Are you drawn to brutal bass lines or sweeping, ethereal pads? Plucky lead sounds or distorted rhythms?
Synthesizers are more popular than ever, and there are a lot of options out there that make all sorts of cool sounds – at all sorts of prices.
If you’re new to making music with synthesizers, it can be a lot to take in. So how do you pick a hardware synth that will work for you?
Some of these synths are based on classic analog synthesizers from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Others are built on entirely new sounds and concepts.
These hardware synths fit many different styles and are all at a price point below $2000.
They all have user interfaces that are hands-on and easy to understand, making them perfect for beginners.
What Are The Best Hardware Synths For Beginners?
The Korg minilogue xd is a popular choice for beginners who want functionality, quality, and simplicity. Its numerous options for customized user settings make it a workhorse.
If you’re on a budget, the small-but-mighty Arturia MicroBrute is a solid choice and is built on the legendary Steiner-Parker filter from the 1970s, so you get that retro sound while utilizing the technology of today.
If you have a little more to spend, the Roland System 8 is a powerful synth that can be further built on with the Roland Cloud subscription, giving you many classic Roland synth sounds all in one package.
Drive switch to thicken up each filter for fat bass sounds and heavy lead lines
32 DSP digital effects which can be used simultaneously: reverb, delay, and modulation effects including chorus/ensemble
The Korg minilogue xd expands on Korg’s Minilogue series, taking analog synthesis a step further with additional filter controls, including cross-modulation and a 2-pole filter for even more sound design possibilities.
If you’re new to synthesis, it’s an approachable synth that gives classic analog architecture a modern twist with its digital effects and versatile multi-engine.
The Korg minilogue xd has a polyphonic step sequencer with 16 buttons so you can create your own patterns and loops. It also has a pitch bend and modulation joystick control, making it easy to bend and manipulate notes.
With other synths at this price, you’d usually only get a low-pass mode, but the Steiner-Parker – endorsed by Niles Steiner himself – gives you more for your money.
As for programming, the MicroBrute has the flexibility and ease of synths four times its price. Its Modulation Matrix has two different routing options so you can even control your sound using external devices and instruments.
At the core of this awesome synthesizer is Roland's Analog Circuit Behavior engine, fueling three oscillators across eight voices, all loaded with filters, effects, and a massive array of modulation options
Why We Love It:
Easy to use and understand
Captures the best of all of Roland’s classic synths
You can add the Noise or Ring Mod effects for even more classic acid grime, or turn up that Distortion knob to make things even dirtier. It has an arpeggiator and sequencer so you can create your own patterns with ease.
It’s not just a synth, but also a sampler, controller, and drum machine. If you want a synth that can do more and you want to go beyond the traditional programming approach, this might be the one for you.
13 synthesizer engines for a variety of sounds
Has a color-coded interface that is easy for beginners to understand
16 hours of battery life with USB charging so you can play all-day
The OP-1 is a real Swiss army knife for music makers; you can use its 4-track tape feature and either sync it with the sequencer, layer it with the built-in effects or even mix it live with a Virtual Vinyl effect.
It’s also a sampler and controller, with a built-in FM radio and a G-force sensor for motion-controlled effects.
When you’re looking for a hardware synth, you should consider what kind of music and sounds you want to make, and how your want to make them.
Do you feel comfortable scrolling through menus, or do you prefer turning knobs, hitting buttons, and moving sliders?
It’s also important to think about your own experiences as a beginner. If you have a musical background already and have played piano before, you might want something that has a keyboard with aftertouch and velocity sensitivity.
Similarly, if you’re a drummer, you might want a synth that can also make percussive sounds or be controlled by a drum machine.
If you have the chance, play the synth and watch demo videos before you make a decision, so you can see if its features suit your needs.
Overall, it’s never been a more exciting time to get into electronic music and synthesis, and with some research and experimentation, you can find a hardware synth that works for you and your budget.
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