21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today

10th Oct 2014 | 15:40

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Hardware bargains?
We put the best and brightest affordable synths head-to-head.

In bygone days hardware synths were a serious investment. Proper synthesizer instruments that made real sounds and had real knobs and faders to twiddle were reserved for those with serious cash to splash, and the rest of us had to make do with virtual recreations in the form of VST plugins.

The affordable end of synth market has, however, exploded in recent years. Big brands like Korg and Moog have begun to do the unthinkable and bring out high-quality synths in compact and sensibly priced packages, and producing competitively-priced hardware now seems to be the height of fashion.

Needless to say, we at MusicRadar are big fans of this ongoing trend. Over the next 15 slides, we've collected a selection of the most popular and/or impressive synthesizers - both analogue and digital - that are currently available for (roughly) less than £500/$700. Read on as we run through, in ascending price order, the highs, lows and idiosyncrasies of each.

NEXT: Korg monotron range

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Korg monotron range
Street price: from around £34/$45 (for the original monotron)

Highlights:

Cheap-as-chips analogue oscillators in pocket-sized boxes, each with a ribbon controller and built-in speaker. The original monotron features LFO and VCF controls, the monotron Duo adds a second oscillator whilst the monotron Delay adds a great - if fairly simple - delay section. They also feature a classic Korg MS-10/MS-20-style filter, which you can feed external sounds through. All three are irresistibly fun.

Versatility:

The monotrons are very basic, but you can get a surprising array of sounds out of them given the price and limited controls.

Value for money:

It’s hard to fault genuine analogue sounds for so little money, although it might be worth shelling out that little bit extra for a monotribe or one of the Volcas. That said, the filter alone is probably worth the price.

Drawbacks:

Small, fiddly and fairly limited. The output can be fairly noisy too.

Recommended for:

Those looking to dip their toe into analogue waters without spending too much money.

Read the Korg monotron review

Read the Korg monotron Delay review

Read the Korg monotron Duo review

BUY: Korg monotron Delay currently available from:
UK: Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

BUY: Korg monotron Duo currently available from:
UK: Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

NEXT: Korg Volca Range

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Korg Volca range
Street price: from around £99/$150 each

Highlights:

Three distinct boxes of compact, analogue sound for the sort of price you’d expect to pay for a top-end plugin. The Volca Beats offers four analogue drum parts, four PCM percussive synth parts and a great delay section. The Volca Bass features a three-oscillator bass synth and 303-style filter. The Volca Keys, meanwhile, is a three-note polyphonic synth with built in delay. All three feature step sequencers and a variety of performance features.

Versatility:

Each Volca has a fairly specific (although very classic) sort of sound, and they aren’t hugely sonically versatile on their own. Chaining all three together (they sync via included patch cables) opens up extra possibilities. Each features MIDI-in, which really enhances their capabilities, particularly in the case of the Volca Keys. All that said, for the price each unit packs an impressive array of features, and there’s plenty to tweak and play around with.

Value for money:

The Volcas are undoubtedly great value for money, bearing in mind that you can pick up all three for less than £350/$450, which is less than you’d expect to pay for the vast majority of hardware analogue synths.

Drawbacks:

The Volcas are a little short on output options, as each unit features just a single mini-jack output and built-in speaker. Power supplies are sold separately, although they run fine off AA batteries.

Recommended for:

Anyone looking for classic analogue sounds on a budget. Stylistically, they suit vintage house and techno brilliantly. The Volca Beats is great for old-school, 808-style hip hop and the Bass is an instant source of Acid basslines. They’re very hands-on too, so could work well for live performers. At the price they're hard to fault.

Read our review of the Korg Volca Bass

Read our review of the Korg Volca Beats

Read our review of the Korg Volca Keys

BUY: Korg Volca Bass currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

BUY: Korg Volca Beats currently available from:
UK: Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

BUY: Korg Volca Keys currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

NEXT: MeeBlip anode

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
MeeBlip anode
Street price: around £110/$139

Highlights:

Cute and compact, the MeeBlip anode offers dual digital pulse wave oscillators and an analogue filter. It might be little, but it's cleverly designed and offers a big, dirty sound.

