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There’s an incredible amount of choice out there when it comes to the best synthesizers you can buy today. From affordable options to those that are hitting that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ level of price, our guide to the best synths is an exhaustive one. With this amount of choice, it’s not a surprise to find yourself suffering from option paralysis so strap yourself in, and let’s find the right synth for you.
In the mid-to-late-’00s things were looking a little bleak in the hardware synthesizer world. Software synths had matured enough to sound just as good as their physical counterparts and their lower cost and easy integration with modern, DAW-based music-making made it seem as though they were the future.
Fast-forward a few years and it turns out that twiddling knobs on a screen just isn’t quite as gratifying as having real ones to put your hands on, and thus we’ve witnessed a huge demand for genuine, physical synthesizers. No matter which price point you look at, the synth market is thriving.
Due to the number of options in this guide, we’ve picked out some of our favourites from each type of synthesizer for you below, with the rest listed in price order thereafter. If you’re new to synthesizers then we’d definitely recommend checking out our buying advice section for more info.
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Best synthesizers: The quick list
Tired of reading walls of text? Here you’ll find a selection of the best synthesizers you can buy today, with links to read more if you want to.
If you want the best of the best when it comes to analogue synths, it doesn’t get much better than the Oberheim OB-X8. Packed full of features, it’s fast becoming a modern classic.
As well as being outstanding value for money, the ASM Hydrasynth has a huge amount of depth to its module-driven interface, with a unique voice all of its own.
The Arturia MiniFreak is small but you can do a hell of a lot with it. With a multitude of synthesis engines, digital effects, and external processing capacity, it’s hugely versatile.
Sometimes you need the simplicity of a mono synth and the Moog Grandmother gives you all of that immense flexibility. With that signature Moog sound, at this price, it’s a no-brainer.
Mixing incredible sounds and easy modulation, this modern version of an 80s classic gives you all the brilliant features of the original, plus some excellent filters and updated connectivity.
Best synthesizers 2023
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Here you’ll find full writeups and review of the very best synthesizers available today. Many of these have been personally tested by our writers, so you can always rely on our recommendations.
Best analogue synth
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The OB-X8 takes the best bits of the OB-X, OB-Xa and OB-8 – manufactured between 1979 and 1985 – and packs them into a new eight-voice analogue synth. You also get all the presets from those OB classics, but the OB-X8 is more than just the sum of these excellent parts.
You get two discrete EM/OB-X-lineage VCOs per voice (sine, saw, square, triangle and noise) for that classic Oberheim tone, along with genuine Curtis filters. The 61-note Fatar keyboard is velocity- and touch-sensitive for maximum expression, and bi-timbrality enables you to use two presets for splitting or doubling.
Real walnut end cheeks add to the vintage look, while the high-res OLED display is a practical nod to modernity. Further enhancements include additional SEM filter modes that add high-pass, band-pass and notch functions to the classic OB-X filter, while a vintage knob is reported to enable you to dial in adjustable amounts of voice-to-voice variability, emulating the behaviour of vintage instruments.
Want more? How about an enhanced unison option that enables up to eight voices of variable voice stacking, variable triangle wave cross-modulation, programmable per-voice panning and variable oscillator and noise levels.
The OB-X8 is a beautiful synth that’s destined to become a classic in its own right. If you can afford it, you’ll find it to be truly inspiring.
Read the full Oberheim OB-X8 review
Best digital synth
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Hydrasynth is an unconventional digital synth that uses ‘wave morphing’ at its core. You have eight voices of polyphony utilising three oscillators per voice which include standard waves, plus wave-scanning, an intuitive type of wavetable synthesis where you can assign eight waves and then scan through them using a dial/mod route. Add in five (looping) envelopes per-voice, an amp module, two filter modules, five LFOs, reverb and delay modules, plus pre and post effects, and you have everything you need in terms of sound design, and all directly accessible and mostly modulatable!
The general sound quality is truly excellent. It can be precise and crisp, warm and textured, with everything from high-quality ‘bread and butter’ sounds, to something truly unique and never heard before. Once you factor in the ribbon controller, arpeggiator, macros, mod routes – and poly aftertouch – and all the very musical sounding effects/drive, you’ll be discovering new sounds in super quick time.
There is something of a learning curve but remember we are dealing with a lot of complexity – Hydrasynth is a deep synth and hugely impressive. In terms of build quality, looks, features, sound – not to mention affordability – Hydrasynth has it all.
