15 Best Keyboard Synthesizer Picks [The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide]

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In recent decades, we’ve all gotten used to using software synths for the majority of our song-writing processes. I mean, it’s easy to see why that’s true, but hardware synths can still have a place in your home studio. All you have to do is find the best keyboard synthesizer for your writing style. Not only that, but finding the best synth keyboard for the specific genre of music you make is key.

With that, there is a long list of best synthesizer keyboards that can suit anyone. These awesome devices have been in production for a long time, and most of the top manufacturers still pump out powerful options that are more “modern” so to speak.

That’s exactly what we’ll be going over in this article. I’ve curated a list of my favorite synthesizer keyboards so that you can make a sound decision. On top of that, I’ve compiled a helpful buyer’s guide that goes over all of the factors to consider when looking at a synthesizer keyboard.

Just so you know, this list of best synthesizer keyboards is laid out in order based on price. Everyone has their own budget, and there’s a synth keyboard option to fit most price-ranges.

Quick Picks

Best Synth Keyboard Options Under $500

ImageProductScorePrice
TOP PICK
Korg Monologue
Korg Monologue

Synth Engine: Analog — Number of Keys: 25 — Type of Keys: Synth Action, Slim-keys — Polyphony: Monophonic — Oscillators: 2 x VCO (square, triangle, sawtooth), 1 x LFO — Effects Types: Analog Drive distortion — Sequencer: 16-step

9.5
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RUNNER-UP
Arturia MicroFreak
Arturia MicroFreak

Synth Engine: Wavetable Synthesis, Digital Oscillators, Digital with Analog Filter — Number of Keys: 25 — Type of Keys: Touch-sensitive Capacitive Keybed — Polyphony: Monophonic, Paraphonic mode (up to 4 voices) — Oscillators: 11 x Digital Oscillators (engine type, wave, timbre, shape)

9.4
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VALUE PICK
IK Multimedia UNO Synth
IK Multimedia UNO Synth

Synth Engine: Analog — Type of Keys: 27 x Keypads — Polyphony: Monophonic — Oscillators: 2 x Analog VCO — Effects Types: Sync Delay, Dive, Scoop, Vibrato, Wah, Tremolo — Sequencer: 16-step Sequencer, Real-time step recording with parameter recording

9.3
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WELL-ROUNDED
Novation Bass Station II
Novation Bass Station II

Synth Engine: Analog — Number of Keys: 25 — Type of Keys: Synth Action — Polyphony: Monophonic, Paraphonic Mode — Oscillators: 2 x DCO, 1 x Sub-oscillator — Effects Types: Distortion, Oscillator FM — Sequencer: 32-step

9.2
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VERSATILE
Arturia MiniBrute 2
Arturia MiniBrute 2

Synth Engine: Analog — Number of Keys: 25 — Type of Keys: Synth Action — Polyphony: Monophonic — Oscillators: 2 x VCO (Saw, Sine, Square, Triangle, Waveform mixing) — Effects Types: Brute Factor Drive, Sweep Effects — Sequencer: Monophonic, 8 step sequences, 64 steps each

9
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Best Synth Keyboard Options Under $1000

ImageProductScorePrice
TOP PICK
Roland JD-XI
Roland JD-XI

Synth Engine: Analog/Digital Crossover — Number of Keys: 37 — Polyphony: 128 Notes — Effects Types: Distortion, Fuzz, Compressor, Bit Crusher, Flanger, Phaser, Ring Mod, Slicer, Delay, Reverb, Vocoder, Auto Pitch, Auto Note — Sequencer: 4-track

9.6
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RUNNER-UP
Korg Wavestate
Korg Wavestate

Synth Engine: Digital Wave Sequencing 2.0 — Number of Keys: 37 — Type of Keys: Full Size — Polyphony: 64 Stereo Notes — Effects Types: 14 x Simultaneous FX: Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Wah, Delay, Tape Echo, Reverb, Ring Modulator, Guitar Amp, Compressor — Sequencer: Step Sequencer Lane, Step Pulse

9.5
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WELL-ROUNDED
Korg Minilogue XD
Korg Minilogue XD

Synth Engine: Hybrid — Number of Keys: 37 — Type of Keys: Slim-key — Polyphony: 4 Notes — Oscillators: 2 x Analog VCO (sawtooth, triangle, square), 1 x Digital (noise, vpm, user) — Effects Types: Chorus, Phaser, Flanger, Delay, Reverb, Ensemble — Sequencer: 16-step Polyphonic Sequencer, Motion Sequence, Realtime Recording

9.4
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THE CLASSIC
Behringer Odyssey
Behringer Odyssey

Synth Engine: Analog — Number of Keys: 37 — Type of Keys: Semi-weighted, Full size — Polyphony: Mono/Duophonic — Oscillators: 2 x Analog VCO ; square/pulse, sawtooth, pulse-width modulation — Effects Types: Klark Teknik Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Delay, Pitch Shifter — Sequencer: 32-step, 64 patterns

9.3
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ICONIC
Roland JUNO-DS 61
Roland JUNO-DS 61

Synth Engine: Updated Juno Engine, Juno-Di compatible, Digital — Number of Keys: 61 — Type of Keys: Synth Action — Polyphony: 128 Notes — Effects Types: 3 x Mulit-effects, 3 x Chorus, 5 x Reverbs, 8 x Mic Reverbs and Vocoder — Sequencer: 8-track

9.1
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Best Synth Keyboard Options Over $1000

ImageProductScorePrice
TOP PICK
Moog Grandmother
Moog Grandmother

Synth Engine: Analog — Number of Keys: 32 — Type of Keys: Fatar Keyboard, Velocity-sensitive — Polyphony: Monophonic — Oscillators: 2 x Analog VCO, White Noise Generator — Effects Types: Spring Reverb — Sequencer: 256 steps per sequence, store up to 3 sequences

9.8
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RUNNER-UP
Dave Smith Sequential Prophet X
Dave Smith Sequential Prophet X

Synth Engine: Sample plus Synthesis, Digital — Number of Keys: 61 — Type of Keys: Full Size, Semi-weighted — Polyphony: 8 Stereo, 16 Mono — Oscillators: 2 x Digital Oscillators per voice — Effects Types: Delay, Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Distortion, Modulation — Sequencer: 64-step polyphonic sequencer

9.7
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FEATURE-RICH
Roland SYSTEM-8
Roland SYSTEM-8

Synth Engine: 3 Variable Oscillators, Roland ACB sound engine, Digital — Number of Keys: 49 — Type of Keys: Synth Action — Polyphony: 8 Notes — Oscillators: 3 x VCO — Effects Types: Delay, Chorus, Flanger, Reverb, Overdrive, Phaser and more — Sequencer: 64 step sequencer, Step/Realtime recording

