Best synthesizers to buy in 2022: 17 of the best synths under $600
From DIY synths to vintage remakes, there are plenty of wicked wave-makers that sit in a reasonable price bracket.
Although software synths are outrageously powerful and affordable, getting hands-on with their hardware counterparts is often a more fluid and creative experience. This used to be an expensive affair – a Yamaha DX7 would set you back $1,995 upon its initial 1983 release. But music technology companies have been working hard to abolish the need to save thousands of dollars for a hardware synthesizer. Yamaha’s modern revival of the DX7, the dinky Reface DX, will cost you just $300. That sounds a lot less terrifying than the 1983 price tag, which, adjusted for inflation, is over $5,000 today.
Korg is a renowned affordable synth specialist. Behringer is recreating legendary synths with a legendary price. Roland has created compact, modern versions of its analogue classics. All these companies, and many more, understand that the modern producer can’t always afford to break the bank on a sweet new synth. To show you what we mean, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite hardware synths that sit below $600.
The best synthesizers under $600 at a glance:
- Novation Circuit Tracks
- Novation Bass Station II
- Behringer Odyssey
- Dreadbox Typhon
- Dreadbox Nymphes
- Korg Nu:Tekt NTS-1
- Behringer TD-3-MO
- Korg Minilogue
- Modal Electronics CRAFTsynth v2.0
- Modal Electronics COBALT5S 5-voice
- Roland JU-06A
- Arturia MicroFreak
- Roland/Studio Electronics SE-02
- Behringer Neutron
- Yamaha Reface DX
- IK Multimedia UNO synth
- Elektron Model: Cycles
Novation Circuit Tracks
The Circuit Tracks is Novation’s stunning take on a groovebox. Bundling drums, synth sounds, effects and sequencing all into one piece of kit, it’s a fantastic first piece of hardware for those looking to cover all bases for under $600. By adding two mono input sockets on the back of the unit, Novation has given users the freedom to route signals into the mixer and apply all the internal effects – delay, reverb, sidechain and master compressor. This means the much improved Cirucit Tracks is perfect for use with external MIDI gear.
In our review of Circuit Tracks, we said: “Novation helped revitalise the groovebox market with the original Circuit, and the Circuit Tracks feels every bit the mk2 model, with logical upgrades in a lot of areas, from the hardware spec itself to the refreshed feature set. For newcomers to the Circuit world, the Circuit Tracks represents an even more capable and efficient groovebox than the original. ”
- Grid of 32 pads
- 2 Synth tracks
- 128 factory patches
- 2 MIDI tracks
- 4 Drum tracks
- Onboard effects section
- Built-in rechargeable battery
- Price $349
Novation Bass Station II
The Novation Bass Station was a monophonic legend that, naturally, performed outstandingly on bass duties. The second iteration features an analogue signal path under digital control, with two primary oscillators, a sub-oscillator and three other sources: noise, ring mod and an external input. A 32-step sequencer and arpeggiator are onboard for patterns. You’ll also get 64 presets – unless you get the AFX Station. Aphex Twin’s remix of the monosynth comes with 128 new presets and seven new overlay banks made by Noyze Lab, Perplex On, Richard Devine, r beny and Lightbath, plus a sleek Aphex Twin aesthetic finish.
In our review, we said: “The Bass Station II does what it was designed to do exceptionally well. No big pads or digital textures, no polyphony, no chords, no ‘real’ sounds or emulations, just pure, ferocious actual proper analogue synth sounds. Just the sound of the circuit at its raw, dirty, animal-like best. Bass Station II is an exceptional synth. For $499 you could buy a couple of high-end synth plug-ins. Don’t. Buy this instead.”
- Analogue signal path, digitally controlled
- 70 patches, 58 user patches
- 32-step sequencer & arpeggiator
- 6 sound sources
- 25 keys
- Price $499
ARP’s 1970s duophonic space-age synth, the Odyssey, could be found in studios and live settings for early pioneers such as Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It was equally at home with the likes of ABBA and ELO, with a significant following from jazz legends, such as Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Behringer’s fully-analogue revival of the Odyssey comes with an onboard arpeggiator and sequencer, MIDI via MIDI I/O and USB, a multi-effects section and three filter types with overdrive.
