5 Best Synthesizers for Pads – Reviews and Buying Guide

  • Last updatedLast updated: Oct 26, 2020
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It is harder to get the best synthesizer for pads than people think. If it weren’t, fewer people would be complaining about their synthesizer pad purchases day in and day out. However, most individuals end up content with the synthesizers they pick. You can add your name to their list, but only if you are smart in the way you make the purchase.


For one, it’s impossible to make excellent synth for pads purchases without a deep understanding of their unique features. Whether they are analog or digital synths is essential and tells you how sounds from the device are produced. Keyboard design, size, and layout is another crucial factor. Other physical attributes are the dimensions and connectivity. Additionally, what you get from synth for pads in terms of polyphony, sequencers, oscillators, and filters are great measuring points for a person who has never used the device to determine its audio capabilities. After accurately grading the audio device using the features listed, you can pick the best synthesizer for pads easily as it will have the highest rating.
Editor’s Choice

An analog monophonic synthesizer featuring 8-step sequencer with velocity and pitch, dual oscillator and a white noise generator

  • Lowpass and Highpass 4-pole Transistor Ladder Filter
  • Expansive modular patch bay
Read Our Review
9.7
PrimeScoreTM
?
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Premium Pick

An analog polyphonic synthesizer featuring 12 voices and 61 semi-weighted keys with velocity and channel aftertouch

  • expanded arpeggiator
  • 5 DSP-based oscillators per voice
  • MIDI connectivity
Read Our Review
9.6
PrimeScoreTM
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PrimeScore is a unique scoring system designed by our editors and experts. With the help of it, we can combine all the rankings based on product’s characteristics, statistics, and even feedback about the manufacturer’s customer service into one, all-encompassing score.
Best Synth with a Mini Keyboard

A hybrid polyphonic synthesizer featuring 37 velocity-sensitive slim keys and 4 voices

  • 16-step sequencer
  • Sharp two-pole filter
  • 2 analog and a digital oscillator
Read Our Review
9.4
PrimeScoreTM
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PrimeScore is a unique scoring system designed by our editors and experts. With the help of it, we can combine all the rankings based on product’s characteristics, statistics, and even feedback about the manufacturer’s customer service into one, all-encompassing score.
Best Oscillator Design

An analog monophonic synthesizer featuring velocity- and pressure-sensitive performance pads, and 64-step sequencer

  • Steiner Parker filter
  • 2 oscillators
  • MIDI connectivity
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9.1
PrimeScoreTM
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PrimeScore is a unique scoring system designed by our editors and experts. With the help of it, we can combine all the rankings based on product’s characteristics, statistics, and even feedback about the manufacturer’s customer service into one, all-encompassing score.
Best Value

An analog monophonic synthesizer featuring an octave button-style keyboard and 32-step sequencer with 64 storage slots

  • analog 3340 VCO
  • 16-note via Poly Chain
  • MIDI connectivity
Read Our Review
8.9
PrimeScoreTM
?
PrimeScore is a unique scoring system designed by our editors and experts. With the help of it, we can combine all the rankings based on product’s characteristics, statistics, and even feedback about the manufacturer’s customer service into one, all-encompassing score.

Top 5 Synthesizers for Pads Review 2020

Features
  • Type: analog
  • Keyboard: n/a
  • Polyphony: monophonic
  • Effects: n/a
  • Sequencer: 8-step sequencer with velocity/pitch
  • Filter: Lowpass/Highpass 4-pole Transistor Ladder Filter
  • Oscillators: 2 x Oscillators, 1 x White Noise Generator
  • MIDI I/O: n/a
  • Dimensions: 4.21” x 12.57” x 5.24”

This synth for pads list starts with the Moog DFAM Semi-Modular Analog Percussion Synthesizer, which is an analog device. It shows tremendous value and will make it into a couple of your wish lists.

An engine for the device is provided by a white noise generator. This works hand in hand with the dual oscillator setup of the machine. For clarity, the oscillators’ job is to generate electric currents, shaping the pitch of sounds produced by this musical tool.

Additionally, potential Moog DFAM Semi-Modular Analog Percussion Synthesizer buyers should be aware that it is monophonic, and thus you will only have one voice to work with at a time.

