you can buy in 2022:

  • Fantom 8
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    The Fantom 8 is Roland’s flagship digital audio workstation keyboard that features multi-sampled acoustic, electronic, and synthesized sounds. It uses Roland’s ZEN-Core synth engine to recreate the sounds of its analog synthesizers. Combined with the power of modern chipsets and deep integration with modern DAW software, this performance synthesizer keeps up with all the rapid developments happening in the software realm.
  • Jupiter-X
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    This synth is Roland’s answer to the demand for classic analog synthesizers. Carrying the name of their famed classic, the Jupiter-X not only recreates the legacy Jupiter series but also the sounds of analog Juno-106, SH-101, digital XV-5080, RD pianos, drum machines TR-808, TR-909, CR-78, etc.
  • System 8
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    For the people who can’t quite afford a Jupiter-X, the System 8 is a very similar model costing about a thousand dollars less. And although it has a mere 8-voice polyphony instead of 32 and a fewer variety of sounds, you’ll still find it excellent for generating classic sounds of the Jupiter, Juno-106, JX-3P, etc. Furthermore, it also features a built-in sequencer.
  • Gaia SH-01
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    Weighing less than 10 lbs., you’ll find the analog powerhouse Gaia SH-01 ideal for traveling and home music production. Furthermore, it’s one of the most affordable synths by Roland and features three oscillators, filters, and nine envelopes. And on top of all that, it’s a 64-polyphony synth!

2. Waldorf

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Waldorf has been an active contributor to developing and pioneering new synth instruments ever since its establishment.

Waldorf is a German synth manufacturer founded in 1988. The company is most notable for implementing wavetable synthesis before most other manufacturers did. It adopted new technologies actively, creating cutting-edge instruments like their famed PPG Wave 2 and Microwave I and II. Furthermore, the company creates software synths for various platforms along with hardware.

Humble Beginnings:

The company’s founder was Wolfgang Düren, and back then, Waldorf was the distributor of the synth manufacturer Palm Products GmbH (PPG). Later, PPG was bought by Waldorf, starting its synth-developing journey. However, before Waldorf owned PPG, the PPG owner Wolfgang Palm debuted his first commercial synth 300 Series, a sophisticated modular synth that failed to become a hit.

Soon after, Palm introduced the 1002 and 1020 synthesizers, which were portable, monophonic synths, and the latter featured groundbreaking digitally controlled oscillators. If you’ve used analog synths, you’re aware of analog drifts. So, using these digitally controlled oscillators made them much more stable.

Claim To Fame:

Waldorf (PPG) has always created complex and radical hardware synths. For example, in 1979, the company introduced the 340/380 System, a digital synth that featured a 16-track sequencer and came with a ‘computer terminal’ with a monitor, floppy drive, and a 61-keys keyboard. The synth became a hit when Tangerine Dream used it in the early 80s.

Waldorf (PPG) was already experimenting with wavetable synthesis by that time. And in 1981, it released the Wave 2, a revolutionary wavetable synth with 1,920 waveforms per oscillator built in collaboration with Tangerine Dream. The synth was further developed throughout the 80s, with updates adding more waveforms, multitimbrality, and MIDI. Acclaimed musicians like Hans Zimmer, Depeche Mode, Tangerine Dream, etc., were a few of those who brought it to fame.

Waldorf Quantum Hybrid Synthesizer

Contemporary Offerings:

Waldorf has continually developed new synths, experimenting with modern technologies. Just over the past decade, it has released several synths ranging from analog to hybrid models with a built-in vocoder. Let’s have a look at some of its recent synthesizers:

