I know what you’re thinking . . . that’s because I have psychic powers (EVIL LAUGH!).
However, I’m sure if not right now, at one point in your life you asked yourself the following question:
Synthesizer keyboard? Isn’t that just a like a Midi controller or a keyboard?
I mean what’s the difference?
Well a Synthesizer is EXACTLY like a MIDI controller except in one major way, it comes with it’s own sounds. In fact a lot of DAWs allow you to use these ‘sound banks’ that are mostly directly taken or recorded from other Synths.
If you are listening to your new favorite track and you’re like “Hey! How can I make that sound?” Most likely, it was a stock sound on a Synthesizer. No joke!
You’ll notice in plugins like Xfer’s Serum, Lethal Audio and others always have some sounds that sound really common. That’s because they originally came from some professional synthesizer and were simply re-created using these DAWs. Of course the real sounds are much more crisper and cleaner (Professional) but these DAW do the job pretty nicely. Especially if you actually play around with them and create something new.
One of the most sought after Synthesizer in EDM and Urban music has been the Access Virus TI. This thing is a beast and pricey for most but man the artists swear by it (Chainsmokers for once).
Point is before sounds get to your DAW in the shape of sound banks, they are first created on synthesizers. At least in most cases. So if you’re looking to go after the latest sounds, trying looking into the latest Synth first. That’s a pretty big secret the real professionals don’t like sharing.
Anyways, if you are looking for real sounds, not just something created on a digital synth like Serum, etc, than check out this list of synthesizers.
#1 – Yamaha Synthesizer Reface DX – Best Synthesizer Keyboard For Beginners
- 4-operator FM Sound Engine offers dynamic and expressive additive synthesis
- 32 Voice memory locations allow storing and recalling favorite Voices
- Integrated phrase Looper: capture song ideas or just jam!
This is a Yamaha synthesizer (FM) so you know it’s quality all around. Considered a favorite by many especially fans of the earlier version of Reface.
The keys are little smaller but unless you have giant hands, this shouldn’t be an issue at all. I would say they are more sleek now and responsiveness is pure gold. One of the best feature of this Yamaha synth is you can literally fine tune any sound you like.
This Yamaha REFACE DX Portable FM Synthesizer is one of the best in the market right now. To be honest, I don’t think this little wonder even has any competitors. Also since it’s so portable, it’s a great choice for live shows as well.
#2 – Korg Analog Synth Volca
- Three note true analogue synthesis with one knob per function for easy hands-on tweaking
- 16-step sequencer with Flux mode for non-quantized free flowing loops
- Sync In and Out allows clock sync of multiple instruments from the volca Series
Considered one of the most versatile synthesizer out there. It does have somewhat of a learning curve but once you get over that, you’ll be making some brand new sounds in no time.
Also keep in mind that synthesizer is by Korg. One of the best brands in the music production game to ever do it. Now if you’ve owned synths before, don’t be surprised by it’ size.
This thing is a powerhouse and make incredible quality sounds. Especially if you’re after some new bass tones (Korg seems to own that market). Only downside is you only get a sawtooth wave to play around with so that could be limiting to your creativity.
#3 – Korg Microkorg Synthesizer Vocoder
- Sound Generation Method: Analog Modeling Synthesis System
- Synthesizer Program: Multi Timbral=2 (max, Split/Dual Mode)
- Voices: 4 voices. Power Supply- DC 9 V (AC adapter), or six AA alkaline batteries (sold separately)
This hit the shelves in 2002 and has never looked back. Another gem of a synthesizer by Korg, the microKorg also comes with a vocoder. Now you can make some totally fresh new sounds and start killing the music game with them. This beauty has a built in arpeggiator as well.
Time to make some sweet polyphonic sounds. Also unlike most synthesizers, the microKorg actually comes with some presets. Which makes it a perfect synthesizer for beginners.
Also don’t let the small size fool you. This thing is as durable as they come and have lasted for around 3-5 years for most. A great synth for music production and playing live shows. It’s been only recently and is already considered a top synthesizer.
#4 – Arturia Microbrute Analog Synthesizer Keyboard
- 100% Analog Audio Signal Path
- Steiner-Parker Multimode Filter (LP, BP, HP)
- Voltage Controlled Oscillator with new Overtone Sub-Osc, Oscillator Mixer (Sub, Sawtooth, Square, Triangle)
One of those rare instruments that beginners can train on and the intermediate can totally take things to the next level. With the Microbrute, Arturia has clearly established it’s presence in the synthesizer market.
