Fancy a synth? You can spend as little as $50 on a piece of hardware that makes some noise, or you can spend well into six figures if you want to buy a piece of history. We know which way we're leaning.
What are the priciest (mostly) new synthesizers that you can can go out and buy today, though? We thought we'd try and find out...
Yes, it's time to reveal the most expensive synths that (a lot of) money can buy. We've got all-one-one synths, modular synths and an unusually long entry for the Moog Modular – yes, you can still buy one new, but it's a complicated history.
So get your wheelbarrow to the bank or flex your platinum credit cards. These are the most desirable – or at least most expensive – synthesisers that you can buy brand new, right now.
1. Analogue Solutions Colossus - £23,900 to £50,000
"Colossus is more than just a colossal analogue synth - it is also art and architecture," says Analogue Solutions, although there can be no doubt that it is a colossal analogue synth, too.
The synth/work of art/architecture was designed by UK synthesizer expert Tom Carpenter – who has also designed machines and modules for Fusebox, Vostok, Polymath, and Nyborg – and first started shipping three years ago.
It features 12 VCOs and VCAs, eight filters, a dual spring reverb, two ring modulator, and a couple of step sequencers. There's a 31 x 31 pin matrix for modulation and the whole thing is made of top quality components, all housed in quality wood veneer and finished in a quite dazzling white. You even get an oscilloscope.
KMR Audio, the high-end gear dealer, is selling what looks like the 'Classic' version for a bargain £31,199, and says of the system, "it doesn't really get much better than this". There are other variations, too: the AS200 Slim (£23,900), the Colossus Double (two systems for £50,000), or the limited Black version for £27,500.
To say the Black version is 'limited' does rather imply that the White version is in full production, but really we're talking very limited numbers for that, too, but with a surprisingly short wait of just two weeks after you pay your deposit.
As we always do when we're at the bar, we'll have the Double.
More from Analogue Solutions here or the main Colossus website here.
2. Moog Modular - $15,000 to $35,000 new
In recent years, Moog has revisited the modular systems the company led the synth charge with in the late '60s and early 70's, rereleasing five systems from that golden age. So if you have the cash to splash, why not set your sights high and go for one of the best modular systems around?
The Moog Modular was the original synthesizer, designed and built by Bob Moog and his team between 1967 and 1973 (for the C and P Systems), and then between 1971 and 1981 for the later Model and System synths.
The very first units are, understandably, ridiculously rare and command equally ridiculously high prices, so much so that Moog sensibly started remaking new versions of these modular systems around eight years ago.
There were/are three in this first range of reissues: the System 55, the System 35 and the Model 15, all based on modulars the company built in 1973.
System 35 was limited to just 35 units, and is a 5-oscillator modular full of classic Moog parts that retailed at $22,000. We have found one such system for sale, now commanding double that original price..
The Moog System 55 (above) was - guess what? - limited to 55 units and retailed for $35,000 and features extras over the 35 such as two more oscillators. We can't see that for sale anywhere, but expect to pay at least £50,000/$60,000 if you do come across one.
Moog's newer Model 15 System is probably your best bet, as 150 of these all-in-one systems were built, originally retailing at $10,000 a piece. They are available secondhand for what seems like a bargain price of around £12,500/$15,000.
Or get the app for 35 bucks.
Moog has since released a couple of newer modular system which you can still purchase new.
The Model 10 reissue, released four years ago and again last year, is based on the first compact modular synth created by Bob in 1971. This system has 11 analogue modules, including a 907 Fixed Filter Bank, and three 900-series oscillators.
The final new/old Moog modular is the reissue of the IIIP Modular System that also came out four years ago. It has 37 modules, including 10 901-series oscillators, the 984 mixer, and 905 Spring Reverb.
Only 40 of these were made and you can, amazingly, still get one. Mind you, it will set you back the price of a decent car - around £29,500/$35,000.
A final modular to round off this lengthy Moog entry – heck, it's Moog, it deserves the space – is one that you not only can't afford, but very likely also can't buy.
Moog also re-released an Emerson Moog Modular System in 2017. $150,000 got you a limited edition (to just five) modular setup based around Keith Emerson's Moog from the early 1970s. We can't see any of these up for grabs, but reckon if you have a cool quarter million kicking around, you might tempt someone to sell.
More information from the Moog Music website.
3. Schmidt Eightvoice - €22,000
The Schmidt Eightvoice was an almost legendary synth before it was even built. It was designed just at the start of the analogue synth revival, and made its first Frankfurt appearance back in 2011, to much awe and astonishment, mostly because of its looks and immense size. And the specs aren't bad either.