Versatility:

Its architecture might be pretty simple, but the anode is completely open source. As such, the potential for hacking it is huge - you can download code, schematics and designs. It has MIDI In, too.

Value for money:

Even at a time when prices of hardware synths have dropped dramatically, the anode still offers plenty of bang for your buck.

Drawbacks:

You can't trigger it without connecting something up to the MIDI In port (a keyboard, for example) and there's no option to power the anode with batteries.

Recommended for:

Anyone who's dipping their toes into the world of hardware synths for the first time and wants something that gives them plenty of hands-on control and the ability to create some filthy sounds.

Read MeeBlip anode review

NEXT: Korg monotribe

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Korg monotribe
Street price: around £120/$199

Highlights:

The monotribe features a fleshed-out version of the analogue synth engine found in the monotrons, along with the classic filter, but it also adds a three part synth drum section and Electribe-inspired step-sequencer.

Versatility:

While the monotribe’s synth section is a lot more flexible than those found in the monotrons, the drum section is pretty limited - although it’s still a nice addition. Again, the filter can process external audio signals, which is a great touch.

Value for money:

Whether the monotribe is worth more than one of the Volcas is likely a matter of personal taste. Given that it offers analogue synth and drum sounds, a very usable filter and some nice performance features it’s definitely worth the price.

Drawbacks:

Still a little fiddly. Lacks MIDI capabilities of the Volca range.

Recommended for:

Those in the market for a fun, portable all-in-one analogue synth/groove box.

Read the Korg monotribe review

BUY: Korg monotribe currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

NEXT: Waldorf Rocket

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Waldorf Rocket
Street price: around £170/$299

Highlights:

A unique sounding analogue monosynth in a compact and very affordable package.

Versatility:

Despite being merely a single oscillator synth on paper, the Rocket’s clever shaping options, excellent filter and Boost mode can create a deceptively broad range of sounds.

Value for money:

One of the best value synths in this round up, offering flexible and powerful sound options at a bargain price.

Drawbacks:

Monophonic. No built-in keyboard so requires a USB or MIDI input.

Recommended for:

Electronic musicians on the hunt for something a little different to experiment with at a bargain price.

Read the Waldorf Rocket review

NEXT: Waldorf Streichfett

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Waldorf Streichfett
Street price: around £199/$370

Highlights:

Streichfett is built around a pair of DSP-based sound engines: a 128-voice polyphonic Strings section and an eight-voice polyphonic Solo section. It emulates the vibe of the slightly kitsch and inauthentic string machines of the '70s and '80s.

Versatility:

You don't have a tremendous amount of control - just a few simple sound-shaping knobs and another to blend the two sections together - but you can produce a decent variety of synthesized string tones, and it's great fun to play with. MIDI I/O and left/right audio outputs are present and correct.

Value for money:

Streichfett is certainly a curio rather than an essential all-rounder, but its price reflects this, and there's something to be said for having an unusual synth like this in your arsenal.

Drawbacks:

You're unlikely to use the Streichfett in all of your productions, so it's definitely a luxury, and there's no getting past its inherent limitations. Don't come here expecting realistic orchestral strings, either.

Recommended for:

Anyone who wants the ultimate '70s porn synth, obviously, and fun-seeking synth fans who have some spare cash to spend on something a little different

Read Waldorf Streichfett review

BUY: Waldorf Streichfett currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater
FR: Thomann | Woodbrass

NEXT: Arturia MicroBrute

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Arturia MicroBrute
Street price: around £239/$299

Highlights:

Yes, it's an even smaller version of the MiniBrute. Like its bigger sibling, it's of the single-oscillator, multi-waveform design, but there are fewer controls and mini keys rather than full-size ones. There is the bonus of a built-in sequencer, though.

