Affordable Hardware Synths Under $500

Post date:

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 07:46

Author:

Naomi Bolton

One of the reasons why software synthesizers are so popular isn’t just due to their convenience. Many people would love to own hardware synths, but unfortunately just don’t have enough money. However, just because certain vintage synthesizers cost about as much as a house these days doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on some decent hardware. The popularity and renewed interest in hardware synthesizers have also resulted in more models being available on the market for cheaper. While most of these aren’t quite in the same league as their top of the line counterparts, they offer a good starting point for hardware synths without having to rob a bank to pay for them. So, if you are looking for a good hardware synth and have a budget of less than $500 then it’s worth tracking down any of the models on this list.

Korg MS-20 Mini

Official Website: http://www.korg.com/us/products/synthesizers/ms_20mini/

Korg mini

The classic MS-20 analogue synth by Korg was discontinued in 1983, but has made a comeback with the Korg MS-20 Mini. As the name suggests, it is a compact recreation of the original monosynth, but has also been spruced up with a couple of modern features. This means that you get everything from stabilized oscillators to MIDI in and MIDI via USB. The compact size might be a drawback to some people as it has resulted in a much smaller control panel, but the Korg MS-20 Mini is hard to beat when it comes to versatility. Although the regular price of the Korg MS-20 Mini is slightly more than $500, it can regularly be found on sale for much less.

Arturia MicroBrute

Official Website: https://www.arturia.com/products/hardware-synths/microbrute

Arturia MicroBrute

Arturia followed up their already small MiniBrute with the even smaller MicroBrute, but once again don’t let the diminutive size fool you. It has a 100% pure analog voice path along with all the interconnectability that you need. Arturia might be better known for their soft synths, but they did a very good job creating a hardware synth that will appeal to enthusiasts. Smaller synths don’t always have a good reputation when it comes to their quality and sound, but the MicroBrute definitely defies expectations. With its built-in sequencer, flexible waveform section, velocity-sensitivity, aftertouch and much more, the MicroBute offers a lot of value for your money.

Roland SE-02

Official Website: https://www.roland.com/global/products/se-02/

Roland SE-02

The Roland SE-02 takes its inspiration from a bunch of vintage instruments, including the Minimoog Model D and the results are impressive to say the least. It is the first truly analog synth in their Boutique line, which was previously dominated by digital emulations instead of analog recreations of classic gear. The Model D influences can be seen in the panel layout, but vintage synth fans will notice some ARP and classic Oberheim elements here as well. It has a 16-step sequencer, which is about standard for the Boutique series, but definitely one of the best for a hardware synth in this price range. If it wasn’t for the fact that the knobs on the Roland SE-02 are rather small, it would have been a top contender for one of the best analog mono synths for its price.

Novation Bass Station II

Official Website: http://global.novationmusic.com/synths/bass-station-ii

Novation

If you are looking for a nice all-rounder, then the Novation Bass Station II definitely ticks all the right boxes. It is a pure analog monosynth that is based on the original Bass Station, but with enough enhancements to make it even more versatile. In addition to two tuneable oscillators and a sub-oscillator, the Bass Station II delivers noise and ring modulation as well as two very distinct analog filter types. It has 64 patches to get you started, but you’ll want to delve in and create your own to fill the 64 slots that has been left open. In addition, the Bass Station II is very light and portable, which makes it even more versatile. However, it’s compact size is also a bit of a drawback as it resulted in the keyboard being a little short, but it makes up for that with excellent sensitivity and after-touch response.

Waldorf Rocket

Official Website: https://waldorfmusic.com/en/rocket-sythesizer

Waldorf Rocket

If you have a small budget and very little free space, then the Waldorf Rocket synthesizer will definitely catch your eye. Don’t let the fact that it is a single oscillator synth deter you either, it is actually capable of a much wider range of sounds than what you would expect. The Rocket accomplishes this through a  combination of it’s shaping options as well as an excellent filter and Boost mode. Since it doesn’t have a keyboard you are going to need a USB or MIDI input, but it also helps to keep the price down. In fact, the Rocket is cheap enough that you could buy two of them and really get creative.

Conclusion

As is obvious with these five hardware synths, there are plenty of good options available even on a budget. In fact, this list could have been filled using only Korg products as their Volca series, Monologue, MicroKorg XL+ and even the tiny Monotron can all be bought for cheap.  The Roland JP-08 sound module and Modal Electronics CRAFTsynth are also worth a look in this price range. Let us know in the comments or forum what your favorite hardware synth in the less than $500 price range is and why.