A music keyboard with 88 hammer action keys is the closest you will get to an acoustic piano, and it has a wide selection of effects and presets on top of it. Also, it looks really nice.
The 88-key model is rather bulky.
A great music keyboard for professional musicians, the Korg KROSS work station offers top-notch functionality and high-quality sound.
Natural Weighted Hammer Action
Reverberation, Chorus, Master Equalizer, Master Compressor, Quick Layer function, Quick Split function, General Adjustment, Parts Adjustment, Mixer
240 x 64 pixel LCD display with backlight and contrast adjustment
- Audio Output (L/MONO, R) - 6.3mm Phone jack
- Headphone Output - 3.5mm Stereo mini phone jack
- Audio Input (Line In) - 3.5mm Stereo mini phone jack
- Mic In - 6.3mm Phone jack
- MIDI - In/Out
- USB Type B
- SD Card Slot
- AC Adapter (DC9V), or
- 6x AA alkaline batteries, or
- 6x AA Ni-MH batteries
57.01" x 15.08" x 5.32"
The Casio CTK2400 music keyboard has the simplest step-by-step learning system. Add to it the clearest sound that overshadows most competitors and an upgraded sampling feature. It's a major hit.
No hot keys to change the tone during a performance.
A quality keyboard for just about anyone, from home use to the application as an additional instrument for a performance.
Reverb, 150 auto accompaniment styles (incl. 20 piano and 55 world)
92mm x 40mm LCD display without backlight.
- USB to host
- Sustain jack - Standard jack (sustain, sostenuto, soft, rhythm start/stop)
- Phones/Output jack - Stereo standard jack
- Mic In jack - Standard jack
- AD-E95100L Adapter, or
- 6x AA batteries
37.25" x 12" x 3.6"
There is a whole load of buttons here, each one assigned to a specific function to make working with the keyboard easier. Four speakers enhance the sound and a 6-track sequencer makes it possible to record several parts at a time.
No auto shut-off function.
One of the best music keyboards if you are a beginner, unrivaled as a first instrument thanks to the affordable price and the selection of necessary functions.
Reverb: 9 types, Chorus: 4 types, Master EQ: 5 types, Dual/Layers, Split, Panel Sustain
Custom 92mm x 42mm LCD display
- Sustain Pedal
- USB to host
- PA-150 or PA-5D Adapter, or
- 6x Size D R20P(LR20) or equivalent battteries
46.3" x 5.3" x 16.25"
If you're a lucky iPad owner, you have the opportunity to expand the functionality of this music keyboard. Additionally to the keyboard itself, there is a stool specifically designed to go with it.
Piano Maestro is an iPad only app.
One of the top choices when it comes to buying your kids their first music keyboard. The iPad learning app was created specifically for children, from simple functionality down to colorful interface.
50 demo songs, 100 beats, 100 different sounds included
LCD screen with backlight
- Mic In jack
- AC Adapter, or
- 6x 1.5V Size D batteries
35.4" x 9.8" x 5.9"
110 built-in songs, an AHL processor with 400 tones, and additionally Casio designed a special Step-Up app to help you learn this keyboard. The whole variety will make your playing brighter and bring some fun diversity into it.
You might need to tweak it before the first use.
A keyboard designed with a fast learning in mind. With its educational functionality, you'll start playing in no time.
400 Tones, 150 Rhythms, 110 Songs, 48 Note Polyphony, Sound EFX Sampler
LCD screen without backlight
- USB Type B
- Sustain/Assignable jack - Standard jack (sustain, sostenuto, soft, rhythm)
- Phones/Output jack - Stereo standard jack
- Audio In jack - Stereo standard jack
- Mic In/Sampling jack - Standard jack (connect a dynamic microphone only)
- AC Adapter AD-E95100L, or
- 6x AA-size zinc-carbon batteries, or
- 6x AA-size alkaline batteries
37.3" x 12.06" x 3.6"
What is a Music Keyboard?
An electronic musical keyboard is an instrument visually resembling a portable piano. Speaking technical terms, it produces sound by mixing one or several sound wave generators. Digital keyboards do this by using processor settings whereas analog ones deal with adjusting the electric signal properties. However, in contrast to a conventional piano, music keyboards often offer many additional functions from accompaniment features to connecting a microphone and adding your voice to the part and recording your music into the built-in memory or onto an SD card. They are really versatile.
One of the types of music keyboards is a digital piano on which we have a separate review if you're interested.
