There are countless options out there and it is very easy for a beginner to feel overwhelmed. Which features should I be looking for? Which are the most important characteristics? How can the options be classified?

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    What would you like to do with it? The most important characteristics are situational. You might want portability over sound quality, or sound quality over a broad palate. Maybe you want to be able to recreate an orchestra, or maybe you just want classic 70s or 80s synth sounds. As it stands, this seems really too broad. It's like asking what to look for in a guitar without specifying acoustic, electric, classical, or genre. Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 4:14
  • @ToddWilcox I'm not looking for product recommendations, but an overview for a beginner. You could carve the first part of your comment as a very interesting section of an answer. Similar questions have been asked before with very good reception and ended up being very useful. Search for "what to look for first" to see some examples. I'm asking this one specifically because I saw the other, more specific, question getting closed and wanted a similar one that is on scope. Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 4:19
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    I did the search. The entire first page of results are all far more specific than your question. All of them state some combination of intended use, price range, specific category, etc. The word "synthesizer" itself is so broad it could include a complicated tape machine, software plugin, capictively coupled oscillator, wave table module, doctored Commodore 64 computer, and so on. The possibilities are manifold. Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 4:23
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    Many beginning musicians may confuse the term synthesizer with or use it synonymously with keyboard instruments that can serve various functions similar to a true synthesizer - such as Sampler Keyboard, MIDI Controller Keyboard, Workstation Keyboard, Arranger Keyboard, Portable Digital Keyboard, Digital Piano and others. Should the answer deal only with true synthesizers or should a discussion of the other type keyboard instruments/input devices be a part of the answer? Should the answer be limited to keyboard controlled synthesizers or should all types of input devices be explored? Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 7:49
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    have you thought of downloading some softsynths? There are lots of free and shareware/trialware ones. These would give you some idea of what to look for. Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 11:08

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With little experience and without clear vision of requirements, this probably will not be the last synthesizer you ever buy. In other words, you are buying the exploration device.

For such a device, I would suggest to set the budget limit and select the synthesizer that has as many various features available as possible. Then you will be able to try all of them and be much more sure about your requirements later.

The quality probably does not matter as much, as after exploration (and discovering you really like) you can buy a long-term model that is strong in features you like the most.

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