This is a monophonic synthesizer which means the sound you generate is in it’s purest form. If you want real analog sounds, this one is one of the best on our list.
It doesn’t have any fancy features and is more of a straight to the point synth. Purists will definitely enjoy this and so will newbie producers looking to create their own BIG synth sounds.
A lot of pros in the industry consider this one of the best synths around.
That should tell you something.
#5 – Korg MS 20 Mini Monophonic Analog Synthesizer
- Self-oscillating high-pass/low-pass filters with distinctive distortion
- External signal processor (ESP)
- Flexible patching system
All the bass lovers rejoice! The Korg MS20 Mini is nothing short of a powerhouse. Not only will you solid ways of creating analog sounds but this little wonder even comes with analog style knobs.
How cool is that! If you have super basic knowledge of what high pass and low pass is you will absolutely love this synthesizer.
That’s my only kink with this product. My goal with this site is to help beginners get in the game so I’m not sure if I can recommend this to a first timer
That said, if you understand basic principles of EQing, than prepare to fall in love with this one.
#6 – Novation Mininova Synthesizer Keyboard
- MiniNova has Novation's signature Nova-series synth-engine onboard, capable of creating and editing massive sounds with...
- The VocalTune function can recreate iconic urban and hip hop vocal sounds, as well as classic house and techno voice...
- 8 animate buttons enable you to warp and twist sounds in realtime alongside a dedicated filter knob, 4 further editing...
One of the most popular and beloved synths ever created, the Novation MiniNova is in a class of it’s own. Known for it’s ease of use but also it’s incredible powerful sound engine.
This one also comes with a Vocoder so you can create all kinds of awesome sounds with it. Also, it’s one of those rare synths that comes with it’s own built in sounds. So beginners, don’t get intimidated for even one second as this is a great introductory and intermediate synth. In fact, you’ll be making some killer leads in no time.
I highly recommend this for EDM producers and urban music producers too. It can’t be connected through USB though so you do need proper cables (XLR cables). I prefer my synthesizers to be xlr powered just because I’m old school but it all depends if you like the sound that your synth is creating.
#7 – Yamaha Music Synthesizer | MX 49 Series (Next Generation Motif)
- Expand your sound palette with FM Essential: a FREE iOS FM synthesizer app with effects, drum loops and more Class...
- MX49 is a 49-key music synthesizer which combines Motif XS sounds, USB Audio/MIDI connectivity and advanced DAW/VST...
- MX49 is a 49-key music synthesizer which combines Motif XS sounds, USB Audio/MIDI connectivity and advanced DAW/VST...
Think of this one as the next generation Motif synth (A killer group of synthesizers released by Yamaha in 2001). Considered one of the best 49 key synthesizer, the Yamaha MX 49 is a favorite of many producers. This 49 key synth is lightweight and can be hooked up easily through USB.
Another key feature is you can save the sound that you are working on. I mean what’s the point of spending hours on developing a main lead for example that you can’t even save?
Although with most DAWs you don’t really need this feature but the option is much appreciated. The keys on this synth follow Yamaha’s “Graded Hammer Standard” or in other words, are super well balanced.
Overall, if you prefer to have a synth that puts more control in your hands rather than the daw, then this one is an awesome choice. Love the pitch bending wheels as well.
#8 – Roland Gaia Sh 01 Synthesizer
- 3 virtual analog engines onboard, each with a dedicated oscillator, a filter, an amplifier, an envelope, and an LFO
- Layer up to 5 simultaneous effects, including distortion, flanger, delay, reverb, low boost, and more
- 64-voice polyphony. Hands-on control panel. Lightweight, compact body
In my book, Roland is just another name for a synthesizer. These guys literally wrote the book on it and are one of the most respected and well known brand in the entire music instruments game.
This bad boy has not one but three different engines so you can make all kinds of wave tables. Oh did I just get a little nerdy on you? I mean you can make your own custom leads and synths and morph the hell out of them.
As far as flexibility of creating your own sounds goes, this Roland modern analog synthesizer takes it to the next level.
If I could pick a nice christmas present for myself, it would be this polyphonic synthesizer right here. Another great choice for beginner music producers like yourself.
#9 – New Yamaha FM Synth | Montage 8
- The Motion Control Synthesis Engine unifies and controls two iconic Sound Engines: AWM2 (high-quality waveform and...
