The 10 Best Synthesizer Keyboards Reviews [2020]

Let’s be honest - with vast improvements being made in technology every day, it’s becoming harder to sift through the endless varieties of synthesizer keyboards available in the market. There are simply too many choices to choose from that can make the entire experience rather overwhelming. Should you go for one with juicy fat bass options, or do you opt for better features at the expense of sound quality? What will best compliment your playing style, and should you really trust reviews on e-markets? These are probably some of the vital questions that you are mulling over while thinking of replacing your ageing instrument or while buying one for the first time.

You needn’t worry much as every musician has their own unique style. What works for some, might not work for you. Keeping this in mind, remember that the music you make has a huge role to play in this decision. If you’re into EDM and vintage synth-pop, then you are probably thinking of something that has great monophonic features. True, the classic monophonic subtractive synth you’re used to can play those juicy fat baselines and scorching leads, but these modern polyphonic synths will allow you to play chords as well. If you prefer having a music keyboard then plugging a MIDI controller with virtual plug-ins can really add that depth you have been searching for.

Although there are thousands of synth keyboard builds along with unique functions and pre-settings available in the market, we have identified 8 models that are most popular today. However, each has its own set of pros and cons that you should carefully note before swiping that card.

TOP RATED KEYBOARD SYNTHESIZERS

OUR CHOICE
Roland JD-XI 37-Key Interactive Analog/Digital Crossover...
Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer
Yamaha MX88 88-Key Weighted Action Synthesizer
VALUE BUY
IK Multimedia UNO Synth Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer
Roland JD-XI 37-Key Interactive Analog/Digital Crossover...
Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer
Yamaha MX88 88-Key Weighted Action Synthesizer
IK Multimedia UNO Synth Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer
49 Reviews
118 Reviews
137 Reviews
132 Reviews
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OUR CHOICE
Roland JD-XI 37-Key Interactive Analog/Digital Crossover...
Roland JD-XI 37-Key Interactive Analog/Digital Crossover...
49 Reviews
-
Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer
Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer
118 Reviews
-
Yamaha MX88 88-Key Weighted Action Synthesizer
Yamaha MX88 88-Key Weighted Action Synthesizer
137 Reviews
-
VALUE BUY
IK Multimedia UNO Synth Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer
IK Multimedia UNO Synth Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer
132 Reviews

1. Sequential Prophet X 61-Key Synthesizer

Sequential Prophet X 61-Key Synthesizer

Packaged with a beautiful dark grey metal case, the Sequential Prophet X might come off as menacing to some. However, its wooden end-cheeks stained with grey, wheels with an orange backlight, and dual assignable touch strips make it one of the best keyboard synthesizers out there. The quality of the build is pretty solid with sturdy switch gears and knobs that make it robust and roadworthy.


Although the Prophet X’s 61-note aftertouch enabled keybed feels a bit stiff, it’s a massive improvement amongst synthesizer models. Described by professionals as a hybrid 16-voice mono/8-voice stereo engine with four oscillators per voice, the Prophet X is complex, yet highly intuitive.

ADVANTAGES


  • The build is robust and it’s an intuitive and fun instrument to play
  • Various types of modulation routing are available so you can take full advantage of all octaves

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The polyphony will run out in 8-voice mode if you’re using dual layers
  • There is no way to slice and flexibly allocate voices across layers
  • You can’t bypass effects for a sample on a single layer

2. Roland 37-Key Synthesizer (JD-XI)

Roland, 37-Key Synthesizer

The name Roland has been synonymous with excellent keyboards for a long time. If you’re looking for a great synthesizer, then you should consider the Roland JD-XI. The machine blends several essential features and has been defined by the company as a synthesizer keyboard that’s not just interactive, but a unique crossover between digital and analog types. With a red and black color scheme on its sleek front-panel, the Roland JD-XI also boasts of sturdy metallic-plastic sides.

It sports fifteen knobs that can effortlessly work with MIDI, while sturdy translucent rubber buttons make it highly robust. You will also be afforded more than 120 digital voices which are shared by a couple of digital synths in the market. Along with a marvelous three-octave miniature keyboard, mod wheels, minuscule pitch, and an inbuilt 32-step pattern sequencer, Roland’s latest contribution to the world of modern synthesizers are definitely one to consider if you are just starting.

