Russell is a sound producer and songwriter. He deals with digital pianos and MIDI controllers on a regular basis so no wonder he knows everything about them.
Last updated: July 05, 2022
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When it comes to live performance, having a great-sounding synthesizer is key. But with so many different options on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. To help you make the best decision, we’ve put together a list of the six best synthesizers for live performance.
When you’re looking for the best synthesizers for live performance, there are a few key features you’ll want to keep in mind. First, you’ll want something that is easy to use and has a wide range of sounds. Second, it’s important that the synth is durable enough to withstand being transported from show to show. Finally, you’ll want to find something that fits within your budget.
"This top-of-the-line synth has an updated Juno Engine, making it fully compatible with the Juno-Di. With over 1200 patches and 30 drum kits, you’ll have everything you need to create any sound you can imagine."
"With its sound engine, this polysynth can create some amazing sounds that will surely impress your audience. Additionally, the presets and slots allow you to save your favourite sounds so you can easily access them again."
"With 500 voices to choose from (200 factory, 300 user), you can create any sound you can imagine. The hybrid design means you’ll never have to sacrifice one type of sound for another. The 37 slim-key keys are highly sensitive and responsive."
Presets: over 1200 patches, over 30 drum kits, over 64 performances
Number of Keys: 61
Type of Keys: synth action
Pads: 8 x phrase pads
Polyphony: 128 notes
Roland JUNO-DS61 Synthesizer is our Editor’s Choice due to its amazing features. The Roland JUNO-DS61 is a 61-key synthesizer that features an updated Juno Engine and is Juno-Di compatible, making it a versatile option for both beginner and experienced players alike. With over 1200 patches and 30 drum kits, it has everything you need to create amazing soundscapes. The synth-action keys are perfect for expressive playing, and the 8 phrase pads make it easy to create complex rhythms. The JUNO-DS61 also features 128-note polyphony, making it perfect for live performance or recording.
The Roland JUNO-DS61 Synthesizer is a great choice for live performance. It has 61 keys, making it more portable than its 88-key counterpart. It also has a built-in speaker, so you can play without having to lug around an extra piece of equipment. The downside is that it doesn’t have as many features as the JUNO-DS88, so you’ll have to decide if you need those extra features or if the portability and built-in speaker are more important to you.
What makes it stand out?
It has a range of effects: 3 x multi-effects, 3 x chorus, 5 x reverbs, 8 x mic reverbs, and Vocoder
Comes with a 2-year warranty
Provides easy sound manipulations and editing with sliders and knobs
Features sample import function for playing WAV files
Access to over 100 free EXP sounds to download from Roland’s Axial website
Portable and quite lightweight
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
The keys have a short travel, so for someone it’s might be hard to control velocity and dynamics
Sound Engine: 6-voice Polysynth with Digital Effects
Presets: 384 factory presets, 768 preset slots
Analog/Digital: analog with Digital FX
Number of Keys: 61
Type of Keys: synth action
The Arturia PolyBrute 6-Voice Polyphonic Morphing Analog Synthesizer is a powerful and versatile instrument that is perfect for the modern musician. With its sound engine, you can create amazing sounds that will inspire your creativity. With 384 factory presets, you can explore a wide range of sonic possibilities. The analog/digital design of the PolyBrute gives you the best of both worlds, with digital effects that add an extra layer of flexibility to your sound. The 61 keys are synth action and provide a great feel for playing. The pads on the thePolyBrute are also a great addition, allowing you to create new and exciting sounds. The 6-voice polyphony is perfect for creating dense, rich textures. So if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution for your synth needs, the Arturia PolyBrute is the perfect choice for you.
The Arturia PolyBrute is a six-voice polyphonic morphing analog synthesizer. It is an upgraded version of the MiniBrute, with twice the number of voices and a more powerful sound engine. The PolyBrute also has a built-in sequencer and arpeggiator and can be used as a stand-alone instrument or as part of a larger setup.
