Much can be said about the effects of technology on popular music over the years, but few inventions were as pivotal to the progression of modern music as the introduction of the synthesizer. This computerized, electronic instrument made its way into music from every corner of the globe and allowed widespread access to never-before-heard instrumental sounds that have since become touchstones of pop culture. In recent years, new synthesizers have taken on a leaner, meaner, and more versatile form, becoming more affordable and accessible to musicians of every rank and style. If you’re looking to round out your musical arsenal, a synthesizer is guaranteed to be the missing piece to fill that certain indescribable creative void.
Here are some of our favorite synths currently on the market.
Classic sounds in a portable, modern package. Amazon
Yamaha’s REFACE series of synthesizers is a breath of fresh air, offering up classic vintage keyboard tones in affordable and smartly-upgraded miniature packages. The REFACE CP is Yamaha’s answer to the timeless Rhodes and Wurlitzer style of electric pianos, boasting six unique onboard piano sounds and 128-note polyphony for a realistic, dropout-free playing experience. You can control analog-style drive of your synth or add chorus, delay, tremolo, and reverb all from the knob interface, and you can take it on the go too, thanks to the onboard speakers.
Tried and true portable classic. Amazon
The microKorg is a compact mini-synth first introduced to market in 2002 that quickly became renowned for its portability, easy-to-use interface and extreme versatility. Within its stylish wood-paneled frame lives a four-voice analog engine with 128 editable presets, a stepped arpeggiator, three effects and a two-band EQ all to help you achieve unique, out-of-this world sounds that will spruce up any pallette. The included gooseneck microphone and audio input allow the synth to function as a vocoder, too, if you want to get your funk on.
Tweakable vintage sounds in an easy-to-use package. Amazon
For a classic do-it-all polyphonic synthesizer, Behringer’s new DeepMind 12 offers massive flexibility and a plethora of unmistakable sounds that harken back to the 80’s. Its 12-voice engine offers two oscillators per voice, a 32-step sequencer and four envelopes to deliver authentic, true analog grit. There’s so much to explore here, making this a fantastic pick for musicians who desire maximum flexibility, especially those who love to spend time tweaking settings and experimenting with new sounds.
No patching involved. Amazon
The Moog Grandmother is designed to be a user-friendly and accessible introduction to modular synthesis, a system which traditionally offers up customization at the risk of a steep learning curve. Not so here—the Grandmother is ready to play out of the box, with robust analog circuitry, hardware spring reverb, 41 patch points and a high-quality 32-note keyboard wrapped in a stylish housing. Beginners and pros alike will take instantly to the Grandmother for a number of reasons, not the least of which is Bob Moog’s responsibility for inventing the first commercially available synth back in the ’70s.