What Features to Compare
Music keyboards today are offered in a variety of types for people with different goals and needs. It is hardly necessary to buy an expensive work station with tons of bells and whistles for a complete beginner or a kid. Check out these parameters before setting off to make a purchase.
There are simpler music keyboards for those making their first steps in music. Some hi-end features might be sacrificed in favor of simplicity of use and the option to add educational apps, helping guides, a number of presets and tones, etc. On the other hand, if you have some skills already and use the keyboard to practice learning programs are of less importance, you'd probably prefer better sound quality and an option to adjust settings. If you compose or mix music, a good sound recording and a full set of keys is a must—in this case, a work station with the largest number of settings would be great.
If you're into classic and aim for the feel as close to a conventional piano as possible, a weighted keybed with hammer action is your best bet, it'll sound and feel just like the real thing. Semi-weighted bed is also close to the traditional feel and it is also quite widespread, it works with instrumental effects as well as with digital ones. At the same time, synth action keybeds are great for fast playing and can usually be found on MIDI keyboards that work with digital effects.
Display and Interfaces
A display is a good addition, especially if you go for a work station with a blinding number of features. With a display, you will always see the current settings and sometimes it will even let you control them (if it's a touchscreen). An educational guide can also be displayed on the screen. As for the interfaces, a headphones port is necessary, of course, as you will be able to hear what you play better (and your neighbors won't nag you about the noise). You'll need a mic in if you plan on recording voices and ambient noise. With a USB port, connecting to your PC or laptop to transfer files will become faster and easier, not mentioning that you'll be able to use a synthesizer or a work station as a MIDI keyboard. With a sequencer and pads feature, it'll be possible to record parts of sound and assign them to buttons to create sequences for further use.
Portability becomes an issue if you're buying a musical keyboard for both home and outside practices as well as for performances. In this case, you'll have to move a lot and carry it around. You wouldn't really enjoy a bulky and heavy machine if you need to cross a city on your two feet or via public transportation. Likewise, for a portable model, it is important to have the option to use batteries as a power source in addition to a cord. Finally, a carrying case would be nice, too.
Full-Size Workstation Designed for Professionals
The Korg Kross 88 Keyboard Production Station is a professional workstation with regard to all the essential parameters and characteristics as well as its size, quality, and functionality. Every user will immediately notice that this keyboard music station was built with impressive usability in mind. It will be suitable for creating, playing, and performing not only modern electronic tracks but also the most demanding classical pieces. This full-size keyboard production station from Korg has 88 keys and the maximum polyphony of 80 voices (or oscillators) in a single mode, and 40 voices in a double mode. The double mode of this workstation supports stereo multisample as well as four levels of velocity. Besides, switching, crossfading, and layering can be all used for each oscillator. Thus, this functional workstation with a range of convenient production tools will allow you to add rhythms and layers to your melodies simply by pressing the button.
There is one peculiar feature in the Korg KROSS music keyboard work station that we find a useful and interesting addition. It is called the Sound Selector and it is essentially two knobs that help you quickly find the necessary sound for your track: first, you choose the Category among a pretty wide selection (from strings to drums to an organ), then use the Select knob to find the sound you need.
Another thing we'd like to highlight is the EDS-i sound engine that is built-in in this model. With this technology at hand, you can use up to seven effects (five insert and two master ones) simultaneously.
All the Instruments You May Need
Besides the fullest range of functions that provide quality sound and effects (like reverb, chorus, and others), Korg offers two dedicated buttons to make using the Layer/Split functions a cakewalk. You just push the button after selecting your first program and on the display, you'll see a menu where you can choose the second sound (Layer) or set a split point (Split). Then you just save the combo. Nothing could be easier.
There is also a 240x64 pixel LCD display where you will see current effects and menus. It might come in handy when you edit your parts, too.
As Portable as They Come
As a final touch, we'd like to point out the Korg KROSS's portability. True, it's not very lightweight if you consider all types of music keyboards, however, it is certainly one of the lightest models among the full-sized 88-key production stations. Carrying it to your garage practice, to entertain your grandparents at their house, or to a club where you perform won't pose much of a challenge. And since it works from 6 AA batteries (NiMH or alkaline), you can take it to an outing with friends or to a street performance. Korg made it so you are never limited in your creativity spurs.
