We have consulted our database to find the most discussed keyboard synthesizers of 2017. Here’s what the Gearspace community have been talking about:

Korg Minilogue

One of the most successful synths in recent years, the Korg Minilogue brings true analog polyphony to the masses with an affordable 4-voice synth. The Minilogue brings an interesting take on synthesis based on two voltage-controlled oscillators per voice with cross-modulation and eight different modes, including a configurable arpeggiator, unison mode, chord mode, a mono mod with a sub OSC for powerful basses and much more. This neat synth comes with one envelope generator, LFO with three shapes, 37 medium size velocity-sensitive keys and a layout that is almost a “single knob-per-function” type, which allows for very quick programming. It also features a tape-style delay, USB connection for MIDI, librarian software, external input and a very cool oscilloscope that’s definitely catches the eye. For its price and features it is easy to understand all the appeal.

Roland JD-XA

Roland made the JD-XA a force to be reckoned with and it honours the JP legacy of synths: a comprehensive instrument that is one of the best possible definition of a workhorse, because it really does it all. This analog-digital “crossover” synthesizer boasts an array of features, most notably a four-voice analog section that runs together with digital synth engine that can have as much 64-voice polyphony depending on the configuration. It also comes with a plethora of envelopes, LFOs, effects, a 16-track step sequencer, vocoder, USB connection, a dedicated output for the analog part, 49-key velocity sensitive keys with aftertouch and much more. The JD-XA is equipped to go from powerful raw analog bass to complex pads with a ton of modulations or even drums, so there’s certainly lots to talk about.

Yamaha DX7

The godfather of FM synthesizers, a keyboard that defined an era and that still inspires musicians until this day. The DX7’s distinctive tone is a product of what was at the time a breakthrough in synthesizer design, which enabled many unique sounds that were previously impossible to achieve with other techniques. On the other hand, such synthesis method was intrinsically complicated and its cryptic interface didn’t help, which made presets a very important part of the DX7. Browsing through them feels like opening a time capsule, and those who lived through the 80s will instantly recognize many of these presets. DX7s were plentiful, so they are not very hard to find, and if you’re patient enough there’s a good chance that you’ll score one in mint condition - or just set with the trimmed-down version from the Reface Series.

Dave Smith Instruments Sequential Prophet-6

Dave Smith Instruments brings revives the Sequential name to bring it back to the fold with the Prophet 6, a six-voice analog synth that pays homage to the classic Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, a trailblazer when it comes to programmable analog polyphonic synthesizers. This new Prophet-6 follows closely the classic design and concepts, with two VCOs per voice, two envelopes and a tasty sounding filter, but it also expands the concept by adding a sub oscillator, two digital effects engines, a polyphonic step sequencer and modern amenities such as USB connection and more memory for presets. Other than that it’s pretty much the old Prophet brought to the 21st century, with the unmistakable sound signature that made the original so remarkable.

Roland D-50

The D-50 was hit-maker in the early 90s but it’s still widely discussed and used by musicians and producers until this day. A pioneer on many aspects, the D-50 is a 16-voice digital machine with 61 velocity-sensitive keys with aftertouch that combines PCM samples for the initial part of the sound with a “linear” synth engine for the rest, resulting in very rich sounds that were mostly unheard until its advent in 1987. The D-50 is rather affordable and finding one on the second hand markets shouldn’t be difficult since its production runs were quite large. Affordable plus nice sounding sounds like a great recipe and definitely helps to explain its persistent popularity, but that might also have something to do with the recent introduction of the Boutique Series version under the name D-05, which seems to have reignited the interest on this synth.

Roland SH-101

One of the most coveted mono synths ever made thanks to its unique character, the Roland SH-101 is a gritty monophonic beast and one of the most recognizable synths ever made. The SH-101’s sound comes from the combination of a single VCO, noise generator and a sub oscillator that resulted in mighty bass lines and ripping leads that would cut through any song. It also featured a two envelopes, 100-step sequencer, arpeggiator, CV inputs and an optional hand-grip that transforms it into a keytar, which can easily be spotted on many performances from the 1980s. This synth has been recently revived on Roland’s Boutique series as the SH-01A, which despite its small size packs a number of interesting features, most notably a 4-voice polyphonic mode, but there’s no doubt that the original piece will stay on everybody’s mind and if anything this new version will only add to the legend.

