Here’s a run down of what we consider the best cheap synths. Most are under 300 euros. And we’ve chosen ones that we either own or have used, and consider them as great bang for buck in the studio.
The best cheap synths (under 400 euros):
Korg Volca Bass
Korg Volca FM
Behringer Model D
we’ll go into more details below….
PRICE: 133 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: Analogue acid for a ridiculously low price – rude not to!
MORE INFO: A 303 clone that is sooooo cheap! You cannot go wrong here, an analogue synth that is the price of a festival ticket. Instant acid mayhem. It has a step sequencer that can play other equipment and has built in distortion. Brilliant if you’re after that acid sound.
PRICE: 238 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: A very versatile synth, the step sequencer and motion sequencer set it aside from the competition. It has an impressive variety of sounds, but it is especially good with step sequenced music like acid and techno. It could easily be your only synth and is one of the best cheap synths we’ve found.
MORE INFO: The Monologue has the ability to motion sequence 4 parameters – i.e you can record yourself tweaking the filter and record the tweak, and then do this for 3 more knobs. Then then the tweaks are saved in the sequence. This can lead to some really interesting sequences. Great for acid-type techno sequences. Although, it is a actually a really versatile synth. It is really easy to program. And a great starter synth as it has a sequencer and keyboard built in, and with all it’s features may well be at the heart of your studio for a long time.
Cons – at this price point I have no complaints at all with this synth. Well it does not have midi thru and doesn’t come with a power cable either – try to get your dealer to throw one in!
Summary – you want a very good synth for techno sequences or dance music in general that will keep you interested for a long time – this is the best by far at this price range, and better than some synths that cost twice as much.
PRICE: 279 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: Fun and easy to patch so it is a great first synth. A tough and characterful mono synth, capable of big basslines and harsh leads.
MORE INFO: The Arturia MicroBrute is great for a first analogue synth as it is a simple and easy to use subtractive synth. Excellent and distinctive Steiner-Parker filter. It has a really clear layout, cheap and a huge sound. The modulation matrix with patch cables is a really nice touch too.
It as a crude sequencer, one that you record playing notes into – it is really simple but can be nice for those EBM-style bass sequences.
If you want a phat, simple analogue synth with a keyboard, this will keep you entertained for a long time.
Korg Volca Bass
PRICE: 132 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: A cheap as f*ck 3 Oscillator analogue monosynth with step sequencer built in.
MORE INFO: The Volca range pack some serious power given their price. I think they are a great way to get your hands on some hardware, learn synthesis, and more importantly – make some noise!
They are certainly good enough to use in finished tracks. But I would say that you will use them less than the MicroBrute or Monologue (mentioned elsewhere in this article) as each of the Volcas have a smaller sound palette. And for this reason you may get tired of them earlier. I would not let this put you off though as they are so cheap. You can always trade them second hand for a different one.
If you are on a very low budget, I would go out and get a Volca Bass. It does some nice step sequenced acid style / EBM bass sequences. It does not do a lot, but what it does, it does it well and they sound great. And given that you can find them going second hand for well under 100 euros, I would just get one – they are fun and you’ll be making sounds immediately. You can always get a second hand distortion pedal to go with it too, which makes it all the more fun.
Korg Volca FM
PRICE: 125 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: Out the box 1980s FM sounds for cheap a.f.!
MORE INFO: The Volca FM is like a mini DX7 (the iconic 1980s FM synth) but with a sequencer. I love it. you can import DX7 patches too. It has 3 voice polyphony, a 16 step sequencer, and is battery powered and portable.
Cons: it only has 3 voices (but what were you expecting at this price point?!). It has a small UI. Also it is worth mentioning that you can get a great free VST plugin (Dexed) for FM instead where you can see all the parameters on a screen (and it’s FREE).
Overall if you’re after a digital FM synth on a budget – this is excellent. I pair mine with a reverb pedal – you can get both second hand to keep the budget low.
Behringer Model D
PRICE: 269 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: 3 Osc Moog Model D clone with a really nice Moog-ish filter. A beast of a synth for the price!
