Looking for keyboard suggestions!

Discussion in 'Synths / Samplers & VSTi' started by brooke, Oct 5, 2005.

  1. brooke

    brooke Guest

    I'm a beginner looking for a decent keyboard that isn't TOO expensive (under $300 US). I want it to be portable, decent sounding and have at least 61 keys. I want to use it away from the computer but I'd also like MIDI capabilities for when I get comfortable enough to lay down piano/synth tracks in my home recorded music.

    What are some decent brand names to shop for?

    I've heard Yamaha and Roland are good. I'd probably go for one of the M-Audio MIDI keyboards except that I want stand-alone capabilities so I can jam at a friend's house with it (he doesn't have a computer).

    Can you offer up a few specific models?

  2. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    The portable keyboards these days have a "standard" set of sounds including percussion. They generally have some sort of rhythm device for producing beats or backing chords/melodies. They also have MIDI capabilities for use with any other midi device. Their sounds are just OK and they are not editable. These things are like the big home organs of yesteryear.

    An actual Synth will allow for editing of sounds will generally not include a built in rhythm machine and should have more midi capabilities.
    Some (workstations) can include sequencers and drum sounds. There is a wide variety of synths out there and choosing the right one isn't easy. It depends on what type of sounds and functionality you want.

    There are plenty general purpose synths out there that all pretty much do the same thing. They have a stanadard set of sounds then have some other more distinctive sounds. Then there are synths that would seem to have a more specific used whether it be for electronic music or whatever.

    At any rate, for your price range, if you want a decent synth, I think you are going to have to buy one used.
  3. brooke

    brooke Guest

    When we talk about Synth we're talking about something like a Moog right? In popular music bands like the Killers or Moby would be using a Synth over a MIDI/Electric keyboard right?

    For a beginner not even accustomed to proper chords on piano, what would you suggest?

  4. vividsonics

    vividsonics Guest

    Well, unfortunately you won't be able to find anything like a Moog in the around $300 price range. Most of the keyboards (or synths) you're looking at in that price range NEW are your typical Casio or Yamaha "Home" keyboards with the built in speakers etc. If you're going for sounds like the artists you named a new keyboard probably wouldn't get you where you want to be. There are options in the used market that might get you there. Something used like a Korg X5D or an Alesis QS6 (or QS6.1) might be an option (among others).

    Some features to look for:

    Polyphony- usually expressed in "voices" for example "64 voices of polyphony". It means how many notes can sound simultaneously before notes get cut off.

    MIDI In/Out/Thru- 5 pin connectors that allow your synth to communicate with other MIDI devices and computers

    Velocity Sensitive Keys- also called "touch sensitive". The notes sound louder or different the harder you strike the keys (enables more realistic performance)

    Multitimbral- When connected to a sequencer or computer, you can assign MIDI channels "like tracks" so that you can have several parts play at once. For example 16 part multitimbral means you can have 16 "tracks" play at once (within polyphony restrictions)

    You probably want to make sure you can edit and store user presets because you'll want to make your own sounds too. I hope this information helps you out.
    Good Luck!
  5. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    I'd look for an old Roland, Korg or Yamaha. When I say old I don't mean something from the 60's, 70's or 80's. I mean something that is a few years old.

    Here are some models to look for. New, they may be a bit out of your range.

    These are new synths that are close to your price range.
    Korg XD-5
    Roland Juno-D
    Yamaha S03

    I found these on Ebay with some attractive prices.
    Alesis qs6
    Korg N5EX
    Korg N5
    Roland XP30
    Roland rs-5
    Yamaha CS1x

    Any of these should fit your needs. On Ebay just search for the brand and the word synth and have a look around. If you find one you are interested in, and have some questions let us know.
  6. kelly644

    kelly644 Guest

    Options for 300 and under:

    Roland XP30 (Sample based S+S)

    Yamaha AN1-x (Analog Modeling)

    Yamaha DX-7 (FM synth)

    EMU XK-6 (Sample based S+S)

    Micro Korg (Analog Modeling)

    Korg Wavestation (Sample based Vector synthesis)

    Oberheim Matrix 6 (Analog)

    Yamaha SO3 (Sample)

    X5D (not so hot....)

    CS1x (Not so hot)

    What type of synth you select depends on your needs:

    Do you want knobs and those type of sounds you hear from The Crystal Method or Depeche Mode? - Go for an Analog/Analog Modeler.... However, in the 300 dollar price range, all of the available analog modelers with keys are limited in the number of notes that can be played at one time.

    If you want piano, clavinet, string, and some synth type sounds, go for a sample based synth. The samples in this price range are usually nothing too fancy, but you can play as many notes as you have fingers.

    If you want rhodes pianos, 80's and weird tones, go for an FM based synth (Not advisable for a first synth).

    To be honest, if you are willing to pay 600 dollars for a used keyboard rather than 300, you will get SOOOOOOO much more. Seriously... the jump in what-you-get is way more than the quailty difference between a 300 and 600 dollar pre amp or mic.

    For the 600 dollar range, you could get a Yamaha CS6x, or a Nord Lead 2, or a JP8000, or a Yamaha SY-77...

    - kelly
  7. brooke

    brooke Guest

    Thanks for the replies all.

    My limited piano experience allows me to play a few chords here and there but I really am a n00b atm. That's why I don't want to spend too much money on a piano/synth just yet.

    I'd like something easy enough to learn on but moderately advanced enough that I can still do neat things with it once I become a better player.

    Currently I'm in a band with one other guy and we both play acoustic guitars. He's a bit of a drummer as well but we don't have a kit handy so we make beats on my computer. Some of our songs are a bit heavy (how heavy can you *really* get on acoustic :p) but mostly they're melodic, slower tunes.

    I really think piano/ambient synth would compliment our stuff well so I'm interested in getting one.

    Do you suggest piano lessons or self-teaching? That's how we both learned the guitar - self-teaching.

    Keep the opinions coming and I'll check out which of these models are available on eBay or locally! :)

    Thanks again.
  8. brooke

    brooke Guest

    Micro_Korg (Synth with Vocoder) - $399


    ^^ I hear this has only 4 polyphony...

    Yamaha DGX-203 (Digital Grand) - $299


    Yamaha DGX-305 (Portable Grand) - $399


    BTW, I definitely don't want to go techno/dance/trance with my music. Classic piano, organ and a bit of synthesized ambient sounds are my main concerns. It'd also be nice to get some decent drum sounds from it if possible.
  9. o2x

    o2x Active Member

    Mar 17, 2005

    Then avoid the MicroKorg and all the analog clones/modellers.
    The XP-30 from Roland is the best choice (I use an XV 5080). It has excellent sounds for the price and can be upgraded with extra voices.

    However you'll be very lucky to get one for less than $500 used.

    If its something basic an XP10 may suit you.This has the same basic voice bank as the JV 80 module, but unlike the XP-30/50/80, it is not upgradable. You should find one of these within your price bracket.
  10. brooke

    brooke Guest


    I think I found a pretty decent model for me. The Yamaha DGX-205 for about $420US seems to fit my initial needs. It isn't really a Synth but it will be something nice for me to learn on and with MIDI capabilities I should be able to play around with thousands of sounds beyond the ~500 voices it already comes with. It's a 32-polyphony btw.

    Here's the specs for it:

    Please let me know if you have major concerns/issues with this piano! :)

    Thanks for all the help so far.

    Incidentally, for ~$200 more I can get the S03 synth...
  11. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    That should be fine for you to get your feet wet.

    If after playing that you find yourself wanting an actual synth, you can always buy one later.

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