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A cornucopia is a symbol of abundance. With this in mind, it’s fitting to picture the B&H Pro Audio department as an abundant cornucopia, brimming with Digital Pianos, Arranger and Portable Keyboards. That’s right, not only does B&H sell the world’s greatest photography and video equipment, we also offer a wide range of musical keyboards and the all-important accessories to go with them. This roundup was written to familiarize you with some of the many home-keyboard offerings that you can find at B&H.
If you’re looking for an electronic instrument that was designed to mimic the sound and feel of a real acoustic piano (as well as providing other useful features), you need to check out the digital pianos in the first section of this article. If you want a more cost-effective instrument that can help you learn how to play piano, you’ll be interested in the portable keyboards in the second section. If you want an instrument that provides elaborate backing tracks and a huge variety of professional-sounding instruments, you are looking for an Arranger Keyboard, covered in the last section. Also, you can learn all about these instruments in a non-brand specific fashion in the B&H InDepth Home Keyboards Buying Guide.
If the thought of hiring piano movers to schlep an acoustic piano up to your apartment sounds unappealing, you should consider a digital piano. Besides being far more lightweight, digital pianos are more space efficient than acoustic pianos. Plus, they enable you to plug in headphones and play privately any time, day or night, without disturbing others.
With 88 scaled hammer-action keys, nice sounds and a budget-friendly price tag, the Casio Privia PX-130 is an attractive model for both beginners and more advanced players. Even though it offers a full-sized keyboard, the PX-130 still remains under 25 lb (11.3 kg) in weight. To make the feel and the sound of the instrument as realistic as possible, Casio employs advanced technology like Tri-Sensor Response Keys and a Linear Morphing System. The result is a digital piano that many users just love to play. The PX-130 features two stereo mini-plug headphone outputs (so your portable music headphones will be compatible without the need for a 1/4" adapter). Plus, having two headphone outputs enables a teacher and a student to play together privately. The PX-130 also features built-in effects and a two track recorder. B&H offers two separate kits for this model: the Essentials Bundle (which includes key accessories: a stand, bench, sustain pedal, case and headphones) and the Home Bundle (which also supplies you with all of the important accessories, but upgrades you to the sleek CS-67 keyboard stand).
Featuring a traditional piano-like appearance (complete with a sheet music stand and an included bench), an 88-key graded hammer-action keyboard, three pedals (damper, sostenuto and soft) and an extremely simplified user interface, the Yamaha YDP-141 does an excellent job of playing the role of a home piano. It has a built-in metronome (so you can work on your timing), and dual headphone outputs (so both a student and an instructor can listen without disturbing others). You can even record your performances with the simple press of a button. There are six instrument sounds (grand pianos, electric pianos, harpsichords, church organs, vibraphone and strings), and you can audition its different instruments with the YDP-141’s six demo songs. There are also 50 songs that you can play to just listen to, or play along with. You can even turn off the right or left hand of each song to practice. Another innovative touch is that pressing the damper pedal halfway down influences the sound differently than a full press. The YDP-141 features full-sized headphone jacks, so the Sony MDR-7506 is a great pair of compatible headphones.
One of the most satisfying things about an acoustic piano is its simplicity, and instruments like the Roland F-120 do a great job of recreating the straightforwardness, vibe and feel of the real thing. Keep in mind that the F-120 offers many features that an acoustic piano cannot: an extremely compact footprint, two headphone outputs for playing in privacy, a built-in metronome, a built-in recorder and a “Twin Piano” mode that splits the keys into two regions for lessons and for playing with a second pianist. The sound engine in the F-120 features Roland’s SuperNATURAL technology, which combines piano samples with sophisticated V-Piano elements for perfect velocity response, note decay and key range behavior. Plus, its 88-key Ivory Feel-G keyboard responds and plays just like a real grand piano. Its visual presence is both classic looking and contemporary, modern and sleek. The F-120 is also available in white to match your décor. When it comes time to choose a pair of headphones for your digital piano, Roland offers the RH-A7 headphones, which were designed specifically for use with digital pianos.
If you want to play keyboard, but the cost of a full-blown digital piano is prohibitively high (and its physical size is a bit too large), a great alternative is a portable keyboard. Loaded with plenty of sounds, rhythms, complete songs that you can play along with (as well as built-in music lessons), portable keyboards offer a lot of capability at low-stress prices. They all have built-in speakers and can be powered with batteries or external power adapters.
The Yamaha EZ-220 offers an extremely fun approach to music making. All of its 61 keys are illuminated (they light up red when pressed), and they’re velocity sensitive (so you can strike both soft and hard notes, like a real piano). There are 100 built-in songs, which you can learn how to play by following the lighted keys. This keyboard also comes with the Yamaha Education Suite, which is a comprehensive set of built-in music lessons. The EZ-220 can even communicate wirelessly with an Apple iPad. You can download a free app called the EZ-220 Page Turner, mount your iPad to the included music rest (which features a clip for your iPad), and start playing. The app displays musical scores of the built-in songs on the EZ-220. You can play along with the songs without ever needing to lift your hands from the keyboard to turn the page. There is also a USB port on the EZ-220 that enables you to connect it to a computer to interact with music software. With 392 built-in instrument sounds (strings, synthesizers, drums, horns, guitars and more), and 100 styles (that act as a backing band with which you can play along), this keyboard has a lot to offer.
If you like to sing and play keyboard at the same time, the Casio CTK-4200 is a great option, because it features a microphone input. This keyboard will amplify your voice through its built-in speakers as well as apply reverb (echo) effects when a mic is attached. The CTK-4200 features a huge variety of 600 instrument tones, 180 backing rhythms and 152 songs with which you can play and sing along. You can record your performances with its built-in, five-track recorder. It features a class-compliant USB port that sends MIDI information to a connected computer. You can also connect an MP3 player to its AUX input and jam along with your favorite music. The CTK-4200 runs on batteries; an AC power adapter is included. It’s also available as a B&H Kit, which includes a stand, a foot pedal and headphones.
The more advanced Yamaha YPG-235 features a graded keyboard, which means that the lower keys have a slightly heavier feel than the higher keys. This imitates the action of a real acoustic piano, where the lower keys have to lift larger and larger hammers, and therefore have a heavier feel. The YPG-235 is equipped with Yamaha’s user-friendly Educational Suite of built-in lessons. The built-in speakers have a nice, full sound because they’re powered by a 12-watt amplifier, and bass-reflex ports add some extra oomph. The YPG-235 also features a pitch bend wheel, a number of built-in effects (such as reverb, tremolo and a 5-band EQ), a six-track sequencer, a USB/MIDI port and a huge library of sounds. The YPG-135 runs on batteries, but it can be plugged into an outlet with the separately available PA150 AC adapter. It’s also available in a complete B&H Kit, which includes a stand, bench, AC adapter, headphones and more.
If you really like the diverse musicality that portable keyboards provide, but you desire an instrument that’s capable of more elaborate backing sounds and richer, more professional-sounding instrument tones, be sure to check out the arranger keyboards available at B&H. Below you will find a few good examples of this kind of keyboard.
With well over 800 instrument sounds that utilize Korg’s Real eXperience technology for superior sound quality, the Korg Pa500 outfits you with a formidable amount of creative power. The 320 preloaded styles provide full musical accompaniment and enable the Pa500 to follow your timing and chord changes as you play. Plus, it offers a wide variety of genres, from R&B to classical. There is also no shortage of effects on this keyboard, because it features four stereo processors and EQs on every track. Navigation is made easy with its intuitive TouchView interface and your guitar parts will sound very realistic, thanks to controls for capo position, plucking patterns, strums, chokes, hammer-ons and slides. The Pa500 is also available in a complete B&H Value Bundle which includes a double-braced keyboard stand, a padded bench; sustain pedal and Audio-Technica headphones. There is also a different version of this keyboard called the Korg Pa500-ORT, which is loaded with Middle Eastern instrument sounds and patterns.
The moment you select a song on the Yamaha PSR-S910 (and there are thousands of songs available), every parameter of the keyboard is adjusted (the instruments for the left and right hand, tempo, accompaniment, style, etc.). Many of the sounds come from the powerful Tyros3 keyboard, and there are extremely articulate string, woodwind and brass instruments too. It has a large 5.7-inch color display, and if you’d like to share the view with a larger audience, the PSR-S910 features a video output, which enables you to display song lyrics on a larger screen. An Ethernet port is also found on the back panel, which enables you to connect the PSR-S910 directly to the Internet to download song data. This seamless package is completed with a 16-track sequencer, an audio recorder, and a microphone input that can supply you with virtual back-up singers, who can sweeten your sound with three part harmonies.
Arranger keyboards really appeal to people who want to lead a one-man band, and the Roland BK-5 does an excellent job of this by supplying the player with 1,172 instrument tones, 60 drum sets and more than 300 rhythms, which generate interactive accompaniments that join you when you play. But just because the BK-5 appeals to solo musicians, it doesn’t mean you have to be lonely when you play. A video output on the rear panel can be connected to a video monitor, which will display either slideshow pictures (that you can select) or song lyrics (from standard MIDI files or MP3s with lyric data). These features can be great fun at parties. You can record all of your performances as high-quality WAV files to an external USB thumb drive. The separately available Roland KS-V7 V-Stand enables you to confidentially mount your keyboard, and unlike X-style keyboard stands, the V-Stand leaves plenty of room underneath the keyboard to sit comfortably behind it on a bench.
Sound off! If you have any questions or comments about digital pianos, portable keyboards or arranger keyboards, we encourage you to submit a comment below and share your thoughts.