9.6
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UPGRADE PICK
Novation Summit
Novation Summit

Sound Engine: Hybrid, Subtractive, FM and Wavetable Synthesis — Number of Keys: 61 — Type of Keys: Semi-weighted — Aftertouch: Yes — Polyphony: 16 Notes — Oscillators: 3 x Digital New Oxford Oscillators (sine, triangle, sawtooth, square, pulse) —Effects Types: Analog Distortion, Reverb, Chorus, Delay

9.5
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WELL-ROUNDED
Arturia PolyBrute
Arturia PolyBrute

Synth Engine: Analog, 6-voice Polysynth with Digital Effects — Number of Keys: 61 — Type of Keys: Synth Action — Polyphony: 6-voice — Number of Presets: 384 Factory Presets, 768 Preset Slots — Oscillators: 2 x Analog VCO — Effects Types: Modulation, Delay, Reverb — Sequencer: 64-step Polyphonic Sequencer

9.3
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How To Choose A Synthesizer Keyboard – The Basics

First things first, you need to understand all the aspects of a hardware synth and the factors to consider before purchasing one. If you go into this decision blind, then you might be unhappy with the keyboard you choose. 

There are a boat-load of features and specifications that exist on synth keyboards, much like software synths. To make things more digestible, we’ll start out with the basics, then move on to the more complicated stuff.

Related: Ultimate Studio Equipment Essentials List

Analog Vs Digital

The first synthesizer was created by Bob Moog, who wasn’t even a musician! Since the inception of the synthesizer, the world of music production and sound engineering was forever changed. Virtually every song made in the past 50 years has a synth generating one or more of the core sounds.

Pretty much all of the early synthesizers utilized an analog signal type. Since then, digital signal types have been introduced. Synths like this are known as “crossover” keyboards. There are even some hybrid devices that give you the best of both analog and digital worlds.

In your case, the most important first step is deciding on a signal type. 

Analog synth keyboards generate sound via an electric current. They are considered to be somewhat archaic nowadays, but they’re the best way to get that rich, unique tone. Also, analog synth keyboards offer the most pure and organic sound quality, and many consider them to be the best “classic” option to go with. All in all, this depends on your personal preference and what sounds best for you and your style of music.

Digital keyboard synthesizers generate sound in the way you’d expect: digitally! These sounds are created and manipulated by a computer. These types of synth keyboards are the closest thing to an actual hardware version of the soft-synths you’re used to. The difference is that you can physically control all of your parameters onboard, and you still have a vast array of possibilities with the sounds you can create.

At the end of the day, choosing a signal type is completely up to you and what you like the most. If you want that classic analog tone then that’s the route to go. Alternatively, if you want a synth keyboard that has the same capabilities as a soft-synth, then go for a crossover device.

Related: Studio Computer Guide

Connectivity

Next, you need to make sure that your synthesizer keyboard is compatible with everything else in your studio. That comes down to it’s connectivity options.

It goes without saying that you should pick a keyboard synthesizer that can connect to your computer and will work with it’s operating system. Most synth keyboards nowadays are compatible with both Windows and Mac, but you should definitely double check this.

Also, if you want to connect your new synthesizer keyboard to other instruments or devices, then you’ll need to see if it has the right ports to achieve that. It’s pretty standard for a hardware synth to allow you to connect headphones and speakers to it. Outside of that, I’d suggest getting a synth that has at least USB, MIDI, footswitch/pedal ports, and the correct audio input/output (I/O) count for what you need..

If you want to save your own custom-made presets, then consider looking for a synth keyboard that has a SD card slot as well.

Related: What Is MIDI?

Related: Open-Back Vs. Closed Back Headphones Guide

Keybed & Action-Type

Again, this factor is pretty subjective. The amount of total keys on a synthesizer keyboard is referred to as the keybed. Now, the number of keys you need is entirely up to you. The most common keybed options on synths range anywhere from 25-keys to full-sized 88-key keyboards.

Choosing the best keyboard synthesizer keybed depends on how experienced you are at playing piano, how portable you want it to be, and what your intended uses are for it. If you plan on playing a lot of shows with your synth keyboard, then a 25 or 37-key option might be the right choice. These synthesizers are smaller, more lightweight, and easier to take on the road.

Alternatively, if you’re a veteran keyboardist and you only plan on using the synth keyboard in your studio, then it won’t hurt to go bigger.

As far as action-type goes, this boils down to what you’re comfortable with. Here are the most common key weights and action-types you’re sure to come across:

  • Weighted-Hammer Action – these keys very closely resemble the feeling of a mechanical piano. Veteran players will feel right at home playing on this type of keyboard. That being said, it’s pretty hard to find weighted-hammer action keys on a synthesizer keyboard or MIDI keyboard.
  • Semi-Weighted Action – for most players, this is the best route to go. These types of keys are very satisfying to play on while still making it easy for beginners to learn on. Semi-weighted keys are definitely the most universally user-friendly option to go with on a synth keyboard.
  • Synth Action – as the name suggests, these are the types of keys most commonly found on a keyboard synthesizer. These keys are spring-loaded and have a very “light” feel to them. Great for beginners and casual players, but experienced keyboardists might find synth-action keys to be uncomfortable.

Overall, both of these factors are 100% up to you. Think about your play-style and what you’re used to and make your decision from there.

Related: MIDI Keyboards Guide

How To Choose A Synthesizer Keyboard – The Synth Engine

Alright, so now that we’ve covered the basic factors to consider, it’s time to dive into the more technical aspects of a keyboard synthesizer. All of the following considerations will play a part in how the synth sounds, which ultimately will help you determine which one you should go for.

I know that it’s hard to imagine how a synthesizer keyboard sounds without having it in front of you, but by understanding the fundamentals of how one works, you can form an idea of how it sounds. 

How A Synth Keyboard Works

Okay, so let’s start at the beginning. In a nutshell, a synthesizer works by utilizing different methods of sound generation and synthesis. In any regard, a synthesizer produces sound by using an electrical signal, and that’s what sets them apart from mechanical pianos. 

There are a few main components to know about that are found on every synthesizer keyboard: 

  • An oscillator to produce the waveform and control its pitch. 
  • A filtering network for carving out frequencies.
  • An amplifier that controls the overall volume.
  • Lastly, modulation for further manipulation and creating effects.

Yes, it’s true that there are other components to certain synth keyboards, but that pretty much sums up the ones that are most commonly found.

Oscillators

Before we go any further, we need to understand how an oscillator works. An oscillator is the initial source of sound on a synthesizer keyboard. Think of oscillators as the strings on a mechanical keyboard, without them there would be no sound. 

