Open Mic: What’s The Worst Synth You’ve Ever Played?

Open Mic: Most Synthtopia readers have spent a lot of time thinking about synths – whether it’s daydreaming about the ultimate modular synthesizer, lusting after a vintage classic, debating the merits of the latest keyboards or diving in and learning a new synth inside and out.

If you’ve been into synths for a while, though, you’ve probably encountered a synth or two that you never want to think about again.

Maybe it was a knobless 80’s synth, with an impenetrable menu interface. Maybe it was a almost-great synth that was unfortunately, completely unreliable.

Maybe, in retrospect, those General MIDI Presets just sounded pretty crappy. Or maybe those mini-keys weren’t designed for your grown-up hands.

What’s the worst synth you’ve ever played? And what made it so terrible?

178 thoughts on “Open Mic: What’s The Worst Synth You’ve Ever Played?

  1. What’s the worst synth you’ve ever played :
    Yamaha TG-33

    What made it so terrible? :

    it has that -ENYA -sound to it …after 1 week you just want to throw it against a wall

  2. The Ensoniq ESQ-1 was unremarkable for its sounds. Very gritty sound. The Ensoniq Mirage was even grittier, but it was the first sampler keyboard that was affordable for most people at $1,200 whereas the very good sounding 12 bit Sequential Circuits Prophet 2000, was also affordable at $2,000. The Casio CZ1000 is also a contender as it had a very limited sound set but you could pick one up for less than $400.
    So my vote is for 1. Ensoniq ESQ-1 with the Casio CZ-101 (CZ-1000) running a close second.

    1. ouch, esq-1/sq-80 is one of my all time faves, love its sound, in awe of mine. living breathing nasty grit machine.

    2. You’re definitely entitled to your opinion so no downvote here, but I love my CZ-1000. The 8-stage envelopes really are good an evolving sound. I also miss my Mirage; the 8-bit grittiness and analog low-pass filter really gave everything that went in it, character.

    3. Have to disagree about the ESQ-1. A little gritty yes but great sounds, nice midi implementation, great onboard sequencer and a really approachable interface. What’s not to love?

    4. The CZ-101 has a LIMITED SOUNDSET??? I had one for four years and I programmed an insane amount of patches with it: Pan pipes, crazy leads, pads, anything my mind could think of back then. My favorite envelopes in synth history too!!! Rate/level envelopes with 8 stages max, but you could decide how many stages you wanted, how come nobody has copied that scheme??? So much better than ADSRs!!!

  3. Moog Voyager.
    It broke down and was replaced, had to access the presets banks , via midi control messages. .The envelopes where so slow , the filter was crap and enjoyed making a whistling sound. The fronts panels blue light emitted a buzzing noise when it was switched on, that was at odds with the thousand pound mixing desk I tried to play it thru to tune into the finer details of sound.
    It was very expensive and my mistake for not testing it out before I rushed out and bought one .
    I won’t buy their stuff again. The evangelical nature of their organisation is a serious turn off

  4. I’ve noticed very little comments on this thread because its silly. There are no crappy sounding synths. Period. The most unmusical sounding shyte in the world can be made magical within the proper composition. So I think the little white Casio with the sampler from 1985(you know the one) has its place right along side the most loved classics of today and tomorrow. Really.

    1. While I agree with your point, the question being asked is not strictly limited to crappy SOUDING synths. Some synths are crappy in other ways (I’m looking at you, matrix diagram and single data slider!)

  5. I had a love-hate relationship with the Ensoniq EPS. Clever interface, great features, very musical.

    BUT, literally the most crashy piece of crap I ever owned. I was constantly having to reloading floppies in the middle of a song during a show. — hundreds spent on unnecessary solutions (UPS power supplies, etc.). But sometimes the sounds it would make during a crash were kind of interesting. But even that got old pretty fast.

  6. Access virus is my least favorite synth. Ensoniq esq1 or sq80 is my FAVORITE synth. I will trade you my virus indigo for an ESQ m

  7. Korg M1, my mate had one, mind numbingly dull as was his Roland D-110, he raelly should have kept his Juno 60 and Pro One ;o)

    1. Could not agree more – Korg M1. I maxed out a credit card to buy one back when they were “the thing” because I assumed it must be awesome because everybody was talking about it and because of an impressive in-store demo (and I guess also because I liked earlier Korg gear). Got the thing home and hated it almost from day 1 – could never get a sound out of it that didn’t sound like total crap, and it was a bitch to program.

