Best Synthesizers: Analog Edition

Best Analog Synthesizers on the Market

For those wishing to take their audio production to the next level, a synthesizer may be the perfect investment for you.

 

What does a synth do?

Synths are built nearly identically to midi controllers and function by pressing a key to emit a sound which can modulated, shifted by pitch, or engineered via the controls on the synth.

Synths function in a manner very similar to how midi controllers do. If you recall our midi keyboard article, you’ll remember that the midi controllers looked very similar to a combination of a beat machine and regular piano keyboard all in one.

 

 

So What’s the Actual Difference Between a Synthesizer and a Midi Controller?

The biggest and most marked differences between a synthesizer and a midi controller are the fact that synthesizers actually play music through the device itself and it usually comes with substantially more built in VSTs and software designed to allow the user to edit or change what they have begun playing.

This makes synthesizers the perfect device for those that wish to maintain live playing capabilities. It also allows users to edit things without the necessity of a laptop computer or other DAW. However, synthesizers usually come with a port or some other sort of mechanism that allows the user to hook it up to a midi controller or computer device for digital production if desired.

The devices are also a little bigger and more ‘complex’ in nature than regular midi controllers and are better geared towards those with actual piano and technical experience.

Between the synthesizer and the midi controller, we would absolutely recommend the midi controller for those that are somewhat new to the field of audio production or music itself. For those that are experienced in music, understand music theory to some extent and have at least a working knowledge of how a piano works (You don’t need to be Beethoven), then a synth may be a great investment for you.

Also keep in mind, because of the complexity of technology in the hardware of a synthesizer in comparison to that of a midi controller, they are also substantially more expensive. However, if one is a pianist in a band, does live playing, or wishes to have autonomous control over what they can create and produce, then a synthesizer may be the perfect investment for that individual.

This article will be focused on discussing the ins and outs of a synthesizer, what components qualify a device as one of the best synthesizers, and a short list of what we believe are the best synthesizers available on the market today.

 

 

All you need to know about Synthesizers

Once again, to reiterate the points above: Only purchase a synthesizer if you are absolutely sure you are in need of such a device.

 

Types of synthesizers 

Even though this article will only be covering analog synthesizers since they are the hot item on the market that everyone is looking to buy, we will review the various types of synthesizers below so that you are aware of each.

Analog Synthesizers – These synthesizers basically work in the same way that you would expect any analog device to work. An example of an analog device would be a watch on your wrist that only moves by the hand around the face instead of showing a digital display. Similarly, an analog synthesizer will physically replicate the sound through the device itself like a real instrument would. The ‘waveforms’ hit the circuit within the device and help produce the sound. As a result, it has been said that analog synthesizers sound ‘more real’. There are also substantially more customizable options with an analog synthesizer than a digital one. These types of synthesizers have been in existence for over a century at this point.

Example: if you blow through a trumpet it will play a note, if you press a note through an analog                 synthesizer the device itself will be used to produce the sound.

Virtual Analog Synthesizers – These are more similar to digital synthesizers than analog ones, but they are not full-blown digital synthesizers. They are ‘virtual’ analog synthesizers because they mimic analog synthesizers, but function digitally so they’re ‘virtually’ an analog synthesizer – Get it?

Digital Synthesizers – Digital Synthesizers function nothing like analog synthesizers. Digital synthesizers function in a way comparable to computers themselves. Digital synthesizers thrive by electronically conjuring the sounds of the device through frequency modulation. The technology is much more recent than that of analog synthesizers, however, analogs have enjoyed much popularity in recent years.

 

Waveforms 

Synthesizers use a number of waveforms which we go too far into depth about. Just know that when you press a button on your synthesizer it will emit certain types of waves; square, triangle, sawtooth, and sine. Each of these are engineered to register in the instrument a certain way to provide a unique sound. For a much more in-depth, technical, and scientific explanation visit here.

 

Types of features on a synth

This part is important because it is part of how we will evaluate the utility of the synth in general. Most synths come with a number features and modulators that allow the user to have greater creative freedom over what they are producing. These features are what will allow you to create virtually any sound that you can engineer on the instrument. Some of those features include:

Pitch Changers

Sound modulators

Delay/Reverb

Decay

Octave shifters

And many more.

