Best Keyboard Synthesizer (2020)

If you’re a keyboard player who's serious about your music then you need to consider the creative possibilities that you can achieve with the right synth keyboard. If you’re a beginner who wants to move on from presets to create your own unique sound but doesn’t know where to look, luckily this handy guide is here to take you through some of the best options in synthesizer keyboards, so you can take a chance to try out a synthesizer keyboard whatever your budget or experience and create your sound the way you want it.

Best Keyboard Synthesizer

Top 5 Best Keyboard Synthesizers

OUR TOP PICK

Arturia MicroBrute Analog Synthesizer

Summary

First up this model, which is a well, micro version MiniBrute from Arturia but with newer features like a step sequencer and sub-oscillator. The new sub-oscillator delivers a classic sounding lead and a wider bass thanks to its ability to provide more harmonics. The new Mod Matrix feature also lets you patch from three modulation sources and Keyboard CV to six destinations on the actual panel.

Like the MiniBrute, it has a single voltage- control oscillator with three waveforms, and more modifiers so you can customize your sound. This small portable unit has a layout that’s easy to get to grips with thanks to its well-built knobs, sliders, and the overall durable construction of the unit. It’s a great option for beginners who will easily start to craft beats patterns thanks to the synthesizer.

Despite being a great option for beginners, more experienced users will also enjoy using this unit thanks to the Mod Matrix creating more sound molding options thanks to its ability to patch modulation sources within the synthesizer and to other external equipment.

Pros

  • Small and portable unit great for taking out on the road

  • Easy to get to grips with thanks to the overall construction of the unit

  • Great for beginners

  • Warm and gritty sound usual only found on vintage analog synthesizers

  • Mod Matrix makes this an enjoyable option for more experienced users

Cons

  • Cannot save patches

Arturia MicroBrute Analog Synthesizer
  • 100% Analog Audio Signal Path
  • Steiner-Parker Multimode Filter (LP, BP, HP)
  • Voltage Controlled Oscillator with new Overtone Sub-Osc, Oscillator Mixer (Sub, Sawtooth, Square, Triangle)
  • Ultrasaw generating shimmering sawtooth waveforms
  • MIDI Inwith 5-Pin DIN connector, USB MIDI In/Out, 1/4-Inch Audio Output and 1/8-Inch Headphone Output

EDITORS CHOICE

Korg Synthesizer, 25 Key (MONOLOGUEBK)

Summary

This analog synthesizer unit is packed full of features including a 16-step sequencer. It allows for a wide range of sounds despite being monophonic, thanks to the envelope generators and two Voltage Controlled Oscillators (VCOs) which control waveshaping, the 16-step sequencer, and the analog drive effect. A lot in one simple package.

This model will let you save up to 20 user presets and has 80 factory presets that come included in the synthesizer's digital brain. Weighing only 3.7 pounds this is a great option to take out on the road thanks to its compact size increasing portability. The 25 key slim keybed also contributes to this unit’s portability and compactness.

The keyboard also had increased velocity sensitivity. If you’re looking for something that you can take anywhere, maybe on gigs where access to a plug is an issue then this is a great option as it can run on batteries, without losing access to any of the features. Perfect for playing without power, like busking for example. This model also features micro, and autotuning, so you know that your performance will sound incredible wherever you are. The sequencer is a true deal clincher thanks to the versatility it brings to this option.


Pros

  • Compact and portable, this is a great option to take with you wherever you go

  • Let’s you save up to 20 users presets and includes 80 factory presets so you won’t get bored for quite some time

  • Can run on batteries for convenience

  • Features micro and auto-tuning perfect for all performances

  • Impressive sequencers resulting versatility

Cons

  • The power adapter is sold separately

Korg Synthesizer, 25 Key (MONOLOGUEBK)
  • VCF changed for 2-pole with more bite
  • DRIVE added for rich bass and cutting leads
  • LFO capabilities expanded with higher rates and deeper modulation
  • 16 step buttons for faster real-time step edits
  • Push button + turn knob for "parameter lock" style motion sequencing

BEST VALUE

Arturia MiniBrute 2 Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer

Summary

Another option from Arturia, this is a 25-key analog synthesizer with built-in sequencers and arpeggiator. The 2 oscillators at its core let you take control of waveshaping, waveform mixing, and modulation giving you immense control over your sound. The inclusion of 2 envelope filters and a 4-mode analog filter expands its sonic potential even further, making this one of the most powerful options on this list.