    2. The M1 at least had some decent built-in FX and that piano patch that seemed to be on every House track in 1990.

      I’d forgotten how bad the D-110 was. I was in a band with a guy who had one, and I could never coax any good sounds out of it. The ROM samples were unremittingly bland and dull sounding. God I hated it.

    1. I was thinking about buying one. What are your reasons? Quick talk me out of buying it before I waste what little money I have. 😉

      1. Terrible keys, not enough memory, stupid knobs, low output volume(extremely). And not to mention most have some random piece of something rattling around inside them. DO NOT BUY A MICROSAMPLER!

      2. The Microsampler is just a badly designed instrument. It was surprising from the same company that designed the Kaossilator. The Microsampler is hard to navigate, not very good quality, difficult to use, long loading times, and only has a single LED display to show parameters.

        1. Yeah, I’ll agree with this. I wanted to like the microSampler, and it had real potential, but it was at least one firmware update short of being usable. There’s a weird input monitoring bug which means that you can’t sample in the fly which makes it 70% useless. The key commands and multi-purpose function wheel are a pain to use. It’s midi sync is terrible.

    1. Really?

      I swear by my Blofeld desktop.
      Sure it’s a menu dive, I’ll give you that, but I’d never part with it.
      MAYBE, for a knobby/fadery analog.

      I even call it Wally. 😛

      1. i am not knocking the blo. it works for some people for sure. not for me. the effects are god awfull.
        and the whole experience…i get far, far better sounds itb.

  8. Blofeld also here. Great sound, crappy firmware. The last update (is two years ago now already?) fixed some things but broke the USB connection, so, since the Blofeld has no MIDI out, I wasn’t able to save my sounds anymore. I even sent it in for repair to Waldorf but they said they couldn’t reproduce the problem. I tried like ten different computers and different operating systems, on none of them the Blofeld was recognised as a USB MIDI device. If I downgraded again to firmware 1.13, USB was working again (but bulk dumps do not work in this version). The synth was just sitting unused in it’s box for almost two years because of these problems. Anyway, I was able to trade it against a almost mint Yamaha AN1x and have had loads of fun with this very nice synth since.

  9. Yamaha DX7.

    It’s built pretty well, but patching is a nightmare, there’s no tweak ability, it’s a little weird on the MIDI side and all the presets are 80’s cliches.

    That and it killed all of the US companies that made the synths that are now classics.

    1. The factory presets of the DX7 were indeed terrible but as soon as you’d began to program it deeply you could get extraordinary sounds. And if it killed all those US synth companies it was because their synths were expensive, offered few voices and were just good at producing Phil Collins putty. People praising analog synths never talk about their price and their ridiculous polyphony.

      Mine was stolen but I went further into FM synthesis with FM7 and Max/MSP.

      By the way my worst synth was the E-Mu Proformance piano module. It was badly sampled. Urg.

      1. If ever you have some nostalgia, you can play your old favorite FM sysex banks on android stuff for free now. There’s an app (synprezFM) for this… 😉

  10. I agree that all synths have merit. Though perhaps some have a look and sound only a mother (or MoFo) could love. !o!. I love the Korg Radias dearly, tho it looks a little nerdy. Under-rated synth. But those vocoder-style presets like “Harnesss the Power of Radiasss!” etc. are soooo bad that thay are almost good… But not quite! It sounds like a Disco Darth Vader enticing me towards the dark side. 😀

  11. The Akai VX90 synth was truly awful. The sound was weedy and it was a pain to program. The filters were terrible so the feature of patching the S900 through it was a waste of time.

    1. The VX90 used Curtis filter chips, so it’s filter shouldn’t sound any less interesting than dozens of instruments that used the same parts.

  12. I don’t really like the Roland JV-880 but I also don’t have the cards for mine so that might be the problem. I still have used it in tracks, you can make most anything work.

  13. Korg EA-1. Bought and sold it 3 times because I love Electribes and kept forgetting how utterly crappy it is. Not in a good lofi way either. In a really sucky way. Yes, you could still make a good track with it or any other synth like the other guy mentioned. But damn, it just sounded so awful to my ears…

    1. Yes!

      God I almost like the sequencer on the EA-1. If it just did 8 bars, I’d be happy with it.

      But the VA sounds on it are craptacular, no matter what you do.

      I wish Korg would marry an upgraded Electribe sequencer to twin monotribe engines!

    2. I got my ebay purchased ER-1from ebay on Friday. I setup it and the EA-1 that I’ve had since 1999 (paid MSRP, $500, but it was my first synth with knobs!). After being away from hardware for about five years (lived in Ableton Analog most of that time), I forgot how terrible it really is. It does one cool sound, 4 octave up sync sweeping and it does that sound REALLY well. For that sound alone, I will never get rid of it.

