by Adam Douglas | 3,8 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 9 Minutes
Best Sounding Synths lead

Best Sounding Synths  ·  Source: Groove Synthesis

ADVERTISEMENT

Some synthesizers just sound better. Here are the seven best sounding synths currently on the market as chosen by the Gearnews editors – plus a few extra for good measure.

ADVERTISEMENT

Best Sounding Synths

There are many different ways to judge a synth. Its playability, for one. The number of LFOs is another. Or to be less specific, the variety of synthesis options it has. There’s also how well it punches through a busy mix. These are all valid criteria to judge a synthesizer’s worthiness but the one we’re concerned with today is sheer sound quality.

With this in mind, I asked the Gearnews editors to list the synths they thought sounded the very best. I also restricted the list to modern synths currently on the market, so no vintage Junos or CS-80s, sorry. Lastly, there were quite a few so I’ve had to trim the list down to seven of the best sounding synths (although I’ve cheated and included some runners-up as well).

What Affects Synthesizer Sound Quality?

Before we get into the instruments themselves, let’s examine what makes a best sounding synth. Is it the quality of the components? The oscillator and filter designs? Something less tangible?

To find out, I put this question to Paula Maddox. A co-founder of Modal Electronics, she’s also worked with Hartmann Music, her own Dove Music and lately with Isla Instruments on a voice card for their upcoming Caladan.

“Oh wow, that’s a huge topic,” she replied. “The short answer is, it’s everything in the signal chain. Quality of parts, quality of signal chain, DACs, even the quality of the power supply can have an influence. With digital synths a lot comes down to the DAC and final output stage but mostly it’s about the algorithm and the way it’s implemented. I don’t feel there is one single element that makes or breaks a good sounding synth, though you could say that perhaps only the care and passion that is put into the design is what really counts.”

So there you go. It’s a little bit of everything. Which makes sense, really.

ADVERTISEMENT

With that in mind, here are seven of the best sounding synths, ones that excel all the way through the signal chain.

Best Sounding Synths: Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave

The Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave hybrid digital/analog synth came up over and over when speaking with the GN editors about the best sounding synths. It really is a fantastic-sounding instrument with a sound that just jumps out and grabs you. Whether you’re in classic PPG mode or working with the modern, high-resolution wavetables, it’s a gorgeous sound.

Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave
Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave · Source: Groove Synthesis

I asked Bob Coover, head of Groove Synthesis, why the 3rd Wave sounded so good. 

“In my humble opinion,” he said, “I think we sound so good because the synth is doing exactly what it says it is doing without any compromised signal processing, electrical components or signal paths. For instance, if you are using the PPG mode, the 3rd Wave creates all of the same signal processing chain as the PPG, including the analog filter signal path, backend, and DC-coupled output. But it updates some of the components and adds the binaural ability to make things sound larger and wider than the original with less noise, more low-end and generally better fidelity.”

Affiliate Links
Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave
Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave
Customer rating:
(2)
Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave Desktop Module
Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave Desktop Module
Customer rating:
(3)

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from YouTube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

Best Sounding Synths: Roland Jupiter-X/Xm

It’s fashionable in many parts of the synthternet to dump on Roland for not making analog recreations of its classic synths and instead redoing them as virtual analog. Being a long-time Roland user myself with a particular passion for the early ‘80s instruments, I too may have pooh-poohed the company once or twice. But that all changed when I heard the Jupiter-X.

Roland Jupiter-X and Fantom
Roland Jupiter-X and Fantom · Source: Roland

Sort of a greatest hits of Roland in single synth, the Jupiter-X (and its little friend the Xm) combines ZEN-Core synthesis with ABM models of the Jupiter-8, Juno-106, SH-101 and JX-3P. ZEN-Core is nice but the ABM models are stunning, and when you stack them up into four-layered patches it’s like the heavens have opened up and angels are singing down to you. I realized that analog, digital, whatever, if it sounds good it is good.

Affiliate Links
Roland Jupiter-X
Roland Jupiter-X
Customer rating:
(21)
Roland Jupiter-Xm
Roland Jupiter-Xm
Customer rating:
(22)

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from YouTube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

Best Sounding Synths: Arturia PolyBrute 12

I have something to confess. I’ve never been a fan of the sound of the analog Arturia MiniBrute or MicroBrute. I want to like it, it’s just a bit… brown to my ears. However, put that monophonic sound into a polyphonic package like the recently released PolyBrute 12 and OMG.

Arturia PolyBrute 12 on Legs · Source: Arturia

Editor Rob Puricelli, who reviewed the PolyBrute 12 for this site, included it in his list of the best sounding synths.

In his review, he stated, “The Arturia PolyBrute 12 is a marker. A line in the sand, if you will. Just like all other synthesizer milestones (Minimoog, CS-80, DX7, Prophecy), it is more than the sum of its parts. It is a musical instrument in every sense of the word. It is not what’s in the box, it IS the box.”

I’d also like to add the MiniBrute V, Arturia’s polyphonic VSTi version, to this entry. It’s way more gorgeous than it has any right to be.

Affiliate Links
Arturia PolyBrute 12
Arturia PolyBrute 12 No customer rating available yet
Arturia MiniBrute V Download
Arturia MiniBrute V Download No customer rating available yet

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from YouTube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

Best Sounding Synths: Moog Minimoog Model D

It’s a classic, the Moog Minimoog. But is it one of the best sounding synths on the market today? I’m going to say yes. 

