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: October 11, 2022
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Have you ever dreamed of becoming a music god or goddess? With a synthesizer, you can. Synthesizers— or synths, as they’re commonly called— are awesome electronic instruments that are becoming more popular by the minute.
Some of the top-of-the-line synths can be pretty pricey, but opting for a cheaper model still gives you nearly all of the benefits of more expensive synths. We did a lot of research to test out all of the best synths under $300 and compiled a list of our favorites, just for you. Some of the things we looked at include power, keys, presets, compatibility, and more.
Compatibility: GarageBand, Logic, Sonar, Cubase, Ableton Live, ProTools, Reason, Fruity Loops, Digital Performer, and more
Power: < 100 mA, 5V DC via USB
Size: 3.8 x 13.4 x 1.1 inches
Weight: 1 lb
More features: velocity-sensitive, editing software included, dedicated octave up and down buttons
This compact synth is roughly 13 inches wide and weighs a little less than a pound. It comes with its own editing software— although it is also compatible with many of the most popular editing software on the market today. This is powered via a USB connection with your computer, and a USB cable comes included.
This model is best suited for anyone who is relatively new to synths but still has a basic understanding of music theory (or an eagerness to learn). This model is very small and compact, which makes it great to travel with. It especially shines, however, as a highly functional synth for a home studio setup. If you’re considering synths under $300, you’re likely at a level where you’ll be able to get pretty much everything you need from this low-cost model.
Why is it special?
We loved the low cost of this model, especially considering how well it works. It’s compatible with a lot of the most popular editing software like Logic, Sonar, Abelton Live, ProTools, Garage Band, and more. We also love how freaking tiny this thing is! It's so fun to use and really easy to travel with, seeing as it measures in at just over 13 inches wide. It has six buttons for octave shifting, notes sustaining, tempo, calling preprogrammed functions, and the arpeggiator.
What are the flaws?
Although the small size of this keyboard is awesome for taking your music on the go, it may be slightly challenging to use if you have larger hands or fingers. When we tested it, we didn’t have any issues, but the keys are pretty small, all things considered, and we can see how this may be an issue for some people. We also didn’t love that this synth doesn’t have a midi out port, which means you can only use it with your laptop or desktop computer (i.e., you can't control your instruments directly with the LPK25).
More features: portable, monophonic, 2 oscillators and a multimode filter, multi-mode filter, step sequencer
This synth is also small, although it feels a bit cheaply made. It comes with a lot of presets and can be battery or USB connection cable powered.
This is a great model if you have a lot of time to get to know the buttons and overall function pretty well. This is also a good choice if you want the option of powering it with AA batteries or via a USB connection. It’s a good choice if you want to play around with cool presets.
What makes it special?
We love the presets that come locked and loaded in this model and the fact that it offers seemingly endless options for sound design (once you play with it a bit to get the hang of things, it's really fun!). For a synth at this price point, there are also a reasonable number of digital effects available, as well as two superb filters and rich oscillators. The sound is versatile and analog. This model offers a lot, feature-wise.
What cons did we find?
The hardware for this model feels pretty cheap, and the synth itself is very lightweight. That doesn't necessarily reflect its ability to produce great music, but if you're big on aesthetic and durability, this may not be the model for you. The touch controls for the desktop version of this synth are also wildly frustrating, not to mention that it takes a while to become acquainted with this synth’s controls (get ready for a lot of time perusing the user manual).
More features: voicing function, compact, loop sequencer
This synth is an analog synth that can be powered by a battery or wall cord and offers cool features like a loop sequencer and voicing function.
This is great for someone who wants a low-cost synth that can function at the highest level or someone specifically looking for an analog synth with a retro feel. This synth is maybe not the best for total beginners, but you could certainly learn quickly if you were determined.
What stands out?
