The Best Synthesizer Keyboards - Under $500 & $1000

The Highest Rated Keyboard Synthesizers


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Hardware synths continue to be both in-style and in-demand, playing big roles in modern mainstream music genres, from disco, to hip hop, to pop, to rock and more.

Here we feature market favorites from among widely available hardware synthesizer keyboards, based on the most current reviews and ratings data up to April 2021. Like the previous edition, this guide is divided into two sections - sub $500 and sub $1000, to make it easier for you to pick a suitable highly synth that's within your budget.

The Best Synthesizer Keyboards

The Best Synth Keyboards Under $500

Korg Monologue Analog Synthesizer


92 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

Korg monologue Analog Synthesizer

The Korg Monologue is a feature packed analog synthesizer with built-in 16-step sequencer.

While it is monophonic, it does allow for a wide range of sounds with its envelope generators, two VCOs (Voltage Controlled Oscillators) that offer wave shaping, 16-step sequencer and analog drive effect.

To allow for modern preset convenience, this analog synthesizer comes with a digital brain that allows you to save 20 user presets, and recall 80 factory presets.

Other features include having a 25-key slim keybed with velocity sensitivity, micro-tuning, auto-tuning, easy transposition of sequences, and it can run on batteries.


  • Polyphony: Monophonic
  • Keys: 25 Velocity Sensitive Slim-Keys
  • Oscillator: 2 x VCO
  • Filter: 1 x LFO
  • Envelope: 3 Envelope Generator Modes
  • LFO: 3 waveforms (square, triangle, sawtooth)
  • Effects: Analog Drive distortion
  • Additional Controllers: None
  • Step Sequencer: 16-steps
  • Audio Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Audio Output: 1 x 1/4" (audio out) with 1/4" Headphones Out
  • Other Connectivity: USB (Type B), MIDI In/Out, 2 x 1/8" Sync in/out
  • Power: 9V DC power supply (sold separately) / 6 x AA batteries
  • Dimensions: 2.99" x 13.78" x 10.87"
  • Weight: 3.7 lbs.

For its compact size and price, users are mostly impressed with the sonic versatility of the Korg Monologue. This versatility also translates to value, since you can do more with just one instrument. Aside from its versatile envelopes and VCOs, many are also impressed with its sequencer. Even Paul Nagle of Sound on Sound commends it by saying, "While the Monologue is appealing for its sound engine alone, for me the deal-clincher is the sequencer."

There are a few complaints about the need to buy the power adapter separately.

If you're looking for a versatile yet compact synth/sequencer, then this is well worth checking out.

Yamaha Reface CP


92 out of 100. Incorporating 400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

Yamaha Reface CP Portable Electric Piano Synthesizer Keyboard

The Yamaha Reface CP is a portable synth that specializes in vintage keyboard sounds, with built-in stompbox style effects.

It lets you choose between 6 vintage keyboard sounds, and lets you further shape the sound via drive, tremolo, auto-wah, delay and reverb effects, with each effect having their own dedicated controls.

For a compact 37-key instrument, it comes with 128-note polyphony, built-in stereo speakers with bass reflex, and USB connectivity.

It can also run for up to 5 hours, on 6 x AA batteries, or you can power it up via a 12V DC power supply.


  • Polyphony: 128-note Polyphony
  • Keys: 37 Mini Synth Keys with Initial Touch
  • Oscillator: None
  • Filter: None
  • Envelope: None
  • LFO: None
  • Effects: Tremolo, Chorus, Phaser, Delay, Reverb
  • Additional Controllers: Sustain jack
  • Step Sequencer: None
  • Audio Input: 1 x 1/8" TRS (Aux)
  • Audio Output: 2 x 1/4" (Left/Right Out) with 1/4" Headphones Out
  • Other Connectivity: USB (Type B), MIDI In/Out
  • Power: 12V DC power supply (sold separately) / 6 x AA batteries
  • Dimensions: 2.37" x 20.87" x 6.87"
  • Weight: 4.1875 lbs.