MORE INFO: If you’re looking for a great go-to table top synth that does Moog sounds this is your best buy. It is a really nice mono synth. It does a lot of sounds, but it is not a diverse as the Neutron or Monologue also touched on in this article – it does the Moog sounds brilliantly though. It is patchable – so you can connect it with modular and it can be integrated with a euro rack setup later on.
Cons: it is a little bit cheap feeling, (what did you expect, it is REALLY cheap!)
PRICE: 266 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: Best of both worlds: a seriously creative digital synth with an analogue filter, plus loads of modulation options.
MORE INFO: It is an impressive digital synth for mental digital noises. It has a nice analogue SEM filter. And it has presets! Sooo many features including 12 different digital sound engines, a mod matrix, display, an arpeggiator, randomisation sequencer and a touch-strip for modulating sounds.
I would go to a store and try this one out to be honest it is such a individual synth – you may really love it, you may hate it. For me I think it is great for making a ton of weird sounds and noises. It is great fun to jam with and record.
If you want a synth to sit down with and put some headphones on and just make some crazy sounds, this is a really tweakable synth, you can make some amazing digital sounds on this beast. That’s how I would use it… tweaking it on it’s own and making mad sounds and making loads of presets. Then record it later.
Also Arturia update the firmware every now and again and you get new features and oscillator types, which keeps things fresh and keeps you interested.
PRICE: 288 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: A unique sounding analgoue semi modular, your gateway into modular.
MORE INFO: A desktop semi-modular with a lot of nice features. This one is not a clone like most other Behringer synths, but it does have a lot of features you would find on a classic analogue synths – the oscillators, envelopes, noise generator and LFO.
It’s got a pure analogue signal path, does pulse width modulation, overdrive circuit. It has envelopes, LFOs and patch points it is capable of an endless amount of patches. it has a built in delay and overdrive too. Plus a really nice patch bay to modulate the sounds so pairing it with a sequencer like the Korg SQ1 can work wonders. You can obviously interface it with other synths and modular equipment this way.
Cons: it look a bit ugly, but you can buy different front panels / overlays for it online from sites like https://graydonaudio.com/
SUMMARY: If you’re thinking of getting into euro rack modular but want something similar at affordable prices, I would get this and a sequencer to go with it. It is a very versatile synth, I never get bored of mine, I’m always coming up with new sounds from it.
PRICE: 399 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: Modern version of 2 classics.
MORE INFO: The Roland JU-06A is a combined clone of the Juno-60 and Juno-106 synths from the 1980s which were used a numerous house and techno records. This clone has an arpeggiator and 16-step sequencer, and chorus and delay effect. So it is an immediately useable synth and will be a welcome addition to your studio desktop if you want those classic Juno sounds.
PRICE: 155 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: Fun, cheap starter synth
MORE INFO: The Crave is a ridiculously cheap synth considering it has a built in step sequencer and patch points. It is a fun, cheap starter synth. The only thing I would mark it down for it that it only has one oscillator (I would like it to have a second oscillator and pay more for it to be honest).
So that is our rundown of the synths themselves. Hope you found it useful. This is a great time for budget synths.
Now I’ll round up my favourites, the 2 best per category…
What is a good beginner synthesizer?
Korg Volca Bass and the Behringer TD-3
For a beginner the best cheap synth is the Korg Volca Bass or the Behringer TD-3. Both are good bets – they both a really cheap, simple to use, and with the built in sequencers you can start being creative with them without a keyboard.
What Is The Best Cheap Synth ?
Korg Monologue and the Behringer Neutron
For me the Behringer Neutron is the best cheap synth. Also the Korg Monologue as a very close second. Both are well under 300 euros and pack a tonne of features. They are difficult to choose between – if you want an all-in one with sequencer and keyboard to be at the heart of your studio the Monologue is your synth, but if you are leaning towards analogue modular then the Neutron is for you.
The days of analogue synths being ridiculously overpriced are done – you can get some great second hand starter synths for about 100 euros, or a brand new desktop synth that can be the centre of your studio for well under 400 euros. My favourite is the Neutron, I love patching it.
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We’ve also done a rundown of the best free vsts that we use.
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