Would you like to learn how to play a synthesizer? These devices give you plenty of opportunities to create unique sounds. Additionally, there are many user-friendly models available. So if you want to maximize your creativity, you will need the best beginner’s synthesizer out there.
Numerous manufacturers offer synths for beginners, which is why we reviewed more than 30 products currently available. From those options, we selected the Korg Minilogue XD as our top suggestion. It is an analog synth that features 37 keys and provides a wide range of customization options. It also offers 500 programs that can be saved, including 200 preset options. Our team also gathered seven other popular products to help you make the right choice.
Top 8 Beginners’ Synthesizers Review 2020
On your quest to finding a suitable synthesizer, you should focus on analyzing various features. That includes the signal type, as well as the capability of producing polyphonic sounds. You shouldn’t underestimate the size and type of the keyboards, as well as sequencer and oscillators that can produce better sound quality and improve the range of editing options. Finally, the unit’s connectivity should be optimal, and it should be easy to connect it to speakers, PCs, and other devices. We’ve spent 60 hours analyzing these features in various products. During the research, we read user feedback, product descriptions, as well as professional reviews and expert opinions. Take a look at our comparison table for a quick overview of the products, or continue to detailed reviews right away. Don’t forget to check our detailed buying guide to learn more about synthesizers.
Korg Minilogue XD – Editor's Choice
- Signal: analog + digital
- Max polyphony: 4 voices
- Keyboard: 37 keys (Slim-key, velocity sensitive)
- Sequencer: 16-step polyphonic sequencer
- Oscillators: VPM (16 types, two-operator structure), custom
- Connectivity: headphone jack, output L/mono, R jacks, CV IN 1, CV IN 2, sync IN/OUT, MIDI IN/OUT, USB B jack, damper jack
More features: built-it effects, noise generator (4 voices), 32-bit floating point DSP processing, joystick, micro tuning
Korg is a famous brand in the music industry, and the Minilogue XD is close to being the best synthesizer for beginners out there. The product features a keyboard with 37 velocity-sensitive keys. While their slim design is attractive, it might be tricky to play with large hands.
The product uses both analog and digital sound generators. Moreover, it features a four-voice polyphony and 500 programs, including 200 presets. You can choose between four voice modes, including unison, poly, chord, and ARP/latch. The synthesizer allows you to adjust different parameters for each mode.
The 16-step polyphonic sequencer is very easy to use. You can use a motion sequence on four parameters, and the device allows you to customize sounds after making any patch. That ensures you have a wide range of sound options available. The display will ensure to provide feedback or any parameter adjustment, and the included joystick allows you to modify program parameters. The connectivity is also impressive, with MIDI in and out, USB, and other ports available. The synthesizer weighs 6.17 pounds, but the quality of components is impressive.
Overall, the product has a small learning curve, especially if you are a novice musician. The good thing is that you will enjoy exploring a variety of options and discovering new features every day.
- The product uses both analog and digital sound generators
- An incredible range of sound customization options
- The sequencer is user-friendly and easy to use
- The component quality is exceptional
- The keys are a bit slim, which might be an issue if you have bigger hands
- It comes with a small learning curve
Arturia MicroBrute – Best Value
- Signal: analog
- Max polyphony: monophonic
- Keyboard: 25 keys
- Sequencer: step sequencer
- Oscillators: voltage-controlled oscillator
- Connectivity: MIDI IN, USB MIDI IN/OUT, 1/4-inch audio output and 1/8-inch headphone output, CV
More features: Steiner-Parker Multimode Filter (LP, BP, HP), Mod Matrix, LFO with three waveforms
The Arturia MicroBrute comes with the word “micro” in its name for a reason. This keyboard synthesizer for beginners has a compact footprint and is very lightweight. That will make it easy to move around and practice playing wherever you are.
The synthesizer is monophonic, and the keyboard features 25 keys. Other important features include an integrated oscillator and a step sequencer. The sequencer is a nice addition, especially since it is easy and fun to use. However, the oscillator doesn’t feature a Sine Wave function or white noise, which you might see as minor flaws once you get more experienced in playing.