- Motion Sequences are tempo-synchronized, completely customizable control sequences that can be assigned to virtually any...
- Montage features professional, stereo balanced outputs with “Pure Analog Circuit” digital to analog conversion.
Ladies and gentleman, this is the god of all synths. I don’t recommend this for a beginner due to the heavy price tag (At least for most) but Yamaha out did it self with the Montage 8. If you are familiar with the DX and Motiff well then this is the latest one by Yamaha.
The Montage 8 is so balling that it comes with it’s own touch screen. As far as sound quality goes, it just can’t be matched. To be honest, even if I could get this I probably wouldn’t.
Main reason is I’m not that advanced yet. This Yamaha synth keyboard has so many features that I can’t even write about them because I don’t understand them myself. This thing has to be experienced and if you ever do, please contact us and tell us about it.
#10 – Moog Sub Phatty Analog Synthesizer
- An authentic Moog at a ridiculously affordable price!
- 25 semi-weighted keys; 100% analog signal path
- 31 knobs and 13 switches give you direct, immediate control
I’m excited for this one. Big time! If you like making bassy music, Moog IS Bass. However, like any synthesizer, you can create literally any sound you want but I just wanted to share that about Moog. Don’t be taken back by just the 25 keys.
One of the most popular MIDI controllers in the world only has 25 keys too. I’m talking about the Akai LPK25.
This little monster comes with two oscillators. In simpler terms, it’s like having two multicoloured pens to draw your masterpiece instead of one.
Another awesome synth to make PHAT leads and basslines. My favorite part of music production.
Best Synthesizer Brands
Here you will find out picks for the best synthesizer brands around. We’ve also picked the best synth from each brand for beginners that will take you to it’s appropriate Amazon page. In case you decide to learn more or see what other people are saying about them.
Yamaha has been making one of the best synths in the business for quite some time. The Yamaha DX series is quite popular among most producers and the Yamaha Motif is considered a living legend.Yamaha DX
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Another brand that is synonymous with synthesizers is Korg. Especially when it comes to the classic analog synths, they literally wrote the book on it.
The Korg M1 alone has played a key role in pop music for years. Definitely an industry shaping Korg synthesizer. Other notable synths by Korg is the microKorg, MS-20 and the M3. As the name entails, the microKorg is a smally synthesizer but don’t let the size fool you. It’s one incredible digital synthesizer.
Most people don’t know this but Roland is actually a Japanese brand. Another thing that you may not know about Roland is they invented the 808s. Yes the same 808s that we hear in literally all modern music today such as trap music.
If Yamaha is the Prince of synths and Korg the King, Roland is the ace. A Roland synth was one of the most desired instrument by the giant pop bands in the 80s.
In fact, Roland synthesizers helped developed that classic 80s analog sound that is still apparent today in Synthpop, etc. Actually it feels like the 80s synths are making a comeback.
I love all these electronic synthesizer brands but my favorite is Moog. Just because I’m a big fan of analog synths and these guys dominated the market for so long.
Moog play a key role in the innovation of music and is well respected and loved by many musicians. If analog is your thing, check these guys out for sure. Their Sub Phatty synth is a living legend.
One of the leaders in creating keyboards aimed at the EDM market, Novation was acquired by Focusrite. You know the guys who have really popular audio interface models?
It’s like seeing two giants in the industry coming together. Novation has consistently put out synths that is especially geared towards the EDM and urban music market.
Since this acquisition, they’ve won several awards and have truly made themselves a part of modern music.
Definitely one of the coolest brands out there as far as new music sounds are concerned. The product that recently solidified their position on the map is the Launchpad. A completely new way of making electronic music.Novation Launchpad
Anatomy of a Synthesizer
Each Synthesizer is different but these are the essentials on every synthesizer.
Oscillator is what produces the sound. It could be in a physical synth or in a virtual (Digital) synth where the oscillation source is nothing more than an algorithm.
Filters, Evenlopes, LFO (Low Frequency Modulation) are just effects (Sound shapers) that can be used to create the sound that you desire. At this beginner stage, that’s all you need to know.
What differentiates an analog synthesizer from a digital synthesizer?
Simple. An analog synthesizer is what you can feel and touch with your hands and a digital synth is like Serum or Massive. In other words, if it’s on your computer, it’s a digital synth. If it’s hardware, it’s analog.
When was the analog synthesizer invented?
