Synthesizers have been real game changers in the music industry and more artists are using them as part of making music. People can make music from their bedroom now just using a laptop, and some software, so let’s make sure we still champion the hardware synth. In today’s market, hardware synths can be versatile, portable and durable.
What are the best cheap synthesizers or which is going to be the best synthesizer for beginners if you are just starting out? Also, what are the best synthesizer brands out there? All these questions will be answered here today.
It’s important to remember how much a hardware synth has come since the early days of the Yamaha DX1 FM synthesizer, which was a heavy and expensive instrument. Thankfully technology has moved on and allowed the artist to still create sensational music, but at a more affordable price and saved them lugging around a weight of 51kg on tour.
Synthesizers are electronic musical instruments that generate audio signals. Synthesizers typically create sounds by generating waveforms through methods including subtractive synthesis, additive synthesis and frequency modulation synthesis. In short, they can artificially produce audio sounds of many instruments in one machine.
The origins of the synthesizers go way back to 1897 The Dynamophone, patented by Thaddeus Cahill. You may have also heard of the theremin, which is still used today, a contact-free synthesizer composed of electronic oscillators, that was patented by Léon Theremin in 1928.
Finally, the RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer Mark I was released in 1956.
Technology has greatly improved since then and synths really had their breakthrough in the 1970s and 1980s. Models such as Yamaha DX7 was one of the best synthesizer keyboards around. You want to be able to transport your kit, so in terms of the best portable synthesizers, let’s have a look below at what you can buy for your money.
I have listed these in price order from cheapest to the more high-flyers of the synths, which if you are beginners, you can find the best affordable synthesizers put there right now.
A budget analogue monosynth which delivers.
It is certainly versatile, easy to use and you can produce a great sound, but the product feels lightweight and cheap. I suppose for something just under the £300 mark, you get what you paid for. I wouldn’t say it is the best digital synthesizer of all time, but it could be one of the best beginner synthesizers for sure! There is a 27-note ‘keyboard’ for live playing and both the arp and sequencer are features you will enjoy on this synth.
Price: £274.00 to £359.00
For this price, this quirky synth from the french company packs a punch and you can really fall in love with the programming potential in one little box. Featuring a 12-mode digital oscillator, an analogue multimode filter and myriad sequencing options. Even though it is small and feels a little lightweight, these are definitely both advantages and it could be a contender for the best budget synthesizer.
You will be surprised with the features you can get with this synth at such a price, and with a very efficient sequencer and a keyboard that doesn’t feel lightweight it is a great buy!
UNO Synth Pro sports three analogue VCOs and a white noise generator, all with some great tone-shaping options. Each of the three oscillators has continuous wave shape variations from saw to pulse width, with modulation. There are two analogue state variable filters, with dedicated cutoff and resonance controls. It performs in terms of sound and functionality.
It has great CV connectivity, a good build quality, powerful sequencer, extended general versatility and user-customisable Multi-Engine/effects. In addition, there is a joystick for real-time control, user scales/tunings, more inspiring vibe and excellent motion-sequenceable stereo effects/output. Now who could argue with that and we are seeing more of a professional look and feel with this particular synthesizer.
This FM four operator synthesizer is something special as it uses the old school synthesis where waves modulate each other. As well as it being extremely portable, there is seamless integration between sequencer and sound engine. This synth can also be a great FM MIDI module or a powerful external MIDI sequencer. However, it can be hard to learn how to use the sequencer.
This lightweight virtual analogue synth is well put together and stands out on stage. The Waldorf designed sound engine sounds rich, full and suitably analogue-like. The new user sample capability vastly expands its appeal and sound palette. There is also a black version for anybody who doesn’t fancy the yellow tone!
The look and feel of this synth will make you glad you purchased it – even if it is expensive, but not as much as a few others I will mention. You really do get what you pay for in terms of the clear, intuitive module-driven interface and the layout is logical, with clear blocks of functionality which I’m sure will make any user happy. You can build patches from scratch and it offers a wealth of powerful programming tools.
It sounds stellar, covers huge sonic territory with well-thought-out, hands on control. It includes Juno-106 and Jupiter-8 Plug-Outs, plus there is the ability to buy more if this takes your fancy. Solid sequencer onboard, plus plenty of versatile FX, including the famous Juno Chorus.
However, the sequencer unfortunately doesn’t have a click-track, the arp has no swing or gate modes which you would expect at this price and the performance mode doesn’t store edits.
One of the best keyboard synthesizers out there, it combines both an analogue and digital synth engine. It has excellent build quality, a warm and distinctive tone, there is a huge array of sound design options. There is a very comprehensive mod matrix, which is intuitive, and the OLED screen helps keep everything in check with its immediate feedback and simple navigation. There’s also a fantastic sequencer that could easily be a product in its own right. Four tracks at 16 steps alone would be good but here there is so much more, from swing to programme change mode. However, it is quite heavy in build, but the wooden panels are quite a beautiful design feature so maybe it makes up for it.
The PolyBrute is a fantastically characterful, well-designed synth; a top-tier poly synth and a worthy flagship for the Brute range. The morphing engine is fab for creating evolving, complex sounds. The hands-on modulation matrix is a great design choice. And in terms of the digital effects, they have excelled here.
However, in terms of cons for the incredible synth, there is no audio input or CV I/O. Secondly, for this price and only having six voices, you would expect more and there is no poly-aftertouch.
Here are just some of the best songs that were made using a synthesizer. Do you recognise these defining synth tracks?
So have you got a clearer idea of what you are looking for in a synth and of course there are going to be plenty of criteria for you making the decision to purchase one and which style to go for. Budget and functionality will play a part in this but really look into the product and what is going to work for you. Technology has really advanced now, so it is the best time to invest in a hardware synth that will spark off your creativity and take you to the next level.
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