  • Quantum
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    Quantum is Waldorf’s flagship synthesizer capable of both analog and digital synthesis. It’s one of the few hardware synths that can generate incredibly futuristic sounds that only the latest software synths are capable of. It includes five kinds of synth engines: wavetable, subtractive, granular, resonator, and FM. Its elegant layout and large touchscreen make it one-of-a-kind.
  • Kyra
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    Kyra is a versatile virtual analog synthesizer module. It’s a multitimbral instrument with eight parts and 32-voice polyphony per part. Each part has two oscillators, two sub-oscillators, filters, modulators, and effects. It uses a USB port to share MIDI and audio data between your keyboard, computer, sequencer, etc. There are also 5-pin MIDI and TS-ports as alternatives, of course.
  • Iridium
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    Iridium is essentially the synth engine from Quantum in a portable form. That makes it an excellent choice for those without enough space or budget. Like Quantum, it has five kinds of synthesis: wavetable, virtual analog, granular, resonator, and FM. Although, it trades Quantum’s three analog filters for the more accessible digital ones. Furthermore, the synth module features a large touch screen with the essential parameters in hardware form, making it excellent for performance and studio use.
  • Waldorf M
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    As you’ve probably guessed, Waldorf M is the new Microwave II, a classic hybrid wavetable synth with analog filters and amplifiers. It’s a table-top synth featuring 8-voice polyphony, over 2,048 presets, and 4-part multitimbrality. Like the rest of the Waldorf synths on this list, Waldorf M also employs a USB connection, TS-ports, and 5-pin MIDI ports.

3. Yamaha

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Yamaha is the oldest music instruments manufacturers on our list and probably with the widest range of products.

Established in 1887 as a reed organ manufacturer, Yamaha is a Japanese company previously known as Nippon Gakki Co. Ltd. It was renamed after its founder Torakusu Yamaha over 20 years after its establishment. One of the most important synths Yamaha developed is the CS-80, which remains revered even after nearly 40 years today. However, other than synths, the world knows Yamaha for products unrelated to music like vehicles, semiconductors, sports products, robots, appliances, and more.

Humble Beginnings:

Torakusu Yamaha, who was an artisan himself, created musical instruments. He first made reed organs, and in 1900, he made the first Japanese piano, which was an upright piano. However, during the 20th-century world wars, Yamaha was involved in metallurgical technologies, which later became the foundation for their first motorcycle.

Soon after, Yamaha grew to become one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies of pianos, keyboards, drums, guitars, brass, woodwinds, strings, percussions, etc. Furthermore, it also established the Yamaha Music School, Japan, in 1954 and continues to remain a leading light in music knowledge and technology.

Claim To Fame:

Although Yamaha has had a reputation of producing high-quality products for over a century, two of their products defined them in the synth world. The first was, of course, the famous CS-80. It was an analog synthesizer released in 1977 with 8-voice polyphony, two oscillators, and four filters.

Similarly, Yamaha released the world’s first commercially successful digital synthesizer, the DX-7, in 1983. With over 200,000 sales, this unit was a successor to the 1980 GS-1 FM synth, which was far more expensive. And while the DX-7 was highly complicated and few truly learned to program it, its presets became a staple of 80s pop music.

Yamaha MODX6 Synthesizer Workstation - Overview & Demo

Contemporary Offerings:

Nowadays, Yamaha produces a large variety of instruments, including DAW keyboards, drums, acoustic guitars, woodwinds, strings, electric guitars/bass, etc. However, when it comes to synthesizers, Yamaha has focused a lot more on hybrid instruments that combine multiple kinds of synthesis and sampling, ideal for studio use. Here are a few of their latest synth instruments:

  • MODX
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    The MODX is Yamaha’s latest synthesizer. It’s a hybrid instrument that offers a modern take on FM synthesis at an affordable price. It comes in three varieties with 61, 76, and 88 keys. The synth has eight FM operators, built-in DSP effects, ten audio outputs, four audio inputs, and USB MIDI. You can process external audio sources using the built-in effect processors.
  • Montage
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    This flagship instrument features two sound engines: the proprietary AWM2 (waveform and subtractive synthesis) and FM-X. It is essentially a ROMpler with a powerful built-in genuine analog synthesizer. Furthermore, you’ll also find innovative effect processors, USB-based audio/midi connections, sequencers, complete recording solutions, and more.
  • Reface CS
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    The Reface CS is a portable 8-voice polyphonic virtual analog synth with two oscillators. The oscillators have five kinds: multi-saw, pulse, sync, RM, and FM. It is a part of the several instruments in the Reface series, an array of portable mini keyboard instruments.

Related Readings:

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4. Kurzweil

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Kurzweil has had long-standing success in creating hardware samplers, but synthesizers haven’t been out of their priority either.