If the single voice seems constrictive, you can make up for it using the 8-step sequencer to produce several consecutive notes in your music. Additionally, with the sequencer, complete control over the velocity and pitch of the notes is in your hands.

Sadly the device has no keyboard and no effects. However, buyers of these inventions can still make do and provide excellent music. Then again, some of you may prefer keyboards in your synth, which is also fine.

As for filters, the Lowpass, Highpass, and the 4-pole Transistor Ladder Filter are all essential components of this music-producing tool. Activating these filters will no doubt give you more control over your music. However, you will need to have the device in your hands to truly grasp the benefits.

Another unfortunate omission is that of the MIDI I/O connection. Nonetheless, if you don’t mind that, the Moog DFAM Semi-Modular Analog Percussion Synthesizer still has lots to offer. One example is the modular patch bay that supports the addition of different musical equipment to your production setup.

Pros
  • This is an analog synth which a lot of people seem to prefer over digital synths
  • Expansive modular patch bay for connection to other devices
  • Three different filters included
  • Offers an 8-step sequencer with added control over pitch and velocity
  • Relatively compact and easy to use
  • There are three oscillators in total in this musical device
Cons
  • No MIDI I/O support
  • The purchase does not offer effects
  • No keyboard in the design
Features
  • Type: analog
  • Keyboard: 61 semi-weighted keys with velocity and channel aftertouch
  • Polyphony: 12 voices
  • Effects: Delay, Girth, Air, Hack, Decimate, Drive
  • Sequencer: expanded arpeggiator
  • Filter: 2- or 4-pole resonant analog low-pass filter, 2-pole resonant analog high-pass filter
  • Oscillators: 5 DSP-based oscillators per voice
  • MIDI I/O: In/Out/Thru/USB
  • Dimensions: 38.4″ x 12.8″ x 4.15″

Those who prefer keyboard in their synthesizers for pads will take a liking to the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 Polyphonic Synthesizer, and we understand. The keyboard section of this purchase is impressive in its own right since there 61 keys.

The keys are even more impressive since they are semi-weighted. In addition to that, channel aftertouch and velocity control make this a more coveted purchase. Once you master these keys, your musical potential is limitless.

The polyphony on this device leaves the competition in the dirt. After all, 12 voices is awe-inspiring. What’s even more shocking is the 5 DSP-based oscillators per voice.

Another thing about the oscillators worth noting is that they offer control over wave shapes. Picking from saw, triangle, square, and sine will affect the end product in terms of sound produced.

If you go to the effects section, you find even more reasons to include this synth for pads in your wish list. The six effects at your fingertips are drive, delay, hack, decimate, air, and girth.

Combining these with the filters allows you to find varying ways to manipulate sound signals produced.

Lastly, there is support for a MIDI connection in this purchase. Whether you connect it using a MIDI I/O connection or use the USB port, the result is the same: a more capable sound-producing setup.

Pros
  • A large design hence keys and controls are not all clumped together
  • Offers a large keyboard with impressive keys.
  • Features a 12-voice polyphony
  • Oscillator design is designed to give utmost control over sounds produced
  • Multiple filters and effects included
  • MIDI I/O support
Cons
  • Synthesizer for pads priced out of reach for many music makers
3.

Korg Minilogue XD Gen Minilogue SynthesizerBest Synth with a Mini Keyboard

Features
  • Type: hybrid
  • Keyboard: 37 slim keys, velocity-sensitive
  • Polyphony: 4 voices
  • Effects: Chorus, Phaser, Flanger, Delay, Reverb, Ensemble
  • Sequencer: 16-step, motion sequence, realtime recording
  • Filter: Sharp two-pole
  • Oscillators: 2x analog VCO (sawtooth, triangle, square), 1x digital (noise, vpm, user)
  • MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB
  • Dimensions: 3.35” x 19.69” x 11.81”

The Korg Minilogue XD Gen Minilogue Synthesizer is different since it uses both digital signal processing and analog circuitry to produce various sounds. As such, it can rightly be classified as a hybrid purchase.

With the dual analog oscillators capable of producing triangle, sawtooth, and square, this offering stands on par with most analog offerings. However, it can surpass them thanks to the digital oscillator incorporated.

