Ten of the best polyphonic analog synthesizers

We have consulted our members in the Electronic Music Instruments & Electronic Music Production board to determine the very best poly analog synthesizers currently in production and here is what the Gearslutz hive mind told us!

Note: synthesizers are listed with no particular order of favouritism and listed in alphabetical order by their product (not manufacturer) names.


Modal Electronics 008R

Modal Electronics 008R

The intimidating 008R is Modal’s rack-mount version of the mighty 008 analog-behemoth, bringing the same sound engine and made with the same “no-compromise” approach of building epic and memorable synthesizers with the best possible components. The 008R is a bi-timbral synth unit that boasts a ton of features with up to eight voices (each equipped with two pure analog OSCs and sub OSCs), an extremely flexible filter section with whopping 15 modes, eleven modulation sources, two MIDI-syncable LFOs with multiple shapes, four voice modes (poly, mono, unison or stack), 32-step sequencer and a full-blown arpeggiator. All functions are neatly displayed on a 4.3" LCD display of the highest quality and to keep up with the highly-integrated studios of our age it comes with a USB MIDI/Audio interface and a browser app for remote control, which means you can even tweak it with your phone! One of the most interesting features here is the Animator, a special sequencer that is capable of controlling any parameter inside the 008R, which opens up a whole new universe of possible modulations. If you’re after an endgame synth that is current and will stay current the 008R is certainly something you should consider and with so much to offer this is a synth that you can build a studio around. Connections: MIDI (In/Out/Through), USB (Audio/MIDI), Ethernet, 2x combo XLR-1/4" analog outputs, 2x1/4” analog inputs, 1 x D-Sub (voice outputs).



Elektron Analog Keys

Elektron Analog Keys

A slick four-voice synthesizer that is up to date with today’s demands, the Analog Keys features a pure analog signal path with two OSCs, two sub OSCs, variable waveshape on all waveforms, a noise generator, a 4-pole lowpass ladder filter, a 2-pole multimode filter, analog overdrive on each voice, two assignable LFOs, vibrato LFO, two waveshape LFOs, amp envelope and two ADSR envelope generators. It’s also equipped with three auxiliary send effects (chorus, delay, reverb), an X/Y joystick that’s fully assignable, arpeggiator, a 4-track polyphonic sequencer and 37 velocity-sensitive keys with aftertouch. In order to house so much functionality Analog Keys uses a LCD display and ten main encoders, key arrows and nine main buttons that navigate through all parameters, which might annoy some who prefers full hands-on physical controls but it’s an understandable compromise given how much it has to offer. All Elektron synthesizers easily integrate with computers through the Overbridge software, providing audio stream/processing, patch recall and VST/AU plugins (Win/Mac) for effortless production with most DAWs. Elektron delivered a complete, well-rounded package with the Analog Keys - it goes deep in features for the studio but is also well optimised for ease of use in live performances. Connections: USB, MIDI (In/Out/Through), 2x¼” main analog outputs, ¼” headphones output, 4x¼” mono outputs, 2x¼” CV/Gate output, 2x¼” mono inputs.



Roland JD-XA

Roland JD-XA

Our list wouldn’t be complete without Roland, makers of some of the most iconic synthesizers ever made, such as the Juno 106. Integrating the best of analog and digital technologies, the JD-XA is Roland’s proposition for the 21st century and it brings a huge number of sonic possibilities to the table. At its core there are four analog and sixty four digital voices and a wealth of envelope generators, filters, effects and everything else required for huge and complex synth sounds. Each voice of the analog section features two OSCs with five waveforms each, one multimode (LPF/HPF/BPF) resonant filter with drive, four-stage (ADSR) envelopes for amp/pitch/filter, two LFOs, mod LFO, and ring/cross modulation on each OSC. The digital section adds a third OSC, two more filters and features amp envelopes/LFOs on each of its four parts. The JD-XA also features a powerful 16-track sequencer, arpeggiator, flexible routing and many effects, such as different types of reverb, EQ and delay. It’s hard to think of something that the JD-XA can’t do and in that regard it’s a solid choice for an "all-rounder" that will cover lots of ground. Connections: USB (Audio/Midi), USB Memory, MIDI (In/Out), 1x¼” analog “dry” output, 2x¼” analog outputs, 1x¼” stereo headphones output, 1x¼” stereo click output, 1x combo XLR-¼” mic input, 2x1/8” Gate output, 2x1/8” CV output, footswitch (Hold, Ctrl 1-2). Read our user reviews.