The 48-point CV patch makes it compatible with other modular synthesizers, really adding to the versatility of this unit. It also supports USB and MIDI connectivity meaning that you can connect with your computer for even more editing power to really be able to craft your sound. It also syncs easily with other compatible equipment again increasing your control.

You can also use this model with headphones which is great if you have to be aware of neighbors or housemates when you’re playing. A bit heavier than other models it’s not the most portable option, but if you’re looking to get into modular synths then this is a great place to start. The flexibility of this unit also makes it great for those with a bit more experience looking to have a bit of fun, though it probably won’t be your go-to synth.

Pros

  • An excellent option for a beginner looking to break into the complex world of modular synths

  • Headphone compatible making it a great option if you need to be aware of noise levels

  • USB and MIDI connectivity for more editing control

  • Built-in sequencer

  • A great option for crafting your sound B

Cons

  • Not particularly portable, but if you’re just starting out you probably want something a bit more solid than some of the other options

Sale
Arturia MiniBrute 2 Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer
  • 25-key Semi-modular Monophonic Analog Synthesizer
  • 48-point CV Mod Matrix
  • Sync Connectivity
  • with 2 Oscillats
  • 4-mode Filter

RUNNER UP

Korg Minilogue 4-Voice Polyphonic Analog Synth with Presets

Summary

This is a great synthesizer that’s incredibly user friendly, despite the number of controls. Combing 4-voice analog sound synthesis and programmable options if you’re a musician looking for sonic options then this is the pick for you. With 2-oscillators per voice, 2 VCOs featured in the analog circuits, this unit packs in the options so that you can really craft the sound you want.

The digital brain of the unit has 100 presets and 200 program memories. It’s the perfect option for beginners, and a lot of fun for those more experienced because it offers such a large range of features. While programming the 16-step sequencer with step programming and motion recording included is a little tricky, to begin with, a little patience will soon have you getting to grips with it.

The layout is easy to understand making it perfect for a novice just starting out. It is compatible with headphones for quiet playing and features USB and MIDI connectivity. It sounds great and is genuinely fun to use, and of course the more fun you have the more you’ll use it and the more your skills will grow. This is a very expressive unit and there’s almost nothing you can’t produce with it, so you’re sure to develop your sound into something that you’re truly happy with.


Pros

  • Fun and easy to use making this one of the best options for novices

  • Headphone Compatible with USB and MIDI connectivity

  • Durable thanks to the wooden and aluminum body

  • Beautiful high-quality analog sound

  • All parameters have easy know control, making it easy to sound synthesis to create an interesting tone in a wide range

Cons

  • Not as rich in tone due to the wide range of features but a beginner probably won’t notice much of a difference

Sale
Korg Minilogue 4-Voice Polyphonic Analog Synth with Presets
  • Flexible, powerful four-voice analog synthesizer. Power Consumption - 8 Watt
  • Fully programmable, with 200 program memories (100 sounds included)
  • Voice Mode lets you flexibly configure the four voices
  • Automatable 16-step polyphonic note and motion sequencer
  • Oscilloscope function shows the waveform visually

RUNNER UP

Korg MS20 Mini Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer (MS20MINI), MultiColored, M

Summary

This model is a compact and more portable reproduction of the MS-20 from the 70s. Despite being much smaller than its predecessor this option retains the vintage patchable design and sound but comes updated with more connectivity options and modern features.

Not everyone will love the sound on the characteristic sound of this model, but if you’re looking for something with an aggressive and dirty sound then this is a very good option. Thanks to the patch panel, this is a versatile option that will let you create a wide range of sounds, and will even let you work in paraphonic mode if you use some patching. If you’re a golden oldie or a vintage synth lover then you’ll be pleased to know that this model’s circuitry is copied from the original with some modern updates. The MIDI extension for example is a great new feature as it lets you tweak with both hands and sequence from a DAW. 