Portability and ease of use are the two main reasons why users choose this over modern DAW based setups. There are also plenty of users who are impressed with the sound they get from the Reface CP, even the sound coming from the built-in speaker gets plenty of commendations. The ability to add and adjust effects is also very nifty, and this is reflected in reviews.

Compact keys can be an issue for those who are used to standard size keys. There are also a few who are not happy with the built-in speakers.

If you are looking for a portable and easy to use synthesizer, then this should be high on your list.

Novation Bass Station II


95 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

Novation Bass Station II Analog Synthesizer
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Keyboard Synth Under $500.

As the name implies this is a monophonic synthesizer meant for crafting your own synth bass sounds.

It retains the analog tone of its predecessor, the classic Bass Station, which was released over 20 years ago, and introduces some new features.

New features include the Acid Filter, which has a diode ladder design that shapes the sound to be smoother and darker.

It comes with a 32 pattern arpeggiator, and a sequencer that lets you create and recall your own patterns. Finally, it has two oscillators, and a sub-oscillator with square, sine, and narrow pulse-width waveforms for better low-end punch.


  • Keys: 25 note synth-action keyboard
  • Polyphony: Monophonic
  • Oscillator: 1 x Osc 1, 1 x Osc 2, 3 x Sub Osc, 1 x Noise generator
  • Filter: 1 x Acid type (diode ladder filter design), 1 x Classic type (derived from original Bass Station)
  • Envelope: 1 x Amp Envelope, 1 x Mod Envelope
  • LFO: 2 x LFO
  • Presets: 64 factory presets
  • Effects: Distortion, Oscillator filter mod amount (FM effect created by Oscillator 2 modulating filter freq)
  • Additional Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel
  • Step Sequencer: 4 Sequences
  • Arpeggitator: 32 Patterns
  • Audio Input: 1 x 1/4" TRS input
  • Audio Output :1 x 1/4" TRS output, 1 x 1/4" TRS headphone output
  • Other Connectivity :USB MIDI (for connecting & powering Bass Station II via host computer), MIDI IN / MIDI OUT ports on 5 pin din, 1/4" TS Sustain Pedal input
  • Power: USB bus powered, 9V DC 300mA
  • Dimensions: 18” x 10.75” x 3”
  • Weight: 8.5 lbs


The Bass Station II continues to be the go-to instrument for synth bass sounds, and users credit its sub-oscillator for its great sound. The overdrive and distortion filters blend well with its bass tone, resulting in a gritty sound that many appreciate. It also gets a lot of thumbs up for being solidly built, even though it is made mostly out of plastic material. Many are also impressed with the many features and controls provided, given its compact size.

For a very small and light-weight unit, the Bass Station II has a large amount of parameters and controls. Reviewers mentioned this synthesizer was able to provide dynamic bass sounds because of its sub-oscillator. The two filters' overdrive and distortion were some of the functions that stood out for reviewers since it gave that aggressive and gritty sound. Even though the build is made out of plastic, the knobs, faders and unit itself feel sturdy while the keys were very responsive. Some users pointed out the lack of CV/gate inputs and outputs, which is a downside for those who want to connect with other analog equipment they own.


There are some who complained about lack of input/output options. There are few who point out that keyboard tracking on the filter can't be adjusted, which may be an issue for those who want to filter lower sounds to be warm and dull, but not filter out all the high sounds once played on the keyboard.


If you are looking for a good bass focused synthesizer that is easy to carry around while having deep control options, then this is for you.

Arturia MiniBrute 2 Analog Synthesizer Keyboard


93 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

Arturia MiniBrute 2 Analog Synthesizer

The Minibrute 2 is 25-key analog synth with a built-in arpeggiator and sequencer. At its core are 2 oscillators that allow for wave shaping, waveform mixing and modulation.

Expanding its sonic options further are two envelope filters, two LFOs and a 4-mode Steiner Parker analog filter.

Another important feature is its 48-point CV patch bay, which makes it compatible with other modular synthesizers.