Piano-like keys are also part of this synth’s setup and design. They are 37 in total and thus more limited in function than the 61-key structure of the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 Polyphonic Synthesizer. These keys are also relatively slim and are velocity-sensitive.

A four voice-polyphony, multiple effects, and usable filters are all most musicians ask for from their synth manufacturers. This purchase delivers that and more. The sequencer, for instance, deserves praise.

Do note that stringing up 16-notes in a single sequence is possible if you have this synth for pads. If you want a more efficient creative process, record, and store program resets to the device in question. If you add to the already included 200 programs, every time you sit to create music will be easier than the last.

MIDI compatibility is also a significant boost to your music-making capacity.

Pros
  • MIDI support
  • Multiple inputs and output connections for the synth
  • Allows a four-voice polyphony
  • Additionally, the music-making synth is capable of creating and storing programs
  • 37 velocity-sensitive keys are part of the pack
  • Features digital and analog capabilities
Cons
  • None so far
Features
  • Type: analog
  • Keyboard: velocity- and pressure-sensitive performance pads
  • Polyphony: monophonic
  • Effects: n/a
  • Sequencer: 64-step
  • Filter: Steiner Parker filter (12dB per octave); Low Pass, High Pass, Band Pass, Notch mode
  • Oscillators: 2 oscillators with waveform mixing, waveshaping, and frequency modulation
  • MIDI I/O: yes
  • Dimensions: 19” x 11” x 2.2”

Another analog synth for pads in the form of the Arturia MiniBrute 2S Semi-Modular Analog Sequencing Synthesizer features on our list. Unlike the Moog DFAM Semi-Modular Analog Percussion Synthesizer, this purchase does have a relatively small keyboard.

The keyboard, which may look unimpressive from the images provided, actually reacts to pressure and velocity changes when using the machine. This means more audio control, which in turn adds versatility to the synth pads.

This synth for pads also falls into the monophonic synths category, where it only produces one voice. However, thanks to the oscillators supporting waveshaping, waveform mixing, and frequency modulation, you won’t feel all that limited in your sound production.

Also, the multiple filters somehow make up for the lack of effects on the machine. However, do not expect the same sound manipulation performance as the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 Polyphonic Synthesizer.

Sequencing is where this option takes the lead leaving all other synth for pads listed in the dirt. After all, a 64-step sequence can be quite complicated to achieve. However, if you are masterful enough, it will be a piece of cake with the Arturia MiniBrute 2S Semi-Modular Analog Sequencing Synthesizer.

MIDI I/O is nice to have in the device. This is in addition to the audio I/O, USB I/O, and many other connections. Finally, extra incentive to buy this synth for pads is there in pro headphones and a phone holder.

Pros
  • Comes with extra accessories, e.g., phone holder and pro headphones
  • MIDI I/O support
  • Awe-inspiring 64-step sequencing support
  • Multiple connection ports for other sound-producing equipment
  • Multiple sound filters
  • Oscillators support adjustments to the sound waves they produce
  • Keys in this synthesizer for pads are velocity and pressure-sensitive
Cons
  • The only con is the effects being excluded from the product
5.

Behringer CRAVE SynthesizerBest Value

Features
  • Type: analog
  • Keyboard: 1x octave button-style keyboard / Step Modes
  • Polyphony: monophonic, 16-note via Poly Chain
  • Effects: n/a
  • Sequencer: 32-step, 64 storage slots (8 patterns per bank)
  • Filter: Lowpass/Highpass 24dB Ladder Filter; Resonance, Modulation
  • Oscillators: Analog 3340 VCO
  • MIDI I/O: In, Out/Thru, USB
  • Dimensions: 1.85” x 12.6” x 6.46”

Finding an affordable synth for pads may also be a dream come true for some. The Behringer CRAVE Synthesizer fits the bill and is thus an excellent pick for beginners. While this device is monophonic, there is a way to make it polyphonic. You combine different synthesizers using the connectivity ports, and you can reach even a 16-voice polyphonic output.

Additionally, varied waveform shapes are part of the benefits offered by the machine. The keyboard in this option is rather unimpressive. However, it is better than nothing.