Best Synthesizers

Now that we have covered what qualifies a synthesizer as being ‘good’ or ‘great’, we’ll move on to helping you determine which one that you should buy.

Each synthesizer will be given a score between 0-100 overall on the basis of three categories; aesthetics, hardware, and pricing.

AestheticsThis portion of the product’s score will analyze how appeasing its overall appearance is.

Hardware – The hardware portion will analyze just how quality the device is. We’ll be answering questions like, ‘What can this thing do?’, ‘How good are the specs in comparison to the best synthesizers available?’ etc.

PricingThis category will simply analyze how good the pricing is relative to what the item’s perceived value is.

 

#5 – Roland JD-Xi

Roland JD-Xi synthesizer

Overall

Aesthetics

Hardware

Pricing

 

Coming in at #5 on our list of best synthesizers, the Roland JD-Xi is an amazing synthesizer for any musician to own. With a sleek black cover to complement its analog and digital features, the Roland-JDXi is one of the best synthesizers out there.

Aesthetics – The device has a lot of aesthetic beauty to it. The outside of the device has a very sleek, glossy black look with a red color scheme around the buttons and nobs on the machine. The print on the device itself is very crisp along with the design and placement of each button and nub on there. The keyboard looks as clean and polished as can be. The modulators, filters, AMP/ENV, and LFO are clearly labeled and it even has a little digital panel in the top left corner to allow for easier viewing.

Hardware – The hardware comes with a host of very cool features. First off, it allows you to build loops with the four-track pattern sequencer which is useful for creating intricate music with the device itself. It also allows for midi connectivity, which is very useful if you would like to plug your sounds into a computer of some sort to really give yourself complete control over your creations. The device itself is also loaded with hundreds of drum kits, making it a true producers’ paradise. There are also endless effects on the device and more can be downloaded at your discretion from the makers’ personal website. The microphone attachment is also an awesome attachment. With the microphone, customers can sing into the device to create their own unique sounds using their voice and then engineer that to their liking to create something awesome.

Pricing – You can’t really ask for a better price on a device like this. It covers all bases and delivers exactly what you would want out of one of the best synthesizers on the market. We’d recommend going out to cop this whenever possible if you have the sufficient funds on you currently.

Click here to get a more in-depth look at this device, including purchase links and other customer reviews.

#4 – Korg microKorg 37-Key Analog Modeling Synthesizer with Vocoder

Korg microKorg 37-Key Analog Modeling Synthesizer with Vocoder

Overall

Aesthetics

Hardware

Pricing

 

The Korg microKorg presents itself as a wonderful synthesizer that any individual would be lucky to have, making it a great fit at #4 on our best synthesizers list.

Aesthetics – The aesthetics of the device are very nice. It features a burnt-ish golden exterior to complement the black control panel. The keys are also oriented with a nice pearl white coloring in contrast to the dark night colored alternate keys. The device comes with its own microphone attachment for vocoder features which matches the overall color scheme. The digital display is also a nice modern touch to a timeless technological modification.

Hardware – The hardware on this device is formidable. Featuring 128 user-rewritable programs, a dynamic arpeggiator, easy conversion to MIDI mode, and countless sounds, effects, and expressions, this device has everything you’d expect out of one of the best synthesizers on the market.

Pricing – The pricing on this device is excellent. You’d expect an analogy synthesizer of this caliber to be substantially more expensive than what it is listed as at the time of writing.

Click here to get a more in-depth look at this device, including purchase links and other customer reviews.

#3 – Novation Ultranova Nova Series Analog-Modeling Synthesizer  

Novation Ultranova Nova Series Analog-Modeling Synthesizer

Overall

Aesthetics

Hardware

Pricing

 

Novation, with a reputation for providing high quality music hardware, has outdone themselves with this analog synthesizer. Coming in at #3 on our list of best synthesizers is the Novation Ultranova Nova Series.