It also supports USB and MIDI connectivity, and it syncs with compatible gear like the DrumBrute, Akai MPC Live, and Korg Volcas.


  • Polyphony: Monophonic
  • Keys: Analog
  • Oscillator: 2 x VCO
  • Filter: 12dB per octave Steiner Parker filter
  • Envelope: Envelope
  • LFO: 2 x LFO with waveforms (sine, sawtooth, triangle, square, random)
  • Effects: Brute Factor Drive, Sweep Effects
  • Additional Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel
  • Step Sequencer: 8 sequences, 64-steps
  • Audio Input: 1 x 1/8" (external audio)
  • Audio Output: 1 x 1/4" (master), 1 x 1/4" (headphones)
  • Other Connectivity: USB (Type B), MIDI In/Out
  • Power: 12V DC 2.5A power supply (included)
  • Dimensions: 2.3" x 19" x 13.2"
  • Weight: 10.6 lbs.

Thanks to its 48 CV patch, the MiniBrute 2 is touted as the best value modular synth, and a great entry-way into the complex world of modular synths. Even Music Radar's Si Truss concluded his review by saying: "The patchbay adds flexibility and character that make this a very serious competitor in the now crowded analogue monosynth market".

There are a few who aired out features that they wish were added like having a digital brain for programmability, and having a more spaced-out interface.

If you're looking to get into modular synths, then this is a good starting point.

The Best Synth Keyboards Under $1000

Behringer Odyssey 37


96 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

Behringer Odyssey 37-Key Synthesizer Keyboard

As the name implies, this is inspired by the iconic ARP Odyssey from the '70s, only this one is reasonably priced and comes with updated features.

Instead of knobs, the Odyssey is filled to the brim with faders, which make it easier to visualize your VCO, VCF and VCA parameters, all of which feature analog signal paths.

It also comes with a 32-step sequencer, an arpeggiator and a long list of Klark Teknik effects, which include modulation, reverb, delay, pitch shifting and more. Finally, it sports 37 full-sized keys that are semi-weighted and velocity-sensitive.


  • Polyphony: Mono/Duophonic
  • Keys: 37 Full-Size Velocity Sensitive and Semi-Weighted Keys
  • Oscillator: 2 x Analog VCO, Square Pulse, Sawtooth, Pulse-Width Modulation
  • Filter: 2-pole MKI, 4-pole MKII, 4-pole MKIII
  • Envelope: 1 x ADSR, 1 x AR
  • LFO: 1 x LFO waveforms (Sine, square)
  • Effects: Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Delay, Pitch Shifter
  • Additional Controllers: None
  • Step Sequencer: 32-steps, 64 patterns
  • Audio Input: 1 x 1/4" TS (audio in)
  • Audio Output: 1 x XLR (High)1 x 1/4" TS (Low), 1 x 1/4" (headphones)
  • Other Connectivity: USB (Type B), CV in/out, Gate in/out, Trig in/out
  • Power: 9V DC power supply included
  • Dimensions: 7.9" x 26.2" x 19.5"
  • Weight: 22.7 lbs.

The original ARP Odyssey is a hard act to follow, but looking at the ratings, the Behringer Odyssey is justified in using carrying the iconic name. Reviewers agree that it brings back old school synth sounds nicely, while having some nifty modern additions that make it easier to integrate into setups. Some even compare it favorably over high-end software plug-in versions of the Odyssey. It is also often commended for being solidly built, thanks to its all metal chassis, which is an upgrade compared to the original's metal faceplate + plastic sides and back.

Not many complaints about its performance, but there are a few who caution that you need a good sound system or headphones to make the most of the Behringer Odyssey. There are also a few who comment that MIDI connectivity is a bit limited,

If you want a high quality yet affordable classic sounding keyboard synthesizer then this is for you.

Roland JUNO-DS61 Digital Synthesizer


94 out of 100. Incorporating 375+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

Roland JUNO-DS61 Digital Synthesizer

The Roland Juno-DS61 is a digital synthesizer for modern keyboardists, featuring 61 synth keys and 8 pads, all of which are customizable via sampling, so you can play sounds that you've synthesized, or virtually any type of recorded sound for that matter, be it on the keys or on the pads.

