17 Nice Desktop Synths Below $1000 — Professional Audio Information

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It’s protected to say that each working producer has a number of MIDI controllers of their studio. Whereas these can be utilized to drive software program synths and automate parameters within the field, they will additionally management desktop synths, that are principally synthesizers with out the keyboard. One main profit of those packing containers is their small footprint. You’ll be able to have a number of units at your disposal with out cluttering your house with redundant keyboards. A great controller will sometimes have extra keys and quite a lot of MIDI knobs and sliders that can be utilized to drive a number of units concurrently with some easy MIDI channel routing. With the resurgence of analog, now into its second decade, there have been many analog and hybrid units launched that may be pushed through MIDI DIN or USB connectivity. A number of semi-modular items can help you change inner routing or work together with Eurorack modules whereas remaining impartial devices with their very own energy provide. Not solely are these units smaller, however they’re cheaper than comparable devices with onboard keys. With house and monetary restrictions much less of a problem, you’re free to indulge your ever-expanding synth arsenal. What follows is a have a look at a number of the finest units I’ve come throughout lately with a deal with the beneath $1k value vary.

Moog Mother 32

What are you able to say that hasn’t already been stated about Moog gear? This specific piece was my gateway drug. It led me to dive deep into different desktop synths and ultimately into modular gear. In comparison with modern-day synths, this can be a comparatively easy semi-modular monophonic instrument. It has one oscillator with sq. and sawtooth wave selections, LFO and envelope modulators, an onboard sequencer, a financial institution of three.5mm jacks for inner or exterior connectivity (Eurorack protocol), and it has the unimaginable Moog ladder filter that has been emulated in lots of different units. This purely analog system has no preset functionality and no USB connectivity, relying fully on a MIDI DIN enter or CV enter for exterior management. However the sound is beautiful and addictive.


The DFAM (brief for Drummer From One other Mom) is designed for creating rhythmic and percussive content material. It has two VCOs (voltage managed oscillators), filter and envelope controls, and there’s a really useable onboard sequencer with impartial pitch and velocity controls on every step. There may be additionally a patch bay just like the Mom 32 that permits inner rerouting and exterior connectivity with Eurorack gear or different semi-modular units. It comes with a singular set of bodily templates that may be positioned over the controls to point how parameters ought to be dialed in to realize a specific sound — kind of like bodily presets. Whereas it will be not possible to swap between these items on the fly, they do present good beginning locations when you’re after a specific kind of sound.

Moog Minitaur

The Minitaur is an unimaginable little analog field designed for thick low finish bass sounds. Not solely does it have the highly-prized Moog filter, however this system might be managed through MIDI DIN, USB or CV. With the Minitaur, a devoted plugin can be utilized to entry further parameters and cargo or create presets. This extra stage of management seamlessly bridges the hole between the digital and analog divide. With the potential of presets, the tactility of bodily controls and the wealthy sound of analog oscillators & filters, you possibly can have one of the best of each worlds.

Korg Minilogue XD

This system is a great-sounding polyphonic four-voice synth by Korg that’s nice enjoyable to play. It has two oscillators and all of the controls you’d anticipate in a subtractive synth: filter, envelope, waveform selectors — plus an onboard impact part and step sequencer. It permits for presets and the loading of third-party oscillators and results. I particularly like these accessible from Sinevibes, which has an in depth assortment of oscillators and results for the Minilogue. You’ll be able to entry the controls through software program and there are a couple of third-party apps on the market for this objective. If you’re a Max/MSP consumer like me, you possibly can design your personal software program management app pretty simply. However the tactility and really feel of the potentiometers and switches are very inviting, and it’s straightforward to lose your self for hours exploring the probabilities with none exterior management in any respect.

Soma Laboratory Lyra 8

I reviewed this superb and strange system a couple of years in the past and it stays a favourite of mine primarily based on its tactile controls and considerably unpredictable habits. A most important tenet within the philosophy of its creator, Vlad Kreimar, is to ask the consumer to pay attention and embrace a non-linear method to synthesis. Learn my assessment and interview with Vlad right here.

Rebel Technology Witch
This a programmable synth in which you’ll obtain patches from a rising library, or you possibly can program your personal utilizing DSP languages like Pure Knowledge, Max Gen~, SOUL, Faust, Maximilian and C++. It options CV inputs and outputs for connectivity and 4 synth engines that embody a digital analogue synthesizer with a 48 dB resonant filter, a voice simulator formant synthesizer, a morphing wavetable synthesizer and a sampler with peak filter.

Make Noise OCoast

This can be a semi-modular synth by an organization famend for his or her many superior Eurorack modules resembling Maths and Wogglebug. The premise behind the system combines the approaches of two those who pioneered the start of musical synthesis — Don Buchla on the West Coast and Robert Moog on the East Coast. Make Noise professes to be “loyal to neither,” and thus implements “no coast synthesis.”

