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PORTABLE KEYBOARD AMPS


Derek Sherinian

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Speaking for myself (but I think a lot of people here do the same thing), I don't need features beyond lightweight, good sound quality, and enough volume to hear myself. All my signal processing and mixing of multiple keyboards happens before it's sent to the amp. For this reason, I'm just using a powered 12" PA speaker/monitor.

 

Edit - I really like the YouTube videos you've been putting up showing your gear and soloing techniques, etc!

"If you can't dazzle them with dexterity, baffle them with bullshit."
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Most threads on here about amps end up discussing powered monitors--seems like most people that have stage volume at all (vs just using IEMs) are using a powered monitor or two. If not "most" then "many". They are usually lighter, smaller and can give more clarity (especially for piano) in my experience. Plus you can use them for a small PA or wedges if you need that flexibility. ymmv!
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Tube appeals in guitar amp, I play guitar through an all tube Mesa Boogie Mark V, but for keys I use a solid state EV ZLX 12P because I do not want its tonal balance to change as I crank the volume or drive the pre-amp harder.

 

Tube amps may be of interest to keyboard players who lust after a modern Fender Twin but I suspect that would be a small number of folk. Light weight clean sounding powered PA's or the SSV3 seem to be the overwhelming choice here for small to medium gigs.

MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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What features would your ultimate amp have? And are your complaints about current amps out on the market? Thank you for your time!

Although I often use a small PA cabinet for better sound quality, If I could design a keyboard amp, I'd start with my favorite, the discontinued Roland SA300, and fix what's wrong with it.

 

The good: 2 piece configuration means (a) nothing is too heavy, (b) the mixing controls are placed at a convenient height and location, © the woofer is on the ground which helps bass, (d) the high frequency drivers are at a reasonable height to project, without having to bring or bother putting the speaker up on a speaker stand. All those benefits come strictly from its physical design, having nothing to do with components or features! Apart from that, It goes loud enough for the use you're talking about. The stereo enhancement circuit ("wide"), while not in spacestation league, is a nice feature that does make a leslie organ effect more authentic and not as much like it's "coming out of a box" as the sound seems to be thrown somewhat "outside" the box.

 

What could be improved: Sound quality is just okay... (a) it does not have the midrange neutrality to do as nice a piano sound as, say, the EV ZXa1; (b) high end rolls off too much, and if you boost treble to compensate, it's very noisy; © an adequate but surprisingly not very powerful low end, considering that it has a 12" woofer. I suspect the SA300 could be designed with more oomph today--and lighter weight--if it were to be updated with a class D amp (and maybe a ported enclosure for the woofer).

 

Other than sonic qualities, my main gripe with it is in the limitations of the "mixer." (1) There is a global 3 band EQ, but I wish there were individual EQ for each channel. At the very least, each channel should have a low cut (HPF) button. (Bass and treble on each channel would be nice, and if even just one channel added a parametric midrange control, that would be even better.) (2) As I mentioned, the stereo enhancement circuit is nice, but I hate that it's global... I'd want to be able to switch it on or off for each input channel, so I could, for example, route the rotary organ effect through the stereo enhancement (where it sounds great) but not the piano (where any such processing usually degrades the sound too badly). Or vocals (where that processing can make it more prone to feedback).

 

Some general comments:

 

Having some number of inputs supporting Mic is useful (not sure it has to be 4, but definitely at least 1), but I don't see a need for "Voice Enhancer" -- if the amp sounds good and neutral, you shouldn't need it for general use; and for specific use for a singer who wants to goose his or her voice, a separate box (like the TC Helicons) would be the better way to go anyway. Anti-feedback on at least one mic channel is a cool idea, but in practice, I never felt it worked all that well, so at least in the case of what's already there, I wouldn't miss it if it were gone. The Reverb on each channel is useful, I don't find the Delay essential. (All you need is reverb to make sure stuff isn't too dry... if you want something more sophisticated than that, I'd use what's in the boards or again an external box.) As for "back panel connections," the SA-300 is pretty good, maybe even overkill. One set of RCAs is enough. I've never used a footswitch on it. One thing I wish it did have is a "dummy" jack to plug the other end of the head's speaker cable into during transport, so I could safely leave the amp side of that patch cord attached to the head.

