Great for: guitarists or other musicians looking to explore new sounds.
Let’s kick off with one of the most affordable bits of kit in our entire synth range: Pocket Operators. Danish manufacturer Teenage Engineering have a knack for making super fun gear, and these are no exception.
These pocket-sized synths are affordable, portable and noisy as anything. Each one has a different sound, ranging from thumping bass to punchy percussion and everything in between. They take two AAA batteries and can be synchronised with eachother for seamless music-making. There’s even a little on-screen animation for each sound – too cool!
Great for: synth beginners, producers and musicians on the move.
Don’t be fooled by the slick modern interface of IK Multimedia’s UNO 22: this thing is all analog! The UNO delivers everything from classic to modern sounds to create music in any genre.
It’s got plenty of presets and an easy keyboard with scales and arpeggiation, making it great for beginners or first-time synth users. Pros will love the rich, fat sounds and easy portability, which makes it a great synth for travelling and creating music on the go!
Great for: producers and electronic musicians looking for some gnarly hardware.
French manufacturer Arturia’s Brute range features some of the most versatile, hard-hitting synths on the market. The DrumBrute impact is an all-analog drum machine, combining punchy old-school drum sounds with heaps of modern features and an easy interface.
Set up a drum sequence and tweak on the fly; breaks, polyrhythms, filters – the works. Other key features include built-in distortion and effects, CV/Gate compatibility and a compact design. Don’t be fooled by its sub-£300 price point: the Impact packs a studio-quality punch that’s bound to put a smile on your face.
Great for: creating classic ‘80s and ‘90s tones!
Roland are synth trailblazers. In decades past, they helped to define synths as we know them; from classic analog drums to mind-bending modular setups. Their Boutique range pays homage to their reputation, faithfully reimagining their most timeless synths with modern, compact design.
Whether you’re after the iconic 808 drum sound, silky smooth retro synths or anything in between, the Roland Boutique range ticks all the boxes – plus their sleek retro designs make them great collectibles.
Great for: musicians wanting to explore analog electronic music on a budget.
When you consider what they can actually do, Behringer’s desktop synths are pinch-yourself affordable. Modelled on classic analog synths (think Moog, Dave Smith), these compact units offer in-depth controls and jaw-dropping sounds aplenty.
The Model D is their classic Moog-style synth. 3 oscillators, tons of filtering options and simple patching unlock an enormous range of sounds. The Neutron takes the patching a step further, allowing you to essentially rebuild the entire signal chain and find your own sound – to no end. The best bit? They’re both less than £300!
Great for: fearless producers and players who don’t mind pushing the boundaries of creativity.
The Erebus is Dreadbox's flagship desktop synthesizer. With the V3, they've stepped it up a notch in just about every aspect of its design. This kickass analog synth now has more features, a more advanced interface, and a more compact enclosure - how do they do it?
With an extra oscillator, ring modulation, noise generator and a whopping 35 patch connections onboard, the V3 is among the most capable yet intuitive desktop synths on the market. It also makes a powerful addition to any Eurorack setup.
Great for: changing the way you think about making music and unlocking your creativity.
We couldn’t resist having Teenage Engineering on the list twice – their OP-Z synth is big news. Ask any electronic music enthusiast about them; chances are you’ll hear nothing but glowing praise.
The OP-Z behaves like a sequencer/sampler, with 16-steps and 10 patterns to play with. Built-in effects, Bluetooth connectivity, built-in tape heads – all no bigger than a paperback book!
Great for: the synth enthusiast looking for some light, noisy relief.
The Moog Grandmother combines Moog’s expertise on analog synthesis with a fresh, playful approach to design. The result is a synth that’s colourful in every sense of the word!
The Grandmother was one of the biggest synth releases of 2018. Its chunky colour-coded interface makes it thoroughly playable, with a built-in 32-key Fatar keyboard. Add a sequencer, LFO, spring reverb and patch connections and you’ve got an absolute belter of a synth that’s enjoyable through-and-through.
Great for: the show-off keys player who isn’t afraid to make a statement!
I mean – LOOK at this thing. If you don’t want to just pick it up and dance around making a racket, you need to re-assess a few things. World class synth designers Roland bring us the AX Edge, a striking redesign of the classic keytar (keyboard & guitar) packed with more features than ever before.
49 full-size keys, 256-note polyphony, 500 presets, 79 effects – that’s a lot of numbers, and it barely scrapes the surface of what the Axe Edge can do. It’s even got a built-in vocoder!
Great for: the committed synthesizer nerd looking for a soon-to-be-rare addition to the collection!
Sequential, formerly known as Dave Smith Instruments, announced this year that they were discontinuing their ultra-powerful Prophet 12 synthesizer. At the same time, they announced a stunning Limited Edition Arctic White model, complete with Maple ends. This is your last chance to get hold of a modern classic – get one while you can!
The Prophet 12 features a hybrid digital/analog architecture and a 12-voice polyphony. Each voice features four oscillators, a sub-oscillator, tone shaping character section, high and low-pass filters, tuneable feedback circuit, four-tap delay line (with feedback per line), four loopable five-stage envelope generators, four syncable LFOs and more!