Korg Minilogue

Korg Minilogue

A four-voice synthesizer that’s made quite an impact since its introduction in 2014, the Minilogue puts the creators of the legendary MS-20 under the spotlight once again. This impressive looking synth brings two analog oscillators per voice with three waveshapes each, a fully featured 2 or 4-pole analog filter with keytrack/velocity, ADSR amplitude envelope, an ADSR envelope generator, and an analog LFO with three shapes assignable to oscillator pitch/shape or filter cutoff. It also includes modulation on the VCO 2, a 'tape delay' effect, 16-step polyphonic sequencer, 37 velocity-sensitive keys and a mixer that allows for setting oscillators and noise levels. One of the most interesting aspects of the Minilogue are the eight different voice modes, which deliver 4-voice polyphony, 2-voice polyphony with unison, mono with unison stack, mono with a sub oscillator, chord triggering, arpeggiator with up to 4 voices, sidechain mode (each subsequent note ducks the previously played note) and delay mode, where voices 3 and three are triggered with an offset after the first voice. With so many features the Minilogue is definitely one of the most interesting pieces to come out in recent years and it doesn’t come with a prohibitive price tag, which is always a great thing! Connections: USB, MIDI (Input/Output), Sync I/O (2x1/8”), ¼” analog input, ¼” analog output, ¼” stereo headphones output. Read our user reviews.



Dave Smith Instruments Mopho X4

Dave Smith Instruments Mopho X4

If one Mopho already packs a punch now imagine four of them at once - and now imagine them wired up for four-voices of polyphony. Enter the Mopho X4, a synthesizer packed with two analog oscillators capable of four waveforms each, two sub octave generators, 2/4-pole (24/12dB per octave) a “Curtis” low-pass filter, three ADSR+Delay envelope generators, four LFOs per voice, an arpeggiator, step sequencer and portamento with separate rates for each OSC. Unlike the DSI Tetra, the Mopho X4’s voices plays the same patch and in that regard it’s a mono-timbral unit at heart, with a strong focus on delivering massive sounds. It also comes with an equally massive library with one thousand patches, and it can expand with ease via the free software editor. There’s also an optional (paid) VST/AU control plugins for Windows and MAC, which should make things even more convenient and tightly integrated. Connections: USB, MIDI (In/Out-Through/Poly Chain), 2x¼” unbalanced audio outputs, ¼″ stereo headphones output, expression pedal/control voltage and sustain.



Dave Smith Instruments OB-6 Module

Dave Smith Instruments OB-6 Module

What happens when synth gurus Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim join forces to create a new instrument? Pure polyphonic magic and one of our community's most recommended synths in recent times - which comes as no surprise given the reputation those two names have amassed over the years. The OB-6 brings Oberheim’s sought-after tone with many modern twists and a wealth of features, starting with two oscillators per voice with independent pulse width and continuously variable waveshapes, oscillator detune amount, mixer with OSCs 1 & 2 plus white noise, a hefty filter based on the original Oberheim SEM with low-pass/high-pass/band-pass/notch and keyboard/velocity tracking options, four-stage ADSR envelopes for filter and amplitude and an assignable LFO with five different waveshapes. The OB-6 also pack a fully-programmable arpeggiator, polyphonic step sequencer with up to 64 steps. If that wasn’t enough, add a 24-bit/48kHz digital effects engine with reverb, delay, chorus, flanger, phase shifters and ring modulator for an other-worldly polyphonic analog monster. The OB-6 is definitely what you can call an “endgame” piece of gear and if it doesn’t satisfy your synthesizer needs then perhaps nothing ever will! Connections: MIDI (In/Out/Through), 2x¼” analog outputs, ¼” headphones output, USB, footswitch (Sequence/Sustain) and expression (Volume/Filter). Available in 4-octave keyboard and desktop module (shown) versions.



Studio Electronics Omega 8

Studio Electronics Omega 8

One of the most sough-after synthesizers in recent years and a community favorite, the Studio Electronics Omega 8 is described by its makers as a “DSP-free Analog Dream Machine” and with so much to offer we can’t possibly disagree with that! As the above sentence suggests, this is a 8-voice multitimbral synth without any digital processing whatsoever - the only 'digital' is the liquid crystal display! Each of the Omega 8’s voices features two pure analog OSCs with three waveforms, two multimode filters inspired on classic Oberheim/Moog designs (12/24 dB per octave), three ADSR envelope generators (filter/amp/assignable), noise generator and three assignable LFOs with 6 shapes. Voices also have their own sound output and all 8 voices can be mixed and summed to the provided mono and stereo outputs. The Omega 8 can either do unison with 1/2/4/6/8 voice modes or multimode with up to 8 independent patches (with key split) and it also offers an optional VST/AU plug-in software editor for convenient use on DAWs. If you’d like further oscillator and filter options then you can check out the CODE 8 too, which is basically an expanded Omega 8 done in collaboration with NovaMusik. Both great synths and regardless of the choice you’re set for nothing but amazing sounds. Connections: MIDI (In/Out/Through), 8x¼” individual voice outputs, 8x¼” individual voice inputs, 3x¼” master outputs (right, mono, left). Read our user reviews.



