Top Analog Synthesizers for Vintage Sound Aficionados

Mar 20

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Navigating the world of analog synthesizers can be a thrilling journey into sound. Discover the finest vintage sound engines and the artists who wield them, as well as how to choose and use the right synth for your music. Enjoy the warm, rich tones only analog can offer with this HTMEM guide.

Key Takeaways

  • Analog synthesizers, renowned for their ‘warm’ and ‘full’ sound, are gaining popularity due to a resurgence in interest and more affordable manufacturing, connecting musicians to the instrument’s rich history and hands-on creative expression.

  • A variety of analog synthesizers ranging from entry-level to high-end models satisfying different skill levels and budgets, with modern options providing different features, such as polyphony and advanced modulation capabilities.

  • In choosing an analog synth, it’s essential to consider features such as sound quality, hands-on control, and modulation capabilities, and how the instrument can integrate with other music production tools to expand creative possibilities.

Understanding Analog Synthesizers

An illustration of analog synthesizers with various knobs and control interfaces

Welcome to the electrifying realm of analog synth and analog synthesizers, where each knob twist and switch flick transforms airwaves into auditory masterpieces. Sounds exciting? Let's check this out!

Analog synthesizers use analog circuits and signals to generate sound, offering a distinct sonic palette that digital instruments often strive to emulate. In an age where software synths and digital soundscapes dominate, the organic, raw sounds of analog circuits are experiencing a renaissance. Manufacturers are now leveraging cheaper manufacturing methods and a renewed interest in these classic synths, making them more accessible and sought after than ever before.

Analog synthesizers serve as more than just musical instruments. They connect us to the past, facilitate current music creation, and light the way for the future of composition. From the warmth of a Moog bass to the crispness of a Korg lead, analog synths offer a hands-on experience that is both intuitive and inspiring. They serve as a canvas for musicians to paint their sonic landscapes, with every analogue filter and oscillator adding a stroke of genius to the masterpiece that is analog synthesis.

The history of analog synths

The progression of analog synthesizers offers an intriguing narrative of innovation and creativity. These instruments have transformed from rudimentary mechanical devices to the sophisticated electronic instruments that stand at the heart of modern music production. The Minimoog, launched in 1970, was a game-changer; it was the first portable and accessible synthesizer with a built-in keyboard, bringing the magic of synthesis to a broader audience. As the decade progressed, companies like Oberheim and Sequential Circuits pushed the envelope with the OB-X and Prophet-5, introducing the world to the wonders of polyphony and programmability.

This era of rapid innovation laid the groundwork for the analog revival we’re witnessing today. Musicians and producers are rediscovering the unique sonic qualities and hands-on experience that these classic synths offer. It’s not just about the sound; it’s about the connection to a rich history of music-making a journey through time powered by oscillators and analog filters.

How analog synths work

Every analog synthesizer is fundamentally a harmonious ensemble of electronic components, united to generate sound. Three oscillators generate the raw audio waves that are the building blocks of synthesis, creating everything from the deep rumble of a bass to the piercing lead of a synth solo.

The classic waveforms —saw, square waves, sine, and triangle— each bring their unique flavor to the mix, while filters sculpt the sound, carving out frequencies to shape the timbre.

The beauty of analog synthesizers lies in their ability to manipulate these electronic signals in real-time. Voltage-controlled amplifiers (VCAs) and filters, along with envelope generators, modulate the sound, adding dynamics and expression. Low-frequency oscillators (LFOs) introduce vibrato and other modulations, creating movement within the sound. It’s a delicate dance of voltage and control, one that requires both precision and creativity to master.

Analog Synthesizer vs. digital synths

In the world of synthesizers, the choice between analog and digital is often a matter of personal preference and intended use (and budget💰). Analog synthesizers produce a continuous signal with infinite resolution, resulting in what many describe as a “warm” and “full” sound. This warmth is particularly noticeable in high notes, where digital synths might struggle with artifacts like aliasing due to their finite processing speeds (depending on the finite bit capacity of the digital synths).

Digital synths offer a different set of advantages, including:

  • Extensive preset libraries

  • Higher polyphony

  • Lower cost

  • Expansive range of sound design possibilities

  • Emulation of classic analog sounds

  • Additional flexibility of digital technology, such as multitimbral capabilities and automation

While digital synths like the Yamaha DX7 shaped the sound of the ‘80s, modern variants like the Korg Volca FM2 and Nu:Tekt NTS-1 continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in sound creation.

