WE TAKE A LOOK AT 9 OF THE BEST CHEAP SYNTHESIZERS A MODEST AMOUNT OF MONEY CAN BUY, PROVING THAT "CHEAP" JUST MEANS "BUDGET FRIENDLY"
When it comes to getting hold of a cheap synthesizer, or at least the best cheap synthesizer to suit your studio or home recording set up without blowing your budget, there are loads of options out there that prove “cheap” just means “budget friendly”. In this blog, we’re going to look at 9 of the best cheap synthesizers that don’t suck with options from the likes of Korg, Teenage Engineering, Yamaha and Roli – all of which proving that you don’t have to spend a fortune to create professional-level sounds.
We’ll start with the smaller, hand held options and move our way up to the still very portable, but desk-orientated synths.
Show me the best cheap synthesizers available today
In summary, we will be discussing the following synthesizers in our best cheap synths list:
Teenage Engineering PO-137 Rick and Morty Pocket Operator Vocal Synthesizer
1. TEENAGE ENGINEERING PO-137 RICK AND MORTY POCKET OPERATOR VOCAL SYNTHESIZER
First up we have the Teenage Engineering PO-137 Rick and Morty Pocket Operator Vocal Synthesizer. This pocket-sized synth is extremely fun to play with and ideal for Rick and Morty fans, providing hours upon hours of entertainment, but don’t think for a second that this is just a toy! At just over £80, this is an extremely affordable live synthesizer and vocal sampler. This is a cheap synthesizer that everyone can afford and create music with, powered by 2 AAA batteries, with a built-in speaker and no bigger than a calculator – you can create music anywhere!
You have 8 voice samples from Justin Roiland, co-creator of Rick and Morty and voice actor for both (among other characters), loaded in. Or you can sample your very own voice and create music with it. You can record your vocals or sounds with the built-in microphone then mix, mash and shake them up with Rick and Morty voice sample options, add effects and more! An integrated sequencer allows you to play the sounds in sequence.
One of the best cheap synthesizers that certainly doesn’t suck and it also just looks really cool too!
2. KORG VOLCA FM POLYPHONIC DIGITAL SYNTHESIZER
The Korg Volca FM Polyphonic Digital Synthesizer is a contender for best cheap synthesizer of all time as it’s entirely compact, very portable thanks to its small size and battery-powerable construction and the fact it’s just over £100. It’s got a built-in speaker as well as headphones connection so you can create music at any time and the Sync In, Sync Out connection means you can hook it up to the rest of the Volca series or any other MIDI instrument you might have in your studio – just a few reasons this is one of the best cheap synthesizers available.
Straight out of the box you get three true FM synthesis voices, an arpeggiator, a built-in loop sequencer with up to 16 steps as well as an incredibly useful Motion Sequence function that even records your knob movements whilst you’re looping!
A cheap synthesizer that provides professional-level sounds on a budget.
3. Roli Lightpad Block M
Ok the Roli Lightpad Block M isn’t strictly a “synth” but more of a music creation tool that allows you to create complete songs from scratch via the very unique touchpad. At under £200, you can enjoy creating music whether you can actually play an instrument or not – it’s that easy! On the one dynamic surface you can create complete songs and play chords, melodies, basslines and beats and then tie them all together.
There are 200+ free sounds packed into this modular studio, which you access via the free NOISE app for your smartphone or computer. Simply connect via Bluetooth and you’ve got access to a world of sounds. Have a quick look at what it's capable of below:
4. KORG VOLCA KEYS ANALOG LOOP SYNTHESIZER
The Korg Volca Keys Analog Loop Synthesizer is one of the best cheap synthesizers on the market today as it’s nicely under £150, making it entirely affordable for musicians of all levels. This analogue synth from Korg boasts a built-in sequencer which is capable of stunning lead, rhythm and bass sounds - making it the ideal companion for stage and studio! You can also expect the advanced circuitry which builds on the found in the Korg Minilogue. This affordable monophonic analog synthesizer circuitry but has a flavour all its own.
With a redesigned envelope section, modulation routing and a filter with powerful low-end punch, the Monologue is an incredibly handy tool and most certainly one of the best cheap synthesizers you can get hold of thanks to its versatility and flexibility.
5. ARTURIA MICROFREAK EXPERIMENTAL HYBRID SYNTH
The Arturia Microfreak Experimental Hybrid Synth set tongues wagging when it was announced at NAMM 2019. This cheap synthesiser combines pro-level digital oscillators with analogue filters to create an incredibly versatile live and studio performance tool. We love the Arturia Microfreak as its the product of a collaboration with Mutable Instruments and has inherited some of the most powerful oscillator models from the Eurorack modular ecosystem.
In fact you have a total of 11 oscillator modes with more being added with each firmware update. There’s also a multi-point modulation matrix which includes a unique sequencer-arpeggiator with controlled randomness “Spice” and “Dice” parameters. An extremely useful cycling envelope has also been included and you can enjoy 128 factory presets as well as space for 64 user sounds. Finally, you can take control of your workflow and see what’s going on under stage lights thanks to a crystal-clear OLED screen.