Read the full ASM Hydrasynth review
Best hybrid synth
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Picking up where the paraphonic MicroFreak left off, MiniFreak is a polyphonic hybrid synth that offers six voices, two sound engines, a 37-note slim keyboard, built-in stereo effects and both modulation and sequencing features aplenty. It also comes with a like-for-like plugin instrument, MiniFreak V, for free (this is available to purchase separately, too).
The twin digital sound engines can operate in more than 20 different modes. You can use these engines individually, stacked, or to process each other’s output for “unique compound sonic behaviour”.
The resulting sounds are then run through analogue filters. You can use MiniFreak as a 6-voice polyphonic synth, a 12-voice paraphonic one, or in monophonic or unison configurations.
Further sound design takes place in the modulation matrix, which offers the likes of polyphonic ADSR envelopes, customisable multi-segment LFO shapes, FM & ring modulation, and ‘Spice & Dice’ randomisation.
There are stereo outputs and three digital effect slots that you can fill with a choice of 10 FX types. These include chorus, three-band EQ and distortion.
Although MiniFreak is less of a trailblazer than its little sibling, this is a versatile-sounding hybrid synth that’s a joy to get hands-on with.
Read the full Arturia MiniFreak review
Best mono synth
Moog’s latest semi-modular comes equipped with a 32-note Fatar keyboard, sequencer and arp, making it more performance-focussed than its siblings in the Mother line. It has a chic multi-coloured retro design that suits its authentic vintage sound. The old-school approach is rounded off nicely with the inclusion of a spring reverb module – a rare inclusion in modern synths.
Grandmother is a versatile performer, capable of a vast range of sounds even before patching a cable. Is it worth the asking price? Absolutely, if for no other reason than providing users with a taste of those old Moog modular circuits without having to take out a second mortgage.
Read the full Moog Grandmother review
Best poly synth
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The original three versions of Sequential’s Prophet-5 synth left their mark on so much music throughout the late 70s and early 80s, and were bought by luminaries including Jean-Michel Jarre, Pink Floyd, Abba and Genesis. It was a legendary synth and now it’s back, a new update from original designer Dave Smith.
This fourth revision of the Prophet-5 synth comes almost 40 years after the last. All you really need to know is that this is a classic synth updated for the 21st Century – the keyboard has aftertouch and velocity; connections include USB. Other than that, it sounds every bit as good as an original Prophet-5. It’s a beautiful synth, both in looks and sound and every bit as classic a modern piece of kit you could ask for.
Outstanding features include some excellent presets (including the original set of sounds found on the 1978 original Rev1), the brilliant Poly-Mod section that gives you instant sound design, plus a build quality that will have you drooling. It’s a serious piece of kit that perfectly updates a classic for 2021. Your only quandary should be whether you go for the extra five voices that the (also all-new) Prophet-10 gives you (for around another £6-800) or even Sequential’s own Prophet-6 which gives you more for less (but is not a Prophet-5!). This is a classic synth reborn.
Read the full Sequential Prophet-5 Rev 4 review
Best wavetable synth
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In the 1990s, wavetable synthesis fueled the dance and electronic music fire, delivering an intuitive way of accessing a wide variety of sounds within a single patch. It was unparalleled in its creative potential for sound designers and experimental producers. As one of the pioneers of this synthesis method, Korg has now reintroduced it to the world with the Wavestate.
The MKII version sees an update from 64 stereo voice polyphony to a huge 96 voices, further adding to the insane level of sequencing potential It really is one of the most diverse-sounding modern synths on the market.
Additional factory presets and more memory further add to the MKII’s feature list, but in terms of everything else, it’s exactly the same as the original. In our tests, we did find that taking full advantage of the features, requires some effort but if you’re willing to put the work in there isn’t much the Wavestate can’t do.
Read the full Korg Wavestate review
There are so many synths out there we couldn’t possibly fit all of our favourites into just six top picks. So if you didn’t see what you were looking for above, there are still plenty more options available to choose from, and we’ve listed them in price order to make your life easier.
The original Volca FM was a compact, battery-powerable instrument, housed in a plastic chassis with a design that gave a cheeky stylistic nod to the Yamaha DX7 from which it took its sonic cues. The FM2 takes everything that was great about the original and adds to it, improving this awesome little synth in almost every way.