The company was established in 1982 by the inventor Ray Kurzweil along with Stevie Wonder and Bruce Cichowlas. Before creating synthesizers, Ray Kurzweil developed reading machines for the visually impaired, and he adapted the technology to make musical instruments. The company’s first notable instrument, the K250 sampler-synth, resulted from a bet between Ray Kurzweil and Stevie Wonder over whether a synth could sound like a real piano. I think it’s safe to say that Ray won.

Humble Beginnings:

While the K250 was a relative success, it was the K150 that was released in 1986 that gave Kurzweil an identity. The synth used a unique, digital additive synthesis with 240 oscillators, 16-voice polyphony, and extensive programmability. Sound designers and academics considered it a sonic marvel. However, it couldn’t reach as big a commercial success as it ought to have.

The company followed up with several more hybrid synth-samplers. For example, the K1xxx and K2xxx series had various versions, some with sample libraries for a specific kind of instrument (strings, pianos, brass, etc.), some with sampling capability, some with a keyboard, some rack versions, etc. These were continuously updated and developed throughout the 90s.

Claim To Fame:

In the 90s, Kurzweil’s K2000 series sampler synthesizers were one of the best ways to achieve realistic sounds in a music workstation. Hence, despite being very expensive, they still found a place in leading recording studios and film studios. That success led to Kurzweil creating more versions of the instrument for different instrument categories, recording capability, etc.

Kurzweil K2700 - Facebook Live Event for Kraft Music

Contemporary Offerings:

Kurzweil has recently turned aside from developing dedicated synth instruments. Instead, it manufactures workstation keyboards with built-in synth engines that are highly capable. Let’s have a look at a couple of the latest:

  • K2700
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    The K2700 is the flagship workstation keyboard. So, it’s technically not a dedicated synth. However, it features a digital synth with 32-layers per program, a 6-operator FM synth engine, virtual analog oscillators, and an extensive collection of high-quality effects. Furthermore, it employs over 16 GB of samples, organ modeling, and a string resonance engine for mix-ready production.
  • Forte
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    Like the K2700, the Forte isn’t a dedicated synth either. It combines a stage piano, workstation, and a synthesizer in one instrument. The synth part includes a 6-operator FM engine, a digital synth with 32 layers per program, and a CC sequencer. Other features include organ modeling, 16 GB of samples, a powerful effects collection, etc.

5. Korg

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If you’ve been making music for a while, you’re most likely familiar with Korg for its reliable and high-quality products.

Korg is a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments and gadgets. Their subsidiary, Vox, produces electric guitars, guitar amplifiers, and pedal effects. Korg was founded in 1962 by Tsutomu Kato and Tadashi Osanai under the name Keio G. K. Ltd. The story behind the company’s establishment is something I find most interesting.

Kato originally ran a nightclub, and Osanai was a performer there. When Osanai’s Wurtilizer Sideman rhythm machine failed to satisfy his needs, he convinced Kato to invest in his efforts to build a better one. Kato’s investment did pay off, though, because about two years later, they had a rhythm device up for sale.

Humble Beginnings:

The first rhythm machine Osanai built was the Donca Matic DA-20, released in 1963. And thanks to the commercial success it had, the company went on to release a transistor-based version of the hardware in 1966. A year later, an engineer looking to build keyboards approached Kato, who asked the engineer to build him a prototype. Eighteen months later, the prototype of a programmable organ was ready, and the company manufactured it under the name KORG [Kato-Osanai-RG (for oRGan)].

Their products were successful throughout the late 1960s, but since synthesizers were all the rage in the early 70s, the company decided to dabble in the new market for the first time. The result was the Korg miniKORG, which was released in 1972. It was a two-oscillator monophonic analog synth. And for the first time in the world, a synth had built-in effects.

Claim To Fame:

Even the company’s earliest synths, like miniKORG and PS3300, were hugely successful thanks to their innovative effect processors built inside the synths. And later on, Korg went on to become the first company to invent ‘transpose’ buttons, which has become a standard on virtually every keyboard.

The brand was also the first to create a sample-based synth. When Korg released the M1 workstation in 1988, it became the best-selling synthesizer ever at that time with over 250,000 units sales.

