by Stefan Wyeth | 4,3 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 3 Minutes
The Best Pocket Synths

The Best Pocket Synths for getting creative on the go  ·  Source: Valentin Muller / Unsplash / Teenage Engineering

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Ever have a creative itch to scratch while traveling, or just looking to geek out affordably after work? We’ve selected some of the best pocket synths that are not only light and compact, but also won’t hurt your pocket too much either.

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In recent years, products like the Teenage Engineering OP-1, the Korg Volca series, and the Roland Boutique series have changed the way we think about portable instruments.

Which are the Best Pocket Synths?

The line between what is a toy and a tool has become increasingly blurry, as new and innovative pocket synth designs are constantly being released with seemingly endless features.

Behringer JT-4000 Micro

The JT-4000 Micro provides a recreation of the Roland JP-8000 virtual analogue synth engine in a very compact and portable desktop format. Apart from its 2 oscillators per voice, it also has a 2-operator FM synthesis engine.

What’s more, the 12-bit digital conversion stage ensures the JT-4000 sounds straight from the 1990s. It’s also perfect for mobile use, as the USB-C connection allows it to run off a USB power bank.

Behringer JT-4000

Behringer JT-4000 · Source: Behringer

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Behringer JT-4000 Micro
Behringer JT-4000 Micro
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Teenage Engineering PO-14 sub

The PO-14 sub is another pocket beast from the dreamers at Teenage Engineering and Cheap Monday. Although it may be limited in its synthesis capabilities, it more than makes up for it by making rude noises and being loads of fun to use.

It’s battery-operated and very bassline-orientated, so you can easily get the most noxious synth patterns going no matter where you are. It generates instant acid nightmares and electroclash hooks with an intuitive sequencer and impressive effects.

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Teenage Engineering PO-14 sub · Source: Teenage Engineering

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Teenage Engineering PO-14 sub
Teenage Engineering PO-14 sub
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(61)

Korg NTS-1

If you’ve been toying with the idea of building your own synths, the Korg Nu:Tekt NTS-1 ships as a DIY kit to assemble. The raw “Lego Technic” aesthetic might not be for everyone, but the NTS-1 does have some great features if you have the patience.

There is certainly no shortage of parameters you can access, and once you get used to the interface it’s easy to use with other gear. The NTS-1 is USB-powered and also offers MIDI connectivity, but these cables are sold separately.

Korg NTS-1

Korg Nu:Tekt NTS-1 · Source: Korg

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Korg NTS-1
Korg NTS-1
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(130)

Dübreq Stylophone Gen-X1

On the more vintage side of things, the Dübreq Stylophone Gen-X1 brings nostalgia both with its sound and interface design. If you’ve never used a Stylophone, it’s definitely a fun party trick to try out and requires far less skill to play than a theremin.

These synths may look rather archaic, but they have achieved a cult-like status by appearing on some famous recordings by the likes of Kraftwerk, Queen, and The Beatles. The question is: can you play the Funky Worm?

Dübreq Stylophone Gen-X1

Dübreq Stylophone Gen-X1 · Source: Dübreq

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Dübreq Stylophone Gen-X1
Dübreq Stylophone Gen-X1
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Roland J-6

The Roland J-6 is part of the AIRA compact range, Roland’s rather belated answer to the Volca series. The J-6 might be equipped with the very nice sounding ACB engine, but it’s the sequencer that steals the show here.

It allows you to create and sequence polyphonic patterns in a very intuitive way, and you can easily connect it to other polysynths in your studio. Overall, some amazing capabilities, especially from a songwriting point of view.

Roland R-6

Roland R-6 · Source: Roland

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Roland AIRA Compact J-6 Chord Synth
Roland AIRA Compact J-6 Chord Synth
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The Best Pocket Synths

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4 responses to “The Best Pocket Synths for getting creative on the go”

    René says:
    1

    What about the 1010music Fireball and Lemondrop? Very, very powerful synths in tiny form factor.

    Matt says:
    5

    How are the Dirtywave M8 and Nanoloop not on this list?

    Caleigh says:
    -4

    Does every synth have to have a sequencer? As an original musiqe concrete and tape manipulation type this obsession with what I consider regimented music is quite disturbing. And limiting. It’s always more over texture.

    Joe says:
    -5

    Somehow the iPhone, the most powerful and comprehensive music tool of its size, was left off the list. You can literally make an entire album on your iPhone, unlike the almost-toy-like products listed in this op-ed.

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