6 of the Best: Keyboard Synths (2016)

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Welcome to the latest MusicTech Buyer’s Guide where we round up some of the best products recently reviewed by us. This time we’ve got a selection of the best keyboard synths that we’ve looked at over the last six months – for every pocket, and every occasion…

Best Analogue: DSI Prophet 6

We love a good remake, especially when it comes to classic synths – but when a company remakes something and improves it, then even better. Prophet-6 is the Prophet-5 re-imagined, and it is sublime. The original ‘5’ was notable for its extras and the sequel will be noted for many more: and it’s these which set the Prophet-6 apart from other synths: the routing, flexibility, and the sequencer. In his review, Andy Jones said: “Overall, Prophet-6 is a fantastic, solid, great sounding and easy (ish!) analogue poly synth.

The modulation options are superb and surprisingly easy to get your head around. The effects are better than you might think – don’t be afraid of them. The Prophet-6 might not be the return of the Messiah, but it could well turn out to be an all-new synth god. ”

Andy finally concluded: “The Prophet-6 is one of the brightest stars in a new era of classic synths.”

Price $2,800
Contact via website
Web www.davesmithinstruments.com

Best Digital Classic: Yamaha Reface Range

Yamaha’s reface range of mini keyboards is all about portability, playability and fun. Lots of it. The range includes an electric piano and organ, which are both superb, but it’s the FM ‘DX’ and the ‘analogue CS’ synths that get our thumbs up here. Both are amazing renditions of Yamaha synth classics.

You get presets and digital loveliness with the DX and incredible (and easy) analogue-emulation synthesis with the CS. Andy Jones said: “Take them anywhere, carry them, play them. I’m pretty sure that at least one of the range will appeal to you, and I’d urge you to check them out.”

Of the CS, he concluded: “It sounds amazing and sonically, it wins the editor’s heart.” On the DX, he said: “reface DX opens up a complex synthesis to the masses and makes editing sounds – albeit from a relatively simple engine – a breeze. ”

Price £289 (street)
Contact 0844 811 1116
Web www.yamahaproaudio.com

Best Hybrid: Roland JD-XA

The JDX-A is a crossover synth in that it has both true analogue synthesis (four-part monophonic or four-note polyphonic) and Roland’s ubiquitous SuperNatural digital synthesis.

But it’s the way the two interact – or ‘cross over’ – that marks the synth apart. You can treat them very individually if you like, but combine them for best effect. Andy Jones said: “I love its high level of crossover synthesis, its many features and indeed the look. While Aira and analogue might steal the headlines, Roland’s JD synths are great, too – this is a damn fine synth.”

Price £1,599
Contact 01792 702701
Web www.roland.com

Best Analogue Classic: Roland Boutique Range

No surprise that Roland gets two entries in our top six, as the company is on a synth roll at the moment. The Boutique range is three mini virtual analogue modules, comprising the JP-08, JU-06, and JX-03, plus optional K-25m keyboard.

They’re based on the classic Jupiter 8, Juno 6 and JX-3P synths and all do great jobs of emulating them. Reviewer Andy Jones said: “The concept is brilliant, as is the price. I also love the size (which surprises me).

For pick-up-and-play ‘classic’ synths, they can’t be beaten, and there’s nothing else out there quite like them. Of the three, get the Jupiter… if you still can.” We say that as Roland might well be limiting stock of the range, which would be a shame.

Price £229 – £299
Contact 01792 702701
Web www.roland.com

Best Keyboard: Nord Stage 2 EX

Okay, the Stage is not a synth per se, more a keyboard ‘best of’, featuring some of the best piano and organ sounds (not to mention hands on controls) on the planet, alongside a pretty darn good synthesiser.

The Nord sound library has a deserved reputation as the best, and the Stage makes maximum use of it. In short, this is the best do-everything keyboard synth there is. Andy Jones noted: “this latest Stage refines an already excellent set of keyboards.

Incredible sounds, enough control to dig deep into them and a superb, hands-on effects section.” He concluded: “A stunning synth, piano and organ. The Stage 2 is still one of, if not the, best keyboards out there.”

Price £2,399
Contact Sound Technology 01462 480000
Web www.soundtech.co.uk

Best Mother of all Synths: Yamaha Montage

We’ve reviewed this synth very recently, and in many ways it is the ultimate synth – it’s certainly the most feature-packed one we have ever looked at. Montage will pretty much do anything you want it to, and a whole lot of stuff you didn’t even realise could be done.

The touch screen is its big bonus, not to mention a host of other hands-on controls. There are two mighty sound engines, a massive memory, tons of realism and ‘unrealism’. As Andy Jones says: “Yamaha promised the mother of all synths and with Montage, the ship has well and truly landed. Montage is the new standard.

Price From £2,200
Contact Yamaha, 0844 811 1116
Web www.yamahaproaudio.com




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