An oscillator needs voltage from a power source in order to do it’s thing. It uses that voltage to oscillate electrons, and from there a waveform is created. A synth will let you select from a number of basic waveforms that it can produce. These are most commonly sine, triangle, sawtooth, and square waves.

Where the magic happens is when filter networks and more complicated waveforms are introduced. With a synthesizer system, the possibilities are literally endless in terms of the sounds you can create.

Some software synthesizers utilize digital emulates of oscillators to produce sound. There are other methods of sound generation found in modern synths and soft-synths, but we’ll get into that in the next section.

The Different Forms Of Synthesis

As I said earlier, there are a number of different forms of synthesis to be found among synth keyboards. Let’s go over them real quick:

  • Analog Synthesis – this is where it all started. Analog synthesis uses oscillators and low-amplifiers to produce sound. From there, the generated waveform can be manipulated via band-pass and high-pass filter networks. Analog synthesis is generally very resonant and features a lot of added color.
  • Digital Synthesis – I touched on this earlier, but digital synthesis is done via software on your computer. Soft-synths can use digital oscillators, wavetables, and even comb filters to produce sound. The capabilities of digital synthesis are extremely advanced nowadays, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
  • Hybrid Synthesis – as you can imagine, hybrid synthesis uses both analog and digital methods to produce and manipulate sounds. That means you can use oscillators, digital wavetables, and traditional analog filter networks in unison to further broaden your sound creation possibilities on a synth keyboard.
  • Physical Modeling Synthesis – this is an ultra-modern form of synthesis. It uses DSP chips to generate waveforms. This is carried out by a complex computing process that uses a set of equations, and algorithms to simulate a physical source of sound. Very technical stuff, but all you need to know is that synth keyboard options that use modeling synthesis are supremely powerful.

On top of that, synthesis can be performed in other layered forms such as subtractive, additive, and frequency modulation. Things can quickly become technical on this topic.

How does all of this factor into your decision? Well, again it’s up to you and what you want out of a keyboard synthesizer. Check out some sound samples of various synthesizers and see which sound strikes you the most.

Polyphonic Vs Monophonic

The polyphony of a particular synthesizer keyboard describes how many notes (or “voices”) it can play simultaneously. You’ll see two main types of polyphony: polyphonic and monophonic. There is also paraphonic out there as well.

An easy way to remember the difference between these two is by remembering that “mono” in monophonic means “one” or “single,” and “poly” in polyphonic means “many.”

With that, a monophonic keyboard synthesizer can only play one note at a time. Now, this type of synth keyboard is great for creating bass parts that can cut through a mix, or for making distinct leads. Monophonic synthesizer keyboards are generally favored among producers because of the rich sounds they can produce. They’re also great for using in live performances.

Conversely, polyphonic synth keyboards are capable of playing multiple notes simultaneously. The amount of voices can range from 4 to 256, but this varies depending on the synth engine. Polyphonic synth keyboards enable you to play chords and more ambient sounds. Having a synthesizer keyboard that supports poly is pretty essential in today’s music.

Paraphonic synth keyboards are a little bit of a mixture of both. The process here uses multiple oscillators to play multiple notes, but everything is ultimately routed through the same signal path. This is a good way to get a desirable semi-polyphonic sound out of your synth; kind of a best of both worlds option.

To be fair, most monophonic keyboard synthesizers nowadays should come equipped with poly support, so you shouldn’t be too torn on this one. Also, you have paraphonic options to choose from if you just can’t decide. That being said, there will be a mixture of all three of these variations in my list of favorite synth keyboards.

How To Choose A Synthesizer Keyboard – Other Factors

There are just a few other features and factors to consider when looking at synthesizer keyboards. Nothing earth-shattering here, but still important to take into account.

Controls

It goes without saying that you should choose a synth keyboard that has all the control options you need. I’m talking about ADSR envelope slider controls, LFO modulation controls, and whatever else you might need. 

Synthesizers have gotten even more complex and unique over the years as you’ll see in the list. So, just like everything else, make sure the synthesizer keyboard adequately suits your needs.

Effects

Oftentimes, synth keyboards come equipped with onboard effects. Usually, these are the basics like reverb, chorus, and some sort of distortion. Onboard effects can be found on either digital or analog synths, and they’re definitely great to have.

Sequencer

Definitely a must-have on a hardware keyboard synthesizer. Luckily, this is a feature that’s very commonly included. 

A step sequencer or track pattern sequencer is essential for writing, saving, and playing-back melodies on the fly. This is how you can loop tracks and manipulate parameters after writing. Not only does this help to take some load off of your DAW, but it really enables another level of creativity in your workflow.

Related: 9-Step Home Recording Studio Setup Guide

Related: Ableton Vs. FL Studio Guide


Best Keyboard Synthesizer Reviews List

So, that about covers it for now. Synthesizers are so immensely complex that you could write an entire book about the topic. For the sake of this article, everything we’ve talked about should put you in a good place to make a sound decision.

With that, let’s dive into the list of my favorite synthesizer keyboards. We’ll start out with the cheapest options then go up from there. Here’s my list of best synth keyboard options on the market today:

Best Synthesizer Keyboards Under $500 – Budget Options


Korg Monologue

TOP PICK
9.5/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer with Sequencer — Sound Engine: Analog — Number of Keys: 25 — Type of Keys: Synth Action, Slim-keys — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Polyphony: Monophonic — Number of Presets: 100 programs (80 factory, 20 user presets) — Oscillators: 2 x VCO (square, triangle, sawtooth), 1 x LFO — Effects Types: Analog Drive distortion — Sequencer: 16-step — Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/4" — Audio Outputs: 1 x 1/4" (audio out) — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" — USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out — Other I/O: 2 x 1/8" Sync in/out — Features: Micro Tuning, OLED oscilloscope screen — Power Source: 9V DC power supply (sold separately) / 6 x AA batteries — Height: 2.99" — Width: 13.78" — Depth: 10.87" — Weight: 3.7 lbs.

Reasons To Buy:

+ Classic mono sound quality

+ Easy to learn

+ Supports micro-tuning

Reasons To Avoid:

- The keys might be too slim for some

9.5out of 10

Features9.4
Build Quality9.5
Sound Quality9.6

First up on the budget synth keyboard list is a great all-around device from a well-known company in this field. Korg has been one of the leaders in electronic music gear for a long time, and this little keyboard synthesizer lives up to that standard. It’s called the Monologue.

This is a monophonic analog synth with 25 velocity sensitive keys. The huge plus side to this keyboard is it’s easy to use nature. It’s not overly complicated to learn for beginners and yet it has plenty to offer for intermediate or even experienced players.

So, this is a mono synth keyboard with no para or poly support. That being said, this synth has a very rich and powerful sound quality to it. It’s excellent for making deep bass lines or sharp leads. That sonic possibilities with the Monologue are still plentiful with it’s awesome wave-shaping VCO’s (Voltage Controlled Oscillators) and it’s integrated analog DRIVE effect. 

