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I want a truly portable keyboard with very good piano and synths sounds... for less than $500


Gus Lozada
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Hi there

 

I own a nice collection of pro synths. Digital, Analog, Vintage stuff and even a Yamaha CP70B. 

But with this return to the live shows, I am not truly willing to take my YAMAHA MX88 for pianos, my Roland JD800 for Digital deliciousness and my Prologue 16 for Analog stuff to a live show. NO. Not for what they pay, LOL.

I want a cheapo -like the pay at clubs- but good sounding keyboard. Think good pianos, fat brass (Jump!) and classic synths. And light to carry on.

I do not need editable sounds. And I am NOT taking a $3,000 USD MacBook Pro for soft synths + a MIDI controller. NO. 

 

I have in mind buying a ROLAND GO KEYS 61. I kinda like the sounds and even the look. It has speakers and runs in batteries. Yes, it feels cheap because it is cheap. But If I run out of ideas, I could end-up buying it for the small gigs, bring an iPad for triggering the backing tracks and I'm done.

 

... What else would you guys suggest instead of the ROLAND GO KEYS 61? 

Músico, Productor, Ingeniero, Tecnólogo

Senior Product Manager, América Latina y Caribe - PreSonus

at Fender Musical Instruments Company

 

Instagram: guslozada

Facebook: Lozada - Música y Tecnología

 

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I’ve been seeing some love for the Korg i3 (current one) lately on the forum. A bit higher than your range.

 

If you think you can get along with the GoKeys’ inconsistent velocities and the super cheap feeling, that may be your best bet new. 
 

If you’re considering used, then a used Yamaha MX61 might do the job - plus you’d already be familiar with it (and know if that would work for you too).

Yamaha: Motif XF8, MODX7, YS200, MX61, CVP-305, CLP-130, YPG-235, PSR-295, PSS-470 | Roland: Fantom 7, JV-1000

Kurzweil: PC3-76, PC4 (88) | Hammond: SK Pro 73 | Korg: N1R, X5DR | Emu: Proteus/1 | Casio: CT-370 | Novation: Launchkey 37 MK3

Former: Emu Proformance Plus & Mo'Phatt, Korg Krome 61, Roland Fantom XR & JV-1010, Behringer CAT

Yamaha Pacifica 112V & APX600 | Washburn WI64 | Ibanez BTB-675 | Roland TD-17 KVX | Alesis SamplePad Pro | Assorted organs, accordions, other instruments

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Alternatively a used Roland Juno from the last 15 years could cut it as well.

Yamaha: Motif XF8, MODX7, YS200, MX61, CVP-305, CLP-130, YPG-235, PSR-295, PSS-470 | Roland: Fantom 7, JV-1000

Kurzweil: PC3-76, PC4 (88) | Hammond: SK Pro 73 | Korg: N1R, X5DR | Emu: Proteus/1 | Casio: CT-370 | Novation: Launchkey 37 MK3

Former: Emu Proformance Plus & Mo'Phatt, Korg Krome 61, Roland Fantom XR & JV-1010, Behringer CAT

Yamaha Pacifica 112V & APX600 | Washburn WI64 | Ibanez BTB-675 | Roland TD-17 KVX | Alesis SamplePad Pro | Assorted organs, accordions, other instruments

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5 minutes ago, Mighty Motif Max said:

I’ve been seeing some love for the Korg i3 (current one) lately on the forum. A bit higher than your range.

 

If you think you can get along with the GoKeys’ inconsistent velocities and the super cheap feeling, that may be your best bet new. 
 

If you’re considering used, then a used Yamaha MX61 might do the job - plus you’d already be familiar with it (and know if that would work for you too).

 

Well, that is why I decided to ask here... I didn't know about the inconsistent velocities of that keyboard -not that it surprises me given its price-

 

I am truly attracted to it because it runs on batteries and has its own speakers. Don't judge me. Sometimes I'd really like to have one keyboard which behaves like a guitar: get it out of its case/bag and play with it wherever you are... 

 

The MX61 does not run on batteries. If I want that, I could choose a KROSS 2 Instead... but the price is really different... 

 

 

* I tried once a JUNO DS 61... I didn't like it but I expected a lot more from it, not just some basic sounds... but the price is also very different.