Casio CTK2400 PPK
At a fairly low price (at least, for a keyboard of this type), the Casio CTK2400 PPK offers a fully functional stuffing equally good for beginners as their first music keyboard and for experienced users who need an additional instrument to record tracks. Look a bit closer. There are as many as 400 AHL keyboard voices that will make any improvisation special, brighter and more colorful. Add here the 48-note polyphony, 150 rhythms, 110 songs for learning and practicing (the Step-Up learning system), and 10 digital effects to not only diversify your music but to experiment with sound changing the accompaniment and adding new effects whenever you want. Moreover, this model has a built-in microphone to record samples and vocal parts—there was none in previous models. It is, of course, no match for a professional studio mic but meanwhile, it's still a good enough option before you buy an external one.
Another nice feature (though not such a rare one) is that you can connect your MP3 player and play along to your favorite songs. Now, you are fully equipped to implement all your ideas to the detail.
The sampling feature of this music keyboard is something else entirely, extremely simple to play with. With pushing a single button, you can record a second or two of any sounds you want to go with your piece, from other instruments music like strings or drums or whatever to hand claps and whistles or even snorts (seriously, we've seen people do it, just for fun). Those bits can be further saved to the memory and then added to your music integrated into the rhythm in proper places. Or you can play some piece consisting entirely of those sounds in various tones. You know, for entertainment. Your time with family and friends has never been this hilarious, really.
A Solid Choice
All in all, Casio is a company known for their quality approach to manufacturing. The plastic body of this CTK2400 PPK is, according to many customers, really sturdy, all the seams are tight and there are no gaps between parts. Casio music keyboards are often described as somewhat tight when it comes to pushing them and this model is no exception but still, they are, as always, firm and won't "fall in" or wobble even after time.
In addition to the keyboard itself, with a Premium Pack, you also receive a power supply, a stand, and nice headphones. The latter will definitely come in handy when you wake up in the middle of the night with a piece of music in your head that needs recording right at that moment.
Doubles as MIDI
The Yamaha YPG-235 offers you variety of preloaded effects (9 types of reverb, 4 types of chorus, and 5 types of Master EQ), 160 styles, and a wide range of voices. All this will allow you to fully reveal the potential of your music. And with the help of a pitch bend wheel, the process will be simple and fast. In addition, the 6-track sequencer enables you to record several variants of necessary rhythms and music parts and then play them when you need them.
This music keyboard also has a USB/MIDI port with which you can connect it to your PC or laptop to download your pieces and edit or share them. Or you can use the machine as a MIDI keyboard when working with audio editing software on your computer. By the way, did you know some DJs use MIDI keyboards instead of DJ controllers? Sounds crazy at first but in reality, it is pretty possible. This music keyboard can handle a party just well.
Learning From Any Level
It doesn't matter if you are a complete novice or have some skills under your belt but need more, the educational CD that comes with the purchase will still be useful: its Yamaha Education Suite tutorials are built in a way that makes it possible to navigate easily and skip the parts you already know or find particular chapters you need to work on. There are 30 preset songs in the keyboard memory and 70 more on the disc, you can play along with them to learn faster and develop your skills and style.
The piano can operate using the AC power or alternatively 6 D-Cell batteries in case you want to play outside or don't have enough outlets in the vicinity.
This musical keyboard model features two 6W amplifiers and four quality speakers that empower the sound of preset voices and anything you play and record yourself. A good volume is also a benefit for learners—you'll hear every note and will be able to correct any mistake.
This is a truly versatile musical keyboard that at a not too high price will become an instrument for your whole family, from your kids who make their first steps into music to you and your s/o who takes pleasure in playing and experimenting with sound as a hobby.
Fun Way to Learn
This RockJam model is primarily known for its educational program. Usually, when we speak about educational programs coming with music keyboards we mean the preinstalled ones which merely show you where to put your hands and what keys to push. Well, a system like this is surely workable (it is time tested, after all) but how fun is it for kids, for example? Now RockJam has a special iPad/iPhone compatible app to make even a fidgety preschooler fall in love with music thanks to its game-like interface. Your young musician will work hard to earn stars and will rejoice every time they make a result better than before. Besides, the app has not only simple kids songs but also a variety of pop hits for teenagers and young adults and even classic pieces like Beethoven, Bach, and other famous composers. There is a way to go and a motivation to upgrade.