It comes preloaded with a wide array of sounds, including various organs and pianos. There's even over 1,000 downloadable sounds to further expand its sonic capabilities.

Other features include built-in mic input with dedicated effects (auto pitch and vocoder), 8-track pattern sequencer, and it can record your performances and send it to your computer via USB.


  • Polyphony: Polyphonic
  • Keys: 61 Velocity Sensitive Keys
  • Oscillator: Digital
  • Filter: Digital
  • Envelope: Digital
  • LFO: Digital
  • Effects: 3 x Mulit-effects, 3 x Chorus, 5 x Reverbs, 8 x Mic Reverbs and Vocoder
  • Additional Controllers: Pitchbend/Modulation Lever
  • Step Sequencer: _ sequences, _-steps
  • Audio Input: 1 x 1/4" (mic), 1 x 1/8" (aux)
  • Audio Output: 2 x 1/4" (L/R), 1 x 1/4" (Headphones)
  • Other Connectivity: 1 x USB Type A (stored trigger samples), 1 x USB Type B (Audio/MIDI)
  • Power: DC 9V adapter, 8 x AA batteries
  • Dimensions: 3.87" x 39.68" x 11.81"
  • Weight: 11.75 lbs.

Analog synths simply can't compete with the complexity and versatility of digital synths, and the Roland Juno-DS61 packs all that in a compact and portable profile that can run on batteries. Even those who own expensive analog synths have mostly great things to say about the DS61's sound, while others are impressed with how they can fine tune the sounds and change settings to match their preferences and workflow.

There are still a few who are not impressed with some of the synth sounds, while some feel that the controls should be a bit more intuitive.

For a compact battery powered digital synthesizer, the Roland Juno-DS61 is hard to beat when it comes to versatility.

Moog Subsequent 25 Analog Synthesizer Keyboard


94 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

Moog Subsequent 25 Analog Synthesizer Keyboard

The Subsequent 25 applies Moog's sound and build quality standards to a compact monophonic 25-note analog synthesizer.

The keys are semi-weighted and are velocity sensitive, they are also supported by pitchbend and mod wheel for further expression, while octave shift buttons expands the available range.

For synthesizing different sounds, it sports an analog sound engine with a sub oscillator, 2 oscillators, ladder filters, and a noise generator. It also sports a 2-note paraphonic duo mode, and is said to have twice the headroom of older analog synths.

Finally, the Subsequent 25 comes in a nice looking profile with genuine wood panels, internal power supply and modern USB connectivity.


  • Polyphony: Monophonic, 2 Note Paraphonic
  • Keys: 25 Semi-Weighted, Velocity Sensitive
  • Oscillator: 2 Oscillators, 1 Sub Oscillator, 1 Noise Generator
  • Filter: Moog Ladder
  • Envelope: 1 x ADSR (filter), 1 x ADSR (amp)
  • LFO: Triangle, Square, Sawtooth, Ramp, Sample & Hold
  • Effects: Re-tuned Multidrive
  • Additional Controllers: Pitchbend/Modulation Wheel
  • Step Sequencer: None
  • Audio Input: 1 x 1/4" (External In)
  • Audio Output: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (Headphones)
  • Other Connectivity: 1 x USB Type B, Pitch CV in, Filter CV in, KB Gate in, Volume CV in, MIDI In/Out
  • Power: Internal Power Supply with AC Cable
  • Dimensions: 6.75" x 20.25" x 14.75"
  • Weight: 16 lbs.

Many are in love with how fat and thick the resulting sound is, some even note that it sounds much better than the synth plugins that they have. Owners appreciate the extra harmonics and saturation this synth provides, especially for use with bass synth style sounds. Interestingly, there are some who report that this synth is not limited to just low frequency synthesizing, rather that it is capable of full-range synth use.

The 25-key format can be a bit limiting for those who are used to wider keybeds.