 

Of course, with digital processing getting so cheap and ubiquitous, you could also take a page from the Behringer playbook and have reverb and EQ for each channel controlled through your iphone or whatever, if you want to go in that direction.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Are most of the keyboard amps on the market solid state? Does the idea of a tube keyboard amp appeal to anyone?

I liked the idea of there being 1 or 2 tube channels along with some solid state inputs... who did that, Traynor? I really like that in theory... organ, some EP, and maybe clav sounds could benefit from the tube, piano and "true" sounding strings/brass/etc. not. That gets more complicated as people often use the same boards for both kinds of sounds, so then you'd want a footswitch so that you could take your keyboard and route it either into a tube channel or a non-tube channel of your amp at will.

 

The bigger issue for me with a tube amp is weight. Anything decent is heavy, as far as I've seen. But maybe there could be two versions of that "modified SA-300" I described... one with this tube feature and one without. At least the two-piece approach helps keep the weight more manageable regardless.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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The Peavey Nashville 400 is my favorite. Although heavy it's a monster amp for keys. It is SS and is one of those that is always in demand.

 

Musicale

 

Never thought of playing playing Keys through a N400 but my favorite Steel rig is 2 Nashville 400s in stereo. But if I'm carrying my own stuff ... (which I have for the last three years) a single N400 will do. That damn mid shift control. It was a hard amp for me to figure out how to dial in. With steel it basically sounds good on one group of EQ settings. I took a Sharpie and marked the control panel.

 

The new Peavey Session 115 looks really cool. Peavey jumped the gun and brought the prototype out to some steel shows too soon. That was a 2 edged sword. They got some really good feedback from the players but also some of the players there were a little horrified at the work that still needed to be done on the prototype.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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High fidelity without a tweeter or horn. Impossible i know, except its not. Many PA arrays do it. Im tired of distorted organ blowing HFdrivers.

 

Ok i thought about it a little more. How about an amp with a piano channel with a crossover and horn and a separate input voiced for organ that bypasses

the crossover. I havent seen that done.

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I'd like sound quality like my powered EV speaker. In fact what I'd like is my EV powered speaker to have the following additional features:

 

- 1500 watt amplifier rather than the current 1000 watt

- 4 input channels that are all able to accept TS, TRS and XLR

- independent channel EQ'ing w/ sweepable mids

- effects that can independently applied to any/all channels

- 35 pounds maximum

- wheels and handle included

 

While we're at it an optional leslie 100 watt horn and simulated low rotor like Motion sound did with the KBR3D with a tube-staged front-end (pre-amp).

-$499 street price

57 Hammond B3; 69 Hammond L100P; 68 Leslie 122; Kurzweil PC3; M-Audio Code 61; Voce V5+; Neo Vent; EV ELX112P; GSI Gemini & Burn

https://dyinbreedband.wixsite.com/dyinbreedband/home

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Hi, I am doing some research on portable keyboard amps that you would use on a club or wedding style gig.

For this type of gig my dream amp would have very high fidelity (i.e, similar to the RCF TT08A's that I use now) which is necessary to get a good acoustic piano sound out of a digital piano, provide a sense a space (i.e., like the SpaceStation V3) which is especially important for stereo sounds like Leslie emulation, have two stereo inputs channels, weigh less than 40 lbs., and cost less than $2,000. It shouldn't require any poles or stands -- simply place it on the floor, wire it up, play, and project great sound to the player, band, and audience!

www.alquinn.com
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My ideal all-in-one keyboard amp would be a Spacestation that included a built-in mixer like the Traynor K4, with at least 3 input channels, a stereo tube preamp on at least one channel, and stereo DI outputs with ground lift.