What do we love it for?
Simple navigation makes operation fast and intuitive
64-step sequencer provides motion into sounds and complex phrases
If you’re looking for a powerful and versatile analog synthesizer, you’ll want to check out the Moog Grandmother. This machine is capable of creating some truly amazing sounds, and with its 32-note keyboard and step sequencer, it’s perfect for live performances. The Grandmother also features an ADSR envelope generator, making it perfect for creating those big, lush pads and soundscapes. So if you’re looking for an analog synth that can do it all, be sure to check out the Moog Grandmother!
The Grandmother has a few more features than the Model D, such as an arpeggiator, sequencer, and extra modulation options. However, it still retains that classic Moog sound. If you’re looking for a powerful live performance synth that won’t break the bank, the Grandmother is a great option.
What do we love it for?
Built-in spring reverb can easily process internal and external sounds
2 oscillators with triangle, saw, square, and pulse waveforms, with PWM and Linear FM inputs
Excellent for beginners
What were we disappointed with?
The power supply input jack has pretty weak connection and can unplug way too easily
Presets: 1106 voices, 61 drum kits, 128 user voices 8 user drum kits
Number of Keys: 88
Type of Keys: fully weighted graded hammer standard
Polyphony: 128 notes, 16-part multitimbral
Looking for a top-notch digital piano? Check out the Yamaha MX88! This weighted action music synthesizer features AWM2 sound engine for incredible sound quality and comes with 1106 voices, 61 drum kits, and 128 user voices. The keyboard is fully weighted graded hammer standard, so it feels just like playing a real piano. Plus, with 16-part multitimbrality, you can create complex layers of sound. The MX88 is perfect for any musician, from beginner to pro.
The MX88 has more than twice the voices of the MX49, making it a great choice for live performance. It also has an arpeggiator, which is perfect for creating complex synth lines. Plus, the Yamaha MX88 has more keys, that are weighted, allowing you to create a more unique sound.
What are our favorite features?
Impressive 88-key board for better sound
DAW Remote controls transport, mixer, and software instruments from the MX top panel
Includes Cubase AI, Steinberg Prologue, and Yamaha YC-3B
128-note polyphony for dropout-free live performance or with full 16-track sequences
Steamlined interface provides quick editing, finding, and storing sounds onboard
Sound Engine: Analog sound generator + Multi digital sound generator
Presets: 500 voices (200 factory, 300 user)
Number of Keys: 37
Type of Keys: slim-key
Polyphony: 4 notes
The Korg Minilogue XD 4-Voice Analog Synthesizer gives you the best of both worlds: analog sound generation for rich, warm tones, and digital sound generation for added flexibility and versatility. With 500 voices to choose from (200 factory, 300 users), you can create any sound you can imagine. The hybrid design means you’ll never have to sacrifice one type of sound for another. The 37 slim-key keys are highly sensitive and responsive, making them a joy to play. And with 4-note polyphony, you can create complex, layered sounds that will fill any room. If you’re looking for an affordable all-in-one synthesizer that can do it all, the Korg Minilogue XD is the option you won’t regret after purchasing.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Korg Minilogue XD is its size; it’s much larger than the original Minilogue. While this may be a turnoff for some, the extra space allows for a much more intuitive layout and better quality sound. The XD also features an arpeggiator, step sequencer, and onboard effects.
Why did it make our list?
Monologue filter design with drive circuit
CV connectivity for modular synthesizers
Oscilloscope and motion view display provides visual feedback of sound design
Features 23 preset tunings created by Aphex Twin and Dorian Concept
The Novation MiniNova is a powerful little synthesizer with a vocoder that will have you making all kinds of new and interesting sounds. This synth has 256 presets of different sounds to choose from and 18-note polyphony. The keys are mini synth type, and there are no pads. However, this doesn’t mean that the MiniNova is lacking in features or power. The sound engine is the same as the one used in Novation’s UltraNova synth, so you know it’s good quality. With the Novation MiniNova, you can have fun exploring all kinds of new sounds and create something truly unique, spending not much money.
