A guide to what's currently available on the keyboard market.
The range of keyboards available on the market these days is vast, so MI Pro has compiled a comprehensive rundown of what's currently on the market...
Casio 020 8208 7829
Back in 1980, Casio created the world’s first portable keyboard, the CT-201, and has since become one of the leading names in the home keyboard market. At the entry-level end of the firm’s product range is the LK-120 ‘key lighting’ keyboard, which offers a wide range of easy to follow tuition features, including illuminated keys that allow the beginner to make music very quickly. Casio also notes that all of its keyboards feature a piano style ‘box’ key, which feels more like an acoustic piano than the standard electronic key.
Meanwhile, at the more advanced end of the company’s product line, Casio recently introduced three new, high-grade keyboards to the market, namely the CTK-6200, CTK-7200 and WK-7600. Each of the new models features a new panel design, additional sounds and rhythms, as well as extended performance functions at a cost-effective price point. The new models and their key features include 61 and 76 touch sensitive, piano shaped keys; increased tone selection with up to 820 built in sounds and 100 user tones to store ‘created’ sounds; increased rhythms selection – up to 260 orchestrated accompaniment styles, including ethnic patterns - powerful nine-step flute sliders designed to recreate the flexibility of a traditional drawbar organ (CTK-7200 and WK-7600); audio record and playback to facilitate the recording of real sound via the microphone socket; the ability to store audio recordings to (optional) SD card and convert data to WAV format; a song sequencer with 16 tracks (+ 1 system) with up to 20 song internal storage; and a USB (to host) socket for easy connection to PC. The CTK -6200 has a retail price of £299.99, while the CTK-7200 and CTK-7600 have a retail price of £399.99 and £499.99, respectively.
Yamaha 01908 366700
Boasting a comprehensive keyboard range, Yamaha offers musicians a 'complete line up', from its entry-level PSR to the most expensive keyboard currently sold to the UK market – Tyros. For the ' back to school' market, the PSR E243 and E343 both retail under the £200 mark and serve as an ideal Christmas gift for the first-time player, while the E433, which is currently retailing for less than £300, is designed to offer the younger, budding keyboard player/DJ the power of a synth engine for creating serious grooves and arrangements.
Further up the Yamaha range is the S Series – a 'Home Workstation' that combines huge specifications and high quality sounds with easy to use features, including cutting edge technologies, such as Audio styles (retailing from £1,100 to £1,800).
Finally, Yamaha’s Tyros continues to lead the way in the UK luxury keyboard market. The firm’s flagship range, which is now in its 11th year, is still providing optimised sound fields and arrangements and styles, from contemporary dance through to orchestral genres.
Roland 01792 702701
Back in 1988, Roland set out to change the way in which professional keyboard players use arranger products with the introduction of the E-10 and E-20 ‘Intelligent Synthesizers’. Since then, Roland has continued to develop arranger keyboards and modules that are engineered to deliver the very best sounds, backings and performance features for professional and home players. The new BK-9 is no exception. Launched at Frankfurt this year, it is designed to serve as a powerhouse music machine for professional performing, song composition, and casual enjoyment at home. Not only has it been designed with cost-effectiveness and value in mind, it is also one of the lightest arranger keyboards available on the market, weighing in at just 9.4KG. Roland’s BK range includes arranger keyboards together with a library of free iOS applications. Furthermore, the BK arranger technology is also available in a module (BK-7M), rendering it an ideal add on sale for any digital piano.
Korg 01908 304601
Described by the firm as a milestone in synthesis and workstation evolution, the Kronos range (from RRP £2,518.80) from Korg brings together a multitude of sound engines, along with an array of interactive performance features that are designed to reflect the way musicians play, as well as meet the demands of the modern player. The keyboard also comprises a vast catalogue of sounds for any style of music.
Meanwhile, engineered to offer full-length, unlooped sample of every key for an optimised piano sound, the Krome Series (from RRP £959.99) from Korg is designed to deliver new standards in sonic excellence for gigging musicians. Aimed at providing a full palette of sound to the user’s music, the Korg Krome is ideal for any style of piano playing and includes unlooped piano and drum sounds, plus new electric pianos, all derived from the aforementioned Korg Kronos.