This synth produces an awesome sound that can rival even the most expensive analog synths on the market. The machine itself is highly compact and feels really sturdily built. We also love the cool retro vibe we get from this synth— it feels like something straight out of the 70s or 80s. The unit itself is basically a hybrid synth that produces analog sounds with digital controls. We also love that you can choose the power source for this model.
What cons did we manage to find?
One of the saddest things about this particular model is that it doesn’t have a standard MIDI out port and also doesn’t include a PSU. Using this synth is also not the most intuitive, and we struggled to get the hang of things quickly without consulting our user guide. We actually never figured out how to save a sequence on this tool, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to do so. There’s also a lot of noise that comes from the output jack during recording.
More features: analog oscillators, 16-step sequencer, crisp sound
This tiny guy packs a big punch in sound with its keyboard and external speakers that make it perfect for on the go or in-studio jamming. It comes with 100 sample sound presets and has 8 slots for custom sequence recording, allowing you to achieve pretty much all of your synth audio dreams.
This is a great synth for anyone who is looking to find a synth with a lot of personality at a low price. Its keyboard makes it easy to noodle with it on the go, and some features can even be externally controlled using MIDI.
What are our favorite features?
We love the unmatched sound quality and external speakers that make it easy for you to jam and play around on the go and away from your studio setup. It’s great for more than just bass, also, despite the fact that bass is in its very name. There are a lot of functional options for this synth, and its compact size makes it easy to play around with them anywhere. This model also features 8 memory slots for custom sequences, which may not be a ton, but it's certainly better than nothing.
What could be better?
Sadly, this model offers its users no way to automate filter cutoff and filter resonance, which can be frustrating if you’re aiming to achieve a particular sound. It's certainly not the easiest synth to use if you're a total beginner (or even somewhat experienced), and it also doesn't offer a lot of the cool features you may want or expect from your bass synth, but this can't really be helped given the price bracket that this little beauty falls under.
More features: authentic reproduction, true analog circuitry, pure analog signal, 4-pole low-pass resonant filter, 16-voice Poly Chain
This model is a near-exact replica of the beloved Roland TB-303 and outperforms even Roland’s own (all digital) reboot of the 303. It has a ton of great features and true analog sound, plus a 4-pole low-pass resonant filter and a 16-voice Poly Chain.
This is great for anyone who wished they could have had a 303 but never got the chance, or for someone who wants a truly top-class analog synth that has a ton of features and a lot of room to play and grow.
Why is it special?
This synth is cool because it's a near-exact replica of Roland's TB-303— but with a bit of added functionality. This synth is both MIDI and USB capable and can integrate seamlessly into almost any studio setup. Even the knobs are exactly like the original 303 models, and it brings up a lot of nostalgic feelings from the 90s during use. It's great for replicating the signature sound of the 303 and creating acid tracks and the like— although you can do almost anything with it, really.
What are the flaws?
This synth is very fun to play with, but it definitely comes with its own set of limitations that you might expect, given the price. Compared to some great soft synths out there, this hardware synth can sound a bit tinny and small. Sadly you also cannot transpose sequences via MIDI note using a keyboard but are actually locked into the notes programmed into the sequence, and there isn't much flexibility there.
Compatibility: Ableton Live, ProTools, Cubase, Logic, MPC Beats, and more
Power: not specified
Size: 0.72 x 4.2 x 16.44 inches
Weight: 500 g
More features: velocity-sensitive action keys, software included
This model is super compact and weighs only 500g. It has included software and is compatible with a lot of the most popular editing software like Logic and Ableton Live.
This is great for someone who is really looking to save on their synth and who may also want to play a normal keyboard on occasion— not just synth. It has a few great features and an unbeatable price point that make this one a real winner for any beginner.
What are our favorite features?
This is a great no-nonsense synth that allows you to achieve the sound you’re looking for if you already know what that is. It comes with 32 mini keys and has features like octave, transpose, pitch bend, modulation, and sustain, which are controlled with buttons on the keyboard. The price is certainly unbeatable, and the keyboard also comes with plug-and-play features using USB cables.
