In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: March 03, 2021
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Contrary to popular belief, mini synths are not necessarily basic. They do produce a number of sounds that can help you up your game whether you are a beginner or a seasoned musician. Mini synths are available in both analog and digital versions, and if you are new to them, you will be overwhelmed with the tons of options in the market.
We came up with a refined list of the top-rated mini synths to help you make the best-informed choice. In our extensive reviews, we included the essential features a good mini synth should possess like oscillators, connectivity, filters, polyphony, dimensions, keyboard and whether it is digital or analog. These features determine the synths’ ease of use, portability, and overall performance. For instance, if you want the best mini synth to use on the go, then you have to consider the dimensions and connectivity.
Korg is a renowned Synth brand, and the Minilogue is one of their best-performing beasts. It is a perfect blend of old and new as it has a few modern digital features that make it easier to operate.
The synth has a gorgeous and robust build. It is made of aluminum, and real timber and its switches have been carefully arranged for ease of use. You will love its bright and crisp digital display and the lit digital buttons that are smooth to the touch.
Essentially, the synth has a wide range of cross-modulation options that make it incredibly versatile. It features 2 oscillators that produce the most ballsy bass ever, and with the SHAPE knobs, you can tune the sound as you like.
As for the filter, there aren’t as many bells and whistles as it is pretty basic. It doesn’t produce the best bass sounds, but it is very handy with the basics, and it even goes into self-oscillation easily.
Also featured are 2 ADSR envelopes, a single LFO and a modulation stick. You will also get to utilize the 4 different voices created by the synth in 8 different ways. As if that’s enough, the synth has several digital enhancements that offer 200 presets and a 16-step phrase sequencer.
The ease of creating sounds and editing presets is what makes the Minilogue one of the best analog mini synths out there. With a preset, you can easily change how the knobs and switches work.
In a nutshell, the Korg Minilogue is a pretty decent synth with an attractive price tag that is totally worth considering. It misses a few things, but its versatility and ease of use make it a worthy buy.
This is the ultimate synthesizer to get for a beastly functionality and astonishing sound quality. Like all the other Moog products, the Sub Phatty pays attention to the nitty-gritties with impeccable features and capabilities aimed at offering the best sounds.
The synth has the flattop keyboard style, and its interface is simple and clean. It is ultra-lightweight and superbly compact thus a perfect on-the-go choice. Despite is petite build, the synth is remarkably easy to play that even a beginner would quickly wrap their head around it.
The Sub Phatty excels the most in the sound department. It produces large and full sounds which are smoothened by the synth’s filter. In fact, it is highly preferred by successful musicians for its superior sound quality.
When it comes to features, the Sub Phatty isn’t the best versatile synth out there. However, on top of its unrivalled sound quality, it still packs a mighty punch with a few features like a square wave sub-oscillator, 31 knobs, 2 shape oscillators, 25 semi-weighted keys and 13 switches. The features do offer some variety in the synth’s functionality and sound capabilities.
Overall, it’s amazing how Moog managed to pack great power in such a small instrument. When it comes to synthesizers, musicians care for sound quality more than other things which is the bread and butter of this synth. It is one of the best mini keyboard synths with powerful bass sounds that are room shattering.
What we liked:
Lightweight and compact build
Superior quality sounds
Simple and clean user interface
What could be better:
Not the best versatile as it offers a small range of features
This is one of Elektron’s standout synths as it has a lot more to offer than the standard analogue synths that have saturated the market. The 4-track FM synth workstation has sheer versatility that does not much its impressive compact build.
The 8 voice multitimbral digital synth has a lot more to offer compared to other mini synths in its range. It boasts of a solid metal build that can withstand regular use. Its keyboard feels great to the touch, and although it isn’t weighted, it features three octaves, and you can easily transport it.
It uses both FM and subtractive synthesis engines as send effects. You can split up its 8 voices among 4 tracks, and with the multitimbral capabilities, each of the voices can play an entirely different sound.
Even more, you get 4 additional tracks for MIDI sequencing, and you can use the keyboard to play external gear live.
As for connectivity, you will get individual stereo outputs for each of the 4 tracks and 2 pedal inputs on top of the standard stereo and headphone ¼-inch outputs. Plus, you can use the synth’s USB port for MIDI notes and parameter control.
The synth’s built-in sequencer and multiple presets really open it up as an instrument. The expressive presets improve its sound quality and make it a great engine for a multi-instrument set-up.
In sum, this is one of the best mini synthesizers out there in terms of versatility and quality build though its layout needs getting used to. Beginners might find this a bit challenging.
This is a recreation of the iconic and most definitive mini synths of all time the TB-303. It combines top-notch performance with vintage charm to offer you a massive and powerful sound as well as an easy-to-use interface at a pocket-friendly price point.