Korg Modwave Sound demo (no talking)

Contemporary Offerings:

At present, Korg has a variety of products ranging from workstations, stage keyboards, arranger keyboards, synthesizers, MIDI controllers, etc. For synthesizers, Korg manufactures digital synths, analog modeling synths, and true analog synths. Let’s have a look at some of their newest releases:

  • ARP 2600 M
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    Based on ARP 2600, the ARP 2600 M delivers the same legendary sound with even more features in a more compact and portable form. It’s a 3-oscillator, monophonic (2-voice polyphonic in duo-phonic mode) semi-modular synth with a dedicated noise generator. In addition to the classic features, the ARP 2600 M employs a USB port for MIDI, TS-ports for audio, and another 5-pin MIDI input.
  • Modwave
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    Modwave is an advanced wavetable synthesizer with two layers, two oscillators per layer, virtual analog filters, digital filters, an arpeggiator, and many effect processors. Furthermore, it comes with editor software that allows you to edit and organize sound using your computer via a USB connection.
  • Opsix
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    As the name suggests, Opsix is a six-operator FM synthesizer. It’s a portable table-top synth with a clean but elegant interface. Furthermore, Korg has made the intimidating FM synthesis much more digestible thanks to its design. You’ll also find virtual analog filters, thirty effect processors, a small LED display, a 16-step polyphonic sequencer, and five operator modes.
  • Volca Series
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    The Volca series is a lineup of budget-friendly gears that are ultra-portable. There are Volca Keys, Volca Bass, Volca Beats, Volca Kick, Volca Modular, and Volca Nubass. If you are new to hardware synths, I recommend the Volca Keys. It’s a robust polyphonic synth capable of looping notes and CC automation.

6. Oberheim

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Oberheim Electronics is a maker of synthesizers and other electronic musical instruments based in the United States.

The company was founded in 1969 by Tom Oberheim, who is still the current designer behind Oberheim products. Oberheim was responsible for several revolutionary products in the early days of synthesizers. One of the company’s innovations was the Synthesizer Expander Module (SEM) in 1975 for the DS-2 sequencer. It let users play one synthesizer while the DS-2 played a sequence on another synth.

Humble Beginnings:

Some of the first few polyphonic synthesizers the company introduced were the TVS-1 with 2-voice polyphony and the FVS-1 with 4-voice polyphony. And in 1977, the EVS-1 with 8-voice polyphony was released. They all relied on the SEM module to combine multiple synths for higher polyphony.

Claim To Fame:

Oberheim released the OB-1, the world’s first fully programmable synthesizer, in 1977. It was a monophonic analog synthesizer that was the first synth capable of storing patches. It had two oscillators and a low-pass filter. It also featured an envelope for the filter and the amplifier each. The synth was a commercial success used by artists like Tangerine Dream, Rush, etc.

Why I Love the Sequential OB-6

Contemporary Offerings:

Oberheim went bankrupt around 1985 and was acquired by Gibson. However, the trademark was resold to Viscount International, an Italian digital-organ manufacturer. The company had several successful instruments and gadgets under Viscount. But in 2009, Tom Oberheim announced a return to building synths, although sporadically.

  • Sequential OB-6
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    Oberheim built the OB-6 with Sequential owner Dave Smith in 2016. It’s a 6-voice polyphonic analog synth based on the original SEM design. However, I must mention that the synth is currently sold under the Sequential brand. Only the hardware itself is designed by Tom Oberheim.
  • TVS Pro
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    The TVS Pro is from 2015. It’s the original SEM-based 2-voice synth remade for the modern world. However, the units produced were far too few, and it’s barely available for sale anywhere. In 2021, it was re-released as a special edition version, but that too sold out in a day.

7. Sequential

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Surprisingly, Sequential is much less known by the public now despite their wide success in the past, and the reason is a hiatus.

Sequential (previously Sequential Circuits) is an American synth manufacturer founded in 1974 by Dave Smith. During the 80s, they were instrumental in the development of MIDI. Their most famous product is the Prophet-5. However, the products released after Prophet-5 weren’t as successful. So, in 1987, the company went out of business and was purchased by none other than Yamaha. Sadly, Yamaha shut down the company in 1989.

Later in 2015, Dave Smith was able to reacquire his brand via his Dave Smith Instruments company. And in 2021, the British company Focusrite acquired Sequential seemingly out of nowhere. We have yet to see what new products Focusrite and Sequential manage to produce next.

