Yamaha Reface YC Review

Riding the wave of reissues, Yamaha released the successful Reface series, a modern take on some of its classic keys of the past: The Reface DX revisits the ubiquitous in ‘80s MOR recordings, hotel discos and cruise ship piano bars DX7 digital synth, the Reface CP is based on the CP80 electric piano, the Reface CS on the legendary CS analog monosynth family of the late ‘70s, and last, the Reface YC, is a modern take on the YC organs, Yamaha’s very own combo organs of the late sixties to mid-seventies period. These new iterations of the Yamaha classics were built with affordability, versatility and portability in mind. The latter is of particular importance, since they come as alternatives to heavy, bulky analog machines.

Feature Pick

Yamaha Reface Yc Portable Combo Organ With Vintage

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Being someone who uses keys all the time, and knowing very well the pain of having to move a transistor organ or an electric piano around venues and studios, I was happy to see Reface around, even though I was a bit skeptical about the sound: I find digital organ emulations to be somewhat flat and lacking – and the costs involved into owning a modern top tier organ emulator are disproportionate when compared to the sonic quality and low cost of a ‘70s analog transistor organ. The basic question has always been: “Why spend 1.500$ for a Nord Electro, when a 150$, battered, yard sale Ace Tone will sound better?” 1.500$ is a commitment. 150$ is a fun amount to spend.

With a price ranging anywhere from 300 to 400 US $, the Reface YC looked like a very interesting proposition, and the wealth of features seemed like a fair trade off to the 3-octave mini-key keyboard.

The only thing I wasn’t willing to trade was of course the sound. As said, transistors – especially the older, Germanium ones – are key to creating a warm, fuzzy, perfect organ sound, while the Reface YC, being a contemporary design, uses instead the AWM (Advanced Wave Memory) tone generator, which is the proprietary PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) sampling engine used by Yamaha.

On the other hand, even the original YC series, used tone generators that were outside the canon: They were the one of the very few organs using ICs (Integrated Circuits) instead of discreet components in the frequency dividers and filters, and probably the only true organs to use ICs in the oscillators. The company was experimenting since the late ‘60s, following an individual path in circuit design, something that played a role in shaping their unique sound.

Yamaha was never the legendary company with a fandom that other brands can boast about. It was never about flashy endorsements, legacy and emotional connection to some gilded history. Most people anyway connect the name with motorbikes or boat engines than with instruments. And even in the field of instruments, its classic, the DX7, is of rather utilitarian nature, becoming a classic for successfully emulating an acoustic piano rather for having any personal character.

In reality, the company has offered instruments that were full of character and unique sonic capabilities – finding their way on stages and in recording studios worldwide. Some of them, were very beautiful examples of modernist design – lacking only somewhat in the naming department: The – Link Wray-endorsed – 1967 SG-2 guitar, the A-3 organ introduced in 1966 and the YC organ series, introduced in 1969. These instruments were a feast for the eyes, as they embodied the best elements of the futuristic ‘60s, and were the first serious rivals – quality-wise – of the US and European manufacturers of the era.

Especially the YC organ, available in a multitude of colors and permutations, was the definitive Yamaha instrument. Extremely stable, being the most reliable organ around, very well designed, with a control panel that helps approach the instrument in a novel way, and a sonic palette that extends way beyond that of most electric organs, it is has been an instrument of choice for the last years.

The only downside it that the most common variation, the YC-25, is a two-manual beast that weighs 45 kilos (100 lbs), meaning that it isn’t very practical to move around – even if it comes with handles – so it mostly a studio dwelling machine.

This alone was enough of a reason to be curious to try the YC Reface, which weighs just under 2 kilos (4 lbs) and is not much larger than a laptop.

Old Becomes New Again

The first thing that someone familiar with the original YC series will notice, is that the designers kept not only kept an appearance similar to the original YC – down to the color palette – but also used a similar layout for the control panel, something that is a big plus, as it is very ergonomic, suited to the needs of organ playing, intuitive, and most importantly, capable of almost infinite tone combinations, managing to maintain the versatility that made the YC such a useful instrument.