What could be better?
This lacks a lot of the presets and features that most of the other synths have on this list. The price is fantastic, however, and we’re willing to overlook some of the things it lacks for that reason alone. Another qualm we had with this model is the fact that some of the keys aren’t all the same height, which makes playing feel a bit strange or awkward. The keys are also quite small, as the name mini suggests, and that can make playing feel a bit awkward with frequent mistakes if you aren’t careful.
This teeny-tiny synth comes with 18 keys and can be modified and added to with various oscillators and effects. This is great for anyone looking to go the DIY route with their synth and truly customize their experience and capabilities. There’s a lot of room for growth and change with this model, and it’s a lot of fun for anyone with some experience working with synths and music theory.
What makes it special?
We love how fun this is to use. The effects available are great, and we especially loved the feature that allows us to record and process external sounds. We found that for a DIY synth, this model was incredibly flexible and was easy to expand with custom oscillators and added effects. We had a lot of fun playing with it and learning how to set it up and use it, and think it’s a great choice from Korg.
What cons did we find?
In terms of construction, this synth isn't the sturdiest on this list and even feels a little cheaply made. The ribbon keyboard isn't that great, and many of the features are confusing enough that almost any user would need to look closely at the manual or YouTube videos to figure out what they’re doing. This is certainly not a good choice for any newbies out there, not even the most ambitious.
Things to Consider
When compiling this buying guide for the best synth under 300, we examined a lot of key features to decide what would make a list and what didn’t quite make the cut. Many of the key features we looked at include the presets, the keys, the size of the synth, the compatibility with editing software, the power source, and a few other things that are described in more detail in the review portion this list.
What Can You Get in a Synth under $300?
If you’re new to music-making and eager to get your hands on your first synth, it can be really tempting to blow a bunch of money on a super expensive model with a lot of crazy features. That’s totally not necessary, though, and many of the most experienced pros even prefer using some of the lower-priced models simply because they can keep up with the pricier synths any day. You can get a lot of super cool and useful features in a synth that costs under $300, and you are sure to find one that you love from this helpful list.
There are many important features to consider when purchasing a great synth
Trusted SourceSynthesizer - WikipediaSynthesizer-like instruments emerged in the United States in the mid-20th century with instruments such as the RCA Mark II, which was controlled with punch cards and used hundreds of vacuum tubes. The Moog synthesizer, developed by Robert Moog and first sold in 1964, is credited for pioneering analog synthesis concepts such as voltage-controlled oscillators, envelopes, noise generators, filters, and sequencers.
for under $300. If you’re new to the world of synths, here are some of the features you should look for and decide based on what sounds right for you and your musical needs.
Keys are found on synthesizers and MIDI keyboards and can offer a lot of flexibility for sound and play.
A traditional full-sized synthesizer features a whopping 88 keys, but you won’t find any with nearly that many on this list. Some MIDI keyboards, like the Alesis Qmini— our choice for Best Value— have as few as 32 keys, but you can adjust the octave and pitch with buttons on the synth house.
Trusted SourcePreset | Electronic Music Wiki | FandomA patch pre-loaded into the memory of a synthesizer by the manufacturer. The patch may be loaded into RAM, where it can be edited or overwritten by the user, or into ROM where it is always present and can’t be edited without copying it to a RAM location first.
are pre-loaded patches of sound that come programmed into the synthesizer from the manufacturer. Sometimes you can overwrite presets on a synth, but sometimes this is impossible. The IK Multimedia UNO Synth, our choice for Premium Pick, has over 100 different presets to choose from, making it super fun to play with and experiment with your music style and taste.
Professional producers frequently use synth presets, and their convenience doesn’t make them any less worthy of being included in your awesome tracks.
