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Have PA Speakers made Keyboard Amplifiers obsolete?


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PAs win for high power and high fidelity.

 

Kbd amps win for mixer sections and convenience. A keyboard amp with stereo 2 way speakers kind of blurs the lines.

Moe

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"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com

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I've got a Yamaha DXR10 - it's powerful, clear sounding, yet compact and portable. No keyboard amp I've ever used sounds as good or is as portable. Any mixing is done through the Kronos, so for me Keyboard amps are unnecessary. But then so is the DXR10 really as I've switched to IEMs.

Roland RD700NX

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Korg Kronos2 61

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PA speakers have always out performed Keyboard amps. I"ve never owned a 'keyboard amp". But

Keyboard amps are nice and convenient all in 1 solutions. My best sounding rig is still my thunderous twin 3-way passive cabinets / mini personal PA rig. Most of my peers used similar rigs from the 70s through 90s or early 00s.

"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 use to have a Barbetta keyboard amp I loved. A couple of friends had Motion Sound amps. As the lightweight, self-powered PA cabs became available we pretty much all switched over. After I switched, a chap in NYC drove two hours each way to buy the Barbetta from me. He had always used that brand and they were the sound he was used to. He was very pleased to add to his collection. These days, in my experience, the keyboard player is most typically using self-powered PA speakers.
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understand the fidelity advantage of PA speakers (used to haul around a pair myself with mixer etc .. kind of a pain) ... but currently using a Motion Sound MS500 (don't need the KBR-3D anymore, the internal leslie sim in my XK1c works just fine) .... the MS500 is convenient to setup up , sounds good ... XLR out to our mains PA and away I go ......don't think the average bar patron notices any diff :)

PC1x, Hammond XK1c, Deep Mind 6, MS500 (gig rig)

Kurz PC4, Mini Moog Model D, Little Phatty, Hammond M3, Leslie 145, viscount op-3, Behringer model D, Roland GAIA.. (home studio)

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I recently bought the first keyboard I"ve ever liked. It"s a Motion Sound 610. It sounds very good, weight is reasonable, cost is good. I find it more convenient to just place a keyboard amp where I want it and play. I also have a pair of TT08A powered speakers. They sound wonderful, are light, but expensive. On gigs, placement is the issue. And, there"s a bit more involved with the schlep and setup/breakdown.

 

I posted a short comparison on YouTube for anyone who"s interested.

 

[video:youtube]

www.alquinn.com
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I have found that my KB300 keyboard amp actually sounds better for organ than my EV PA speakers; a leslie speaker is actually Lo-Fi rather than Hi-Fi and the KB300 is better at producing the Lo-Fi sound; the PA speaker is much brighter and brighter sometimes is not always better; in the case of organ the tweeter makes the sound too bright and sometimes too thin; the KB300 doesn't produce that hi-fi tweeter sound, which is desperately needed for other instrument emulations.

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

Dyin Breed Band

Exit 93 Band

 

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Keyboard amps will always have a legitimate role as mixer/stage monitor/send source. Many players, usually on the novice end of the spectrum, used amps when they should use PA speakers. They're using a tool the wrong way, which contributes to a perception that there's something wrong with the tool. Then again, you can't expect every novice player to own both an amp and a PA system.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

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There's room for both. I still keep a Barbetta keyboard amp for the gigs where I don't need much volume and don't need an external mixer. But the Barbetta doesn't project or put out enough volume for a club gig so the PA speakers are the better solution.
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Barbetta's were great amps. I've been using a pair of them for 25 years. Loud & clean... But now that they're really starting to show their age I've gone to a pair of powered PA speakers. Really happy with them.

No complaints here, especially after seeing what kind of kybd amps are on the market.