Once you start playing this synth, you will realize that it delivers an impressive sound quality. It features ample power and high harmonic possibilities.
You shouldn’t expect any learning curve with this product. The panel is easy to understand, you don’t have any complicated controls, and the user manual explains everything properly.
If you take a closer look at the quality of components, you will find that the unit is quite durable. The product delivers excellent value for the money, and the only downside is its base plate. It seems of poorer quality compared to other parts, and it might be prone to rust if not well-maintained.
- Impressive sound quality
- Almost no learning curve with this synth
- Excellent durability for the money
- An easy and fun to use sequencer
- The base plate is not of the same quality as other components
- No Sine Wave or white noise in the oscillator
Novation MiniNova Analog Modeling Synthesizer – Best Customization
- Signal: analog
- Max polyphony: 18 note polyphony (dynamic voicing)
- Keyboard: 37 keys (with velocity)
- Sequencer: step sequencer
- Oscillators: 3 per voice
- Connectivity: MIDI IN/OUT, USB port, sustain, headphones, output L/R, EXT IN
More features: 5 effects per voice, 256 built-in sounds with memory for 128 custom sounds, noise generator, editing software included
Novation didn’t hesitate to include a powerful engine in their MiniNova beginners’ synthesizer. Thanks to that, the product features incredible sound customization capabilities. You can use up to 18 voices and effects to come up with a sound that suits your needs. The device comes with 256 integrated sounds, and it has room to accommodate 128 more created by the user.
You can also adjust sounds in real-time, and Animate and Arpeggiator mode feature additional customization options. The product comes with 37 velocity-sensitive mini-sized keys, which make the instrument very compact. The only downside it has is that the lights can blink at a fast rate on the panel, which some users might find annoying.
The LED display is another feature that makes using MiniNova user-friendly. Although it is possible to edit everything by using only the synth, the manufacturer also included editing software. It is an intuitive editor that is easy to use and makes it great for beginners to see what they are doing at each moment.
The component quality is decent, and the product should last for a long time. The company also ensures to provide a two-year warranty on its products.
- Creates sounds with up to 18 voices and effects
- Plenty of room to store custom sounds
- Compact and sturdy construction
- Editing software is intuitive and easy to use
- Lights constantly blink at a fast rate, which might be annoying for some users
- Software is required to create patches
Korg Monologue – Best Portable Option
- Signal: analog
- Max polyphony: monophonic
- Keyboard: 25 keys (Slim-key, velocity sensitive)
- Sequencer: 16-step monophonic sequencer
- Oscillators: two oscillators
- Connectivity: headphones, output, Audio IN, Sync IN/OUT,MIDI IN/OUT, USB type B
More features: 80 presets, 20 custom programs, micro tuning, battery-powered for portability, oscilloscope, polishing cloth included
This product is perfect for maximizing the benefits of monophony. Thanks to the analog synthesis sound generation, you will enjoy the sounds created with this instrument. The Korg Monologue supports 100 sound memory programs, and 20 of them are available for saving custom sounds. All others are preset, and each program comes with micro-tuning. That feature allows you to create scales to your preferences, and enjoy designing the exact sound you wanted every time.
The Korg Monologue is a lightweight and compact-sized product, and its keyboard features 25 slim keys. The sequencer is a 16-step monophonic type, and you can also use 23 different panel controls to achieve desired settings. The manufacturer included multiple connectors to ensure that the synth is compatible with your other instruments and devices.
The product is extremely portable since it is light and small. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about electricity because it operates on six AA alkaline batteries. That means you can use it anywhere, but you still have to consider battery power. In case the batteries are drained, you can use the adapter as an alternative power source for the product. Additionally, the manufacturer offers multiple color choices to suit everyone’s preferences. Unfortunately, some musicians reported that the knobs were hard to read because of their black design.