It’s worth noting that this model won’t save patches, but this means that the synth remains as analog as possible for that vintage sound. The fat sound is as authentic as possible to the original and this is a very fun option for professional and amateur alike. True novices may find this a bit much for them to handle as their first synth, but with a little guidance you may be able to get to grips with it and by starting at the top you’ll be able to use pretty much any other kind of synth.


Pros

  • A great option for an experienced player looking to take their synth playing to the next level

  • Modern updates for an authentic vintage sound

  • MIDI connectivity is excellent for those smaller tweaks

  • Solidly built and durable

  • Amazing fat classic sound

Cons 

  • This probably isn’t the best option for a novice just looking to get to grips with synths. If you do decide to go for it, be aware that you’ll need to put in the time and effort to get the hang of this option.

Sale
Korg MS20 Mini Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer (MS20MINI), MultiColored, M
  • Self-oscillating high-pass/low-pass filters with distinctive distortion
  • External signal processor (ESP)
  • Flexible patching system
  • USB MIDI plus 5-pin MIDI
  • Voltage control oscillator is the source of all sound for the MS-20 synthesizer

Best Keyboard Synthesizers Buying Guide


Before you buy a Keyboard Synthesizer it can be overwhelming thinking about the number of options available to you. Different synths have different features and sounds, and you want to pick the one that’s right for you, your music, and the sound you want to create. Hopefully, this guide has given you some idea about some of the options on the market, but you may still be feeling a bit confused about what direction to go in. Luckily, this section of the guide is here to take you through some of the things you need to consider before buying your synth so you can make sure you’ve chosen the best model for you!

Synth

One of the first things you need to think about is the Polyphony of the synth you're looking at, and whether it suits your needs. Polyphony means the number of voices or the number of notes you can play at ones. Monophonic synths can only play one note at a time, and many synth users tend to choose this option because of the pronounced, articulated and rich sound that these synths can produce when compared with synths that can play multiple notes or polyphonic synths. Monophonic synths are mostly used to create a fuller bass synth parts or full sounding lead that easily stand out in a mix. Polyphonic synths sound a bit thinner but can let you play chords and leads because they let you play multiple notes at once. You need to think about what sound you want to create and choose what sort of synth you want.

Portability

Another major factor is the portability of your keyboard synthesizer. After all, there is no point in picking something you don’t have the space to use, or something heavy that you can’t take on the road with you. The size you choose depends on where you plan to use your synth. Something small and compact with under 49 keys is a better option for someone looking to use their synth in live performance, or someone who has limited space. If your synth can run on batteries is something else to consider if your planning on going to someone else’s space to jam or practice.

How easy your synth is to control is another factor worth considering. While most synthesizers have different interfaces and controls, they all function in the same way with a basic signal path they all follow. It’s a much better option to choose something with a straightforward control layout that saves you looking through different menus or combining multiple buttons to do what you want. Some synths have more than one modulator and use a Mod Matrix, which is a grid which intuitively routes the modulation sources to their destinations, and this is another factor to consider before you make a decision.

Saving your work

If you want to write and save melodies or bass lines within your synth then- you probably want something with a built-in synthesizer, which will then save the melodies you write and loop them while you tweak other parameters. Some even have drum sequencers or percussion which will help you create beats, think about what you want to use your synth for, and what sounds you want to make before you make a choice.  

If you are a beginner than an analog monophonic synthesizer is the best entry-level option and is a better way to not break the bank when you’re just starting out. If you do decide to go in a polyphonic direction, then looking at digital options might be a better way to get the hang of your keyboard synth without spending more than you want.

FAQs

How much should I spend on my keyboard synth?

There are all sorts of price ranges for keyboard synths just like with everything. The best idea is to have a clue about what sort of thing you’re looking for so you can prioritize the features you need and look for the best options in your budget. Don’t be afraid to spend some time looking, it’s better to get it right the first time than being stuck with something that doesn’t do exactly what you want.

Can you learn to play the piano on a synth?

Absolutely! While you won’t feel the velocity or get a feel of weighted keys like a real piano, you can learn traditional styles like classical or jazz with a synth. If you fancy trying it out, why not give it a go?