Versatility:

The MicroBrute actually includes a wider range of CV/Gate interfacing options than the Mini, and the waveform section is more flexible than you might think. The Mod Matrix panel enables you to patch the envelope and LFO depth to different locations using the 3.5mm mini-jacks.

Value for money:

The MicroBrute packs in far more than you'd have any right to expect for the price. It's not bargain-basement, but it definitely offers more than many of the 'pocket synths' that don't cost too much less.

Drawbacks:

There's no noise generator, which is a shame, and, given its diminutive size, you might have expected a battery-powering option. There isn't one.

Recommended for:

The baby brute is easy to coo over, but its cute-as-a-button looks shouldn't fool you into believing that there's anything small about its sound. It's a fine analogue monosynth that's both compact and affordable.

Read Arturia MicroBrute review

BUY: Arturia MicroBrute currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Guitar Center | Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

NEXT: Roland Aira TB-3

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Roland Aira TB-3
Street price: around £245/$299

Highlights:

Inspired by the TB-303 BassLine synth, the TB-3 has a touchpad that can be used to create monophonic basslines and sequences. It contains a bank of 26 TB-303 sounds (Bank A) that are modelled on the original's circuitry, and a selection of new synth leads, basses and effects are spread over three further banks.

Versatility:

The fact that the TB-3 can do more than just 303 sounds is a big plus point (there are also stacked/unison and detuned 303 patches which simply weren't possible to create on the original) and the TB-3 integrates nicely with your DAW. Don't forget that it can operate as a 2-in/2-out USB audio/MIDI interface as well.

Value for money:

Decent build quality, a reasonably versatile sound engine and some tweakable filters and effects make this feel like it's worth the cash.

Drawbacks:

There is a lingering sense of (possibly irrational) disappointment that the TB-3 isn't analogue, and edits you make to the sounds can't be saved.

Recommended for:

Acid bassline lovers who are willing to accept Roland's argument that analogue isn't the way forward and want a fast and fun music-making experience.

Read Roland Aira TB-3 review

BUY: Roland Aira TB-3 currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater
FR: Woodbrass

NEXT: Dave Smith Mopho

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Dave Smith Mopho
Street price: around £246/$350

Highlights:

The Mopho is, effectively, the equivalent of a single voice from Dave Smith’s excellent Prophet 08. It has a 100% analogue signal path, features two sub-oscillators for added weight and has a filter that can process external audio signals.

Versatility:

It’s a fairly versatile beast, coming packed with over 380 presets based around a broad range of classic and vintage synth sounds. The Mopho also connects to a computer via USB for deep patch editing and assigning its four parameter knobs.

Value for money:

It’s hard to fault Dave Smith quality and sounds at this price.

Drawbacks:

Realistically, you need to dig into the software editor to get the most out of it. Bright yellow design can be a little divisive.

Recommended for:

Computer-savvy musicians looking for a flexible, quality synth on a budget.

Read the Dave Smith Mopho review

BUY: Dave Smith Mopho currently available from:
UK: Thomann
USA: Guitar Center | Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Star's Music

NEXT: Moog Music Theremini

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Moog Music Theremini
Street price: around £249/$299

Highlights:

It looks like a Theremin and you can play it like a Theremin, but the Theremini also offers assistive pitch correction (so you can actually play it in tune) and contains a sound engine that's derived from Moog's Animoog iOS synth app.

Versatility:

It would be stretching plausibility to call the Theremini an all-rounder, but it can send MIDI over USB and also has a CV output.

Value for money:

There are cheaper synths out there, certainly, but these don't have the Theremini's unique 'playing method'.

Drawbacks:

The 32 presets can't be edited, and purists might baulk at the auto-correction features. The rest of us won't, though.

Recommended for:

If you're sick of playing your keyboard and looking for a different kind of electronic instrument, this could be it.

