Which synthesizer is best?
Synthesizers have grown and evolved quite a bit since their inception in the 1950s, and modern synthesizers offer a wide range of sounds, features and easy-to-use interfaces that weren’t available in the past. The category of the best synthesizer is fairly subjective. However, there are a number of commonly used synths that professionals stand by today, and it’s especially hard to go wrong if you know what you’re looking for.
While it’s tough to call any single synthesizer the best, the Korg Minilogue 4-Voice Polyphonic Synthesizer offers a versatile, affordable and user-friendly synthesizer experience with great sounds for beginners and experts alike.
What to know before you buy a synthesizer
Analog vs. digital synthesizers
Simply put, a digital synthesizer uses digital audio processors to create its sounds, while analog synthesizers use real electrical circuits to create its sounds. A wide range of synths exists in both categories. While many purists vouch for analog synthesizers, tons of synth sounds in digital and software formats offer surprisingly impressive copies of the real thing.
Monophonic vs. polyphonic synthesizers
Another important thing to note is whether you need a monophonic or a polyphonic synthesizer. Simply put, a monophonic synthesizer can only play one note at a time (mono), which makes for good bass lines and lead lines, while polyphonic synthesizers can play multiple notes at the same time (poly).
MIDI keyboards vs. synthesizers
While many of the best digital keyboards are simply electric pianos with one sound, the modern keyboards offer various synth sounds. Using a musical instrument digital interface, or in other words, a digital signal communicating notes to a software device, users can create a nearly infinite number of sounds using programs. In addition, a MIDI keyboard is typically much cheaper than a synth, so many users choose to go with that — despite losing out on some functionality and authenticity in the sounds created by authentic analog synthesizers.
Have a look at the best digital keyboards buying guide on BestReviews to better understand the most relevant features a synthesizer can have.
What to look for in a quality synthesizer
Ultimately, the best synthesizers today offer versatility alongside authentic synth sounds, meaning that they can make a wide range of electronically-generated noises. A wide range of built-in synth modules, sometimes even including built-in reverb and delays, also helps a synthesizer add elements to the sounds it generates.
Ease of use
Similar to finding a versatile synthesizer, finding a synth that’s easy to use can also be particularly helpful, especially if you’re fairly new to synthesizers. While certain synths include easy-to-use things like presets and sounds that are simple to adjust on the fly, others find clearly labeled mechanisms on a keyboard easy to use, even if there are hundreds of knobs to turn, press and otherwise modify.
Another feature that many users look for in a good synthesizer is a powerful or useful sequencer. A sequencer in a synthesizer produces and recalls a series of voltage oscillations at a specific tempo, which, musically speaking, means that it will play a series of notes by just pressing play. This can also be used in the form of arpeggiators, which synthesize notes played on the keyboard into a sequence as the user changes hand positions.
How much you can expect to spend on a synthesizer
Synthesizers come with a super-wide range of prices, in part due to their vast diversity as instruments themselves. The price of a synthesizer will depend on a variety of factors, including whether it’s analog or digital. In general, synthesizers can cost anywhere from $100-$4,000, with some outliers on either side.
How do synthesizers make sound?
A. Synthesizers make sound using an electrical signal which oscillates at specific voltages to create sound waves. This creates sounds that can be manipulated to sound like a wide array of instruments and sound effects.
Are synthesizers and keyboards the same thing?
A. Synthesizers and keyboards are not the same. Keyboards refer to a much broader range of pianos, MIDI instruments and synths, while synthesizers refer to devices that channel a voltage-controlled electrical signal to create sound waves. While many synthesizers do feature keyboards to control the sounds coming through, the fact that some modular synths don’t even include keys is evidence enough to show that keyboards are not the same thing as synthesizers.
What’s the best synthesizer to buy?
What you need to know: This polyphonic synth from Korg is perfect for those who are new to synthesizers but want something authentic or for those who just want something easy to adjust mid-performance.
What you’ll love: This analog synthesizer is a great step into the synth world, and it also features a useful oscilloscope to help the user understand what sound waves their notes are making. Korg’s upgraded Minilogue XD and Prologue synthesizers also offer larger keyboards and more sounds — many of which are used by professionals.
What you should consider: Some users complained about a small click or pop sound found in many self-generated synth patches if the attack and decay are in certain spots comparatively.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top synthesizer for the money
What you need to know: This affordable digital synth from Novation is a modern standard, with its super easy-to-use digital and physical interfaces and 256 onboard sounds.
What you’ll love: This robust digital synthesizer is impressively good-sounding, super affordable and features a simple display that makes it perfect for any beginner. It also features a vocoder and a MIDI input and output for working with other devices and sounds.
What you should consider: Some prefer sounds generated by an analog synthesizer rather than those offered by digital synths.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Moog’s brand name is nearly synonymous with iconic synthesizers. And if that wasn’t enough, the release of the Grandmother offered the world a versatile semi-modular synthesizer that’s easy enough for novices to use while being powerful enough for the world’s best experts to use.
What you’ll love: Featuring a number of patch cable inputs and a simple, easy-to-use keyboard, this synth stands out among modular synthesizers offering a versatile yet distinct-sounding synthesizer for musicians of all levels.
What you should consider: This synthesizer is quite a bit more expensive than many digital synths and simpler analog synthesizers.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Zachary Visconti writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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