There has been a definite surge in affordable synths in the recent past. This has resulted in the hardware musical instruments being considerably accessible to novice musicians. Gone are the days when even the beginners had to spend more than $1000 for a synth. You can easily get within a budget of $500 which sounds great as well.
The price seems good but trust us that some of the terminologies of the product could make this purchase a challenging one. We are here just to facilitate you in the same regard. Even spending $500 requires a lot of research to be done so that you do not regret your decision later.
This comprehensive guide is good enough to help you take that decision with confidence. On top of that, it will also provide you with a list of products where you could pick one right away.
Here is a quick preview of our top 10:
#1, Korg 27 Keys Sound Module – VOLCAKEYS
#2, Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer
#3, Behringer TD-3-SR Synthesizer
#4, Korg microKorg 37 Keys Analog Synthesizer plus Vocoder
#5, Arturia MiniBrute 2 Analog Semi-Modular Synthesizer
#6, Korg Minilogue XD Gen Synthesizer
#7, Novation Bass Station II Analog Mono-Synthesizer
#8, Korg Minilogue 4 x Voice Polyphonic Analog Synthesizer with Presets
#9, Behringer 37 Keys ODYSSEY Synthesizer
#10, Korg MICROKORGS Tabletop Synthesizer
If you are on a budget and looking to buy a productive synth with no performance deterioration then we have got you covered.
The top 10 products discussed below are within your budget and they come with the best features that you could have within the budgeted price. Let us explore the top 10 products in the range which have been tried, tested, and endorsed even by the pro musicians in the field:
This one is a masterpiece by the Korg manufacturer which is loved by musicians for its superb brilliance. This product just surpasses a lot of competition it has. As an analog synth, it offers top sound quality which is expressive and rich in texture.
The best thing that most of the users like in this product is its top-quality sound which is packed in a sturdy and lightweight body. This system offers 3 x note synths having a single knob per function.
This makes it good for convenient hands-on tweaking. There is also a sequencer with 16 steps that comes with Flux mode. It is useful for Non-quantized types of free-flowing loops.
This special unit takes a completely different approach when compared to many of its competitors. The most distinct of all is its use of a flat touch-plate keyboard.
This variant comes with 25 x keys of the pressure-sensitive type which are laid on a flat surface. Those also have polyphonic aftertouch.
You will be impressed with its combo of digital oscillators along with analog filters. The sequencer and the arpeggiator that comes along offer excellent sonic flexibility.
This then empowers it to have multiple notes just like the polyphonic keyboard. Lastly, you could save all your settings in one out of the 64 presets.
This low-cost analog synth will provide you with good value for money. This bassline synth offers excellent analog circuitry for tempting groove and bass sounds. There you will witness authentic reproduction of the equipment through the original circuitry that comes from the matched transistors.
It has a genuine analog signal path which is laid over the legendary VCF, VCO, and VCA designs. The square and the sawtooth waveform VCO are there with the wave shaping transistor circuitry. There are also low pass types of 4 pole resonant filters with envelope, cut-off, decay, resonance, and accent controls.
This is a top-notch analog modeling synthesis system. It comes equipped with 2 x multi Timbral synthesizer programs. These programs include max and dual/ split modes.
This variant from Korg was first introduced back in 2002. We are almost nearing its 20th anniversary and surprisingly, this is still one of the top available choices. The synth features all the major qualities of microKorg. One thing that was changed for this product, later on, is its design and that makes it even more special. The interface is preferred for its simplicity and this would allow you to focus completely on music creation.
This one is a 25 keys synth of the analog type that comes with a built-in sequencer and an arpeggiator. There are a couple of oscillators at their core that allows for wave shopping, waveform modulation, and mixing.
There are a couple of envelope filters, 4-mode SP analog filters, and a couple of LFOs as well. A highly critical feature CV patch bay of 48-point.
This is the feature that makes it a compatible option with the other available modular type synthesizers. You will be having the support of MIDI and USB connectivity onboard as well.
If you are up for a high-performance analog synthesizer on a budget then this one from Korg makes a great choice. This is also the one with the capability of offering more than one note at a time.
This one comes with a polyphonic step, filter options, motion sequencer, multiple sound shaping, oscilloscope display, and also an onboard delay (tape-style).
All of these provided features collectively make this unit an easy and fun musical equipment. It is suitable for musicians having varying skills, including beginners.
When it was first introduced a few years ago then it was the topmost rated synth on the budget. It has still maintained that reputation in the eyes of the enthusiasts. If you require to have a well-reputed bass-focused synth then this one is a very good choice.