The Nova, the predecessor, was a great synth, but the MiniNova is even better. It’s got more polyphony, more sounds, and a better price. If you’re looking for a great synth for live performance, the MiniNova is the way to go.
What are our favorite features?
Voice-tune and classic vocoder effects
Layer up to 5 effects per voice
Includes editing software and software patch librarian
Comes with a 3-year warranty
What could be better?
It doesn’t have strong metallic sound that might be a problem for someone
If you’re a musician who wants to create electronic music and perform, then you’ll need a synthesizer for live performance. But with so many options on the market, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when shopping for the best synthesizer.
Type of Music
The type of music you want to create will heavily influence the type of synthesizer you need. For example, if you’re looking to create more ambient or atmospheric music, then you’ll want a synth with a lot of different modulation options. On the other hand, if you’re looking to create dance music or techno, then you’ll want something with a lot of different drum sounds and rhythms.
Weighted or Unweighted Keys
The next thing you’ll want to consider is whether you want weighted or unweighted keys. Weighted keys are typically found on more expensive synthesizers, but they offer a more realistic piano feel. Unweighted keys are less expensive, but they can be more difficult to play. It’s really a matter of personal preference, so try out both types before you make a decision.
Number of Keys
Most keyboards come with 66, 72, or 88 keys. For a beginner, 66 keys are sufficient for learning to play, and you can play most music on a 72-key instrument.
The number of keys on a synthesizer can also be an important consideration. If you’re looking for something that’s portable, then you’ll want something with fewer keys. But if you’re looking for something that can replace a piano in your live performances, then you’ll need something with 88 keys.
Number of Presets
The number of presets is also an important consideration. If you’re just starting out, then you’ll want something with a lot of presets so that you can experiment with different sounds. But if you’re a more experienced musician, then you might prefer something with fewer presets so that you can create your own unique sounds.
MIDI and CV/Gate Connectivity
MIDI and CV/Gate connectivity is an important feature of keyboard workstations. This allows the user to connect their keyboard to other MIDI devices, such as sound modules, sequencers, and computers. CV/Gate connectivity allows the user to control other analog synthesizers with their keyboard. This is a great feature for those who want to create complex polyphonic sounds.
Size and Weight
The size and weight of a synthesizer can also be important considerations. If you’re looking for something that’s portable, then you’ll want something that’s lightweight and easy to carry. But if you’re looking for something that’s going to stay in one place, then size isn’t as important.
It’s better to choose a synthesizer that is not heavy and compact so that you may move it around with ease.
Ease of Use
Finally, you’ll want to consider how easy the synthesizer is to use. If you’re a beginner, then you’ll want something that’s easy to learn and doesn’t require a lot of programming. But if you’re more experienced, then you might prefer something with more advanced features that allows you to create your own sounds.
Of course, price is also an important consideration. Synthesizers can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. It’s important to find something that fits within your budget, but you should also keep in mind that the more expensive options tend to offer more features and better sound quality.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, you should certainly check out our guide with the best synths under $300.
Finally, you’ll want to consider any special features that you might need in a synthesizer. For example, if you plan on using your synth for live looping, then you’ll need something with a built-in looper. If you want to use your synth as a MIDI controller, then you’ll need one with USB connectivity.
When you’re a beginner it might be quite hard to handle with all that features. For that, we’ve made a list of the best synthesizers for beginners.
It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to create complex chords and sounds, then a polyphonic synth is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for something that can create more simplistic melodies, then a monophonic synth will be better suited for your needs. There are also hybrid synthesizers that offer both options.
No, you don’t need any specific software to record a live performance on a PC. All you need is a sound card with input and output and some basic recording software. You can use Audacity, which is free, or you can buy something like Pro Tools. If you want to get really fancy, you can use a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) like Logic or Ableton Live, but it’s not necessary.