Sound Technology 01462 480000
The new Kurzweil Artis Stage piano (RRP £1,699) is built to serve as an all-in-one solution for gigging musicians, featuring a wide range of sounds, 128-voice polyphony and a user-friendly interface.
The centerpiece of the Artis Stage piano is the brand new German 9’ grand piano sound, which has been designed to deliver optimised sound quality and playability. It also comes with KB3 ToneReal organs, a powerful effects engine for vintage keys emulations and several new sounds from the KORE 64 ROM expansion for PC3 (synths, horns, guitars, drums and percussion.)
Also from Sound Technology is the Nord Stage 2 Series (from RRP £2,999). Utilising Nord's latest sound generation technology in the three categories of Piano, Organ and Synthesiser, combined with a user-friendly interface and a choice of premium keybeds, the Stage 2 is ideal for the professional performing musician. The Nord Stage 2 is compatible with the Nord Sample Library, while the Nord Sample Editor software allows you to create your own sample instruments. Combined with Nord Piano Library compatibility the Nord Stage 2 is built to offer optimum expandability.
Meanwhile, the new Nord Electro 4 series (RRP £1649-£2149) features everything from the Electro 3 series, whilst adding the new Nord C2D tone wheel engine and 122 Rotary Speaker simulation with USB MIDI compatibility. The Nord Electro 4 series supports the Nord Piano Library and the Nord Sample Library, providing access to the exclusively licensed Mellotron and Chamberlin sounds and a wide selection of sounds from leading sample producers. Furthermore, the Nord Electro 4D comes fitted with physical drawbars for actively shaping the sound on the fly.
Elsewhere, the Nord Piano 2 HA88 (RRP £2,249) and the Nord Piano HP (RRP £1,999) are also available from Sound Technology. The Nord Piano 2 lets you play, split and layer sounds from both the Nord Piano Library and the Nord Sample Library and features a versatile effects section - all in a portable package, sporting a premium 88-key Hammer Action keybed (HA88) or the ultra light weight 73 key Hammer Action Portable (HP) keybed.
Source 020 8962 5080
Arturia’s new KeyLab range is engineered to serve as a set of versatile ‘Hybrid’ controller keyboards for use in computer music setups, as well as controlling hardware outboard in the studio and on the road. The range is constructed from aluminium panelling and, with wooden end cheeks, the pots feel sufficiently robust for all manner of applications. Available in 25-key, 49-key and 61-key variants, each offers optimum levels of control via a plethora of faders, encoders, transport controls, assignable buttons, pitch and mod wheels, velocity and aftertouch sensitive keys, as well as an LCD screen with dedicated encoders to access menu parameters. Additionally, 16 velocity and pressure sensitive drum pads adorn the 49 and 61 models.
Meanwhile, each keyboard includes Analog Lab software - a standalone and VST/AAX/RTAS/AU plug-in software, which bundles 5,000 editable sounds culled from the full 'engines' of Arturia's library of nine analogue synthesizer (and Wurlitzer) recreations. The library is easy to browse from the hardware by sonic characteristics ("dark", "pad" etc).
Nektar +1 818 771 9886
Nektar’s Panorama Series of controller keyboards offer optimised integration with Cubase, Nuendo and Reason. The Panorama P4 features 49 key semi-weighted action and 93 real-time controls, including a 100mm motorised fader, 12 pads and hi-res color TFT display. With each control MIDI or QWERTY assignable, Panorama offers ample control over any production software.
However, Panorama is best known for its deep and detailed integration with Cubase, Nuendo and Reason. Released in 2012, Panorama quickly became known as "the Reason Controller" due to its ability to control all aspects of Reason away from the computer. Now, Panorama’s deep integration with Cubase/Nuendo performs to a similar level and includes a wrapper-free system to create and store custom plugin maps. Nektar has pre-mapped over 400 popular VST Synths/Inserts and the list continues to grow, with integration for other popular production software planned too.
Panorama is also available with 61 keys (P6) and as a portable controller designed to complement your existing keys (P1).