In bygone days hardware synths were a serious investment. Proper synthesizer instruments that made real sounds and had real knobs and faders to twiddle were reserved for those with serious cash to splash, and the rest of us had to make do with virtual recreations in the form of VST plugins.
The affordable end of synth market has, however, exploded in recent years. Big brands like Korg and Moog have begun to do the unthinkable and bring out high-quality synths in compact and sensibly priced packages, and producing competitively-priced hardware now seems to be the height of fashion.
Here’s your top 5 most affordable hardware synths.
1. Korg Monotron Range
Cheap-as-chips analogue oscillators in pocket-sized boxes, each with a ribbon controller and built-in speaker. The original monotron features LFO and VCF controls, the monotron Duo adds a second oscillator whilst the monotron Delay adds a great – if fairly simple – delay section. They also feature a classic Korg MS-10/MS-20-style filter, which you can feed external sounds through. All three are irresistibly fun.
2. Korg Volca Range
Three distinct boxes of compact, analogue sound for the sort of price you’d expect to pay for a top-end plugin. The Volca Beats offers four analogue drum parts, four PCM percussive synth parts and a great delay section. The Volca Bass features a three-oscillator bass synth and 303-style filter. The Volca Keys, meanwhile, is a three-note polyphonic synth with built in delay. All three feature step sequencers and a variety of performance features.
3. Meeblip Anode
Cute and compact, the MeeBlip anode offers dual digital pulse wave oscillators and an analogue filter. It might be little, but it’s cleverly designed and offers a big, dirty sound.
4. Korg Monotribe
The monotribe features a fleshed-out version of the analogue synth engine found in the monotrons, along with the classic filter, but it also adds a three part synth drum section and Electribe-inspired step-sequencer.
5. Waldorf Rocket
A unique sounding analogue monosynth in a compact and very affordable package. Despite being merely a single oscillator synth on paper, the Rocket’s clever shaping options, excellent filter and Boost mode can create a deceptively broad range of sounds.
For the complete list of all 21 analog and digital hardware synthesizers under $1,000 follow this link.