Aesthetics – The Novation Ultranova Nova Series is actually a very unique synthesizer appearance-wise. It has an all-blue casing with a light baby blue theme among the electronic buttons on the device. This is a slight negative to the extent that there are some individuals may not like the blue color theme and there doesn’t appear to be an alternate design for those that would like something a little less ‘loud’. The keys appear as they do on the other synthesizers on our best synthesizers list. The arrangement of the nobs and turn wheels are intuitively placed on the device and spaced in a way that allows for feasible and easily accessible maneuvering.

Hardware – The hardware on the device is commendable and one of our favorite aspects of the Novation Ultranova. The device comes with accompanying software that allows owners to load additional sounds and effects onto the device, potentially expanding its capabilities far beyond what it is originally equipped with. It comes with a software plug-in editor as well as a ‘Patch Librarian’ which allows individuals to conduct full visual editing.

Pricing – Its listed price at the time of writing is very low. Currently, there is a sale on Amazon that offers the device for a 44% discount. We imagine this will be available for the foreseeable future, however, make sure that you take advantage of this sale while it does last and go grab it now!

 Click here to get a more in-depth look at this device, including purchase links and other customer reviews.

#2 – Elektron Analog Keys 4-Voice Synthesizer

Elektron Analog Keys 4-Voice Synthesizer

Overall

Aesthetics

Hardware

Pricing

 

The Elektron is an amazing device that is more than well-deserving of the #2 spot on our best synthesizers list. The features on this device are nearly endless and it is and has been considered one of the more standout pieces of musical hardware on the market.

Aesthetics – Aesthetically, this device looks like it should be on the best synthesizers list. At first glance, the vast amount of different buttons on the synthesizer itself makes it a bit intimidating in appearance. However, upon closer inspection the buttons are neatly organized categorically by feature to allow for a more seamless manipulation and control of musical output. They keys are nothing to write home about, but the dark scheme is very attractive on the synthesizer. It looks more like a musical instrument than the other devices on our best synthesizers list which is a huge plus aesthetically.

Hardware – What can’t this thing do? As stated in the product description, it includes a ‘fully customizable voice control, assignment of varying parameters, and features that include a chorus effect, saturation, delay, and special reverb among many other things.

Pricing – While the pricing is not cheap by any means, it is more than fair for an analog synthesizer of this caliber. Typically many of the best synthesizers range around this number, so we found it to be an accurate and fair assessment.

Click Here to get a more in-depth look at this device, including purchase links and other customer reviews.

#1 – Modal Electronics Modulus.002 Analog  / Digital Keyboard Synthesizer

Modal Electronics Modulus.002 Analog Digital Keyboard Synthesizer

Overall

Aesthetics

Hardware

Pricing

 

Coming in at #1 on our list of best synthesizers is the Modulus Analog Keyboard Synthesizer. This is pretty much the peak of what you can get out of a synthesizer on the market these days. With a blend of the best technology the industry has to offer on top of a dynamic machine with comfortable and innovative technologies on an easy-to-access surface, it’s absolutely no wonder why the Modal Modulus reigns supreme on our list of best synthesizers.

Aesthetics – Aesthetically, there’s not much more you could want out of a synthesizer. With wooden panels flanking both sides of the device, coupled with a black and white theme, the Modulus screams ‘sophistication’ at the top of its lungs. The buttons are evenly dispersed across the top panel of the device in a very non-obtrusive and seamless manner. Similarly, the keys on this synthesizer are arranged smoothly given how many are present on this device.

Hardware – Hardware-wise, this is where the Modulus truly shines. It’s analog and digital capabilities alone make it a powerful device in it of itself.  The device possesses a sound quality that is unrivaled by other synthesizer devices. It is also equipped with some crazy, difficult to name stuff such as; a 24dB per octave four pole transistor ladder filter, electronic animators, four different key modes, and a premium FATAR semi-weighted five octave key mechanism among many other features. There’s about nothing that one can’t do on this device and the only apparent limitation appears to be one’s imagination.

Pricing – Undoubtedly, this device is extremely expensive. However, it is an instrument at the end of the day and considering it’s functionality as both a supreme analog and digital synthesizer, it is almost as if one received a high quality synth of both kinds bundled into one. For those that are experts at the synthesizer and professional musicians, this is most likely the device that you want to aspire to purchase if you want to fully explore your capabilities as a musician.

Click Here to get a more in-depth look at this device, including purchase links and other customer reviews.