Synthesizer – Buying Guide, Opinions and Analysis
Purchasing a versatile synthesizer for making music recordings, rehearsing with your band or playing live could be a difficult task, as there are many models on the Internet. However, this time we present you with several of the most outstanding synthesizers, such as the Moog Sub 37 , which has several configuration sections, including filters, envelopes and oscillators. On the other hand, we recommend the IK Multimedia Uno Synth , which, although it has a compact design, is a monophonic device with 40 controls and offers the possibility of adjusting the effects of each note, including its tuning.
It is not easy to choose a synthesizer, because on the Internet there are many models, with different sizes, keys, buttons, etc. Therefore, this time we present you a guide to buying the best synthesizer. Our purpose is that you know the aspects that this type of electronic instrument should have.
Types of synthesizers
Some synthesizers provide electrical signals that are later transformed into sounds audible to humans, but they do not come with predetermined sound banks, but you must program your own sounds in them, according to your musical ear or personal interest. In this sense, we are talking about analog and modular synthesizers, with which you can vary the type of wave, amount of noise or modulations of notes.
Of course, not all people use these synthesizers, as that will depend on the musical genre they play. In this way, there are other options on the market , for example, digital synthesizers, which do not need the creation of sounds, but incorporate hundreds of them, even more than 1000.
However, many digital synthesizers offer the ability to edit their default sounds. In other words, in these models you can change the type of wave or effect of the notes.
Likewise, there are MIDI synthesizers, which you can connect to a computer or external equipment to emit the sounds. These synthesizers output signals to DAW applications or virtual instruments. Also, some of them do not have sounds within the hardware, but through a computer application . If you buy this model of synthesizer, make sure you bring an installation CD or the possibility of downloading the applications over the Internet.
In a comparison of synthesizers, this aspect cannot be missed, since with the configuration buttons it will be possible to create sounds or edit existing ones. In this section we will mention some of the most outstanding ones, sustain, oscillator, drive and filter.
Regarding sustain, we inform you that by activating this button the duration of the notes will be longer. In other words, it does the same thing as the sustain pedal on a keyboard, as it sustains the sound until you stop using it. For its part, the oscillator is used to make changes in the pitch and waveform, square, triangular or sawtooth.
Also, some synthesizers have a drive button, which adds a slight distortion to the sound. Similarly, there is the filter button, to try to make the sound sound more natural and less monotonous.
Before worrying about how much a product of this type costs, it is best that you check this quality, since not all synthesizers have keys, but some models do. This is a quality that could influence the price, although, thanks to the fact that there are so many brands and models on the market, you may find a cheap synthesizer with keys.
In case you have, they should be arranged like on the piano, DO, DO sharp, RE, RE sharp, MI, FA and so on; this way you can easily play the melodies, especially if you are a pianist.
However, the number of keys varies depending on the synthesizer model, so take this into account before making your purchase.
If you want an electronic instrument with which you can make rhythms, we recommend a synthesizer with pads, since it is easier to assign percussion sounds such as Kick, Tom, Hat, among others to these buttons. Similarly, there are synthesizers in which you can make rhythmic sequences, which are more versatile and efficient with pads.
However, there are synthesizers that do not have keys or pads, being useful for creating sound effects for your songs and soundtracks for video games, movies, documentaries, etc. Generally, you can connect external keyboards to these instruments when you want to make melodies and chords.
Synthesizer compatibility is very important, especially the MIDI function, because through it you can record music on your computer. Of course, this task will only be possible with the help of DAW programs.
Also, there are synthesizers that have MIDI inputs, so you can connect external instruments with which you can increase their harmonic and melodic possibilities.
On the other hand, we mention the MIDI outputs, which are for connecting one synthesizer to another or recording on the computer via USB. Likewise, thanks to the MIDI output you can pair a synthesizer keyboard with effects pedals such as Reverb, Distortion or Delay.
Frequently asked questions
Q1: How to use a synthesizer?
First, turn on the synthesizer, depending on the model it will have the ON / OFF switch on the front, side or rear. However, some computers do not have a power button, but you must connect them via USB to activate them.
After turning on the synthesizer, you must connect to the powered speaker, professional mixer, or amplifier. Normally, synthesizers have an audio output, but not all are the same, because there are those that only send signals to the computer. In case your synthesizer is of this model you will have to enjoy its sounds from the audio card that you have connected to the computer.
Later, move the parameters of the synthesizer until you get the sound you want, for this, it is best to check the manufacturer’s instruction manual.
Q2: Who invented the synthesizer?
Robert Moog, forerunner of electronic music, in 1964 created the first synthesizer and, in his honor, it was called Moog. This instrument was made in collaboration with musician Herb Deutsch. In its origins it was characterized by having different modules, for example, filter, oscillator or controlled voltage amplifier, which allowed creating new sounds, as well as combining and modifying them, managing to imitate the sound of various musical instruments such as guitar, piano, organ, flute, trumpet, among others.
Q3: How to make music with a synthesizer?
Making music is not that easy, as it requires musical knowledge. Also, if you are going to do this task with a synthesizer, you must know the functions that this instrument offers and how to use them correctly.
However, after learning the basics, you can create new songs with new synthesizer sounds. Later, you can record your creations in DAW programs for desktop or laptop computers, since many synthesizers offer compatibility with these equipment.
Q4: How to program a synthesizer?
This will depend on the synthesizer, since there are different models and each one is programmed differently. One aspect to consider before programming is that you should learn the manufacturer’s instructions, especially if it is a modular synthesizer, which is much more complex.
Perhaps the easiest synthesizer to program is the standard analog synthesizer, since in this you have to change the shape of the wave according to your tastes, be it sawtooth, square, sinusoidal or triangular. You can then adjust filters, envelope, low-frequency oscillator, and various effects until you find the sound you need for your songs or live concerts.
Q5: How to connect a synthesizer to an amplifier?
Synthesizers have at least one audio output, perhaps named OUT, so that’s where you plug in the end of a sound cable. Subsequently, the other end of the cable must be connected to the input of the amplifier, normally called Input.
When making the connection it is recommended that the amplifier and the synthesizer are turned off, which means that you should only turn on both devices when they are correctly connected.
Q6: What is a modular synthesizer?
It is a synthesizer with various modules not connected to each other and that you must unite yourself according to the needs of the moment. These modules almost always have inputs and outputs, that is, voltages that work to control the audio signals .
Typical modules are oscillators, filters, envelopes, amplifiers, etc. Each of them with buttons for volume, waveform, Pitch, Decay, Attack or others.
Q7: What family is the synthesizer from?
It belongs to the family of electronic instruments, these being those that work with electricity and amplify their sound. The synthesizer is an instrument that creates and edits sounds for various music genres, including movie or video game soundtracks.
In the same way, although it is electronic, it very well imitates the sounds of other acoustic instruments, such as violin, piano, guitar, cello, drums, etc. For that reason, we can say that it takes various qualities of the plucked and plucked string family, as well as percussion.
Q8: How to build a synthesizer?
It is possible to make a synthesizer at home, but you must have a great passion for electronics and at least basic programming skills to achieve it. The materials you will need are an Arduino UNO board, both 10k Ohm and 5k Ohm resistors, 1 potentiometer, jumper cables and 1 buzzer. This last element is a transducer that produces a continuous or intermittent hum of the same tone.
After having all the materials and connecting them to the Arduino, you will have to program on your computer, making the board emit a continuous square wave that varies in tone when you turn the potentiometer.