Best Synthesizer Keyboard Reviews – Synthesizers have been around far longer than you thought. It experienced an epiphany in the 1960s when they were taken by mainstream music. It has earned their status in the 1970s and 1980s through the new music genres of the time like disco and new wave. Synths continue to be present in popular music and like everything else; the invention of computers and software in producing music has affected its development.
When electronic music became popular in the underground music, affordable synthesizers are in demand because they are great both for studio use and in live performances. This guide will help those who are interested to know the best synthesizer keyboard and for musicians who are looking to add one to their setup.
Table of Contents
- 1 What to Look for When Buying a Synthesizer Keyboard?
- 2 Best Synthesizer Keyboard – Top 11 Picks
- 2.1 #1. Yamaha Montage8 Synthesizer Workstation
- 2.2 #2. Dave Smith Instruments Sequential Prophet-6
- 2.3 #3. Dave Smith Instruments Prophet Rev2 Synthesizer
- 2.4 #4. Moog Subsequent 37 Analog Synthesizer
- 2.5 #5. Roland Juno-DS88 Synthesizer
- 2.6 #6. Behringer Deepmind 12
- 2.7 #7. Yamaha MX49 Music Production Synthesizer
- 2.8 #8. Roland Digital/Analog Crossover Synthesizer JD-XI
- 2.9 #9. Korg Minilogue 4-voice Polyphonic Analog Synth with Presets
- 2.10 #10. Novation MiniNova Analog Modelling Synthesizer
- 2.11 #11. Arturia MicroBrute Analog Synthesizer
- 3 Conclusion
What to Look for When Buying a Synthesizer Keyboard?
It is a popular misconception that the word ‘synthesizer’ came from the word synthetic to imply how the sounds are produced. On the contrary, it refers to synthesis, which means combining the different sound elements to form a new one. When buying a synthesizer keyboard, here are the things that you should consider.
#1. Polyphony or the Number of Voices
Polyphony refers to the number of notes an instrument can play at once. It can be classified into two types: polyphonic and monophonic. As the name implied, mono refers to the synths capability of producing only one note at a time and polyphonic means multiple notes at one time. For synth enthusiasts, many prefer the richness and full sound produced by monophonic synthesizers rather than that of polyphonic.
#2. Size and Portability
Choosing the size of your synthesizer depends upon where you would want to use the unit. For a room with limited space, a compact and small synthesizer are highly recommended. This is the one with less than 49 keys. Given its size, it is easy to carry around when you want to go to the other artist’s place or during live performances.
#3. Interface and Controls
Just like any piece of technology, synthesizers come with different controls and interfaces. However, they all function in the same path: as an oscillator, a filter, and an amplifier. They also have the same shape in basic waveforms for its built-in LFOs, one control for the effects and the envelope generator. The ideal synthesizer is the one with a straightforward layout of its knobs, buttons, and sliders.
You can also find built-in sequencer in many synthesizers. This is handy when writing and saving melodies and bass lines in the synthesizer’s memory. Others have stored drum sequencers and percussion used in creating beats.
Best Synthesizer Keyboard – Top 11 Picks
Finding the best synthesizer keyboard may be a complicated task. But don’t worry as you can consider one of the following synthesizers. Let’s check them out.
#1. Yamaha Montage8 Synthesizer Workstation
The best synthesizer keyboard is here. Hailed as one of the elite synthesizers for 2018 by musicians, Yamaha Montage8 Synthesizer did not disappoint based on its features and the sounds that it produces. This synthesizer creates an intimidating first impression because of its not so simple layout, but the buttons are organized efficiently and are placed strategically for ease of use. It looks elegant and does not feel cheap because of its outstanding craftsmanship.
As with its looks, Yamaha Montage8 Synthesizer also gives an amazing sound. You will be astounded by the diverse selections of the sounds and how they are produced. The piano and organ sounds are all breathtaking and the samples and articulations are done seamlessly. If you are looking for the general quality of the effects, they are all impressive.
When we talk about value for money, this synthesizer is loaded with features and capabilities that are totally worth it.
- Great key bed layout.
- Good real-time controls.
- Large color touch screen for ease of use.
- Faster internal memory.
- Only two synth engines.
- MIDI implementation is problematic for some.
#2. Dave Smith Instruments Sequential Prophet-6
This synthesizer is actually an upgrade form Prophet-5 with extra VCO, improvement of the oscillator stability, additional triangle sub-oscillator, slop, a resonant 12dB HPF, expansion on the polymod section and poly-sequencer and arpeggiator that you can transpose and a comprehensive MIDI. All these additional features are made to make the Prophet-6 a powerful sound-shaper in one.
Its interface design is basic with each knob performing a dedicated function. The sound quality is rich, clear-cut and without background noise. Tuning the synthesizer is also faster and easier and it is stable. The envelopes are also very detailed in its sound while the effects can transform the sound into a beautiful melody.
The build quality of this synthesizer is also well thought of as everything feels and looks new and the DSI has an updated OS. The only downside with this synth is the detuning via Osc-2 fine-tuning dial sound is too controlled.
- Easy to play.
- Lots of oscillators to play with.