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I've learned a huge amount from forum members about improving my amplification - the last couple years I've run around town with a single EV ZLX-12p and I've been considering a Motion Sound amp on the advice of many here. But here is one thing that I have never, ever understood and that maybe folks can explain: how the hell are so many of you bringing two PA speakers plus poles/stands to gigs for your own sound? This just baffles me. What are these venues that allow you the space to set up a full PA behind you as monitors? I can think of maybe two or three venues in all of Washington, DC that have the stage space for that (the Kennedy Center?) The sound guys in the professional clubs here would raise eyebrows to the roof if I ever showed up with my own PA speakers on poles in addition to the venue's floor monitors and mains. Beyond the space issue, it'd be a big joke among musicians on the scene to play with the keyboardist who lugs a PA up on stage just for his own sound. No shade intended and I know that's only one setup of many advocated on these boards - just genuinely curious about the logistics of how this works!

 

For what my take is worth (very little), all of the above is why I'm looking at a Motion Sound - it's literally the only stereo amplification option that is physically possible to use for gigs in my city. Apologies for the long post - maybe I'm diving into the details because I just miss gigging..

Numa X Piano 73 | Yamaha CP4 | Mojo 61 | Motion Sound KP-612s | Hammond M3

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I have been 98% IEMs now for just about a decade. I had shifted to using powered speakers a few years before going IEM and still have QSC K10s available if needed. That said, I also really like the Motion Sound stereo amps like the KP500SN and similar (I believe the model number changed over the years). I have a 500SN in my music room that I use for playing at home and it works great. If I was doing a pick-up jam session where IEMs would be hard to logistically manage, I'd likely grab the Motion Sound and be happy with that.
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how the hell are so many of you bringing two PA speakers plus poles/stands to gigs for your own sound? This just baffles me. What are these venues that allow you the space to set up a full PA behind you as monitors?

 

My two-PA-speaker rig (+laptop & case), at a tiny restaurant I played a while back. No venue I've played has ever had a problem with this.

 

my-rig.jpg

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I've only had one "keyboard amp" way back in the 80's, don't even remember the brand, not one that exists today. Never wanted another. My first GOOD amp was a Fender Bassman 135, with a 2x15" JBL Fender cab. Sounded great on both my RD Artist bass and my Prophet 600 at the time. Sadly, I did sell the amp/speaker cab. Only kept a 1x15" solid state MusicMan bass amp that was smaller, and didn't sound as good. When I returned to music in 2004, still had the RD Artist and the MusicMan.

Then I got a Kurzweil K2000VP, and picked up 2x15 Fender cab (not the JBL, the thin one) along with a British Trace Elliot amp, which was power FETs and sounded like a tube amp. Still have the head, but use now with a Trace 1x15 and 2x10+horn cabs; but it is way to heavy at my age to carry around. Does sound great on bass or synth bass.

For the general keyboard sound, I got my first Powered PA pair, couple of "DJ" low priced. Would have been OK for vocals, but had a pronounced peak about an octave and half below middle C, right where bass playing went. First quality PA was pair of JBL EON10G2 and pair of EON15G2, still in use (10's on wife's PC2X, and 15's as my monitors at church. Wanted something easier to carry, got a pair of EV SXA-100+, still in use in my shop/studio, and a pair of QSC K10, still in use for portable.

I do still have a single "keyboard amp", a Roland CM-30 Cube (6.5" speaker). Really nice for my micro-rig (iKeyx Pro 37, iPad mini, and the CM-30) for doing an "acoustic" set, not enough power for much else. It does sound good for the limited purposes that it is used on.

Also have a highly modded Fender US made Blues Jr - all tube, pair of 6BQ5 power, modded to have response like a tiny version of a Twin Reverb, used mostly with autoharp or Epiphone Les Paul guitar.

All those items that I still have were bought 8 to 10 years ago. They all still do what I need. Yeah, there are some new ones out there that might be better (defined as same sound with lighter weight to carry); but not enough to spend more money.

