by Adam Douglas | 4,7 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 5 Minutes
Best Hardware Synths of Summer 2023

Best Hardware Synths of Summer 2023  ·  Source: Korg, Behringer

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Summer 2023 was a banner season for hardware synths. Here’s our list of the best, including entries from Sequential, Korg, Behringer and Isla Instruments.

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The Best Hardware Synths of Summer 2023

What a time to be alive, eh? The world may be going to hell in a late-stage capitalistic post-apocalyptic handbasket but if hardware synthesizers are your thing, you’ve never had it better. Summer 2023 continued the trend of release after incredible release. From desktop analogue polys to digital upgrades with a few surprises thrown into the mix, it was a summer that kept chins wagging and mouths drooling. Here are my picks for the best hardware synths of summer 2023.

Behringer Pro-800

Of all the synthesizers I’ve known and stupidly sold, my Sequential Instruments Prophet-600 is particularly missed. (My excuse was it was the ‘90s, a decade of generally bad decisions all around.) I’ve had my eye on a few Prophet-600 auctions over the years but I’ve never been able to justify the expense. Kudos to Behringer then for sticking the whole thing in a desktop format, adding two extra voices, and bringing the price right down, making the Pro-800 one of the best hardware synths of summer 2023.

Perfect design for small and big studios

Perfect design for small and big studios

In our review, we said it was “a synth for just about any electronic genre” with a sound that was “huge and dominating.” Who’s the one and only dominator? The biggest drawback of the original was the sluggish envelopes but Behringer has addressed that in a firmware upgrade. If, like me, you miss your original 600 or just want some of that ‘80s analogue mojo in your studio, it’s hard to beat the Pro-800.

If the Pro-800 is not enough ‘80s Sequential fun for you, Behringer also released the Pro-VS Mini, a tiny take on the Prophet VS, this summer.

Behringer Pro-800
Behringer Pro-800
Customer rating:
(72)
Behringer Pro-VS Mini
Behringer Pro-VS Mini
Customer rating:
(13)

Sequential Trigon-6 Desktop

Dave Smith’s final synthesizer for Sequential, 2022’s Trigon-6, received a desktop version this summer. It’s a gorgeous synth but also a bittersweet release, as it marks an end to the Dave era of American synthesizers, one that began in the 1970s with the Prophet-5.

Sequential Trigon-6

Sequential Trigon-6

Dave’s take on the classic all-American analogue, the Trigon-6 (both keyboard and desktop versions, the latter of which replicates the original sans keys) features three oscillators and a creamy Ladder filter (with a switchable 2/4-pole design) in the best Moog tradition. It also has bipolar envelopes, a step sequencer, an arpeggiator, effects, and of course that lovely Sequential sound. The latest upgrade adds MPE support as well.

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It’s hard to not get a little teary-eyed when thinking about Dave’s legacy and his contributions to the world of synthesizers. By all accounts, he was a great guy, too. Cheers, Dave, and thank you for all you did for us.

Sequential Trigon-6 Desktop
Sequential Trigon-6 Desktop No customer rating available yet

Korg Wavestate MKII

Analogue gets all the love but if you weren’t paying attention you might not realize that this is also a golden age for digital synthesis. Korg surprised us this season with the Wavestate MKII, one of the best hardware synths of summer 2023.

KORG Wavestate MK II

Wavestate MK II.

Taking the synthesis engine of the first Wavestate (which was in turn inspired by the Dave Smith-designed Wavestation of 1990), MKII features a new Wave Sequencing 2.0 sound engine. It also has more… of just about everything. Korg upped polyphony from 64 to 96 voices and added 1,042 wave sequences, 799 programs and 261 performances. There are also additional modulation possibilities.

The Wavestate MKII is joined by the extended SE and SE Platinum versions, which also have (ahem) extended price tags.

Korg Wavestate MkII
Korg Wavestate MkII
Customer rating:
(1)
Korg Wavestate SE
Korg Wavestate SE No customer rating available yet
Korg Wavestate SE Platinum
Korg Wavestate SE Platinum
Customer rating:
(1)

Korg Nautilus AT

Alright, so at first glance maybe this next one doesn’t seem so earth-shattering. Yes, Korg has added aftertouch to its 61- and 88-key Nautilus workstation synths. And that’s about it. However, if you’re a workstation player and you fancy a bit of aftertouch (and who doesn’t?) then this is the kind of announcement that will make your summer.

KORG NAUTILUS AT 61

KORG NAUTILUS AT 61

Korg’s Nautilus AT brings channel aftertouch to its highly capable Nautilus range. To take advantage of the new parameter, Korg has reprogrammed all of its onboard patches for its nine sound engines. The rest of the Nautilus remains the same, with sampling, arpeggiator and 16 tracks of 24/48kHz digital audio all present, making it one of the best hardware synths of summer 2023.

It’s not cheap – workstations rarely are – but aftertouch is certainly a welcome addition to the Nautilus line.

Korg Nautilus 61 AT
Korg Nautilus 61 AT No customer rating available yet
Korg Nautilus 88 AT
Korg Nautilus 88 AT
Customer rating:
(2)

Isla Instruments Caladan

Another exciting hardware synth of summer 2023 was Isla Instruments’ hybrid instrument Caladan, details of which Isla has been tantalizingly drip-feeding us over the months.

Isla Instruments Caladan

Isla Instruments Caladan

You may know Isla Instruments as the creator of the amazing S2400 sampling drum machine. Now they’re applying their talents to a synthesizer – a hybrid super-synth to boot. It has an internal synthesizer engine that can run Soundfonts, SFZ multisample formats and even VST plugins and is eight-part multitimbral. So far, so cool – but wait, there’s much more. It’s expandable, with eight slots that take physical cards that can drastically change the capabilities of the instrument. Current cards include FM with analogue filters, an OB-X style analogue synth with a SEM filter, analogue percussion, a Minimoog, Roland SH-101, a string machine and a TB-303.

The Caladan, which also includes MPE support, controller hosting and CV and gate ports, is now available for preorder at the Isla Instruments site for £949, which includes the Caladan base unit and two voice cards. This is an ambitious project but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Isla.

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Image Sources:
  • Perfect design for small and big studios: Marcus Schmahl
  • Sequential Trigon-6: Sequential
  • Wavestate MK II.: KORG
  • KORG NAUTILUS AT 61: KORG
  • Isla Instruments Caladan: Isla Instruments
Best Hardware Synths of Summer 2023

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One response to “The Best Hardware Synths of Summer 2023 – Behringer, Sequential, Korg”

    Elastic Man says:
    0

    It’s indeed an exciting time for hardware synthesizer enthusiasts! The summer of 2023 seems to have brought a wave of impressive releases, offering a range of options for musicians and sound designers to explore. The continuous innovation and expansion in the world of hardware synthesizers provide artists with powerful tools to shape their sonic landscapes.

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