ADVANTAGES


  • Access to some outstanding drum equipment at a very low cost
  • Has USB audio connectivity making things very flexible
  • Great for EDM production due to helpful patches and presets
  • Has a small mike for real-time recording and step sequencing

SHORTCOMINGS


  • There is no aftertouch and isn’t battery-operated
  • Absence of a software editor in its build
  • If the vocoder is used the analog mode gets disabled which might be a problem when performing live

3. Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer 

Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer

Coming in as a departure from the analog hardware synthesizers, Arturia has recently introduced its latest product, the MicroFreak Hybrid which is an “algorithmic synthesizer”. With a 12-mode digital oscillator, an analog filter with a multimode, and several sequencing options, the graffitied body of this synthesizer keyboard has been getting a lot of attention from musicians, amateur and professional.


As far as the build quality goes, although the keyboard’s plastic chassis might feel flimsy, the instrument serves quite well in chaotic environments like a music festival. In fact, for a  synthesizer in this price range, it does exceptionally well when compared to its competitors. Featuring an OLED display it shows you – waveshape changes, preset names, filter sweeps, and LFO curves. 


Also, for a synth of small size, it does a great job packing a ton of connectivity options in its rear panel. So you can easily plug it into the mains with the PSU (bundled) or bus-power it using a USB. Additionally, there is a single mono 1/4-inch audio output along with a headphone output making things really simple for the musician.

 

ADVANTAGES


  • Given the price range, you are afforded with a lot of sonic potential
  • Unique oscillator modes that sound wacky
  • Very simple to program and a lot of fun for someone learning to play

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The raw sound isn’t as clean so you might need a 24dB/oct filter
  • The sequencer is a bit complex and needs some time getting used to

4. Korg microKorg 37-Key Analog Modeling Synthesizer with Vocoder

Korg microKorg 37-Key

Touted as one of the best keyboard synthesizers a musician can have, the Korg microKorg model is a fantastic cheap synthesizer that fits into any budget. The instrument has 37 keys along with 128 user-rewritable programs. It provides you with powerful synthesis abilities with a dual-oscillator DSP engine that you mostly will find in the MS2000 model.

Offering a wide variety of waveforms, its 8-band vocoder has several advanced features as well. It also consists of an arpeggiator that’s highly flexible and boasts of two audio inputs, allowing you to process sounds from other instruments. Due to the powerful vocoder, you can capture various forms of your voice and then play it through the keyboard. This also affords you with the ability to shift the frequency so you can change the voice to sound either male, female, child or whatever you want.

With several modulation effects like flanger, ensemble, and phaser, the synth keyboard also sports three different types of delay effects (stereo, L/R, and cross). You can, of course, edit these effects to create your own unique style. Finally, with its beige-gold chassis, and retro-influenced design makes the microKorg look funky with vintage vibes.

ADVANTAGES


  • Highly durable with a strong build quality
  • Lots of pre-programmed music that you can capture, freeze, and edit
  • It’s very easy to use and is highly responsive 

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The sound selection is limited as compared to other models in this price range
  • There aren’t any built-in speakers that might be an issue in large auditoriums

5. Yamaha MX88 88-Key Weighted Action Synthesizer

Yamaha MX88 88-Key Weighted Action Synthesizer

Yamaha is another one of those brands whose names are synonymous with the best keyboard synthesizers out there. The Motif (MX) series was a worthy addition to Yamaha’s long line of awesome synth keyboards, and the MX88 88-Key Weighted Action synthesizer is no different. With some brilliant features at very affordable prices, this keyboard is perfect if you are learning or just starting to perform professionally.

Given its big size, it’s shockingly lightweight due to the use of very light materials in its build. However, the weight is not the only thing you will notice first when you unbox it. The make looks very sophisticated and can complement any type of stage or house décor. A beautiful matte finish conceals any smudges or fingerprints on the board, and the keys are meticulously graded to offer high performance. Coming to the sound, it has more than a thousand Motif sounds that are of high-quality and easily usable.


