The 4 Best Synths for Psytrance – Reviews 2023

best synth for psytrance, psychedelic trance

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Psychedelic trance, or psytrance, gets its energy and complexity from layering melodies on top of each other, pairing them with up-tempo riffs that are ideal for dancing. While there’s a lot of variety in the genre when it comes to the mood and overall style, one constant is the importance of the synth in creating these layered rhythms and lines.

There’s definitely no one right answer when it comes to the question of the right synth for psytrance. Having said that, most players are looking for a lot of the same things, namely a range of useful on-board effects and a high polyphony that supports looping and layering. You don’t necessarily need a hardware synth to get this. Many of the top names in the genre use virtual synth analog programs, which can be just as effective with the right plug-ins.

If you’re looking for a new psytrance synth, check out the options below. They’re among the most popular in the genre, and with good reason, offering everything a trance player needs to keep the beat going strong.

Here are our recommendations for the 4 best synths for psytrance on the market:

Synth of Psytrance 1: Nord Stage 3 Compact Keyboard

For a traditional keyboard-based synth, our top pick is the Nord Stage 3. Nord racks and synths are staples of the psytrance scene thanks to their programmability and wide range of on-board filters and effects. The Nord Stage 3 has 2GB of on-board memory and 80 banks, each of which can store 50 user-created programs. That’s plenty for even the most complex layering.

The Nord Stage 3 (see full specs) can be easily hooked up to a computer through USB. This lets you use it in conjunction with a DAW, export tracks, and take advantage of MIDI. It uses the Nord Lead A1 Synth Engine, which allows for extended polyphony. As for effects, each slot as its own reverb and compressor, and you’ll love the on-board delay effects and available filters.

Gigging psytrance players will also appreciate the portability of the Nord Stage 3. It’s relatively lightweight for a 73-key synth, and comes complete with stand and pedals for easy set-up. For a versatile keyboard-based synth, you can’t go wrong with the Nord Stage 3.

Nord Stage 3 Compact 73 - One-Year Review

Synth of Psytrance 2: Native Instruments MASCHINE JAM

One great option if you want a hardware synth at a lower price-point is a controller like the Native Instruments Maschine Jam. It comes complete with Ableton Live templates that allow you to sequence straight from the pad. You can still play notes and cords, too, using the Smart Strips or the full 8X8 matrix.

Multi-track performance is the main strength of the Native Instruments Maschine Jam for psytrance. You can use up to 9 sounds simultaneously when you’re sequencing. The Smart Strips also let you tweak 8 different parameters at the same time, allowing for quick transitions and effect changes.

We love the Native Instruments Maschine Jam for live psytrance performance. The illuminated multi-color control matrix is easy to see and use even in a dark club. Players used to keyboard synths will need to spend some quality time with the Maschine Jam to take full advantage of its features. Once you get the hang of it, though, it’s one of the most flexible, versatile hardware synths out there, and one of the best synths for psytrance for the money.

Maschine Jam: Full Controller Walkthrough

Synth of Psytrance 3: Novation Bass Station II Analog Mono-Synth

The filter design on the Novation Bass Station II was designed by the same mind that produced the OSCAR synth of old, used by well-known producers like Hallucinogen. That’s earned this compact and affordable synth a place in the psytrance hall of legend. It’s the ideal synth if you want a keyboard at an excellent value.

Novation has updated the Bass Station II to include a new “acid” filter that psytrance synth players will love. It also gives you 64 factory patches, with an additional 64 that are user-programmable. There are individual and dedicated knobs for the oscillator, mixer, and filters, so it’s easy to navigate even for a beginner.

The only potential short falling of the Novation Bass Station is in the number of effects and voices you can use as once. It doesn’t permit the same complexity of layering you’ll get on the two models above. For most players, though, you’ll get everything you need to lay down some great tracks, and at an impressive value.

Bass Station 2 UPDATE - almost like having a NEW synthesizer!

Synth of Psytrance 4: Native Instruments Komplete 12 Software Suite

Looking to ditch the hardware? Native Instruments Komplete is the premier virtual synth on the market—and not just for psytrance. You get access to over 25,000 sounds with this software pack—more than 170GB of effects and instruments in total.

Komplete 12 (see full specs) is optimized for use with Native Instruments controllers, but it’s just as easy to use with any DAW, so you don’t need any hardware to take advantage of it. It’s compatible with both Windows and Apple operating systems, too—the only thing you’ll have to worry about is whether you have enough memory to handle the full program.

Of the 50-plus products included in Native Instruments Komplete 12, the most impressive for psytrance players is their Massive X software, a 2019 update of their popular Massive synth. All-told, this comprehensive synth software provides all the tools you need and then some, letting you follow wherever your creative impulse leads.

Native Instruments Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector's Edition - Overview and Demo

So What’s the Best Synth for Psytrance?

More than other genres, there’s a lot of variation when it comes to the equipment used by the top names in psytrance. Keep in mind it’s about the music you’re making, not the tools you use to make it. While you can always add effects and plug-ins down the line, getting a synth that comes with the sounds you want will make it easier to get started.

Usability and comfort are factors you should consider, too. If you’re used to having a keyboard, there’s no reason to re-learn your technique on a controller—and vice versa for DJs who are used to controllers or virtual synths. No matter your budget or experience, one of the instruments above is guaranteed to meet your needs. Any could qualify as the best synth for psytrance. Good luck!

  • Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel.

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