  14. Any app on the Ipad or Iphone. Serious latency issues and processing limitations make these toys no matter how many developers market products telling us otherwise.

          1. I’ll hand it to ya, the tc-11 is pretty cool looking. A great sound design tool/toy, but c’mon, aren’t the majority of these apps falling short of excellent realizations such as the tc?

            1. I had my first all iPad recording session yesterday. Today the client called me just to let me know how much he loves the sounds. I used Animoog, GarageBand, Sunrizer and Sampletank, with my Yamaha KX61 as a MIDI controller and an iRigMIDI as interface running into a 16 GB iPad 2. No latency problems, not even while playing the B-3 emulation on GarageBand and turning the Leslie on and off and tweaking the drawbars at the same time. Huge sounds, especially those Sunrizer pads and leads. Your experience may be different, but for me those “toys” are delivering the goods.

  15. I’m going to have to agree on the MicroSampler. I’d almost forgot that I still own one of those. Doesn’t sound good and the user interface is obtuse. And there’s no pitch/mod wheels. Yuck. But, the worst user interface of all time has to go to the Prophet 2000. Sounded good, it had release velocity but making usable samples on the thing was actually painful.

      1. Samplers don’t sound good? That may be true to the AKAI’s that hoodies noodle on, but to say that an Emulator I/II, Fairlight CMI, Synclavier, and Mirage don’t sound good is absolute bovine excrement!

  16. Mine is a tie between the Akai MiniAK and the Maudio Venom. Both have mediocre sound quality, are terribly difficult to manage, and all of the sounds are only slightly different.

    1. Im going to have to disagree with you there. Saying you dont like the MiniAK is like saying you dont like the micron, and saying you dont like the micron is like saying you dont like the ion. Now i know its a pain to program but there are editors out there, and not the ones you have to pay for, free ones as well. If you have an ion as well you can make patches and sysex dump them to the miniAK for playing live. Nothing better for me than making a multi out of some analog-ish drum tracks, a seq or arp i created on my ion, and playing the lead live all from a box i got for under 200$.

  17. I have to agree with the Yamaha DX line. Had a DX-9, the little brother to the DX-7, and hated it. I had no idea how to get anything resembling a good sound out of it. It was, in many ways, a truly user-hostile keyboard if you were at all interested in programming your own sounds.

    1. I just bought a DX27 and actually like programming it. Then again, I’ve been using software FM synths like FM8 and the DXi app for a while.

    2. I still have a DX7 because it has a great feeling keyboard and plays really well.
      It weighs a ton, which is much more of a pain than its lack of knobs.

  18. Korg m3 for sure. All the sounds were bland and overused. Zero imagination and a horrible bland and confusing user interface. Ugh and incredibly big for no reason, especially as a digital synth….

    1. The M3 is not bland ….. did you program any of your own sounds or just dial up presets. The M3 has balls and can sound like anything you want it to. The presets are general covering a wide range of sound. The user interface is not confusing, its in full color on a touch screen and very easy to understand….. Maybe you meant deep … it does a lot. Radias is great and the sound quality out of it is excellent.

      Could you tell me what Synth you are using that somehow sounds better?

  19. The Oberheim OB-12 is the absolute worst synth I have ever played or owned. It’s a complete POS. I hated it the minute I took this synth out of the box. The controls were horrid, cheap plastic crap, and the sound was mush! Thankfully I dumped it on an unsuspecting Oberheim owner wanna be who could not afford an OB-8. Do NOT ever buy an OB-12! You might as well throw your money straight into the trash.

  20. TX81Z is the most awful synth I’ve devoted hours of my life too. But its also one of the most joyous instruments I’ve played. It is a bittersweet relationship we share.

  21. Is that roll up piano in the picture circuit-bendable? There’s one cheap in a store by me, but it’s like, $10 cheap, not $1 cheap. Otherwise I would have just got it.

  22. My first synth was a Kawai K1 II. I bought in 1989 and while I have some nostalgic feelings about it because I bought it in a pretty sweet phase of my teens, I have to say, in retrospect, that it sounded like shit. Completely devoid of character and no smattering of reverb could animate its lifeless patches.

    1. The factory presets sucked but you could get a lot of mileage from it. A friend of mine had one back in the 80s and hated it. I asked to borrow it for two weeks and made about 20 patches on it (my favorite was a copy of the sound at the beginning of New Order’s “Sub-Culture”) and he used only those sounds from then on.

