What's a good synth for a beginner?

Discussions about anything analog, digital, MIDI, synth technology, techniques, theories and more.
User avatar
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 4:08 pm

What's a good synth for a beginner?

Post by RFrankensteinB » Tue Nov 13, 2007 4:16 pm

I've been meaning to get into this for too long now and have finally found a board where hopefully my questions can be answered.
I'm looking at getting a synth, preferably a cheap one to start off with, so i can get a feel of things before i start getting into big cash. I know pretty much nothing except for how to play the piano/keyboard.

I'm not sure what i should get.
If it helps, my musical influences include stuff like cLOUDDEAD, The Unicorns, The Islands, Hot Hot Heats synth punk stuff, The Faint, Alias, Thee More SHallows.
That's the sort of sound i want to achieve with my music.
So what would you recommend?
THanks for your help.

User avatar
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 134
Joined: Mon Oct 03, 2005 10:26 pm
Location: Northeast Tennessee

Post by MarkM » Tue Nov 13, 2007 8:38 pm

Alesis Ion
Korg MS2000
Roland SH201

User avatar
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 455
Joined: Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:55 pm

Post by esqoner » Tue Nov 13, 2007 8:47 pm

midi controller and computer stuff. download a demo of reason or fl studio. you can learn a lot that way about what you may get in to.

novation x-station has is a synth that also works as a computer interface. cool thing.

xiosynth is a cheaper option to the x-station

ensoniq esq-1 is a fun way to get in to thing. has a sequencer on board and is fairly painless to learn. also see sq-80 and possibly vfx.

or...get out while you still can :twisted:

Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 312
Joined: Sat Jul 15, 2006 12:02 am
Location: Sweden

Post by gfriden » Tue Nov 13, 2007 11:50 pm

Hello and welcome RFrankensteinB! While I am ashamed to admit I know nothing about the bands you listed, I would recommend you got an easy beginners synth to start with and learned the basic principles behind sound synthesis. You could easily replace that later and buy something that will allow you to create sounds that let you sound like your favourite bands.
Tradition has it that the easiest form of synthesis to learn is so-called subtractive synthesis. You can read abaout it here:


This was the kind of synthesis used in vintage synths in the 70s and early 80s. It is, I believe, also the main principle behind the virtual analogue synths of the late 90s. Those are very cheap today. I reccomend you find out which synths use subtractive synthesis, read up on their sounds and other features and find four to five which appeal to you and which are within your price-range. Then check out eBay and local ads regularly for a while to get an idea of how much they go for. Be prepared to pay just over that. (This is just a mental thing really, but it helps). Usually, you can get the best deals from the local ads (less competition). Above all, take your time and ask many questions. (Make a post on this forum and ask what the most relevant questions are for a second hand version of the synth you are bidding on). You want your first purchase of a synth to be a great and exciting experience, not a horror story.
Quite subjectively, if a monophonic vintage synth is what you want I always reccomend the ARP AXXE. Great value, great sound and the easiest synth in the world to program.

Good Luck!
Art is not a copy of the real world. One of the damn things is enough.

User avatar
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 650
Joined: Sat May 05, 2007 1:19 am
Real name: Ryan
Gear: Metal, plastic, wood, and electricity.
Band: Tarot Sync
Location: Massachusetts, USA

Post by ryryoftokyo » Thu Nov 15, 2007 5:58 pm

hmmm.....many paths come to mind....The Faint (as well as The Locust) was what got me into synths. I remember hearing Blank Wave Arcade when it hit and knew I wanted one...

My first board was a Roland XP-10, but seriously, even if you know NOTHING about synths you'll grow out of it in like a week so I do not advise you get one of those.

When thinking of The Faint's gear a few boards come to mind....Korg MS-20 (or is it 10?) Clavia Nord Lead 3, Korg MS-2000 and I know they've used a Moog before....but honestly, those boards will cost some good money...So be prepared to spend if you want that stuff.

As far as HHH? I believe he uses a Roland Phantom...Big $$$ for that beast.

The one board The Faint uses that I have and LOVE that can found for cheap is the Yamaha AN1x.

It's a virtual analog synth from the early 90s and my oh my does that thing OWN.

I've seen them go on ebay for $400 and sometimes cheaper. About the cost of a Microkorg or Alesis Micron.

Next topic....The microkorg is kind of related to the MS2000 and has a similar sound. Definetly a good board for the money if you buy it new, and on ebay or craigslist, they're going for damn cheap. The only thing I never liked about the one I owned was the mini keys.

If you need synth action and are on a TIGHT budget, consider a Korg Poly 800. I just got one recently for under $200 after shipping. But, be warned that this board may get old to you quick. However, if you want synth action and are broke, it's an option.

Another board that comes to mind is Roland's Alpha Juno series. Great 3 DCO boards with a nice warm sound. Again, they go for fairly cheap on ebay.

Happy synth hunting!
MU Modular (Moog, Dotcom, STG, Analog Systems, and Moon modules), MS20 (x2), Microbrute, Electribes (EA-1, EMX), microKorg, AN1x, Nord Lead 2x, Blofeld, Alpha Juno 2, DX7, JX8P, Poly 61 (x2), Split 8, TR-505, Monotron Delay, Ace Tone FR-3, Paia Fatman

User avatar
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 344
Joined: Sun Feb 05, 2006 12:24 am
Gear: Maschine Mikro, Electribe ESX, KP3, Korg R3, Microkorg.

Post by thestreets » Fri Nov 16, 2007 12:20 am

A price range would also help. I know back in the "Haircut Economics" days for hot hot heat, Steve was playing a Juno so that might be something you'd be interested in (you'd have to hit up the 'bay).

Personally I'm not a big fan of the Roland SH-201 which is commonly suggested for a begginer synth. I just feel like it's a very limited board.

