What keyboard should I buy? Criteria inside.
June 1, 2010 2:30 PM   Subscribe

What keyboard should I buy? Criteria inside.

I've looked through past Ask posts and still am nowhere closer to figuring out which keyboard to buy. Looking for a keyboard that meets the following vague-ish criteria:

Price - My goal is to spend less than $500, but I would be willing to spend more if I thought it was worth it

Weighted keys - Doesn't have to be exactly the same as a piano, but should be it'd be nice to be able to jump to piano without too much difficulty

49 keys > 88 keys - Looking for something somewhat portable. If I had the space, I'd still own a piano.

Sounds - This is where I get confused between digital pianos, synths, & MIDI controllers. I want an instrument I can play on its own without having to hook it up to a computer...

Headphone jack - ...or a keyboard amp.

MIDI - Easy to plug in to & use with my MacBook Pro & GarageBand

Some sliders & knobs - Pitch wheel & Mod wheel are the big ones, but this is admittedly less important

Follow-up question - What do you all think about buying used?
posted by cuando to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My goal is to spend less than $500

You may want to look on Craigslist with that budget, given that some of your criteria will be difficult to meet (weighted keys, particularly).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:43 PM on June 1, 2010

all of your criteria are for a controller, more than a synth. the key differentiator here is going to be what kind of sounds you want. realistic? 80s analog synths? late 80s digital synths? My advice would be to get a controller you want (go to guitar center / wherever and check out the M-Audio Axiom series. Semi-weighted, aftertouch, more knobs and sliders than you can shake a stick at), and you can look into buying a rackmounted synth unit to match it.

From the sound of it, though, you want a nord electro, but they run ~2k.
posted by CharlesV42 at 3:31 PM on June 1, 2010

Yeah, you won't find a new keyboard with these criteria in that price range.

You can probably find a used Korg TR or something. There's a 61 key model, and I think it's weighted.

You can go for the Korg X50, but the keys are not weighted. Lots of synth controls, extensive patch bank, and it's not the newest model. $700 most places.

I like Korgs. Others probably have some good ideas in e.g. Yamaha.
posted by those are my balloons at 3:45 PM on June 1, 2010

What about something like the Casio CDP-100? I neither own one nor know anyone with one, but the features listed match up to what you're looking for and it definitely costs less than $500. Search around for reviews to see if it might suit you.

88 Graded hammer keys for real acoustic feel and sound
3 levels of touch sensitivity plus ability to switch sensitivity off
5 tones, 32-note polyphony, 8 digital effects and 5 demo songs
Headphone jack so you can play without disturbing others
MIDI capable
Transpose and layer functions
Sustain pedal included

posted by cincinnatus c at 4:07 PM on June 1, 2010

Think about analog keyboards. There are some you can buy used for around $500 (my Rolands JX-3P and 8P were), and I personally think they sound better than digital. MIDI, I think, is standard from the 80's onwards.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 7:24 PM on June 1, 2010

I just acquired a used Casio CDP-100, like cincinnatus recommended, which is very lightweight and portable for a keyboard with 88 good weighted hammer action keys. It has MIDI, internal speakers and so can be used to play on without connecting anything else. It's a nice, portable digital piano.

But, it has no sliders or wheels to control anything. It doesn't have a 1/4" line out, only a 1/8" headphone jack. And it has limited internal sounds-- a couple of different pianos, an electric piano, a clavinet and synth strings.

In this price range, for weighted keys, you can also look at the Korg SP-170, the Yamaha NP30 (semi-weighted, 76 keys, portable) or Yamaha P85. I found the piano action on the Casio electronic pianos to be closest to my preference. Besides the CDP-100, you can also find the PX-130 in your price range, although like the CDP-100 it also lacks a standard 1/4" output, to get that requires stepping up to the PX-330.

A used keyboard will be a better value. For a more synth-like keyboard, a used Alesis QS6.1 is a nice and versatile 61- key synth.
posted by andrewraff at 11:15 AM on June 2, 2010

Yamaha EX5 is the way to go! My friend has been a pro keyboardist for 40 yrs and he's still using it til this day. According to him, it's the best synthesizer ever.
posted by dustoff at 11:31 AM on June 2, 2010

I'm sorry, I forgot the fact that you wanted weighted keys. EX5 doesn't have weighted keys. My apologies!
posted by dustoff at 12:53 PM on June 2, 2010

Late to the party, but I picked up a Casio CDP-200R at Costco a while back for just under $500 with a stand and a tiny "bench." The key weight is decent and the action feels much better (to me, fairly decent amateur player) than most el cheapo models.

Price under $500, if you look in the right places

Weighted keys yes

49 keys > 88 keys Sorry, no...but I think if you want weighted keys, it's going to be unusual for there not to be the normal number of them

Sounds - Has internal speakers, plays fine with no amp/computer as long as you don't want to be TOO loud

Headphone jack yes, has headphone jack/amp out of the larger variety (1/4"? not the type you find on your iPod)

MIDI - worked fine with Finale on my Macbook

Some sliders & knobs yes pitch wheel, no (I think) for anything fancier

I had avoided buying a keyboard for a long time because they always feel so fake to me, and was holding out for a real piano...but this really feels fine, especially considering the price. Might be worth finding one in a store somewhere and playing around with it a bit.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:22 AM on June 9, 2010

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