The best synthesizers under $500 give us a lot of wiggle room to get some power into our hands. Diving headfirst into the world of synths is always a fun one, and quite addictive to be honest. These are of course new synthesizers that are in that are in the market which we’ll talk about today, but especially when you start to get into the used synthesizer game (such as some of those killer Juno’s from the 80’s), it can become super rewarding (yet very expensive). Fortunately in this day and age there are some great options for synths under $500, so let’s get started.
- Korg minilogue
- Novation Bass Station II
- Behringer Odyssey
- Korg microKORG
- Roland JU-06A
- Arturia MiniBrute 2
- Novation MiniNova
- Roland SE-02
Finding the Best Synth Under $500
Who wants to keep using MIDI keyboards and synthesizer VST? Sure, that’s of course a possibility. But having at least one real synthesizer in your hands and studio can be priceless. When it comes to finding the ‘best’, it’s a subjective term that really depends on the reader, so here are some highlights we’ve learned in our research and experience to keep in mind as you sift through the synths under $500 we rounded up below. Some of these do overlap without recent beginners synthesizer article as well.
- First and foremost, listen to the sounds. It doesn’t matter the brand, the bells and whistles, or fancy features. If you love the sounds and can envision using them in your tunes, grab it!
- Do you want a more vintage, old school synth, a new and improved model that keeps up with the times, or perhaps a mixture of both?
- How many keys do you want? A lot of synthesizers under $500 are on the smaller side with typically 25 or 37.
- Popular additional features (that aren’t absolute musts, but pluses):
- Different types of filters
- Built-in step sequencers
- Oscillator numbers and types
- The inclusion of new technology, such as MIDI, USB connectivity
- Module or keyboard?
The Best Synthesizers for Under $500
Korg’s been around for decades and their synthesizers have made a name for themselves time and time through out. The minilogue here is an new age analog synth with some vintage and warm sounds. It’s a 4-voice model with two oscillators for each voice, switchable lowpass filter, some tape-delay emulation onboard, and eight total voice modes. Some great analog features here, but why we love this synth is due to the inclusion of today’s day and age tech as well.
You’re getting MIDI alongside all of it (won’t be too big of deal if you already have your controller but it doesn’t hurt), as well as a built-in 16-step sequencer in case you want to make some beats or map out tracks on the synth itself. A small little OLED display is also on the unit which is pretty rare for hardware synths. This is a great mixture of both old school synth feel with new specs to keep up with the times. The Korg minilogue is definitely our go to the best synthesizer under $500 right off the bat.
Let’s talk about that rumble. Here’s one of our favorite synthesizers under $500 if you want some fat bass at your fingertips. This is a 25-key analog synth (with aftertouch) that also includes a step sequencer and arpeggiator. You’re also getting 64 factory presets, 64 user slots, two oscillators, a sub-oscillator, and two types of filters.
Those oscillators are key for bass sounds to get those sonic characteristics rumbling. There’s also the ability to get some good thickness to the sounds with the FM and distortion effects inside of it. Of course that step sequencer is an additive plus even though some may or may not use it, and if you want some ideas for bass lines we’re always fans of arpeggiators (you can choose between 32 different patterns for it in this one). Regarding the two filter types, one is called ‘classic’ that gives you low and high pass filters, or their ‘acid’ filter for that classic warp. A great pick with the Novation Bass Station II as the best synthesizer under 500 dollars if you want a dedicated low-end machine.
Here’s another shifty analog synthesizer with 37 keys semi-weighted keys, dual VCO’s (voltage-controlled oscillator), ‘Klark Teknik FX’, three-way multi-mode VCF, arpeggiator, and of course a 32-step sequencer. Most importantly for this synth here is the feel — think classic 70’s types of sounds. It has an actual pure analog signal path and those oscillators have a lot to do with it. Voltage-controlled gives really transforms how the waveforms are shaped and is what gives us that throw-back sound.
The sounds are fat, the internal build is vintage, and the effects we have at our fingertips allow for some nice tweaking all around. Not much ‘new features’ to include with the Behringer Odyssey but for some that’s actually a plus — some of us want to keep our hardware separate from the new tech.
Let’s talk some unique features we haven’t seen yet in this guide. Ever feel like having a hardware vocoder? The microKORG is pretty famous at this point. However it isn’t just for the 8-band vocoder — we also have some great sounds and a few other features at our fingertips.
A dual-oscillator DSP engine for synthesis (think of the vintage MS2000), 64 waveforms (taken from their DW-8000), some great presets, flexible audio inputs (MIDI, two audio in), and 4 voices. In regards to some effects and filters, we have three types of modulation, three types of delay, and a 2-band EQ. Multi-mode filter caps it off for some tweaking. The Korg microKORG is the best synthesizer under $500 if that vocoder is going to be of some use to you.
Remember we talked about those vintage Junos from back in the day? Roland wanted to keep it going and throw it back with a beautiful synth module under $500 here. This is a great hybrid module that combines both vintage and warm sounds and effects with some nifty tech to keep up with this day and age at the same time.
It’s a 4-voice synth but also has MIDI in and out and can act as a USB audio interface as well. Effects include delay and chorus, but we also have a nice balance of two filters, one envelope, one oscillator, and one LFO. There’s also a 16-step sequencer to boot. It doesn’t have keys like a traditional synth some of you may be thinking of, but if you’d like to add a module to your setup with that famous Juno personality and think you’ll also use that interface feature, the Roland JU-06A is another great pick as the best synthesizer for under $500.
Arturia is one of our favorite brands that brings forth some refreshing gear and sounds to this day’s synthesizer world. Let’s talk semi-modular synths here. These are synthesizers that are in the middle of the typical synthesizer keyboard and a straight up module. This gives us a lot more flexibility when it comes to being able to customize our sound. You can either rewire their connections depending on your taste for sonic expansion, or use their presets.
The MiniBrute 2 therefore does exactly this, and also includes some nice features alongside of it. Two oscillators, four mode filter, a 48-point CV Mod Matrix (serious customization here), and of course, some MIDI, USB and sync connectivity (because why not?). Check this thing out — the Arturia MiniBrute 2 has got some serious power when it comes to using it.
Novation makes it’s ranks again in this guide and this time bringing us some gritty fat bass sounds, feel-good pads and among other vintage synth sounds all human ears can agree on.
We have some mini keys here if you’re able to get by with that (37 of them), a vocoder, real-time performance controls (USB controller), fourteen types of filters, fix envelope generators, three LFO’s. Talk about jam packed. There is so much flexibility to warp the 256 onboard presets, all with your voice as well. The Novation MiniNova is an amazing synth under 500 bucks if you want to get creative with your sounds and voice.
Last but not least, we have another one of our favorite modular synthesizers for under $500, this time with Roland ending the guide with a bang. We have three VCO, one VCF, and a 16-step sequencer built-in. More importantly the 3-oscillator with some very particular analog circuitry for a sweet tone that really just brings the word ‘vintage’ to mind, although quite arbitrary. Some very vibrant sounds, with fat lows and cutting highs.
There are 384 programmed presets in here to give you a lot of wiggle room to work with. The Roland SE-02 is definitely in the running as the best synthesizer under $500 even though it’s listed last.