Looking for the best gig keyboard for a variety of sounds, without paying a fortune


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Hi Everyone,

I play in a dad's band (we play rock and pop) and I have a portable Hammond Organ, which sounds great for all of my organ sound needs. But I need a second synth for all of the other sounds I need:

-horns
-strings
-acoustic piano
-Rhodes Electric
-Wurlitzer
-old school synth

I just need it for live gigs, so I'd like something lightweight. I don't need weighted keys. I'm looking for all of those classic sounds for the least expense price.

Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
 
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Those are pretty common sounds (though there's room for a lot of different sounds WITHIN the "old school synth" category)... That being the case, even something as inexpensive as, say, a Casio CT-X700 will probably do a perfectly decent job, or one of the Yamaha PSR models in a similar price range. You may want to go up to at least the $300 range to get pitch bend for your synth sounds, i.e. CT-X3000, Yamaha PSR-E463. In the CT-X5000, Casio adds a modulation button, quicker patch selection, and 1/4" outputs (so you don't have to use the headphone out to get to your amp/PA), among other things (see https://casiomusicgear.wordpress.com/2018/06/06/casio-ct-x3000-and-ct-x5000-differences-explained/ ).

Moving up in price, you may find benefits like better quality sounds, better feeling actions, more keys, more real-time controls to manipulate the sounds (knobs/sliders, wheels or joystick for modulation, more pedals including expression), more ability to edit the sounds to taste (or create your own), more split/layer facilities, improved ability to quickly recall your favorite sounds (or combinations of sounds), and standard 5-pin MIDI connections that will allow you to combine its sounds with your Hammond. Only you know whether any of these things are important to you and worth paying more for. But I stuck with your request for least expensive that could arguably do the trick. If you don't have to go THAT cheap, you'll find benefits in looking at boards like the Roland Juno DS or VR-09B, Yamaha MX, Korg Kross, for example, all still under $1k.
 
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Those are pretty common sounds (though there's room for a lot of different sounds WITHIN the "old school synth" category)... That being the case, even something as inexpensive as, say, a Casio CT-X700 will probably do a perfectly decent job, or one of the Yamaha PSR models in a similar price range. You may want to go up to at least the $300 range to get pitch bend for your synth sounds, i.e. CT-X3000, Yamaha PSR-E463. In the CT-X5000, Yamaha adds a modulation button, quicker patch selection, and 1/4" outputs (so you don't have to use the headphone out to get to your amp/PA), among other things (see https://casiomusicgear.wordpress.com/2018/06/06/casio-ct-x3000-and-ct-x5000-differences-explained/ ).

Moving up in price, you may find benefits like better quality sounds, better feeling actions, more keys, more real-time controls to manipulate the sounds (knobs/sliders, wheels or joystick for modulation, more pedals including expression), more ability to edit the sounds to taste (or create your own), more split/layer facilities, improved ability to quickly recall your favorite sounds (or combinations of sounds), and standard 5-pin MIDI connections that will allow you to combine its sounds with your Hammond. Only you know whether any of these things are important to you and worth paying more for. But I stuck with your request for least expensive that could arguably do the trick. If you don't have to go THAT cheap, you'll find benefits in looking at boards like the Roland Juno DS or VR-09B, Yamaha MX, Korg Kross, for example, all still under $1k.
Thanks very much for the valuable info. I should have put my budget in the initial message. I have a budget of under $1,500. I was looking at the Yamaha MODX 61 Key for $1400. I won't be using midi or a computer, I'm really just looking for good quality sounds, and I don't want to spend the money on a Nord, which is what everyone says is the best. For me, it's all about getting the most authentic sounds for the least amount. With that in mind, is there a keyboard you would recommend?
 
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Is $800 USD to much.

That is the price of a Korg Kross 2 61 & the Roland Juno DS 61. There are Pros and Cons of each, the Korg wins on weight, size, the ease of layering sounds (a Combi), of having single button access to a bank of sixteen Combi’s and via a selector a total of 96 Favourite User sounds via the Favourites buttons. The Roland has some better sounds, a better keybed and better transitions from one sound to another.

I would suggest that a cheaper keyboard like a Yamaha E series will quickly be consigned to Ebay or Craigslist, I spent an hour at the beginning of the year fiddling with an E series, its an hour I will not get back. The Casios are much better but both of these model ranges are basically beginners keyboards.