      1. That’s good to hear actually. I must say the voice pad was great and I just sampled it recently from my K1 II. The buttons don’t respond to touch all that great anymore so it was very difficult to navigate.

  23. Kawai K5. Not that it sounds bad, it’s kinda cool. Mine is just pretty busted up and the interface is the worst I’ve used. The more complex the synth, the worse a small LCD cuts it for programming. I’m perfectly fine programming my MKS-50 from the front panel, and it’s only a 2X16 LCD (IIRC). But, I’d rather let my Kawai K5 collect dust than try to program it.

  24. Bitheads Unity soft sampler in MacOS 8/9. Sounded like crap when you could get it to actually work.

    The Rolad D110 (still have one). A cheesy cheap rendition of the D50.

    Synthi AKS…that membrane keyboard was awful and I hate the way the thing would go out of tune when you added or subtracted pins from the matrix.

  25. agree with you about Bitheads Unity soft sampler in MacOS 8/9 and D110, but the AKS Synthi is one of the greatest synths ever made. having said that, there is no point in trying to get it to play in tune but it is one of the greatest experimental noise making synths ever – check out Thomas Lehn

    my greatest regret is not buying one for £400 twenty years ago.

  26. While I will not complain about the sound of any synth (every one has its own character), I must say that I’m very happy that I got rid of the Korg microX.

    I only had it for about two days and then I sent it back to the shop. Awful built quality, really wobbly encoders. It felt as if it would break apart every second.
    Ironically, it did. After two days the thing just ceased to work. Fortunately, the shop realized that it was not my fault and so I got the money back.

    That’s still the main reason why I avoid Korg stuff. Probably I just had bad luck but everytime I see something like a microKorg, I have to think of the bad quality of the microX.

    1. Funny, the MK and the MKXL are pretty well built, and I have their nanopad 2 and it takes a beating. I have heard that their nanokey device is a bit flimsy though. Korg seem to be hit and miss with their build-quality. I just hope they sort it out for the sake of their reputation

        1. My mate did all the synth stuff on his album using a MK. It’s not like he didn’t have options, he has an Emulator II and all the Arturia synths at his disposal. I only sold mine because I use Reason for everything now, and I needed a better controller keyboard (Novation Impulse 25 – what a beast!)

    2. Build quality is often the biggest issue, whether in the hardware or coding. My beloved 1991 Korg 01Wfd STILL works, although 2 or 3 buttons have faded in usability. The keyboard is quite noisy, but its always worked. I think its a matter of 2 things: never buy a synth made on Monday or Friday and learn to live with updates and upgrades being a small penalty/plague for the otherwise major benefits of softsynths.
      For the header’s sake, I’ll say my old Kawai K5, too. It was unreasonably heavy, the display was meager (especially for an additive synth), the keyboard mechanism made me feel like I was hitting a plank and it was too far before its time, with no SANE way to edit in depth. Great basic sound, premature release and for sure a type of synth that should come with a software editor so you have a fighting chance to build a saveable sound set. With CDs and flash drives, you have a fighting chance to preserve those for the life of the synth itself, even after the editor has been toasted by OS changes.

    3. The MicroX is built badly that is true. However the sound set is good and it has the software control. I Don’t touch mine because it would probably break. I use it like a rack and control it from the software and my M3.

    4. I own a MicroX and sounds enormous, but it’s really, really badly built. I have a million horror stories, things you wouldn’t believe. I still do studio work with it, though, the sound is just awesome.

      1. The MicroX build is a damned shame. Its a great idea in a sloppy package. Why in the $#@! does it so often seem to be either that or a $3-4k megasynth that’s tight & responsive, as a serious instrument should be? Its akin to the ongoing BS of knobs on spindles that have no retaining collar at the base, so they wobble and stress the circuit board into an early grave. Are the makers stupid or just cheap and greedy? I’d gladly play another $100+ if they’d give me a slightly sturdier unit I could dig into without fear. For $700 and more, give me tighter knobs and a 32nd of an inch more METAL in crucial places like sliders. I’ve bought less and less hardware over the years due to this. How about you?

  27. I hated my Roland D-110. Programming it was awful, and even the best sounds that came out of it sounded very thin. I used it for some pop stuff for a while and it was okay, but when I had the chance I replaced the parts with D-50 and TX-802 (Rackmounted DX-7).

  28. I love my K2500s…but it is has a shit effects section, and F*ct up build quality. It balances out the bitchin V.A.S.T engine and Live Mode

  29. I’ve always, always hated the M1, and it hasn’t aged well. But I don’t think there’s ever been anything as crappy as the Roland MT-32. Noisy, tinny, sounds were not editable, and basic performance controls like pan position would disappear when you turned it off. A nightmare.

