Hey guys, AB here from B&H. Today, we’re taking
a look at some of the top synths you can buy for under $500. I want to acknowledge that
this is not a be all and all list. This is really a collection of synths that we put together
that A, are available through B&H. So, that if you watch the video and you really like
what you see you can turn around and buy one without any issue. B, we wanted to make sure
we get a cross-section of different styles of synths. So, you can see what kind of sonic
power you can get under the $500 price point. The synths we ended up choosing are: The Roland
JD-Xi, The Korg MS-20 Mini, The Roland D-05 Linear Synthesizer, The Korg volca fm and
last but not least the pocket operator from Teenage Engineering. Let’s start off of the Roland JD-Xi synthesizer.
This is an interactive crossover synth. There are actually 4 independent sound engines,
two digital sound engines which showcase a lot of the supernatural sounds. With 128 note
polyphony. There’s an analog engine which is really showcasing lead and bass sounds.
Then you have the drum engine what has a lot of the sound from Roland’s classic groove
boxes and drum machines. 808s, 909s, CR-78. Once you hear the kicks and the snares and
the hi-hats you’ll know right away that you’re dealing with professional drum sounds. So,
there are 4 dedicated effects engines. The first 2 deal with things like compression,
bit crushing, flanging, phasing and few others. The third effect engine is a dedicated delay
engine and the fourth is strictly reverb. So, you can really dial-in as much or as little
as you want. There’s also 4-track pattern sequencer and USB connectivity for audio and
midi communication with your computer and DAW. Another great feature on the JD-Xi, is the
vocoder auto pitch section. A vocoder is an instrument that lets you synthesize your
voice then use the keys on the keyboard to play the different notes of your synthesized
voice. Roland includes a gooseneck mic for the vocoder. Let’s give the vocoder a little
whirl here. ♬ “Let’s make it funky in here baby.
Let’s make it, funkyyyyy in here.” ♬ HAHAHA! Anyway…Another good thing about the vocoder
is that on the back panel of the JD-Xi, we’ve got a ¼’ input for hi-z and line level
instruments. So, if you wanted to route an external microphone or a guitar into the vocoder
you can. You can mangle those sounds to your heart’s desire. You want a great instrument
with tons of sounds for all kinds of productions, Roland’s JD-Xi is hard to beat. And now for something totally different. The
MS-20 mini. Which is an analog, subtractive monophonic synthesizer. Based on Korg’s
very famous MS-20. In fact, the original engineers of the MS-20, oversaw the production of the
Mini. So, you know they weren’t playing around. The mini is identical to the original MS-20.
However, there are a couple structural differences. The mini is about 86% the size of the original
MS-20. Which I think is pretty cool because that means that you have all that power in
a slightly smaller form factor. So, if you’ve been looking for a desktop analog synthesizer
that sounds fantastic, this might fit your workstation.
The other difference happens on the back of the keyboard. You noticed there’s a 5-pin
midi in jack which is for receiving note messages. There’s a USB jack for receiving and transmitting
midi note messages. The original MS-20 was really famous for its self-oscillating filter
section. And the Mini is no different. The high-pass and low-pass filters are really
great. When used in tandem, you often create a band pass effect. With as a lot of aggression
to the sounds that you’re playing. What’s more, if you take advantage of the really
flexible patch on the MS-20 Mini, you can really create some dirty sounds. Why don’t
we take a listen? Another great feature of the MS-20 Mini, is
external signal processor. You can take an outside signal, plug it into the keyboard
and use the filters to create some really cool effects. So, once again looking for a
really great analog monophonic synthesizer with a powerful filter section check out the
MS-20 Mini. The next keyboard come from Roland’s Boutique
line of synths. And we chose the D-05 Linear Synthesizer. Which is really a replica of
the D50. In fact, you can take D-50 patches and import them into the D-05. Which gives
you even more sonic possibility. What’s great about this keyboard is that if you like 80s
or 90s music or movies from that era, like I do, because I’m old. You will love the sound
on this keyboard. Very lush, very usable, very powerful and pretty versatile. Additionally,
the D-05 has an integrated 64 step, polyphonic sequencer. An arpeggiator and reprogrammable
patterns for each patch. For example, here’s a patch called Neil Horizon. Just as with the D-50, The D-05 has a joystick. You can assign different parameters to the joystick
to come up with some really creative options. They’re also 2, touch strips on the left side.
One is for pitch bending and the other for modulation effects. The D-05 does run off
of USB power. But, it is also capable of running off of 4 AA batteries. Which means it’s a
very portable, powerful miniature synthesizer you can take with you anywhere. You may notice
there’s no keys attached to the D-05. Certainly, this is compatible to the Roland’s K-25m
miniature keyboard. But, I would suggest using an external MIDI controller like we are to
get the best playability out of this box. Next, we have the Korg volca fm. Which is
a 3 voice, polyphonic FM synthesizer based on the Yamaha DX7. In fact, you can important
DX7 patches into the volca fm. The voca fm also has a 16 step sequencer which allows
you to record your performances. This is something that’s really useful if you’re someone who
plays live a lot. Other features include a great chorus effect, syncability with other
models in the voca line. A built-in speaker and 27 integrated keys.
Now, like the Roland D-05, the keys on the volca fm are really small. They’re good for
single melody lines but if you really want to get the best play ability out of the voca
fm, we recommend using an external MIDI keyboard. The built-in sounds of the volca fm are great.
You can use it for number different styles of music. From electric pianos… To distorted sounds… You name it. The real power unit is revealed when you get into reprogramming and customizing the algorithms. Korg provides a convenient placard which shows you just how deep you can dive into making this a truly unique synthesizer.
Last but certainly not least, The pocket operator from Teenage Engineering. Why would I choose
something so small to be part of this list of synthesizers? Well, they sound great, they’re
are very portable and they’re very inexpensive. You can buy up to 10 of these depending on
which model and still not break the $500 price point. These things are really fun to use.
They got an animated display which makes it really easy to see what’s going on when you’re
making music. And all the buttons pretty much make sense. Once you get to know how to use
one pocket operator, you can apply that knowledge to all the other models. Let’s take a closer look at this one. This
is the PO-12 Rhythm. Which essentially the drum machine that can fit in the palm of your
hand. Don’t let the size of this thing fool you. Even though it’s small, has a lot of
powerful sounds that rival those are much more expense machines. Let’s take a closer
look. There’re 16 built-in sounds. Ranging from bass drum, to snare, hi-hat. And just a little sample of a quick pattern I put together before the video. The PO-12 Rhythm features a 16-step sequencer
with 16 patterns. Jam-sync to link it to other Pocket Operators. 3.5mm in and out jacks.
A built-in stand and a speaker. These are features that you’re going to find them pretty
much every other pocket operator. So once again, if you’re looking for a synthesizer
that’s really small but powerful, the pocket operators are a good choice. You can use them
standalone with each other, or part of your entire music production ecosystem. So, as you can see when it comes to buying
synthesizers, you don’t always have to spend big bucks to get a big sound. Music making
is all about choice and application. You choose the right gear, you learn how to use it and
you get creative. For more information on these and other models
Go to bhphoto.com If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe. This is AB and
I’ll see you next time.