One of the reasons this music keyboard is often recommended for children, besides the fun educational app, is that it is truly not demanding when it comes to maintenance. The construction is quite strong. One could think that plastic is not the most reliable material for a body but fear no, we assure you it is of high quality and will endure most usual situations and come out unscratched. However, we do recommend a hard case for transportation, not soft. The keybed is responsive and there is a music note rest where you can put either note sheets or your iPad when you use the app to study.
Not every musical keyboard comes with a full set of additional items right away but this one does. Aside from the keyboard itself, you'll find in the box a comfortable stool for practice, a sturdy stand to put the board on, and quality headphones for practicing without bothering your family and neighbors. It's almost everything you may need.
The lack of Android supported app might be a drawback but if you are determined to make your kid love music with this fun and simple music keyboard, you might consider buying an iPhone after all.
Casio LK175 PPK
A Straight Way to Mastery
The main feature that distinguishes the Casio LK family from competitor music keyboards is its Step Up Lesson system specifically developed to make learning keys simple and fast for anyone. You've been dreaming to learn piano for ages but only now happened to get some little time to spare? It's enough! Be it a kid or an adult with no music knowledge and experience whatsoever, the Casio LK175 will come to help.
In a nutshell, the system offers you to learn the melody accompanied by a scheme on the display where you'll see the finger and the key you need to use at the moment. The difference, though, is in that the key on the keyboard itself will also light up! This way, you don't need to split your attention to the display and the keybed all that much, you can focus on your playing. Consequently, your learning curve will change, you'll learn faster, mastering new songs in no time at all.
A Decent Piece of Equipment
Although this Casio LK175 61-key musical keyboard in not an over-the-top model filled to the brim with features, disregarding it right away would be unwise, in our opinion. It does have the most necessary characteristics for a hobbyist musician or a beginner. For example, the 48 polyphony will make the sound real-like; 400 preset tones are more than enough for improvising and livening up existing melodies. There is also the sampling feature where you can record up to two seconds of any sound and later use it in your piece with proper arrangement creating a unique melody. The accompaniment section includes 150 rhythms, and there are 110 songs to play from the library—all at a touch distance.
This keyboard has two built-in speakers and a mic to record your samples and vocals. The power feed can be either AC cord or six AA Zinc-Carbon or Alkaline batteries so you are not restricted by your house or apartment. There is also a port for external microphone and headphones, as well as a USB out to use the console with your computer as a MIDI keyboard and record parts right to the PC or download completed ones from the instrument for further editing.
You Might Need
If you are an avid traveler and you want to take your music keyboard with you wherever you go and be able to use the local outlet instead of spending money on batteries, check out our review on plug adapters.
Q: How is a music keyboard different from a piano?
A: A piano is an acoustic instrument whereas musical keyboards are digital. The sound they make differ, as does the response of keys. Even with the most expensive keyboard you won't get a complete piano sound and feel.
Q: Should I really buy a keyboard instead of a piano?
A: If you are looking for an option to place at home and alternate between it and the piano you use at your classic music school, a keyboard might not be a too good option due to the difference in size and sound. A keyboard will do as a temporary solution but hardly as a permanent one. However, for those aspiring to go into popular music and arrangement a keyboard is an obvious choice, it is smaller, lighter, more portable, and offers quite a number of features like mimicking other instruments, for example.
Q: What is a synthesizer? Is it the same as a music keyboard?
A: Strictly speaking, a music keyboard is not the whole instrument but simply the part with keys. An instrument we are much too used to calling a music keyboard is actually called an electronic keyboard. Anyway, the synthesizer is a type of "music" keyboard designed mostly to create synthetic sounds. They are usually professional devices as opposed to simple music keyboards we buy for home practice and performances.
Q: What's a workstation?
A: A work station is usually a hi-end music keyboard with a full set of keys (which is 88) and a wide range of additional features to not only play but compose music. They often offer multiple effects, tones, sequencing options, etc. It's a choice of professional or highly skilled performers. They can be rather costly and bulky.
Q: What is a MIDI?
A: Originally, MIDI is a signal protocol used to connect your keyboard to a PC or to another instrument. A MIDI keyboard, however, is an instrument that works using this protocol. Simply put, a MIDI music keyboard does not create the sound as it is but reproduces it using the protocol signals and samples. It's the simplest music keyboard.
Q: Does it take as long to learn the music keyboard as it takes to learn a piano?
A: Well, most music keyboards have a display and some have special mobile apps that can quicken the process of learning significantly, but in the end, it all depends on how dedicated you are and how much time you spend practicing.
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