You get what you pay for, if you can go and have a play of them.
 
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PC361. Covers all the needs professionally and also is an excellent MIDI controller in case you eventually go th VST route.
 
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As Biggles said "You get what you pay for" is so true. In 2018 I bought a used Yamaha MOXF8 and it sound great! So great that I subsequently added a used MOXF6. The MOXF6 (61 keys) weights about 15 pounds and covers all the sounds you need. The
audio quality of the MOXF series is great and the unweighted keyboard has a nice feel. I got my MOXF6 for under $500 from a
motivated seller, so you might find a good deal out there. YMMV Don aka B3maniac
 
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Thanks very much for the valuable info. I should have put my budget in the initial message. I have a budget of under $1,500. I was looking at the Yamaha MODX 61 Key for $1400. I won't be using midi or a computer, I'm really just looking for good quality sounds, and I don't want to spend the money on a Nord, which is what everyone says is the best. For me, it's all about getting the most authentic sounds for the least amount. With that in mind, is there a keyboard you would recommend?

$1500 budget gets you a much better board than something of least expense! ;-) MODX6 would be an excellent choice... and is in fact better than any Nord for the horns and strings you mentioned. For $59, you can also add some more really nice EPs from https://www.purgatorycreek.com/index.php/montage-modx/

Others you could consider:

Roland FA - I think the MODX is generally stronger in action and for most of the sounds you care about (always subjective to some extent)... though FA has a bit of an edge in the virtual analog synth department.

Korg has the Krome, the PA700, and the Vox Continental all in your price range, all good choices for the things you mentioned, with different strengths. The Vox has the smallest sonic pallette, but still has a good selection of the sounds you mentioned, and has the advantage of probably the best action of any of the boards mentioned here. The virtual analog synth section sounds really nice, but is only minimally editable. The Krome and PA700 are completely sample based (unlike the Vox which also uses modeling), and they do not have as nice an action, but they have a greater sound palette, more sound editability, and a lot more overall flexibility. Despite all being Korgs, the three have very different sound sets,

Kurzweil doesn't make a 61 which seems to be your size of choice... they have a couple of 76 models coming out soon, the SP6-7 at a bit below the MODX6 price, and the PC4-7 which comes in above. Both would be good choices, with the PC4's likely advantages for your purposes being aftertouch, built-in sound editing (as opposed to requiring a computer), and sample expansion memory where you can load versions of those same add-on EPs I mentioned above for the MODX. Being new models with a new action, nobody knows what the keys will feel like yet.
 
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Kurzweil doesn't make a 61 which seems to be your size of choice...
What about the PC3K6? It doesnt count? Why are you mentioning the latest and greatest models only? Especially given that the OP doesnt need an organ but wants an instrument directly in the wheelhouse of this line? You should at least throw the option out there; your response indicates the Kurzweil line is not in play because they dont make a 61 key keybed. This is misleading. I offered up the PC361 rather than the PC3K6 because it is less expensive and about the only difference is is sample loading. The OP is looking for professional sounds in an inexpensive package, so the PC361 is less expensive than the PC3K6.















doesnt count?
 
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What about the PC3K6? It doesnt count? Why are you mentioning the latest and greatest models only? Especially given that the OP doesnt need an organ but wants an instrument directly in the wheelhouse of this line? You should at least throw the option out there; your response indicates the Kurzweil line is not in play because they dont make a 61 key keybed. This is misleading. I offered up the PC361 rather than the PC3K6 because it is less expensive and about the only difference is is sample loading. The OP is looking for professional sounds in an inexpensive package, so the PC361 is less expensive than the PC3K6.

I did not realize the PC3K6 was still in production. So yes, that could be added to the list. Now that you mention it, the Yamaha MOXF6 (which Don mentioned) is still availble new as well, that could be another possibility.

I would not have mentioned PC361 because it's out of production. If we're going to open up the field to things you can find used, there could be more possibilities. Though whether there is something used in budget that is better than anything new in budget (for the particular sounds listed), I'm not sure.

As for the PC3K6, aftertouch would be a nice benefit. The OP did request "lightweight," though, and it's notably heavier than any of the ones I mentioned. Sonically, for the particular sounds he asked about in the specificed budget, I think there are better choices.
 