Humble Beginnings:

When Dave Smith founded Sequential, his first product was an analog sequencer for Moog and Korg/ARP synthesizers. It was followed by a digital sequencer and the Model 700 Programmer. In 1975, Sequential released the Model 800, a sequencer programmed with a microprocessor. So, it was a rather revolutionary device and an excellent foundation for their future product.

Funnily enough, Smith had no intention of developing a synthesizer at first. He expected Moog or ARP would adapt the microprocessor technology. However, when neither seemed to do so, Smith decided to work on the world’s first programmable polyphonic synthesizer: the Prophet-5.

Claim To Fame:

Undoubtedly, the Prophet-5 was the most significant success Sequential has ever had. It had two oscillators and five-voice polyphony. Furthermore, it was the first programmable synth with patch memory when all the other synths required manual programming every time you wanted to change a patch.

So, despite being released in 1978, the same year the Yamaha CS-80 was released, the Prophet-5 instantly became a market leader and the industry standard. It was used by influential artists like Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Tangerine Dream, Madonna, and film composers like John Carpenter, Alan Howarth, etc.

Contemporary Offerings:

While we could consider the products released by Dave Smith Instruments as Sequential products, I will focus only on the products released by the Sequential brand itself. That essentially means the products were released after 2015.

Here’s something encouraging: in January 2015, Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder of Roland, encouraged Yamaha to return the Sequential Circuits brands to Dave Smith with the following quote:

“I feel that it’s important to get rid of unnecessary conflict among electronic musical instrument companies. That is exactly the spirit of MIDI. For this reason, I personally recommended that the President of Yamaha, Mr. Nakata, return the rights to the Sequential name to Dave Smith.”

Sonic LAB: Sequential Prophet X Big Fat Review

Thanks to Roland and Yamaha’s goodwill gesture, we can now discuss the following products:

  • Prophet-6
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    The Prophet-6 was released in 2015. It’s a tribute to the classic Prophet-5 but with modern twists. It has two analog oscillators, one sub-oscillator, two filters, modern effect processors, a polyphonic step sequencer, and an arpeggiator. The oscillators feature continuously variable waveshapes. Furthermore, there are 500 factory presets and 500 user programs.
  • Prophet X
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    Sequential’s current flagship instrument is the Prophet X. It’s an incredibly powerful sampler-synthesizer with over 150 GB of samples provided by 8Dio. Unlike the previous Prophets, the Prophet X features two digital oscillators, two analog low-pass filters, digital filters and effect processors, a polyphonic step sequencer, a 16-slot modulation matrix, and an arpeggiator. It also has 50 GB of space for user samples or 3rd party libraries.

8. Nord

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Nord is a brand under Clavia, a Swedish electronic instruments manufacturer.

Clavia was established in 1983 by Hans Nordelius and Mikael Carlsson. Back then, the company used to produce electronic drums and modules. Their first product was the Digital Percussion Plate 1, the first dedicated digital drum ever to be released commercially. It was only in 1995 when they released their first keyboard instruments under the brand name Nord. So, I’ll talk about the products after the rebranding.

Humble Beginnings:

Clavia’s first synth was the Nord Lead, released in 1995. It was a 4-voice polyphonic virtual analog synth capable of both subtractive and FM synthesis. So, it became an instant success and was hailed by many industry professionals and critics.

Claim To Fame:

Nord’s claim to fame was undoubtedly the virtual analog synthesis. From their first synth, the Nord Lead, the new synthesis method gave people the first look at the future hybrid synths. Then, the Nord Lead 2 was released in 1997 with 16-voice polyphony, a ring modulator, and programmable patches. It also met considerable success.

Since then, Nord has released a handful of synthesizers in this series. In 2001, they revealed the Nord Lead 3 with 4-operator FM synthesis and an arpeggiator. However, it was far more expensive than the previous products. So, Nord introduced the Nord Lead 2X just two years later. This one was an update to the Nord Lead 2 with 20-voice polyphony, 24-bit 96 kHz audio processing, and a larger path memory.