Read Moog Music Theremini review

BUY: Moog Music Theremini currently available from:
UK: Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music

NEXT: Novation MiniNova

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Novation MiniNova
Street price: around £299/$399

Highlights:

A portable and powerful instrument with a deep synthesizer engine. Sound selection is quick, and you you can get pretty involved with your sound design.

Versatility:

There are plenty of sounds for hard-edged electronic styles, but you won't find great acoustic/workhorse tones. What's more, the MiniNova is monotimbral, and editing can be fiddly if you don't do it in software. On the plus side there's a vocoder, and you can route external audio sources through this and the effects.

Value for money:

The MiniNova is certainly feature-packed and, at this price, its minor shortcomings can be forgiven.

Drawbacks:

The keyboard isn't the best to play, and the MiniNova can't be battery-powered.

Recommended for:

Producers of contemporary dance music (dubstep, house and techno in particular) who want a tweakable and affordable hardware synth.

Read the Novation MiniNova review

BUY: Novation MiniNova currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Woodbrass

NEXT: Korg microKorg XL+

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Korg microKorg XL+
Street price: around £339/$499

Highlights:

The most recent incarnation of Korg’s hugely popular virtual analogue synth/vocoder, updated with modern genre-specific presets (i.e dubstep). Its synth engine might be virtual analogue rather than the real McCoy, but it still sounds great.

Versatility:

The microKorgs score brilliantly on the flexibility front, coming packed with a mass of varied presets. With a bit of tweaking, it’s possible to get a huge range of sounds out of the synth engine. The vocoder adds another level of potential too.

Value for money:

The build quality of the microKorg XL+ isn’t quite up to some other synths around the same price point, and you don’t get the satisfaction of real analogue. You easily get what you pay for in terms of presets and versatility though.

Drawbacks:

It’s not analogue, unlike many of the synths in this round up. Specs aside, in all honesty, we preferred the look of the original microKorgs to these more recent incarnations, but that’s a matter of personal taste.

Recommended for:

Anyone looking for an extremely flexible and instantly usable hardware synth. The microKorg range has proved popular with bands and live performers too - possibly due to its ability to hold a lot of user-saved presets.

Read the microKorg XL+ review

BUY: microKorg XL+ currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
FR: Thomann | Star's Music

NEXT: Novation BassStation II

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Novation BassStation II
Street price: around £399/$499

Highlights:

A follow-up to 1993's BassStation, this new version is an analogue instrument that comes with two oscillators and a sub oscillator. It ups the ante by offering a revamped filter section and arpeggiator and sequencer engines.

Versatility:

This instrument might excel at producing bass tones, but the range of sounds it can create goes far beyond them. You get 64 presets and space to store 64 more, while you can integrate the BassStation II with your computer and other gear via the MIDI and USB ports.

Value for money:

The BassStation II is one of the more affordable of the new wave of analogue keyboard synths and, for the price, its feature set is impressive.

Drawbacks:

The three-digit LED display is of limited use when you're programming, but at least it encourages to rely on your ears.

Recommended for:

Anyone who wants a fun and rewarding analogue instrument that'll produce contemporary-sounding bass tones and plenty more besides.

Read Novation BassStation II review

BUY: Novation BassStation II currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

NEXT: Korg MS-20 mini

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Korg MS-20 mini
Street price: around £399/$549

Highlights:

A fairly faithful, compact recreation of Korg’s classic MS-20 analogue monosynth, which was discontinued in 1983. The mini adds a few contemporary features to the design of the original too, including MIDI in, MIDI via USB and stabilised oscillators .

Versatility:

The MS-20 is an impressively versatile synth, capable of everything from booming sub-basslines to warm analogue pads, 808-like kicks, screeching leads and more. The addition of MIDI opens-up the mini’s studio flexibility up too.

Value for money:

The MS-mini certainly offers a lot of sonic scope for the price. It'll look great in your studio too.

