The Best New Synths from NAMM 2018

Each year I cover the most intriguing synthesizer announcements from the NAMM show in Los Angeles. Maybe sometime I’ll actually attend, but the costs involved for little old TabMuse also pays for a bright and shiny new synth, audio interface, or music computer. Priorities simply matter.


The Korg Prologue in all its glory. Photo copyright Korg.

If you are interested in reviewing our previous NAMM dispatches, please check out the links for 2017, 2016, and 2015.

The Hybrid Analog Beast of the Korg Prologue

This year’s NAMM lacked the copious amount of synth product announcements of previous editions. One exception to this rule is the Korg Prologue. It features a hybrid architecture with two instances of the analog oscillator design from the Minilogue as well as a digital “Multi Engine” oscillator.

This Korg’s singular LFO rapidly became a meme among the synth grognard community. It does provide a unique sound quality, beyond the Minilogue (or even the Volca Bass and Volca Keys). Check out the demo video for additional insights.

The Prologue comes in two versions. The $1,499 model sports 8 voices and 49 keys, while the $1,999 model features a 16-voice design and 61 keys. Black is the only color – as it should be.

Personally, I feel both models are priced $500 too high, considering they’re essentially part of the Minilogue/Monologue family. Considering my already hearty supply of Korg synths in the studio, I’m likely not in the market for the Prologue. Still, it looks to be a great product worthy of further exploration.

The Waldorf STVC String Synthesizer of your Creamy Dreams

While Waldorf’s new Quantum synth is arguably more powerful, I hold a soft spot for their STVC string synth, also announced at NAMM 2018. When I shared my review of his iOptigan app with Waldorf’s Stefan Stenzel, designer of the Streichfett, he mentioned the soon-come announcement STVC. Essentially a Streichfett with a keyboard and vocoder, the STVC brings an immense cool factor to the synth marketplace.

126 programmable patches get you sound surfing quickly, plus you are able to save your favorite patch tweaks to 12 memory slots, similar to the Streichfett. The Vocoder circuitry features gender modification (always a treat), and a full polyphonic carrier signal. The STVC is expected out soon at a street price of $899.

My Streichfett rivals the Moog Sub 37 as my favorite piece of gear, so you need to consider picking up the STVC.

The Studio Electronics EX+Box is a Must for your SE-02

The Roland SE-02 is arguably the best piece of kit in their Boutique series. Featuring a full analog design from the folks at Studio Electronics, its sound quality is top notch. However, many synth aficionados complain about their small knobs. Enter the EX+Box.

Essentially a breakout box for the SE-02, the EX-Box provides a VCF knob without the digital stepping that hampers cutoff tweaking on the Roland unit. All the audio connections are accessible from the box, with the added benefit of ¼-inch connectors and more. It’s expected to be out in two months at a price of $89. In short, this is a must buy for SE-02 owners.

Well, that’s it for this year’s NAMM digest. Hopefully it inspires you to pick up a new synth. Thanks for reading!