Synthesizers can be very expensive, if you don’t believe it take a look at this synthesizer.
For most casual or novice producers this kind of synthesizers may not be the best option, however it doesn’t mean that there are no real gems at surprisingly cheap prices, without sacrificing sound quality, versatility or limiting your creativity.
To find the best cheap synthesizer, we have created this article where we will analyze the 7 synthesizers with great quality and performance at affordable prices for limited budgets.
First of all, you need to fully understand what a synthesizer is, as there are many myths surrounding these musical instruments.
What is a synthesizer?
A synthesizer is a musical instrument that can be electronic, analog or both, which produces a series of multiple frequencies that produce a sound.
A synthesizer is not necessarily a keyboard, although the vast majority usually include one or more keyboards to allow manipulation of frequencies in a much more precise way.
This type of instrument usually includes multiple knobs that allow the frequencies to be altered to create an infinite number of different sounds.
Why do I need a synthesizer?
Synthesizers can mark a before and after in your career as a musician, as it will allow you to better experiment with the creation and manipulation of new sounds that you will not be able to produce just by imagining them and capturing them in your ever-reliable DAW.
That’s why for most musicians, the right choice of their first synthesizer can mark the beginning of new ways of conceiving and assimilating musical composition.
Choosing between a polyphonic and a monophonic synthesizer
Before you delve into the magical world of synthesizers and buy your first synthesizer, it is important to know and understand the differences between polyphonic and monophonic synthesizers.
Monophonic synthesizers are those that can only produce one note at a time, they stand out for their retro sound, especially sought after by those who want to recreate those 8-bit video game soundtracks.
On the other hand, we have the polyphonic synthesizers that produce multiple polyphonies, so that they can play more than one note at a time, along with chords. These are the right ones if you are looking to play chords, create arpeggio sequences, and compose harmonic sounds rich in tonalities.
What features should I look for in a synthesizer?
When choosing your first synthesizer it is important to keep in mind different essential aspects, such as the level of complexity, the sounds you are looking to produce, the possibility of scaling the connectivity to attach new accessories, number of voices, construction materials, etc.
Although synthesizers are designed to be used as a musical instrument, not all are valid for “everything”, and there are models that were created for specific purposes, so you must keep in mind the kind of use you are going to give and if the model you are going to buy meets your needs, because it is not worth for the same a single voice synthesizer, than one of two or three voices.
Nowadays we can find synthesizers of all sizes, and for some musicians this can be a factor of interest while for others it is not, and they prefer one that although it covers a lot of space in their studio, it fulfills requirements such as a keyboard, LCD screens, a lot of knobs and modulators.
Types of synthesizers
There are different types of synthesizers for different specific applications. Some with few voices and others with many, the wider the voice coverage, the richer and more complex the sound reproduction.
Pedal synthesizers are mostly used by entry-level musicians or beginners looking to modulate keyboard sounds in a simple way. They do not have as much sound quality as a real dedicated synth unit.
They are used for professional level sound production, especially when coupled to different devices, and have a lot of options for creating unique pieces of music.
It is used to give richness of sound to an external music source, it uses separate inputs where each voice is harmonized to give it a specific musical connotation.
These are synthesizers equipped with multiple voices for greater sound complexity.
Virtual synthesizers are computer programs that allow you to produce sounds through the use of MIDI keyboards. The advantage of these is that you can buy them online and install them on your computer and use them in your favorite DAW. They have an infinity of sounds and musical complexity and you can buy them at very low prices compared to their physical equivalent that can be really expensive.
Choosing between a digital and an analog synthesizer
This is undoubtedly one of the topics that most generates doubts and myths for beginners when entering the world of synthesizers.
It is enough to point out that there are real gems in both sides, analog and digital, and it will depend more on the personal perception of each musician and his musical preferences.
Broadly speaking, the big difference between the two is that the digital synthesizer comes to have characteristics more like a computer, since they have screen interfaces and electrical controllers that allow easier manipulation and greater creative freedom than with an analog one.
On the other hand we have the analog ones, which have modulators, buttons, knobs and circuits that produce the sounds. In this component we do not use LCD screens to give us a better idea of the settings, which for beginners can be essential.
With this in mind, it will be much easier to choose a cheap and perfect synthesizer to learn and above all, give a twist to the conception you have of creating music.
