Polysynth Guide

I've attempted to include all the commonly found polysynths of the late-70s to the late-80s.  I didn't bother including anything that was too rare (so no Chroma Polaris, or Korg PS series), early ones that were too rudimentary (so no ARP Omni, or Moog Polymoog), and late era ones that relied heavily on rom samples (so no Korg M1, or Roland D-70).

The '80s saw the release of many useful and great sounding semi-pro polysynths.  All of these are MIDI capable and fully programmable synths.  This category contains the best options for small, light, and portable synths.

Part A - This category contains many fine synths.  They're especially good for cheap sounds that work well as blippy arpeggios, chip-tunes, and gritty bass sounds.

  • Casio CZ-101
  • Casio CZ-1000
  • Yamaha DX9
  • Yamaha DX21
  • Yamaha DX27
  • Yamaha DX100
  • Yamaha FB-01 (CX5M)
  • Roland D-5
  • Roland D-10 (D-110)
  • Roland D-20
  • Korg Poly-800 (EX-800)
  • Kawai K-1 (K-1r) - notable in that it has a nice playing keyboard with velocity and aftertouch.

Part B - Similar to Part A but more capable sound generation abilities.

  • Casio CZ-3000
  • Casio CZ-5000
  • Yamaha DX11 (TX81Z, TQ5)
  • Roland Alpha Juno (MKS-50) - unlike others here, this is a quite nice sounding analog.
  • Korg DW-6000
  • Korg DW-8000 (EX-8000)
  • Oberheim Matrix 1000

Professional - Many of the synths here were either flagship models or considered very competitive with other synths in this range for their time.  They all have very capable sound generation capabilities and most have velocity and aftertouch keyboards.

Part A - Most in this category are from an era when everything "digital" was hip and hands on controls were disappearing from synthesizers.  They can be rewarding if you are willing to put some effort into learning their interface because they all sound very good.

  • Roland JX-3P (MKS-30) - does not have velocity and aftertouch.
  • Roland JX-8P
  • Roland JX-10 (MKS-70)
  • Roland D-50 (D-550)
  • Yamaha DX7 (TX7)
  • Yamaha DX7II (TX802)
  • Yamaha DX5
  • Yamaha DX1
  • Korg Poly61
  • Kawai K-3 (K-3r)
  • Sequential Six-Trak
  • Sequential Prophet VS
  • Oberheim Matrix 6
  • Oberheim Matrix 12
  • Akai AX80
  • Akai AX73
  • Ensoniq ESQ-1 (ESQ-M)

Part B - These are among the most highly regarded polysynths and are beloved for both their capable sound generation and intuitive interfaces that assist the creative process.

  • Roland Juno 6
  • Roland Juno 60
  • Roland Juno 106
  • Roland Jupiter 4
  • Roland Jupiter 6
  • Korg PolySix
  • Korg Mono/Poly
  • Korg Trident
  • Sequential Prophet 600
  • Oberheim OB-8
  • Oberheim OB-Xa
  • Akai AX60

Classic Greats
For the most part these can do everything the other professional synths can do, and do it best.

  • Roland Jupiter 8 (MKS-80)
  • Oberheim OB-X
  • Sequential Prophet 5
  • Moog Memorymoog
  • Yamaha CS-80

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