Drawbacks:

The reduced size means that making precise changes via the control panel can be a bit fiddly. The three-quarter sized keyboard can be a little tricky to play.

Recommended for:

Ideal for anyone looking for a flexible bit of analogue hardware with plenty of vintage charm to it.

Read the Korg MS-20 mini review

BUY: Korg MS-20 mini currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

NEXT: Arturia MiniBrute

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Arturia MiniBrute
Street price: around £399/$499

Highlights:

A single oscillator analogue synth with a 25-note keyboard, unique and versatile filter section and flexible arpeggiator. The MiniBrute features an impressive range of oscillator shaping capabilities too.

Versatility:

The MiniBrute is a fairly ‘classic’ style synth, so it's certainly best suited to recreating vintage sounds. It does feature an impressive array of CV interfacing options though, and it can connect to a computer via USB for deeper - albeit not limitless - editing of patches and performance setup.

Value for money:

The MiniBrute certainly punches above its weight at this price point; it packs some impressive sonic clout and is fairly adaptable and flexible.

Drawbacks:

Monophonic. Some deeper parameters can't be edited via the front panel and require the software editor.

Recommended for:

Anyone looking for a vintage-style synth (SH-101 fans in particular,) but one with a few 21st Century touches and plenty of sonic character of its own.

Read the Arturia MiniBrute review

BUY: Arturia MiniBrute currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

NEXT: Novation UltraNova

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Novation UltraNova
Street price: around £399/$599

Highlights:

This modernised version of Novation's SuperNova may be digital, but it's well-built, has an excellent aftertouch-capable keyboard and sports a deep and powerful synth engine.

Versatility:

Each of the three oscillators can access 70 waveforms, and there are modulation options aplenty. You can produce a wide range of sounds and, on a practical level, it's worth noting that the UltraNova also works as an audio interface and integrates superbly with your DAW.

Value for money:

Given its all-rounder status, the UltraNova is a very sensible buy, particularly if you don't own much other gear or plan on investing in much more in the future.

Drawbacks:

The UltraNova isn't multitimbral, and some of its patches are so heavily processed that you'd struggle to fit them into a mix.

Recommended for:

The synth fan who's more concerned with practically than genuine analogue sound.

Read the Novation UltraNova review

BUY: Novation UltraNova currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

NEXT: Moog Minitaur

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Moog Minitaur
Street price: around £399/$599

Highlights:

A modernised, compact revival of Moog’s thunderous ‘70s Taurus bass synth. The Minitaur features two shape-able oscillators, a classic Moog filter, LFO and envelope sections.

Versatility:

It’s very much focused on powerful bass sounds, but tweaks to the oscillators - compared to the original Taurus - add to the synth’s versatility. MIDI, CV and USB connectivity, along with audio through, make the Minitaur a useful thing to have around.

Value for money:

The Minitaur isn’t the most flexible of beasts, but for massive analogue bass sounds and a Moog filter at this price, you’re unlikely to hear many complaints.

Drawbacks:

A fairly straightforward bass synth.

Recommended for:

If you're after powerful, classic Moog bass you can’t go far wrong.

Read the Moog Minitaur review

BUY: Moog Minitaur currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

NEXT: Waldorf Pulse 2

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Waldorf Pulse 2
Street price: around £406/$750

Highlights:

The successor to the Pulse synth from the '90s, Pulse 2 sports three analogue oscillators and a filter that offers 24dB/12db lowpass and 12db highpass/bandpass modes. Other features include filter FM and ring modulation from oscillator 3, two overdrive circuits, and paraphonic and unison modes. There's also an arpeggiator and an 8-slot modulation matrix.

Versatility:

Pulse 2 is a real sonic chameleon and can be anything from clean and hi-fi through warm and sizzly to screaming and metallic. You can also plug other gear into the mono audio input and use its audio as an oscillator. Connectivity options include USB, MIDI In/Out and CV Out.