Roland Jupiter-8

A synthesizer that will probably be on all “best synthesizers of all times” lists and still very much talked about, the Jupiter 8’s allure doesn’t seem to fade. The eight-voice full analog monster synth was Roland’s flagship model in the early eighties, boasting a very impressive feature set with two oscillators per voice, great sounding filters, keyboard split mode, onboard arpeggiator, flexible envelopes and much more. Its sound-generating capabilities are still widely praised to this day as and it’s considered a milestone of synthesizer design. Perhaps it’s only fault was the lack of MIDI support, which is understandable since the protocol was still on its way to industry-wide adoption at that time, but that can be addressed with a modification. As expected it’s not an easy synth to find, it’s a rare item and highly valuable one, so reaching this planet will require some considerable investment. Or just be humble and accept Roland’s Boutique Series adaptation.

Yamaha CS-80

Arguably the most coveted analog polyphonic synthesizer ever made, the CS-80 is one of those pieces that extrapolates our gear world, impacting the broader popular culture thanks to Vangelis and his extensive use of this synth on the Blade Runner soundtrack. The movie recently got a sequel, which renewed the interest for this synth and added further to the mystique of this 200+ pounds mothership. This 8-voice is a beast was designed in 1976 by Yamaha to be the best Japanese synthesizer ever made, but many argue that ironically it’s one of its imperfections that makes it so good: a subtle detuning of the oscillators which greatly thickened its sound, and since there are two oscillators per voice you can imagine what will come out of this! To go along with that there are 61-keys with velocity/aftertouch, a set of LP/HP filters, 4-stage envelope, multi-shaped LFO, and a ribbon controller for pitch-bends/glissandos. The CS-80 is one of the most valued synths of all times, certainly one of the most expensive and it’s also known for being very difficult to maintain, making it a rare luxury that only a fortunate few can afford.

Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12

The "digital prophet" presents a different flavour from DSI, with a full-blown digital synth that’s highly capable while still sounding in line with its heritage. Boasting twelve voices of polyphony with four oscillators plus sub OSC per voice, four LFOs, a total of four envelopes and the very familiar Curtis filters, the Prophet 12 is a true synthesis powerhouse that can easily can go from analog-like sounds to DX-style FM synthesis. It also features an interesting effects engine with four digital delays, analog distortion and a "character FX" section with some interesting choices for adding extra mojo to the sound or crushing them to oblivion. The Prophet 12 also comes with a slick panel with plenty of controls to keep menu-diving to the strict minimum, five-octave keyboard with velocity and aftertouch, USB connection and two stereo outputs. All-around a very capable synth with serious depth and that proves once again the value of digital synths.

Arturia MatrixBrute

Arturia caught the world by surprise back in 2016 when they introduced the Matrixbrute, a baffling-looking semi-modular synth with an impressive modulation matrix that certainly justifies its name. The Matrixbrute is a all analog mono synth with three VCOs, two filters including a Moog-style ladder model, three EGs, three LFOs, a paraphonic mode that converts it into a two-voice synth, analog effects, comprehensive CV support and much more. On top of this there’s the mighty 16x16 modulation matrix that besides doing all the mod assignments can also act as a sequencer/arpeggiator where, which makes it a joy to program since there are no complicated menus or clunky interfaces to deal with. Perhaps the only thing that might get in inspiration’s way is the sheer number of modulation possibilities, which means one might get lost inside the matrix to never return!

Honorable mentions: the nifty Korg Monologue, Behringer’s enticing DeepMind 12, the timeless Roland JUNO-106 and last but not least the highly impressive Modal 008. There were many others synths the Gearspace community talked about, what synths are you talking about lately? Share your thoughts below!