It can be tough shopping for a new synthesizer when you’re on a budget. However, there are plenty of surprisingly affordable synths out there. And the best news? You don’t have to sacrifice functionality for financial responsibility. Here are our picks for the best affordable synthesizers for every budget.
The Best Affordable Synthesizers
Whether you’re looking for something with a tiny footprint or a commanding instrument with full-size keys, whether you hanker for analogue or digital, or just want to get the most for your money, these five thrifty synths are packed with functionality. They’re perfect for you or that synth-lover in your life.
Don’t let the small size fool you. Korg’s diminutive NTS-1 is a single-voice digital synth that packs a whole lot of power.
It starts with the same multimode digital oscillator that you can find in the Minilogue XD and Prologue synths. Additionally, it has an arpeggiator, three LFOs, an envelope generator, and a multimode digital filter. Plus there’s a very robust (and gorgeous!) effects engine with an audio-in jack for processing external gear. Bonus!
Both the oscillator and effects engines are fully programmable, meaning you can swap them out for third-party-created ones, like plugins in a DAW. Many are even free—and free fits any budget.
IK Multimedia UNO Synth Pro X
IK Multimedia’s UNO Synth Pro was one of my favourite-sounding analogue synths of recent years. With its three oscillators, effects and drive circuit, it was capable of some pretty wild timbres and textures. However, the lack of hands-on controls may have kept some away. Now, IK Multimedia have rectified that with the knob-festooned UNO Synth Pro X.
It’s still got those three beefy oscillators and dual filter stage, now with 24 modes(!), plus two ADSRs, two LFOs, a 64-step sequencer, a 10-mode arpeggiator and 12 effects in three slots. It also looks a lot cooler now as well, with the capacitive keys of the original desktop replaced with buttons.
The UNO Synth Pro X is ostensibly a monosynth but it can do three-note paraphony as well. In short, it’s a versatile little monster at a very attractive price point.
IK Multimedia UNO Synth Pro X
The silver machine. A modern classic. Korg’s Minilogue helped kick off the modern analogue synthesizer rebirth and it’s still worth considering in 2022.
It’s hard to find four voices of analogue polyphony at this price point and that’s the Minilogue’s greatest asset. That’s not all it has, though. Each of the two oscillators has a wave shaper. That’s something you usually only see on West Coast Buchla-type synths and modules and it can add harmonics to the sound.
There are plenty of other parameters to help shape your sounds, including a dirty tape-style digital delay. With its one-knob-per-function layout, the Minilogue makes a great first synth too.
Well, hello there, MiniFreak. One of the most exciting synths of 2022, the MiniFreak is a six-voice digital powerhouse.
It’s got two digital sound engines, each with 22 selectable oscillator modes ranging from virtual analogue to 2-op FM. Layering them together can result in all kinds of incredible tones and textures. As well, you can even use them to process external audio.
The highlights don’t stop there. There’s also an analogue SEM-style multimode filter to smooth out the digital excess—or accentuate it if that’s your thing.
If you already have some analogues and want something digital to add contrast to your productions, this is the one.
With all the talk about Moog Music being acquired by inMusic, you may have forgotten that the company still makes synthesizers. One of my personal Moog favourites is the Mother-32.
One of the company’s first to make it into the affordable range, the Eurorack-friendly Mother-32 is a semi-modular analogue synth. Although it may look simple with its single oscillator, Ladder filter and lone LFO, it’s actually quite flexible. The filter can do low or highpass, for one, while the 32-point patchbay allows you to control all sorts of things, including filter resonance.
If you’re after something with the Moog sound but can’t afford a full-size synth, look no further than the Mother-32. Come for the sound, stay for the flexibility.
What are your favourite affordable synths? Let us know in the comments.
More about synthesizers:
- The best budget polysynths for your home studio & playing live
- The best mono synths under $500 for leads and basslines
- The best desktop synths under $1000 for studio and live performance
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- Korg NTS-1: Korg
- IK Multimedia UNO Synth Pro Desktop: IK Multimedia
- Korg Minilogue: Korg
- Arturia MiniFreak: Arturia
- Modal Electronics: Cobalt8
- UNO Synth Pro X Top: IK Multimedia
- Moog Mother-32: Moog Music
- uno-synth-pro-x-widget: Thomann
- moog-mother-32-widget: Thomann