The Monologue keyboard synth from Korg does come with a 16-step sequencer, so no worries there. The only downside is that the keys are pretty slim, which might be uncomfortable to play on if you have bigger fingers.

All in all, this keyboard synth is a well-rounded option for beginners and veterans alike. Plus, you get a Korg synthesizer at a pretty fair price. Can’t beat that.


Arturia MicroFreak

RUNNER-UP
9.4/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keytouch Synthesizer — Sound Engine: Wavetable Synthesis, Digital Oscillators — Analog/Digital: Digital with Analog Filter — Number of Keys: 25 — Type of Keys: Touch-sensitive Capacitive Keybed — Aftertouch: Polyphonic Aftertouch — Other Controllers: Capacitive Touch Strip — Polyphony: Monophonic, Paraphonic mode (up to 4 voices) — Presets: 128 Factory, 64 User — Oscillators: 11 x Digital Oscillators (engine type, wave, timbre, shape) — LFO: 1 x LFO with Sync (sine, sawtooth, square, triangle, random, slew random) — Filter: Analog State Variable Filter, 12dB/octave, Lowpass, Bandpass, Highpass — Envelope Generator: 1 x ADSR, Cycling Envelope — Arpeggiator: Up, Order, Random, Pattern modes, Spice/Dice Gate randomizer — Sequencer: 64-step, 2 patterns per preset — Audio Outputs: 1 x 1/4" (master out) — Headphones: 1 x 1/8" — USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: 2 x 1/8" TRS Type B (In, Out) — Other I/O: CV out, Gate out, Pressure out, Clock in/out — Features: 5 x 7 Modulation Matrix — Power Source: 12V DC 1A power supply (included) — Height: 2.2" — Width: 12.5" — Depth: 9.2"

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Fun and satisfying to use

+ Innovative and unique

+ Very portable

Reasons To Avoid:

- The keyboard might not be to everyone's liking

9.4out of 10

Features9.6
Build Quality9.3
Sound Quality9.4

Next up we have a one-of-a-kind keyboard synthesizer from Arturia. Now, we all know about Arturia’s tendency to add an innovative twist to their devices, and the MicroFreak accomplishes that and more.

This is a 4-voice paraphonic synth keyboard with a digital signal. It comes with 25-capacitive keys. In other words, it’s a touch sensitive keyboard. While it’s true that the keys are pretty darn responsive, it might feel weird to some of you to play on them. Also, being touch-sensitive, you might run into some inconsistencies. 

The thing that stands out about this synth keyboard is it’s abundance of unique features. It has an arpeggiator, a 64-step sequencer, a digital oscillator with variable mode, and an analog state variable filter. Side note, the oscillator modes are definitely the most fun part about this keyboard synth. It also comes packed with 160 presets and 256 additional slots.

Honestly, this keyboard synth is hard to explain without you actually trying it out. It’s capable of generating awesome sounds that you’ve surely never heard before. One thing is for sure, the Arturia MicroFreak is a heck of a lot of fun to program and play around on. 


IK Multimedia UNO Synth

VALUE PICK
9.3/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Desktop Synthesizer and Sequencer — Analog/Digital: Analog — Type of Keys: 27 x Keypads — Polyphony: Monophonic — Presets: 100 Presets (20 factory non-writable, 80 user) — Oscillators: 2 x Analog VCO — Waveforms: Saw, Triangle, Pulse with Variable Pulse Width — Noise Generator: Yes — Envelope Generator: 2 x EG (filter, amplitude) — LFO: Saw, Square, Triangle, Sine, Random, Sample & Hold — Filter: 2-pole Resonant Multimode Filter — Effects Types: Sync Delay, Dive, Scoop, Vibrato, Wah, Tremolo — Arpeggiator: 10 Mode, 4-octave — Sequencer: 16-step Sequencer, Real-time step recording with parameter recording — Analog Inputs: 1 x 1/8" (audio in) — Analog Outputs: 1 x 1/8" (audio out) — MIDI I/O: 2 x 1/8" Type A (In, Out) — USB: 1 x Type Micro-B — Software: Editor/Librarian (Mac/PC) — Power Supply: USB bus powered / 4 x AA batteries — Height: 1.93" — Width: 10.1" — Depth: 8.9" — Weight: 0.88 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Great value

+ Good amount of presets that sound great

+ Cool features

Reasons To Avoid:

- Build quality is questionable

9.3out of 10

Features9.3
Build Quality9.2
Sound Quality9.5

Here we have a pretty straightforward synth keyboard from IK Multimedia. The UNO Synth is a no frills, effective little synthesizer that’s pretty much the definition of pick-up-and-play. 

The UNO is a monophonic analog synthesizer keyboard with 25 touch-sensitive “keys.” Although they’re not traditional keys, it’s still possible to play on them as if they were. It being a mono keyboard synth, you’re probably only going to be playing one note at a time anyway.

What makes this keyboard stand out is it’s great features and it’s library of high-quality presets. On top of that, it’s easily programmable and pretty simple to use. It’s a great intro keyboard synthesizer as well as a good little device to lay down some ideas quickly.

The downside to this keyboard is it’s build quality. The whole device is made of plastic and the controls feel a little cheap. To be fair, the UNO Synth shouldn’t see much use outside of your studio, so with a little TLC, you should be fine.


Novation Bass Station II

WELL-ROUNDED
9.2/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer — Analog/Digital: Analog — Number of Keys: 25 — Type of Keys: Synth Action — Aftertouch: Yes — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Polyphony: Monophonic, Paraphonic Mode — Number of Presets: 64 x Factory, 64 x User — Oscillators: 2 x DCO, 1 x Sub-oscillator — Waveforms: Sine, Triangle, Sawtooth, Square Pulse Width — LFO: 2 x LFO (triangle, sawtooth, square, s&h), Key Sync — Filter: 4-pole Lowpass Diode Ladder Filter, 2/4-pole Lowpass/Bandpass/Highpass Filter — Envelope Generator: 2 x EG (attack, decay, sustain, release) — Number of Effects: 2 — Effects Types: Distortion, Oscillator FM — Arpeggiator: Yes — Sequencer: 32-step — Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/4" TRS — Audio Outputs: 1 x 1/4" TRS — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" TRS — USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" TS (sustain) — Features: Aphex Twin AFX Mode — Software: Novation Components — OS Requirements - Mac: OS X 10.9 or later — OS Requirements - PC: Windows 8 or later — Power Source: 9V DC power supply (included), USB bus powered — Height: 2.5" — Width: 18" — Depth: 10.625"

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Great for creating synth bass sounds

+ Very portable

+ Powerful with plenty of control options

Reasons To Avoid:

- Lacking in terms of inputs and outputs

9.2out of 10

Features9.2
Build Quality9.1
Sound Quality9.4

At first glance, you might feel like you’ve been transported back in time with this keyboard synth. The Bass Station II by Novation is a very powerful mono-synth that’s designed specifically for making deep and complex bass sounds.