A nord lead would also be good for Faint type stuff.

It really could be anything. You can achieve a wealth of sound on one single synth if you learn how to program it.

User avatar
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1571
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:00 pm
Location: Utah

Post by otto » Fri Nov 16, 2007 12:26 am

Any VA, the more knobs the better. I'd suggest the MS-2000 or the Ion.
hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

User avatar
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 188
Joined: Thu Jun 01, 2006 2:51 am
Location: Southern Utah

Post by insky » Fri Nov 16, 2007 12:34 am

Hot Hot Heat was using a Roland Juno 6 during their synthpunk days (they still ocasionally use it, even on Happiness LTD.) which is a pretty easy to use synth. In fact a lot of Synth Punk bands use the Junos. The Red Light Sting and Locust both use a Juno 60. Yes Hot Hot Heat uses a Roland Fantom today, but that's what they've been using since Knock Knock Knock.

$200 is a lot of money for a Poly-800...I got mine for $30. But this synth will bore you very quickly. There is much better stuff out there.

How much are you looking to spend?
Stuff I own:
X Station
Poly 800
MaxiKorg 800DV
Elka Rhapsody 610

User avatar
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 660
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2006 4:31 am
Gear: HS-60, MG-1, CS-5, ESQ-1, CZ-101, DR-110, MR-10, MDP-40, EA-1, ER-1, ES-1, Trixer, SDS-9, Califorian 365, toys, guitars, ukes, etc.
Location: Huntsville, AL

Post by Tyler2000 » Fri Nov 16, 2007 4:30 am

price range?

The Moog/Realistic MG-1 fits al of those bands sounds and can be had for under $300. Yamaha CS-5, perhaps? I used FL Studio to learn synthesis, but if you can afford a synth, then that's the way to go. Just shoot for something knobby/slidery to assist in your learning and you can't go wrong with anything Moog, Yamaha, or Korg fitting that description. The price of any of that is always steadily climbing.
so what do I put down here now?

User avatar
Uncle Screwtape
Posts: 99
Joined: Tue Mar 13, 2007 7:45 am
Real name: Jay
Gear: Access Virus Indigo
Alesis ion
Arturia MiniBrute SE
DSI Mopho
Novation KS4
Vermona DRM1 MkIII
Roland TR-707
Korg DDD-5
Korg Volcas (4)
Band: Uncle Screwtape
Location: Za Doonjun, Oakhurst, NJ

Post by Uncle Screwtape » Fri Nov 16, 2007 5:11 am

Tyler2000 wrote:Just shoot for something knobby/slidery to assist in your learning and you can't go wrong with anything Moog, Yamaha, or Korg fitting that description. The price of any of that is always steadily climbing.
I think that's your truth right there. Front panel control helps you learn to mentally grasp signal flow.

I think an analog, like the Korg Polysix, Roland Juno 6, 60 or 106 or a VA like the Nords or Korg MS2000 would be good moves and be synths you'll want to keep, even after learning them. The Roland SH-201 looks like a great synth to learn on, but seems like it might be one you'd grow out of. The ION is one you can grow into.
Your... affectionate uncle,

User avatar
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 431
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2006 4:09 am
Location: Wallowing in my pit of filth

Post by sequence » Tue Nov 20, 2007 8:52 pm

i'd snag a MS2000, because it is 1) pretty reasonable, and 2) a good synth for learning subtractive synthesis, mostly because U can see how the parameters are changing via the 2-line lcd display, the Microkorg does not offer this feature (and I hate the itty-bitty keys) :D

Or... a Virus A or B, which are pretty reasonable now as well, as well as the Yamaha AN1X, a real treat and becoming more common in used music stores :D

A price range would help here dude....
twentyfirst century fizMO man

User avatar
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 698
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:04 pm
Gear: Laptop
House Brick
Loomer Aspect
Location: UK

Post by stephen » Tue Nov 20, 2007 10:12 pm

+1 for AN1x, especially if you use it with the free sound editor. There's loads of great patch libraries you can download for free as well - the presets aren't that hot, but once you ditch them... :)

User avatar
Stab Frenzy
Posts: 9723
Joined: Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:41 pm
Gear: Eurorack, RYTM, Ultranova, many FX
Location: monster island*

Post by Stab Frenzy » Tue Nov 20, 2007 10:49 pm

If you really want to learn how synths work I'd really recommend a Juno 6. It's a great sounding synth and because it doesn't have patch memory it forces you to learn how to program it, which is great. As others have said it's been used by a few of the bands that you're into.

If you want something new with patch memory (which is good cause it'll be more reliable and better for gigging, but slower to learn on) then I'd second the suggestions of the MS2000, Ion, AN1X, Nord Lead or SH-201. I'd steer away from the Microkorg (keys are too small) or Micron (interface is too limited, although it sounds good.)

User avatar
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 3911
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 11:15 pm
Location: New York City

Post by JSRockit » Wed Nov 21, 2007 1:03 am

Are you interested in learning synthesis? or do you want more presets? Do you want to be able to go to a store and see it (I'll assume you do)?

Presets: Korg R3, Microkorg, Alesis Micron
Synthesis: Alesis Ion

(You can learn synthesis on any of these...but it is easier on a synth that has alot of knobs or sliders for most functions, which the Ion has)
Korg Volcas / 6 x TE POs / MicroBrute / EH Space Drum & Crash Pad

Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Nov 25, 2007 6:51 am

Post by squaresprocket » Thu Nov 29, 2007 3:08 am

I like the Unicorns too...they use a Jupiter 8, and you can make lots of similar sounds on a Juno. My first synth was a Juno 106, and it did a great job teaching the basic parameters of synth sounds.

Post Reply