On the left end there are the Output Amp controls: Rotary Speaker simulation controls and Volume. Next to it, the Oscillator section, with controls for Octave Transposing (+/-3 octaves, mitigating the limited range of the keyboard) and Wave. There are 5 different waveforms available, each one assigned a letter, which happens to be the first letter of the organ that it imitates, and that Yamaha hasn’t got the rights to it: H for Hammond B3/C3, V for Vox Continental, F for Farfisa Compact, A for Ace Tone Top and finally, Y for Yamaha YC.

In the middle above the keyboard, there is the Footage section with 9 sliders (in the tradition of the 9 Hammond drawbars), on its right the Vibrato/Chorus selector and the Intensity, next to it the Percussion section with On/Off and A/B buttons and a Length slider. On the right end, two sliders for the Effects: Distortion and Reverb.

On the back we find the AC adapter input (it also works on batteries, by the way), On/Off button, and foot controller connection, along with 1/4” L-R output, 1/4” stereo headphone output, 1/8” Aux In, plus, two handy MIDI and USB connections.

The building quality seems good, and the external material – a rubbery, anti-slip plastic, feels good to the touch. The keyboard is solid, stable and with a very nice feeling. In fact, it’s good enough to make the small key size seem irrelevant, and become a factor that greatly adds to the enjoyment of this instrument. Its 3-octave range means it is mostly suited for lead roles, and not so much for 2-hand Hammond organ style playing.

The only inadequacy seems to be in the control panel: The sound of the organ has zero dynamics by nature (it is either on or off, without any sustain or any attack variations), so the tabs, switches, drawbars and sliders of an organ are regularly used, abused an overused, in order to create dynamics. For this reason, the controls have to be sturdy and reliable. This is true for the sliders, but not for the tabs: The 3 tabs present (Vibrato/Chorus, Percussion On/off and A/B) are flimsy to the touch, feel fragile and not always succeed in making contact. Luckily, the controls prone to overuse – and especially the metallic Rotary Speaker selector – feel sturdier and can be used with confidence.

But, given that I can survive the crap quality of some ‘70s organs because a good sound is what I am after, these Reface reliability issues do not distract me at all from the main thing: The sound. And what a sound this little machine has! The good thing with this organ isn’t that it is a good emulator (which, it obviously is), but that it has a personality on its own.

The tones are defined, yet warm. It is a very melodic instrument, that, in the tradition of the best organs, can become eerie and mysterious very easily, something that the tame digital organs in the market struggle to achieve. The sound has all the small “irregularities” so characteristic of transistor and tonewheel organs, yet they remain defined and articulated well.

The “H for Hammond” wave is a very convincing B3 copy, even though its tiny on-board speakers are unable to reproduce those low 16” notes and it would be best enjoyed when hooked to an amp. I may not be the biggest fan or Hammond around, but I found myself using the H wave a lot more than I’d expect.

The obligatory combination with the Rotary speaker emulation, gives some very good results, even if – let’s face it – all approximations of a physical rotating speaker and a rotating horn, are expected to come short and be – at best – a glorified chorus effect. If someone wants a Leslie speaker sound, the only way is to use an actual Leslie and go through the pain of carrying it around. Nevertheless, the Reface’s Rotary speaker simulation is an effect that produces very rich sounds, with swirling bass and pulsing lows, and thus, it is destined to be used all the time for its own sake. Even as a Leslie simulation though, it is worthy, as it is designed to have the characteristic delay when accelerating from Slow to Fast, which is half of the enjoyment of using it, being the perfect tool for verse-to-chorus build-ups.

The V wave offers the rich, square wave tones of the Vox Continental. A very close approximation, with an added plus: The 9 Voice sliders, offer a much greater palette of sounds than the 4 drawbards the Continental had. Plus, the Continental offered 16”, 8”, 4” and 5 1/3” voices, while the Reface offers 9 different footages, making it possible to play sounds that the Continental wasn’t designed to play. This is a very big plus, since it permits the musician to escape the expected norm, given that 60 years of use of the Vox Continental in some of the most famous rock records ever (The Doors are the first example that comes in mind), has somewhat created some fixed expectations of how it should sound like.