A lush Paraphonic Hybrid Analogue/Digital Synthesizer that won’t break the bank!
6. YAMAHA REFACE CS ANALOGUE SYNTHESIZER
When it was originally introduced back in 1976 the Yamaha CS-80 was relied upon by everyone from Stevie Wonder to the likes of Michael Jackson and Vangelis – famed for creating the original Blade Runner soundtrack. Although an original CS-80 will likely set you back a small fortune, the new, modern update in the form of the Yamaha reface CS Analogue Synthesizer builds on the success of its predecessor and packs in all the functionality and classic sounds that made the original so revered.
This highly portable and very cheap synthesizer can be powered by the included AC adaptor or via six “AA” batteries, and considering it costs just over £200, it makes a great option for musicians on the move and those who want high quality sounds on a budget. It’s a 37 key, 3 octave mini keyboard and polyphonic tone generator packed with 8 voices and 5 oscillator types including multi saw, pulse, oscillator sync, ring modulation and frequency modulation. This means you have a huge amount of digital and analogue sounds at your disposal, all of which can be manipulated and sculpted by the extremely hard-wearing sliders which are designed to withstand years of (ab)use! In addition, you can also connect your Yamaha Reface CS to your iPhone and iPad via the free reface iOS app which allows you to create music anywhere and enjoy more sounds and functionality.
If you want a 100% analogue synthesiser for under £250, the Arturia Microbrute is ideal. Straight out of the box you get 25-mini-key Monophonic analog synth with 3-waveform VCO, Overtone Generator, Steiner-parker Filter, Step Sequencer, as well as a patchable Modulation Matrix that allows you to make unique signal path editing on the fly – something usually found on synths 10 times the price. The Arturia Microbrute is easily one of the best cheap synthesizers available thanks to the sheer amount of control and sounds on offer, all wrapped up in a budget friendly, highly professional and very hard-wearing package.
Each aspect has been designed for the working musician including the velocity-sensitive mini-key keyboard, pitch bend and modulation wheels as well as the smooth knobs for parameter changes. The 3 Oscillator Waveforms include Sawtooth, Triangle and Square so you can make really unique changes to your sound whilst the sequencer allows you to create up to 8 sequences with 64 steps. If you already have a selection of MIDI controllers or any other 5 pin devices, the Microbrute can connect to it. If you just want to connect directly to your laptop or computer via mini-USB, you can hook the Arturia Microbrute up with ease thanks to the USB connectivity. Or if you just want to use it as a standalone synthesizer and connect directly to your audio interface, the option is there too.
If you want your synth to have a really unique look, the Arturia Microbrute Creation Special Edition features a snippet of “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo and is a highly limited edition version of the coveted Microbrute.
8. KORG MICROKORG SYNTHESIZER AND VOCODER
Ok we’re under £300 here, so we’re still within the realms of budget friendly with the Korg Microkorg Synthesizer and Vocoder and we feel it still qualifies as one of the best cheap synthesizers available as it’s not too much of an investment. However, you get a massive amount of functionality and some seriously awesome sounds for your money. Straight out of the box you get a 37-key synthesizer with the same dual-oscillator DSP synthesis engine found in Korg’s critically acclaimed MS2000, as well as a full range of effects including chorus and delay. In addition, you have a world of waveforms at your disposal including the likes of saw, pulse, sine and noise as well as exclusive DWGS waveforms taken from Korg’s classic DW-8000.
In addition, there’s a huge selection of sounds including bells, electric pianos, guitars, basses and more that you can make use of and sculpt via the four filter modes. The 8-band vocoder is an extremely useful tool which allows you to capture your voice, assign it to the keyboard and manipulate it to sound completely different.
This is great way to provide a unique sound to your music and the fact you can use all the effects, arpeggiator and oscillations in unison with your voice is a great feature.
Ok, we’re really stretching the budget here but the Korg Minilogue Polyphonic Analogue Synthesizer is an essential purchase and probably one of the best synthesisers under £500 ever made. This 37-key fully programmable analogue polyphonic synth is an all new original design that is packed with four voice modes, 200 program memories (100 sounds included), 16-step polyphonic note and motion sequencer as well as an Oscilloscope function which shows the waveform visually - and that’s just scratching the surface! The stylish, yet hard wearing aluminium top panel protects the inner workings and has been built for a life on the road.
The chassis-mounted pots and rubber-coated knobs are extremely tough and satisfying to use and the real wood back panel is a nice touch that really finishes the synth off nicely. You also have an array of effects including delay as well as an arpeggiator which can operate with up to four voices, and all the connectivity you would ever need including MIDI, USB MIDI, and Audio Sync for all types of in-studio and live connectivity. There’s also the ability to directly sync with SQ1, volca, electribe, and more!
Shop a full range of synthesizers over at PMT online today or call in to your local PMT store to try out a range of cheap synthesizers that prove you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great sound.