5 Best Hardware Synthesizers for LoFi Hip Hop in 2022

We talkin’ bout, “LoFi Synthesizers?”

For the most part, lofi hip-hop is often based off a laid back beat and bassline, along with a soothing melody often sounding like a piano or guitar. The latter is often performed through an analog synthesizers keyboard.

While software plugins connected to an emulation keyboard can be an option, to get an authentic synthesizer sound it is highly recommended you use an analog keyboard. There are a host of hardware synthesizers on the market, however we’ve picked out five models that we think are perfect for creating lofi hip-hop.

KORG – Minilogue XD

When it comes to synthesizers, electric and digital pianos, KORG is one of the most recognizable names in the industry. With a variety of keyboards ranging in price and quality, the Minilogue XD is one of their best analog synthesizers.

Based off the influential Minilogue polyphonic analog synthesizer, the XD version is compact yet portable and sturdy due to its metal casing. While its interface offers plenty of versatility when creating melodies and beats. Amongst them is a joystick to control pitch bend, modulation depth, and more. Whereas micro-tuning allows you adjust the pitch of each key, or you can use one of 23 preset tunings.

One of its predominant features is the 16-step polyphonic key sequencer, as part of its multi-engine, the Minilogue XD offers plenty of sonic scope. From classical strings to sharp metallic sounds, the 16 VPM (Variable Phase Modulation) and user oscillators, alongside four noise generators, simply expand Minilogue XD’s possibilities. In addition, it’s programmed with 500 voices and array of effects (reverb, delay, phaser, chorus, and more).

Overall, it’s a user-friendly, customizable, and versatile synthesizer keyboard.

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Arturia – MicroFreak

While some synthesizer keyboards look and feel like a normal musical keyboard, the MicroFreak from Arturia is slightly different. Its flat, poly-aftertouch keyboard complements this expansive (and peculiar) digital oscillator’s design, including the usual set of knobs and buttons to tweak your sounds.

MicroFreak is a four-voice paraphonic synth with a single digital oscillator combining with 12 modes available covering numerous analogue-emulating and digital types, providing variable waveforms for classic virtual analog sound design. Whereas the “superwave mode” delivers detuned waveforms for more modern basses, leads and pads.

For those wanting to take an experimental approach, there’s the Speak-and-Spell-style Speech mode, which outputs synthetic vowels and consonants, while the Granular Formant oscillator breaks a waveform into ‘particles’. When it comes to its filters, the MicroFreak has a 12-dB per-octave filter, based on the Oberheim-designed SEM filter, that can easily be switched between low-, high- and band-pass modes.

For such a portable piece of hardware, Arturia’s MicroFreak offers an almost endless range of performance, sequencing, filter, and modulation tools.

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Modal – Cobalt8

Unlike the other models covered so far, Modal Cobalt8 is an 8 voice virtual-analogue synthesizer. With 37 full-size keys and high quality casing and build, the Cobalt8 has a user-friendly layout.

The advantage of its eight voice synth is the possibility to take your sounds into new areas through 34 algorithms found in each of the two oscillator groups. As you can expect, these can be modulated to create unique waveforms, then recorded through its 16 step (512 notes) sequencer.

In terms of its sound, it provides an organic delivery. Most notably the 4-Pole Morphable Ladder Filter allows for plenty of creativity through its resonance, switch, notch, and phasor filters. Also, the Cobalt8 includes a three-slot effects engine consisting of 11 FX algorithms allowing to bring character and depth to your tones, most notably there’s a LoFi FX. While the MODALapp software is beneficial when programming sequences, modulators, and parameters.

At its core the Cobalt8 has a virtual-analogue design but provides an authentic polyphonic analogue experience.

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ASM – Hydrasynth Explorer

From afar, Ahsun Sound Machines’ Hydrasynth Explorer doesn’t look very special, however once you delve into what it can do, you realize its potential. It includes the same 8-voice sound engine that the original Hydrasynth offers but is more compact and battery-powered, and 37 note polyphonic aftertouch mid-sized keys.

When it comes to creating sounds, the Explorer’s three WaveScan oscillators allows you to choose from 219 waveforms. While two of those oscillators can be combined with Mutators, giving you the freedom to bend, create and modulate the sound in a variety of ways. Each “mutant” allows you to choose from several processes: FM-linear, hard stack, pulse width, harmonic sweep, and more.

As for its filters, the Hydrasynth has two filters that can be configured in series or parallel. Most notably, the first filter has 16 different models, allowing for more customization. Whereas the second is 12db per octave with a continuous sweep from either low pass to high pass via bandpass, or low pass to high pass via notch.

The Hydrasynth Explorer’s other features include five low-frequency oscillators, five DAHDSR envelopes, 32 user definable modulation routings, pre- and post-effects, micro-tuning support, and CV/Gate interconnectivity.

In short, ASM’s Hydrasynth Explorer offers plenty of depth inside its compact structure.

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Behringer – Model D

So far, all the synthesizers featured include some form of keyboard. However, the Model D from Behringer doesn’t. It leans more towards a traditional analog synthesizer, taking inspiration from the classic Minimoog synthesizer.

Nevertheless, the Model D is an affordable all-analog synth with three mono-symphonic, voltage-controlled oscillators, and a Voltage Controlled Filter with resonance. It features high and low-pass filtering variables, an overdrive circuit and noise generator (with 2 options), and a glide function for portamento effects, giving you the ability to create modern and nostalgic sounds perfect for lofi hip-hop.

While other synths are filled with features, if you’re wanting a piece of hardware that sounds, looks, and feels like an analog synthesizer, then the Behringer Model D is an essential purchase.

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Conclusion

As you can see, the hardware synthesizer market offers a variety of affordable kit all with their unique features, allowing users to craft original sounds. Although some may have more features than others, these five hardware synthesizers are perfect when creating lofi hip-hop. Whether you’re just starting out or an experienced producer, these 5 synthesizers deserve to be part of your sound-making collection.