The same goes for the next sound wave: F (for Farfisa). Of course, a Farfisa Compact has such an untamed sound that I am not sure anyone would notice if an extra footage or two were added to its sound. This wild, alive sound, was the strong point of the Compact, courtesy of a combination of a unique square wave design and an array of Germanium transistors in the oscillators and preamp. As expected, it is the only one of the emulations that isn’t very successful. This is not a bad thing though: Farfisas are still available on the 2nd hand market, so who wants one can have one. What we have in the F wave, is a really beautiful, lively and frisky organ sound, which becomes totally psychedelic and engaging with the Vibrato on, even if someone is playing simple, one-finger melodies.

The Acetone sound – marked “A” is a much more successful emulation, and it is the one sound suited for every garage, surf, trash, and lo-fi project one could dream of. Reedy, dirty and mean, as it should be.

Finally, the Y wave, is a faithful reproduction of the YC series sound, but with a catch: The YC series had 2 different sound banks – the Flute/mellow one, and the Reedy/Strings/harsh one. Only the mellow one was included, even if all possible needs for a mellow sound are already covered from the absolutely great H wave. Nevertheless, it is still a very usable section, with a characteristic clarity – bound to find its way in many recordings, since it has the ability to cut very clearly through almost any mix.

All these sounds are controlled from the 9 sliders mentioned above. Each slider controls a footage. A footage is practically the octave in which the note will play, and is measured in feet – a remnant of the era of pipe organs (feet measurement corresponds to pipe length)

The 9 footages are the “standard” Hammond footages: 16”, 5 1/3” 8”, 4”, 2 2/3”, 2”, 1 3/5”, 1 1/3”, 1”. So, a C key played with the 8” slider on will be an octave higher than the same C played with the 16” slider on. The sliders with fractions, produce different notes: A C key played using only 2 2/3 will play a G note. By adding the sound of the different sliders together, a very complex, rich in harmonics sound is produced, and it is possible to achieve a very big amount of control on the sound by using the fraction sliders accordingly.

This means that the amount of tones the Reface can produce is almost endless. This makes it a very expressive instrument, something that comes as a welcome exception in a family of instruments which are not very expressive by design – since the sound in an organ is either on or off, without any envelope variations.

The Percussion, which comes in 2 different flavors (mellow and sharp) with adjustable length, is another factor that adds to the versatility of this instrument. Apart of the usual implementation, as companion to the Hammond-like H wave, it can also be used for pseudo-harpsichord sounds (sharp), Hohner Pianet-like sounds (mellow) and with the addition of Vibrato, for a Marimba/Vibraphone-like effect.

The Vibrato has adjustable depth, but sadly fixed speed, and it’s very rich and organic – permitting some rather sci-fi effects on full depth. The chorus on the other hand, is a puzzling addition: It sounds almost exactly like the Vibrato (which was the only effect that all electric organs feature), any chorus effects are too quiet to be heard, and looks like an afterthought in an attempt to make the instrument more appealing to a younger generation and to non-organists who know what a Chorus pedal does, but not what vibrato is. It would have honestly been better if they didn’t include it: A Vibrato On/Off tab, as in every other organ before them, and a variable speed Vibrato control would have been the perfect set up.

Compensating for the useless Chorus, the YC has 2 more- yellow – sliders. In the original YC, the yellow color was reserved for the Strings slider, that is, for the slider producing the most exhilarating, delightfully ear-piercing sound. The meaning of the color coding remains the same: Reface’s 2 yellow sliders (labelled “Effects”) are Distortion and Reverb, do a great job in roughing up things.

Reverb was a feature in most upmarket organs in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Most were using a variation of the Hammond design (made today by Accutronics), and it was included in order to imitate the sound of either the Hammond or the Cathedral organ, but used to a totally different effect from rock musicians. Of course, in the Reface case we are talking about a digital reverb, as there would anyway be absolutely no space to fit a spring reverb unit in this tiny machine. It has a warm, dirty sound, bassy enough to fill the mix, but not enough to muddy it, and the slider seems to control both intensity and duration of the reflections. It is a very useful addition, since most keyboard players tend to hook the organ directly to the mixer than to use an amp, and it helps shape the sound.

The Distortion effect is mostly an Overdrive to be honest, since a real distortion would have created a total mess over the harmonics-rich sound of an organ. It very nicely set up as to warm up the sound significantly, but not to the point of forcing the musician to use power chords. It was designed as an imitation of the Hammond tube preamp overdrive, which gave a characteristic warm color to the sound, but, as with most other features of this organ, it goes beyond that: Adding it to any other wave – especially to the F, creates a dirty, fuzzy, buzzy, irresistible mix, putting the fun in organ playing, and making this little organ achieve the impossible: To stand next to a vintage Farfisa, Gem, or Vox organ in regards of how fun it is to play.