- A 16-step sequencer is a neat addition
- Excellent portability due to compact size and battery power
- Easy to learn
- A high range of customization options available
- The product doesn’t support polyphony
- The knobs are hard to read
Roland JD-Xi – Best Analog/Digital Crossover
- Signal: analog/digital crossover
- Max polyphony: 129 voices
- Keyboard: 37 keys (with velocity)
- Sequencer: four-track pattern sequencer
- Oscillators: oscillator and sub-oscillator for analog synth tone
- Connectivity: headphones, output jacks, input jack, MIDI IN/OUT, USB port, MIC input jack
More features: built-in drum kits, Vocoder and AutoPitch, section with ready-to-play sounds and patterns, gooseneck mic included
As one of the most prestigious brands out there, Roland created the JD-Xi as their variation of a beginner’s synthesizer. The first thing that you note is the exceptional quality of components. All parts are very durable, and this instrument can serve you for a long time.
The product comes in black or white color combinations and features 37 velocity-sensitive keys. Although the keys are marked as mini, even people with large hands won’t have problems playing the synth.
The unique thing about the instrument is its analog/digital crossover sound engine. Thanks to that, you get the smooth characteristic of analog sound and versatility and clarity of digital engines. The pattern sequencer will help you to build loops with four tracks, including analog, two digital synths, and a single drum part.
The manufacturer also includes a variety of acoustic and electronic drum kits, and you can easily pick them by choosing suitable settings. The synth allows you to modify pitch, filter, pan, and envelope adjustments. You can also adjust sounds with effects like reverb and delay, and the company included a gooseneck mic for vocal effects like auto pitch and vocoder.
The only two downsides are related to the LCD screen. The screen refresh rate is not great, and the navigation could be better, especially since you can lose unsaved work if you press the wrong button.
- Analog/digital crossover engine maximizes versatility
- A very durable synthesizer that will last for a long time
- Black and white color variations
- The gooseneck mick allows you to add vocal effects
- The screen refresh rate is not admirable
- The navigation through the menus could be easier
Yamaha Reface DX – Best Multi-Touch Control
- Signal: digital
- Max polyphony: 8 voices
- Keyboard: 37 keys
- Sequencer: yes
- Oscillators: n/a, 4-operator FM Sound Engine
- Connectivity: headphones, MIDI IN.OUT, AUX IN, output (L/MONO, R), USB port, sustain
More features: battery-powered for portability, 32 memorable voices, built-in effects, continuously variable feedback on every operator, multi-touch controls
The Yamaha Reface DX is an FM synthesizer with modern control features. It has a small footprint, and you can easily fit it in a backpack. The instrument is also light, which makes it even more suitable for transportation.
The product features a four-operator sound engine and is a high-quality digital synthesizer for beginners. The continuously variable feedback is a convenient addition, as it increases the sound creation range. The unit comes with an integrated stereo speaker system, which can be convenient if you are away from home. However, if you can connect the headphones or alternative speakers, they will most likely produce a better sound.
The synth comes with 37 keys and two adjustable effect blocks. You can pick up to seven effect types, including the distortion, reverb, delay, and chorus. The unit comes with a sequencer, but it is not as good as in some other synthesizers. The maximum polyphony is set to eight voices, and the synth can remember up to 32 voices.
Apart from the power adapter, you can use the batteries that last up to five hours of non-stop playing. The interface supports multi-touch control, and it comes with a built-in phrase looper. Moreover, you are welcome to join Yamaha’s Soundmondo website, which is a free sound-sharing community where users can brag with what they created using this instrument.
- Light, small, and ideal for carrying around
- Multi-touch control interface
- Continuously variable feedback
- Memory for 32 voices
- The sequencer could be better
- Integrated speakers do not provide great sound quality
Roland TB-3 – Best for Bass Sound
- Signal: digital
- Max polyphony: monophonic
- Keyboard: pressure-sensitive touchpad with 13 notes
- Sequencer: 32 steps (64 user patterns)
- Oscillators: four-oscillator
- Connectivity: headphones, output jacks, MIDI IN/OUT, USB type B port
More features: 134 preset voices, 8 different Scatter variations and 10 levels of Scatter depth, tempo control with shuffle and tap tempo functions
The Roland TB-3 is a synthesizer, which is completely different from other products you might have seen on the market. It is interesting to note that it is based on the company’s analog TB-303 model, which was popular over three decades ago.
