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NAMM 2010 Round-up: The Best Keyboards, Digital Pianos and Synths

Published: Fri January 22, 2010  News Feed

2010 already looks set to be a fantastic year if you play keyboards, digital pianos or keyboard synthesizers. At the NAMM show, several new models were announced and here's our pick of the best!

1) Korg SP-170 Digital Piano

Promised as the most affordable and portable digital piano Korg has ever produced, the Korg SP170 has everything it takes to become a popular product this year. The SP-170 features a duo of concert grand piano sounds, each recorded with meticulous care.

Numerous velocity layers are used to capture nuances of playing dynamics, allowing the instrument to respond expressively to every touch. Eight additional highly-accurate sounds complete the palette of keyboard tones: Electric Piano (x2), Harpsichord, Clav, Vibraphone, Pipe Organ, Electric (Drawbar) Organ and Strings. Selectable Reverb and Chorus effects add warmth and spaciousness to the sound. While the SP-170 never requires tuning, it offers adjustable tuning that can be matched to other instruments, and it can also be transposed into any musical key.

2) Yamaha DGX640 Portable Digital Grand

Replacing the best-selling YPG635, the Yamaha DGX640 is ideal for musical home entertainment, and for piano/keyboard students and hobbyists of all ages.

The DGX640 offers an incredible value for a digital piano in this price range. Beyond Yamaha's unsurpassed acoustic piano heritage and brand, the instrument offers remarkable touch and tone, quality of styles and an industry-leading three-year warranty.

Included are such features as an 88-key Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) keyboard,  auto-accompaniment, Style content and a front panel USB device port for storing user songs or importing song files from external sources, to make creating and saving music quicker and easier than ever. A high-quality speaker system is also placed on the front panel, providing optimum tonal positioning for the user.

3) Yamaha CP Series of Stage Pianos

This completely redesigned lineup sets a new standard for stage pianos. With the new CP series, which includes the CP1, CP5 and CP50, Yamaha has again redefined the expectations of what the ultimate stage piano should be.

"Our new Spectral Component Modeling process in the CP lineup reproduces the sound and expressiveness of acoustic and vintage electronic pianos better than any technology has ever done," said Athan Billias, Director of Marketing for Yamaha's Pro Audio and Combo Division. "For professional players on stage, the new CP series sets a new standard and we invite any one to compare these against any other stage piano on the market, regardless of price."

4) Roland HP-Series SuperNATURAL Pianos

Combining elements of the revolutionary V-Piano® with Roland's multisampling-technology, the HP-307, HP-305, and HP-302 SuperNATURAL Pianos deliver the unique sound, expressivity, and rich playing experience of a traditional acoustic grand piano.

All the new HP SuperNATURAL models feature the new SuperNATURAL Piano sound engine, which unites Roland's state-of-the-art V-Piano technology and 88-key stereo multisampling technology.

This breakthrough sound engine delivers seamless variations in tone, from pianissimo to fortissimo, decaying sounds which linger and fade naturally without looping, and an authentic sound transition from note to note across the digital piano keyboard.

5) Arturia Origin Keyboard

 

Origin Keyboard is Arturia's new version of Origin for the keyboard player. It keeps the outstanding modular system of Origin Desktop, putting it on a panel that closes on a high quality keyboard controller.

The intuitive interface is kept in place, along with all of the modules from the most famous synthesizers (Moog Modular, ARP 2600, CS-80, Jupiter-8, Minimoog and Prophet VS) and organs (ToneWheel, Rotary).

The integration of the ribbon control is a blast, the keyboard aftertouch possibilities open a world of expressivity, while the playing modes are tuned to the expectations of any demanding performer. See also: Arturia Analog Experience Hybrid Synths

6) Alesis Q49 MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Alesis Q49 is a 49-note MIDI keyboard controller that works with virtually all music software and MIDI hardware devices. The compact controller features USB-MIDI and traditional MIDI jacks for easy connection to Mac, PC and MIDI hardware.

The Q49 provides keyboard players with a full compliment of controls including pitch and modulation wheels, octave up and down buttons, an assignable data slider and the ability to send program changes from the keys.

