If you’re new to synthesis, you’re probably starting to notice that not all beginner synths are made equal. Consider this article a primer on a few fundamental sorts of synthesizers, with recommendations for each—but, of course, you can continue your search from here and discover a vast array of instruments.
It’ll be much easier to make a final decision on synthesizers for beginners and establish what makes one synth different from the next once you’ve mastered some basic vocabulary and have a rough notion of what synth is best for you. So, with that in mind, let’s start simply and look at each of these categories to see which one is the best fit for you.
Table of Contents
Roland System 8
- Versatile performance synthesizer with advanced acb technology and 49 full-size keys
- Internal sound engine delivers classic analog tones and dynamic modern sounds with analog Vibe
- Hosts up to three plug-out synths; Jupiter-8 and junior-106 plug-outs included
Are you looking for a single hardware synth that can replace several hardware synths? The Roland System 8 is the only option if that’s the case. Roland has created one of the most adaptable synths on the market today with its distinctive “Plug-Out” architecture.
The System 8 engine is pre-installed, and three expansion slots are provided for the JX-3P, Juno-106, and Jupiter-8 types of vintage Roland synthesizers. The Roland Cloud offers a vast library of models that you can download, including the PROMARS, which produces frantic leads and pads, and the SH-101, which generates enormous bass sounds.
The fact that this synth isn’t analog is among the biggest disappointments for purists. Its capacity to faithfully reproduce the sounds of the original icons is contested by many. My personal opinion is that the sounds are uncanny because I love analog music. The fundamental distinction is how much simpler it is to maintain harmony. But, you may utilize the condition parameter to give your synth sounds an aged and dusty tone if you prefer a little wavering in them.
There’s a reason why so many synth aficionados are beginning to board the Roland System 8 train: it offers quick access to one of the greatest synth back catalogs in history. The synth can produce all kinds of sounds, including aggressive leads, powerful bass tones, and gentle, ambient textures. The wide variety of analog-style and digital oscillators is responsible for the adaptability. In addition, there is a strong sequencer, an arpeggiator, a vocoder, cross-modulation, side-band filters, and a number of unusual effects.
This may seem a little intimidating if you’re unfamiliar with the field of synthesis. One glance at the horde of sliders and knobs that emit that sci-fi-like green glow would make someone think, “yikes, that’s a lot to control.”Actually, one of the better synthesizers for learning on is this one. The signal flow is simple to get used to and soon starts to seem logical, despite the top panel’s busy appearance.
Korg minilogue XD 4-voice Analog Synthesizer
- 4-voice Analog/Digital Synthesizer with 2 VCOs per Voice
- 16-step Polyphonic Sequencer
- Digital Multi-engine
The Minilogue XD is close to being the best synthesizer for beginners available. Korg is a well-known name in the music world. A keyboard with 37 velocity-sensitive keys is included in the package. While their thin shape is appealing, playing with large hands may be difficult. Analog and digital sound generators are used in the product. It also has a four-voice polyphony and 500 presets, as well as a four-voice polyphony. There are four voice styles to choose from: unison, poly, chord, and ARP/latch. For each mode, the synthesizer lets you to alter different parameters.
It’s simple to utilize the 16-step polyphonic sequencer. The device allows you to customize sounds after producing any patch by using a motion sequence on four parameters. As a result, you’ll have a wide selection of sound options. The display will ensure that any parameter adjustments or feedback are provided, and the integrated joystick will allow you to change program parameters. With MIDI in and out, USB, and other connectors, the connectivity is extremely noteworthy. The synthesizer is 6.17 pounds in weight, but the components are of high quality.
Overall, the beginner synth has a low learning curve, particularly for inexperienced musicians. The good news is that you’ll have fun exploring a wide range of options and discovering new features on a daily basis. This is Best Synth for Beginners in 2023.
Behringer DeepMind 12
For many years, Behringer has had a bad reputation for stealing ideas and products from other synth makers and repurposing them with less expensive parts to offer them at a lower price. The Deepmind 12 maintains the quality of Behringer products while taking a different approach to provide users with a unique product.
This unique 12-voice polyphonic synthesizer offers a ton of capabilities, including a 32-step sequencer, two oscillators, four effects engineers, and an integrated Wi-Fi-controlled tablet remote control.