This synth keyboard features 25 synth-action keys that are a joy to play on. What sets this keyboard apart is it’s distortion effect and filters. It has one acid-type filter and another classic bass station filter, both of which are fantastically useful.

As I said before, the distortion effect on this synth keyboard is incredible. This in conjunction with those filters helps to create bass lines that cut through a mix with ease.

If you want to connect this synth to other analog devices, then you might be disappointed. There are no CV/Gate inputs and outputs present, but you do get MIDI I/O’s, USB connectivity, and a ¼” TS audio input, so it’s not all bad.

All in all, if you want a handy little mono-synth for making the majority of your basslines, then look no further than the Bass Station II keyboard.


Arturia MiniBrute 2

VERSATILE
9/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer with Sequencer — Analog/Digital: Analog — Number of Keys: 25 — Type of Keys: Synth Action — Aftertouch: Yes — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod wheel — Polyphony: Monophonic — Oscillators: 2 x VCO (Saw, Sine, Square, Triangle, Waveform mixing) — LFO: 2 x LFO with sync (Saw, Sine, Triangle, Square, Random, Slew Random) — Filter: 12dB per octave Steiner Parker filter — Effects Types: Brute Factor Drive, Sweep Effects — Arpeggiator: Yes — Sequencer: Monophonic, 8 step sequences, 64 steps each — Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/8" (external audio) — Audio Outputs: 1 x 1/4" (master) — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" — USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out — Other I/O: 48 x 1/8" Patchbay — Software: Arturia MIDI Control Center — OS Requirements - Mac: OS X 10.10 or later, 2GHz Processor or higher — OS Requirements - PC: Windows 8 or later, 2GHz Processor or higher — Power Source: 12V DC 2.5A power supply (included) — Height: 2.3" — Width: 19" — Depth: 13.2" — Weight: 10.6 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ 48-point CV patchbay

+ Integrated effects are quite unique

+ Great analog sound

Reasons To Avoid:

- Controls feel a little cramped

9out of 10

Features9
Build Quality8.9
Sound Quality9.2

Another synth keyboard from Arturia. This time we have the MiniBrute 2 which is a semi-modular synthesizer. With this style of synth, things start to get a little more complex, but Arturia has made things pretty user-friendly on the MiniBrute 2.

There are some key upgrades from its predecessor, most notably the 48-point CV patchbay. This is a feature that you won’t see very often, and it adds a level of versatility that’s unprecedented. With a high-level patchbay onboard, you can seamlessly create a multitude of sounds without having to patch everything and interrupt your workflow.

This is yet another monophonic analog synthesizer keyboard, so you can expect a wonderful, gritty sound from the MiniBrute 2. There are a good amount of control options as well, even though the design makes things feel a little too close together.

In any regard, the oscillators are powerful and you get a lot of modulation capabilities. The MiniBrute 2 is a very powerful keyboard that’s sure to be a useful companion in your home studio.


Best Synthesizer Keyboards Under $1000 – Mid-Range Options


Roland JD-XI

TOP PICK
9.6/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer with Sequencer — Sound Engine: Analog/Digital Crossover — Number of Keys: 37
Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Polyphony: 128 Notes — Number of Effects: 19 — Effects Types: Distortion, Fuzz, Compressor, Bit Crusher, Flanger, Phaser, Ring Mod, Slicer, Delay, Reverb, Vocoder, Auto Pitch, Auto Note — Sequencer: 4-track — Audio Inputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" — Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" — USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB — Height: 3.37" — Width: 22.68" — Depth: 9.68" — Weight: 4.85 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Extensive library of sounds

+ Analog & digital synth engine

+ Onboard gooseneck mic

Reasons To Avoid:

- Not as user-friendly as others on this list

9.6out of 10

Features9.6
Build Quality9.4
Sound Quality9.7

The first option on the mid-range synthesizer keyboard section is the JD-Xi from Roland. Now, we all know that Roland needs no introduction. They’ve been a major player in the electronic music gear industry since they played a part in pioneering MIDI. This keyboard is a great representation of their reputation.

This is a crossover synthesizer, meaning it has both analog and digital synth engine. It is also a polyphonic synth that features 37 velocity-sensitive keys. These are mini keys so beware of that if you have large fingers.

There are two things that make this keyboard stand out. First is it’s aesthetics. It’s sleek black and red design is pretty cool looking. Secondly, the bountiful library of digital sounds is awesome. Every sound is realistic, and with all of the available control options, you can really get creative with the JD-Xi.

Outside of that you also get an integrated 4-track sequencer, good effects, and a good amount of inputs and outputs on this keyboard synthesizer. Even though the library of sounds is great, the navigation menu is not very intuitive. Also, the analog synth engine feels a little confined.

All in all, there’s a lot of reasons to love the Roland JD Xi keyboard. Although it’s a bit more complicated to use than others, it still has a lot to offer for any producer.


Korg Wavestate

RUNNER-UP
9.5/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer with Sequencer — Sound Engine: Wave Sequencing 2.0 — Analog/Digital: Digital — Number of Keys: 37 — Type of Keys: Full Size — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod wheel, Vector X/Y Joystick — Polyphony: 64 Stereo Notes — Presets: 2GB PCM Sounds: 740 Programs, 240 Performances, 1000 Wave Sequences — LFO: 3 x LFO — Filter: Polysix, MS-20 Filters, 2-pole, 4-pole, Highpass, Lowpass, Bandpass, Multi Filter — Envelope Generator: 3 x Envelopes — Effects Types: 14 x Simultaneous FX: Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Wah, Delay, Tape Echo, Reverb, Ring Modulator, Guitar Amp, Compressor — Arpeggiator: 4 x Arpeggiators — Sequencer: Step Sequencer Lane, Step Pulse — Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (L/mono, R) — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" —USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (damper) — Power Source: 12V DC power supply (included) — Height: 3.66" — Width: 22.24" — Depth: 13.31" — Weight: 6.93 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Amazing wavetable synthesis

+ Interesting sonic capabilities

+ Loads of effects & modulation

Reasons To Avoid:

- Takes some time to get used to

9.5out of 10

Features9.5
Build Quality9.4
Sound Quality9.7

The one and only wavetable synthesizer on the list, and boy is it a good one. The Korg Wavestate really pushes the boundaries of what’s expected in a hardware synth keyboard. If this is the keyboard you decide to go for, then get ready to go down a rabbit-hole.