Howard Grand|Hamm SK1-73|Kurz PC2|PC2X|PC3|PC3X|PC361; QSC K10's

HP DAW|Epi Les Paul & LP 5-str bass|iPad mini2

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Jim

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On a concept level, this isn't complicated:

 

1) on stage with a band, audience hears the PA = keyboard amp because convenience outweighs sound quality

 

2) audience is hearing your amplification only, no additional sound reinforcement = powered speakers because sound quality outweighs convenience.

-- exception . . . sometimes event is so casual convenience outweighs sound quality regardless

 

3) If priority is to achieve a single point stereo effect, such as giving max effect to a leslie sim, a Space Station or Motion Sound might do that better than dual speakers.

 

 

What's complicated is that most of us can't have 3 or 4 different amplification configurations, so we decide what to buy based on what we think our most common scenario will be. That doesn't mean we disagree on the concepts, it just means we have different priorities for investment in gear.

 

For me, it's mostly scenarios #1 and 3, so I've got a Space Station + sub. So far, #2 scenarios haven't been frequent enough to invest in powered speakers.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

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how the hell are so many of you bringing two PA speakers plus poles/stands to gigs for your own sound? This just baffles me. What are these venues that allow you the space to set up a full PA behind you as monitors?

 

My two-PA-speaker rig (+laptop & case), at a tiny restaurant I played a while back. No venue I've played has ever had a problem with this.

 

my-rig.jpg

 

That is a very cool and compact setup! Really dig those foldout box stands - I can see how they allow you to set up stereo in clubs or restaurants, though some of the tighter bar stages I've played might be trouble. I do know a lot of people here use poles and stands that lean back, though - those are the options that I wonder about, spacewise.

Numa X Piano 73 | Yamaha CP4 | Mojo 61 | Motion Sound KP-612s | Hammond M3

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I will try to find a picture of how I used powered speakers at gigs, though it has been a while. I would have them on either side of me or behind me on the floor, tilted back as monitors, with lines sent to FOH for keys. I did not use my monitors to supply sound to compete with multiple guitars, horns, etc.
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My $0.02: Yes. Yes they have.

 

I gigged on a Roland KC-500 for years and appreciated the built-in mixing and XLR outputs. The sound was terrible â boxy midrange scoop bookended by ear-bleed treble and flatulent bass. I used it from the mid-1990s until 2000, and the problem is, keyboard combo amps really haven't improved all that much since. By today's standards, they're heavy and underpowered. Powered stage monitors OTOH have made leaps and bounds, thanks largely to lightweight class-D amp topology. A pair of 10-inchers like the QSC K10.2 or Yamaha DXR-10 will easily double as your stage monitors and the main source the audience hears, the sound quality is pristine, they can get loud AF, and they're easy to schlep. Compare the current stuff to predecessors such as the original Mackie SRM-450 or JBL EON15, and it's a night and day difference.

 

I would be curious to see a company like QSC take on a true stereo keyboard amp with the same production values as their K series speakers. Three or four channels of stereo analog in plus USB, high-quality mixer circuits, XLR outs with ground lift. I think this would end up being a very niche product, though, because keyboardists who are that serious about their sound quality onstage have mostly already gone the powered P.A. route.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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As far as I'm concerned, they both are obsolete due to in-ears and easy-to-control monitor mixes.

 

The only times I ever use a speaker or amp is at practice or when we don't run sound ourselves, and those are the times I don't look forward to because I can't hear myself as clearly as I normally do. We run no amps on stage except for those gigs and even those sometimes we all go direct.

 

But between those two: speaker all the way. It can double as a monitor or PA speaker if needed. In either case, the cheaper amps/speakers I've tried struggle with piano in particular. Best I've personally tried is a QSC 10.2.

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Though I'm a proponent of keyboard amps in some situations, I have to add that I wouldn't come near the vast majority of keyboard amps on the market. Roland? Behringer? No and no. For my money, only Motion Sound is even worth considering. But they're expensive, and they're heavy compared to powered speakers.