Top Analog Synths for Various Budgets and Skill Levels

A colorful illustration of different analog synthesizers representing various budgets and skill levels

As you explore further into the realm of analog synthesizers, you’ll discover a broad selection of options catering to every requirement and budget. From the compact and affordable to the expansive and luxurious, there’s an analog synth out there for everyone. Whether you’re just starting or are a seasoned pro looking to add to your collection, the market is brimming with choices that cater to both the sonic characteristics and the practical considerations of every musician.

For those who desire to get their hands on the knobs and keys of an analog synthesizer, the journey begins with finding the right instrument. Entry-level models offer a gentle introduction to this world, while mid-range synths provide a richer feature set for those ready to expand their musical horizons. And for the connoisseurs of sound design, high-end analog synthesizers await with their unparalleled polyphony and sound-shaping capabilities. Let’s explore the top picks across these categories.

Entry-level analog synths

Starting on the analog synth adventure can be both exciting and daunting.

Thankfully, entry-level analog synths like the Korg Minilogue and Arturia MiniBrute 2 serve as the perfect gateway. These instruments are designed with the beginner in mind, offering intuitive interfaces and a price point that won’t break the bank. The Korg Minilogue, with its user-friendly layout, is an excellent choice for those looking to dip their toes into the world of analog synthesis for the first time.

But affordability doesn’t mean a compromise on quality. Some of the best starter synths include:

  • Arturia MiniBrute 2: celebrated for its robust sound engine and straightforward interface

  • Novation Bass Station II: also known for its robust sound engine and straightforward interface

  • Yamaha Reface CS: with its nod to the classic Yamaha CS-80, it provides an easy-to-use set of controls for beginners eager to create their signature sounds.

Mid-range analog synths

Mid-range analog synthesizers, ideal for those enthusiasts ready to advance, provide an optimal blend of complexity and affordability. The Behringer Model D is a standout in this category, recreating the essence of the revered Minimoog for a fraction of the price. Its robust sound shaping capabilities and Eurorack compatibility make it a versatile addition to any setup.

Other noteworthy mid-rangers include:

  • IK Multimedia’s UNO Synth, which brings a fresh design to this segment

  • The Moog Werkstatt-01, a DIY kit that invites users to delve into the construction of a monophonic synth

  • The Waldorf Rocket, with its powerful sound engine and intricate modulation options

These options prove that mid-range doesn’t mean middle-of-the-road when it comes to sonic potential.

High-end analog synths

For those who seek top-tier quality, high-end analog synthesizers like the Sequential Trigon-6 and Buchla Easel Command Desktop Synthesizer deliver an unmatched auditory experience. These instruments have a premium price tag but provide features and polyphony that justify the investment. The Sequential Trigon-6, for example, delivers exquisite sound with its versatile ladder filter and an array of modulation options.

The Buchla Easel Command, representing the pinnacle of ‘West Coast synthesis,’ takes a unique approach to sound generation and modulation. Its features include:

  • All-analog signal path

  • Built-in spring reverb

  • Distinctively Buchla sound

  • High-end quality

  • A wealth of sound design possibilities

These high-end, expensive synths are not just instruments; they’re masterpieces that offer a wealth of sound design possibilities for those who seek the very best in analog synthesis.

Essential Features to Look for in an Analog Synth

An artistic representation of essential features in an analog synth such as sound quality and modulation capabilities

When searching for your ideal analog synth, understanding the features that best suit your needs is imperative. Whether you prefer a desktop module for its space-saving design or a keyboard-equipped synth for its playability, the choice ultimately depends on your space, existing gear, and musical approach. But beyond format and aesthetics, fundamental features should guide your selection process: price, sound quality, hands-on control, and modulation capabilities. These elements determine not only the instrument’s character but also how well it will fit into your creative workflow. To further refine your search, consider exploring related searches that focus on these key features.

Let’s delve into these features to understand what makes a synthesizer stand out in a crowded market. From the quality of the oscillators to the complexity of the modulation matrix, these are the aspects that elevate a synth from a mere piece of hardware to an indispensable tool for music creation.

analogue synth basic waveforms mayb to be used with a classic low pass filter?

Sound quality

The heart of a synthesizer’s sound lies in its oscillators and filters.

These components are responsible for the initial creation and subsequent shaping of the sound wave, giving each synth its unique sonic signature. Oscillators produce the fundamental tones, with different wave shapes offering a variety of harmonic contents. Filters then sculpt these tones, removing or accentuating certain frequencies to craft the final sound.