Unlike that unit, this bass synthesizer is completely digital. Furthermore, the company went a step forward and included a touchpad instead of a keyboard. It can sense the pressure that you apply with your fingers to affect the sounds it produces.
Although it uses a different approach, the synthesizer is easy to use and control. Apart from the touchpad, you have an LED display and control knobs to perform the desired adjustments. The product comes with 134 preset voices, but it lacks a feature of adding more sounds. However, you can choose multiple scatter variations and depths, and the supported adjustment makes this unit a great choice for dance music.
You can also use a sequencer that supports up to 32 steps. The indicator lights will assist during the pattern creation. It is interesting to note that some of the preset sounds include the original TB-303 replicas. The bass synthesizer weighs around a pound, and it is one of the smallest out there. That should make transporting the product easy.
- An excellent choice for dance music
- It contains genuine TB-303 emulations
- The touchpad is an innovative solution
- Easy to use and adjust
- Not for lovers of classic keyboards
- You can’t upload more sounds to it
Teenage Engineering PO-20 – Best Arcade Synth
- Signal: digital
- Max polyphony: monophonic
- Keyboard: 16 buttons with sounds and chords
- Sequencer: 16-step sequencer
- Oscillators: 1
- Connectivity: 3.5 mm jack IN/OUT
More features: drums, chords, arpeggiators, 8-bit noises, FX, highly portable, runs on batteries (2 x AAA)
Teenage Engineering created a unique and innovative product, but we won’t beat around the bush. You should know that this is not for those users who are serious about music production. Instead, it is a fun device for beginners and those that you want to attract to the world of playing a synthesizer.
The arcade synth features a keyboard with 16 sounds that produce various chords and notes. The device replicates many sounds that you might find in a vintage arcade. However, it also utilizes a 16-step sequencer that gives you great creating power. You can even compose the entire song using this unit.
The integrated speaker can play the sounds for you, and their quality is impressive for that price. That is especially true because this is primarily a toy for artistic and intelligent children and teens.
The product works on two batteries, and it has long battery life. It can function as a standalone item, but you can also connect speakers. It is also easy to connect the product to your PC or other devices, but there is no MIDI. The manufacturer advertises the product as pocket synth, and that is understandable. The item is easy to fit in your pocket and carry around, which makes it suitable to use on the go. The instructions are a bit unclear, but you should enjoy the process of learning how the unit works.
- The integrated speaker delivers surprisingly good sound quality
- Very fun for beginners
- Easy to connect to other devices
- Pocket-sized instrument
- The instructions are a bit unclear
- No MIDI inputs or outputs
- Not for serious music creators
How do you choose a basic synthesizer for beginners? We firmly believe that you should start by learning more about these instruments. You will be surprised by how versatile they are. As long as you pick wisely, you can add incredible effects and create almost any sound you want. Our buying guide focuses on teaching you more about the major features of synthesizers. We also discuss current prices on the market, and whether buying a synth is a big hit on your budget. Our team also tried to gather the most interesting questions and answer them so that you don’t have any dilemmas about these products.
How to pick the best synthesizer for beginners
Are you ready to discover which factors are crucial in choosing a synthesizer for beginners? The experts suggest the most important thing is signal type, but you also need to think about keyboard specifics. Some users might appreciate multi-touch controls and the ability to play multiple notes at a time. However, the crucial thing about synths for beginners is that they are user-friendly and easy to use. Integrated oscillators and sequencers can improve sound quality and allow you additional options when creating sounds. We selected the main features that beginners should consider and listed them below.
Analog vs. digital
The first feature we are going to discuss is the signal type. You can choose between analog and digital signals, and that ultimately comes down to your preference.
Old-school artists will always go with analog synths. That is because they believe they are “more natural” because they utilize analog circuitry and signals to produce sounds. Since you are reading a guide about synthesizers for beginners, we would recommend analog synths because they are user-friendly and easier to learn.