Where the other Volca models have merely captured the general vibe of the instruments they took their inspiration from – albeit in a very fun and affordable way – the FM manages not only to nail the sound of its spiritual predecessor the DX7 but also adds an assortment of new and powerful features.
The polyphony has been doubled from the previous version, from three to six voices and we’re huge fans of the new reverb effect to go alongside the original chorus. The sound of those dark, percussive basses, icy mallets, and ’80s-style horns is bang on, and if you start to push the capabilities of this tweakable, hands-on little synth, you’ll find it’s capable of some truly unique tricks.
Read the full Korg Volca FM2 review
With so many synthesis features packed into such a small box, it’s hard not to fall in love with this hardware offering from Arturia. We found that the multiple oscillator modes cover a near-endless range of timbres; the filter is smooth and versatile; the Matrix invites exploratory modulation; and the performance and sequencing tools are the icing on the creative cake.
However, the real magic lies in the combo of all these together, making this odd little beast far more than the sum of its parts. MicroFreak should be top of your ‘must try’ list.
Read the full Arturia MicroFreak review
Behringer’s synth arm might be best known for its controversy-courting ‘tributes’, but the German brand also has a couple of excellent original instruments under its belt. Following in the steps of the Deepmind, Neutron is an analogue semi-modular that packs in a lot of flexibility for its very affordable price point.
The Neutron has a few flaws – our tests did show up some frustrating design issues –
but it does sound good, and in terms of bang-for-your-buck, you can’t really beat it. While it does a very good job of creating more sensible sounds, it also excels at the weird and wonderful.
Read the full Behringer Neutron review
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UNO Synth Pro is an analogue synth, very much the big brother of the UNO Synth. It is available as a full-size and much more expensive keyboard version or a desktop unit with touch keys. The keyboard version is obviously larger, sporting a heavy-duty metal enclosure, as well as physical wheels for pitch and mod. Those differences – and the keyboard version’s power socket – aside, the two are identical.
UNO Synth Pro sports three analogue VCOs and a white noise generator, all with some great tone-shaping options. Each of the three oscillators has continuous wave shape variations from saw to pulse width, with modulation. There are two analogue state variable filters, with dedicated cutoff and resonance controls.
The potentiometers all feel smooth and firm, with a nice amount of resistance and, while the filter controls are dedicated, the function of most changes is dependent on the active menu. There is also a fantastic modulation matrix, which is a doddle to use; fast and powerful, belying its appearance.
With a great sequencer and some fantastic effects – although not many of them – this is a great synth for the money with a really simple workflow. All in all, it is a fine instrument and one that definitely punches over its weight class, in terms of sound and functionality.
Read the full IK Multimedia Uno Synth Pro review
Where the original was a fairly straightforward monosynth with a few unique touches and some CV control, the MiniBrute 2 is semi-modular, boasting a beefed- up synth engine and a comprehensive mini-jack patchbay. As before, the primary oscillator can generate saw, triangle and square waves simultaneously, the outputs of which are blended via the oscillator mixer, where they’re joined by a white noise source and external audio input.
Filter-wise, the MiniBrute 2 keeps the Steiner-Parker-style filter of its predecessor, which offers -12dB low- and high-pass modes, plus -6dB band-pass and notch filtering. On the whole, the MiniBrute 2 is a real success. It takes everything we liked about the original – the analogue grit, interesting oscillator shaping and Brute factor control, which overdrives the signal chain using a controlled feedback loop – and expands on it considerably. A serious competitor, then, and the same can be said of the MiniBrute 2S, which swaps the keys for a pad-based step sequencer.
Read the full Arturia MiniBrute 2 review
This model slots comfortably into the ‘Logue’ range between the original Minilogue and the Prologue 8. If we had to choose between this and the original Minilogue, it’d be the XD due to its more powerful sequencer, extended general versatility, user-customisable Multi-Engine/effects, the joystick for real-time control, user scales/tunings, more inspiring vibe and excellent motion-sequenceable stereo effects/output.
Along with the new damper pedal jack and dual-CV inputs (to interface with modular gear), the XD is a nicely different flavour of Minilogue, and its unique personality is a hugely welcome addition to the range as a whole.
Read the full Korg Minilogue XD review
Digitone uses good old familiar four-operator FM synthesis (where waves modulate each other) but with some very welcome new twists and turns. The native FM engine is eight-note polyphonic and has four dedicated tracks (accessed directly via the sweet shop style T1-T4 buttons), along with four MIDI tracks for controlling/sequencing external MIDI gear. Once the Digitone’s FM sound engine is coupled to the Elektron’s fantastic sequencer design, the whole thing just comes alive. You’ll soon be wondering why anyone thought FM was difficult to use or old-fashioned sounding.