- Very simple design.
- The digital control of analog oscillators allows saving of presets.
- It might be too simple for experienced synth enthusiasts.
- The number of digital sounds can be limiting.
#3. Dave Smith Instruments Prophet Rev2 Synthesizer
Considered by many users as one of the best synthesizer keyboard models on the market, the Prophet Rev 2 is actually the reimagining of the Prophet ’08 poly synth, which is a modern classic. It has retained all the key features of its predecessor with double the polyphony and mod matrix and wave shape modulation, digital effect and more.
The keyboard version of this synthesizer has a 5-octave full-sized keyboard that has a very straightforward design with the knobs arranged in a row. There is a small and clear display and the total signal path is showing clearly on the layout. Its 61-semi-weighted keyboard plays a lovely sound. The REV2 has a class-compliant midi in/out interface via USB you can use to communicate with a software.
Being a successor of the Prophet ’08, the REV2 is more alive because of the digitally controlled oscillators that have a separate wave shaper. This contributes to a more dynamic and diverse sound. Its overall sound quality is still similar but with more depth. The only drawback is that the filter sounds smooth in 2-pole setting but a little chirpy and harsh when in the 4-pole variant.
- The sound palette is diverse.
- It sounds wide and deep.
- Versatile with an endless variety of basses, fx sounds.
- The modulation and wave shaping possibilities give the REV2 the unique, solid character.
- The filter is a bit harsh in the 4-pole variant.
- The display is clear but small.
#4. Moog Subsequent 37 Analog Synthesizer
The Subsequent CV 37 is identical in terms of design with another Moog synthesizer the Sub 37, the only difference is that it is more visually striking and has the CV and Gate outs. However, the upgrades are on its internal components. It has an updated mixer section and Ladder Filter to boost the harmonic saturation and the analog compression. The key bed and headphone output are also improved. The 37-note key bed is lightweight with swift action and good aftertouch.
The reason for the improvement of the CV and Gate outs is for the Subsequent CV37 as the controller for all of the voltage-controlled devices. It is a well-designed controller because of the 37 keys, built-in arpeggiator and sequencer, pitch wheels and all other knobs making this synth the heart of the analog setup.
With all the effort put into the engineering of this synthesizer, this is an awesome standalone synth. Even of the Ladder filter is updated, it did not lose the signature Moog sound. Overall, the tonality is cleaner.
- Excellent tonality.
- Richer low end and greater sonic sound dimension.
- More headroom for Duo Mode.
- More distortion possibilities because of multi-drive and CV & Gate outs.
- A little expensive but a good choice if you don’t have a Moog Synth before.
#5. Roland Juno-DS88 Synthesizer
This is a lightweight synthesizer considering that it has a quality-weighted action. The 88-note keyboard is superb and well balanced, it can respond well in all the ranges. When used in ‘light’ curve, it will allow you to extract a more dynamic range from all the built-in sounds. Overall, the layout of this synth is simple and clean.
It has a solid build including the mod/bender, four sliders, four control dials, and even the plastic selector switches and the rubber pads. Even if there are plenty of plastic in the control panel, it does not feel cheap. To support the synth, the MDF chassis provides them to avoid it from flexing.
As far as sound is concerned, Roland Juno-DS88 has a wide variety of sounds and styles and all of them as amazing. You can make most of the sounds available in the dance and pop music with this synth. It is loaded with thousands of pro sounds for a more dynamic performance with many powerful enhancements while keeping the interface simple and streamlined.
- Well-built and sturdy.
- With a wide variety of sounds to choose from.
- Many useful features with playable weighted action.
- Simple and clean layout.
- The screen is cramped during editing.
- No specific Juno-DS editor.
#6. Behringer Deepmind 12
This highly anticipated synthesizer is an analog 12-voice polysynth from Behringer. In terms of built quality, it is solid and with a 49-key key bed with mono aftertouch. The front panel controls and the LCD display are placed strategically to serve deeper functions. Its key bed is not the best with the faders a little wobbly.
To produce better sound quality, Deepmind 12 is loaded with 12 real analog voices to make the sound rich and authentic. Contributing to the superb sound quality is the four simultaneous TC electronic and Klark Teknik FX that has over 30 algorithms that include multi-band distortion, delay, phaser, flanger, chorus, and reverb. It also has 12 voices with 12 analog OCSs per voice with the oscillator sync mode.
This synth excels in large FX pads, bonkers modulation, and decent bass and unison sounds. The menu has its own edit button per sections, which is very helpful. Overall, it is a mean machine stuffed with good features. Its only drawback is that it has no memory buttons or program bank, which can be an issue for a live performer.
- It is flexible and very interesting.
- A healthy amount of voices.
- Mod Matrix offers a wide range of control.
- Wi-Fi connectivity for MIDI hub.
- Two onboard fans produce noise when used in the studio.
- No memory button or program bank.
#7. Yamaha MX49 Music Production Synthesizer
This synthesizer by Yamaha is an amazing board for beginners and a solid board for professionals who want to add more variation to their arsenal or have an easy to carry keyboard to bring to their gigs.