    1. The MT-32 sounded like a D-50 that had its larynx crushed by a cross between an angry drunk and a bean-counter. It was a D-10 with less glamour and even more operating hassle. It didn’t reward your work. I’ve owned 2 other Rolands and loved ’em, but this one was an ill-conceived waste of materials.

  30. The yamaha dx9. I had a 6 op sine wave DX7. Loved it. Had a 4 op multiwave DX11. Loved it. The 4 op DX9 though with only sine waves… a swing and a miss on that one. It didn’t even have the gritty digital charm of the CX5M music computer FM chips.

  31. I love the sound of my Waldorf Pulse (not the CV edition) but I can’t stand the looseness of the front panel knobs. Makes it a bitch to play with live. I end up controlling everything through midi, but that becomes quite a pain sometimes. Also wish it had an audio input for the filter.

  32. Has to be the Korg M1 and the Roland D110,. the most dull sounding synths ever,. they are great if you like synths that imitate instruments like pianos, sax, bad choirs,.. etc,. but if you want to make sounds (as that is what a synth is all about) then these synths are total rubbish,. i remember the boss at a studio i worked in going on and on about how great they were,… i never liked them, keyboard felt like crap too.

  33. It seems that the Roland D-110 is very well hated. I kinda like it, but it isn’t that great. Just used it on a track and it did take quite a bit of processing to make it sound less crappy.

    My least favorite synths ever have to be:

    Waldorf Blofeld: It’s like a relationship with someone you don’t really fancy that much. It’s really awesome when you first get it, but once you get deeper into it, it has a BUGGY interface, a BUGGY OS and waldorf has done little to update the OS. Bought the SL-1 sample playback option and it never played back the samples properly with the right loop points. Very irritatingly expensive piece of kit.

    Ensoniq Mirage: It looks very good on paper. Great sounding filters, nice gritty, lo-fi sampling texture, rugged case but has a huge library that’s copyrighted by losers that claim to still have the rights to them when those contracts were dissolved with the merging of E-mu and Ensoniq with Creative years ago. Even with the fancy soundprocess OS, still doesn’t fix the fact that editing that thing is a super pain in the ass. It’s great for its factory library, it’s classic, but its nearly impossible to get your hands on. You’ll spend more on the library than on the sampler.

    1. The Mirage thing is a little unfair. You have to look at it in context – when they came out, the only samplers on the market were Emulators, Fairlights and Synclaviers (I believe), which would set you back anywhere from $3K to close to six figures. The Mirage came out for a fraction of that really made sampling something that a “normal” musician could afford and could play around with. Sure, it didn’t age well, but it was a truely landmark synth in its day.

  34. wow. i don’t think i’ve seen a thread with so many comments hidden due to low ratings. Amusing, actually.

    Send me your unwanted synths, too. It’s not what you own. It’s what you do with what you own that makes the music good.

  35. Funny, but I sort of “respect” every synth (keyboard) for something. Roland E-36 arranger had the best synth brass patch I ever played. Can’t get that out of my JUNO-G. Playing Hammonds on my FP-5 piano feels awesome, although I know and hear that it’s not the real thing.

    The 10-year old kid next door had this crappy toy keyboard. It made the most marvelous burst of random blips when the battery was dying (or if you hit it real hard). Including a few seconds from the factory demo song “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” 🙂 buried in the “machine dying” randomness.

    Wait, I remember now. I once played a home keyboard that had only 5-10 patches to fill the 100-200 slots. That was the worst. It substituted the piano patch for the oboe!

  36. I never met a synth that I didn’t like. I am obsessed with synthesizers, and I wish to own every one that ever existed. My friend recently lent me a Realistic MG-1 that was laying around his studio. The thing was covered in dust and it took some TLC to clean it up and get it working properly. I love this little beast, it’s unpredictable as hell and often I don’t end up with the sound that I intended, and that’s awesome! The thing is like R2-D2 on crack and I get crazy with it, feeding it through my Kaoss Pad. Anything that can produce a sound is of use to me.

    1. It is a strange bird. I like mine I had the earlier one too and that one was real whack job. Polysix battery syndrome.

    2. I love my Seil Ex-80. Every parameter is CC assessable and there is even a patch for the Nord Modulars to control the Seil directly as if it were a bank of the Nord. The sound isn’t fantastic but you can open it up easily and move change the potentiometer on the filter to make the filter much hotter.