 

Thanks Max!!

 

 

Músico, Productor, Ingeniero, Tecnólogo

Senior Product Manager, América Latina y Caribe - PreSonus

at Fender Musical Instruments Company

 

Instagram: guslozada

Facebook: Lozada - Música y Tecnología

 

www.guslozada.com

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17 minutes ago, Mighty Motif Max said:

I’ve been seeing some love for the Korg i3 (current one) lately on the forum. A bit higher than your range.

It's twice the price... runs on batteries... but has a lot of stuff I'm not gonna use.

Músico, Productor, Ingeniero, Tecnólogo

Senior Product Manager, América Latina y Caribe - PreSonus

at Fender Musical Instruments Company

 

Instagram: guslozada

Facebook: Lozada - Música y Tecnología

 

www.guslozada.com

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A year or so ago I bought a Casio CDP-S350 for my daughter and played with it for a couple weeks. I'd call it gigable. Decent speakers, piano sounds & action, 88 keys, can run on batteries, loads MIDI files or records on built-in sequencer, light & sturdy, LCD display, some autoaccompaniment tricks, music stand included, even has a pitch wheel. Slightly above your $500 limit when I bought it, probably higher now. The only audio out is the headphone jack, which sounded fine played through a stereo system. 

 

 

IMG_9652.thumb.JPG.05cdcf4cdd10d29af0137676f2fad45e.JPG

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8 minutes ago, Werno said:

A year or so ago I bought a Casio CDP-S350 for my daughter and played with it for a couple weeks. I'd call it gigable. Decent speakers, piano sounds & action, 88 keys, can run on batteries, loads MIDI files or records on built-in sequencer, light & sturdy, LCD display, some autoaccompaniment tricks, music stand included, even has a pitch wheel. Slightly above your $500 limit when I bought it, probably higher now. The only audio out is the headphone jack, which sounded fine played through a stereo system. 

 

8 minutes ago, Werno said:

IMG_9652.thumb.JPG.05cdcf4cdd10d29af0137676f2fad45e.JPG

 

Thanks so much, Werno!

I already have the MX88 which is awesome and incredibly light for its size... but I don't want / need 88 keys for my night club gigs, so I am looking for 61 keys max.

 

Thanks!!

Músico, Productor, Ingeniero, Tecnólogo

Senior Product Manager, América Latina y Caribe - PreSonus

at Fender Musical Instruments Company

 

Instagram: guslozada

Facebook: Lozada - Música y Tecnología

 

www.guslozada.com

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Are you serious the Go Keys is a kids toy, its cheap and nasty and has rubbish keybed.  I bought one foe our grandkids, it lasted a day before it was packed up and returned, it was that bad.

 

For you meagre budget you have the Yamaha Ew425, or the E473, or Casio CT X5000 or Korg EK50

9C4C1832-1DCF-4CB7-80E5-213C42EE1EF5.png

EF010C9E-909D-4AC3-AD31-D65ECF0ED990.png

Col

 

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2 hours ago, Gus Lozada said:

It's twice the price... runs on batteries... but has a lot of stuff I'm not gonna use.

I guess I'm not sure on the price of the i3 where you are. Here it's $649 from most US retailers, so about 30% higher than your $500 budget.

 

2 hours ago, Gus Lozada said:

 

Well, that is why I decided to ask here... I didn't know about the inconsistent velocities of that keyboard -not that it surprises me given its price-

 

I am truly attracted to it because it runs on batteries and has its own speakers. Don't judge me. Sometimes I'd really like to have one keyboard which behaves like a guitar: get it out of its case/bag and play with it wherever you are... 

 

The MX61 does not run on batteries. If I want that, I could choose a KROSS 2 Instead... but the price is really different... 

 

 

* I tried once a JUNO DS 61... I didn't like it but I expected a lot more from it, not just some basic sounds... but the price is also very different.

 

Thanks Max!!

 

 

Yeah, I was very disappointed by the GoKeys 61 when I played it, after all the hype it had. I totally get the attraction to a setup-and-play keyboard, no judgement here lol!