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Thanks to everyone for the great info. I'm a good player, but a total novice in terms of what kind of equipment is available out there. I'm looking at:

Kurzweil PC4-7: $1,800 (a little above my price range)
Yamaha MOXF6: $1,000
Yamaha MODX6: $1,400

I don't mind spending the extra $400 for the MODX6 if it has better sounds, or more of variety of sounds, than the MOXF6. In terms of the action, that doesn't concern me, I'll get used to it, and I do like the more lightweight and compact keyboards for travel purposes.

Here's an example of some of the songs we're doing:

Rolling Stones, "Bitch" - horn section needed
Beatles, "Get Back" - Fender Rhodes electric piano needed
The Cars, "Let's Go" - I Googled this one, looks like some kind of oscillator sound is needed

In terms of organ sounds, I have that covered with my portable Hammond.

Thanks again, I really appreciate the insight from everyone.
 
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Any board mentioned will give you suitable horns for "Bitch" and suitable Rhodes for "Get Back" (which isn't to say that you might not like some of the boards more than others for these sounds, or find them more authentic sounding).

The Cars sound is trickier. If the manufacturer happens to have built that sound in as a preset, obviously, you're all set... and being a well known, iconic synth sound, it is a sound you may well find already in the board. But if it isn't already in there, you'd need to program it in yourself (or find something kinda close and tweak it), which can be tricky if you're new to synthesis. I dont know which boards already have that sound, maybe someone else will chime in with that. But as you say, it's an example, and not the only synth sound you'll need. Your frontrunners Kurzweil and Yamaha are both pretty good about providing a good range of widely known analog-style synth sounds, though Kurzweil tends to sound better for these kinds of sounds since it has an actual virtual analog synth engine whereas Yamaha would generate the sounds from samples. If you need to create/edit these synth sounds, neither is going to be particularly easy to use for this purpose, though I'd probably give the edge to the Yamaha. But I'm not an expert here, so let's see what others may have to say.
 
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Thanks to everyone for the great info. I'm a good player, but a total novice in terms of what kind of equipment is available out there. I'm looking at:

Kurzweil PC4-7: $1,800 (a little above my price range)
Yamaha MOXF6: $1,000
Yamaha MODX6: $1,400

I don't mind spending the extra $400 for the MODX6 if it has better sounds, or more of variety of sounds, than the MOXF6. In terms of the action, that doesn't concern me, I'll get used to it, and I do like the more lightweight and compact keyboards for travel purposes.

Here's an example of some of the songs we're doing:

Rolling Stones, "Bitch" - horn section needed
Beatles, "Get Back" - Fender Rhodes electric piano needed
The Cars, "Let's Go" - I Googled this one, looks like some kind of oscillator sound is needed

In terms of organ sounds, I have that covered with my portable Hammond.

Thanks again, I really appreciate the insight from everyone.
The Kurzweil community has several forums; one of them is a forum where users create and share sounds that they've created. The Cars Let's Go is one of those sounds as seen here.


Hundreds of different sounds have been created to solve various user needs. They are free to download. Another advantage of having a Kurz keyboard.
 
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Hundreds of different sounds have been created to solve various user needs. They are free to download. Another advantage of having a Kurz keyboard.

Ah yes, the options aren't merely "hope the sound is in there or figure out how to make it yourself" -- there are also user communities sharing patches. Kurzweil has Ksetlist, MODX has Soundmondo, and someone's done the sound for that one too... https://soundmondo.yamahasynth.com/voices/49073

So then getting back to this...
Kurzweil PC4-7: $1,800 (a little above my price range)
Yamaha MOXF6: $1,000
Yamaha MODX6: $1,400

I don't mind spending the extra $400 for the MODX6 if it has better sounds, or more of variety of sounds, than the MOXF6.