Synth compatibility is important if you want to edit or make your music using the software you already own or software that comes with the synth. Many synths are compatible with several of the biggest names in music editing software. Our editor’s choice, the AKAI Professional LPK25, is compatible with all of the most popular software on the market.
Some synths are battery powered, some are wired powered, and some offer flexibility and can be powered either way you choose.
If you’re only planning to work in a studio, the power source doesn’t really matter all that much (unless you don’t have electricity).
This is a more important factor if you plan to jam out on the go and want to use batteries to play with your synth at the park or the coffee shop. The Korg VOLCABASS Analog Bass Machine, the best external digital synth under 300$, can use batteries and a cord, which makes it super versatile.
In some instances, size really does matter, and that might be a synth for you.
Most of the synths on this list are super-compact but don’t let that fool you. Despite their small size, many of them, like the Korg Nu:tekt NTS-1 Monophonic DIY Synth Kit are super small and also highly functional synths. Many of the pros use a lot of the tiniest synths, so don’t go thinking that a bigger synth is necessarily better. One of the cool things about making music with synthesizers is that the only limit is your creativity, not the size of the machine.
Yes, but it depends on the synth or MIDI keyboard in question, so not all of them will have the capability to turn off velocity sensitivity in controllers. Velocity is a MIDI effect that you can often place before your instrument in editing software. When turned on, it will intercept the MIDI from your keyboard and instead send whatever you set it at. Some devices, for example, allow you to adjust the velocity with various velocity number boxes. When you set these boxes to 0% velocity, the velocity will have no effect. You can also use a setting found on some synths and MIDIs that allow you to set the velocity model to “fixed,” which locks in the velocity to a given level.
Yes. Guitar pedals can offer a whole new world of possibilities to synth users. There are a ton of different effect pedals available, almost all of which can easily be plugged straight into your synth and controlled the same way you would control it for a guitar. In order to maximize the benefits of the effect pedal you choose, however, you should take care to adjust the output signal of the synth before it reaches the pedal. All guitars, keyboards, synths, and guitar pedals have 1/4″ jacks that allow cross-compatibility. Even if a pedal isn’t labeled for use with a synthesizer, it can still be hooked up to one.
There are a lot of really effective ways to organize your synth workstation, and it depends totally on your space and your taste. One option is to purchase a multi-tiered keyboard stand that can house multiple keyboards, MIDIs, or synths that you may have in your arsenal. You can also use A-Frame tubing to create your own stand, repurpose a laptop stand, or even set up a small box on your desktop to elevate the synth above your other tools and toys. Be sure that you make smart decisions when setting up your synth workstation. It’s a good idea to make sure you have the heaviest tools on the bottom so there’s a lower risk than they might fall and damage your other equipment.
There are so many important things to consider when buying your first synth. We looked really closely at many of the key features that pros use to determine which synth to purchase, including size, number of keys, software compatibility, power source, presets, and so much more. Many of the synths on this list are highly functional despite their affordable price tags, such as AKAI Professional LPK25 or IK Multimedia UNO Synth, and any of them is sure to help you create the music you’ve always dreamed of making. Whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned music-producing veteran, we’re sure you’ll agree with our verdict for the ranking of these awesome, low-cost synths under $300, like or Best Value Alesis Qmini. We had so much fun compiling this ultimate list of the very best synths under $300 for you, and we hope you love one of the synths on this list.
Synthesizer - Wikipedia
Synthesizer-like instruments emerged in the United States in the mid-20th century with instruments such as the RCA Mark II, which was controlled with punch cards and used hundreds of vacuum tubes. The Moog synthesizer, developed by Robert Moog and first sold in 1964, is credited for pioneering analog synthesis concepts such as voltage-controlled oscillators, envelopes, noise generators, filters, and sequencers.
A patch pre-loaded into the memory of a synthesizer by the manufacturer. The patch may be loaded into RAM, where it can be edited or overwritten by the user, or into ROM where it is always present and can’t be edited without copying it to a RAM location first.