You will find this compact model easy to carry and it offers deep control options as well. This monophonic synth comes with an Acid Filter which has a highly productive diode ladder design.
It shapes the sound of this to be much darker and smoother. The 32 pattern arpeggiator is there along with a sequencer as well which will allow you to first create a then recall your patterns.
This specific model of Korg manufacturer combines 4 x voice analog synthesis that comes with excellent programmable controls. You will get this one with a couple of oscillators for each voice and that too with an analog circuit type with 2 x EG, 2 x VCOs, 1 x VCA, 1 x VCF, and 1 x LFO.
These features are more than enough to inspire novice music enthusiasts who are more into exploring the sonic sound options. The digital brain of this equipment employs excellent use of the range of controls that it has. You will have 200 program memories on board along with 100 preset options as well.
Just as you could imagine from its name, the subject synth is inspired by the iconic Odyssey which was from the 70s. This variant is very affordable and it comes with multiple updated features as well. Instead of having this one with knobs onboard, the manufacturer introduced it with some amazing updated features. You will have it filled with faders instead of knobs.
This makes it extremely easy for the sake of visualizing your VCF, VCO, and VCA parameters. All of these are the ones with analog signal paths. You will get this one with a sequencer of 32-step type apart from the arpeggiator and a range of effects.
You will get it with reverb, modulation, pitch shifting, delay, and a lot more. Lastly, you will find it supporting full-sized 37 keys. All these keys are semi-weighted and on top of that, they are velocity-sensitive as well.
This synthesizer is just another good reason that why Korg is one of the finest brands when it comes to synths. This analog monophonic synth comes with all the major features of the industry popular MS-20 variant which was released way earlier in the 1970s.
However, this one is suitable for beginners for its extremely compact size and reasonably lightweight as well. The users of this system will hugely benefit from the excellent 2 plus 1 speaker equipment. It will ensure that the sound produced is full and rich in texture at almost any volume.
It will further benefit you with the new programs and increased memory. You may opt for the favorite selection feature as well.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Synths
Do you need to have preamps with synths?
The preamp is not required with a synth but the tracks of your synth could take good advantage of preamp if it is employed.
What is the difference between monophonic and polyphonic synths?
Monophonic synth is capable of only producing a single note at a time. On the other side, the polyphonic synth may produce two or more notes at any given time.
What types of I/ O connections I could expect to have in a synth?
You may get a beginner-level synth with I/ O options of MIDI and USB connectivity.
In terms of the number of keys, which synth will be suitable for beginners?
Beginners don’t need to have big synths with 88 full-size keys. It will be good for beginners to have a synth with 37 keys. However, one with 25 keys seems good as well for the starters.
How I Graded These Synths Under $500?
Synthesizers are great for creating unique sounds. Some are very good at specific types of sounds. Others are more versatile, and can be used for many different types of music. I’ve narrowed down my choices to those that are under $100, and I think they’re all pretty decent.
Synth presets are made by people who use these synths every day. You should be able to get a pretty decent idea about what kind of sound you want to make.
Analog, digital, or both?
Analog synths are warm sounding because of the warmth of the circuits inside them. Digital synths are cold sounding because of the lack of warmth due to the use of digital circuits. These synths are easy to program and have lots of presets available. If you’re looking for a great sound, then you should definitely get an analog synth.
Analog synths are generally considered to be easier to use than digital ones. Most of them feature clearly labeled knobs/faders, and there aren’t many buttons or other controls. This makes them easier to learn. Digital synths can get quite complex, and some of them have features that make them harder to control. Some digital synths are hybrids of digital and analog. These may sound better than either type alone, but they’re still difficult to master. Control panels are often very busy, making it appear like there are lots of things happening.
What is the difference between an electric piano and a normal piano?
Acoustic pianos are real instruments that sound amazing. Digital pianos try to mimic them but aren’t as great. Electric pianos are more affordable than acoustic pianos.
Why do people want analog synthesis?
Virtual instruments are electronic devices that simulate the behavior of real instruments. They are usually digital programs that calculate what the sound should be, and then stream it out. Some older instruments were made by connecting together different parts, and these days, many newer instruments are also connected to computers. These days, every change is the result of a software program.
Analog synths are more expensive than digital ones because they require many parts to make them work. Polyphonic means that there are several voices or sounds playing at once. This makes it more difficult to play and produce music.
Things to Consider when Buying Synths Under 500
If you are looking to buy synths under $500 then you are not on a very tight budget. If you shop well then you will be able to get one that will easily meet and even exceed your needs.
