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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.
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* SoundCloud only offers ad-based monetization with a 10-20% payout and all music is made available to non-paying users which generates very low earnings on a per-stream basis
** Digital distributors and record labels typically keep an estimated 47% of Spotify and Apple Music earnings leaving their artists with only about 23% and 24.5% respectively
*** Spotify forces artists to participate into a “Freemium” model where most users don’t pay for music which generates very low earnings on a per-stream basis and significantly dilutes overall earnings per stream