In a world where accountants have an equal say in designing a musical instrument as the actual designers, where efficiency is prioritized over personality, and practicality over fun, Yamaha offered the best thing possible: A product that can keep both the accountant happy and the designer proud, but most of all an instrument with a sound that will make a musician excited, while being cheap and really, really portable – two more reasons for excitement.

Korg Triton Studio 88-Key Synthesizer Workstation Keyboard Review

This is going to be a fairly unorthodox review of the Korg Triton Studio keyboard synth workstation (88-key version), because I will admit to you off the top that I am basically a newb.  As such, I can’t say that I know everything about this formidable beast of a workstation / sampler / keyboard, but I do have some experience with using it, as it happens.  In fact, I recently made a full length album with the help of the Korg Triton, as well as several DAW’s like Reason and Ableton Live, with the help of my buddy Curtis Maranda from Tiger Suit (pictured right).  The album we made is called All The Rad Snakes and I will link to it at the bottom of this review, if you’re interested.  For the record, I am Young Coconut, musician and recording artist for Fauxtown Records.

So, rather than pretend to be a tech geek, which I’m not, I will try to keep this review on the level to what I actually know about the Korg Triton Studio.  So let’s get started.

Korg TRITON Studio 88-Key Workstation Keyboard review

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One thing I can tell you about the Korg Triton off the top is that it is heavy and long.  And it takes up a lot of space.  I’m going to guess that it’s about 4 feet long, and frickin’ heavy.  Drop it on your foot and see.  Triton is a fitting name for this thing, because it is sort of all powerful in terms of what it can do.  In fact, I don’t even know all of what it can do – this machine is probably smarter than I am.  My familiarity with it comes from recording my album, and how I used it in particular.  I do know that this is more of a “retro” synth at this point, coming out in the ’90’s sometime, and possessing the ability to sound exactly like Fresh Prince of Bel Air if that’s what you’re after.  Many people use the Triton for beat making in a more serious and contemporary manner, such as this dude, King David of YouTube (BeatClass).

See, now this guy knows what he’s doing.  I couldn’t do that kind of thing by myself.  I still have miles to go when it comes to understanding all the ins and outs of this machine.  Be that as it may, let’s continue!

The Keyboard

Now, the Triton is foremost I would say a keyboard, and authentic one at that.  The one I used has the full 88-keys like a legit piano, and the keys are weighted like any good keyboard should be if you’re going to use it properly.  I’m not even a “real” piano player, but when I’m composing musical parts on a keyboard, I would say that the Triton has got to be one of the best I’ve ever used.  The keys are fully weighted as mentioned and when you bang something out on it, the sensitivity is there which you will need for certain dynamics in your song or playing.

Coupling the Triton with the Reason DAW in this case, I came up with many parts which we were able to make sound great just simply through performance on the Triton, and then in Reason we could make them sound even better by shifting a few notes around and changing the entire instrument sound as we are talking about MIDI notes here.  Here we are working on a new track and doing just that.  Playing stuff on the Triton and then fiddling around with the notes in Reason.  

For the album I did using the Triton, we did a lot of the changing of the sounds in Reason because it has some pretty good VST’s, but Triton also has countless synth samples that can be accessed, and you can refer to those in the guide which comes with it that shows your options for sounds, and there are a vast number.  I actually feel bad I didn’t use more sounds straight from the Triton, as you are definitely spoiled for choice in that department.  If you happen to get the manual along with this thing, it’s basically a monster tome of like 100-200 pages.  It’s not even called a manual, it’s called the “parameters guide” or something.  These guys at Korg back in the 90’s seriously expect you to be living the Triton life by handing you this guide.  You can put down the Bible or War and Peace because you will be too busy reading the guide to the frickin’ Triton and basing your life around that from now on.

Aesthetics and Body

Another thing I can talk about re: the Korg Triton is just the way it’s set up, and the overall look of it.  It looks great, IMO.  I love the silver grey body, and all of the switches and buttons are a uniform colour.  