  37. +1 on the Korg EA-1. I really could forgive the aliasing waveforms and the crappy filter if there were more editable parameters or if the sequencer was at least sophisticated enough to support time signatures that aren’t 3/4 or 4/4.

    1. I had one and loved it for it’s simplicity and tweakability. I sold it to get money for a Virus that I love, but I have almost bought it again several times. It was my first VA synth so it might be nostalgia speaking but i had a great time with that little thing.

  38. I agree that most synths have a merit somewhere. Yes, my Sequential Sixtrak may sound brittle and harsh but that’s a quality you can use and it’s a great intuitive synth once you’ve hooked it up with a BCR controller. I hated my Yamaha A3000 sampler for a while for it’s steep learning curve but that was just my own inexperience. The Siel Expanper 80 is limited but has two ramped LFO’s that are pretty unique. The microsampler has a flimsy build quality and is limited with what it can do but it’s still a great sound mangler.
    I guess that most gear is usable in some way but that for different people, one synth is more inspiring that otheres. Which might have to do with sheer sound quality, or with the user interface being more benign. Or with your own development: I didn’t touch my EMU Orbit for around ten years but recently fired it up again. Had a great time editing glassy pad sounds and event found a great sub bass that I just might have a use for…

    BTW: the build quality of my 1981 Korg Monopoly is excellent…

  39. Roland SH 201,sounds like plastic crap.
    Bought it without testing and sold it a week later.
    On the other hand if you got a synth that sounds great but it’s full of bugs……

  40. Casio CZ10M. Not because of the sound (which I liked), but the programming interface. Convoluted, impenetrable, non-intuitive … obviously designed by engineers for engineers, with multifunction buttons that could change context on you without warning and wipe out patch edits in the blink of an eye. One of the few synths I’ve owned that I could never seem to get my head around. 2nd place: the early memorymoog w/MIDI – again not for the sound (which was utterly fantastic), or the programming interface (which was thoughtfully laid out), but the early MIDI implementation was horrible. Limited to receiving on channel 1 only, and real-time clock data caused it to choke instantly.

  41. I have a Redsound Dark star that I picked up for almost nothing when they were on close out. The basic built in patches are terrible, but it can make some decent sound if you spend some time with it and add external effects. It’s my least used synth, I should spend more time with it though.

    1. I had a Darkstar I traded for a CS2X….both sounded great…Wish I still had both, the darkstar was able to do a lot of sounds my Poly61 could do, except my Poly61 was always broken.

  42. i didnt like Korg Microkorg at all, worst synth i ever bought… i was very glad wen i sold it
    sure… i would like if it cost about 100€ …. but the guy is not worth the money

  43. I wasn’t particularly fond of the SH-201. The filters were weak. I guess it’s okay for someone who wants to learn, but it wasn’t impressive.

    Another slight disappointment was the Venom. While I liked some of the sounds, I was very disappointed when I learned that I HAD to use the software to make it fully-editable. On top of that, the software would not run as a plugin in my DAW (The UltraNova, for example. It’s fully editable from the front panel, but you can control it from your DAW and it runs just like any plugin.)

  44. Some of the iPad synths are absolute garbage. While there are some truly brilliant iPad synths like Camel Audio’s Alchemy, Moog’s AniMoog and Korg’s iMS20, some of the others are just plain vile. Some that made me run to delete:
    1. bs-16i. I should have guessed what the ‘bs’ in the name stood for.
    2. Geo Synth. I need a keyboard, not a lesson in how not to make Photoshop diamond gradients.
    3. SongSynth. If the sounds aren’t configurable, it’s not a synth; it’s a keyboard. This isn’t even a good GUI.
    4. SSSSYNTH: Well, it’s configurable. Sort of. Sounds are bland and uninspiring.
    5. miniSynth PRO The random capitalization should have clued me in that the creator was psychotic. Stay away from this boring toy.

  45. To my long list of synths played or used, I think the worst machine I’ve ever used was a VIRUS (can’t remeber what else). It was told to test it for a local shop and all I could get from it was permanent hang and latency. I’ve been told all this troubles were late solved. Anyway I didn’t have the aim to try again and therefore this is my worst experience ever. I can’t imagine a musician performing with such a lot of rubbish live

  46. Moog OPUS 3. Easily the worst piece I have ever worked. Not one single sound could be used on its own. There were a few others just like it in the early 80s. To me the the worst part was there was no joy it’s quirky uselessness or impractical interface. For me, it was negative bad, no joy at all. At this point I think it was the bad vibes from the parasitic creeps that ran the pawn shop I bought it at I sold it to someone who made it into a different instrument.