The Boutique TB-03 has a lot more digital enhancements than the original analogue TB-03 version. The 4 digit LED display, delay and overdrive effects are some of its distinguishing features. The LED display makes programming much easier and precise, and with the overdrive and delay effects, you can send the crowd into a frenzy as they allow you to unleash a twisted and tribal wall of sound.
You can program via 3 modes; classic pitch, step write and time.
Also featured are a MIDI fine tempo control and extra functions that you can use to create patterns. The synth can send control information via MIDI or USB port. The USB port also acts as an audio interface.
The sound quality, easy-to-use interface and the character of the original TB-03 have been retained in the Boutique’s design. Its sounds are simple but devastatingly effective, especially for house and techno. For classic acid sounds, it is hard to beat the Boutique TB-03.
What’s more, you get complete hands-on control over the expressive parameters of the synth including accent, envelope mod, decay, resonance and cutoff.
Overall, if you are on the market for a mini synth with effective classic acid sounds, then this is your best bet. It is not the most versatile synth, but you will get ideal sounds for techno and house music.
This is Arturia’s latest Brute, and it is Mini-er and cheaper than its predecessors. It packs a remarkable set of features in its diminutive build. With its 100% pure analog voice path and advanced connectivity, this synth will take your sound to a new level.
Whether you are a synth veteran or you’re a novice, you will appreciate this synth’s simple user interface. You will experience astounding sound quality with it as it is well-capable sequencing and semi-modular beast of a synth.
Unlike many other synths, no menus or presets will come between you and the possibility of creating your sound live. Every time you perform, your sound will be completely original.
Essentially, you can create multiple musical phrases thanks to the 8 sequences and 64 steps. Plus, there is an LFO that can run in sync with the sequencers to supply 3 waveforms.
For fine-tuning, you can rely on the MicroBrute’s super-steady 100% analog VCOs though for the best results its best if you tune your instrument as well.
With the CV gate in-out, you can connect the synth with your other vintage analog gear. The audio input and output allow you to process audio as well as connect it to your favorite devices.
As if that’s enough, you can use the synth as a master keyboard or even control it from your DAW owing to the USB connectivity provided.
In conclusion, this is one of the tiniest synths out there with a matching tiny price tag but a vast potential and astounding sound quality. If you can live with its no-battery feature, then it is one of the best synths for both starters and seasoned synth veterans.
What we liked:
Offers excellent value for money
Easy to use
Brute factor-offers rich and saturation harmonics
Signal enhancers ensure superior sound quality
Features a full-function step sequencer
What could be better:
Not battery powered
Things to Consider
The market is saturated by numerous brands and models of mini synthesizers that choosing one can be a bag of experience, especially if you are new to synths. This section has all the essential tips and information you should know before you go shopping for a mini synth. You will get to know the most crucial parameters to consider before choosing a mini synth for you to make the best buy.
Features to consider when choosing the best mini synthesizer
These are some of the features a good mini synth should possess:
Analog vs digital
Before you go shopping for a mini synth, you need to decide whether you want an analog or digital one. Digital synths have more advanced features like LED display and are more user friendly compared to analog synths. However, it will take you a while to wrap your head around its operation and programming for you to make the most out of it. The Arturia MicroBrute Analog Synthesizer is a prime example of a digital synthesizer.
Analog synths, on the other hand, have warmer and more satisfying sounds with a great variety as their sound waves are created in analog circuit. If you want the easiest and most logical synth to learn, got for an analog synth with subtractive synthesis like the Moog Sub Phatty 25-Key Analog Synthesizer. They are the best beginner-friendly options. You can as well get digital synths that have analog modelling technology.
It takes a lot to play just about any instrument, and the synth is no exception. How its keyboard feels is extremely important. You can choose light non-weighted keys, especially if you want a highly portable synth. If you are used to playing other instruments like acoustic or electric pianos with weighted keys, you will want a synth with weighted keys that offer a more solid feel on your fingers.
A polyphonic synth can play multiple notes at a go contrary to their monophonic counterparts that can only play one note at a time. The number of voices a polysynth can play is usually indicated in its name. For instance, the Korg Minilogue 4-Voice Polyphonic Analog Synth can play 4 voices. Most polysynths usually have 4,6,8 or more voices.
Every voice in the polysynth includes an oscillator, an envelope and a filter. This makes them a bit pricier than monophonic synths. Also, monophonic synths are much more compact because they don’t include as much hardware in them.
Mono synths excel at particular types of playing, including basslines, leads, and solos. Polysynths are great for melodies and harmonies. At the end of the day, the benefits of polyphonic synths outweigh mono synths despite their hefty price tag.
Presets are among the many reasons why you should not get overly fixated on a synth’s number of sounds. Most entry-level synths come with hundreds of preset sounds that are factory-created.