In our review of Behringer’s Odyssey, we said: “It’s a full-blown hats-off homage to the ARP Odyssey and it delivers on many levels as a fully functional duophonic synthesizer, with a build quality which is very good indeed. Far better, in fact, than you would find on a vintage machine nowadays. Is it identical? Well, it’s very close, but there are a couple of minor points that just seem to make it not quite the same. Should this put you off? Absolutely not”.
- 37 keys
- Fully formed true analogue synthesizer
- Recreation of the original ARP Odyssey
- Onboard arpeggiator and sequencer
- Reverbs, delays & echoes, phasers & other modulation effects
- Duophonic capability
- MIDI available via conventional MIDI I/O or USB
- Price $549
In recent years, Dreadbox has introduced a slew of well-regarded music-making products, including modular building blocks, DIY boxes and modules, and portable effects, synthesizers and sequencers. Like the many-headed monster after which it’s named, the Typhon combines many facets into one powerful, noisy, fire-spitting unit – a monophonic analogue synth with digital control, sequencing and effects.
In our review, we said: “The Typhon is a fun, flexible and surprisingly powerful synthesizer. The core analogue sound engine is strong and the fact that much of the synth is controlled digitally means that thrilling new features can be added along the way. The Typhon might not live up to the cataclysmic might of its serpentine namesake quite yet but we’re confident that this monophonic synth will only grow in power”.
- Two analogue VCOs
- 4-pole low-pass analogue filter
- Two envelope generators (filter and amp), plus three modulators with four modes
- Three-stage stereo effects developed by Sinevibes
- 32-step sequencer
- 256 preset memories
- Price $449
Dreadbox’s Nymphes is a quirky synthesizer ideal for producers looking for something a little different. While its functions can be a fiddle at first, the analogue warmth it produces is a sufficient reward for your toils. For such an affordable price, you get MIDI control over every parameter, a lush sounding reverb and a weighty slab of complex sound design options.
In our review of Nymhpes, we said: “Nymphes offers multiple sonic personalities, with rasping basses, ethereal pads, spiky, wonky melodies, blunt sounds perfect for sequencing and a host of options for electronic percussion. Its sound is deep, broad and versatile but, just as significantly, it’s not awash with flashy gimmicks trying to impress you.”
- All analogue, six-voice structure
- Digital Reverb with a spring-like, unusual quality
- Multiple Play Modes
- Bus power and MIDI Connectivity over USB
- Separate MIDI breakout cable included
- Fully controllable via MIDI CC
- Map-able Velocity, Mod Wheel and Aftertouch routings per patch
- 49 presets and 49 user patches
- Price $599
Korg Nu:Tekt NTS-1
Ever wanted to build your own synth? Korg’s delightful little digital mini synth comes as a set of parts, with tools included for you to piece it together. It takes about 30 minutes to get it fully functional and you’ll feel pretty good when that oscillator starts working. The Nu:Tekt NTS-1 is also surprisingly powerful, with 16 oscillator types, five delay and reverb algorithms and a multi-mode filter.
“For £99, the Nu:Tekt NTS-1 is an absolute steal. Once you get into the effects, you can quickly make massive sounds from mundane beginnings, and this little beast has enough quirks to keep you entertained for a long time. Despite its miniature stature and similarly small price, this is a unit that packs a serious punch. It’s not without its issues but the joy and portability it brings should be enough to overcome them”.
- User expandable synthesiser
- Monophonic operation with up to 16 user oscillator types
- Multi-mode filter
- Five delay and reverb algorithms
- 3.5mm MIDI-in
- 3.5mm sync I/O
- Audio input for use as an effects unit
- Built-in arpeggiator
- Price $120
What do you think of when we say 303? Squelchy, distinctive acid basslines, old-school acid house, raves in fields, and of course the iconic smiley face, right? Well, Behringer knows this all too well and did a stellar job taking the risk of recreating the legendary Roland TB-303 with its TD-3 synth. Even more impressive is the release of the TD-3-MO, its take on the revered TB-303 Devilfish Mod by Robin Whittle.
