Holiday 2012: Portable Keyboards Roundup

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“Portable keyboard” is a vague term, but with all kinds of musicians traversing the world with different needs, maybe being vague is a good thing. In this article, we’ll look at a range of portable keyboards; some appropriate for your first piano lesson, some appropriate for your 300th performance of the year. While most keyboards are technically portable, our focus will be on readily transportable keyboards. Let’s establish the working definition of this category to be, generally, 61-key models that can be battery powered and weigh less than 20 pounds. Although, we may see a few models that weigh slightly more, have more keys and different power options. Let’s dive in.

Two Basic Models from Yamaha

The Yamaha PSR-E333 is a great example of our working definition. It has 61 organ-style keys, weighs 10 pounds and has a wide variety of features under the hood. It features 497 Voices, 106 accompaniments and an integrated 2-track recorder. Whether you’re just learning how to play or you're practicing for this weekend’s gig, you’ll have plenty of power beneath your fingers.

The next model up in this Yamaha series, the PSR-E433, is a portable keyboard designed for DJs. It ups the ante with 731 Voices, a 6-track recorder and Pattern Mode. In Pattern Mode, you can use the built-in loops to create and tweak music on the fly. The onboard 6-track recorder allows you to record and store up to 10 songs, while the USB port allows unlimited expansion by letting you store those songs externally. Two assignable Live control knobs let you engage effects in real time.

Casio CTK Series

The Casio CTK-3200 introduces piano-style keys to our roundup. Although not weighted, they have two levels of touch sensitivity. The keyboard features 400 Tones, 150 built-in rhythms and 110 songs. The music-lesson functionality will even evaluate your performance to facilitate improvement. Its 1/8” line input lets you plug in your laptop or MP3 player to play along with your favorite songs. The CTK-4200 adds a 5-track recorder with onboard storage for up to 5 songs. It edges the tally up to 600 Tones and 180 rhythm/accompaniment patterns.

The CTK-6000 has the features of an Arranger Keyboard, pushing beyond its 670 built-in Tones with an Arpeggiator, Auto Harmonizer, digital multi-effects and a 16-track sequencer. The flagship of this Casio series, the CTK-7000, includes all these features and increases to a whopping 800 tones and 250 rhythms. Both of these advanced keyboards feature auto-accompaniment and hundreds of presets.

Keeping it Slim

The Yamaha NP11 Piaggero has a very tidy user interface with a total of 10 buttons and knobs. This slim format portable keyboard weighs only 9 pounds. It’s a pianist’s piano, including only 10 Voices, all of which are AWM stereo sampled for accuracy. It also features 4 types of digital reverb.

76-Key Portable Keyboards

Defying our working definition, the Yamaha NP31 Piaggero has 76 piano-style keys for players who require the extended range. Adding more than an octave to the NP11, this keyboard still weighs less than 13 pounds. The NP31 is also the first keyboard in the roundup to offer graded keys, which isn’t the same as weighted keys, but creates more resistance in the lower keys than in the higher ones for a more realistic feel.

The Casio WK-225 is also a 76-key model, offering 600 built-in Tones and 180 rhythm/accompaniment patterns. It also features a 6-track recorder with internal storage for up to 5 songs. An onboard USB type B port allows connection to your computer for external storage or MIDI controller functionality.

The Casio WK-7500 is an arranger keyboard with 800 built-in Tones and 250 rhythms, mirroring the features of the (previously discussed) CTK-7000, but with 76 keys.

Full-Featured Arranger Workstations

The Korg Pa-50 is a 61-key arranger for professional musicians on the go. It features a synth engine based on the acclaimed Korg TRITON, an internal solid-state disk, comprehensive arranging/sequencing capabilities and a slew of digital effects. All this functionality adds a bit of mass and excludes battery power from our portable keyboard paradigm; the Pa-50 weighs 24.8 pounds.

The Yamaha PSR-S750 looks like it could command a lunar module, but in actuality it’s just a very advanced musical instrument. In addition to 678 AWM stereo-sampled Voices, hundreds of additional Voices and 128-note polyphony, its organ-style keyboard features five levels of touch sensitivity. The PSR-S750 has endless functionality, including digital effects, accompaniment styles, multi-pad triggers and more. Yet, it still manages to weigh less than 25 pounds.

In Conclusion

There is a portable keyboard out there for everyone, whether you need something slim and simple or feature-packed and versatile. Remember, as attractive as bells and whistles can be, they’re not everything. So, evaluate your needs and choose the keyboard that will afford you the most enjoyable musical experience. If you need additional assistance or answers to your questions, please contact a B&H Sales associate via live chat, over the phone or in the B&H SuperStore.

Thank you for reading this InDepth roundup and happy holidays!

Model Built-In Sounds Weight Batteries
Yamaha PSR-E333 487 10.8 lb 6 x AA
Yamaha PSR-E433 731 15.0 lb 6 x AA
Casio CTK-3200 400 8.6 lb 6 x AA
Casio CTK-4200 600 10.1 lb 6 x AA
Casio CTK-6000 670 12.8 lb 6 x D
Casio CTK-7000 800 15.0 lb 6 x D
Yamaha NP-11 10 9.9 lb 6 x AA
Yamaha NP-31 10 12.6 lb 6 x AA
Casio WK-225 600 15.9 lb 6 x D
Casio WK-7500 800 19.6 lb 6 x D
Korg Pa50 660 24.8 lb AC Adapter Only
Yamaha PSR-S750 1000+ 24.3 lb AC Adapter Only