Give your music a fresh coat of synthetic beauty with our guide to the best synths under £500
Like arguments over which is better between Mac or PC, Sega or Nintendo, Batman or Superman, you’ll find countless forums and discussions about which are the best synths littering the internet. And like all of the above, there really isn’t a definitive answer. Each synth has its own unique features and sonic character, strengths and weaknesses, so it stands to reason that there should be debate over which is ‘the greatest’. We won’t attempt to answer that question here, but with such an incredible range of affordable synthesizers now available right now, we thought we could give you a mini guide to some of the best available for under £500.
The Novation SuperNova is a synth that offered such a ludicrous amount of power at the time of its release that even today, producers and players bemoan the fact that it was discontinued. With the MiniNova, the guys at Novation took the technology that underpinned this classic synth and crammed a healthy chunk of it into this pint-sized unit. Additionally, a set of features that made it far better suited to the modern studio (such as a software editor, and USB MIDI connection) were also included, making this one of the best synths the UK brand has ever developed.
Roland JD-Xi Analog/Digital Crossover Synthesiser
The Roland JD-Xi aims to combine the best of both analog and digital engines to give you a versatile synth in a compact form factor, perfect for gigs or the studio. The digital side of this synth is built on the famed Roland SuperNATURAL engine, here with 128 note polyphony. Three digital parts are available: Synth 1, Synth 2 and drums, giving you access to a band worth of sounds that can be played together. Pair this with the monophonic analog engine, complete with true analog LPF, and you have a truly powerful crossover synthesiser with immense versatility.
Teenage Engineering PO Series
Don’t panic because of the lack of keys, you’ll be surprised at what you can do with the Teenage Engineering PO Series. Consisting of 3 units (PO-12 Rhythm, PO-14 Sub and PO-16 Factory), you can easily get together a full drum, bass and lead synth set up running for just under £150! Note input is surprisingly simple, with an intuitive control system making the most of the pocket calculator style design. Best of all, all of the units can be synced to each other and other gear which outputs any sort of sync/metronome signal, meaning you could incorporate the PO synths into your DAW set up or run them alongside other portable synths like the Korg Volca series.
Another Korg entry to round off the list and this one is a beast. The Korg Minilogue is a fully analog, programmable, tonal monster which has found favour in studios on account of its exceptional sound quality. Really, this thing rips. Offering two oscillators and a host of filters, amplitude controls and effects, this is a true tweakers dream.
Its inbuilt polyphonic step sequencer and arpeggiator will give you plenty of space for creativity, while USB and MIDI connectivity means it can integrate into any modern workflow.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.