  47. I was most disappointed with my small Korg Monotron Delay. I don’t know what I was expecting for fifty dollars, but I feel like this wasn’t even worth that. I was hopping to sample some of the bleeps bloops and sweeps but I could’nt even do that. Why? Because the thing is super noisey. There is a constant, tape like hiss feeding through the output. So, its just a fifty dollar toy that I don’t use at all because I have real synthesizers to do that with.

  48. The Dave Smith MoPho. I was really excited about it when I first bought it. The software interface was buggy and terrible, the patches were poorly constructed and had inconsistent volumes (I had to turn one waaaayyy up to hear it, and the next would practically blow my speakers), and navigating and setting the parameters was a hassle. The overall sound just never sounded good to me, either… too thin or too boomy with no middle ground. Noisy, too. Kind of a letdown. It got me interested in analog synths, though, so there’s that.

  49. Roland JX8P, one of the first synths with no knobs, no cursors, just a tiny LCD display and digital up/down/left/right keys. From what I remembre, the sound was dull.

    1. Yes! I was going to add this to the hall of shame but you beat me to it. It was my first bit of “pro” gear. I was so excited when I bought it but it was just completely uninspiring and dull. Completely unintuitive too. The whole thing felt rushed. There was some damn powerful marketing in those days. I could have spent that money so much better.

  50. I know this is going to be a rather unpopular opinion, but just hear me out on this. The Yamaha DX7 is the worst synth I’ve ever played. As someone who has never used FM before playing the DX7 and will likely never use it in the future, I can say that the DX7’s interface is an absolute mess. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one that has a lot of trouble trying to program this synth. If I can’t even program the thing how am I expected to get anything decent out of it? Plus, it doesn’t even sound good to me, though I won’t doubt you can get something good out of it. I know many people love this synth and I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong for it, but this synth is definitely not for me.

    1. The DX-7 was even worse in the 80’s. I could always tell a band with a Dx-7 because you could never hear the thin sound of the thing over the rest of the band. The thin sound wasn’t helped by no EQ of any sort and the fact that the velocity only went up to 119….Can you imagine Spinal Tap “This one only goes up to 8”

      Also the proof that it was hard to program is the fact that before the DX-7 there was not an industry that sold synth patches. The DX-7 was so hard to program w/o an editor that it made the sales of patches a part of the industry that continues for hard to program synths to this day.

  51. I wouldn’t say it was my worst synth but my most frustrating experience was with my Roland MC 505 – bought from new & used enough to wear out the metal surface ( so must have got my money’s worth) I kept coming up against restrictions & bugs in use that killed it for me.
    Attempting to learn synthesis on a Groovebox was not a brilliant idea to be fair. These days I would have hooked it up to MIDI & worked around some of its limitations. Eventually I got thoroughly bored with it & even now its inherent sound is obvious in anything I have ever heard done with it. Roland’s JP8K & an R70 have more than taken its place.

  52. Roland D-10 has to be the worst synth ever built. I’ll never forget those sad, thin sounds. I was embarrassed for them. Pathetic. Sadly not much with the Roland name on it inspired me much. The D-50 was probably the best. The s-550 was probably the best entry level sampler in the very early 90’s. Now everything has to compete with Access Virus. Probably the best synth ever built. My studio has two and I’ll never give them up.

  53. Of all the synths I’ve had I’d say the worst were the Korg M1 due to limited ability to tweak sounds and convoluted interface and the Ensoniq VFX-SD due to it’s bland sound. Usability versus cost was not too great with either of these. While it may be sacrilege, I never liked the Korg MS-20 I had either.

    On the other hand my Ensoniq ESQ-1 / Mirage combo was very productive. My favorite analogs were the Roland SH-1 and Korg Monopoly. FWIW

  54. There has been none that I did not like.
    If a synthesizer sound inspired me then I needed to find out why it sounded like that, that’s how I got into Phase Distortion synthesis, I loved the 8 (!) step Amp and Frequency envelopes on the Casio CZ 1000, with which you could produce sounds that lasted forever while still changing and sounding alive…
    On the Roland MT32’s I loved the possibility to change the sound while the music was running by injecting system exclusive messages (in hexadecimal code!) and making them sound like analogue synthesizers…

    The Yamaha TG series was just awsome… I remember ‘stirring’ in my first Yamaha sound…

    There has been no synthesizer that I would not use again. Actually when I look for another VSTi I look with that knowledge in mind and with the goal to recreate the fun it was trying to figure out how they worked… the good old hardware synths.

