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By Chris Senner of KeyboardKraze
Diving into the world of synthesizers can be an incredibly memorable experience in your life. Knowing how to use which synthesizers to use, and when in your production, can change your whole musical world, taking your musical journey to places otherwise unknown.
And if you’re just starting out with synths, well, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we take a look at five affordable synthesizers to start you off on that magical journey.
Aside from these synthesizers being budget-friendly, they’ve also been chosen because they are also beginner-friendly. Certain synths are more complex and challenging to use than others, and for that reason, this list has excluded anything requiring too much of a learning curve. Because ideally, you’d get started using these right away.
However, it is vital to learn synthesizer basics before you try to dive deep, which is why we here at Soundfly created our newest, and most in-depth online course, Advanced Synths and Patch Design for Producers, to better understand synthesis and move beyond presets to create a wide array of scintillating sounds for your productions.
Monophonic vs. Polyphonic Synthesizers
Monophonic synthesizers can only produce one note at a time. While for some, this may seem counterintuitive, others love this. There are monophonic synthesizers that are industry staples, such as the Minimoog, and they are typically a little bit cheaper than polyphonic synths, as they are limited sonically.
Polyphonic synthesizers allow for different polyphony. This means that you can play more than one note at a time, and chords! If you’re someone who loves dabbling with arpeggiators and full-bodied chords and harmonies, these are exceptional.
Digital vs. Analog
When researching synths, one of the things that people get hung up on is the subject of digital versus analog. The reality is that there are both great analog synths and incredible digital synths, and the choice will revolve around personal preference and what you want the final product to sound like.
Most people enjoy analog synths for the overall warmth that they produce, but new digital synths can also create some fantastic warmth and should not be dismissed. The easiest way to break down the difference between the two is that a digital synth is like a computer with a keyboard and an LCD interface. Analog synths are made up of sound-generating circuitry and modulators and are not computers. Analog has no screen, but merely old-school knobs and keys.
With all of this being said, it’s essential to pick a synthesizer and start learning right away. It’s easy to convolute it and try to take in too much knowledge, which leads to much confusion. So let’s take a look at five affordable synthesizers that I’d recommend any producer pick up in 2020.
Best Synthesizers for Producers on a Budget
1. Korg Minilogue XD (Poly)
The Korg Minilogue XD is an absolute powerhouse of a synth. This is the perfect synth for beginners, since it has extremely warm sounding patches paired with a wide variety of sounds and parameters. The Korg Minilogue XD is also one of the more straightforward synths on which to start learning.
With this unit, you are getting an analog synthesizer that has extreme power for a relatively low price. And while this is probably the most expensive synthesizer on the list, it is the best for anything near this price-point. Here are some quick pros:
- Great sound engine
- Solid sequencer
- Easy to use
2. Arturia MiniBrute 2 (Para)
The Arturia MiniBrute 2 is an excellent choice for those who want to learn elaborate modular synthesis without needing to invest in a hundred individual modules. The MiniBrute 2 is a semi-modular synth that is capable of creating some incredible sounds, and is also paraphonic.
One thing to note with this synth is that there is a learning curve, but it’s a fun unit to start messing around with. Once you become comfortable with this synth, you will understand how many other synths work quite easily. Here are some other pros:
- Huge analog grit
- Good control parameters
- Great for learning synthesis
3. Novation MiniNova (Poly)
The MiniNova is basically Novation’s version of the Korg Microkorg. The Microkorg is one of the most popular synthesizers of all time in that it has sold over 100,000 units. We have the MiniNova listed because it’s a little bit cheaper and also a wee bit easier to use than the Microkorg. This is the perfect synth to wet your feet and dive into the pool with. There is also a fantastic vocoder on-board. Some extra pros:
- Great vocoder
- Solid effects
- 256 great patches
- Great sound engine
4. Novation Bass Station 2 (Mono)
If you are a fan of Drum and Bass or heavy electronic music, the Novation Bass Station 2 is a great pick. The original Bass Station is an extremely popular starter synth, and now that the 2 is out, this has become precisely that. With a few tutorials, you can get a good grasp of this synthesizer’s potential, but its whole purpose is to provide some incredibly fat basses; it does exactly that.
- Huge basses
- 64 presets
- 2 analog filters
5. Behringer MS-1 (Mono)
The Behringer MS-1 is a remake of the iconic monophonic Korg MS-20 synthesizer from the 1980s and ’90s. This synth has some excellent capabilities, and it is affordable. What makes it great for so many performers is that it is analog, and monophonic, but the possibilities for sound design are seemingly endless. If you’re a fan of synth-rock from the ’80s, this should be on your radar. Some extra pros:
- 32-step sequencer
- Authentic 3340 analog filter
- 57 knobs and sliders
The purpose of this quick post was to present you with five incredible synthesizers for the price. All five of these synths would be great to add to your rig and are ideal for learning.
If you are using any affordable synths which aren’t on this list, let us know which we should’ve included in this list!
Don’t stop here!
Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with artist-led courses by Kimbra, Jlin, Kiefer, RJD2, Ryan Lott, and of course, Com Truise: Mid-Fi Synthwave Slow-Motion Funk.
Chris Senner is the founder of KeyboardKraze. Over the last 6 years he has toured the country playing keyboards in the band Vinyl Theatre. He’s been playing keyboards for over 20 years and this website is where he loves to share the knowledge he’s accumulated.