Thanks to technological progress, sound quality from a digital synth can be almost as good as in analog units. Additionally, digital synthesizers can reproduce sounds of other instruments, such as violins, pianos, guitars, and drums effortlessly.
You can even find units that offer an analog/digital crossover. An example is the Roland JD-Xi, which includes both engine types to produce unmatchable sound quality.
Monophonic vs. polyphonic
Here is a quick overview of what we are comparing so that you can have a basic grasp of the terms:
- Monophony – these synths are only capable of playing a single note at a time.
- Polyphony – these synthesizers can play multiple notes simultaneously, which makes them more complex.
It’s not difficult to explain how you should choose. If you are an entry-level player, a monophonic synth can be a great way to learn. It will allow you to focus on turning the knobs and making the desired adjustments.
However, monophonic synthesizers are a bit limiting. Once you are experienced enough, you will appreciate the versatility of polyphonic synths. For example, the Novation MiniNova is capable of delivering an 18-note polyphony, which gives you plenty of freedom to create and edit sounds.
The next factor to consider when choosing the basic synthesizer for beginners is the keyboard. These are the most common keyboard types:
- Standard – these keyboards feature full-sized keys, and are a necessity if you have large hands.
- Mini – mini-sized keys are considerably smaller than the standard variation. While these can reduce the overall size and weight of the synthesizer, it is important you feel comfortable playing them. That means you should be able to press the right button easily every time.
- Touchpad – these keyboards use a unique pressure-sensitive touchscreen. Although more experienced artists use them rarely, they might be suitable for the learning process.
You should also consider the number of keys on the keyboard. Models with touchpads, like the Roland TB-3, might come with less than 15 buttons, but the usual number of keys is from 25 to 37. The bigger the number of keys, the more customization options you will have, but the learning curve might also be a bit more complicated.
Controlling a synthesizer effortlessly is crucial for a learner. Here is how the controls usually work – apart from the keyboard, you use buttons and knobs above it to perform different adjustments, and add desired effects to your sounds. It is worth noting that some units, such as the Yamaha Reface DX, come with a multi-touch control interface to give you higher freedom in doing what you want.
The variety of effects and filters depend on the unit, but the important thing is that you can use all commands easily. First of all, the manufacturer should provide an instruction manual. But even without it, it should all be easy to understand. Each button or know will come with the specified adjustment written below or above it.
An LCD screen can help you to confirm and keep track of the actions performed. Some units might also have indicator lights to help you know which adjustments are active.
An integrated sequencer can be an important feature for any learner. That is because these devices allow you to put the notes in a particular arrangement and get them ready for playback. A sequencer can help you until you master keyboard abilities and using the synthesizer.
If you have a polyphony synth, you can combine playing live with the sequence you played from the device’s memory. However, this is not possible with monophonic units because they can’t play multiple notes simultaneously.
As your skills are improving, you might consider a standalone sequencer. That can be a helpful addition to your setup, but for now, stick to ensuring that you have this feature integrated with your synth. It will make the entire playing experience more manageable and help you to become comfortable playing your device quickly.
An oscillator is a feature that creates simple electrical waves, such as triangle, saw, sine, or square. These waves go into speakers and come out as sounds.
Analog synthesizers utilize VCOs (voltage-controlled oscillators). Their task is to process the signal and control the frequency by the applied input voltage. You might also encounter a low-frequency oscillator or LFO. That can be a convenient feature because it can deliver frequencies under 20Hz, which can be convenient to modulate VCOs and other components included in the sync.
As for digital synthesizers, they use digital oscillators and signal processing. These oscillators process the classic analog waveforms into streams of 0’s and 1’s. A high-quality digital oscillator is important for these synthesizers since its sound quality can get quite near to original analog signals. The advantage of digital oscillators is that they tend to be more durable then VCOs.
Effects and filters
When it comes to effects, these are the most common ones in synthesizers for beginners:
- Delay – it records a particular sound and plays it after a specified period.
- Reverb – reverberation is the existence of a sound after the sound is produced, which is usually caused by reflection.