If you take advantage of the 32-step sequencer and create some excellent note sequences, you may not have to repeat or remember the same thing the next day. You can instead store the program and pick up where you left off the next day.

This is yet another option that makes up for lacking effects by piling up the filters. You still get a means to tweak various sounds, so you should be appreciative of that.

Finally, the oscillator deserves praise for sawtooth and pulse wave outputs.

Pros
  • Offers a 32-step sequencer and the capacity to store pre-recorded programs
  • Impressive oscillator component
  • Affordable
  • Multiple supported filters
  • MIDI support
  • Polychain feature can allow the creation of a polyphony on this monophonic device
Cons
  • The keyboard is not the best in terms of design
  • No effects included

Buying Guide

With a budget of between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars, you don’t want a faulty purchase or one that you simply hate after it arrives. You want a synth for pads that you can use and take advantage of to expand your musical horizons. Again, getting this synth can be hard to do unless you have a guiding hand. This guiding hand comes to you in the form of the section below and will help you successfully avoid synth for pads purchase traps.

Features to consider when choosing the best synthesizer for pads

5 Best Synthesizers for Pads - Reviews and Buying Guide

If you want to pick the best option, you must first learn to tell the different options apart. This you can do by learning about synthesizer for pad features. Notably, you needn’t look for data on these features independently. You can pick this information from the section below quite easily. After all, the collators of the data did it for your convenience.

Analog or digital

As its primary function, a synth will produce audio signals that can be manipulated in various ways thanks to effects, filters, and waveforms available in the device. This is the same for analog and digital synths for pads.

What’s different for the two synth types is how they generate the audio signal. Analog synths for pads have analog electric circuits in their designs. Currents in these electric circuits are what produce the sounds.

Notably, analog synths work more or less as most musical instruments would. As such, playing the same note in a couple of different ways is possible for these devices. Digital synths for pads are basically computers that try to emulate the sound-producing capabilities of analog synths.

It’s impossible to get the exact same sounds, and as such, some people prefer the analog option. However, there isn’t anything wrong with the sounds they produce. They are, nevertheless, a bit different. Also, they use digital signal processing as the primary way to make sounds.

Some synthesizer pads like the Korg Minilogue XD Gen Minilogue Synthesizer defy conventional classification by having both analog and digital synth capabilities. These are hybrids.

Keyboard

5 Best Synthesizers for Pads - Reviews and Buying Guide

Most synth for pads buyers prefer standard keyboard sizes. The key sizes are easy enough to work with, and learning to play them is easier. Also, if you already know how to play a keyboard, you won’t have to go through a learning curve if you pick the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 Polyphonic Synthesizer or a similar option.

This is different for smaller and slimmer keyboards like the one in the Korg Minilogue XD Gen Minilogue Synthesizer or those designed differently like the Behringer CRAVE Synthesizer. Other options completely leave out the keyboards in their designs, which limits their functionality a bit more.

From these numerous keyboard options, you will only be able to choose one.

Polyphony

These synths will also promise to provide you with different voices in the machine. However, the number of voices that can be produced simultaneously varies. Monophonic picks like the Moog DFAM Semi-Modular Analog Percussion Synthesizer produce one voice at a time.

Polyphonic picks are the opposite, as evidenced by the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 Polyphonic Synthesizer. The model in question can combine 12 voices making it more versatile, especially in sound production.

How many voices you need is a question that can only be answered by you and your music production needs.

Effects

5 Best Synthesizers for Pads - Reviews and Buying Guide

Manipulation of voices produced by the device is also something you may want to do with your synth for pads. After all, experimenting with sound is the only way to make new and unique music. To this end, effects will be present in most synths for pads, although admittedly, some manufacturers have exempted them from their designs.

Remember that more effects equal greater control over sounds in your synthesizer pad. Some effects examples include delay, reverb, and flanger with many other unique options in varying devices.

Presets

Building off of already prepared musical sequences can make music creation a lot easier. As such, some synth for pads manufacturers will include musical presets in their offerings. Two hundred of them are included in the Korg Minilogue XD Gen Minilogue Synthesizer.