This is sort of the opposite of a lot of synths and samplers today which light up and kind of look like the county fair.  The Triton is basically black white and grey, and I think it benefits from this utilitarian look.  You just get down to business right away – no distractions.  Even the computer screen it has sort of looks like a Gameboy – grey on grey.

Here’s a little joke video we made giving you a little tour of the Triton.  Sorry about the colour of the video – I accidentally turned the contrast all the way up and hit upload.  I kinda like it, I guess.

If I was shopping for a keyboard and I was a real piano player, I’d do well to have this thing because it can be a keyboard or it can be anything you want it to be.  It is durable as you can ask for in a synth keyboard, and I’ve had a couple others in my time, such as a very hefty Yamaha which was somewhat similar to this, with less functions.  Now, take a look at the back of this thing for a second…

This is where my non-tech background comes into play.  I know it has lots of places to run things in and out, but this isn’t really my area of expertise to be honest.

That said, it’s not too hard to understand.  You’ve got your in’s, your out’s, and they do what they do.  It’s all labelled quite clearly.  We had the Triton routed to some very large speakers – a Yamaha S215IV, as well as a Yamaha MSR800w.  This was for playback.  We also had it routed into the computer where we were using Reason and Ableton Live to put our tracks together.  We definitely weren’t using the full functionality of the Korg Triton.  For instance, we didn’t once use the SCSI port.  On the top side, we often used the toggle dial or the note-bender or whatever it’s called.  The thing on the left – definitely a cool thing.  What we didn’t do is play around with the ability to store samples and actually use this beast as the true workstation that it is.  You don’t *need* to route the Triton into your computer, but most DAW’s people use now are on laptops, so you’re probably going to have to.  That said, the Triton can be self contained.  If you use discs, it allows you to pop those in and save and load things that way, which we never did.  

Conclusion

Sure, I know there’s a ton more that can be said about the Korg Triton Studio.  But at this point I’m too ignorant to be the one to say much more.  I would say if you have access to this studio workstation, do use it.  I can’t see how you’d regret it.  If you get the chance to buy one, I’d recommend that also if you have a music production studio with all the trimmings.  This thing calls itself a “studio” and it is not kidding. 

If you have any comments about your experiences with the Korg Triton, please let us know in the comments below.  We love to hear from people!  Also, here’s my album that I made with the help of the Triton.  I can answer more specific questions if anyone has any.  Thanks for reading!

Yamaha PortaSound Voicebank PSS-170 Portable Toy Mini Keyboard Review

pss 170 porta sound by yamaha

Toy keyboards – the kind with miniature keys and built-in speakers that are made of plastic – are a popular purchase these days by people who are into unique-sounding analog music gear and aren’t brainwashed into thinking that music has to be made with thousand dollar equipment.

PortaSound ’80’s Entry Level Mini Keyboards for Beginner Players

yamaha portasound

yamaha pss480

childhood-concussions-signs-symptoms-and-prevention-methods-3

Back in the ’80’s, you simply never knew what would happen, although I’m pretty sure a lot of parents and grandparents hoped that by buying their kid a PortaSound keyboard, they might have the next Rachmaninoff on their hands. Instead, they probably heard a lot more stuff like this playing incessantly from the rec room.

pss 170 boxed

Yamaha PSS-170 PortaSound Portable Toy Mini Keyboard Review

Main Switches

pss-170 close up

Keys and Drum Beats

pss 170 keys and drum machine

Voices, Effects

voice bank pss 170 up close

In the above pic, you can see why this thing emphasizes that it is indeed a “voice bank”, because someone took the time to jam a whole helluva lotta different keyboard “voice” effects into this tiny beast.

Voice Selector

voice selector

Headphones / Aux Out / DC In

Feature Pick

Yamaha Electronic Keyboard Portasound Pss-170

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Here’s a song that Chad plays with the PSS-170 under his pseudonym, Telson Delmer, called “evening for penguins”…

young coconut musician

M Audio Key Station 88 II Review

m-audio-keystation-2-review

Home recording is becoming more and more important for musicians. With a more DIY approach for bands and producers, it’s important to have some good quality recording equipment.