Get iconic sounds at a staggeringly affordable price and have endless fun making music when you pick up the TD-3-MO. It packs in a deep sub-oscillator alongside its main square/sawtooth oscillator, an expanded filter range with FM and overdrive controls, and further patching points so you can connect more gear.
Our tip: hook this bad boy up with a BOSS pedal or a RAT pedal and get it sounding extremely sonically gloopy.
- Modded interpretation of iconic bass synth
- One oscillator with sawtooth/squarewave waveforms
- All-analog VCO, VCF, VCA signal path design
- 4-pole resonant filter
- 16-step sequencer with 7 tracks and 250 user pattern slots
- Programmable accents, slides, filter FM, sub-oscillator, overdrive, and real-time parameter manipulation
- Price $259
Find out more at behringer.com.
The sleek and minimal-looking Minilogue is Korg’s portable polyphonic synth with analogue architecture. With a recent firmware update to 2.0, there’s not been a better time to consider getting your hands on one. The synth boasts a 16-step polyphonic sequencer, plus a range of voice modes to change polyphony. The OLED display is a nice way to keep track of parameters and settings, too.
In our review, we said: “If you are in line for a versatile analogue synth, this is an excellent choice, particularly if you have other analogue gear, such as Eurorack or any of the Korg Volcas. I would have to say that the creative possibilities with a Volca Beats and Bass, and a Minilogue could keep you busy for hours, with plenty to explore.”
- 37 mini keys
- Four-voice polyphonic analogue synthesiser
- Full subtractive synthesis architecture
- Mono, Duo and Poly voice modes
- Arpeggiator and Polyphonic Sequencer
- Sync’able with other analogue devices
- Price $550
Modal Electronics CRAFTsynth v2.0
This crafty little synth comes courtesy of Modal Electronics, who is best known for its larger Argon8 and Cobalt8 synths. CRAFTsynth is a monophonic wavetable synth with an arpeggiator and effects engine for distortion and delay. The Modal app is a great way to go deeper with CRAFTsynth, giving you easy access to modulation and parameter tweaking. Not only is it extremely compact, but it is powered by USB or batteries for supreme portability.
In our review, we said: “The great thing about this synth is that it’s open to so many practical placements, by implication. It could be very usable standalone and in a live environment, allowing for triggering of sequences while the sync connections will keep itself in time with other similar devices. The app support makes this excellent within a DAW-based environment, allowing for control on the fly, which is always perfect when programming real-time movement.”
- Compact monophonic wavetable synthesiser
- Virtual analogue, digital and generative waves onboard
- Eight oscillator architecture, divided between two selectable waveform sources
- Morphable state-variable filter
- Built-in sequenced arpeggiator and effects
- Powered by 3xAA batteries or USB
- Class-compliant MIDI, via USB and MIDI I/O, as well as clock-sync options
- Full integration with desktop Mac/Windows and iOS/Android devices
- Price $159
Modal Electronics COBALT5S 5-voice
Don’t be put off by the simplistic look of Modal Electronics’ COBALT5S 5-Voice synthesizer – it packs one hell of a punch. The smaller and more portable sibling to the Cobalt8, this five-voice polysynth is a solid piece of kit for its inviting price tag, with 37 keys, eight oscillators per voice, and 40 sound-shaping algorithms on offer. These range from ring mod, waveform morphing, cross modulation, PWM and more.
Yes, the COBALT5S might not display 8-bit figures dancing on a screen, nor will it recreate the northern lights in its dazzling backlit pads, or attract the stoned hardware synth hipsters looking to make their studio look good, but it will deliver. This incredibly versatile synth offers its users an unlimited array of analogue sounds inspired by analogue icons. Create swooping, emotional pads, grungy bass sounds and loads more for a delicious price.