Hard to go wrong with a Moog, check this one out if you're looking for a premium but compact 25-key keyboard synthesizer.

Special Option

The following synth has had a price increase that put it above this guide's $1000 limit, however we've decided to keep our recommendation for it here due to its exceptional ratings.

Moog Grandmother Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer Keyboard


97 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

Moog Grandmother Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer Keyboard
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Keyboard Synth Under $1000 (the price increased after this edition was originally published).

Moog is undeniably the brand to beat when it comes to analog synths, and the Grandmother, being the best rated synth in the sub $1000 price range, helps keep them at the top.

This semi-modular monophonic synth features 2 oscillators, 4-pole ladder filter and 1-pole highpass filter. Synth enthusiasts will enjoy its 41 patch points, which is the selling point for analog synths.

For controls, the Grandmother houses a 32-key Fatar keybed with velocity sensitivity.

Another important feature is its built-in spring reverb, that works on both the internally synthesized sounds or external sounds.

It also houses a sequencer/arpeggiator with 3 preset locations, carrying up to 256 notes.


  • Polyphony: Monophonic
  • Keys: 32-Key Fatar with Velocity Sensitivity
  • Oscillator: 2 x Analog VCO, White Noise Generator
  • Filter: 1 x Analog LFO with Audio
  • Envelope: 1 x ADSR
  • LFO: 1 x Analog LFO with Audio (triangle, sawtooth, square)
  • Effects: Spring Reverb
  • Additional Controllers: Mod Wheel, Pitchbend Wheel, Variable Glide
  • Step Sequencer: 3 sequences, 256-steps
  • Audio Input: 1 x 1/4" (instrument in), 1 x 1/8" (reverb in)
  • Audio Output: 1 x 1/4" (main/headphones), 1 x 1/8" (reverb out), 1 x 1/8" (eurorack out)
  • Other Connectivity: USB (Type B), Clock in, Clock out, Reset in, On/Off in, 41 x Patch Points
  • Power: 12V DC 2A power supply (included)
  • Dimensions: 5.5" x 23" x 14.25"
  • Weight: 16 lbs.

Be it for full sounding lead and bass, or for laying out ambient pads, the Moog Grandmother impresses almost everyone in classic synth patch configuration. As per our analysis, it is currently the top rated synth, and rightly so given the many positive ratings and recommendations that it gets. The ability to use patch points is really its main selling point, allowing for a more old-school hands-on approach to making cool synth tones.

Since it uses a patch interface, the Grandmother is not meant for beginners, you ought to have good knowledge and experience with synths to make the most out of it. The price tag also keeps this synth a bit out of reach for budget conscious musicians, but most of those who invested in it are happy with what they got in return.

If you're looking for genuine old school synth sounds and playing experience, and you have the budget, then the Moog Grandmother is perfect for you.

Additional Option

Arturia MicroFreak Experimental Hybrid Keyboard Synth


95 out of 100. Incorporating 650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

Arturia MicroFreak Experimental Hybrid Keyboard Synth

The Arturia MicroFreak takes a different approach to compact synths, the most distinct of which is the use of a flat "touch plate" keyboard. It has 25 pressure sensitive keys on a flat surface, that also features polyphonic aftertouch.

The MicroFreak also houses a distinct combination of digital oscillators with analog filters, which together with its arpeggiator and sequencer allows for quite a lot of sonic flexibility. This enables it to have a "paraphonic" configuration, where it can sound multiple notes simultaneously like polyphonic keyboards, but all the notes are processed via a common oscillator and filter.

Finally you can save your settings in one of the 64 user presets, or you can revert to one of its 128 factory presets.


  • Polyphony: Paraphonic
  • Keys: 25 Touch Keyboard with Aftertouch
  • Oscillator: 11 x Digital Oscillators (engine type, wave, timbre, shape)
  • Filter: Analog filters
  • Envelope: 1 x ADSR, Cycling Envelope
  • LFO: 1 x LFO with Sync (sine, sawtooth, square, triangle, random, slew random)
  • Effects: None
  • Additional Controllers: Capacitive Touch Strip
  • Step Sequencer: 2 pattern per preset, 64-steps
  • Audio Input: None
  • Audio Output: 1 x 1/4" (master out), 1 x 1/8" (headphones)
  • Other Connectivity: USB (Type B)
  • Power: 12V DC 1A power supply (included)
  • Dimensions: 2.2" x 12.5" x 9.2"
  • Weight: 2.5 lbs.