You will also notice the power of the incredible synth engine along with the 128 voice polyphony that offers so much joy to musicians. The sounds are also further categorized into leads, comps, and pads which take the usability to another level. With more than 208 rhythm patterns, Leslie effects, percussion, brass, and orchestral strings, you won’t face a dull moment making music with this baby.


ADVANTAGES


  • The aesthetics are very pleasing and can complement small get-togethers to large gatherings
  • There is a USB and MIDI function that enables ease-of-use for beginners and professionals alike

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The LCD is a tad smaller than other synth keyboards in this price range
  • Absence of an integrated music stand that makes things difficult if you don’t already have one
  • There is no Lightning USB provided so you need to purchase one if you want to integrate the instrument with your iPhone

6. Roland Lightweight, 61-note Synth-action Keyboard with Pro Sounds

Roland Lightweight

If you are looking for a synthesizer keyboard that’s gig-ready out of the box with enhanced performance features, Roland’s new addition to its JUNO series would be perfect for you. From home lobbyists, weekend warriors, to music producers, this cheaper synthesizer features as one of the best keyboard synthesizers out there. It’s very easy to carry and excels as a teaching instrument in music schools. The AC operation along with a versatile battery makes it quite a flexible instrument that you can play anytime and anywhere.

The JUNO-DS61 features a new DS Tone Bank and includes a 1000-plus sound set, that’s a step further from the earlier version JUNO-Di. The greatest advantage if you are JUNO fan, is the fact that you can use patches from the earlier version with the DS61. This compatibility is one of the more unique features musicians love to use. When it comes to editing and hands-on controls, this model exceeds all expectations. With an instant-access design, calling up brilliant sounds is just a flick of a switch away. You can tweak patches with fantastic precision while the front panel sports several sliders and hands-on knobs to adjust sounds as you play. The rear panel, on the other hand, features jacks that easily connect to hold and expression panels simultaneously.

Another drastic advantage this synthesizer keyboard affords you with is the ability to easily capture an idea for a beat, and develop the same with an onboard pattern sequencer. If you’re worrying about it disrupting your creative flow, then you can breathe easy as the development controls are intuitive and non-stop. This is also an advantage when you’re performing live, and need to enhance the sound with on-the-fly looping.

Not just on the stage, but the machine also performs brilliantly if you are using a computer to produce your music. With a dedicated DAW Control Mode, you can easily control the software from the front panel.

ADVANTAGES


  • It’s very portable and easy to use in any environment you’re performing in
  • Has more than 1500 voices to create unique sounds
  • It’s also highly responsive with very good action

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The sound might be a tad unrealistic but can be rectified if you know what you’re doing
  • Menu navigation on the screen is slightly tricky 

7. IK Multimedia UNO Synth Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer

For someone who’s looking to dip their toes into the vast dance music arena, IK Multimedia’s latest synth keyboard is a dream come true. Being a company that largely makes instrument accessories for iOS, their foray into the manufacture of a synthesizer has been cheered widely by professionals in the industry. In the current market, its price tag of USD 200 is a brilliant bargain for a monophonic analog synth such as the UNO model. 


Being an analog synth, most would be satisfied with a great sound, but IK Multimedia has gone a step further to also include two oscillators with a hundred presets. These help in creating a wonderful array of sounds that you don’t expect from a budget analog synth. It also includes a sequencer that’s pretty easy to use along with an arpeggiator that evangelizes things even further.

You will find all of the controls on the front panel itself that adds to its usability. Doing away with menus and submenus, the company has given importance to the more vital features like volume, tempo, and oscillator adjustments. The two tuning knobs provided up top offer you with the ability to make tiny changes to the sound without breaking the flow. Featuring a retro look, you can easily hook it up to a MIDI keyboard if you are looking to create something complicated with several undertones.

ADVANTAGES


  • It offers great sound albeit being in such a low price range
  • Almost all controls are where they should be making usage really simple
  • Highly portable with a strong build makes it a robust instrument for live shows

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The plastic finish makes it feel really cheap and of low quality
  • The touch keyboard is slightly flaky and needs some time to get used to

8. Korg MS20 Mini Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer

Korg MS20 Mini Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer

If you are familiar with the inimitable MS-20 model by Korg, then the new MS-20 mini will bring a smile to your face. With this new synth keyboard, the company has finally perfected and reproduced the circuitry into a body that’s nearly eighty percent of the original model’s size.