The Wavestate is a digital polyphonic synth at its core, but it uses wavetable synthesis for its sound generation. For a little context, wavetable synthesis has played a major role in the uprising of EDM music, and really all modern music since its inception in the 90’s. Since then, soft-synths and hardware keyboard synths like this one have taken things to a whole new level. 

With wavetable synthesis, you can really get lost in it’s sound-making capabilities. The Wavestate reinforces that by giving you a total of 14 effects, plenty of detailed modulation, a max of 64 stereo voices, and 37 velocity sensitive keys. I mean, I could go on and on here, but the point is that this keyboard synth is simply full to the brim with features.

All of this does come at a cost, and I’m not talking about money. The wavetable nature of this keyboard makes it a little hard to grasp at first. There is undoubtedly a learning curve to the Wavestate, but once you get going, you’ll be pumping out sounds like it’s nothing.


Korg Minilogue XD

WELL-ROUNDED
9.4/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer with Sequencer —Sound Engine: Analog sound generator + Multi digital sound generator — Analog/Digital: Hybrid — Number of Keys: 37 — Type of Keys: Slim-key — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: Joystick — Polyphony: 4 Notes — Presets: 500 Voices (200 factory, 300 user) — Oscillators: 2 x Analog VCO (sawtooth, triangle, square), 1 x Digital (noise, vpm, user) — LFO: 1 x LFO (sawtooth, triangle, square), BPM, Normal, 1-shot — Filter: Sharp Two-pole — Envelope Generator: 1 x AMP EG (ADSR), 1 x EG (attack, decay, EG int, target) — Effects Types: Chorus, Phaser, Flanger, Delay, Reverb, Ensemble — Arpeggiator: 4-voice with Latch mode — Sequencer: 16-step Polyphonic Sequencer, Motion Sequence, Realtime Recording — Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (L/Mono, R) — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" — USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB ÿ Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (damper) — Other I/O: 2 x CV in, Sync in, Sync out — Software: Minilogue Librarian Software — Power Source: 9V DC power supply (included) — Height: 3.35" — Width: 19.69" — Depth: 11.81" — Weight: 6.17 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Dual-CV inputs

+ Build-quality is top-notch

+ Powerful integrated sequencer

Reasons To Avoid:

- Limited filter network

9.4out of 10

Features9.3
Build Quality9.4
Sound Quality9.5

Yet another option from Korg. The Minilogue XD is a middle-brother to the Prologue 8 and the original Minilogue. The XD introduces a better sequencer and dual-CV inputs, setting it apart from it’s younger brother.

This is a keyboard synthesizer that defines the term “bang-for-your-buck.” It comes with a few of the key features found in it’s much more expensive older sibling, the Prologue 8, and still manages to fit a healthy amount of control options. 

The Korg Minilogue XD is a hybrid polyphonic synth keyboard that comes with 37 velocity-sensitive mini keys. It also sports a joystick, all the essential effects, MIDI I/O’s, and USB connectivity. 

This keyboard also comes loaded with even more features than that. The multi-engine effects can be customized, there’s scale and tuning options, and so much more. The one thing that’s sorely missing is a low cut/high pass filter and only one filter pole. Overall, the filter network is lacking.

Despite it’s one shortcoming, the Korg Minilogue XD is a very well-built keyboard that has no shortage of checkmarks in its favor.


Behringer Odyssey

THE CLASSIC
9.3/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer with Sequencer — Analog/Digital: Analog — Number of Keys: 37 — Type of Keys: Semi-weighted, Full size — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: 3 x Pressure-sensitive Buttons (pitch, modulation) — Polyphony: Mono/Duophonic — Oscillators: 2 x Analog VCO ; square/pulse, sawtooth, pulse-width modulation — LFO: 1 x LFO ; Sine/Square wave — Filter: 2-pole MKI, 4-pole MKII, 4-pole MKIII — Envelope Generator: 1 x ADSR, 1 x AR — Effects Types: Klark Teknik Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Delay, Pitch Shifter — Arpeggiator: 8 patterns — Sequencer: 32-step, 64 patterns — Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (external audio input) — Audio Outputs: 1 x XLR (high), 1 x 1/4" (low) — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" — USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (pedal), 1 x 1/4" (portamento footswitch) — Other I/O: CV in/out, Gate in/out, Trig in/out — Features: LED faders — Power Source: 9V DC 1300mA power supply (included)

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Awesome retro sound quality

+ All-metal chassis

+ Semi-weighted keys

Reasons To Avoid:

- Heavy and bulky

9.3out of 10

Features9.2
Build Quality9.5
Sound Quality9.3

Here we have a synth keyboard from Behringer that took much inspiration from the ARP Odyssey from the 1970’s. The value of this particular keyboard is unprecedented. It’s an extremely well-made synth that really transports you back in time.

This is a monophonic/duophonic analog synthesizer keyboard that boasts 37 semi-weighted keys. What’s unique about this synth is its lack of knobs. All of it’s modulation, filters, and effects are controlled by a sea of faders. This perfectly captures how the original ARP Odyssey was designed, and it’s a design that’s actually pretty intuitive.

You get all of the essentials in terms of effects and modulation on the Odyssey as well, and the filter network is very good. Probably the best part about this keyboard is it’s all-metal chassis, which is a huge step-up from the original. This thing is solid, and it’s sure to last you a long time. That design does make it quite heavy though.

If you want an affordable synth keyboard and you love that classic analog sound, then the Behringer Odyssey is a no-brainer.


Roland JUNO-DS 61

ICONIC
9.1/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer with Sequencer — Sound Engine: Updated Juno Engine, Juno-Di compatible — Analog/Digital: Digital — Number of Keys: 61 — Type of Keys: Synth Action — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: Pitchbend/Modulation Lever — Pads: 8 x Phrase Pads — Polyphony: 128 Notes — Presets: Over 1200 Patches, Over 30 Drum kits, Over 64 performances — Effects Types: 3 x Mulit-effects, 3 x Chorus, 5 x Reverbs, 8 x Mic Reverbs and Vocoder — Arpeggiator: Yes — Sequencer: 8-track — Audio Playback: WAV, AIFF, MP3 — Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (mic), 1 x 1/8" (aux) — Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (L/R) — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" — USB: 1 x USB Type A (stored trigger samples), 1 x USB Type B (Audio/MIDI) — MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (hold), 1 x 1/4" (control) — Expansion: 1 Wave Expansion slot — Power Source: DC 9V adapter, 8 x AA batteries — Height: 3.87" — Width: 39.68" — Depth: 11.81" — Weight: 11 lbs. 12 oz.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Over 1200 presets (both onboard and downloadable)

+ Extremely complex

+ Iconic sound quality

Reasons To Avoid:

- Not a lot of onboard control options

9.1out of 10

Features9.3
Build Quality9
Sound Quality9.1

The iconic JUNO line of keyboard synths from Roland have been making waves in the industry for quite some time. The JUNO-DS61 hasn’t changed much over the years, and it still blows the lid off of most other synths.