 

I think you might want to give up the battery operation idea, if better sounds are your priority. Neither of the two arranger keyboards that Biggles has listed above have what I would consider "very good piano and synth sounds", but then again neither does the GoKeys IMO. So I'd definitely be looking at used keyboards to get better sound quality (like the aforementioned MX61, Kross 2 61, Juno DS-61, etc). Good luck!

Yamaha: Motif XF8, MODX7, YS200, MX61, CVP-305, CLP-130, YPG-235, PSR-295, PSS-470 | Roland: Fantom 7, JV-1000

Kurzweil: PC3-76, PC4 (88) | Hammond: SK Pro 73 | Korg: N1R, X5DR | Emu: Proteus/1 | Casio: CT-370 | Novation: Launchkey 37 MK3

Former: Emu Proformance Plus & Mo'Phatt, Korg Krome 61, Roland Fantom XR & JV-1010, Behringer CAT

Yamaha Pacifica 112V & APX600 | Washburn WI64 | Ibanez BTB-675 | Roland TD-17 KVX | Alesis SamplePad Pro | Assorted organs, accordions, other instruments

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I would consider the Casio CT-S500.  I have no experience with it but I’ve owned a CT-S1  as my “couch keyboard” for quite a while now.  I find the key bed quite playable  and the sounds to be pretty good quality;  I would consider them giggable in the situation you are talking about.  The CT-S500 adds a lot to that make it a candidate for you: pitch wheel, lots more tones, setups with splits/layers, some effects configuration, control pedal input, 1/4“ L/R outputs,etc.  

 

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Nord Stage 3 88, Korg Kronos 2 61, Moog Sub 37, Yamaha U1 Upright, Casio CT-S500, Spacestation V.3, QSC K10.2

www.stickmanor.com

There's a thin white line between fear and fury - Stickman

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7 hours ago, Gus Lozada said:

I could choose a KROSS 2 Instead... but the price is really different... 

Why not the first gen Kross?  The keybed on the 61 is decent (from what I remember), the soundset is quite good, and it too runs on batteries.  They can be found used anywhere between $400-$600, so it fits into your price bracket, and it even has a mic input so you don't even need a mixer.  And unlike some of the other choices listed so far, it can play 16 sounds at one time in combination mode, either internal or external, including a drum track.

Instruments: Walters Grand Console Upright Piano circa 1950 something, Kurzweil PC4-88, my voice

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As an old fart (first rig was Hammond C3/Wurly/Micromoog in the late 70’s), can I just say it is amazing that we can have a legitimate discussion of covering all this ground on one keyboard < $500.  I’m grateful both for the high end stuff that I am completely satisfied with and the low end stuff that opens up more possibilities for people with bad backs or limited finances.

Nord Stage 3 88, Korg Kronos 2 61, Moog Sub 37, Yamaha U1 Upright, Casio CT-S500, Spacestation V.3, QSC K10.2

www.stickmanor.com

There's a thin white line between fear and fury - Stickman

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Does it all need to be in one keyboard?  Are you willing to use a MIDI controller and a small MIDI sound module?  At the risk of being ridiculed to no end, I'm going to suggest you consider pairing a MIDI keyboard controller with a "vintage" MIDI sound module like the Alesis NanoSynth.  I pair mine up with a 49-key MIDI controller that sits on top of my dual manual Hammond setup and it gives a lot of bang for the buck in terms of sounds, IMHO.  I think I paid about $150 for my NanoSynth a few years ago.  You'll have to check Reverb or Ebay to find one these days, but they're out there.  If you don't like the Alesis idea, I'm sure there are a lot of decent sounding modules out there that sell for cheap since they're a few "generations" old.  Not too many years ago the sounds in these older modules was considered professional and "state of the art".   For the gigs you are describing, do you think anyone in the audience would notice or even care? 

 

Lou

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Go take a look at your local thrift stores.

 

I see the higher priced consumer boards from Yamaha and Casio all the time, guessing that people buy them for their kids (who mess about with them for a bit and then pile their other stuff on them) and they end up at Starvation Army. There will be truly crappy ones all the way up to more or less top of the line consumer models and all under $100. 

 

Keep an eye on craigslist too. There may be deals on there, craigslist is for the swift. If it's a bundle you may be able to sell the other parts of the bundle separately and get a free keyboard, I've done that a couple of times. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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I would have suggested the new Casio CTS range as they are well within budget but both have a 64 note polyphony limit to consider.