With gripping lead tones, juicy fat basses, and warm pads, the MS-20 mini has been upgraded to a level that can seriously compete with other synthesizers in this price range. This model will provide you with two VCFs, two oscillators, a couple of VCAs, a noise generator, and several other components that you can easily tweak. Some of the other features that you will find useful would be the extremely flexible patching system, along with a USB MIDI plus 5-pin MIDI In.

ADVANTAGES


  • Availability of touch-sensitive keys that make handling the instrument while creating a track really simple and hassle-free
  • Brilliant audio for an instrument in this price range making it a great instrument for beginners

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The main output is 1/8” instead of 1/4” so you might need to purchase an extra cord
  • You can’t save your presets making things a tad difficult if you want to dial in the sound you want

At the end of the day, the best synth keyboard to go for would be the JD-XI as it marries the best of both analog and digital synthesizers. Tweaking the ample number of controls to achieve a warm analog bass along with lead tones is so simple that even a beginner can create beautiful notes without much training. The synth also works beautifully in the hands of a professional and lets the musician play around with the pads, strings, and bass with much more flexibility than any other synth keyboard in the crossover space. Although the blend between analog and digital is small, the instrument does not skimp on its versatility making it the best synth keyboard in the market today.

THow to choose a keyboard synthesizer

Whether you are a beginner or a professional, the fact that there is a perfect instrument for every type of player holds. So without further ado, let’s dive in and look at some of the key things to look out for while trying to select the best keyboard synthesizer for yourself.

  • From creating single-tone sounds to ones with complex overtones and layers, it’s no surprise that a good synthesizer can change the way you create great music. Recent models of these instruments come in various complexities and can be customized to suit the needs of the musician irrespective of skill. True, these innumerable specifications might take some time getting used to, but to be honest, a good keyboard is defined by a few fixed standards, and if you have understood them, searching for a brilliant synthesizer keyboard can be a whole lot of fun.
  • Most of the synthesizer keyboards that you will find in the market today use something that’s called sample-based synthesis. This means that the instrument uses sample sounds that have been pre-recorded and fed into it so the player can mix and match to create something unique. The other type of synthesizer that’s experiencing a bit of a renaissance today in the modern world is the analog type. Instead of using pre-recorded samples, they actually manipulate electrical signals to create various types of sounds. These are preferred by professionals largely because of the in-built knob-per-function control. Although these synths enjoy popularity, today’s technology has greatly improved these instruments. For example, a digital synth is becoming more popular nowadays, largely due to the fact that they can emulate sounds with greater accuracy.
  • Now that you know the basic types of synths available out there, it’s time to define your own unique needs. Facts that you should consider would be to identify the style of music you play, how many keys do you prefer, and what sounds would be most important to alleviate your style. This will differ across music genres as a player of metal music will have a different playing style when compared to someone in a country-western, or a pop music band. Famous keyboard makers like Roland and Casio will have sample sound clips as online reviews to help you choose, but nowadays almost all keyboard manufacturers are providing these clips. Contrary to popular belief, today even a cheap synthesizer comes with keyboard actions and quality sound sets. So don’t be disheartened if you haven’t quite made it yet and don’t have tons of money lying around.
  • The other things that you should look at should be build and weight. One of the greatest advantages of a synthesizer is the fact that you can carry it anywhere. This portability factor of a good synthesizer is often underplayed but it’s something experienced synth keyboard musicians swear by. Check the ROM capacity as well; higher it is, the better capability you will have in terms of expanding sounds. Other things like weighted keys and counts with high-polyphony, go a long way in making a synth even more versatile, playable, and powerful. Be sure to check the envelope controls as well because that will let you sustain, decay, and curate the release time of a sound. The low-frequency oscillator (LFO) is another feature you shouldn’t ignore as its application to a tone’s pitch creates a fantastic vibrato effect.

    Some modern synthesizers also have extensive built-in features like chorus, delay, reverb, and many more that will help you push the sonic boundaries of what you play.
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