    Remember the constraints in those days? The number of voices available? 🙂

    Ahh… the good old days. But today we got what we did not even dare dream of: free VSTis and practically unlimited number of voices… but: TOO MUCH choice! Instead of programming new sound we have the tendency of playing too much with the presets….

  55. I bought a Korg Monotron on a whim just after it came out; it’s a big part of what got me into synths in general. I already played piano, but that little thing introduced me to the joy of tweaking sounds etc. Got a lot of fun out of it, but as I got more into my music and started recording, I rapidly found that its noisiness was a complete and utter pain, which was such a shame, so I guess that’s my personal worst synth.

    Didn’t stop me from buying a Monotron Delay straight after they hit the shops though.

  56. It’s funny a lot of us say Microkorg. I generally love Korg’s equipment but the Microkorg was one of the first synths from them I couldn’t wait to get rid of. Sold it about a year after I owned it.

    Roland MC303, typical Roland crappy groovebox sounds
    Roland EG-101, sound was so cheesy and thin. For a groove box it was weak. I loved the look of it.
    Boss SP-555, sent it back almost the next day
    Yamaha DJX-IIB, bought it cheap used, and couldn’t wait to sell it almost immediately. The samples and loops were awful.
    Alesis’s IO Dock, Plagued with bugs, by time they fixed it, too many better options on the market

  57. Roland sh201 – which had a very cheap sound, though can be a good introduction to sound synthesis.
    Roland new Juno series
    Oberheim viscont. Almost bought it, but after a day of tweaking and trying to get some usefull sound out of it – I gave up.
    Korg radias. Never understood why this thing was made. Even MicroKorg sounds much better for me …

  58. Actually, the one photo’d here. Found it in a pedicab shop in a barrel. Thing’s are downright awful. It made my day more bleak.

  59. I was happy to unload my Virus TI. I deep sampled the hypersaw, and turned it into some Kontakt patches, but otherwise I found the sounds uninspiring. It turned into a preset machine for me, as I’ve got analog beasts that give me more lively sounds. The software is buggy OS after OS update, and i had a terrible time with tech support when my TI started freaking out on a big tour, which doesn’t help their case.
    The user interface is nice, but i found the plain oscillators to be quite dull. The granular OSCs we’re a fresh concept, but the emulations of plainer subtractive synthesis was lacking for me. If it doesn’t sound good with a wide open filter and no fxs, i submit you spend half your time hiding them. I found this with the Korg MS2000 as well – great interface, but the raw oscillators are lifeless to my ears.

  60. Never really met a synth I couldn’t find a use for, if only for a couple of tunes.
    I’ve started with a Yamaha SY35, mind you, which by most standards is a horrid piece of gear, but you could coax some weird industrial textures with it.
    Every time I read a comment about an instrument to the effect of “you can’t do anything musically worth with that junk”, I feel like “wanna bet?”. For instance, I dislike workstations and think the Korg M1 factory presets are awful, but you can always program something personal if you take the time.

  61. The problem with the question is that any gadget designed for the sole purpose of producing sounds when keys are pressed is inherently awesome. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a korg kronos or a casio vl-1.

  62. The Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. I had two of them and neither would stay in tune long enough to be able to use them. On paper they seemed perfect but in practice they were much the opposite…conversely the Korg Mono/Poly has been amazing for 28 years despite needing 5-10 minutes warm up time before the oscillators settle in tune.

  63. Anything that’s such a nightmare to program that it just isn’t any fun. Micron/Miniak and Microkorg XL spring to mind, ESQ-1 to some extent and almost anything FM. Oddly, I adore my CZ-101, though I’ve never properly learned to program it. That I’m a good tweaker and there are 1,000+ patches for CZs online definitely helps. I find a cool sound and make it cooler. I swapped a Minibrute for a Microbrute simply because it was more fun. I use the hell out of my Microsampler, but mostly as a rhythm machine and pattern sequencer for other synths. I’ve used it since 2013 and still haven’t sampled, tweaked and played a new sound with it. My favorite is my Microkorg. It’s like the coolest Christmas toy ever. I used the librarian-editor at first but once I got the hang of the matrix things really opened up. I lose an hour every time I turn the MK on, smiling all the way.

  64. DX7….the presets suck, the interface sucks, but on the bright side, when it came out “analog was dead’ so I got a beat up prophet 5 for 100$!

    honorable mention: microkorg…what a piece of crap!junk! ….Venom….garbage……..arp axxe….the ppc pitch benders were totally useless and never worked even when new! korg dw 6000……crappy interface
    mt32……..plastic cap…………..korg ea 1

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