- 37 keys
- 2 LFOs with 7 shapes to choose from
- 8 mod slots & 4 extra fixed modulation routings with 11 selectable sources and 41 destinations
- 32-step arpeggiator
- Five-axis XYZ touch-sensitive pad for pitch bending, mod wheel and more
- 300 patches with 200n factory presets
- Comes with free Modal app
- Price $449
The Roland Juno synths are tremendously sought-after pieces of kit, with a plethora of software emulations developed in recent years. Roland’s caught on and made the classic Juno-106 and Juno-60 available in the form of the Boutique JU-06A, with a much smaller form factor and lower price tag. You’ll get many of the frills from the original synths here, including the legendary Juno Chorus modes and arpeggiator. This synth is ideal for anyone looking for a Juno replica with awesome tactility.
In our review, we said: “If you want a module which works well as an all-rounder but whose sound has lots of personality, you’ll find plenty to enjoy. Throw in its hybrid sonic engine, a capable, inspiring pattern sequencer, all the portability you could want (including battery power and an internal speaker) and the JU-06A has plenty to recommend it. It’s a great vibe machine too; when inspiration is low, it’ll get the juices flowing”.
- 4 voice polyphony
- Juno-60 and 160 ‘hybrid’ sound engines
- DCO, LFO, HPF, VCF, VCA and envelope stages
- Arpeggiator and pattern sequencer
- MIDI In/Out
- External clock input
- Headphone and line outputs
- Audio input
- Chorus and delay effects
- Price $399
Getting weird with Arturia’s erratic four-voice freak is a breeze, thanks to its versatile modulation matrix and 11 oscillator modes. The oscillator was created with some help from modular synth brand, Mutable Instruments, and sports subtractive-style waves, a wavetable, an FM-tone generator, among other awesome oscillator modes. This all feeds into a 12dB/2-pole state-variable analogue filter, which is a nice addition to the digital beast. MicroFreak V3 has been recently released, bringing more presets, more oscillator modes and more fun.
In our review, we said: “The MicroFreak represents very good value for money, providing basic synthesis possibilities alongside more complicated and highly inspiring digitised formats. Add this to the included analogue filter and comprehensive routing and modulation capabilities and you have a powerful synth in a highly compact form that is very appealing.”
- Versatile monophonic/paraphonic synthesizer
- Digital oscillator offers 11 voice modes
- Up to four voices available
- State-variable analogue filter
- Flexible modulation routing via the matrix
- Arpeggiator and sequencer onboard
- ADSR and cycling envelopes
- MIDI/USB connectivity
- Price $349
Roland Boutique SE-02
Another one of Roland’s Boutique synths to consider is the SE-02, which comes in collaboration with Studio Electronics. The analogue monosynth boasts three oscillators, plus a noise generator, feeding into a fixed 24dB/octave low-pass VCF with envelope and keyboard tracking options. Three cross-modulators take you into new sonic territories, wildly warping waveforms, along with an LFO for filter and oscillator modulations and a delay section. The SE-02’s 16-step sequencer makes it easy to create patterns, featuring a glide control for smooth transitions.
In our review, we said: “There’s a lovely sonorous depth to the SE-02’s sound, which will just sit beautifully in a mix, but it also has the capacity to shriek in various ways. The filter sounds terrific; add in the levels of distortion available through the Feedback control and X-Mod, and you’ve got yourself a very flexible device full of wondrous sonic capabilities. So much so, in fact, you’ll probably just want to get your hands dirty and create great sounds.”
- Monophonic analogue synthesiser
- Authentic discrete circuit design
- Knob-per-function interface
- Lots of modulation possibilities
- MIDI, USB and CV connectivity
- Audio over USB
- 128 user-memory locations/384 presets
- Onboard sequencer
- Price $449
The Behringer Neutron isn’t a reproduction of a classic synth. Can you believe it? Built from the ground up, this is Behringer’s totally original semi-modular synth that gives you more ways to contort your sound and is a brilliant way to introduce yourself to the world of modular synthesis.
