The best synthesizer for beginners will be focused on getting us a balance of some legitimate sounds (most important in our opinion), decent amount of additive features, an affordable price, and a good learning curve as we get to know the wonderful world of synthesizers. We found of our favorite picks as the best beginners synthesizer to help your search below. But first, let’s talk about some synth basics to get our groundwork laid out.
- Arturia MicroBrute
- Novation MiniNova
- Korg minilogue
- Moog Sub Phatty
- Novation Bass Station II
- Teenage Engineering PO-20
Let’s Talk Beginner Synths
- Price – The price-range for synths are pretty broad, so we talk to those just starting out or musicians who want to get their feet wet in the synthesizer game, we recommend sticking to a synthesizer under $500 (for most). We found a decent range below to give you some options.
- Do you want keys? Most of these have keys since traditional synths are typically associated with playing with the porcelain. You aren’t going to find a synthesizer for beginners or at least something relatively affordable with more than 37 keys — the 49, 61 and even 88 key range tend to be a lot more expensive and only available in more advanced synths. If you want the other type of synth, called modular synthesizers, look into those, but they’re a bit more advanced (although give you a lot of power when it comes to tweaking your own sounds). If it does have keys, some have ‘mini’ which are smaller than normal, and others can have ‘after touch’ that gives you some play with the velocity when you hit notes.
- Let’s talk popular synth features – Here are some of our favorite synthesizer features to look out for while you browse for your pick:
- Types of effects: Look out for effects included in the synths, such as delays, filters (to cut certain frequencies and change the characteristics of the sound)
- Oscillators: Oscillators in synthesizers give you more power to transform sound. The circuits inside can be tweaked based on the speed of how it pulses or sweeps the wave of the sound, hence changing the sound
- Waveshapes: This is similar to oscillators, and it essential allows you to change the sound further by applying a fixed or variable signal to the sound.
- Step-sequencers: These allow you to essentially ‘record’ patterns and create your own ‘steps. You can make multiple patterns and chain them for compositions, or perhaps to make arpeggios.
- New-age features? Want some MIDI (perhaps use it with some synthesizer VSTs), Sync I/O, and more? These weren’t common back in the day with analog synths obviously, but nowadays there are some synthesizers that include some more recent features that allow to you keep up with the game.
The Best Synthesizers for Beginners
This is just a synthesizer we’ll continue to recommend time and time again, especially when it comes to synth guides more geared towards budget-friendly price-ranges or those starting out. The reason being is that the MicroBrute brings in a great amount of balance, both in regards to features as well as budget and power. We have that classic analog feel with some newer-age features thrown in, too — a three waveform VCO, overtone generator, modulation matrix (for options in modulating your own sounds and connecting with other synths if you have them), their ‘Brute Factor’ (overdrive type of effect), and built-in step sequencer to make some of your own patterns and beats.
There are 25 mini keys here so some may see that as a negative, although at that price and if you’re just starting out, you can still get by with them. This will be a deciding factor for sure (a few others below have more keys). The most important part of the Arturia MicroBrute however is that voltage-controlled oscillator. With those three waveforms and waveshapers you can mix with, shaping the sound to your liking is going to be a great way to get into synths. This includes using the ultra-saw, pulse width, metalizer, saw, triangle and square waves. This is why we think it’s the best gateway into synthesizers for beginners — that’s literally what synths are to us! Add on that Steiner-Parker filter (classic filtering capabilities from 70’s) and we have a flashback to back in the day.
Another great pick as the best synthesizer for beginners, Novation has even more features and power if you were able to spend an extra hundred dollars or so. The MiniNova is a great beginner pick if you needed a few more keys and some more types of filters and means to customize your synthesizer sound.
We have 37 mini keys, a vocoder (that microphone at the top, which you can sing or talk into and it matches the key pitch — robotic type of sound), USB controller, and some real-time controls for performance. In regards to filters, we get a whipping fourteen of them, six envelope generators, and three LFO! There are 256 onboard presets to get going with, but using their effects and filters (for example the 20-slot modulation matrix), the power is here with the Novation MiniNova.
Korg is a major player in the synthesizer game, and to be honest it was a bit difficult in choosing a few synthesizers for beginners, especially this one. However, the popularity and ease of use is what brings it forward halfway through our guide. There’s also some nice additions of technology that were fans of (MIDI, Sync I/O as well as it’s 16-step sequencer).
Aside from this however, let’s talk about it’s analog power. With 4 voices, you have 2 oscillators for each, and some effects on top of that (cross modulation, oscillator sync, dual VCO with harmonic shape control, some tape-delay emulation for a little retro feel, lowpass filter, and more). You can save up to 200 of your settings and there are about 100 presets you can use right off the bat. The Korg minilogue is a beast, simply put.
Anyone want a legendary fat bass synth to add to their repertoire? The Sub Phatty is a staple point in many musician’s studio, although it pinpoints just to bass sounds. Some of us beginners may be wanting the whole world of synth sounds and frequencies so it may not be your cup of tea, but if you’re a bass head or want some legitimate bass in your songs this is a must in the analog synth world.
We have some decent control here with 31 knobs and 13 switches, two variable-wave shape oscillators for tweaking, a square-wave sub in mixer, 25 semi-weighted keys and a pure analog signal path. This is becoming less available so look at their Subsequent 25 that just came out, but we’d still grab the Sub Phatty if you can if it hovers around the usual 800$ range.
As another pick to be the best synthesizer for beginners, here’s just one more bass synth we’d like to recommend if we can. This one is just a beast and we couldn’t help ourselves. Novation is just simply reliable and this one is no different than many other synths they have in the game right now. Aside from the amazing sounds here, the control is just insane. Plus it’s about half the price of those Moog synths so if you needed to save some money here’s the better pick in the bass arena.
It has 25 keys with after touch, two types of filters, two oscillators plus a separate one for sub, and a step sequencer for creating your own patterns. We also have some great arpeggiator capabilities and nice distortion and FM effects. Aside from that however and as we’ve stressed in this guide a lot when it comes to beginners synthesizers is being able to tweak and create your own sounds. The effects are real time and paired up with those oscillators you can make anything from leads all the way to pads. Just a beautiful bass synthesizer here for under $500 with the Novation Bass Station II.
Last but not least, we want beginners to keep in mind that a lot of synths out there don’t necessarily entail having keys. The look of this is obviously a bit nontraditional but hear us out first before you leave (and if you’re this far into the guide you’re still weighing some options we’d assume).
First of all this is super cheap, so you could even grab this on top of a synth we’ve previously mentioned to have as a little toy and gadget. The sounds of this are surprisingly great and unique — think 16-bit, retro style video game feels. It also has a little 16-step sequencer inside to make patterns, beats and even songs if you get complex enough. You can use the 128-pattern chaining. The Teenage Engineering PO-20 is also technically standalone as it has some tiny little speakers on it. Why not?