From the digital oscillators of the Arturia MiniFreak to the interchangeable filters of the Studio Electronics Omega 8, the sound quality of a synth is greatly influenced by its circuitry. Vintage filter designs like the transistor ladder or diode ladder are revered for the character they impart and continue to inspire modern synth makers. The meticulous construction of these components and the overall build quality of the instrument are what deliver the rich, full-bodied sound that analog aficionados beg for.

Hands-on control

The tactile experience of playing an analog synth includes:

  • Shaping sound with one’s hands

  • A well-designed user interface with an intuitive layout of knobs, sliders, and switches

  • Reducing the learning curve and allowing for more immediate and fluid sound creation

  • The joy and satisfaction that come from physically interacting with the instrument

This hands-on control is a defining aspect of playing an analog synth.

The act of adjusting parameters like oscillator pitch or filter cutoff in real time is an integral part of the performance. It can lead to unexpected sonic discoveries and inspire new musical ideas. The tactile feedback from the controls enriches the connection between the musician and the synthesizer, turning sound into a more expressive and immersive experience.

Modulation capabilities

The ability to modulate various parameters is what gives a synthesizer its versatility. Take the Moog One 16-voice Analog Synthesizer, for example, with its advanced modulation matrix that enables intricate texture creation and sound shaping. The presence of such features makes a synthesizer not just capable, but extraordinarily expressive.

Arpeggiators are another form of modulation that can significantly enhance a synth’s capabilities. By turning simple chord inputs into rhythmic patterns and sequences, arpeggiators add motion and energy to a sound. Control over speed, range, and mode allows for a wide array of creative possibilities, making arpeggiators a valuable asset in any analog synth’s feature set.

Analog Synth Accessories and Integration

A creative illustration of analog synth accessories and integration options including MIDI controllers and effect pedals

Analog synthesizers aren’t standalone instruments—they’re components of a broader ecosystem of music production tools and accessories that significantly bolster their capabilities. Some essential accessories for analog synthesizers include:

  • MIDI controllers that provide precise note and parameter control

  • Effect pedals that add depth and dimension to your sound

  • Patch cables for connecting modules in a modular setup

  • Power supplies to ensure reliable operation

  • Cases or bags for protection and portability

The right accessories can transform a simple analog synth into a powerhouse of sonic expression. Additionally, the ability to integrate with other gear, such as digital audio workstations or modular setups, opens up a world of creative possibilities that go beyond the synth’s standalone functionality.

In the quest to elevate your sound, consider the myriad of integration options and accessories available. They not only provide added convenience and flexibility but also help in creating a more polished and professional final product.

Essential accessories

Including essential accessories when assembling your ultimate synth setup can profoundly impact the outcome. MIDI controllers, for instance, have become indispensable in modern music production. Introduced in the 1980s, MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a protocol that allows electronic instruments and other digital music tools to communicate with each other. For analog synthesizers, MIDI connectivity means easy integration with a digital audio workstation (DAW), enabling precise sequencing and sound manipulation.

But let’s not forget the sonic possibilities that effect pedals can unlock. Pedals such as the Eventide Space and Time Factor, the Electro Harmonix Memory Man, and the TC Electronic Hall of Fame reverb can elevate the analog synth’s sound, adding layers of texture and depth. For synths with stereo output, using pedals tailored for guitar can be made simple with a mono-to-stereo conversion, ensuring a seamless blend between synth and effect.

Devices like the Pigtronix Keymaster can be especially useful, allowing musicians to resolve compatibility issues and mix dry and wet signals to perfection.

Integrating with other gear

Integration is key for synthesists looking to push the boundaries of their analog synths. The flagship Moog Matriarch, with its semi-modular design, exemplifies how analog synths can easily meld into a digital production environment. Its patching capabilities alone encourage endless experimentation and integration with a range of studio gear, from digital audio workstations to outboard effects processors.

In well-equipped studios or for those who have the means, instruments like the Analogue Solutions Colossus stand as a testament to the modular philosophy, featuring multiple oscillators and filters for comprehensive connectivity with external effects units. The inclusion of features like pin matrices, modular patching areas, and modulation routings on semi-modular synths such as these not only encourages creative sound design but also showcases the synthesizers’ adaptability to fit into diverse music production setups, whether they’re analog-centric or hybrid digital-analog systems.