Polyphony is one of the key selling qualities. This synth allows you to stack voice in a variety of ways, whether you just want to double a voice or create a massive 12-voice stack. One thing to keep in mind is that, regrettably, this synth is not multi-timbral. Despite this, it continues to produce some of the most luxurious multi-voice tones I’ve heard at its pricing point.
If you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover the Mod Matrix, which gives 22 modulation sources that you may route to more than 100 different locations. There is also an arpeggiator mode with a variety of programmable patterns, delivering some of the most intricate MIDI implementations we’ve ever seen, if that isn’t enough for you.
Not much can be said negatively about this hardware synth. The fact that you have to search through multiple menus in order to access specific functions or change settings is one thing that might be a little aggravating. Although the front panel of the synth is quite user-friendly, I kind of wish the single screen was a little bit bigger given the quantity of text and information that is crammed on it.
Despite so, Behringer did a fantastic job making one of the best beginner synths available on the market with the outstanding sound quality, variety of presets, and sturdy design.
teenage engineering OP-1 Portable Synthesizer
- CREATING MUSIC FOR 10 YEARS AND BEYOND - teenage engineering first unveiled OP-1 in 2010. Since day one, it has been the favorite portable synthesizer...
- OFFERS MULTIPLE BUILT-IN SEQUENCERS - OP-1 features an onboard tombola sequencer for random trig and a sketch sequencer, which allows you to "draw"...
- SAMPLES SOUNDS FROM DIFFERENT SOURCES - You can sample a sound using the onboard microphone. The built-in FM radio allows you to sample local radio...
The OP1 isn’t the best instrument for learning synthesis in many aspects. There are simply too many synth engines and not enough quick, tactile controls. But a machine for learning to compose and perform synth and sample-based music? It’s just fantastic.
The OP-1 is a synthesizer, sampler, 4-track recorder, and controller that can be carried about. In a nutshell, it’s a creative triumph. Thirteen synth engines, seven high-quality effects, and a slew of routable LFOs are all waiting for you to get creative. Put a ton of samples in there, sequence them all on the six – yes, six – sequencers, then record your masterpiece on the four-track virtual tape recorder. Overdub as much as you like.
Teenage Engineering has created a product that is enjoyable, intuitive, and non-technical to operate by restricting the OP-1’s major controls to just four brightly colored encoders. It’s the age-old guiding idea of keeping complexity to a minimum in order to maximize creativity. It looks like a toy, but it sounds like a professional recording studio that you can carry in your back pocket.
It’s inspiring, but it’s not inexpensive. Regrettably, the OP-1’s price has nearly doubled since its inception a decade ago, putting it out of reach for many. Teenage Engineering also produces the Pocket Operator series, which is based on a pocket calculator and sells for about the same price as a pocket calculator. They’re a bit limiting unless you’re just trying to dip your toe into the deep, warm waters of synthesis.
Yamaha REFACE CS Portable Analog Modeling Synthesizer
- Analog Physical Modeling Engine with multiple synthesis and oscillator types
- 8-note polyphony allows complex chords and pads or switch to mono mode for fat synth bass or solo leads!
- Integrated phrase Looper: capture song ideas or just jam!
The Reface line takes vintage Yamaha keyboards and transforms them into low-cost, transportable slabs ideal for today’s traveling musicians on a budget. They are a favorite among music students since they fit in perfectly in lecture halls and dorm rooms, as well as with home-studio fans searching for a taste of Yamaha from the past.
The Yamaha Control Series, which originally appeared in the 1970s and was a favorite of musicians as diverse as Vangelis, Michael Jackson, and Brian Eno, served as the inspiration for the Reface CS.
Polyphony, or the capacity to play numerous notes or voices at once, was what set the original CS apart. The majority of synths in the 1970s, including Moog’s revolutionary Model D, were monophonic, making it difficult to play genuine chords and limiting the use of supple, expressive legato runs. Although polyphony is now ubiquitous, most of its competitors at this price point is still monophonic, therefore the Reface CS stays true to the original in having eight voices. Even after all these years, it continues to be a unique element that takes the CS to the next level.
The panel, which is just a long row of sliders and is clear and simple to manage, is another nice feature for newbies. Before modifying additional parameters like amp and filter envelopes, LFO, and effects, you can choose from five oscillator types: Multi-saw, Pulse, Oscillator Sync, Ring Modulation, and Frequency Modulation. The sliders are simple to use and provide instantaneous visual feedback on how your music is developing, which is quite helpful for beginners.