Tweaking: Nord Lead A1 (NO TALKING)

Contemporary Offerings:

Recently, Clavia has been focusing on stage keyboards and percussion synths. One of the best is the Nord Stage 2, an excellent digital piano released in 2011. However, the company has also released a few synths. Here are a couple of the latest ones:

  • Nord Lead A1
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    Released in 2014, the Nord Lead A1 is a multitimbral virtual analog synthesizer with four parts. It features two oscillators, FM and AM capabilities, a noise generator, and an arpeggiator. You’ll also find an effect section with excellent effects like chorus, reverb, delay, ring modulation, phaser, flanger, and drive.
  • Nord Wave 2
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    The Nord Wave 2 combines virtual analog synthesis, samples, FM synthesis, and wavetables. It features four “parts” with dedicated volume/panning controls. It’s a 48-voice polyphonic instrument with 1 GB of sample data and capable of having up to a whopping 16 oscillators. Combine that with the modern effect processors, and you have an incredibly capable sound designing machine.

Related Readings:

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9. Arturia

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Although a relatively new player in the audio technology industry, Arturia has repeatedly proven to be a high-quality manufacturer and software developer.

Arturia is a French electronic instruments manufacturer established by Frédéric Brun and Gilles Pommereuil in 1999. The company is better known for its software synths and MIDI controllers. A lot of their software products include emulations of classic synthesizers and keyboards. So, it was no surprise when the company announced its first hardware synth.

Humble Beginnings:

Arturia only entered the hardware synth market in 2012 with MiniBrute, a 25-key monophonic analog synthesizer with one oscillator, two LFOs, and a multimode filter. Thanks to its budget-friendly price point, it was a commercial success and remains much-loved among budget music producers.

Claim To Fame:

I would credit their success to the reliable software synths they make. Thanks to their closely-modeled hardware emulations, music producers have had the opportunity to experiment with the sounds of expensive hardware synths at a fraction of the cost. Furthermore, their MIDI controller keyboards have helped create a reputation for the company’s hardware quality.

So, when they released their first synth, the MiniBrute, it quickly won the hearts of many musicians and critics. And the following year, in 2013, they released MicroBrute, an even less expensive and smaller version of MiniBrute. Both were successful at appeasing the market.

Contemporary Offerings:

Although Arturia’s initial hardware products were primarily aimed to remain budget-friendly, the company has also created bigger, ambitious synths. Of course, there hasn’t been enough time to see many of those yet. Still, the future is promising.

POLYBRUTE Review // +70 Presets // Full morph tutorial for Arturia's flagship synth

Let’s have a look at what we do have so far:

  • MatrixBrute
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    Arturia’s MatrixBrute is a culmination of everything the brand has picked up about synthesis put together into one imposing piece of hardware. It’s a modular synth that gives you all the flexibility you’d expect from one but without having to use wires. How did they do that? The matrix. It lets you create routings internally by merely pushing a button. Furthermore, it features three oscillators, an arpeggiator, effect processors, and a sequencer.
  • PolyBrute
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    The PolyBrute is a 6-voice polyphonic analog synthesizer with two oscillators. It has an array of filters, envelopes, and LFOs to help you design sounds. And it has a feature called ‘morphing’ that lets you morph between two patches as you’d do with a software synth. And like MatrixBrute, the PolyBrute also employs a matrix to help you create routings internally without using wirings.
  • MicroFreak
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    The MicroFreak is a portable synthesizer that packs a lot of power for something so small. While it only has a single oscillator, it features eighteen digital modes, including wavetable, additive, subtractive, FM, noise, etc. It’s a four-voice polyphonic synth with a powerful arpeggiator.

10. Moog Music

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Moog Music is the brand that started it all.

Moog Music Inc. is the second-oldest brand on our list. It was established in 1953 by Robert Moog and his father. The company created the first commercial synthesizer, the Moog. Before synthesizers, the company used to sell theremin kits. However, it switched to prioritizing synthesizers as soon as the market responded positively to their first synth. And even today, Moog keeps synthesizers first with some theremins and musical accessories in their product lineup.

Humble Beginnings:

Robert Moog started the company with his father at the age of 19 mainly to finance his education. Ten years later, he met a composer named Herbert Deutsch, who helped him build the Moog synthesizer. The synth helped Moog expand into a larger company, but it was still a rough ride.