Although there were some variations of an analog synthesizer before, it was in 1979 when the world’s first real analog synthesizer came to be. It was known as the Prophet-5 and created by a company called Sequential Circuits.
Well over 7500 of these units were sold and the analog synthesizer was born. Modern music would never be the same again.
Are keyboards and synthesizers the same?
The difference between a synthesizer and a keyboard is quite simple. Generally speaking, a synthesizer helps you create sounds (Using oscillators) and play them while a keyboard only plays the sound it comes with pre-loaded sounds created by a synth, taken from actual musical instruments.
A MIDI keyboard or a midi guitar on the other hand is more of a “controller” that plays sounds existing or new sounds within your DAW.
Which is better, Korg or a Yamaha synthesizers?
The battle continues . . . Both brands are giants in the industry and both cater to professionals and beginners.
I would personally lean towards Yamaha just until I learn more about music production and then once I get better and start producing more professional music, I would upgrade to a Korg synth. Just my take.
How To Reset Factory Setting On A Micro Korg Synthesizer?
The best way to do it is to refer to the manual. It’s page 63 I believe. However, if a manual is not around, try the following:
- Press the shift button, followed by turing the 1st knob, all the way to off.
- Press the shift button plus the number 7, then turn the first knob again but this time to ‘Glb’ and then press seven.
- Finally, press the shift button plus 7, follow the same instructions as in step 2 but instead turning the knob to ‘Glb’ and pressing 7, turn it to ‘Pr9’ and then press seven again.
How to connect Roland gaia to MIDI?
To setup the Roland Gaia to MIDI, you first have to determine what you need MIDI for. Since the Gaia comes with two options in and out, you can connect it to a MIDI controlled device such as a drum machine or add a MIDI input.
What is the best synthesizer?
This really depends on what you are looking for. Today there are so many wonderful brands that can help you achieve the sound you want. I would suggest to check out our brands section and start your due diligence from there. The best synth is the one that you like to work with.
Can a synthesizer sound like a piano?
It sure can. A synthesizer basically comes fully loaded with either its own sounds, or sounds from other soundbanks (Collection of sounds).
To make a synthesizer sound like a piano, you simply need to upload sounds that are from a certain piano (Piano soundbank). Or an even better choice is to make sure you purchase a synthesizer that already has piano sound like a lot or the Roland synthesizers.
Can a synthesizer be used as a midi controller?
Only synthesizers that have built-in midi capabilities, can be used as midi controllers as well. Today a good percentage of synthesizers also have a midi input then you can connect directly to your DAW and start using the MIDI feature. However, many popular synthesizers don’t. That’s why, it’s always smart to look into any synthesizers specs before getting them.
Can a synthesizer make any sound?
A synthesizer can only play or “make” sounds that it comes with or the sounds that you upload in it. Kindly note that most synthesizers don’t have the option or provide the option to help you add your own sounds.
How can I learn to play a synthesizer?
If you are blessed with fingers (No sarcasm here, we really mean it) you can use a synthesizer.
However, if you want to play it like a piano, then you need to learn how to play the piano basically.
Just to be clear, there is no special way to play a synthesizer.
A synth is just a set of keys attached to a body like a midi controller or a digital piano.
That said, it’s always a good idea to use the instructions provided with the synthesizer that you got.
How have synthesizers changed music?
Saying that synthesizers have changed music, would be a gross understatement. Synthesizers have downright created a plethora of new genres that we refer to as modern music.
To give you a little bit of perspective, if synthesizers were never born, all we would have is rock and roll.
Nothing wrong with that but we would be missing out on a whole lot of music that we take for granted today.
Especially modern music (EDM, Trap, etc).
If it wasn’t for synthesizers, we wouldn’t have dance music, hip-hop or anything like that.
Synthesizers not only brought incredible “electronic” sounds (Literally from an electric signal) for the first time in the history of audio, these sounds were now available in a small little package that an average music producer or most music enthusiasts could actually get their hands on.
Thus transforming the entire music production genre like never before.
How does a voice or speech synthesizer work?
These so called voice synthesizers or a speech synthesizer is like any other synthesizer. Except that it comes with a vocoder. A vocoder is simply a special mic that allows you to change your vocals while playing around with the keys on the synth. It’s this “vocoder” that gives this synth it’s vocal capturing / morphing abilities. The vocal synth was super big in the 80s and it seems like it’s making a come back.