Sound design is quick and enjoyable because there is no menu navigating and the feature set is restricted to the minimum necessary to create melodic sounds. Due to the difficulty of conjuring anything other than delicious, functional patches, beginners can avoid wasting a lot of time tinkering about. Although it is unfortunate that there is no direct means to save patches to the Reface CS, at least you can save them to Yamaha’s Soundmondo software, even if it is a bit of a hassle.
The keyboard, which only has three octaves, is short like all Reface models. Contrarily, this is a synth that you can carry around, use on your lap, and store in a corner when not in use. Ideal for timid newcomers with constrained room but limitless aspirations.
Novation Bass Station II Analog Mono-Synth
- Create a huge variety of sounds- Two tuneable, analogue oscillators offer a selection of four waveforms, a sub-oscillator, plus noise and ring...
- Enormous bass and shrieking leads- Switch the Classic Filter between low-, high- and band-pass modes with 12 and 24dB/octave slopes to make the Bass...
- Improved analogue filter stage- Two distinct analogue filter types: the classic multi-mode filter and a new 24dB Acid Filter offer a massive variation...
The Bass Station II from Novation is a great example of a feature-rich analog monosynth. This synth was first released in 2013, so it doesn’t often get a lot of attention these days…but it’s still worth checking out. The Bass Station II can be compared to a modern-day Roland SH-101 or TB-303, and it’s ideal for strong leads and squelchy, acid basslines. It has two oscillators and one sub oscillator, two multi mode filters, and a lot of modulation, sequencing, and arpeggiation options…as well as some very nasty distortion and filter modulation. The Bass Station II, for example, offers a far more flexible synthesis architecture than the Minilogue, at the cost of not being polyphonic. So, if sonic versatility is more important to you than polyphony, this could be a good place to start.
Of course, Novation’s post-release firmware revisions have given this unassuming synth plenty of reasons to keep an eye on it. Paraphonic operation (meaning you can use it to perform chords or multiple melodic lines) and the mind-bending AFX mode (where you may assign a separate group of panel settings to each key on the keyboard) have also been added as a result of new firmware updates. This means that each note can have a completely distinct sound—for example, a percussive kick or snare sound, a squelchy bass sound, or an absurd sound effect—and you can swap sounds quickly in performance using either the keyboard or the sequencer. This results in sequences that rapidly switch from one sound to the next, allowing entire tracks of spastic program changes to be created. This mode, created in partnership with Aphex Twin, is wholly unique to the Bass Station and provides it a distinct advantage. This is Best Bass Synth for Beginners in 2023.
Arturia MiniBrute 2 Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer
- Analog Synthesizer with 2 VCO's and 2 LFO's
- Steiner Parker filter with 4 modes: Low Pass, High Pass, Band Pass, Notch
- 1 ADSR envelope and 1 AD envelope
We believe that the Minibrute 2 qualifies based on its price. There has to be a caveat if you look at the features and sophistication of the top panel, especially that 48 CV patchbay. The Minibrute 2 is a fantastic synth for individuals who want to get their feet wet in the field of modular synthesis. If you’ve mastered the fundamentals but find modular to be a fascinating enigma, the MiniBrute 2 could be your first-class ticket to a new musical realm worth exploring.
This is a unique synthesizer. Forget about the patchbay for a moment, the top panel appears unassuming at first glance. Two oscillators, a mixer, a filter, an amplifier, and envelopes are among the sections. However, it quickly becomes intriguing because the waveforms of the primary oscillator can be output concurrently and combined via the mixer. There’s also a modifier control for more intricate tweaking of the wave types, as well as the mayhem-inducing ‘Brute Factor’ drive knob, and so on.
Arturia’s goal with the Minibrute 2 appears to be to expand musicians’ sonic options, ‘to sweep aside norms and expectations in terms of what a synth should be.’ Nobody can accuse them of going about this half-heartedly. Returning to the patchbay, you may start re-routing this small synth’s default signal flow for practically limitless sound design possibilities using skill, judgment, and expertise, or simply good old-fashioned potluck. You can link it to other modular devices and continue to tinker, dabble, and fine-tune it once you’ve exhausted these possibilities.
It was always Arturia’s desire for the Minibrute 2 to serve as the creative glue that connected the classical synth world and the modular scene. This weird little synth is seen as the catalyst that lies at the very center of your modular system.