Feature Pick

M-Audio Keystation 88 Ii | 88-Key Usb Midi Keyboard Controller With Pitch-Bend & Modulation Wheels

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The M Audio Key Station 88 II is a perfect example of such equipment, an 88 key midi controller that’s ideal for both recording and practice. The top of the keyboard has 88 keys, octave up and down buttons as well as modulation and volume wheels. These features are very useful for users as they allow more control over the initial sound coming into the DAW and help you find the tone that you are looking for quite a bit easier.

One of the features of this midi controller is the semi weighted; touch sensitive keys, which give the keyboard a real life piano feel. This is allows the player to give a more dynamic performance when recording when compared to other midi controllers of this kind.  This controller uses a USB to Midi connection, allowing the keyboard to be connected to a PC or Mac and be used to record onto any DAW. The keyboard comes with a USB cable, which allows you to plug straight your PC and start recording straight away. A third party power supply can also be used to power the controller.

m-audio-keystation-88-ii-review

The keyboard comes with some software programs, allowing you to record and compose music of your own. One of these pieces of software is Abelton Live Lite. This is useful piece of software which allows the user to write, record and produce with ease. Abelton Live Lite can also be used for live performance.

Soni-Vox 88 Ensemble is another piece of software included with the keyboard, this includes a number of different piano patches of varying tone for you to use at your disposal, for recording and practicing. With piano sounds from different genres and styles this program will help improve your compositions and get that piano tone that you are looking for.

88-key-usb-midi-keyboard-controller-with-pitch-bend

As well as being used for recording and production purposes the Key station 88 can also be used for live performance. With a MIDI out jack connection, the controller can be connected to a synthesiser or external sound module. The advantage of this is that it can allow the Key station 88 to be used as part of a keyboard rig for a live performance; this is great for musicians on a budget as the cost of a professional level keyboard will be much higher than this cheaper alternative.

Pros

88 keys – The full length 88 keys are a good feature for this midi controller; it allows piano players an easier transition from playing a real acoustic piano to this realistic controller. It also makes practice and performance a lot more practical with good quality keys at a full length.

Versatile – This keyboard is suitable for both beginners and advanced pianists. The touch sensitivity as well as semi weighted keys make this a perfect learning tool for beginner piano players who want an acoustic piano feel and the ability to control dynamics. The durability and lightweight of this controller also make it perfect for professional travelling musicians.

Price – At an average of around £150 the M Audio Keystation is a great price for an 88 key controller.  Considering that other 88 key controllers can costs hundreds or even thousands of pounds this is a great deal. Also as this controller can be used for live performance via a sound module, the multiple uses for the product add to the value.

m-audio-keystation-88-ii-keyboard-controller Cons

Mackie Control problems – The Key station uses a Mackie control function which has its problems. When using the Mackie controls in your DAW it can become frustrating as setting up each control for each key can be a tedious job. Also the Mackie controls have a tendency to get in the way of performance while recording into your computer. I wouldn’t recommend using the Mackie control setting from personal experience however other users may find it less taxing.

No expression pedal included – Although a small detail, the lack of expression pedal could be disappointing for piano players expecting one included. The keyboard does however have an input for an external expression pedal to be attached; however one being included would have been the cherry on top of this otherwise great product.

Conclusion

Overall this is a good quality product, perfect for beginners and experienced musicians alike. With 88 keys, USB connectivity and a number of different software included the M Audio Keystation 88 II is a great addition to any studio.

Korg SP-250 Digital Piano Keyboard Review

korg sp250 keyboard review

Overview Of the Korg SP-250 Digital Piano / Keyboard

korg sp250 keyboard review

What can I say about the SP-250 digital piano / keyboard by Korg other than mainly good things? 88 keys and 30 sounds are more than enough for most players out there.  The Korg SP-250 includes 3 different levels of reverb and chorus that allows you to create some unique effects. You can even combine two sounds, allowing you to create a wide variety of new instruments. The possibilities of this keyboard are numerous, if not endless, and whether you want to use it to practice classical piano, to play with your band, or even to use it to record or with MIDI, the Korg SP-250 gives you a lot of tools to use it for your music.  

Here’s a quick video demo of the Korg SP-250 digital piano / keyboard from TurnerGuitarStudio1.