7) Roland V-Combo VR-700

Tired of big, bulky, expensive keyboard rigs? Meet the new V-Combo VR-700, a multi-function electronic keyboard that covers every base on stage. The V-Combo offers powerful real-time performance capabilities and a simple user interface.

With a legendary Virtual Tone Wheel organ and dedicated harmonic bars onboard, plus a first-class array of essential ensemble sounds (grand piano, EP, strings, brass, synth leads, and more), the V-Combo stage keyboard moulds an entire rig into one convenient instrument for easy transport and fast setup. Backing-track functionality, built-in rhythms, great effects, and a comfortable waterfall-style keyboard round out the feature set, making this multifaceted keyboard a must for gigging musicians. See also: Roland V-Piano Evolution update announced

8) Yamaha PSR-E423 Digital Keyboard

The Yamaha PSR-E423 portable keyboard takes electronic music performance a step beyond entry-level models. The 61-key PSR-E423 replaces the PSR-E413 and includes over 120 arpeggiator patters that build and play around the chords played by the performer. It also features control knobs for altering sounds in real time and providing hands-on ability to change aspects of Voice and arpeggiator sounds such as filter cutoff, tempo and effects.

In addition to keyboard education tools like the built-in Yamaha Education Suite, this new portable keyboard includes hip techno and electronic Styles, 700 top-quality instrument Voices and world music content.

"Customers who get into entry-level portable keyboard models need a step-up instrument that lets them take their interest in music to the next level," says Dane Madsen, marketing manager, Yamaha Electronic Keyboards. "The PSR-E423 is packed with Style and arpeggiator content that will get their musical wheels turning and keep them going."

9) Alesis Limited-Edition Micron SE Synth (Blue)

The Micron is a popular synth - and very affordable! This new model, The Micron SE in Limited-Edition blue,  is sure to repeat the sucess of previous models, and is available now to pre-order. Whether a musician uses a synth on stage or in the studio, and whether they prefer to work with the hundreds of preset Alesis sounds or create their own, the Micron SE is the perfect companion. The micron also contains a powerful sequencing section with phrase, step, and drum sequencing, an arpeggiator, and stereo effects.

The 37-key micron has two multi-mode filters, three envelope generators, and two LFOs: the full spectrum of synthesis components to enable players to create and shape sonorities and textures. For stage and studio-ready quality, the micron has 24-bit audio outputs and inputs via balanced connections.

10) Nord Piano 88

Last, but most certainly not least, the latest stunning release from Nord - the Nord Piano 88.

The Nord Piano 88 is a dedicated stage piano with 88 keys and a weighted hammer action. It is designed with the performing musician in mind and very lightweight at approx. 18 kg (39.6 lbs), without compromising build quality, sound quality or means of expression. As all the other Nord units, it is designed with a firm focus on extremely fast response and accessibility of every important function from the panel.

With a well designed user interface, it doesn’t matter if you want to prepare your settings in advance and save them for later use, or if you’d rather set the sounds and effects as you go along – the Nord Piano delivers in both these aspects. There are plenty of memory locations in a bank/program configuration to provide you with a quick access from the panel, to your favourite sounds. Click here for more Nord Piano 88 details.

Finally, the 'Fun Keyboard Gadget Award' Goes to...

The Akai iPK25 iPhone MIDI Keyboard! This 25-key MIDI keyboard features a built-in dock for the iPhone or iPod Touch. It gives users two octaves of velocity-sensitive, synth-action keys, pitch and modulation wheels, and physical buttons for the most commonly used controls including octave up and down and sound-bank selections.

The Akai iPK25 also features a stereo pair of RCA line outputs and a headphone output for connection to recording and sound reinforcement systems. The Akai iPK25 also has a USB/MIDI output for use as a controller for other MIDI software on Mac or PC and MIDI hardware devices.

The included SynthStation Studio app is powerful enough for professional musicians, virtually anyone can use it to easily create music. The app gives musicians three synthesizers for creating and modifying sonic textures used for melodies, chords and bass lines. Built around Akai Professional’s history in synthesis and drawing on the company’s newest MINIAK synth, the SynthStation Studio app sounds great and offers wide-ranging sonic flexibility with its virtual analogue synthesis.

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