Vermona Modular PERfourMER MKII

Vermona Modular PERfourMER MKII

Vermona presents a pure analog synthesizer in the strictest sense of the term, with nothing but knobs and switches. The PERfourMER MKII has no LCD/LED displays or hidden sub-menus - it’s as hands-on as it gets and all the controls are at your fingertips for great programming and performance joy. As the name might suggest, this synth brings four synth “channels”, each one with its own oscillator with five waveforms, ADSR envelope, low-pass filter with variable resonance and LFO with three shapes that can be assigned to the oscillator's pitch or filter frequency. This unit can either work as a four-voice polyphonic unit or four individual mono synthesizers with a “playmode” control that determines how the polyphony will be handled. It also features a MIDI interface, and to further the options still Vermona also offers a “CV/Gate version” equipped with analog CV capabilities, so if you’re into Eurorack the PERfourMER MKII can be integrated to a larger system for further controls. With a lot of tricks and a big analog sound this is definitely a very enticing option that (relatively speaking) will not require a ton of cash. Connections: Each channel (top panel) has one ¼” external audio input/CV output and one ¼” analog output/insert. Back panel equipped with MIDI (In/Through), 2x¼” analog outputs, 4x¼” gate inputs and 4x¼” 1V/Octave CV inputs.



Dave Smith Instruments Sequential Prophet-6

Dave Smith Instruments Sequential Prophet-6

Widely acclaimed by our community, the Prophet 6 continues the lineage of one of the most successful synthesizers of all time. Following in the steps of its predecessor, the Prophet-6 presents six voices with two true analog oscillators (per voice) with pulse width and continuously variable waveshapes, resonant low/high-pass (2/4-pole respectively) filters with envelope, ADSR envelope generator with velocity modulation of the envelope amount, fully assignable five-shape LFO, internal/external sync clock options and aftertouch. Dave Smith Instruments didn’t just settle on a minor update of the classic Prophet-5, they are also gearing it up for the future with high quality 24-bit/48kHz digital effects (reverb, delay, chorus, flanger, ring modulator and phase shifters), a 64-step polyphonic sequencer and an arpeggiator. The Prophet 6 is a worthy successor of a legendary synth and an amazing addition to any setup. Connections: MIDI (In/Out/Through), 2x¼” analog outputs, ¼” headphones output, USB, footswitch (Sequence/Sustain) and expression (Volume/Filter). Available as 4-octave keyboard (featured) and desktop module.



Oberheim Two Voice Pro

Oberheim Two Voice Pro

Last but not least and only just qualifying as a 'poly synth' with the bare minimum of two voices is the Two Voice Pro, but hey, those voices are made by none other than Tom Oberheim! The Two Voice Pro updates the Two Voice made in the mid 1970s with a redesigned sequencer that can now store patterns on the onboard flash memory, allowing further tweaks on each step and note lengths. Besides that it’s the same three-octave keyboard with a distinctive analog sound that some many loved over the past three decades. At its core we have two “Synthesizer Expander Modules” (or just “SEM”), each featuring two oscillators with continuously variable saw-pulse waveforms and pulse width/frequency modulation and the unique resonant filters with envelope/LFO modulation. The top panel houses a number of connections for CV control of many of the SEMs parameters, allowing nearly endless modulation possibilities and further integration with modular setups. This synth is also equipped with three envelope generators (2 ADS envelopes and one LFO), “split” or “unison” keyboard modes, internal or MIDI clock, velocity, portamento, aftertouch, vibrato LFO, transpose button from -2 to +2, fine-tune, VCO2 detune, pitch and modulation wheels. It’s only got two voices but with so many options on offer this synth can easily be at the heart of any rig! Connections: MIDI (In/Out/Through), 2x¼” analog outputs, 2x¼” external audio inputs, 2x¼” CV outputs and 2x¼” gate outputs.



There we go, ten amazing synthesizers with plenty of options to satisfy your polyphonic needs! Will the upcoming Behringer DeepMind 12 take a spot on this list in the future? Any other interesting prospects in the polyphonic analog synth category?What's the centrepiece of your rig? Please share your thoughts!

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