Essentially, go for a mini synth that has a wide range of controls to give you full control. It should have lots of knobs, pedals, wheels, faders and dials so you can change and interact with sounds to achieve the best results.
A sequencer is a device and in some cases an application software that can edit, record, and playback music by handling note and performance information in varying forms including MIDI, CV/Gate, and OSC. With a sequencer, you can play repeating patterns automatically without pressing the keyboard. It is especially handy for beginners who need time to wrap their head around playing the keyboard.
Additionally, a sequencer will help you trigger several instruments at once without touching the keyboard. This allows you to focus on creating the best sounds.
Most synths come with built-in step sequencers or analog sequencers. You can as well opt for the software sequencers that you can control using a graphical user interface or an input device like the MIDI controller.
Synthesizers have voltage-controlled oscillators which convert DC signal from the power outlet to AC signal. Quite simply, the oscillator in your synth produces a simple triangle, sine, saw or square electrical wave that is sent through your speakers and converted into sound.
A voltage-controlled oscillator can produce different pitches according to the voltage coming into it. The voltage determines the oscillator’s frequency. When you trigger a MIDI note of press a key on the synth, a different voltage is fed to the VCO which then affects its pitch.
There is also the Low-Frequency Oscillator that produces the lowest frequency that a person can hear, usually under 20Hz. It’s usually used to modulate other components of the synth-like the VCF, VCO or VCA.
This is a modifying audio process that overdrives, modulates or applies a spatial quality to an original signal. There are different types of effects, and the more a synth has, the more versatile it is as it offers more variety in terms of sound capability. Luckily, most affordable entry-level mini synths incorporate effects in their build to enhance your sound and add great atmosphere to your music.
The filter is the feature that best defines a synthesizer’s character. They have some sort of brassy and creamy effect on the synth’s sounds. Seemingly, there is an endless variety and arrangements of filters.
The most common filter is the low-pass filter that allows frequencies below a certain point to pass. The high-pass filter is also common, and it filters out low frequencies but allows high frequencies to pass. Very few synths have the band-pass filter which reduces both high and low frequencies to allow them to pass only at the cutoff point.
Synthesizer with multiple filters like the Korg Minilogue 4-Voice Polyphonic Analog Synth, have them arranged in series so that sounds pass through each one of them. The multi-mode filter style is also very common in modern synths, and it comes with a switch that allows you to choose the different types of filters on the synth.
A MIDI interface has inputs and outputs; MIDI IN/MIDI OUT that allow you to send messages to and from MIDI instruments via MIDI cables. They can either be standalone synths or can come built-in your sound card.
The biggest benefit that comes with choosing a synth MIDI IN/OUT is that you will be able to connect to a MIDI which allows you to edit performances easily note by note. You can change your performances’ articulation or even replace the sound that plays them. Elektron Digitone is a prime example of a mini synth with MIDI in/out/thru. You can control much more than just notes if you use MIDI with it.
This is another key metric to consider. Before choosing a synth, you need to consider if you will add more gear to your studio or not. If yes, then be sure to get a synth that maximizes connectivity in its design. Check to see that it has MIDI ins and outs, audio ins and outs and USB connectivity. They will allow you to connect to other gadgets like speakers or even computers.
Dimensions and weight
You have to decide whether you need a synth that will permanently stay in your studio or open you’ll move around with. For the permanent option, depending on the size of your studio, you can go for a large synth as they are easier to work on. For an on-the-go option, you want a compact synth that you can easily throw into your bag. It shouldn’t weigh you down either.
A synth with multi-timbral capability can play different sounds on different MIDI channels. It comes in handy if you’re using a standalone sequencer that can sequence multiple channels. Additionally, the multi-timbral allows you to stack up sounds in that you play different sounds on top of each other with one keypress.
A synthesizer is an electronic keyboard that can create or copy any kind of sound. It can mimic the sounds of traditional instruments like pianos, and guitars or generate entirely new sounds like the sound of a door closing and opening. It does so by generating sound waves of different shapes, as well as creating more than one sound tone at a go to generate a fundamental frequency and harmonics. It also changes the volume of the sound over time to produce different ADSR envelope shapes. Anyone who can play a synth can play any instrument they can ever imagine.
Costs vary across brands and versions. A good mini synth should cost you about 300 bucks or more.
A mini synth is a cool instrument, and if you can play it, you can play just about any instrument you ever wish to play. The information on this guide is enough to give you buyer’s confidence when you go shopping for a mini synth. If you find the options too overwhelming, you can choose any of the first-rate synths we have reviewed in great detail.
The Elektron Digitone was our third best mini synth, and it stood out as the best FM digital mini synth. Its 512 factory-made presets and 8 note polyphony makes it the most versatile synthesizer. It has a lot more features that need a little getting used to, but once you wrap your head around it, you might find it hard to find a digital FM synth that matches the Digitone’s capabilities.