Waldorf Pulse 2

These which can be aware of the Blofeld desktop will recognize the elegant design of this all-analog synth. It sports activities three VCOs, CV i/o, an arpeggiator, an eight-slot modulation matrix and extra. 500 presets ought to maintain you busy for some time as you discover the probabilities.

Elektron Digitone

This magnificence by Electron offers eight-voice functionality in a digital desktop synth that gives FM synthesis. With 4 operators per voice, you possibly can generate infinite FM-based sounds after which use the in depth filtering capabilities for subtractive synth results. It’s also possible to faucet into the onboard results processing. There’s a built-in sequencer and loads of presets to toy with and manipulate.

Vermona MonoLancet '15

This can be a monophonic analog desktop synth notably nice for bass. It depends on two VCOs and a noise generator as sound sources, and it has a heat lowpass filter used to sculpt the sound. The multi-pin connector on the again permits connectivity to their Modular Dock Eurorack module to increase the aptitude of the system.


This cool little system is a full synth voice that features a VCO, VCF and CV inputs for connectivity. The 5 contact sensors are a pleasant characteristic for dwell efficiency and manipulating pitch & routing. Additionally, take a look on the NOSC-12 Drone Synth. There’s plenty of nice noise-based stuff from this Japanese maker.


Norand Mono

The Mono is a monophonic analog synthesizer with strong modulation options that may be mapped to any parameter. It has an onboard sequencer, two VCOs, a multimode three-pole filter, a strong randomizer, CV i/o and extra. Additionally take a look at their new Morphos with “3D morphing contact strips, three modulation sorts and probably the most secure Via Zero FM but developed.”

Dreadbox Typhon

This system contains two VCOs, a four-pole LP filter, two envelope mills and three modulators with switchable sources (LFO, EG and step sequencer). It additionally has 12 on-board results from Sinevibes that embody distortion, bit crusher, refrain, ensemble, flanger, delay and reverb. I really like Sinevibes as an ideal supply for results and oscillators for the Korg Minilogue XD talked about above as effectively. If you’re into DIY, take a look at a number of the kits supplied by Dreadbox as effectively.

This shiny yellow field from 1010 Music will certainly add some visible and timbral colour to your synth array. It’s a granular synth with 4 voice polyphony and two granulators. The contact permits for tactile management paying homage to an iPad app. It has MIDI connectivity through 3.5mm jacks, a 30 second pattern reminiscence per oscillator and extra.

This can be a monophonic bass synth impressed by traditional 80s devices. It sports activities a 24 dB LP filter and a 16-step sequencer with 4 rows, three of that are assignable for modulation. Though it makes use of analog circuitry for sound technology, it options the flexibility to save lots of parameters as effectively.

Cre8audio WestPest

This semi-modular synth makes use of a West Coast synthesis method designed in partnership with builders from Pittsburgh Modular. It makes use of a customized waveform folder to generate complicated sonorities and wealthy timbres. It has all types of MIDI and CV connectivity and can combine effectively along with your present system. It’s an ideal instrument for dwell efficiency. Additionally, try the East Beast for Moog-inspired synthesis.

ASM Hydrasynth
This can be a full-featured eight-voice polyphonic synth with a sturdy sequencer part that features swing management, octave and division settings, chord & random settings and extra. Different notable options embody seven wave shapers, 5 envelope mills, eight insert results, 24 multifunction contact pads, 219 waveforms and eight macro controls. It makes use of a mix of wavetable synthesis, pulse wave modulation and subtractive synthesis. This one is ripe for experimentation.


You’ll be able to’t go mistaken with any of those packing containers, however earlier than you lay down your hard-earned money it is best to contemplate what your wants are. Sure units are made for experimenting on the fly and for producing serendipitous outcomes, whereas others are designed to create repeatable sounds that may be recalled. Do you want an arpeggiator or step sequencer on board? What about connectivity along with your present gear? Do you intend to carry out dwell or are you on the lookout for a strictly in-studio system? You must also bear in mind that a number of the smaller builders produce restricted manufacturing runs, so availability is typically a problem. Whether or not you’re an analog purist or need the comfort and options of digital circuitry, there’s something for everybody. As everyone knows, you possibly can by no means have sufficient synths!

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Take a look at my different articles, critiques, interviews, and my video tutorial collection, Synthesis 101.

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Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione is a composer, synthesist, guitarist, educator and sound artist lively within the LA experimental music scene. His music has been offered in festivals, museums and galleries worldwide. His present challenge is TriAngular Bent, an electroacoustic trio that includes Don Preston (founding member of Frank Zappa’s Moms of Invention) and circuit bending virtuoso, Jeff Boynton. Particulars at philipmantione.com


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