Live: Roland Jupiter-80; Yamaha S70XS (#1); Mackie 1202VLZ4, IEMs or Traynor K4

Home: Hammond SK Pro 73; Yamaha S70XS (#2); Wurlitzer 200A

Quik-Lok X stands!!!

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Max weight: single unit, 45 pounds with well-mounted handles.

Max spend: after $1K my enthusiasm wanes.

Focus: pristine, full stereo sound with exceptional clarity for APs.

Need for lots of inputs, channel: none, use a small mixer.

Watts: doesn't matter as long as it can fill a modest venue and cut through the clutter.

 

I agree with Aspen: do one thing well vs. trying to please all parties. And the current SpaceStation is pretty darn close to this list.

 

 

Life is too short to be playing bad music.

 

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Does the idea of a tube keyboard amp appeal to anyone?
It does to me. I wonder if it's possible to do a dual-12", all-tube around 45 pounds. And if so, would it be loud enough to hang with full rock band in small venues.

 

--

backstory info to frame my input: I'm a novice with keyboard amplification, even if passionate.

 

I wonder if the higher weight to volume ratio of all-tube is too much of a turn-off. I just did a loud outdoors show, where my twin, just left & behind me, was my monitor & contributed to my PA feed. I was also given a floor wedge at my right. I had the twin's Master Level at about 4-5. In other words, I figure a less powerful amp and lighter amp would have worked well. But, I suspect the pair of 12's is a fundamental part of what I enjoyed, even at lower volumes. I figure two 12's plus it's box are the major part of it's weight. From there, I wildly guess that the X tubes: Y power ratio affects overall weight at a lower percentage than the 12 pair call.

 

I have wondered what it would be like to have a twin-like experience that was not voiced for electric guitar. Given the choice, I would dilly-dally at going for the one that optimizes lower weight at sacrificed power. Or the one that could handle power, when there's no other sound support. The lighter weight one would be the one I used most. The powerful one is the one that can save the day on a non-professional, unsupported sound stint. As I've got my power needs handled, today I would go for the lower weight, lower power. I think Aspen's SSv3 nails that broadly speaking, most-used need.

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What would be the maximum weight in a keyboard combo amp that you would consider hauling to a gig?

In a single box, I *might* stretch to about 35 lbs if it was really killer. The Roland approach of two boxes that are 25 lbs each works for me. Pricewise, maybe up to a grand.

 

For under $1100 you can get a pair of 19 pound EV ZXa1 speakers and a small mixer. That's a high bar to cross in sound quality for the weight and price. The only reason I often gig with the SA300 is the setup/operational ergonomics.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Does the idea of a tube keyboard amp appeal to anyone?
It does to me. I wonder if it's possible to do a dual-12", all-tube around 45 pounds. And if so, would it be loud enough to hang with full rock band in small venues.

 

...

 

Yes it is possible.

 

The Motion Sound KP-500SN is two 12" stereo amp. 500 watts per side. The stock amp weighs 58 pounds. The 12" drivers are ferrite magnet Eminence Beta-12A speakers. These speakers weigh in at 11 pounds each. Replace those drivers with 5 pound Neodyniums ... something like a Deltalites 2512s and the amp now weighs 46 pounds and all you have done is change the 12" speakers.

 

You can do other stuff like louder/lighter class D amps. Neodynium horn drivers. Lighter cabinet materials etc....

 

It will cost more. The price difference between the Deltalites 2512s and Beta-12A speakers is about $55 each. This speaker swap may tag another $110 on to the cost of a $1300 amp. I'm not sure exactly how the cost of materials would really be impacted. I'm just looking at the retail cost of raw speakers

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I always wanted to hear the Roland 300 two piec amp but non around anywhere Now something else has my interest and may be a solution. Anyone try out the JBL Eon One yet? Looks like it would be a good choice for small/ medium gigs. One piece, easy setup, mixer w/reverb.

I'm thinking of two for my Arranger keyboard and for DJing. Been getting some very positive reviews

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