Value for money:

Pretty great, to be honest - Pulse 2 boasts a very impressive sound engine and some cracking features. It's quick to get to grips with, but you'll be exploring it for years.

Drawbacks:

There are no onboard effects, but that's about it.

Recommended for:

Anyone looking for an affordable, versatile and massive-sounding analogue synth. Pulse 2 punches above its weight and price.

Read Waldorf Pulse 2 review

BUY: Waldorf Pulse 2 currently available from:
UK: Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater
FR: Thomann

NEXT: Arturia MiniBrute SE

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Arturia MiniBrute SE
Street price: around £459/$549

Highlights:

Unsurprisingly, the MiniBrute SE has much in common with the standard MiniBrute, but it comes in a brushed aluminium case and has wooden end panels. There's also a sequencer - you can store up to six pattern sequences of up to 64 steps each.

Versatility:

It sounds great, there are plenty of connectivity options, and the sequencer is flexible and fun. Each of the main waveforms can be modulated extensively.

Value for money:

You don't get many analogue synths with at this price, particularly ones with full-size keys and built-in sequencers. The MiniBrute SE won't leave you feeling short-changed.

Drawbacks:

We'd like to have seen the standard MiniBrute's arpeggiator retained, though the front panel is already quite busy. The oscillators aren't detunable, and the wooden end panels aren't as plush as they look in the photos.

Recommended for:

Tweak-happy analogue synth fans who want the added benefit of a built-in sequencer.

Read Arturia MiniBrute SE review

BUY: Arturia MiniBrute SE currently available from:
UK: Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music | Woodbrass

NEXT: Roland System-1

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Roland System-1
Street price: around £479/$599

Highlights:

Part of Roland's Aira range, the analogue-modelling System-1 not only has a native synth built into it, but can also load Roland's Plug-Out instruments, two of which (the SH-101 and SH-2) have been released so far. It's compact, light and easy to program.

Versatility:

The aforementioned Plug-out technology is arguably the System-1's trump card, but the standard synth is pretty flexible, too.

Value for money:

You'll certainly find plenty of uses for the System-1, and the good news is that the SH-101 Plug-Out is free. You'll have to pay $145 for the SH-2, though, and it remains to be seen whether there'll be any more freebies in the future.

Drawbacks:

You only get a 25-note keyboard, and this doesn't support velocity-sensitivity or aftertouch. There's very little travel on the keys, too. We'd have liked to have seen dedicated pitch and mod wheels, and only eight user-writeable preset slots seems too few.

Recommended for:

People who value ease of use and expandability more than having a 'real' analogue synth. You'll have to get used to that keyboard, but there's plenty to like about the System-1's feature set.

Read Roland System-1 review

BUY: Roland System-1 currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA: Sweetwater | Full Compass
FR: Thomann | Michenaud | Star's Music

NEXT: Roland Gaia SH-01

21 of the best affordable hardware synthesizers in the world today
Roland Gaia SH-01
Street price: around £499/$599

Highlights:

It may be virtual rather than genuine analogue, but the Gaia SH-01 takes the 'dive in and tweak' philosophy of compact vintage synths and allies it to three comprehensive tone-generating engines.

Versatility:

You get plenty of tone-shaping options, with each synth engine sporting its own oscillator, filter, amplifier, envelope, and LFO. On top of the 64 supplied presets you've got space for 64 more, while there's also audio/MIDI interfacing over USB.

Value for money:

Given its digital engine you might wonder whether you'll get any more out of the Gaia than you would a decent soft synth, but its intuitive control system, decent build quality and eye-catching looks certainly add value.

Drawbacks:

Some of the presets are a little cheesy, and you can't ignore the fact that what a lot of people want from Roland isn't this but a new analogue classic.

Recommended for:

Musicians who want the feel of an analogue synth but the convenience of digital.

Read the Roland Gaia SH-01 review

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