Adventurous types who are not afraid to try something different have great things to say about the MicroFreak and its distinct touch plate keybed. It also gets a lot of thumbs up for its overall sound, which many describe as massive and lush sounding. More importantly, those who recommend this synth describe it as fun to play, and a welcome departure from the usual compact synth designs.

Lack of effects seem to be a downer for a few, and obviously, those who prefer the feel of classic synth keybeds will want to skip this.

If you're looking for a different synth playing experience, then do check out the Arturia MicroFreak.

Things to Consider When Buying a Keyboard Synth

Polyphony / Number of Voices

Polyphony is defined by the number of notes that can be played simultaneously. There are two main types: monophonic and polyphonic. Monophonic synths are capable of playing one note at a time. A good number of synth enthusiasts tend to favor monophonic synthesizers due to their rich, full and pronounced sound compared to polyphonic synths. These are often used to create full sounding lead or bass synth parts that easily jump out of the mix. Polyphonic synths, on the other hand, let you play multiple notes all at once. Although they sometimes sound a bit thinner, they tend to have the essential options and are capable of letting you play leads and chords.

Size and Portability

Choosing the size depends on where you will plan to use your synth. A small and compact synthesizer with less than 49 keys is recommended if you have limited space. They're also easier to carry around for live performance purposes or if you plan to jam with others in their own domain. Another important portability factor to consider is the ability to run on batteries.

Controls and Interface

Synthesizers come with different interfaces and controls yet they all function in similar ways following the basic signal path: oscillator, filter, then an amplifier. Most synthesizers have the basic waveforms shape for built-in LFOs, envelope generator with ADSR sliders, and at least one control for effects used to enhance the sound. Some synthesizers with more than one modulator have a Mod Matrix, which is a grid that's used to intuitively route modulation sources easily to their destinations (LFO to filter cutoff, mod envelope to pitch, etc). It's highly suggested to get a synthesizer that gives you a straightforward layout of knobs, sliders and buttons without needing to look through menus, or having to do multiple combinations of buttons.

Other Features

A common feature found in synthesizers is a built-in sequencer. This is useful if you want to write and save melodies or bass lines in the synthesizer's memory bank, and loop them while tweaking other parameters. Some synthesizers also have stored percussion and drum sequencers for creating beats.


A lot of synthesizers on the market have numerous functions that may factor in your sound preference and productivity. If you need a full polyphonic synth without breaking the bank, digital synthesizers are the best option. Monophonic analog synthesizers are also great entry level and budget options if you are new to synthesis.

Best Synthesizer Keyboard Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 written by Denise Azucena and the current edition was published on April 9, 2021 written by Alexander Briones.

We first looked at all the keyboard synthesizers available from major online American music gear retailers that have a street price up to $1000. And for this 2021 update, we ended up with even more synths on our short-list for closer examination, which summed to 28 - you can see the list in the Music Gear Database. Next we collected and analyzed over 16,700 rating and review sources, nearly 3 times that of the previous update. This data includes feedback from review websites, retailers, discussion forums and major music gear publications, including the most recent reviews up to April 2021. All these data were then processed via the Gearank Algorithm to produce our ratings scores out of 100 for each synth. We used the resulting ratings to rank the synths in a way that closely reflects market sentiment. Finally, we divided the list to 2 price ranges, sub $500 and sub $1000. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.


We have removed the Korg

We have removed the Korg minilogue from the recommended list above due to a price increase that put it above the $500 limit for the section it qualified for.

Today we removed the

We have removed the following keyboard from the recommended list above due to a price increase, but you can still read our analysis of it: Roland JUNO-DS88.