 

I did have a Barbetta back in the day. These days I'd only get a stereo amp.

 

Does the Space Station even count as "keyboard amp"? Maybe not.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

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I've learned a huge amount from forum members about improving my amplification - the last couple years I've run around town with a single EV ZLX-12p and I've been considering a Motion Sound amp on the advice of many here. But here is one thing that I have never, ever understood and that maybe folks can explain: how the hell are so many of you bringing two PA speakers plus poles/stands to gigs for your own sound? This just baffles me. What are these venues that allow you the space to set up a full PA behind you as monitors? I can think of maybe two or three venues in all of Washington, DC that have the stage space for that (the Kennedy Center?) The sound guys in the professional clubs here would raise eyebrows to the roof if I ever showed up with my own PA speakers on poles in addition to the venue's floor monitors and mains. Beyond the space issue, it'd be a big joke among musicians on the scene to play with the keyboardist who lugs a PA up on stage just for his own sound. No shade intended and I know that's only one setup of many advocated on these boards - just genuinely curious about the logistics of how this works!

 

For what my take is worth (very little), all of the above is why I'm looking at a Motion Sound - it's literally the only stereo amplification option that is physically possible to use for gigs in my city. Apologies for the long post - maybe I'm diving into the details because I just miss gigging..

 

I hear ya, Noah B, but it seems you're assuming many venues have their own PA and monitor systems. Most of my gig locations do not, thus I have to bring something, and it has to be stereo. Please also note that I do NOT bring the speaker stands anymore. (I used to, but you are right, they just take up too much space, and one looks kinda weird setting up their own PA system just for their keys.) After trying out (& returning the Motion Sound KP610), I found that if I simply place my 2 Yamaha DXR-10 PA speakers on the floor with a "V" angle between them (one facing slightly left, one facing slightly right), I can get the same stereo effect as the KP-610! And they take up no more space! So far, that has served me as a pretty good solution to the small stage space and stereo problem. YMMV.

Ludwig van Beethoven:  “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.”

Portable Rig: Yamaha MOXF8 (used mostly for acoustic piano); (2) Yamaha DXR-10 powered speakers

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I wish PPA speakers included the mixer sections that keyboard amps have; that would eliminate the need for a mixer; that is one convenience piece that I miss. The KB300 also has channel EQ'ing, not just a global EQ, but individual channels each have a 3-band EQ, individual channel reverb and an effects loop as well.

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

Dyin Breed Band

Exit 93 Band

 

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how the hell are so many of you bringing two PA speakers plus poles/stands to gigs for your own sound? This just baffles me. What are these venues that allow you the space to set up a full PA behind you as monitors?

 

My two-PA-speaker rig (+laptop & case), at a tiny restaurant I played a while back. No venue I've played has ever had a problem with this.

 

my-rig.jpg

 

Wow, Reezekeys, great setup! Can you please advise what are / where did you get those short stands you are using to slightly raise your QSCs? They look perfect.... I think they would eliminate the floor "boominess" that can happen, just slightly raise the speakers for better close-up sound, yet avoids the need for stands!

Ludwig van Beethoven:  “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.”

Portable Rig: Yamaha MOXF8 (used mostly for acoustic piano); (2) Yamaha DXR-10 powered speakers

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how the hell are so many of you bringing two PA speakers plus poles/stands to gigs for your own sound? This just baffles me. What are these venues that allow you the space to set up a full PA behind you as monitors?