Weighted Keys A Plus

The SP-250 has 88 keys with different weights depending if the keys are low notes or high notes, emulating a real piano. Some people around forums tend to criticize the heavier weigh these keys have compared to other electric pianos in the market. For me it’s a plus, since I bought it originally to practice piano it allowed me to develop strength in my fingers and didn’t found problem when playing with real pianos. Although it may be not suitable for organ players, but you should not criticize the keys if your fingers are not use to “real work”. You can even adjust the intensity of the playing allowing you to produce a louder sound with less force or the opposite.

Sliders

The volume and the metronome have sliders which is for me another big plus. In regarding the volume it’s perfect to create crescendos or even fade in effects (I used it when recording and it sounded awesome!). Metronomes using buttons may be tedious for some people especially when it resets after turning the key off.  It also allows you to configure a specific metronome tempo with the use of the keys and also different tempos number (you should check the manual for that), although complex tempos such as 5/4 are not supported (unless you have the cheat codes for that).

The ability to transpose and also fine tuning are great too, and it has also 3 different types of tuning for a more baroque sound (Werckmeister and Kirmberger III tuning). Another interesting thing is that the piano’s effects have the low notes pitch slightly lower and high notes pitch slightly higher emulating a real piano tuning used by professional piano tuners.

Feature Pick

Korg Sp250Bk – 88

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Create New Sounds / Customization

10 sounds with 3 different banks for each (some backs even have different sound such as vibes and guitar in the same sound). The possibility to add 3 levels of reverb and chorus allows some interesting combinations such as a normal piano with chorus for a different type of electric piano. Also the possibility to combine two different sounds to create interesting combinations.

The quality of the real piano sounds are excellent for me. I didn’t find them bad at all, and the electric piano itself also sounds incredible. Maybe harpsichord and clavichord are not my thing but they sound much better than other electric pianos out there.  The strings and pads also sound very nice and choir is a very nice sound to experiment with.

But for me the best sound in this instrument is the organ. Specially the Hammond type of organ. I find it amazing! I couldn’t really tell the difference between this sound and a real organ in a record. I use it a lot to play in bands and it’s just great.

Watch this video demo from Kraft Music that goes over some of these features of the Korg SP-250 Digital Piano / Keyboard

What Else Is There To Say About The Korg SP-250?

The stand it comes with is very solid, I had mine for years and although it has some parts which have bent, due to some bad treatment (my bad) it’s still very solid and doesn’t move when I’m playing.  Very resiliant!

The sustain pedal is also very great with a very nice design, it only stopped working after years of use but it was nothing I could fix myself. Not a problem in the circuit really but in the rubber that makes contact with it. It had also a lot of bad treatment. My bad!

The only complaint should be its weight. 19 kg or 41.8 lb, but a good weight in the keys comes with a price right?

korg-88-key-digital-piano

As a MIDI controller it doesn’t have the possibilities a normal MIDI control will have but it serves it function and you can even adjust the MIDI channel it will use. You can even connect a MIDI controller and use it to combine the two of them for more power!

It has two speakers allowing you to hear the sounds in stereo. When playing low notes they will come out louder on the left and when playing high notes they will come out louder on the right.

Two stereo phones output and two outputs in the back (L and R/MONO) allow you to play with a friend and be quiet at the same time or the possibility to record two separate tracks when in the studio.

One Last Gripe

One more complaint I have is the demo function. I don’t see the need of it in a piano I consider to be suitable for professionals, but I guess the need to include a wider public is necessary.

Regarding to the polyphony it has the possibility to play 60 notes at the same time for most sounds and 30 for sounds that use two samples (had a lot of fun using it to create interesting ambient effects). Reverb takes 10 notes out of the polyphony and chorus, 3.

Not So Famous Last Words

In conclusion, my opinion after year of using it for different purposes such as classical piano studies or playing in a band is that despite not having a wide variety of sounds, the ones it has must be useful for playing most of the styles out there. Whether you are going to use it to practice in your home or for recording, or even for band practice or live playing (although you are going to need strong arms to carry it more than 3 block) it’s a good choice.  I had mine for years and it went through different treats. It’s very robust and handles well a lot of hit (a lot!). It looks good also, with wooden detail and a good looking panel without unnecessary buttons. Very intuitive, It’s easy to start using it right away. An excellent choice for any serious musician.