2015 has already delivered a wealth of exciting new synth announcements, but why wait? Despite the resurgence of analogue synths, there are still plenty of amazing digital synths on the market. We run through ten of our favourites, picking something to suit every budget.
Analogue synths may have been the trendy option for the last couple of years, but digital synthesis still has a lot going for it. Whether 100% digital or a hybrid synth architecture with mainly digital elements and an analogue filter stage, one of the major benefits is that the lower production costs associated with digital hardware mean that digital synths are almost always cheaper than the closest analogue alternative.
Now that manufacturers are falling over each other to jump back on board the analogue bandwagon, it’s worth remembering why digital synths almost killed off analogue in the first place. Back in the early 80s, when the first major digital synths such as the Yamaha DX7 were released, they were cheaper, more reliable and more versatile than their analogue counterparts. Roland’s analogue, 6-voice Jupiter-6, for instance, was released in 1983 at a price of £2,250. The 16-voice DX7, released the same year, was just £1,500, and still managed to include features like velocity and aftertouch sensitivity, missing from the Jupiter.
Many of the weaknesses of early 80s analogue synths have been addressed on newer analogue models, but digital technology has also progressed hugely since the 80s and prices have simultaneously fallen. You generally get a lot for your money in the digital synth world (which also includes, of course, soft synths – we haven’t included them here as we’re focusing solely on hardware this time around).
There are lots of well-established options on the digital synth market, from the likes of the ever-popular MicroKorg and Novation Ultranova to Roland’s flagship Jupiter-80, but we want to focus on the newer options here and shine a light on a few of the less obvious choices along the way.
You generally get a lot for your money in the digital synth world
Most of the synths in this round-up hit the market in the last 18 months, proving that despite the huge interest in analogue technology there’s still plenty of innovation in the digital field.
As always in Ten Of The Best, the synths are presented in ascending order of price.
Ploytec is on the table behind the Bass Station 2… What do I win?
Is that it behind his monitor controller??? or ai or whatev
My next synth is definitly in that list!
i think it not good the MICROGRANNY 2.1 . is supper
als the The Critter & Guitari Bolsa Bass is dupper
more supper synth,s on http://www.errorinstruments.com
Was the Elektron Monomachine just too expensive to be included, or too old?
@Clay – I’d personally say that’s it too old to make the list, the Monomachine MK2 came out 5-ish years ago now. That said, I just bought a new one from Elektron and it’s probably my favourite digital synth EVER (though the Machinedrum is probably parallel to that as well, yeh I’m a fanboy)
We love the Monomachine but here we’re just focusing on more recent releases.
I highly recommend the Audiothingies P6, it sounds more ‘analogue’ than modern analogue synths I’ve used, I’d take it over a load of more expensive synths any day.
Strong filter with lovely sqidgy resonance, snappy envelopes and a good mod matrix, this is a very flexible instrument with a very wide sweet spot.
Here’s a demo I made recently showing a wide range of sounds, I’ll be posting another one soon as well: