Price Range: $699-$799
As musicians and piano players, there’s a certain amount of fun associated with new gear. Living in a time where there is new gear comiong out all the time, it’s practically impossible to keep up with every latest piece of equipment, but every time we get to purchase a new keyboard or piece of gear, it’s fun to research and hear about others experiences. This past year I was in need of a new digital keyboard/piano. Besides my acoustic Baldwin that I have had for 10 years, I had been traveling and touring for the past 15 years with an old Kurzweil PC88. I got plenty of miles out of that keyboard and I was never disappointed. It delivered crisp piano samples and a great weighted action that was perfect for my live shows.
As with any instrument or gear that gets used for live performances, it received it’s fair share of wear and tear. In the past few years, it began giving me a little bit of trouble so I knew that sooner or later, the day would come where a new digital piano was going to be needed. Although I enjoy synthesizers as well, I really wanted a digital piano with a great weighted key action feel. For that reason, I don’t tend to look for digital pianos with too many bells and whistles. I am more interested in great sounding piano samples and great realistic feeling keys. Years ago, there weren’t too many companies that were great at achieving those two things but nowadays, just about every brand has a great weighted key piano that sounds and feels great.
I went with the Korg SP-250 in the end because I loved the way it felt and because it had what is called RH3 graded hammer-action weighted keys. That means the keys feel heavier in the bass and lighter on the treble end of the keyboard, just as on an acoustic grand piano, where the hammers get thicker and heavier as you move toward the low end of the keyboard. That may not sound like a big deal at first, but once you try it, it’s difficult to go back to equally weighted keys. It’s one of the reasons playing an acoustic piano feels so good in the first place.
It didn’t hurt that the Korg SP-250 has a great look to it. The model right before it, the SP-170 lacked in the looks department and the follow-up digital piano, the SP-280 even bumps up the aesthetics another notch, very snazzy. I know we are supposed to go only for sound but I can’t help but be happy that this keyboard is nice to look at as well as listen to. In my decision to buy this keyboard, I tried everything from the Casio Privia which was quite nice to the Yamaha P-105 which was also nice to play. In the end I went with the Korg SP-250 because the other brands had too many features that I didn’t need and I felt that Korg really poured the bulk of attention into getting great sounding piano sounds and a great keyboard feel. I particularly like the simpleness of the design of the front panel. Only the necessary buttons and faders, nothing too flashy. Very sleek and modern.
The Korg SP-250 comes with additional sounds besides it’s grand piano samples. It also includes 30 expressive, high-quality sounds, including strings patches, organs and electric pianos. I find myself using these other sounds quite often which I hadn’t done in the past. The reason is because of the layering feature where you can blend two sounds from the sound back together. If you listen to many piano driven tracks on the radio, you will notice that often, what gives a song that lush and full feeling is the addition of a string track or organ track. With the layering feature, you can add a small hint of a soft string section behind your piano that won’t overpower the piano sample but will add a nice full and rich sound.
A lot of piano players will often attempt a new song, frustrated that it doesn’t sound exactly like the recording. The reason for this is sometimes due to the fact that a track on the radio, even if it sounds like there’s only a piano on the recording, will have multiple layers of instruments added behind the main track. You wouldn’t believe how great a sound you can get if you use this layering feature. Of course if you are playing a piece by Mendelssohn, you are going to stick with the grand piano sound, but when you feel like singing your favorite song, experiment a little and see how much you can beef up your sound to support your voice.
– 30 expressive, high-quality sounds, including a stereo concert grand piano
– Layer function to simultaneously play two sounds
– Built-in reverb and chorus effects
– Built-in metronome
– Graded hammer-action RH3 keyboard with 3-level adjustable touch control
– In addition to equal temperament, choose Kirnberger or Werckmeister temperaments
– Transpose function
– Pitch Control can make fine adjustments
– MIDI I/O – connect the SP-250 to a computer or any MIDI device
– Powerful on-board speakers
– Two headphone ports
– Built-in keyboard stand and music rack
Overall, I really love the Korg SP-250 Digital Piano. Obviously I wouldn’t have bought it if I didn’t, but aside from that, I find it to be a quality digital piano in a mid-price range. There are definitely better keyboards on the market, but to jump up to another level in quality and feel, you are easily looking to spend over 1,500 dollars and at $699, this is a great deal.
If you happen to find yourself in the market for a new digital piano or even to replace an old keyboard you may have, my best advice to you is get down to the local music store and try as many as you can. Go back the next week and try them again before making any final decisions. Often, because of the excitement to get it, we don’t take the time to try enough digital pianos out to make the right choice.
What digital piano or keyboard do you play?
Comment below and share your advice or experience with the piano you play.