In 1970, the company released a new synth called the Minimoog. The main reason for the first Moog synth’s relatively patchy success was its size. So, Moog created the Minimoog, which reduced the size of the hardware, hardwired the modules, and introduced the pitch wheel for the first time.

Claim To Fame:

The smaller design and versatility ensured a much better success for the Minimoog, which gathered over 13,000 units sales. Notable users were Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Emerson, Tangerine Dream, etc. Even today, the Minimoog remains a revered piece of gear with many software emulations and even a release by Moog in 2016.

Later on, the company released a handful of synths, including the Taurus in 1975 and Vocoder in 1978. However, neither became as iconic as their second synth. Then, in 2002, Moog released the Minimoog Voyager, an update on the Minimoog. It was a true analog synth but with digital controls, finally bringing presets and other features.

An inspiration machine — Moog Subharmonicon

Contemporary Offerings:

Moog has managed to produce a steady stream of synths over the decades. They released five synths in the last decade alone, which is three more than the previous decade. The reduced production throughout the 2000s was most likely due to Robert Moog’s death in 2005. Anyway, let’s take a look at Moog’s latest synths:

  • Mother-32
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    Mother-32 is a semi-modular analog synthesizer released in 2015. It features a single oscillator, a mini 13-note keypad, a step sequencer capable of storing up to 64 sequences, a filter, and a noise generator. It is a module compatible with the Eurorack modular setup. And speaking of Eurorack compatibility, Moog has prioritized it quite a lot recently.
  • Grandmother
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    Following Mother-32, Moog released the Grandmother in 2018 with a much better interface. It has a 32-note keyboard and a cleanly laid-out interface with several modules. The modules include two oscillators, an LFO, two filters, an envelope, and a hardware spring reverb. And each module features audio and CV inputs for patching.
  • Subharmonicon
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    The Subharmonicon is yet another semi-modular synth, but it’s a polyrhythmic synth this time. It’s a polyphonic machine with a multi-layered clock generator to create polyrhythms. Furthermore, it employs two oscillators, four subharmonic oscillators, and two step sequencers. And although its modules are hardwired at first, you can use cables for patching internally or connecting to an external Eurorack-compatible module (including Mother-32).

11. Novation

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Novation is also a younger company but has gathered a widely positive reputation for quality products.

Novation is a British manufacturer formed in 1992 by Ian Jannaway and Mark Thompson. Currently, the company focuses a lot on MIDI controller keyboards, performance controllers, audio interfaces, etc. There’s no surprise there, considering that the first product they released was a portable MIDI controller keyboard called the Novation MM10. It was designed to work with the Yamaha QY-10 workstation, which, together with the MM10, created the world’s first portable music workstation. However, it also has a lineup of synthesizers from their early days and present that have a dedicated fanbase for a good reason.

Humble Beginnings:

Novation released its first synth in 1993. The Novation Bass Station was a compact synthesizer for playing basslines. It featured two analog oscillators with digital controls, an LFO, and a filter to essentially sound like the Roland TB-303 Bassline synth.

Next, the company released the Drum Station, which modeled the Roland TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines. Since the product was much cheaper than the originals, it was commercially successful.

Claim To Fame:

The Novation SuperNova was a well-known virtual analog synthesizer with 16+ note polyphony released in 1998. It was a multitimbral synth that could retain parameters of seven effects in each part, which allowed users to make a very rich sound. The simultaneous number of effects per part gave it an edge against the intense competition. The synth was used by a wide range of artists like Jean Michel Jarre, Ozric Tentacles, Orbital, etc.

Later, the company expanded the SuperNova with SuperNova II and Nova in 2000. The SuperNova II expanded the polyphony to 24, 36, and 48-voice. And it added FM synthesis with ring modulation and a 42-band vocoder. Conversely, the Nova synth was a less powerful, portable version of the SuperNova with a 40-band vocoder.

My Favorite Desktop Synth : Novation Peak // My go to for bass and lush pad sounds

Contemporary Offerings:

Novation’s current product lineup includes a wide variety of products, from MIDI controllers, grooveboxes, and accessories to synths. In the synths category, you’ll find a wide variety too. And although the SuperNova series was discontinued back in 2001, the current synth lineup by Novation is mostly built in collaboration with Chris Huggett, who helped design the SuperNova synths.