However, if you’d rather not depend on provided presets, you can create some and store them in slots in the machine. Besides, remembering a unique music sequence you created is virtually impossible if you haven’t recorded it. Whatever the case having preset capabilities in your synth for pads reduces some of the hassles of music creation.

Sequencer

5 Best Synthesizers for Pads - Reviews and Buying Guide

Playing a string of notes is also another way synth users get to create unique music. However, the number of consecutive notes that certain users can pool together is dependent on the machine’s capabilities.

One example is the Arturia MiniBrute 2S Semi-Modular Analog Sequencing Synthesizer can allow up to a 64-step sequence. This is superior to the 8-step sequence limit of the Moog DFAM Semi-Modular Analog Percussion Synthesizer.

However, even the 8-step sequencer is more than sufficient for some users’ needs. Beginners, for instance, may find a 64-step musical sequence too hard to hack, and hence the sequencer in the Arturia MiniBrute 2S will be a waste for them.

Oscillator

At the heart of the synth for pads is the oscillator. After all, it does generate the electric currents responsible for sound output. The oscillator’s capabilities and its design will thus limit or provide endless capabilities for your musical journey.

Waveform mixing, frequency modulation, and waveshaping are some of the capabilities in the Arturia MiniBrute 2S Semi-Modular Analog Sequencing Synthesizer’s oscillator. It is no wonder the synthesizer is such an impressive offering.

Filters

With filters, you have additional capabilities to tweak the sound output. As such, filters and effects have more or less the same job. It goes without saying more filters equals better sound variation capabilities.

MIDI input/output

A musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) device can prove invaluable when combined with a synthesizer pad. It allows more music hardware to be combined with the synthesizer. As such, it falls under the connectivity feature of the device.

Connectivity

There are a host of other musical instruments that can lead to fantastic results when combined with the synths for pads. However, whether these instruments are compatible with the synthesizer pads is the million-dollar question. Answering the question only requires a quick look into the connection ports provided.

Audio I/O, USB ports, musical instrument inputs are some popular connections that might be supported. Again more connectivity options allow you more freedom when choosing the devices you want to add to your music creation setup.

Dimensions and weight

Perhaps a downside of including an almost full-size keyboard in the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 Polyphonic Synthesizer is the synth for pads’s bulkier nature. As such, carrying the Prophet 12 everywhere you go will be much more challenging in comparison to the Moog DFAM Semi-Modular Analog Percussion Synthesizer, which can fit in a bag.

The weight of the synth for pads may also be an issue when transporting the musical machine. However, some want a synth to stay in their home studio, and it won’t matter if it is large and heavy as long as they have enough space for it.

FAQ

Synths for pads are musical machines that can produce sustained tones. These sustained tones have the function of creating atmosphere and background harmony for your music.

How much you pay for a good synthesizer for pads will depend on the features you picked. Nevertheless, expect different price points even as you go looking for a synth for pads. Some may cost more than $1000, while others require only a few hundred dollars from your wallet.

Our Verdict

We would recommend the Moog DFAM Semi-Modular Analog Percussion Synthesizer, the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 Polyphonic Synthesizer, and the Korg Minilogue XD Gen Minilogue Synthesizer over the other two options. In our evaluation of the synths for pads, these gathered the highest points.

The Moog DFAM Semi-Modular Analog Percussion Synthesizer is an excellent portable pick. This synth’s oscillators are top-notch, and you can achieve so much with them. The sequencer, as well as filter selection, also deserve praise.

Functionality-wise going wrong with the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 Polyphonic Synthesizer is almost impossible. An excellent keyboard, 12-voice polyphony, and awe-inspiring oscillator capabilities are among the reasons to buy this synth for pads instead of the competition. Pricing is a bit intimidating, but if affording the synth for pads is not a problem for you, it is worth every cent.

The hybrid Korg Minilogue XD Gen Minilogue Synthesizer, with its slim velocity-sensitive keys, could easily serve anybody who doesn’t have the budget for the Prophet 12 pick. It is another all-around performer with a 4-voice polyphony. Additionally, it doesn’t disappoint in any other sections, whether it is effects, filters, compact design, or more.

If you would replace any of these three synths for pads with another device from the list, tell us why in the comments section.

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