This is a digital polyphonic synth with 61 velocity-sensitive keys. It does come in a full-sized 88 key version if you want to go that route instead. So, the thing about the JUNO is it’s complexity. This is a fully-digital synth keyboard, and it really is the definition of versatile. You can create, manipulate, and modulate sounds with ease, and everything is intuitive.

The best part about this synthesizer keyboard is it’s insane amount of available presets. We’re talking about a library of presets that you’ve likely heard before in hit songs. As of right now, there are over 1200 presets available for the Roland JUNO both onboard and through download. Truly unlimited possibilities.

By design, the JUNO DS-61 doesn’t offer a lot of physical control options. Virtually everything is done digitally, which is both good and bad. If you want more of a physical touch to how you control parameters, then you won’t find that on this keyboard.

Overall, the Roland JUNO DS is a renowned keyboard synthesizer, and you’re sure to be impressed with its ability to create sounds.


Best Synthesizer Keyboards Over $1000 – Premium Options


Moog Grandmother

TOP PICK
9.8/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer with Sequencer — Analog/Digital: Analog — Number of Keys: 32 — Type of Keys: Fatar Keyboard, Velocity-sensitive — Other Controllers: Mod Wheel, Pitchbend Wheel, Variable Glide — Polyphony: Monophonic — Oscillators: 2 x Analog VCO, White Noise Generator — LFO: 1 x Analog LFO with Audio — Filter: 4-pole 24dB/octave Ladder filter , Variable Highpass Filter — Envelope Generator: 1 x ADSR — Effects Types: Spring Reverb — Arpeggiator: Yes — Sequencer: 256 steps per sequence, store up to 3 sequences — Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (instrument in), 1 x 1/8" (reverb in) — Audio Outputs: 1 x 1/4" (main/headphones), 1 x 1/8" (reverb out), 1 x 1/8" (eurorack out) — Headphones: Shared with main out — USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out/Thru/USB — Other I/O: Clock in, Clock out, Reset in, On/Off in, 41 x Patch Points — Power Source: 12V DC 2A power supply (included) — Height: 5.5" — Width: 23" — Depth: 14.25" — Weight: 16 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Amazing sound quality

+ Onboard analog spring reverb

+ 41 patch points

Reasons To Avoid:

- Definitely not for beginners

9.8out of 10

Features9.8
Build Quality9.7
Sound Quality9.9

It’d be pretty uncanny to have an article centered around synthesizer keyboards and not include an option from Moog. We’re talking about a company that’s a master of their craft, and that craft is making synthesizers. The Moog Grandmother is a perfect mixture of vintage and modern, while still sporting that classic Moog tone you’d expect.

This is a semi-modular analog mono synth keyboard with 32 velocity-sensitive Fatar keys. Needless to say, the keys are an absolute joy to play on and it’s semi-modular synth engine adds a lot of versatility with a color-coded panel to help make things easier.

There are a few key features that make this synth keyboard extra special. First and foremost, you get 41 onboard patch points, making for a seamless patchable workflow. Second, there is an integrated analog spring reverb. Yes guys, it’s a real spring reverb in this thing, and it’s awesome!

Outside of that, you get a number of great effects, all the necessary I/O and connectivity options  — like USB and MIDI — and a wonderful filter network. The one and only downside to this keyboard synthesizer is that it might be hard for inexperienced synth users to use. The semi-modular, patchable design certainly takes some time to get used to.

All in all, the Moog Grandmother is the epitome of premium when it comes to synthesizer keyboards. The amount of creativity that this thing can unleash is unmatched. Plus, you can’t beat that retro aesthetic and the tone to match.


Dave Smith Sequential Prophet X

RUNNER-UP
9.7/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer with Sequencer — Sound Engine: Sample plus Synthesis — Analog/Digital: Digital — Number of Keys: 61 — Type of Keys: Full Size, Semi-weighted — Aftertouch: Yes — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod wheel — Polyphony: 8 Stereo, 16 Mono — Number of Presets: 512 factory (4 banks of 128), 512 user — Oscillators: 2 x Digital Oscillators per voice — LFO: 4 x LFO per voice — Filter: 2 x Analog 4-pole Lowpass Filters, 1 x Digital Highpass Filter — Effects Types: Delay, Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Distortion, Modulation — Arpeggiator: Manual, Rise, Fall, Rise Fall, Random, Assign — Sequencer: 64-step polyphonic sequencer — Sampling: Sample Playback, 150GB factory installed 8Dio instruments — Storage: 50GB Internal — Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (main), 2 x 1/4" (output B) — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" — USB: 1 x Type A, 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out/Thru/USB — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (volume), 1 x 1/4" (sustain), 1 x 1/4" (sequencer), 1 x 1/4" (pedal/CV) — Power Source: Standard IEC AC connector — Height: 4.13" — Width: 38.44" — Depth: 13.53" — Weight: 24 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Build quality is excellent

+ Extremely powerful

+ Loads of connectivity

Reasons To Avoid:

- Pricey

9.7out of 10

Features9.9
Build Quality9.6
Sound Quality9.7

The Sequential Prophet X can be summed up in one word: powerful! This is a synth keyboard designed and built by the legend himself, Dave Smith, so you know it’s of the utmost quality. If you’re looking for a synth that you’ll never get tired of, then the Prophet X is the way to go.

This is an all-around hybrid synthesizer. That means that it has 2 digital oscillators, support for both monophonic and polyphonic polyphony, and it uses both analog and sample-based synthesis. Of all the synth keyboards in Dave Smith’s lineup, the Prophet X brings something entirely new and unique to the table.

The best part about this keyboard synthesizer is obviously it’s hybrid engine, the layout of it’s control options is intuitive and streamlined. It’s simply a fun synth to use and it’s 61 semi-weighted keys are very satisfying. The Prophet X’s exceptional build quality is noteworthy as well. 

You also get a plethora of onboard effects, a great library of sounds/presets, and an above-average amount of I/O’s. All of this does come with a hefty price-tag, but that’s pretty much expected. Seriously though, this is an immensely powerful synth, and it’s sure to be your favorite studio companion for a long, long time.