Korg Volca Keys
- 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
Korg’s Volca series has been around for almost a decade, and in that time it has introduced thousands of people to the joys of unrestricted knob twiddling. A Volca should be at the top of your novice synthesizer purchase list whether you’re looking for battery-operated joy in the quiet of your own home or in public with other like-minded folks.
With 27 ribbon keys and a loop sequencer, the Volca Keys is a compact polyphonic analog synth. It’s neither the most feature-rich synth out there, nor is it the most comprehensive sound design tool accessible today, which is unsurprising. Instead, it’s a fun and economical method to get started with synthesis. We’d certainly dismiss the Volca keys as a toy if it were a one-trick preset box, but it follows typical subtractive synthesis tradition and allows for plenty of hands-on control.
Getting to grips with the fundamentals is a piece of cake. Toggle the huge voicing dial between Poly, Unison, Fifth, Unison Ring, and Poly Ring to combine the Volca’s three oscillators. This determines whether they are played in unison, de-tuned by a specific interval, or have ring modulation applied, among other things. It’s a clever approach to limit your alternatives without stifling your imagination.
The smaller VCO (oscillator), VCF (filter), LFO, and EG (amp envelope) knobs can then be used to fine-tune other parameters. To finish your sound design recipe, add a sprinkle of delay to taste. That’s all there is to it. The sequencer can only record sixteen steps, which doesn’t seem like much until you start using the overdub and active step functions. Overdub does just what it says, while active step allows you to skip steps during playback for unexpected rhythmic changes, allowing you to make your performance more dynamic and less stale.
The Volca Keys also sounds fantastic, much more so than its small size and low price would suggest. Will you become tired of it soon? It has constraints on its own, thus the answer should be yes. But combine it with a handful of its Volca family siblings – Vocal Beats and Volca Bass, for example – and you’ve got a music-making system that’ll keep you happy for years.
Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator PO-20 Arcade Synthesizer and Sequencer
- PRODUCES RETRO AND MODERN SYNTHS - The teenage engineering PO-20 Arcade offers 16 synthesized 8bit video game-style tones like chiptune-style sounds.
- ALLOWS YOU TO CREATE A WHOLE SONG - The 16-step sequencer enables you to create sophisticated arrangements and make an entire song with the help of...
- DELIVERS HIGH-QUALITY SOUNDS - The Pocket Operator Arcade uses Silicon Labs EFM32 Gecko MCU and Cirrus Logic DAC chip to produce excellent sound...
Teenage Engineering built a one-of-a-kind and original product, and we’re not going to sugarcoat it. It is important to note that this is not intended for those who are serious about music production. Instead, it’s a pleasant device for novices and people who wish to be introduced to the world of synthesizer playing.
The arcade synth has a keyboard with 16 sounds that generate different chords and notes. Many sounds from a vintage arcade are replicated by the device. It does, however, include a 16-step sequencer, which allows you a lot of creative freedom. This unit can even be used to compose the full song. The sounds can be played through the inbuilt speaker, and the quality is excellent for the price. This is especially true given that this is primarily a toy for creative and bright youngsters and teenagers.
The device is powered by two batteries and has a lengthy battery life. It can be used on its own, but it can also be connected to speakers. The product is similarly simple to connect to your PC or other devices, although there is no MIDI. The company refers to the product as a pocket synth, which makes sense. The item is small enough to put in your pocket and carry around, making it ideal for on-the-go use. Although the instructions are a little confusing, the process of learning how to use the unit should be enjoyable.
Moog Mother-32 Semi Modular Analog Synthesizer
- Semi-modular design requires no patching for swift, inspired music creation
- Voltage controlled 32 step sequencer with 64 sequence locations
- Low Pass & High Pass Moog Ladder Filter (20Hz-20kHz) with voltage controlled resonance
The Moog Mother-32 is a high-end synth that is ideal for beginners seeking for a flexible solution that will meet their demands as they learn to produce music. This synth may be too advanced for total novices. You should be able to enjoy production in no time if you know what you’re doing or read the thorough guidebook. The Mother-32 is a semi-modular synth that works well on its own or as part of a bigger modular synth. It has a built-in sequencer and speaker system, so it may be expanded with the appropriate modules. This is one of the Best Synths for Beginners in 2023.