- Chorus – it occurs when converging multiple sounds of similar pitches into a single sound.
Apart from the effects, you can also use filters to let only specific frequencies pass. The most common ones include low and high pass filters, which filter out low or high frequencies, and bandpasses that can eliminate frequencies in the specified range.
When creating and editing sounds, you can also use preset voices and sounds included by the manufacturer. The device can also allow you to record the sounds you created and use them later. For example, the Korg Minilogue XD offers a wide variety of sound customization options and has 500 programs with 200 presets.
The majority of synthesizers offer multiple ports for connecting the instrument to other devices. Here is the list of the most common ports found in synths:
- Headphones – these can be important when you don’t want to disturb other members of your household. Additionally, headphones might assist in keeping your focus by eliminating any noise in the background.
- External speakers – although some synths come with integrated speakers, these are often of poor quality. That is why you can use jacks to connect your external speakers to enable improved sound reproduction.
- Computers – USB connectors and other ports might allow you to connect your synth to the PC or other devices. Thanks to that, you might be able to use editing software or share your sounds online.
- MIDI – allows you to connect your synthesizer to other instruments. This provides an exceptional versatility of the instruments.
It is time to discuss the cost of synthesizers for beginners. You can get a synth for under $100, but the chances are it won’t be a serious device for playing, but one that allows you to have fun, such as the Teenage Engineering PO-20.
If you want to work on your skills of creating and editing sounds, you will need to invest from $200 to $400 in a synthesizer. The good news is that these devices should last for a long time, and a single unit might be enough to push through the newbie status. The features you receive will depend on the product. For example, the Arturia MicroBrute is a true bargain deal, but if you are looking for an analog/digital crossover, you might go with the Roland JD-Xi instead.
Those in pursuit of premium synthesizers should be ready to invest anywhere from $400 to $700. The Korg Minilogue XD stands out from the competition in that category. It offers excellent durability and provides impressive sound quality, and it is also suitable for learners.
A hardware synthesizer is one that you can physically touch, and play on it by pressing keys and adjusting knobs. Apart from that, you also have software synths. These are programs designed for computers, and they replicate analog synthesizers. You use a MIDI controller to perform the desired adjustments. The problem with software synths is that they are digital models. And although they are getting better, they still can’t deliver the accuracy and sound quality of physical units. Additionally, it is critical for the learning process to turn the knobs or press buttons to perform adjustments. Experts argue it is a better way of learning, and it speeds up the entire process.
You might think that buying a used synth is a wise idea, but we urge you to think again. The risks that come with purchasing a used synthesizer are too big to justify the investment. The very fact that someone already used the product means that the keys are not as solid as before. And even a single key not working properly might annoy you, and affect your playing experience. Additionally, a used synth usually has a short lifespan. You might only get several months of play before you can throw it away.
That depends on your point of view because both features can be important. Having a large number of effects seems better because you get additional options for sound customization. That allows you to experiment with creating and editing different sounds and express your creativity. Ultimately, additional effects also mean more fun when playing, which can be critical for beginners to keep their interest in synthesizers. However, if you want to focus on training your ear, we would suggest prioritizing sound quality. High-quality synths with analog sound engines might be the best choice, and training your ear is important if you plan to perform in a band or become a professional musician.
If you are still unsure about a suitable synth, let us remind you that you can’t go wrong with the Korg Minilogue XD. The impressive sound quality, a keyboard with 37 keys, and 500 programs should be enough to provide all the editing capabilities you need. You can also pick between four voice modes, and the sequencer is easy to use, too.
The Arturia MicroBrute can be a great alternative if you are looking for affordable deals. The unit comes with a VCO, and a compact 25-key keyboard. It is surprisingly durable and comfortable for beginners, and there shouldn’t be any problems to figure out how the controls work.
The Novation MiniNova is another candidate for the best beginner’s synthesizer. The attractive design, 18-note polyphony, and plenty of room to store custom sounds are its top features.
Ultimately, it depends on your personal needs and preferences. If you are clear about your expectations, it will be easy to find a great synth.