- Hardware synths offer a hands-on experience with an assortment of controls for fine-tuning sounds.
- Limitations of a hardware synth can lead to creative exploration and mastery of the instrument.
- Hardware synths have universal support and can be used with any major digital audio workstation.
- Hardware synths provide a tangible instrument for jamming and often come bundled with rhythm machines.
- Analog synthesizers offer superior sound quality compared to digital recordings.
- Certain hardware synths can become valuable collector’s items.
What are some reasons to buy a synthesizer? Music production is more popular than ever, and there has been a growing market to support it. The weapon of choice for most electronic musicians is the synthesizer.
Now, these come in a few different flavors, but the focus of today’s article is hardware synthesizers with built-in keyboards. Making your own music at home has never been more affordable, so there are plenty of great reasons to get into it for yourself.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at six reasons why you might want to snag a synthesizer for yourself.
What Is a Synthesizer?
A synthesizer is a musical instrument that uses electrically generated waveforms to create sounds. It doesn’t have a natural timbre like you might find with a guitar or piano. Instead, you’re going to be playing with the building blocks of sound, harmonics, to make your favorite sorts of tones.
Synthesizers come in a few different forms, with most beginner producers being familiar with the likes of software synths. You can get these for free or for a very low cost, especially when compared to a hardware synth.
However, hardware synths have their own distinct advantages over software.
Reasons to Buy a Synthesizer
Here are our favorite reasons to buy a synthesizer keyboard.
Reason #1: Tactility
Hardware synths can be a very hands-on sort of instrument. Unlike more typical acoustic instruments, you have an assortment of controls. These controls are mapped to a specific function, meaning you get a lot of fine-tuning in creating sounds.
This is one of the best reasons to buy a synthesizer, just the sheer creativity that comes about from being able to perform filter sweeps or crank the resonance. Now, not all synths will have per-knob functions, but you can certainly get the most vital functions mapped out to your needs.
Reason #2: Limitations Breed Creativity
It is easy to forget a time when computers didn’t dictate the flow and creation of music. These days you’ve got plenty of options with just a basic laptop to get started on the journey. There is something to be said for limitations.
Many producers can suffer from option overload. A well-made hardware synthesizer might be suited to only one type of synthesis, but you can bend that limitation into some sonic bliss. No one ever faulted Jimi Hendrix for only playing electric guitar.
Being limited by your instrument is just one of the great reasons to buy a synthesizer. Your options are limited to one synth. So, it really just benefits you to master the instrument.
Reason #3: Universal Support
Software synths are great, make no mistake about it. However, they are subject to the same pitfalls as any other piece of software. New operating systems, new computers, and many other factors can lead to your soft synths not working.
This isn’t the case with hardware synths. In fact, you have near-universal support. What you’ll need is balanced instrument cables and a MIDI cable to get really rolling.
Every major digital audio workstation on the market today has support for hardware synths. Some, like Bitwig Studio, are built with hardware in mind.
Reason #4: Jamming Potential
You can certainly jam with a software synthesizer. However, nothing hits quite the same spot as having a real hands-on instrument and feeling the sound in the air.
Hardware synths are real physical instruments, so you get all the wonderful bonuses of having something in your studio. Some hardware synths even come bundled with rhythm machines, so you can handle drums and your melodies with ease.
Do be aware, however, that once you get one, you’ll likely want others. Being able to jam without a computer is just one of the great reasons to buy a synthesizer.
Reason #5: Sound Quality
Software synthesizers can be more convenient. When you’re recording in a digital space, you’re restricted to the limitations of your host machine.
Computers recording at 44.1 to 48 kHz can experience aliasing, which is when harsh digital noises are present in your sounds. Analog synthesizers don’t suffer from this issue in the slightest.
In fact, you can crank the volume and get sweet distorted sounds instead of worrying about overloading your digital mixer. The near-infinite sound floor is just another one of the great reasons to buy a synthesizer.
Reason #6: Some Are Investments
There are some hardware synthesizers that sell for more than their original retail pricing. Now, this is just one of the purely speculative reasons to buy a synthesizer. However, if you play your cards right, you could very easily have a collector’s item on your hands.
Consider the Minimoog, one of the most famous synthesizers on the planet. It is a mechanically simple device. The Minimoog is very limited based on modern standards. However, you could very easily sell a vintage one for thousands of dollars.
Moog’s reissue of the synth still sells for thousands of dollars. You’ll find this with numerous synthesizers on the used market, like the Roland Juno-106. Some synthesizers become so famous in popular culture that it just becomes a vaunted piece of tech to own.
You might be chomping at the bit to dive into the world of hardware synthesizers. So, without further ado, here are three solid recommendations at differing price points to get you started on your journey.
1. Korg Volca FM
The Korg Volca FM is a synthesizer of compromises. You get access to the same frequency modulation synthesis engine that made the Yamaha DX7 famous. However, you only have three voices of polyphony. Polyphony simply refers to how many simultaneous notes you can play at one time.
However, if you aren’t too dissuaded by the low voice count, there is plenty to love here. FM synthesis is built around the use of carriers and modulators. You can coax classic RnB pianos, 80s soundtrack basses, and much more out of the Volca FM.
The Volca FM retails for below $200, and you can snag one for even cheaper if you’re looking on the secondhand market.
2. ASM Hydrasynth Explorer
Imagine a synth that can do a little bit of everything and you aren’t far off the mark with the Hydrasynth Explorer. There is so much to cover on this particular synth that it could be its own article. You get access to eight voices of polyphony.
The synthesis types on offer are FM, subtractive, and wavetables, meaning you get a ton of flexibility in an affordable package. The smaller keyboard isn’t the best, but you do get access to Aftertouch.
The Hydrasynth Explorer is a must-buy if you’re looking into the world of hardware synths. It is priced affordably, especially when considering everything it can do. Unlike the Volca FM, you can actually connect this to your computer with USB cables, since it is a class-compliant instrument.
3. Arturia PolyBrute
The PolyBrute is a serious instrument. It marries the flexibility of a modern software synthesizer with the power of a vintage analog synthesizer. There are only six voices of polyphony in play, but you won’t be complaining.
Arturia’s offering is one of the more affordable professional-grade synths on the market. Touring musicians could put this to good use. It has quite a power at play, with a modulation matrix and multiple ways to put some motion into your sounds.
The PolyBrute isn’t going to be for everyone, but musicians in need of a serious touring instrument would do well to pick one up.
Getting a synth is a great way to feel a connection to your music. You can certainly stick with soft synths and make some incredible songs. However, there is something to be said about having something physically present that you can lay hands on.
|Reasons to Buy a Synthesizer Keyboard|
|1. They are very tactile by nature.|
|2. Placing limitations on yourself can breed creativity.|
|3. You can always use them, no matter what sort of computer you have.|
|4. You can jam without a computer.|
|5. The sound quality is unparalleled|
|6. Some synthesizers are collector’s items.|
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