I put mine on a black milk crate. This gets them off the ground, which is closer to ear level and the additional schlep factor is about zero. So poles and stands to schelp don't exist for me. Mine also tilt back so you could put one on both sides of you on the floor slanted up and they could act like ear cups projecting from the floor

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

Dyin Breed Band

Exit 93 Band

 

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I've learned a huge amount from forum members about improving my amplification - the last couple years I've run around town with a single EV ZLX-12p and I've been considering a Motion Sound amp on the advice of many here. But here is one thing that I have never, ever understood and that maybe folks can explain: how the hell are so many of you bringing two PA speakers plus poles/stands to gigs for your own sound? This just baffles me. What are these venues that allow you the space to set up a full PA behind you as monitors? I can think of maybe two or three venues in all of Washington, DC that have the stage space for that (the Kennedy Center?) The sound guys in the professional clubs here would raise eyebrows to the roof if I ever showed up with my own PA speakers on poles in addition to the venue's floor monitors and mains. Beyond the space issue, it'd be a big joke among musicians on the scene to play with the keyboardist who lugs a PA up on stage just for his own sound. No shade intended and I know that's only one setup of many advocated on these boards - just genuinely curious about the logistics of how this works!

 

For what my take is worth (very little), all of the above is why I'm looking at a Motion Sound - it's literally the only stereo amplification option that is physically possible to use for gigs in my city. Apologies for the long post - maybe I'm diving into the details because I just miss gigging..

 

Here in LA, most live gigs have limited set up space as well. I like Rob's folding footstool as stands idea although I've never used them.

 

I have smaller speakers - RCF TT08As- and either place them on the floor in wedge position or bring one short speaker pole like this :

https://www.directproaudio.com/pro-audio-accessories/stands-truss/speaker-stands/yorkville-sks-02b-extra-short-tripod-speaker-stand/

 

and do a combo of floor wedge and speaker pole.

 

At the time I switched over from the standard speaker poles, the Yorkville was the only one on the market. Now it appears other brands have come on the market - Gator, On Stage , K&M.

 

Yes, regular speaker poles take up WAY too much room and do look imposing. Also they place the speaker at an uncomfortable , ear level height for a bass player standing right next to you. The shorter poles place the speaker or speakers at a more optimum height. I wouldn't go over 35 lbs. speaker weight on the Yorkvilles though...and even that's pushing it imo.. And I'd probably stay at an 8" size speaker as well.

 

In Al's video with the CP4, basically my set up - I like the MS amp and it compares favorably with his TT08As. If I were gigging more, I would probably make an investment in it. But as it is, I've had the RCFs for 10 years and being picky about piano tone, I'd have a hard time going down in sound quality from them.

https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

 

2005 NY Steinway D

Yamaha AvantGrand N3X, P-515

 

 

 

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how the hell are so many of you bringing two PA speakers plus poles/stands to gigs for your own sound? This just baffles me. What are these venues that allow you the space to set up a full PA behind you as monitors?

 

My two-PA-speaker rig (+laptop & case), at a tiny restaurant I played a while back. No venue I've played has ever had a problem with this.

 

my-rig.jpg

 

That is a very cool and compact setup! Really dig those foldout box stands - I can see how they allow you to set up stereo in clubs or restaurants, though some of the tighter bar stages I've played might be trouble. I do know a lot of people here use poles and stands that lean back, though - those are the options that I wonder about, spacewise.

 

I think it all boils down to the types of gigs you do & the venues you play. First of all those are not really stands â they're folding footstools that you get at most hardware stores. Cheap, very light and they fold flat. I've heard of folks using the "lean back" stands normally for guitar amps, I just tried these footstools first and they worked fine, cost less, smaller, lighter etc. My setup works for me because I need to not have the speakers' horns at my ear level for obvious reasons â but having them on poles wouldn't really work because the sound would be "above" me and I would feel disconnected from it. Having the speakers where they are is what works best for smaller gigs. The speakers can push the sound out to the bandstand and audience without blowing me out since they're not directly at my ear level. It's not perfect â sometimes the volume I set to hear myself well is not 100% right for everyone else, but those instances are exceptions. For the most part it's worked fine to do it like this.

 

There have been some occasions where I need to set the speakers up very close to each other, and I actually put my SKB case with the laptop on top of one of the speakers! This happens rarely though. It's not ideal, as I like the two speakers to be on either side of me but sometimes you have to roll with things and do the best you can.

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