When it comes to purchasing musical synthesizers then the following are the key points that will determine the quality of your purchase:
The synthesizers are broadly categorized into the following types:
AnalogThe analog type of synths comes with a very unique sound warmer and sound design as compared to the other available types. The majority of users, especially beginners prefer analog synths for their excellent performance, ease of use, and top sound quality. This type of equipment is also very easy to navigate.
Digital synthesizers are known to be quite complicated as compared to the analog counterpart. This type comes with advanced and sophisticated control panels. These features make them applicable for advanced and professional musicians only.
The hybrid type combines the features of both the analog and digital synth modeling technology. They are also easy to operate and as well as navigate. It is preferred by beginners and semi-advanced musicians.
After the determination of the type of synth above, they are further classified into the following two types:
Monophonic or the monosynth is simply the one that is capable of producing only a single note at any time. They provide with larger and fuller sound which is mainly because of having much dedicated and focused power to a specific note at any given time.
Polyphonic or polysynth is the one that can play multiple notes at one time. As a result of this kind of playing, the sound through such synth could be marginally thinner and it may lack aggression as well when compared with the monophonic synth. If you are someone coming with a background of keyboard or piano then this polyphonic type is much suitable as multiple notes could be played here.
This preference all comes down to the point that how you want to use the instrument. The majority of the polyphonic synth comes with a special option that enables the user to switch to a monophonic option as well.
This great feature provides you with the very best of both types in one single and powerful unit. This may cost a bit more but you may get one within your budget of $500 if you shop well for such a product.
Module or Keyboard
Once you evaluate both the module and keyboard options then you will find that both of them are quite identical in their functionality and features.
Both these types have their specific perks, so it all comes down to your personal preferences. If you are someone who is interested more in playing live and loops then the most optimal choice for you is a keyboard.
If you prefer tweaking more than anything else along with the inclusion of knobs and effects ten modular is the one you should go with.
The latter is also preferred when you have limited studio space. If you choose modularly then make sure that you will also require to have a controller as well which could be a computer or a keyboard to control the sounds.
The majority of modern synths available today are found to be compact, lightweight, and highly portable. Portability is of the essence for beginners as they could then carry this equipment anywhere they want for live performances and other practice sessions.
On top of that, it is advised for beginners to pick equipment that fits their needs. For example, a musician looking for a synth for studio or live use must look for equipment that comes with necessary battery power and perhaps built-in speakers as well.
Synths produce sound through the creation of waveforms. These electronic vibration waves are produced by an oscillator.
The initiated signal then moves to the different other components where it is then modulated, layered, and filtered for producing the ultimate sound.
The three most common types of synthesis in this regard are FM, subtractive, and wavetable.
VCO vs VCF vs VCA
The Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO) allows the equipment to produce multiple pitches which are driven through the voltages which it receives. This specific voltage then determines the level of frequency. The approach that you use for the need of triggering the MIDI note or the way you use a key sends different level of voltages which are received by the VCO.
On the flipside, Voltage Controlled Filter (VCF) is a special electronic filter whose specific characteristics could be handled through an input control voltage.
The VCF is commonly used in analog synths. Finally, the electrical signals produced are designed to pass through Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA) before they could reach the speakers. VCA then plays its critical role in removing any sort of frequencies that could be below or above any certain frequency.
When it comes to the basic sound effects of a synth then you will be introduced to Unison, Chorus, Distortion, and Reverb. These effects are capable of instantly making the produced sounds bigger, larger, and captivating. The majority of synths available today are equipped with these effects as a built-in feature.
This helps a lot in power and space-saving, although the quality of sound lowers in the process. Your entry point here should be to have a synth that comes with a convenient and user-friendly control panel. The subtractive synthesis is known to be the most optimal choice for beginners.
It is because they offer far quick access to the filer controls and the oscillator as compared to the other synthesis.
$500 is kind of a generous budget for the beginners to invest in their first synth ever. This purchase would not be easy especially if you are buying it for the first time or perhaps, your experience with your first purchase was not good. When it comes to picking one then the first and foremost choice is to pick between an analog and a digital synth.
This is an easy decision as for beginners, the analog type is most suitable for its simplicity and also for the versatility it offers. After that, it comes to many other features that you need to scrutinize for any synth that you have shortlisted for a purchase.
The main idea is that you give due importance to every feature mentioned above. This would be the only way that you will have a good quality synth for yourself and which could also be trusted on a long-term basis.