The 7 best cheap synthesizers of 2021
If you are a die-hard Rick and Morty fan, this is definitely the synthesizer for you.
Don’t be fooled by its price and design, as this is a real synthesizer capable of being used as a vocal sampler.
It comes with a built-in speaker, something surprising for its compact pocket design, and it also works with only 2 AA batteries.
With this synthesizer you will have no more excuses to create music and sample from anywhere you go.
This synthesizer features 8 voice samples from Justin Roiland, the voice actor of both characters in the series and co-creator of the series. Of course you can also load your own sounds with its built-in microphone.
It is capable of playing, recording, mixing, editing and modifying sounds with its different modules and effects that allow you to create incredible sounds while still being one of the cheapest and most portable available out there.
This list of the best cheap analog synthesizers could not be complete without the fantastic Monilogue, one of my favorites that although it is not exactly the cheapest on the list is at a point where it compensates perfectly for its incredible features that make it one of the best options even for professionals.
While this synthesizer is quite complete and capable of much, it is friendly to beginners, and personally I consider that if you are serious about getting a synthesizer this is the best option you can buy in this price range.
It has 37 keys that allow you to configure them in their entirety, 200 storable memories, with 100 integrated sounds and polyphony with 16 steps and oscilloscope.
One of the outstanding features of this particular model is that it is polyphonic. So you can play more than one note at the same time, providing greater creative freedom and a richer, more complex sound reproduction.
It also has a series of knobs for all the main functions you are looking for in a synthesizer of this style.
It has a powerful sequencer, 4-voice arpeggiator and a lot of settings that you can apply to your sounds to make them even more your own and define your own sound as a musician.
It’s ready for all kinds of real-world connectivity, with MIDI, USB MIDI and Audio Sync support.
Thanks to its aluminum construction, this model will give you a long lifespan.
The MicroBrute is a monophonic analog synthesizer that stands out for its practicality and affordable price.
It has 4 large oscillators that allow an alternation between square, triangle, saw and sub. Each of its oscillators has integrated the ability to boost the sound signal, from pulse width modulation, metallizer, ultraserial and overtone.
As expected, it has different knobs that allow you to apply filters, 3 forms of LFO, amplifier envelope and step sequencer.
If you are looking to buy your first synthesizer to learn synthesis concepts from scratch, the MicroBrute is perfect for you.
The IK Multimedia UNO is a monophonic analog synthesizer with a compact design.
It has a 16-step sequencer, 2 VCOs with pulse width modulation, arpeggiator and a variety of effects to play with sounds.
You can play with sounds through its membrane design buttons.
As you can see, the Japanese company Korg is very present in this list because it offers very good cheap synthesizers.
The Monotron Duo Dual Pocket Synth is a monophonic analog synthesizer that has 2 analog oscillators (VCO) with separate tuning configuration, VCF with peak and cutoff control, built in speaker, battery powered for increased portability.
It has 5 knobs (controlling VCO1 Pitch, X-MOD Int., VCO2 Pitch, VCF Cutoff and VCF Peak).
The Monotron Duo is capable of being powered with an external audio source to modify, filter and transform it to your liking thanks to its different available options.
The Arturia Microfreak Experimental Hybrid Synth is a 4-voice synthesizer with 11 digital oscillator modes with analog filters and versatile modulation matrix.
It has a sequencer-arpeggiator with controlled random parameters with 128 factory presets and space for 64 customizable presets.
This model was realized thanks to the collaboration with the company Mutable Instruments, which also manufactures modular synthesizers.
It has a wavetable, FM tone generator, subtractive style sport waves and more.
It is powered by a 12dB / 2-pole variable state analog filter.
It features a two-octave touch plate with polyphonic aftertouch.
It also has a small OLED display which always comes in handy.
Nektar’s IMPACT LX25+ is a synthesizer with 25 keys, 8 programmable pads, integrated modulation wheels and pitch bend.
It has a 30mm fader, 4 octave buttons and 8 potentiometers.
It is MIDI compatible for use in your favorite DAW.
These features and its incredible price make this synth one of the best value for money.
Nektar IMPACT LX25+
The IMPACT LX25+ from Nektar is one of the best cheap synthesizer available out there.
- 25 speed-sensitive keys
- 8 velocity sensitive pads with LED illumination
- 9 assignable buttons
- DAW integration
- Pitch bend and modulation wheels
- Native USB support for real Plug 'n Play
- USB bus powered