For me personally at the beginning of my musical journey, I always used to avoid synthesis because I hadn’t found a way in. There was one synth that eventually did this for me because of its logical layout and controls which I still remember today. The Korg MS2000. But the interest in playing with synths then grew as more accessible options became available.
In the realm of music production, synthesisers hold an unparalleled allure, offering endless sonic possibilities and boundless creative expression. For aspiring musicians and producers looking to dive into the mesmerizing world of synthesis, the journey need not begin with high-end equipment and hefty price tags. In this article, we explore a selection of cheap hardware synthesisers that are easy to learn, boast remarkable features, and emphasise the notion that exceptional music can be crafted on a smaller budget.
1 – Korg Volca Series
The Korg Volca series stands tall as a beacon for entry-level synth enthusiasts. With its affordability, compact size, and user-friendly interface, the Volca line encompasses a range of synths, including the Volca Keys, Volca Bass, and Volca FM. Each unit specialises in distinct synthesis methods, from analog to FM synthesis, making it an excellent starting point for those eager to explore various sonic landscapes. With the addition of the Volca analogue mixer, working with multiple of these units from the Volca series became much more than the small synth that is just there for fun.
2 – Arturia MicroFreak
The Arturia MicroFreak redefines versatility in the world of affordable hardware synthesizers. This hybrid synth combines digital and analog technologies to generate unique textures and sounds. The MicroFreak’s touch-sensitive keyboard and an array of oscillator types promise an intuitive and captivating learning experience for newcomers. Arturia are always at the front of creative innovation in my own opinion, and this synth really didn’t change that mindset.
3 – Behringer TD-3
For the synth enthusiasts captivated by the classic sounds of the legendary Roland TB-303, the Behringer TD-3 is a must-have addition to their arsenal. This affordable analog bass synthesiser emulates the iconic 303 sound while introducing modern features and robust connectivity, making it a reliable choice for both beginners and seasoned musicians. Straight out of the box and the excitement of the filter makes this a fun and enjoyable experience that will have you making techno music for hours before you start to even consider playing with the step sequencer. Good times.
4 – Novation Circuit
Not just a synthesizer but a complete groovebox, the Novation Circuit grants aspiring producers a one-stop solution for their musical endeavors. This budget-friendly device boasts two synth engines, a drum machine, and a sequencer, providing endless opportunities for experimentation and inspiration. The Circuit series are a really interesting development from the original Launchpad controllers, and this really feels like a whole new beast. The sequencer is the most unique element that this unit boasts.
5 – Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator Series
Compact, playful, and highly affordable, the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator series comprises a diverse range of pocket-sized synthesizers. These portable units are perfect companions for creative minds on the go, with each model specializing in different synthesis methods and unique sounds. This is truly a window into the more technical side of synthesis, although not in a way that you should be scared of. These little units will have you playing around with multiple parameter routing options which in turn open the mind to the possibility of modular synthesis. For such tiny devices, these have a huge and rich sound and are fully capable of adding texture and sonic character to any audio project.
The world of synthesis welcomes all with open arms, regardless of budgetary constraints. Aspiring musicians and producers need not be daunted by the idea of breaking the bank to create outstanding sounds to form elements in their sonic design or layers within pieces of music. With a myriad of affordable hardware synthesisers offering exceptional features and ease of use, the journey of learning synthesis becomes an exciting and fulfilling adventure, paired with a wealth of shared knowledge in the form of tutorials and articles available online, there is literally no reason why you can’t master this.
Embrace the positivity that comes with exploring these budget-friendly options, for it is in these creative limitations that innovation thrives. Remember, the power to create astonishing music lies not solely in the tools you possess but in the passion and dedication you bring to the craft. So, take that leap of faith, unleash your creativity, and prove that anything can indeed be achieved. Your budget will fluctuate over time and when you do have some spare spending money, make sure you have the experience and confidence to move on to the next level by putting in the time to learning how to use these incredible machines. Happy synthesising!