It is a true analogue, 8-voice polyphonic synth with some unique features – like a set of ring modulators fed by pulse-waves with adjustable widths – never seen on an analogue synthesizer before.
It is multitimbral, too, with up to eight sounds playable at once and each having its own separate output – again, rare for an analogue. There are 1,028 presets with 256 dedicated multi sounds.
More important than any of that is that it looks stunning and sounds even better. The closest we have ever got to one was at that Frankfurt show where it blew us away. The sound is as incredible, as you might imagine; kind of super analogue with incredible movement from its many modulation options.
Prices are creeping up because you can be assured that this is a very limited edition synth. Schmidt was making it in batches of between 20 and 30 units a time and the company has now done six batches, so you do the maths.
€22,000 well spent? Well, you do get a flight case thrown in as well.
There's more information from the Schmidt website.
4. Buchla Skylab - $14,999
Don Buchla is up there with Bob Moog as one of the great synth pioneers, so it's only fair to have a system with his name on it in this round up of desirable synths. To be honest you could probably spec up any modular system to be expensive, but this one is designed to be used 'as one' and as a fully portable synth.
Skylab 200e is a fully customisable modular system that certainly has that Buchla design aesthetic. It can house 10 modules of your choice, but you can bet they will be brightly coloured and distinctive in both looks and sound.
Buchla recommends you slot in modules like its 259e Twisted Waveform Generator, 267e Uncertainty Source / Dual Filter, 223e Multi-Dimensional Kinesthetic Input, and 285e Frequency Shifter, but it's entirely up to you.
The price will cover any combination, basically - and perhaps it should. The cash also buys you a neat, foldable cabinet which is designed to ensure maximum portability, and you can store your patch cables in an included 'airline-carry-on-compatible padded bag'.
Skylab looks great for delivering that West Coast sound wherever you are travelling, and while it costs 15 grand for you to have the pleasure, at least this is one of the most practical synth systems in our round-up. You wouldn't take Colossus on a flight, would you?
Skylab costs $14,999, and there's more info from the Buchla website.
5. Holland SM2000
The sky really is the limit with Eurorack modular systems, so we have tried to stick to set systems provided by single companies within the modular industry, and our last one in this category is the Holland SM2000.
The Californian synth developer says SM2000 is an "aerospace quality musical instrument, designed for the most discriminating musicians, studios, and producers", and for 40 grand it should be.
Holland backs this big talk up, however, because it has nigh on 30 years designing parts for the aerospace industry, having had a 'Spacecraft division' from 1980 to 2011!
That outlay gets you a triple VCO system with noise generator, with each oscillator having six waveform outputs. There's a multimode VCF, dual envelope generator, a fixed filter bank and a sub oscillator.
Specs wise, then, it's good but what really sets this synth apart is the component quality, with Holland clearly having some serious design pedigree.
"The prices of our products reflect this unflinching commitment to quality," the company says, "and range from 'not for the faint of heart' to 'if you have to ask, you can't afford it'."
Well, we appreciate the honesty, anyway.
There's more information from the Holland website.
Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave
We'll finish with something, how shall we put it, a bit more attainable. Or should we say, less modular. We're now looking at the more mass produced, often bigger names synths. Those with keyboards, and all-in-one and more traditional synthesisers that you can maybe pick up at your local dealer.
The more expensive high end all-in-on synths are definitely the all-singing, all dancing workstations from the likes of Yamaha, Roland and Korg, with Yamaha's Montage right up there at well over £$4,000. It is not the most expensive though.
Waldorf's Quantum 2 is close, but the winner for the synth with the highest price tag – or the one that Google threw at us today – is the Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave, coming in at the best part of £$5,000.
This monster synth features three oscillators that can each generate analogue waveforms, PPG era waves or complex wavetables. There are 24 voices of polyphony, and four parts of multitimbrality, meaning it's like four synths in one (mind you, you can buy at least four synths for that cash).
You can create your own wavetables, there's exceptional modulation and sequencing and, well, loads more. Bottom line is that 3rd Wave probably does way more than that Emerson Moog Modular we were talking about earlier, and if you bought one of these over that, you'd have enough cash left to buy a house.
Which sounds like the kind of line we would try and use to persuade our spouse about such a wonderful investment. Now there's a thought.
There's more info at the Groove Synthesis website.
Happy synth buying, but try not to be too tempted. Now where's that Visa card?