The Best Affordable Synthesizers For Every Budget
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 Desktop
Three analogue oscillators. That alone at this price point makes IK Multimedia’s UNO Synth Pro Desktop a real bargain. Now throw in two state variable filters, two ADSR envelopes, two LFOs, a mod matrix and effects? It’s almost silly how much synthesis power this little synth has. Did we mention that it can even go from monophonic to three-voice paraphonic?
Sure, not everyone will fall in love with the look of it. Also, the capacitive touchplate keys are polarizing. However, there’s no arguing with the sound of the UNO Synth Pro desktop. It’s beefy and woolly and thanks to the drive circuit can get really hairy.
If you or a synth-obsessed loved one are in the market for an affordable analogue synth, this one comes highly recommended. It’s one of the best affordable synthesizers on the market today.
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.
Modal Electronics Cobalt8
Analogue is delicious, sure, but since it requires lots of physical components to generate sound, functionality can be limited at lower price points. To get more, try virtual analogue.
The Cobalt8 from Modal Electronics has more of just about everything. It’s eight-voice polyphonic, for one, which makes it perfect for playing two-handed chords on the 37-key, aftertouch-equipped Fatar keybed.
Need more? Of course you do. There are two independent oscillator groups with up to four oscillators each, a morphable Ladder filter, algorithms (34 of them!) for sync, waveform morphing, and much more. And of course, with Modal Electronics’ pedigree, it sounds incredible. All these reasons and more make it one of our top picks for the best affordable synthesizers.
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
I think the Behringer DeepMind 6 would be a worthy contender (or better still, the 12 if budgets permit). It’s analogue, it has effects, it’s 6 note polyphonic, has all the sliders you need, loads of storage space for your own patches, and has a comparatively large LCD for a budget synth – not one of those postage-stamp sized OLED things! Not to mention excellent modulation routing. All for around five hundred quid new, or less second hand.