Iconic Analog Synth Sounds and Artists

A stylized illustration representing iconic analog synth sounds and influential artists in modern music. All abot analog synthesizer

The textures and timbres of analog synthesizers have significantly influenced the terrain of modern music. Iconic sounds created on instruments like the Polymoog, Yamaha CS-80, and Oberheim OB-X have become synonymous with certain tracks and artists, leaving an indelible mark on the history of music. These classic synths provided the canvas for Kraftwerk’s pioneering electronic music, the evocative score of ‘Blade Runner’ by Vangelis, and the energizing intro of Van Halen’s ‘Jump’.

The unique use of these synthesizers across various genres has not only defined the sound of past decades but continues to inspire musicians and producers today.

Yet, it’s not solely about the instruments; it’s equally about the artists who utilized them with extraordinary creativity. From the quirky gliding leads in the Ohio Players ‘Funky Worm’ to the dark, industrial tones of Nine Inch Nails, synthesizers have been central to the sound and success of many influential artists. Aphex Twin’s use of the Roland TB-303 to craft his distinctive acid sounds showcases just how much these instruments can be pushed to create new sonic realms.

Classic synth sounds

Groundbreaking moments in music history form the foundation of the legacy of classic synth sounds. The Polymoog delivered the iconic sawtooth-wave lead in Kraftwerk’s ‘Das Model’, its sound further characterized by subtle LFO modulation. Vangelis, with the Yamaha CS-80 in hand, created the unforgettable brass sound for the ‘Blade Runner’ score, making use of the instrument’s ribbon controller for expressive pitch glides.

The acid bass sound of the Roland TB-303 has become a defining feature of the acid house genre, and the instrument’s quirky squeals and squelches continue to influence electronic dance music to this day. Meanwhile, the Oberheim OB-X8 synthesizer carries on the legacy of its predecessors, the OB-X and OB-Xa, capable of producing both vintage and modern sounds that have become staples in various genres.

Influential artists

Pioneering artists such as Kraftwerk, Wendy Carlos, and Keith Emerson have indelibly changed the trajectory of music with their innovative use of analog synthesizers. Kraftwerk’s ‘Das Model’ is just one example of how the Polymoog’s capabilities were harnessed to create a sound that would become emblematic of an entire musical movement. The work of these artists and many others has had a profound impact on the aesthetic and sound of modern music, influencing generations of musicians and supporting an enduring appreciation for the analog synth.

Their pioneering spirit and the enduring appeal of their music serve as a constant source of inspiration for today’s artists. While the specific models of synths may change, the desire to explore the sonic possibilities of these instruments and create a unique sound remains a driving force in music creation.


As we reach the end of our journey through the world of analog synthesizers, we reflect on the rich history, the intricate workings, and the broad landscape of options available to musicians at all levels. From the vintage Minimoog to the modern Moog One, analog synths offer a hands-on and deeply personal approach to sound design that continues to be cherished by music creators around the globe. Their resurgence is a clear sign that despite advancements in digital technology, the allure of organic, warm, and expressive sounds remains as strong as ever (our ears deserve analog 😁).

So, whether you’re just beginning to explore the world of synthesizers or are an artist looking for your next sonic adventure, the analog synth offers a timeless, irreplaceable quality that can ignite creativity and inspire music, directly resonating with the soul.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do analog synths sound different?

Yes, classic analog synths typically have unique sounds, while modern mass-manufactured analog synths sound very similar, with a few exceptions. So, yes, analog synths can sound different.

What is the best analog synthesizer for beginners?

For beginners, popular options for analog synthesizers are the Korg Minilogue, Arturia Microfreak, Novation Bass Station II, and Roland Aira Compact Series. These models offer a great starting point for learning synthesis.

What makes an analog synthesizer different from a digital one?

Analog synthesizers produce sound with continuous electrical signals, delivering a warm sound quality, while digital synthesizers use digital signal processing, providing greater flexibility, polyphony, and preset capabilities. The main difference lies in their sound generation methods.

Can entry-level analog synthesizers produce professional-quality sound?

Yes, entry-level analog synths like the Korg Minilogue and Arturia MiniBrute 2 are designed to provide high-quality sound suitable for beginners.

About the Author

Max Porcelli

Steinberg Certified Trainer, DJ, and Producer with 29 years of experience. He owns 989 Records, an Electronic Music Label based in Italy. Every Saturday he hosts an exciting Radio Show called 989 Records Radio Show on air on Patchouli Deep Radio, London. 
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