Six of the best subtractive synths

To accompany Part One of our extensive Sound Synthesis Masterclass on subtractive synthesis, here’s our pick of six of the best subtractive synths to help you put theory into practice.

1Moog One

Moog One

Moog is a legend of analogue synth design and some of its original models are amongst the most sought after instruments around. The Moog One is a full-sized 61-key polyphonic analogue synth that packs years of Moog pedigree and expertise alongside modern features to create an achingly desirable synth.

Retails for £6,000 (8-voice)/£7,800 (16-voice).

2Steinberg Retrologue 2

Steinberg Retrologue 2

Despite being bundled for free with some versions of Cubase, Steinberg’s Retrologue is no lightweight. Unlike some software synths, Retrologue keeps things straightforward and easy to use, with three oscillators, a single multi-mode filter, standard ADSR envelopes and a simple-yet-powerful modulation matrix. Most importantly, it sounds great! A new hardware version in collaboration with Mind Music Labs will be available soon – price unknown at time of writing.

Retails for £85 (software version). 

3Roland MKS-50

Roland MKS-50

Roland’s Juno synth range hasn’t achieved the same level of desirability as the Jupiter synths that it superseded, but the range has fine instruments with a big, fat, rich analogue sound. The MKS-50 is effectively a Juno in a MIDI-equipped rack unit, so interfaces easily with modern DAWs while delivering genuine analogue loveliness.

Retails for £400.

4Native Instruments Reaktor

Native Instruments Reaktor

While Reaktor can turn its hand to many different functions, its modular nature makes it the ultimate tool for emulating classic modular synthesizers. The ability to dive deeply into the structure and makeup of each synth component offers vast sound synthesis potential.

Retails for £169.

5TAL NoiseMaker

TAL NoiseMaker

From freeware king TAL, the NoiseMaker is a well-featured Mac and PC synth. It’s a three-oscillator wavetable synth with up to six voices and a stack of effects – reverb, delay and bitcrusher – that lift its sounds well above most. And you get a whopping 256 of those to explore, too.


6U-HE Diva

U-HE Diva

Diva is based on a number of modules that closely model components of classic synths from Moog, Roland and Korg. You can mix and match each section, with options for voltage- or digitally controlled oscillators and envelopes, plus a selection of multimode, ladder, cascade and bite filters. This opens up a wide range of combinations and it’s easy to get great-sounding results. Along the bottom is the global section, from where you can set up and tweak LFOs, tuning, amp, pan, voice stacking and much more, as well as selecting from two FX slots including phasing, chorus, reverb and delay.

Retails for €179.

Learn more about subtractive synthesis here.