Best modular synthesizer

Audio & Video Accessories

The first Moog synthesizer debuted in 1964 and went on to become the world’s first analog commercial synthesizer — with the brand largely remaining the world’s most trusted brand in analog synths ever since.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which modular synthesizer is best?

Modular synthesizers are one of the more elusive instruments in the modern music world, largely basing their sound on combinations of electrical signals and oscillations. While the best modular synthesizer will largely depend on the user’s needs, most modular synths can, at least, offer thousands of hours of interesting electrical and sonic experiments.

The Moog Grandmother Analog Modular Synthesizer is an excellent modular synth that’s versatile and user-friendly enough to make it suitable for both beginners and experts, and it’s easily a top pick as far as modular synths go.

What to know before you buy a modular synthesizer

Modular vs. semi-modular synthesizer

While modular synthesizers in the past included separate electrical modules, hence the name, most modern synthesizers include multiple modules built into one single keyboard or synthesizer housing. As such, most modular synths today are considered semi-modular synths, even if they can patch in and out like classic modular synthesizers. 

Regular analog synthesizers vs. modular synths

Regular analog synthesizers tend to be enough synth for the average newcomer. Still, many synth enthusiasts love the look, feel and play style of classic modular synths — which explains in part why they’re so pricey. Depending on what you’re looking for in a synthesizer, you may be able to get away with a regular analog synthesizer, although models with modular patching capabilities are the real deal and offer some of the strangest sounds available out there.

Keyboard type

You can find many of the best digital keyboards offering classic piano sounds and fantastic features by simply checking the BestReviews buying guide. However, keyboards on a synthesizer can be a little more confusing to the average consumer. Many modular synthesizers don’t even need a keyboard, especially if they have a strong sequencer, since they’re simply pulsating electrical signals and technically have no “default note” like on a piano. So, depending on how many keys you want or if you need your modular synthesizer to have a keyboard at all, the synth you end up with could vary quite widely.

What to look for in a quality modular synthesizer

Preferred interface

Besides choosing modular synthesizers based on their obvious significance — their sound — many users elect to choose modular synths that feature their preferred interface. While some users can get away with a strong sequencer and no keys on their synth, most prefer a modular synthesizer with a keyboard and the right amount of keys.

Versatile use cases

Modular synthesizers have become less common today, not because they don’t create good sounds, but because their very nature tends to make them a little less versatile than the average synth. Still, most modular synths are useful in their own way, especially if the user knows how to use them. It’s important to find a synthesizer that suits your personal needs and is versatile enough to actually get some use out of them.

Strong sequencer

On modular synthesizers, especially those without built-in keyboards, a strong sequencer is almost essential. The sequencer in a synth creates a series of noises or notes in a loop, and it can be used for a wide range of applications. For example, the sequencer on a modular synth will determine the tempo of the notes being played in series and the number of notes available in a given series.

How much you can expect to spend on a modular synthesizer

The price of modular synthesizers is no joke, with many models costing several hundreds of dollars. While you can find simplified modular synthesizers for as low as $200 and digital synth sounds for even more affordable prices, many modular synthesizers will land somewhere between $500-$2,000.

Modular synthesizer FAQ

Are modular synthesizers obsolete?

A. Modular synthesizers are not obsolete. While most today are considered semi-modular due to their built-in patching to simplify the playing process, you can still find plenty of models that offer just patch cables and no keyboard that feel like the original modular synthesizers.

How are modular synthesizers played?

A. While most synthesizers today are played with the use of a traditional piano keyboard, some modular synthesizers are played by simply using a sequencer of some sort and ⅛-inch patch cables as well as other modules and the many knobs that come with a single synthesizer.

What’s the best modular synthesizer to buy?

Top modular synthesizer

Moog Grandmother Analog Modular Synthesizer

Moog Grandmother Analog Semi-Modular Synthesizer Keyboard

What you need to know: The Moog Grandmother is one of the company’s top-of-the-line modular synths, featuring authentic ⅛-inch cable inputs that can be used with other cabinets and a versatile range of useful analog sounds.

What you’ll love: With an overtly beautiful colorful display and the power of Moog’s trusted brand name in the synth world, the Grandmother mid-level semi-modular synth is a no-brainer. It offers a wide array of sounds, the ability to patch to other modular synths and many useful inputs and output jacks.

What you should consider: Some buyers complained that this model wasn’t the same size as other Eurorack modular synthesizers. Itl is also more expensive than some other synths.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top modular synthesizer for the money

Moog Mother-32 Analog Semi-Modular Synthesizer

Moog Mother-32 Analog Semi-Modular Synthesizer

What you need to know: This modular synth from Moog is slightly more affordable than the Grandmother. It features one of the most classic modular synthesizers on today’s market, with no keyboard and a wide range of ⅛-inch module inputs on the right-hand side.

What you’ll love: Many users love this model for its affordability. It features a super cool voltage-controlled sequencer with 32 steps and 64 sequence locations and a classic Moog oscillator sound. It also includes low and high-pass Moog ladder filters with the ability to input external audio for outside sound processing.

What you should consider: This modular synthesizer does not include a keyboard, which can be particularly intimidating to many users who are new to the synth world.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Korg Volca Modular Miniature Semi-Modular Synthesizer

Korg Volca Modular Miniature Semi-Modular Synthesizer

What you need to know: If you’re on a budget or aren’t sure how you’ll like modular synthesizers just yet, this Korg Volca Modular model is a great first modular option for the curious, featuring a miniature design with 50 tiny patch points.

What you’ll love: This is an excellent introduction to modular synthesizers, featuring a force touch keyboard, tiny patch wires and points for modulating the oscillation. It also easily connects with other Korg Volca devices and includes one exterior patch point for working with other modules.

What you should consider: Some buyers found this synth’s sounds a bit limited compared to higher-end modular synthesizers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Zachary Visconti writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.