Korg Volca FM
- 3-voice polyphonic FM synthesizer, fully compatible with classic unit
- Super-easy sound editing
- Onboard CHORUS effect
The Korg Volca FM synthesizer module is a portable replica of Korg’s iconic DX7 FM synthesizer, and it can even accept DX7 patch data! And the sound engine is exactly what you’d expect from a classic FM synth: six operators ready to generate clanging metallic tones, ripping leads, subsonic basses, and a variety of unique effects.
For extra musical animation, use the built-in 16-step sequencer with Motion Sequence to capture knob twists as well as note data. Twist your patterns using Warp Active Step, Pattern Chain, or the Arpeggiator, and add sheen to your sounds with the sumptuous onboard chorus effect. The Korg Volca FM has a lot of sound potential, whether you’re performing live or producing electronic music in your studio.
The Yamaha DX7 is a well-known FM synthesizer among electronic musicians, and it’s known for being as difficult to program as it is for its iconic sound. The Korg Volca FM has the same six-operator sound engine as the Korg Volca, and its simplified control set makes it much easier to create your own sounds from scratch. You may dial in traditional FM synth sounds and save 32 of your favorites for fast recall, ranging from percussion and effects to Reese bass and more. In addition, Korg contains a parameter list guide that you can use as you get to know your way around.
Arturia MicroBrute Analog Synthesizer
- 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)
The Arturia MicroBrute’s name includes the term “micro” for a purpose. This beginner’s keyboard synthesizer has a small footprint and is very light. That way, you’ll be able to roam about and practice wherever you are.
The synthesizer is monophonic, with 25 keys on the keyboard. An inbuilt oscillator and a step sequencer are also key components. The sequencer is an excellent addition, especially because it is simple and enjoyable to use. However, the oscillator lacks a Sine Wave function and white noise, which you may perceive as minor drawbacks as you get more familiarity with the instrument. When you start playing with this synth, you’ll notice that it has a great sound quality. It has a lot of power and a lot of harmonic possibilities.
With this product, there won’t be any learning curve. The panel is simple to understand, there are no difficult controls, and the user handbook thoroughly explains everything. When you look at the quality of the components, you’ll see that the item is fairly long-lasting. The product provides outstanding value for money, with the main drawback being the base plate. It appears to be of lower quality than other pieces, and it may rust if not properly maintained.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Synthesizer?
A synthesizer, often referred to as a synth, is an electronic musical instrument that generates sound through various synthesis techniques. Unlike traditional instruments that produce sound mechanically, a synth uses electrical signals to generate and shape sounds electronically. Synthesizers offer a vast range of possibilities for creating and manipulating sounds, making them a popular choice among musicians, producers, and sound designers.
Why Should I Consider Getting a Beginner Synth?
As a beginner, investing in a synth is a fantastic way to explore the world of electronic music production and sound design. Beginner synths are designed to be user-friendly, affordable, and versatile, offering a wide array of features and sounds to inspire your creativity. They provide an excellent platform for learning fundamental synthesis concepts, experimenting with different sounds, and developing your unique musical style.
What to look for in the best beginner synthesizer?
Let’s start with some fundamental assumptions. First and foremost, you should not spend more than $1,500/£1,500/€1,500, preferably much less. You want to study synthesis – the art of shaping sound – but you want it to be as quick, gratifying, and painless as possible unlike using a software synths.
You could be in a band that performs regularly, or you could just desire a synth for your home studio. Finally, you want your relationship with it to linger long after you’ve lost your synth virginity — it’s unlikely that you’ll stay faithful to your first synthetic love, but it should continue to fascinate you for years to come at this price point.
Synthesis can be relatively simple, but it can also quickly become very sophisticated. Subtractive, additive, wavetable, and FM synthesis are just a few of the many forms of synthesis available. Some synths, like as the Korg opsix, are classified as FM synths, while others, such as the Roland SE-02, are classified as subtractive synths for note at a time.
In the end, the decision is yours, although we strongly advise you to begin your learning journey with a subtractive synth. The procedure is pretty intuitive, and understanding the fundamentals will help you when you go on to the other varieties. FM is the most difficult to master, although it produces some stunning bell-like and metallic tones.
Why not just use VST/AU?
Why spend so much money on a piece of hardware when a software plugin would be far more useful? When musicians began composing music on computers, hardware synths quickly fell out of favor, only to resurface a few years later. Despite the superb quality and clear advantages of softsynths, hardware has never been more popular.
Why? Playing a hardware synth is a hands-on experience that requires you to get your hands dirty with the knobs and dials. They’re simply more enjoyable!