Roland SYSTEM-8

FEATURE-RICH
9.6/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer with Sequencer — Sound Engine: 3 Variable Oscillators, Roland ACB sound engine — Analog/Digital: Digital — Number of Keys: 49 — Type of Keys: Synth Action — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: Pitchbend/Modulation lever — Polyphony: 8 Notes — Number of Presets: 64 patches, 64 performance — Oscillators: 3 x VCO — Effects Types: Delay, Chorus, Flanger, Reverb, Overdrive, Phaser and more — Arpeggiator: Yes — Sequencer: 64 step sequencer, Step/Realtime recording — Storage: SD card slot — Audio Inputs: 2 x 1/4" — Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (main out) — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" — USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out — Pedal Inputs: 2 x 1/4" (hold, control) — Other I/O: Trigger in, Gate out, CV out — Expansion: Host and control additional Roland Plug-Out software synths — Power Source: AC Adapter included — Height: 4.3" — Width: 34.7" — Depth: 14.3" — Weight: 13 lbs. 1 oz.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Loaded with onboard controls

+ Very complex digital synth engine

+ Plug-Out versions of the Jupiter-8 and Juno-106

Reasons To Avoid:

- Some features are limited

9.6out of 10

Features9.3
Build Quality9.6
Sound Quality9.9

If you’re at all familiar with the System-1 by Roland, then this synth keyboard ought to catch your attention. The System-8 could be considered the older, and much more powerful older brother to the System-1. We all know how great Roland’s synth keyboards are, and the System-8 is pretty much the culmination of everything they’re capable of.

This is a digital/ACM modelling polyphonic synthesizer keyboard with 49 velocity-sensitive keys. The synth engine alone is something to write home about. It functions similarly to the JUNO DS series, but adds even more versatility with it’s modelling synthesis capabilities.

The number one feature with this keyboard is it’s 3 Plug-Out slots, two of which come preloaded with versions of Roland’s most classic synths: the Jupiter-8 and Juno-106. You can also load any other synth emulation of your choice into these slots as well. 

On top of that, the System-8 keyboard synthesizer comes stuffed with great effects, a vast array of control options, and a very attractive design. 

Despite being feature-rich, this keyboard does miss the mark in a few areas. For one, the arpeggiator doesn’t have swing or gate modes, and second, the sequencer doesn’t have a click track. To be fair, these shortcomings pale in comparison to its abundance of sonic capabilities.


Novation Summit

UPGRADE PICK
9.5/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Keyboard Synthesizer — Sound Engine: Subtractive, FM and Wavetable Synthesis — Analog/Digital: Hybrid — Number of Keys: 61 — Type of Keys: Semi-weighted — Aftertouch: Yes — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod wheel — Polyphony: 16 Notes — Oscillators: 3 x Digital New Oxford Oscillators (sine, triangle, sawtooth, square, pulse) — LFO: 2 x LFO — Filter: Analog State Variable OTA 12/24dB Slope Filter; Lowpass, Bandpass, Highpass, Dual Filter — Envelope Generator: Amp Envelope ADSR, Mod Envelope ADSR, Loop Switch — Effects Types: Analog Distortion, Reverb, Chorus, Delay — Arpeggiator: Yes — Audio Inputs: 2 x 1/4" (L/mono,R) — Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (main), 2 x 1/4" (aux) — Headphones: 1 x 1/4" — USB: 1 x Type B — MIDI I/O: In/Out/Thru/USB — Pedal Inputs: 2 x 1/4" (expression 1/2) — Other I/O: 1 x 1/8" (CV modulation in) — Software: Ableton Live Lite, Novation Sound Collective access — Power Source: Standard IEC AC cable — Height: 3.62" — Width: 39.31" — Depth: 11.95" — Weight: 23.4 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Comes with a lot of onboard effects

+ Great analog tone

+ Solid and durable

Reasons To Avoid:

- Once again, quite expensive

9.5out of 10

Features9.4
Build Quality9.5
Sound Quality9.6

Everyone knows how great the Novation Peak is, and the Summit is pretty much the keyboard version of it. So, Novation is a company best known for making Ableton-friendly MIDI keyboards, but they’ve been making huge waves with their line of various synths and synth keyboards. The Summit sits on the throne as their best in my eyes.

This is a digital polyphonic synth keyboard with 61 semi-weighted keys. As I mentioned earlier, the Summit is basically the Peak with keys. The major difference is that the Summit uses two Peak synth engines for sound generation, making it incredibly powerful. The two NCO’s (Numerically Controlled Oscillators) simply sound great.

The stand-out feature of the Novation Summit is it’s deep offerings in terms of effects. On top of that, the arpeggiator is really great. Everything is wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing case with a cool wood grain here and there.

This is a pretty costly device, but it’s built very well and you’re sure to see many years of use out of this keyboard synthesizer. The Novation Summit will one day be a classic, and it’ll deserve every bit of recognition it gets.


Shure SE846

TOP PICK
9.7/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Type: Wired — Fit Style: In-ear — Drivers: 4 — Noise Attenuation: 37dB, Passive Sound Isolating — Impedance: 9 ohms — Frequency Range: 15Hz-20kHz — Cable Length: 45" and 60" — Plug Type: 1/8" — Color: Clear

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Insanely precise

+ Incredible sound quality

+ Comfortable fit

Reasons To Avoid:

- Pricey

9.3out of 10

Features9.2
Build Quality9.1
Sound Quality9.6

Rounding out the list is a premium synth device from Arturia. The PolyBrute is the older brother to a very popular option, the MicroBrute. Arturia shells out high-quality devices no matter what, but the PolyBrute takes that standard to a whole new level.

This is a digitally-controlled analog synth with 6-voice polyphony. As far as the keybed, it’s 61-keys that are velocity-sensitive and feature aftertouch. 

By far the best part about this keyboard synthesizer is Morph mode, which allows you to blend and morph polyphonic sounds with each other in a unique way. With this feature, you can add a lot of character to your sounds, and it further enhances your creative process.

My only qualm with this keyboard is the fact that it’s only a 6-voice poly, which feels a little subpar. That being said, it’s multitimbral nature in conjunction with Morph mode kind of makes up for the lack of voices.

The PolyBrute comes with an onboard modulation matrix, which is a pretty rare feature. Overall, it’s easy to see why this is such an ultra-premium synth keyboard, and it has a lot to offer for every producer’s studio.

Conclusion

There you have it guys! That’s my list of the best keyboard synthesizer picks on the market today. We’ve covered a lot in this article, so I’ll keep this brief.

There’s no clear overall winner here. Each budget-level has their own “best” option, but every synthesizer is just as unique as the producer using them. Choosing a synth keyboard is one of the most subjective things in all of music gear. Everything depends on what sounds best to you, and what your intended use is for it.

In any regard, there’s a synthesizer keyboard for everyone. My only hope is that this article has provided you with some helpful information on your search. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out!

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Jeremy Bongiorno
I have been a musician and producer for over 15 years. My goal is to provide reliable, honest information and hopefully help to improve the quality of life in your studio.

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