5 Great Gift Synthesizers for Less Than $100 Each

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5 Great Gift Synthesizers for Less Than $100

Despite what you may have heard, even synth nerds love the holidays. If the special someone in your life thrills to the bouncy analog chords in Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time,” they may appreciate getting one (or more) of these electronic audio stocking stuffers.

Korg Nu:Tekt NTS-1

Isn’t building your gift part of the fun? Korg puts you right on the factory floor with its new NTS-1 kit. Don’t worry, it’s easy; there’s no soldering and the kits include the only tool necessary—a little screwdriver. The assembled mini synth is powered via micro-USB and features a single monophonic digital oscillator, which you’ll play using its ribbon controller. The synth provides a wide variety of waveforms and filters (with resonance!) to choose from, along with an envelope generator and three LFOs. Reverb, delay, and modulation effects sweeten the sound, while a multi-pattern arpeggiator offers up to 24 steps and can sync to external clocks.

Korg Nu:Tekt NTS-1 Digital Kit DIY Programmable Synthesizer
Korg Nu:Tekt NTS-1 Digital Kit DIY Programmable Synthesizer

Teenage Engineering PO-137 Rick and Morty Pocket Operator Micro Sampler

Swedish innovator Teenage Engineering has cleverly incorporated Rick and Morty’s unique shenanigans into its Pocket Operator line, with the PO-137. Like all the POs, it runs on AAA batteries and fits into your shirt pocket while offering a surprising number of sound-generating and sequencing capabilities. The PO-137’s claim to fame is a vocal synthesizer/sampler with a built-in microphone that allows you to process your sample using one of the eight voice-character effects—supplied by none other than Justin Roiland himself. 120 seconds of sampling time are available, along with replaceable drum sounds and a 16-step sequencer. This limited-edition collector set includes a silicone carrying case and a lanyard, making it a thoughtful (if potentially annoying) gift for the dork in your life.

teenage engineering PO-137 Rick and Morty Pocket Operator Micro Sampler
teenage engineering PO-137 Rick and Morty Pocket Operator Micro Sampler

Stylophone GEN X-1

The Stylophone GEN X-1 is a sweet little analog synthesizer powered by four AA batteries and played with your finger or the included brass-tipped stylus. The unit offers a cute retro look with a chromed grill and built-in speaker. You can play individual notes on the nickel-plated keyboard or glide between pitches on the sound strip. The analog oscillator offers a square wave along with a sub oscillator that doubles an octave or two beneath the main sound. Also on board is a programmable LFO to modulate the sound, along with an adjustable delay for echo effects. The line out allows you to connect with additional audio gear and there’s even an audio input that with which you can process external audio through the X-1’s filter, LFO, and delay.

Stylophone GEN X-1 Portable Analog Synthesizer
Stylophone GEN X-1 Portable Analog Synthesizer

PLOYTEC PL2

This tiny, mysterious cube is really a duophonic analog synthesizer. The PL2’s two square wave oscillators can be combined to generate saw, sine, or pulse waveforms, and filtered using the onboard digital and analog filters. Modulation is supplied via a MIDI-syncable LFO. Sounds are tweaked using MIDI control messages or one of the free software editors for windows, macOS, Linux, or the iPad. Thirty-two preset sounds are available, while another thirty-two user presets allow you to store your own sound creations. The PL2 is available in two flavors: the black PL2 MIDI version is powered and triggered via MIDI instruments (the micro-USB connection is for additional power, if needed), while the white PL2 Leukos USB version is powered and controlled by computers and iPads via USB although it does include a MIDI output. Both models offer a single RCA audio output.

PLOYTEC PL2 MIDI Synthesizer
PLOYTEC PL2 MIDI Synthesizer

Korg Monotron DELAY

Open up a can of old school Sci-Fi weirdness for the holidays with this tiny gem from Korg. Like the NTS-1, the Monotron DELAY uses a ribbon controller, but you can forget about playing anything as pedestrian as “notes” on this thing. Powered by two AAA batteries and featuring a built-in speaker, its analog oscillator, filter and delay effect (including lots of feedback!) perfectly conjure up a host of wacky echoing electronic effects that are sure to have parents and pets running for cover in no time. The Monotron DELAY may look like a toy, but the filter is the same one found in Korg’s legendary MS-10 and MS-20 synths, and the aux input lets you run external audio through both the filter and delay, making this a seriously useful tool.

Korg Monotron DELAY Analog Ribbon Synthesizer
Korg Monotron DELAY Analog Ribbon Synthesizer

So, there’s a quick look at a few inexpensive gift ideas for the synth-lover in your life. Any one of these can provide hours of sound-seeking thrills and musical inspiration for musicians, DJs, and producers while still leaving you enough scratch to buy gift wrapping, a card, and maybe even some eggnog. Enjoy!

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