Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger


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Hi all

I currently have a PSR-E443, and it has served me well to learn to play, as a piano.

I have barely ventured into styles, but I have played with a few of the voices, and saved some registrations for combinations I like.

The time is coming when I really would like to have better sound, and I’ve been looking at upgrading to a higher-end arranger. I’ve looked at units like the SX700/900 but as I explore more, I’ve begun to wonder whether I am better off with an arranger or a synth. Why? I hear the sound quality is unmatched, but I really don’t know.

Below is a list of my “wants”, partly to help myself, partly to explain where I need experienced with keyboards that I don’t yet have.

1. Voices
a. Piano
b. Guitar / mandolin / oud?
c. Violin/Cello
d. Drums
e. Sax/Trumpet
f. No Techno/Disco sounds really more classical instrument sounds
2. Onboard speakers would be nice but not a deal-breaker as I could easily attach an external Logitech set, or my portable JBL round speakers
3. Multiple voices/layers: definitely
4. Price max: ~$2000
5. Sound quality: Really looking for the most authentic voices I can find.
6. Keyboard: 61
7. The more portable the better


I have never played with a synth/workstation unit, but been told that the sound is unbelievably realistic. And as I understand, the multiple layers would be allow me to have more voices at one time than the arranger. Since I am newbie with an arranger, there will be a learning curve regardless of choice, but I am trying to be educated before making the choice.

So, you experienced musicians/keyboardists, would you say consider that the synth is not something for me to consider given my wants?

Thanks in advance.


-- Luis
 
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Where to start?

A synth will do what you require but so will a better arranger like an Yamaha SX900 or a Korg Pa1000.

A synth with internal speakers, I am not aware of any. Even top of the range arrangers do not have built in speakers.

At the top end of your budget will be:-

Kurzweil PC4
Korg Nautilus

Less cash and:-
Korg Krome
Roland FA07
Yamaha MODX

come into play.

Even less cash and:-

Korg Kross
Roland Juno DX

I have just listed the main Workstation Synthesiser models and not the Synths only, there is a difference but I assume that you

I suggest you seek out reviews of the above and watch the manufacturers tutorial videos on using each of the models.

Then when you are up to speed on the detail of each model if you can visit a well stocked music store to check them out.

you could also keep a watch on your local Craigs list and other second user sites to see what come up for sale.

My main suggestion as first choice for a workstation synth would be the Roland Juno DS which is an excellent keyboard for not a lot of your hard earned, a Juno has plenty of onboard sounds and is reasonably light in weight.

The lightest and smallest in overall size is a Korg Kross 2 61 which is only a shade of 8 lbs in weight and is in an overall small footprint I had one for a couple of years, a very good keyboard for the cost but a menu system that has a learning curve but once the hill is climbed and a set up is achieved the features imo are better than the Roland.
 
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Where to start?

A synth will do what you require but so will a better arranger like an Yamaha SX900 or a Korg Pa1000.

A synth with internal speakers, I am not aware of any. Even top of the range arrangers do not have built in speakers.

At the top end of your budget will be:-

Kurzweil PC4
Korg Nautilus

Less cash and:-
Korg Krome
Roland FA07
Yamaha MODX

come into play.

Even less cash and:-

Korg Kross
Roland Juno DX

I have just listed the main Workstation Synthesiser models and not the Synths only, there is a difference but I assume that you

I suggest you seek out reviews of the above and watch the manufacturers tutorial videos on using each of the models.

Then when you are up to speed on the detail of each model if you can visit a well stocked music store to check them out.

you could also keep a watch on your local Craigs list and other second user sites to see what come up for sale.

My main suggestion as first choice for a workstation synth would be the Roland Juno DS which is an excellent keyboard for not a lot of your hard earned, a Juno has plenty of onboard sounds and is reasonably light in weight.

The lightest and smallest in overall size is a Korg Kross 2 61 which is only a shade of 8 lbs in weight and is in an overall small footprint I had one for a couple of years, a very good keyboard for the cost but a menu system that has a learning curve but once the hill is climbed and a set up is achieved the features imo are better than the Roland.
As always, your responses are very detailed and helpful. Thank you.
 
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Below is a list of my “wants”, partly to help myself, partly to explain where I need experienced with keyboards that I don’t yet have.

1. Voices
a. Piano
b. Guitar / mandolin / oud?
c. Violin/Cello
d. Drums
e. Sax/Trumpet
f. No Techno/Disco sounds really more classical instrument sounds
5. Sound quality: Really looking for the most authentic voices I can find.
There is always some subjectivity to this, but there's also the variable of exactly which voices you compare. You could find that the board with your favorite piano is different from the board with best guitars, which is in turn different from the board with the best strings, which may in turn not be the board with your preferred horns. There are also sub-groups... do you care more about acoustic guitar sounds or electric guitar sounds? Orchestral horns or pop horns? Ensemble or solo? So looking at Biggles' list, for example, I think you'd need to scour youtube for demos of the various boards playing the kinds of sounds you particularly care about (and if you can, try them in person). I would not assume that, for any given sound, a workstation style board will necessarily be better than a comparably priced arranger for these sounds, nor vice versa.

The biggest difference is that the arranger creates backing tracks for you on the fly, in the style of your choice. Workstations require you to put effort into creating your own backing tracks. And some boards, like the Juno DS Biggles mentioned, don't do much in terms of backing tracks at all. It is unclear from your post whether backing tracks are a factor for you or not.

There can also be difference in the authenticity of the sounds when used as backing tracks, vs. when played live. Not necessarily in the sound quality per se, but possibly in the implementations of alternate articulations, where an arranger may emulate some techniques that might be difficult (or impossible) for you to duplicate on some other non-arranger type of board.

6. Keyboard: 61
7. The more portable the better
Note that some of the boards on Biggles' list are 76 or 88 keys. PC4 is an 88 hammer action (piano style) board, but is also available in a 76 non-hammer version, though not a 61. FA-07 is a 76, also available in a 61 version, though with inferior feeling keys to the 76.

Getting back to authenticity of sounds, you also have the option of getting very high quality sounds by connecting the keyboard to a computer... but it will be a less easily portable system.
 
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Wise words from Scott.

I can throw in some ifs and buts.

Specifically to a Workstation in that it may well be possible to add arranger features if this becomes important to you but I did notice that you indicated that Style play has not been used to often.

There is an iPad app called xMure that adds arranger features but it does require an iPad and the workstation to be compatible with both, so there you see the ifs and buts. It is limited in available styles but the core ones are there.

I have the app and it worked great when it was connected to my digital piano
 
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Thanks to all of you.

Your comments have been very useful.

For context, I work in technology R&D day in and day out; although I may tinker with audio files at some point, I probably want the music more than the tinkering, thus my desire for authenticity of sounds.

I do wish COVID would finally settle down. There are no stores around here that are open/stocked to see the actual units.
 
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Well, I actually found a store that had Korgs and Yamaha in stock. I tried the PA1000 and the SX900, as that would be close enough to the PA700 and the SX700. Both were very good, although I found the Korg complicated.

I was about to walk out when they offered me the SX900, which they had just opened for me, at a discount. Someone had ordered it, but not picked it up after 2months of arrival. Went back and forth and just said what I thought to be a ridiculous price --- they beat it by $100! All in all, out the door with all taxes I paid $1800 -- that is just a bit more than I would have paid for the SX700.

It pays to ask for a discount...
 
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