Of course, you can use the Digitone as a simple sound module triggered from a MIDI controller, DAW or the onboard 16-step buttons to play simple old-skool FM impersonations, but it’s once the sequencer, modulators and filters are employed (and the excellent effects overlayed or ‘P-locked’) that the Digitone shows its true and superb colours.
Read the full Elektron Digitone review
Designed in consultation with Chris Hugget (Chris designed the legendary OSCar and collaborated on several other Novation synths), Peak is one of Novation’s flagship synths. Peak is an 8-voice polyphonic, 24 ‘Oxford’ oscillator, monotimbral synthesizer, utilising extremely high-resolution anti-aliasing digital oscillators (NCOs) along with wavetables as its main sound sources.
Each of the three oscillators onboard offers up the expected analogue-style waveforms (the saw has a density mode, effectively giving you a ‘supersaw’ mode), plus 17 wavetables, giving a vast range of tonal possibilities. Peak has a lot in the way of sonic shaping options, a unique and huge tone palette that’s suitable for all styles of electronica, and plenty of hands-on control. Plus, it’s well-built and fairly priced. Kudos to Novation on an impressive machine!
Read the full Novation Peak review
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Looking for all the world like it’s just come off Roland’s early-’80s production line – think Juno-106 and Juno-60 – the new Juno-X synth has a decidedly old-school appearance.
Inside, though, it’s a different story; the Juno-X features a full-fat version of Roland’s all-digital Zen-Core engine, along with emulations of both of those aforementioned Junos (60 and 106) and other Roland classics. Plus, you have the option to add more as Model Expansions.
Alongside this there’s an all-new Juno-X engine that features Roland’s classic Super Saw waveform, velocity sensitivity, pitch envelope controls and more. You get both of the original Juno chorus modes, too, plus a third mode that promises “even more fatness and swirl”.
The Juno-X has inherited its forebears’ straightforward interface, which eases the sound design process. Up to four tones can be layered together, and there’s a significant complement of effects.
You’ll definitely need to reach for the manual to get the most from it, but for those who’ve always wanted a Juno-60 or 106, this delivers the spirit of those original synths and much more besides.
Read the full Roland Juno-X review
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PolyBrute is a digitally-controlled analogue synth combining multiple VCOs and VCFs with a powerful modulation matrix, sequencer and arpeggiator. It features the same button matrix as found on the MatrixBrute which can act as a handy preset browser, a controller for the multi-lane sequencer and, most usefully, a digital patchbay for assigning and editing modulation routings.
PolyBrute is a six-voice instrument so it’s far from the most polyphonic synth in its price range. It is multitimbral though, with the ability to set up two distinct sounds at once. In standard Morph mode you can use a rotary to gradually morph between these sounds and all their associated parameters.
It’s the modulation and morphing tools that give the PolyBrute its character. While it’s versatile, capable of unison leads, frequency-filling basses, FX and classic analogue chords, the synth is best when using its morphing capabilities to create patches that can shift from creamy to metallic with a twist of the mod wheel.
Overall, this is an excellently designed, characterful synthesizer deserving of a place among the top tier of polysynths.
Read the full Arturia Polybrute review
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With its UI and look designed by legendary synth designer Axel Hartmann, the Super 6 is certainly beautifully laid out, with hints of Juno/Jupiter-6 and Teisco’s rare 110F. It also has a fantastic build quality and is available in two colours: blue and gun-metal grey.
At the heart of the Super 6 are two DDS1 and DDS2 (Direct Digital Synthesis) oscillators that deliver exactly what’s needed to bridge the gap between digital and analogue oscillators, offering the best of both worlds. By default, binaural mode is selected which gives you six voices of true stereo oscillators/signal path. However if you disable the binaural function, the Super 6 switches to a monoaural signal path with 12 voices to work with. There’s also a versatile-sounding analogue 4-pole filter, lots of modulation possibilities, simple-yet-classy effects, plus a useful step-sequencer and arpeggiator.
Performance-wise, this synth is super hands-on and everything is under direct control with very little hidden. Sonically, the analogue-style waveforms sound fat with plenty of beefy low content, great mid presence and cutting high-end and the S6 definitely has its own vibe going on. Versatility is a recurring theme and this synth is great for percussive hits and textures, or more smudgy pads, snappy synth brass, precise basses, punchy cutting leads and more.