  • Summit
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    The Summit is the current flagship synth of Novation. It’s a 2-part timbral synth with 16-voice polyphony. It features three oscillators, a noise generator, a ring modulator, two LFOs, a filter, and three envelopes. Further, it has a 16-slot modulation matrix per patch and an array of digital effect processors.
  • Peak
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    The Peak is an 8-voice polyphonic synthesizer with three oscillators. It has a single multimode analog filter, a noise generator, a ring modulator, two LFOs, three envelopes, and three distortion positions in the signal chain. And it includes four effects: distortion, chorus, delay, and reverb.
  • MiniNova
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    As the name suggests, the MiniNova is a portable, 18-voice polyphonic synth with 37 keys. Despite its size, the synth is quite powerful. It features three oscillators, a noise generator, two ring modulators, two filters, a collection of effects, and a 20-slot modulation matrix. If you want something small, the MiniNova could deliver serious power to your setup without taking up much room.

12. Behringer

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Behringer is well-known for producing a wide variety of electronic instruments and gadgets at a budget price.

Behringer is a German manufacturing company founded by Swiss engineer Uli Behringer in 1989. The company focuses on making music equipment affordable while keeping the quality as high as possible. To do so, the company shifted its production from Germany to China in 1990.

Although sometimes notorious for cloning existing hardware or producing cheap-quality products, the company has proven itself an innovator when serving people on a budget. Furthermore, following several acquisitions, Behringer seems to be combining elements like MIDAS preamps and TC Electronic effects recently, resulting in excellent products like the WING mixer.

Humble Beginnings:

Uli Behringer, the founder, had his first experience building an instrument when he was merely five. His father built a church organ with over a thousand pipes and integrated them into their house. Then, at the age of 16, Uli Behringer impressively built his first synthesizer, the UB1.

However, Behringer only released their first commercial synths in 2016. They were the Deepmind 12 and Deepmind 6. The former was a 12-voice polyphonic synth with four effects, two oscillators and LFOs, and a 32-step sequencer, whereas the latter was a 6-voice polyphonic. Both synths were commercially successful.

Claim To Fame:

Behringer had had a relatively positive reputation way before they began manufacturing synths. For example, their audio interfaces, microphones, mixers, controller keyboards, control surfaces, etc., have all had success. So, their synth products were pretty much destined to have at least a decent number of sales.

However, if you look at the relatively recent timeline, the Behringer X32 mixer, X-Touch control surface, and the Uphoria audio interfaces are the most famous products presently.

Behringer 2600 Synthesizer Review

Contemporary Offerings:

Almost all of Behringer’s synthesizers are clones of classic synths or inspired by them. So, the company has almost become a sort of hardware Arturia (for synth emulations). Let’s have a look at some of their famous products:

  • Behringer 2600
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    Inspired by the ARP 2600, the Behringer 2600 is a semi-modular analog synth with three oscillators and FM. Further, you’ll find a filter, envelopes, a reverb, and an LFO module. Each of them features a 3.5 mm TS jack for internal routing.
  • Odessey
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    Yet another ARP-inspired product, the Behringer Odessey, is a mono/duo-phonic analog synth with two oscillators, a filter, a 32-step sequencer, an arpeggiator, and built-in effects. It also features a pink/white noise generator for creative sound design. And the synth has 37 full-size keys.
  • Monopoly
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    The Monopoly is Behringer’s take on the Korg classic. It’s a small synth with 37 keys. And it features four oscillators, a filter, two LFOs, two envelopes, and an arpeggiator. Like the original, the synth doesn’t feature any built-in effects.

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Conclusion

The world of synthesizers is exciting and highly competitive, resulting in extraordinary innovations every year. You’ll find technologies from something completely unrelated adopted by these brands for music production. However, none other than software synths has managed to push the boundaries of hardware synths hardware.

While analog and modular synths are undoubtedly fun to play and program, modern synths like the Waldorf Quantum and Roland Fantom are simply awe-inspiring. If you’ve ever considered making music without a computer, these synths could compensate for the technology any day. It’s truly inspiring to see such development, and I can’t wait to see what the future will bring. Happy music-making!

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