Updated: January 25, 2020 by Richard Cole
Ever since synthesizers became a thing, the music industry completely changed. From the more simple and robust sound of the ’80s to the completely evolved music we have today, hardware synths were a great factor that influenced the way we look at music and musical instruments.
Today there’s not much you can’t do with a synth, which is why a lot of musicians love them, even those that don’t necessarily do electronic music.
If you are looking for a good hardware synth, you are in the right place. We decided to take a look at what is offered at the moment, and pick three great synths that offer a lot, don’t cost too much, and are somewhat compact.
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– Korg ARP Odyssey –
Korg needs no introduction when it comes to hardware synthesizers. They have been around for a while, and in that time Korg managed to become a real authority in the industry.
Korg ARP Odyssey is a revamp of one of their legendary models with the same name, which was very popular back in the day. It definitely brings the same quality, and unique character just like the original.
If you want something that is slightly retro, comes from a reputable brand, and is capable of shaping the sound in unique ways, this Korg is what you’re looking for.
As we mentioned, Korg ARP Odyssey features a very old school design. It looks like something that came to us straight from the ’80s. Some may not like this design choice, but the more you look at it, the more it simply fits.
It comes with a keyboard that sports 37 mini-keys. Only critique we have about the keyboard is that it’s not velocity sensitive. However it does a decent job. Your oscillator section features sawtooth and pulse/PWM waveforms with sync and ring modulation. It’s pretty much the same you would find on the original.
Korg ARP Odyssey comes with a single LFO that has sine and square signal waveforms. Where this synth starts to shine are the faders. They are the exact copy of the ones that you can find on the original ARP. Smooth, seamless effect that still holds up to this day.
It would be wrong to say that Korg ARP Odyssey is not a modern synth, however it does stand out in its own way. The voices and sounds you can create with this thing are just unique.
You get the same experience as the original APR that everyone loved, but this time you can also mold it into whatever genre you are going for. Korg ARP Odyssey is without a doubt among the best synths you can get today, and one with its own character.
Another big name in the business, Roland pushed out a very compact but capable hardware synthesizer that comes packed with all kinds of features. It looks great, feels great, and is just built to a certain standard.
The layout is pretty intuitive, and requires very little getting used to. All of the sections are clearly marked and separated while the controls feel good in your hands.
Roland GAIA SH-01 is a versatile synth, there’s no doubt about it. It comes with three virtual analog engines that each have their own amplifier, envelope, oscillator section and LFOs. It’s not an analog synth, but it sure sounds like one.
One feature that we found to be pretty good is the multi-mode which allows you to have access all kinds of filters with a touch of a button.
The whole package works and feels great, however if you have experience with analog synths, you will noticed that this Roland can be rough around the edges sometimes.
We personally don’t see it as a deal breaker since this Roland has a lot to offer, but purists might find that lack of smoothness somewhat irritating. If you have really high standards, then this synth may not be for you. But if you need something that is versatile and offers a great sound, don’t skip this Roland.
Sound and tones you can expect with this synth are versatile to say the least. Analog signal emulation works pretty well although you won’t get a 100% analog sound. Once you start layering oscillators, LFOs and other stuff, you will see the full potential of this synth.
Yamaha is known to shake up the synth world once in a while. Their DX7 series influenced the pop music with such force that it changed the game forever. The rest of the family also made a mark on the industry.
Yamaha recently released a series of synths that were designed to offer the sound of their most iconic models from the past. REFACE DX is one of those synths that offers the whole spectrum of Yamaha DX series from the ’80s.
Reface DX comes with a bunch of features that the rest of the Reface line doesn’t offer. We’re talking mainly about its ability to store presets, all 32 of them.
This comes as a pretty important asset especially when working with FM synthesis, which is essentially what this synth is all about. The ones that come with the Reface DX offer anything from more old school synth voices to modern stuff that can easily be used for house music or similar.
There’s not much to say about this synth in terms of sound. It an FM synth that delivers impressive emulation of some of the best Yamaha synths from recent decades. It’s simply timeless.
Seeing how vaporware is slowly becoming a thing, this Yamaha is definitely something to consider if that is what you’re looking for. And even if it’s not, Reface DX series are extremely flexible.
These three hardware synth models are probably the most interesting ones you can find on the market at the moment. Everywhere you look there are synths with what can only be described as generic features and sound.
These three break that monotony and bring some diversity into the mix.