 

At $800 a Korg Kross 2 would be best if you can squeeze more budget, its small yet with full sized keys and only 8 lbs in weight, I had one for two years.

 

Col

 

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I have a Casio S1 that I take to rehearsals. I also have a Casio PX-S3000 which is a much better keyboard. BUT - and it's a big BUT (pardon the phrase) - the internal speakers on both keyboards, and on the Roland Go, will not be adequate for live gigging, unless you're doing solo work. Even at max volume on these boards, once you add drums or bass or even just an electric guitar, you're going to need an external speaker with a lot more oomph just to be heard. I tried to use internal speakers on both my keyboards for low-to-medium volume blues and jazz band rehearsals and it just wasn't enough. 

These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
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54 minutes ago, Biggles said:

I would have suggested the new Casio CTS range as they are well within budget but both have a 64 note polyphony limit to consider.

 

Good point, but at this level of board for this intended use, would polyphony even be an issue?

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26 minutes ago, El Lobo said:

BUT - and it's a big BUT (pardon the phrase) - the internal speakers on both keyboards, and on the Roland Go, will not be adequate for live gigging

the battery and internal speaker preference is not for gigging... he said "Sometimes I'd really like to have one keyboard which behaves like a guitar: get it out of its case/bag and play with it wherever you are... " -- so the board is really for two different purposes. That's also related to his saying "61 keys max" which rules out the 88s some have mentioned.

 

1 minute ago, El Lobo said:

Has anyone else found the internal speakers on any keyboard to be adequate for live gigging? 

yes, if you're talking about an unplugged duo/trio, e.g. one additional instrument and maybe a singer. Some can go a little further. Maybe even a drummer, e.g. if he's using nothing but a snare with brushes. But yes, these are the exceptions. There's also the variable of the size of the room/audience.

 

 

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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One thing I've used to help mitigate the issues presented by internal speakers is connect a Bluetooth speaker with an AUX input to the headphone out via a 3.5mm TRS cable on whatever keyboard I'm using.  Did this last week at a last minute rehearsal and it was loud enough to hear my keyboard over the drums and the guitar amps, although it was not super loud.  Here's a quick pic I snapped:

IMG_2764.jpg

Instruments: Walters Grand Console Upright Piano circa 1950 something, Kurzweil PC4-88, my voice

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18 minutes ago, AnotherScott said:

the battery and internal speaker preference is not for gigging... he said "Sometimes I'd really like to have one keyboard which behaves like a guitar: get it out of its case/bag and play with it wherever you are... "

For that, it's the Casio S1, the true couch keyboard

 

In his original post, Gus Lozada said "But with this return to the live shows, I am not truly willing to take my YAMAHA MX88 for pianos, my Roland JD800 for Digital deliciousness and my Prologue 16 for Analog stuff to a live show. NO. Not for what they pay, LOL. I want a cheapo -like the pay at clubs- but good sounding keyboard. Think good pianos, fat brass (Jump!) and classic synths. And light to carry on. I have in mind buying a ROLAND GO KEYS 61. " 

 

I read that as wanting a keyboard for gigging. 

These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
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1 hour ago, El Lobo said:

For that, it's the Casio S1, the true couch keyboard

 

In his original post, Gus Lozada said "But with this return to the live shows, I am not truly willing to take my YAMAHA MX88 for pianos, my Roland JD800 for Digital deliciousness and my Prologue 16 for Analog stuff to a live show. NO. Not for what they pay, LOL. I want a cheapo -like the pay at clubs- but good sounding keyboard. Think good pianos, fat brass (Jump!) and classic synths. And light to carry on. I have in mind buying a ROLAND GO KEYS 61. " 

 

I read that as wanting a keyboard for gigging. 

Like I said, it's dual use. He wants it for gigging AND couch duties. (The batteries and speakers preference is for the latter.)

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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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I'm biased but CT-S500 is a great choice. It weights 11 pounds, can run on batteries if need. Comes with Bluetooth MIDI. Lots of great sounds with some real-time control. $375.00
 

 

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The opinions I post here are my own and do not represent the company I work for.

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