This offers a punchy, raw sound as a basis with tons of options to shape it into something unique. With 56 patch points and two oscillators, Neutron stands up against many fully modular synths, giving you fistfuls of hardware to play with. If you love hardware and are either a recent or seasoned collector, the semi-modular synth offers hours of music-making pleasure.
Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the Proton, a step up from the Neutron which Behringer is bravely dubbing “the most powerful and complex semi-modular synth ever designed”. Behringer really is pulling out all the stops.
- 2 voltage-controlled oscillators
- Noise oscillator
- 56 Patch Points
- Lowpass/Highpass VCF
- Filter and Amp Envelopes
- CV I/O
- Delay & overdrive
- Price $329
Yamaha Reface DX
Yamaha’s DX7 is an FM synthesis pioneer, renowned for its ability to generate unique sounds and for its frustratingly complex programming interface. Four operators and 12 algorithms are featured in Yamaha’s DX reboot, the Reface DX. This is two operators less than the DX7, but a pair of effects processors still lets you create complex tones. A Phrase Looper lets you record up to 2,000 notes or 10 minutes worth of notes, and the screen will help you visualise your FM routing.
In our review, we said: “What it does well is bring easy, hands-on DX sound mangling one step closer to reality, albeit a cut-down four-operator version of FM. We love that it offers a great taste of the original and what you can do with the sounds, especially in such a short space of time, and this overall level of ease of use is something you would never once associate with the letters ‘DX’.”
- Eight voices of polyphony
- 37 keys
- Effects: Distortion, chorus, wah flanger, phaser, delay, reverb
- 4-operator FM sound engine
- Onboard multi-effects for adding depth to your sound
- 32 memory locations
- Phrase looper
- Price $299
IK Multimedia UNO synth
IK Multimedia’s UNO synth might be tiny, but the analogue monosynth packs 10 modes of arpeggiation, 100 presets, two oscillators, a multi-mode filter, two envelopes and an LFO. You’ll be making some big sounds with this unassuming beast. The 16-step sequencer offers realtime step recording and parameter recording, and six effects will let you get even more creative with your performance. The accompanying Synth Editor software for macOS and Windows expands on UNO’s 4×4 modulation matrix to access everything at the same time. You get a full virtual 88-note keyboard at the bottom, plus extensive preset management.
In our review, we said: “There is so much packed into UNO. It’s easy to use, easy to play, and easy to get a good sound and great sequences out of. For a couple of hundred quid, there’s not a lot to argue about. UNO is one of the bargains of the year.”
- Analogue mono synth
- 2 VCOs, Noise generator, 1 VCF, 1 VCA, 2 EG, 1 LFO
- VCF: 2-pole resonant multimode filter
- 100 Presets (20 factory non-writable, 80 user)
- 16-step sequencer with real-time and step recording and parameter recording
- 10 Mode Arpeggiator
- Delay, Dive, Scoop, Vibrato, Wah, Tremolo effects
- Price $229
Elektron Model: Cycles
Designed with an instant, hands-on approach to beatmaking, Elektron’s Model:Cycles’ parameters avoid complexity and confusion. It features six FM-based Machines: Tone, Chord, Kick, Snare, Metal and Perc. Each Machine is represented by a pressure and velocity-sensitive pad, meaning you can tap a pad to trigger a sound or press down on a pad to play the sound continuously. This range of instrumentation will have you playing percussive and melodic sounds to create full compositions with ease.
Below the six pads is a series of 16 smaller buttons, which can be played as keyboard notes, or used to set up a sequence of up to 64 steps. Five of the Machines are monophonic, but the Chord Machine features polyphony. Doubling as a groovebox and a synth, this will keep you tinkering for hours on end.
- FM synthesis
- Monophonic/polyphonic chord mode
- 16 playable buttons
- 6 Audio tracks (may also be used as MIDI tracks), 6 Velocity-sensitive pads & 6 FM-based Machine engines
- 96 projects & 96 patterns per project
- 1 Assignable LFO per track
- Price $329
Learn more here.
For more music technology gear guides, click here.
Get the latest news, reviews and tutorials to your inbox.Subscribe