Moog Minimoog Model-D 2022
Moog Minimoog Model-D 2022 · Source: Moog

A few years ago I was visiting the Korg headquarters in Tokyo and they had one on display, as the company distributes Moog in Japan. This would have been the 2016 reissue. Having heard them in hundreds of records but never played one myself, I was shocked by the power and presence of a single struck note. It has a depth and profundity that you don’t often hear in synthesizers. It’s no wonder Gary Numan changed his whole approach to music-making after playing one. 

Are they expensive? Yes, very. Does the sound justify the cost? That’s hard to say. If I had the money I would very definitely buy one based entirely on hearing that single note that one time. It’s just that special.

Seeing as I’m not rich – I’m a music technology freelancer, after all – I’m content to get by with emulations. One of the best that I’ve heard is Universal Audio’s Moog Minimoog, which they developed with the North Carolina-based company. Rob and Julian also mentioned Softube’s Model 72.

Affiliate Links
Moog Minimoog Model D 2022
Moog Minimoog Model D 2022
Customer rating:
(3)
Universal Audio Moog Minimoog Native Download
Universal Audio Moog Minimoog Native Download
Customer rating:
(2)
Affiliate Links
Softube Model 72 Synthesizer System
Softube Model 72 Synthesizer System

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from YouTube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

Best Sounding Synths: Oberheim OB-X8

I recently spent an afternoon in a famous synthesizer shop in Harajuku, Tokyo. Seeing as I had time to kill and everything was turned on, I systematically went through all of the new synths on display. The two that most impressed me in terms of sheer sonics were the 3rd Wave (above) and the Oberheim OB-X8.

Oberheim OB-X8
Oberheim OB-X8 · Source: Oberheim

Ever since I saw the video for Prince’s 1999 with Dr Fink playing an OB-8, Oberheim has been synonymous in my mind with synthesizers. To this day, I still cannot get enough of that pinstripe look and Oberheim sound. The OB-X8 may not have the stripes but it does have the girth, with a rumble like a fleet of Harleys revving up. It’s pretty much the ultimate synthesizer – with the ultimate sound.

Of course, not everyone (that’s me included) can afford an OB-X8, which makes the TEO-5 all the more valuable. It still has that Oberheim sound, just at a more affordable price

Another Oberheim that got a lot of mentions from the Gearnews editors was the OB-6, which I have always preferred to the Prophet-6.

Affiliate Links
Oberheim OB-X8
Oberheim OB-X8
Customer rating:
(8)
Oberheim OB-X8 Desktop
Oberheim OB-X8 Desktop
Customer rating:
(2)
Oberheim TEO-5
Oberheim TEO-5 No customer rating available yet
Sequential OB-6
Sequential OB-6
Customer rating:
(45)
Sequential OB-6 Module
Sequential OB-6 Module
Customer rating:
(21)

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from YouTube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

Best Sounding Synths: UDO Audio Super 6

You can’t really have a list of the best sounding synths and not include UDO Audio. Spearheaded by George Hearn (who also worked on the Modal 008 with Paula Maddox), UDO Audio has in a very short time come to be regarded as a company that makes very good sounding synthesizers indeed. I was pretty excited by the Super 8 demos at Superbooth24. And then there’s the Super 6, which is almost uniformly regarded as an amazing-sounding instrument.

UDO Super 6
UDO Super 6 · Source: UDO

A hybrid digital/analog binaural synth with 12 voices, it “uses the 12 voices to form six ‘super’ voices that can be used to create amazing stereo images with lots of movement and spatial positioning,” said Robin in his 2020 news story. Digital oscillators with FPGA technology, analog 24dB/Oct filters and VCAs and 24-bit effects all combine to create one rich – and wide! – sound.

Affiliate Links
UDO Audio Super 6 Blue
UDO Audio Super 6 Blue
Customer rating:
(9)
UDO Audio Super 6 White SE
UDO Audio Super 6 White SE
Customer rating:
(3)
UDO Audio Super 6 Black
UDO Audio Super 6 Black
Customer rating:
(11)
UDO Audio Super 6 Desktop
UDO Audio Super 6 Desktop
Customer rating:
(6)

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from YouTube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

Best Sounding Synths: U-he Diva

Software synths have traditionally been left out of these conversations. While they’ve always offered convenience, it was hard to say they sounded as good as hardware. That’s all changed, with many sounding just as good as hardware – or at least indistinguishable in the context of a song.

u-he Diva
Diva · Source: u-he

U-he’s Diva was a leader in this regard, pioneering an almost analog sound despite being nothing but code. Even though it’s getting on in years it still holds up in the ear candy department, making it one of the best sounding synths of the software variety.

Two other software synths that I need to mention are Xfer Records’ Serum and Arturia’s Pigments. Both are beautiful-sounding instruments, with Serum being particularly clean and precise.

Affiliate Links
u-he Diva Download
u-he Diva Download
Customer rating:
(109)
Arturia Pigments Download
Arturia Pigments Download
Customer rating:
(7)

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from YouTube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

More Information

Best Sounding Synths lead

How do you like this post?

Rating: Yours: | ø:
ADVERTISEMENT

4 responses to “Best Sounding Synths: 7+ Stellar Analog, Digital and Software Synths”

    CPA Slut says:
    0

    Affiliation is desperate on this site these days

    Ab. says:
    2

    The site is owed by Thomann… so.

    (also the reply button doesn’t work)

    Mark CS says:
    1

    um… where is the Prophet 5?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *