Best Virtual Analog Hardware Synthesizers

  • This method of synthesis is also referred to as Virtual Analog or VA. Analog modeling synthesizers can be more reliable than their true analog counterparts since the oscillator pitch is ultimately maintained by a digital clock, and the digital hardware is typically less susceptible to temperature changes.
  • Mar 12, 2020  The best synth for most people: Arturia MicroFreak. There is also a two-operator FM synth engine and a virtual analog. If you want to have the most flexibility possible on your initial.
  • Jun 27, 2015  G.W. Childs has been playing hardware synths for longer than he'll care to mention. But, on the plus side he's used some incredibly beautiful vintage synths. Here's 12 of his favorites. If you consider how much the variety in terms of synthesizers has expanded since the 1970s, it.

on Jan 08, 2017 in Synths & Sound Design 4 comments

Nov 29, 2017  Korg KingKorg Virtual Analog Synth The comeback of real analog synths has partially eclipsed virtual analog synths, which just a few short years ago were the go-to solution for classic electronic sounds and knob-grabbing control. A hardware VA still has advantages, though, a big one being more polyphony for the price compared to the real thing. A Virtual Analog synthesizer is all digital (or uses digital circuitry to control analog components). It emulates analog characteristics by implementing mathematical models of analog circuitry. Analog modeling is a type of physical modeling, which imitates electronic hardware. Software synths that employ analog modeling include BitHeadz’s Unity AS-1, Native Instruments’ Reaktor and the Access Virus.

There's no doubting the joy of using a real hardware synthesizer. The tactile controls are difficult to beat. But when it comes to sound these 7 virtual synths more than hold their own.

Any top-10 (OK, top-7) list of virtual synthesizers will, ultimately, be pretty subjective—everyone has their own idea of what constitutes the coolest toys when it comes to making and mangling sounds for creative musical ends. Even so, a list of the most impressive soft synths will certainly end up including some models that would be on anyone’s wish list, along with a few more personal choices—and this collection pretty much fits that bill.

I tried to limit this list in a few ways, to make it more manageable.. I omitted instruments that are primarily samplers—even though many of the models here utilize samples as source material, they don’t mainly present them as realistic simulations, but as raw material for heavy processing. I stuck to synths that are—at least to me—geared to playability, and not primarily sound design or scoring effects. And I selected synths that are not emulations of specific classic hardware models, but stand on their own merits.

So without further ado, here are a few of my choices for the slickest soft synths around.

1. Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

Omnisphere is one of those synths that would probably turn up on just about everyone’s lists. Like many of the synths on this list, Omnisphere (currently Omnisphere 2) combines a number of synthesis techniques, including both oscillators and sample-based source material (including user waves), wavetable synthesis, granular synthesis, and even FM. Combining a huge factory library with comprehensive programming options, the emphasis is on heavily processed sounds of all kinds, from traditional synth tones to dense swirling pads to arpeggios to shifting, chugging, twinkling soundscapes and musical noises that defy easy description. Playability includes nice touches like the Orb, a real-time joystick-type controller that can simultaneously vary many parameters. Omnisphere has been around for quite a while, and has certainly earned its place on a list of soft synths that hardware synths really can’t touch.




2. NI Massive

Native Instrument’s Massive is another synth that’s been around for years, and its popularity and sound pretty much guarantee it a place of honor. Massive follows a traditional subtractive synthesis models, with oscillators (three, plus noise) filters (two), amplifier, modulation (LFO), and effects. But there’s much more to it than that simple description suggests.

Massive’s oscillators are more than just simple analog waves (like sine, square, sawtooth, pulse, etc.)—they’re Wavetables, which, besides those basic, traditional shapes, also include a large collection of richer and more complex wavetables to use as raw material, making for a much wider range of possible sounds. The overall subtractive architecture is familiar enough to be accessible to most synthesists, yet it offers extra levels of flexibility, accessed from the various programming tabs in its center panel, like the Routing panel, where you can view and tweak the signal flow of the various modules that make up a patch, and the drag-and-drop icons that make quick work of building up modulation patching. All in all, Massive’s combination of accessibility and flexibility have made it a perennial favorite among synthesists of all stripes.



3. NI Reaktor

Another entry from Native Instruments, Reaktor (currently Reaktor 6) is not really a synthesizer per se—it’s potentially every synthesizer you could imagine. Reaktor is an object-oriented programming environment for building your own synthesizers, and it’s one of the most powerful tools available for those who want ultimate control over their instruments. But you don’t have to have a degree in computer programming or DSP to use Reaktor—while it does contain a daunting set of under-the-hood tools and building blocks, it also comes with a large collection of finished synthesizer designs—called Ensembles—and there are many more available from third-parties as well. Some of these are available as separate, stand-alone synths, like NI’s own Razor (an additive synthesis design), Prism (a physical modeling instrument), and Monark (a well-regarded take on the venerable Minimoog).

But the real power of Reaktor comes when you go behind the front panel, and delve into the nuts & bolts of synthesizer architecture. Taking full advantage of everything the programming environment has to offer may require a significant investment in time and energy, but for inveterate tweakers it’s well worth the effort, going well beyond even the possibilities available from assembling your own modular synth in the real world.




4. Rob Papen Blue II

Rob Papen offers a number of popular synths (like Predator, Blade, and others, including the now-discontinued Albino), but Blue (currently Blue II) is probably the flagship of the line. Utilizing when Papen has dubbed “Cross-Fusion Synthesis”, Blue II combines FM, Phase Distortion, Waveshaping, and Subtractive synthesis, to create one highly flexible and great-sounding instrument. No less than six (!) oscillators freely combine all the different methods of sound generation in a single patch, and the graphic display makes routing and processing relatively easy for a synth with so many options. The helpful graphic displays include features like a straightforward FM matrix and graphic envelopes, along with sequencer and arpeggiator pages, and make Blue II’s programming power readily accessible, making it easy and efficient to tweak sounds—far easier than twiddling hardware knobs blindly.


5. LennarDigital Sylenth

LennarDigital’s Sylenth has become a very popular synth of late. Unlike many of the other entries in this list, it’s not a be-all, do-all, end-all design. Sylenth is designed to do one thing—emulate classic analog synthesis—but do it exceptionally well. It’s a dual-layered design, with 4 traditional analog-style oscillators, and a classic subtractive synthesis architecture. All the virtual analog components were carefully designed to offer the rich sound of their real analog counterparts, with alias-free oscillators, and filters that include nonlinear saturation and self-oscillation options.

A comprehensive set of envelopes, modulators, and an arpeggiator is rounded off with a full array of audio effects—everything needed to achieve classic analog synth sounds with the warmth and edge of traditional hardware synths is included. A faux LCD panel helps simplify programing the more tweaky features, and flexible routing allows for the two oscillator layers to cross-feed the filters, making for an especially nice bit of analog character in the digital world.



6. U-he Diva & Zebra 2 & Repro 1

U-he is not a synth, it’s a company—actually it’s software developer Urs Heckmann (plus a small staff), who’s come up with many excellent and characterful synth designs (and effects plug-ins) over the years, many available as freeware (like the popular Zoyd synth, and the unique Triple Cheese, which uses comb filters to generate/process its sounds). The U-he line includes several synths, but I want to focus on two of the most popular, Zebra 2 and Diva.

Urs describes Zebra 2 as a “wireless modular synthesizer”—it incorporates many types of synthesis, including subtractive, additive, and FM, along with an equally versatile array of sound-modifying tools like comb-filtering (physical modeling), all freely patchable. Only modules used in a particular patch are displayed, reducing front-panel clutter, and making for a more streamlined interface. The centrally-located modulation grid offers an easy way to connect modules, and helps visualize signal flow in complex patches. And for performance, Zebra 2 offers a “Perform” panel, with no less than four (!) programmable and assignable X/Y pads.

Diva, on the other hand, is a more dedicated analog-style synth—it models the sounds of various classic analog synth modules. But two things set it apart from other analog modelers. The first is that you can mix and match components/modules inspired by different synths, creating hybrid designs. The other is Diva’s cutting-edge approach to modeling analog circuits, which promises to achieve the next level in emulating the nuance of real analog instruments. This faithfulness to real analog sound brings with it a bit of a CPU hit, but users have embraced it, so this Diva may be worth her high-maintenance ways.




7. AAS Modeling Collection

As I said earlier, lists like this typically combine entries that are on everyone’s top-10 with choices of a more personal nature—this last entry probably reflects my interest in physical modeling techniques. AAS—Applied Acoustic Systems—makes a variety of virtual instruments and “sound banks”—their instruments are based on physical modeling, which, as you may know, is a method of creating a sound by emulating the physical way that sound is created in the real world. So instead of traditional oscillators, filters, and envelopes, you’ll typically find exciters, disturbers, and resonators—simulations of different vibrating materials, striking, plucking, bowing, and blowing techniques, and complex resonances and timbral responses.

AAS’s modeling collection includes instruments that put these kinds of tools to use emulating strings, guitars, electric pianos, and even analog synth circuitry, but the two I want to mention are Tassman, a general-purpose physical-modeling synth, and their latest, Chromaphone, which is dedicated to modeling all manner of percussive sounds. Both of these instruments let the user synthesize highly realistic sounds, thanks to the physical modeling of acoustic sound-generation, but those sounds don’t necessarily have to emulate actual instruments—for more creative applications, the modeling tools can be used to create very acoustic-sounding instruments that don’t—maybe couldn’t—actually exist in the real world, but sound (and play) like they do! Physical modeling technology is widely used nowadays for processing—component modeling is routinely employed to simulate the circuit path of classic analog hardware, including synth components like oscillators and filters—and it’s gradually being applied more to instrument design.



Like with any list, there are plenty more great synths I could have included but didn’t, for one reason or another (I decided to limit my choices to separate plug-ins, eliminating obvious possibilities like Alchemy and Sculpture, which are exclusively built-in to Logic). I also didn't include any audio examples—how can you boil the characteristic sound of synths that each offer so much variety into a few seconds of one or two patches? There are plenty of audio demos available online, along with trial versions of most, if not all, of the synths I mentioned, and I think the best approach for anyone who wants to get to know what particular models are capable of is to go ahead and try ‘em out yourself—a little homework that, for once, should actually be a lot of fun!

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Below we have listed some of the best cheap synthesizers on the market today. These good starter synths are highly rated and are portable cheap synths that allow you to have fun without the extra wires and plugs. If your budget is a little higher check out the best starter synths under 500!


Gakken SX-150 MARK II Analog Synthesizer

Izotope rx 5 eq match. Gakken SX – 150 Mark II is an mini hardware analog synthesizer. It is a power pack instrument in a small device, as all the functionalities of a professional synthesizer have been combined in his single one. Don’t judge it by its size, this synthesizer of meager size produces enormous sound it consists of many functions.

Features a styles controller as well as a speaker which is built in just like a Stylophone retro pocket synth, but the added advantage is that is lets you pull 10 parameters. It is a fully functional mini analog synth and has four-octave ranges. It uses 4 AA size battery and standard 3.5 mm headphone jack. Due to its size and stylus, it appears to be more practical for use as compared to other ones in their class.

User reviews

As per customers, SX -150 Mark II is just like the basic model although in this the resonance switch has been replaced with a variable control and an LFO Depth control is added. The power switch has been transformed into On, Off, and Gate, on this mini hardware synth the Gate makes the Attack and Decay controls render inoperative.


But the presence of small built-in speaker is not at all convincing, as there is the option of adding headphones through an output jack which seems much more convincing. But they are happy with the richness, loudness, and clarity of the output audio.

The one thing that customers really miss in this great instrument is control presets from Synthesizer Chronicles mook so that various types of instruments sounds can be produced. The presence of piano keyboard layout next to the resistive strip helps a lot while playing.


This good beginner synth comes with a lot of special features. With its low cost and functions have become the best in his category of musical synthesizers. Some of the important features of Gakken SX-150 MARK II Analog Synthesizer are as follows:

  • It is basically a fully-functional analog synthesizer
  • It possesses four-octave range
  • It also possesses vibrato, tremolo, and “wah” effect with VCF and LFO buttons
  • It has 10 parameters available to control: cutoff, attack, resonance, decay, LFO rate, pitch ENV, LFO depth, VCF modulation and last one LFO modulation.
  • It is easily tunable
  • It has line in as well as line out which is of standard 3.5 mm headphone jack size.
  • It uses 4 AA batteries
  • It is very small in size with dimensions of 6.5’ X 4.75’ X 1.5”


Overall the SX 150 Mark II shows a brilliant up gradation of its predecessor SX -150. In order to improve its performance it possesses 2 control buttons VCF and LFO which have been added by Gakken. The bar on the electron can be adjusted while listening to a melody or you can also turn off the sound.

This synthesizer runs on the 4 AA size batteries which provides it with the advantage of mobility, as you can take it along with you anywhere. Due to its improved features, it has already become a huge hit as a super efficient good beginner Stylophone retro pocket analog synth.

Korg Monotron Delay Analog Ribbon Synthesizer

The Korg Monotron Delay Analog Ribbon Synthesizer is a small size analog synthesizer. It posses a mini ribbon keyboard, built-in speaker, and an analog oscillator. Filter and LFO are present in this Analog Ribbon Synthesizer.

It also displays one of the most unique feature of Space Delay which creates immense and wonderful sounds.It shares the same analog (VCF) filter that is present in its brothers like legendary Korg MS-10 and MS-20.It consists of VCF and LFO sections that gives the option of unlimited programming. It comprises of a keyboard that offers a wide four octave range which allows efficient handling and modification of the pitch of the music.

User reviews

The customers like the performance of this unique analog ribbon synthesizer as it is battery operated device which provides them with the added advantage of carrying it anywhere. With the ability to produce a variety of sounds this one is praised by customers and users that say this device can be one of the best cheap analog synths.

Although one point that is not appreciated is that the keyboard is set to “wide” mode on a permanent basis. Although others have three different settings. The added feature of the Delay is quite interesting and can add different variations to the music.

The users praise the simplicity of the signal path, in spite of the missing resonance control. The overall view of users say that it is a simple analog synthesizer with the added feature of the delay.


  • Features Space Delay with Rate and intensity control option which produces analog style echoes
  • Possess new Pitch LFO along with Waveshape, intensity and shape controls
  • Also has VCF with Cutoff Conrol
  • Ribbon controller keyboard possessing wide range
  • Original Analog (VCF) filter
  • Unique Aux input jack through which you can add filter and delay
  • Built in speaker
  • Headphone jack
  • Six different knobs for Delay time, Delay feedback, LFO rate, LFO int, VCF Cutoff, Real panel trim pot: LFI Shape


Overall a Korg’s Monotron Delay Analog Ribbon Synthesizer is unique and an interesting mini hardware synth which answers the question “what is a good synth for a beginner?”. It possesses a front panel that has five different knobs serving different functions and a single switch. With the help of its Space Delay you can create echoes. Its usage and operation is quite simple, that will encourage you to explore new analog synthesizer music.

Those who are novice in music creation will obviously praise the provision of creating music with the help of a single tweak and tapping at the keyboard. The unique feature of Delay can be used by professionals along with DJs to add more power and impact to their music. It has an optimum level of sound effects. Also, it is battery operated and requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries for operation.

Thus, with its small size, battery operation and the Delay function, it is surely a fun thing costing a little amount of money. Also, it is a great device for beginners to get introduced to the world of synths.

Korg Monotron Duo Analog Ribbon Synthesizer

The Korg MONOTRON DUO 0-Key Analog synthesizer is basically a compact sized pocket analog synthesizer. It is mainly operated by batteries and includes built-in speakers. It has an analog filter with the facility of input and a ribbon keyboard. It possesses dual analog oscillators and has a complete portable structure because of its small dimensions. Because of the dual oscillators feature present in this instrument, it can create a wide array of analog sounds along with various intervals.

The analog filter present in it, is basically the one used in well known Korg Mono as well as many other best Polyphonic synthesizers under 500. It has the option of a filter input, which can be used for routing of the external audio equipment via the filter of monotron DUO. It also has headphone output that can be used for playing music and programming of sounds.

User reviews

As per customers, it is a wonderful product overall. Although it could not provide the precise and wonderful functioning like a full on synthesizer or keyboard. It is a basic Monotron mini synth which includes a built in delay that can be controlled.

The sound ranges from idiosyncratic, lo-fi analog insanity. It has a very simplified and easy to operate interface. This instrument possesses dual oscillators that can be tuned in together to produce rich, heavy analog tone with intervals in between and can be used to produce many more effects.

Customers consider it to be the funniest and simple beginner synthesizer they have seen. Also, because of its compact size and unique features it is quite mobile and easy to carry anywhere. With the different key functions this small looking instrument can produce a wide variety of sounds. By using the input and output option along with an audio interface, you can get a good quality sound.


  • VCO 1 + VCO2 (Sawtooth) available with pitch control option
  • VCF with cutoff and controlling of peak
  • X –mod circuit which has been inspired from Classic Korg Mon/Poly
  • Ribbon keyboard
  • Major, Minor, Chromatic. Off: Scale selection available with keyboard
  • Original MS-20 Filter with auxiliary input.
  • Built in speaker
  • Operated by 2 AAA batteries


It is overall a compact and small sized synthesizer that easily fits into your pocket, still it delivers gigantic analog sound that will blow your mind. It possesses a built-in speaker and functions basically on the power of batteries that will make it easy to carry anywhere. Apart from such advantages, the most important one is the ease of operation and simplicity on this Korg Monotron DUO dual Oscillator analog synthesizer.

Because it is a simple musical instrument that can be used for making a number of interesting sounds, thus makes it ideal for any novice asking “what is a good synthesizer for a beginner?”. Its ribbon controller keyboard that provides the player with the option to choose from 4 scales that are available: Chromatic, Minor, Major and off. At this price range, the functions and setting provided in this instrument makes it a golden catch for any customer.

Teenage Engineering Drum Machine And Sequencer

Best Virtual Analog Hardware Synthesizers For Mac

Teenage Engineering specializes in synthesizers and with the Pocket Operator series, the company released small, compact and extremely affordable synthesizers making electronic music available for everyone’s fun and pleasure. These small Pocket operators are highly portable synth PC boards which provide sound quality equivalent to studio productions and the versatility to make and jam on the go. It is compatible with most other music devices.

The PO series come in 6 unique units, of which the PO-12 is the rhythm drum machine combined with a sequencer too! The perfect and sound machine for making those unique drum beats while on the move, the PO-12 has lock feature for controls and effects that can be punched in.

User Reviews

Widely popular with young and growing teen bands and musicians owing to its good quality and yet such cheap affordability. It earned an average of 4.3 stars with about 60% rating it 5 of 5. All the six PO-series units can be combined to form a miniature band in themselves.

Streamlined into the core PC board, without all the extra cases and knobs, this cool-looking board provides just the essentials without the frills – a solid sounding drum beat notes, fabulous additional effects and a way for intuitive sequencing inspiring the young creative geniuses.