MODX does have new horn/string/piano/EP/synth sounds besides the ones that are in the MOXF... the set of sample data in the MODX is larger and more flexible in how it's used, plus they added the FM synth. So there's definitely more variety, and there's a good chance you'll find some things you like better. It also comes with a gigabyte of expansion memory for loading additional sample sets (so for example, you can load the EPs from https://www.purgatorycreek.com/index.php/montage-modx/ ). Seamless switching (on sounds consisting of no more than 4 Parts) means that a held/decaying sound won't cut off when you switch to another. Sound editing or assembling combinations is easier on the large color touchscreen. And the aforementioned Soundmondo give you easy access to patches from other users. (Dave would probably want me to point out that the Kurzweil has many of these advantages too!)

As for PC4-7 vs MODX overall, from something I posted elsewhere:

PC4 advantages:
* 4 engines: sample-based, FM, virtual analog, clonewheel organ (MODX has the first two)
* assignable additional outputs
* aftertouch
* better (though arguably a bit more complicated) implementation of seamless switching
* more flexible MIDI implementation
* full sequencer
* more polyphony
* more controller support (ribbon, 4 foot switches, though no superknob)
* hard button patch recall (though touchscreen also has advantages)
* full 16 zone/part support (MODX supports 16 internal Parts but only 8 can be assigned to the internal keys, and it supports only 8 external parts)
* double the User sample memory (can actually load a larger version of the Puragtory Creek EPs I mentioned above)

MODX advantages:
* touchscreen (also, screen is bigger)
* built-in USB computer interface
* endless encoders
* their various "motion control" related enhancements, which I admit I've pretty much ignored, it doesn't seem to apply to anything I do, but there is an overview at https://usa.yamaha.com/products/musi.../features.html - I assume some of these are beyond what the PC4 can do, though I don't really know.

...though not all of those things are necessarily meaningful to you. Which one is sonically ahead specifically for horns, strings, piano, EPs, and synth, I couldn't say for sure. I doubt you'd be disappointed with either.
 
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Mediamogul.

What keyboard makes are you used to playing?

After faffing around with a MODX for a while I decided that the Menu system sucks and the brass and string sounds were most definately not to my taste.

I much prefer the sounds of Roland and Korg kit, but alas where I live Kursweil are a non entity regarding availablity.

Making the tyransition from what you are used to to another totally different make of keyboard can result in a steep learning curve so do bear this in mind.
 
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I love my MODX, and find it covers everything i need to play. It can easily do vintage instruments, both acoustic type (brass/string/etc) and vintage like CS80, Jupiter 8, OBX etc.
I have a couple of niggles with the menu system, but on the whole its the easiest synth ive ever had to program.
Plenty of YT videos demonstrating these. Have a listen to the Easysounds videos for the analogue synth voices.
Any new piece of kit has a learning curve. If its new to you then you have to spend time with it. Dont let that put you off.
 
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Hi Everyone, I just wanted to give you an update on the Yamaha MODX6 that I bought. I've had it for a couple of weeks now, and I was able to try it out with my band on Friday. Here are my thoughts:
  • Very impressed with the sounds. Especially the horn sounds. I've been making my own custom sounds by combining various presets and getting very good results.
  • Very impressed with the amount of editing capabilities available. Example: ability to blend up to 8 instruments together, ability to use the superknob to introduce new sounds within a single performance. I've barely tapped in to everything it can do.
  • The comments about the action being very light are valid. It's such a light keyboard, I can't believe that the sounds that come out of it are so good. But I'm getting used to the light action, and it's not a big deal.
  • Overall, great value for the money. I was dreading having to pay up to $4k for a Nord. this seems like a steal.
  • My band loves it. They think it sounds great. Now we're able to do songs we couldn't before, because I can emulate the sounds from so many more songs.
  • I feel that I've barely begun to tap into what this keyboard can do, but if I didn't go beyond what I have already, I'd be very satisfied with my purchase.
Thanks to all of you so much for the feedback. I really appreciate such a great community here and I'm having a blast with this keyboard. I'm playing now more than I have since I got my first synth, (Roland JX3P) back in the 80s.
 
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happyrat1

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Great review... Be sure and come back in three years though, to do the followup on longevity and customer support once it becomes a legacy keyboard. ;) THIS is something people will really want to hear once these begin to clutter up the used market. :)

From my experience there's two types of keyboards you can buy these days. One is the throwaway that gets replaced every 3 to 7 years and then there's the classics, that can still belt out a solid tune 2 decades later.

I'm really curious to hear what Yamaha considers pro tough these days? ;)

Gary ;)
 
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