The best two features of MX49 are its Studio and Live. The former gives you access to 16 great patches while the latter gives you the ability to set up splits or layers inside your performance. This is while you are accessing other patches or parts. In the studio is useful particularly if there is no keyboardist as you can easily access the useful sounds. On stage, the internal versatility of the synth does a lot and compensates the limitations set by the 4-octave spread.
The latency issue is something the pros are complaining about because this synth cannot handle top-tier professional exchanges of a signal via either MIDI or USB. It will also take some experience and effort to balance the patches and attain consistency. Wiring is another issue because it can easily pick up ground loop interference or noise through the USB port.
- The knobs are handy and give a lot of flexibility.
- Extremely usable string patches.
- Really good basses.
- It also did a decent job on its arpeggios with realistic internal rhythm.
- Stage level volumes are low.
- Can pick up ground interference through the USB port.
#8. Roland Digital/Analog Crossover Synthesizer JD-XI
This synthesizer is Roland’s answer to those who are lamenting about the lack of analog synth from the company. It looks classy and took many of its design cues from the FA line. It has the black and red color scheme, the glossy panel and an eye-catching metallic red on its side. Although the panel is quite small, it has a plethora of parameters for the knobs and buttons.
It has complete connectivity with USB Audio Midi Interface, 2 jacks outs and a headphone out with a bonus mono input. You can plug any instrument or an MP3 player. It has an audio pitch to correct poorly sung audio. The sound quality for this synth is the highlight as it is warm, engaging and Hi-Fi.
Although there are not enough sample piano sounds, the rest of the sounds are decent. Avid programmers will love this synth because it is highly tweakable. The analog engine is classy yet modern.
- It is an advanced hybrid of analog and digital instrument.
- Useful patches, parts and presets.
- Good connectivity with USB audio and MIDI.
- Real-time recording.
- No aftertouch.
- It needs a software editor.
#9. Korg Minilogue 4-voice Polyphonic Analog Synth with Presets
This beautifully constructed minilogue has a whole panel of smooth to touch knobs and a whole bunch of switches that are easy to operate as they are labeled clearly. Even the back panel is constructed well-using wood bezel.
As to its preset bank, it has 100 built-in sounds and another 100 for you to fill in. These presets has a minor emphasis on dance music but definitely covers many sound territories. The two analog oscillators are flexible which is rarely seen in a polysynth of this price. It also has a fully resonant filter that can function in two settings.
With Korg’s experience in synths, it has given them an insight on what real musicians do with sequencers and the step sequencer here is topnotch. Another highlight is the analog inspired delay, which can be used in two ways and adds versatility to the synth.
With all these features, this minilogue is a steal for its price and is perfect for newcomers, and music producers, even for professional musicians and synth collectors.
- It has an all-analog signal path.
- Powerful oscillators.
- Free 100 preset bank to record.
- Step-sequencer that support four layers of knob automation.
- Slim keys but it is just minor.
#10. Novation MiniNova Analog Modelling Synthesizer
This is synthesizer packs deep sound engine into a very compact space. It has a good size pitch and mod wheels with bright blue backlit and the build quality is great considering its price while the switchgears and dials are all laid out properly in the panel. The front panel design works perfectly while performing.
It also has a flick switch with two optional modes, ‘animate’ or ‘arpeggiate’. The animate is the most preferred because you can assign many mod functions and parameters to these buttons to enhance the performance.
The Mininova has an excellent analog-style oscillator that sounds great with a wide spectrum of frequency range and packs a punch. Filtering is also another strength because you can balance the two main filter blocks. The filters sound are smooth and the synth is capable of making warmer tones with a little tweaking.
- Well-built synthesizer.
- Portable with backlit buttons.
- Advanced synth capabilities.
- Great balance of controls.
- No aftertouch capabilities.
- A bit bulky for a mini synth.
#11. Arturia MicroBrute Analog Synthesizer
This is an analog synth; therefore, it has no presets and will make you more creative. When we talk about the technical specs, it is loaded with multiple functions and options. The oscillator makes marvelous sounds and the filter allow you to have different modes – low, high and bandpass. It is also loaded with modulation matrix that allows connections to the external device and other sources of modulation. It also has a high-quality sequencer and you use the LFO with it.
Since this analog synth is tiny, it is convenient to carry around and it fits almost anywhere. Aside from its diminutive size, it also has multiple functions on its front panel with properly labeled knobs, slides, and switches.
The heart of this synth is its oscillator as it covers many functions. You can mix waveforms carefully to create a good sound. An added Utrasaw is also another useful feature because it makes the sound thicker.
- Great for live performances.
- Easy to use.
- It has many functions.
- Light and sturdy.
- The keys and knobs are too small.
- You cannot save your sounds.
Synthesizers have radically changed popular music and nowadays, you cannot do music without one because makes it less expensive in adding a variety of sound. In choosing the best synthesizer keyboard, using the criteria that were mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Try out a few and trust your gut. Remember that one synth cannot do everything and you need will shift over time. If you are a beginner, it is better to start with the simple one. Once you are familiar with how to use and manipulate synth programming, then it is time to make an investment.
See also: Best 88-key Keyboard