Super 6 really is nothing short of super-impressive even more so for a debut release. Intuitive, super-versatile, sounds unique… a pleasure to get lost in!
Read the full UDO Super 6 review
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At its heart, the Quantum is an 8-voice, bi-timbral (2-part) synth, using very high-resolution stereo oscillators routed through dual resonant analogue (or digital) filters. Sounds can be split and layered and voices can be allocated flexibly between layers; each layer can also have its own output for independent processing. Importantly, there are four independent synthesis engines (across the three oscillators).
It is truly unique and capable of stunning, otherworldly, or familiar sonic results. It can sound huge, small, thin, fat, warm, epic, broken or cold and you can imprint your personality onto the sound using the available parameters, or your own samples. For ground-up, majestic sound design, SFX for lm/TV, weird evolving soundscapes, straight-up analogue synth emulation, FM-type sounds, and eery FX/atmos sounds, the Quantum is unbeatable. Yes, it’s pricey but it’s worth the investment – you’ll never get bored with this amount of depth and superb sonic results.
Read the full Waldorf Quantum review
Best synthesizers: Buying advice
How much should I spend on a synthesizer?
When you’re looking to invest in one of the best synthesizers, you’ll likely have to make a few key decisions at the start of your buying journey. Clearly budget will play a part, but as we’ll show there are amazing synths to be found right across the board, with some truly epic compact beginner synth options coming in under £/$100. And, as hardware synths have grown in popularity, so too has manufacturers’ desire to find new and exciting ways of packing in extra functionality.
At the top end you will find synths which pack in more features and flexibility, either in the form of more voices, or effects, or with sequencing skills that can take your compositions off in all manner of strange directions. That’s part of what makes a hardware synth so much fun. You don’t always have to be ‘writing’ music, in the true sense of the word. Sometimes you can simply change a few parameters and see what happens. For creative, curious people there are few things that come close to the experience of playing a hardware synth.
You’ll also find that the name on a synth will have an impact on its price. The top-end models from the likes of Moog, Sequential and Oberheim can run to thousands of dollars. Bear in mind that these are luxury items, though, and are likely to hold their value much better than budget synthesizers.
As with any genre of music, or music technology, there are trends which come and go. FM, for example, seems to have undergone a renaissance recently, while digital synths offering wavetable functionality greatly expands the tonal palette you have to play with. Don’t rule out digital or hybrid models either; while true analogue synths do still hold a special place in people’s hearts, modern hybrid synths delivering the sound of analogue with the flexibility of a digital engine offer the best of both worlds.
Ultimately, you’ll know the sound you’re looking for but don’t rule out the possibility that a good hardware synth might just spark something and take your creativity off in a different direction completely. And that is exactly why we love them.
How we test the best synthesizers
Synthesizers are obviously many and varied but they do have several key qualities, the most important being their sound and what you can do with it – and indeed how simple this is in operation. The sound of all synthesizers is defined by their sonic architecture and a very good indication of what this can deliver will be demonstrated via their presets. These are obviously a good place to start when testing a synth, and how varied and useful these are will define a synth’s overall character.
How you can alter presets or create your own sounds with a synth’s hands-on controls is the next big consideration; synthesizing a sound is what synths are designed to do so how easy this is to do is obviously very important. We look at this in terms of the signal flow and then the number of controls you get or whether you have to navigate through layers of menus to make parameter changes. The more hands-on and easy it is to make dramatic sonic changes, generally the better.
Then there are extra sonic exploration features like modulation. This is super important in terms of sonic flexibility and is largely about how many parameters on your synth can be modulated by other parameters – your mod wheel, LFOs and more – so you can shape the sound further and perhaps introduce more movement into your sound.
Then there are other sometimes optional but very useful features like an arpeggiator (where multiple note patterns can be triggered with a single note press), a sequencer (where defined note patterns can be programmed) or effects. Effects are very useful to add instant atmosphere (reverb), delays, thickening chorus, distortion and more to a sound, very often changing it as much as any on-board synthesizing options.
Overall ease of use can be tested with all of these factors, but it is the sonic flexibility – how deep, high, dynamic and dramatic a synthesiser can sound – which is perhaps the key overall impression any synth can make.
Read more about how we test music making gear and services at MusicRadar.