  • Weighing just 3.2 ounces and measuring 7 by 3.5 inches across and 0.2inches tick, the Teenage Engineering Drum machine and sequencer packs a whole lot of cool features
  • A completely minimalised and yet concentrated and fully loaded rhythm and drum contraption which is just perfect for those synth rigs found on table-tops
  • Comes with a total of 16 changeable drum sounds – both real and synthesized, each having their own 2 parameters controllable live
  • Also comes with 16 effects to enhance or change the drum sounds as per the user’s wish – some effects include bit crush, delay and time stutter
  • A 16-step in total sequencer gives the liberty to create and play entire songs with 16 patterns and option of pattern chaining. A step multiplier is also available
  • Runs on 2 AAA batteries, the battery life can last really long
  • 1/8 inch jacks allow for connection to the various other PO units for a complete holistic table top rig set-up, if needed
  • A built in foldable stand allows for complete independent usage
  • It comes with an integrated Knowles speaker which gives high quality sound. There are also options to connect to a pair of headphones for personal use or another louder speaker system, whenever needed.
  • A strong form factor, built on one multi-layer circuit board with really high quality material
  • LCD screen display for ease of understanding

PO-12 Review Video


As all the most important and delicate components are placed protected under the LCD screen, there was no requirement for an outer strong casing. Thus cost was saved in that aspect, and high quality sound producing components were used without increasing the cost. High affordability, high quality and really good music creation – that’s the PO- rhythm drum machine and sequencer for you

Korg Monotron Analogue Ribbon Synthesizer

Compact has a new meaning now, with the release of Korg’s latest Monotron analogue mini synth. It is so small that it can be carried in just one hand, though its small size does not compromise on the quality, restructuring the most important functions of Korg’s warehouse into a small wrist size fit. The standard Korg analog parameters and technology is packed into this tiny body, and it can produce good quality thick sounds with no difficulty.

Best Virtual Analog Hardware Synthesizers For Beginners

Korg’s Monotron is a comeback for the company after a period of 25 whole years. The small 95 gram heavy black and white body has 5 sturdy knobs for parameter control and a single switch, making it so easily comprehensible for everyone and giving it that stylophone retro pocket synth feel. It is even compatible with the latest music apps available for Mac or iOS.

User Reviews

Best Virtual Analog Hardware Synthesizers Software

Customers find the small size of the Monotron series highly appealing – even more so the fact that though it is small and does have its limitations, it performs so well and can be used easily. Creative manipulations and tweaking the notes are very easy to perform. In fact, some users go so far to say that these limitations actually push the creative musician in you to produce unique notes – making the whole process so fun and quirky.

Many customers were surprised with the amount of sounds they could produce with such small equipment with just the three main knobs and dials. Since it can be connected to other audio equipment through a 3.5mm input jack, you can connect and create and filter more sounds than ever.


Korg’s Monotron series packs the most important features of the Korg arsenal into this tiny hardware mini step sequencer analog synthesizer:

  • It is a totally full-fledged, authentic ribbon synthesizer of the analog variety having the aspects of VCO, VCF and also an LED visual indicator for the LFO knobs
  • Small size of 12x7cm and weighing just 95 grams, it can be held in the palm of a hand and carried anywhere you want to go
  • The smooth ribbon keyboard is very easy to use and is an inspiration to the creative musician in you
  • 5 knobs and one switch makes for an intuitive, easy and very entertaining user interface, encouraging tweaking and exploring to the highest degree
  • Contains the age-old and time tested analog filter that was used in older versions of Korg MS-10 and 20
  • An audio input jack allows for filtering any outsidesound sources and more unique sounds – complete patchable filters.
  • Powered by 2 AAA batteries and is the perfect portable analog synth
  • Classic VCF circuit filter as Korg MS 10 and 20, which enriches the musical notes


Diy Analog Synthesizer

Korg users have always loved its analog synths, and this miniature version is no exception. Dubbed as the “Go-anywhere” synthesizer, the Monotron analog synth is a total fun thing to play with – small knobs but maximum tweaking and creativity for hours and hours of fun makes this device a perfect beginner synth.