Yamaha DGX 660 or Roland Juno DS88


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Hi all,

I'm a long time guitar player who is deciding to pick up his first keyboard.So I'm new to keyboards, but not knew to music theory, etc. I've basically narrowed down my selection to the Yamaha DGX 660 or Roland Juno DS88. I'd like to mostly play modern stuff, 80s, etc. but would also like to have the capabilities to play more classical stuff if I want. I tried both in stores and so far, the main differences seem to be..

-I like the Roland's keys and texture slightly better
-The Yamaha seems to have a lot more patches
- Roland's probably has more synth patches?
-Yamaha's looks like it has built in speakers?
-Roland's has a 4 way modulator controller (the toggle switch on the left) while Yamaha's is 2 way?

Thoughts on which one would be better for me?
 
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happyrat1

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First of all a couple of questions.

1) Do you plan to gig with it or do you plan to use it in a studio or do you just want to use it for your own entertainment? The Juno is much lighter and easier to transport.

2) I believe the Yamaha has a built in multitrack sequencer. To get the same capability in the Juno you'd need to hook up to a computer and use a DAW program. Not a dealbreaker for most people. The Juno DOES have a built in step sequencer for creating beats though. A capability the Yamaha lacks. Is a sequencer necessary for your purposes?

3) The Juno can play back samples on the pads and can also act as a vocoder. A capability the Yamaha lacks. Do you need sampling and vocal processing?

4) The Roland has over 1300 Patches. More than enough for most people. I doubt the Yamaha has that many more. I don't really think this should be a dealbreaker either way.

I have to admit that I'm biased. I own a Juno DS61 and think it's a fabulous instrument. I also have a long standing grudge against Yamaha keyboards because of their non standard USB implementations.

I also have a grudge against built in speakers. I prefer a more modular setup where I can choose my own amplification and monitors to achieve the sound color I prefer rather than what the manufacturer crammed in there to suit their budget.

Fred Coulter owns a DGX-640 and may be able to fill you in a little better on the Yamaha.

Depending on your responses to the previous I think you can draw your own conclusions on this.

Personally my vote goes to the Roland.

Gary ;)
 
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1) Do you plan to gig with it or do you plan to use it in a studio or do you just want to use it for your own entertainment? The Juno is much lighter and easier to transport.

- No, I just plan to use it at home to teach myself piano/keyboard and probably make my own beats/tracks.

2) I believe the Yamaha has a built in multitrack sequencer. To get the same capability in the Juno you'd need to hook up to a computer and use a DAW program. Not a dealbreaker for most people. The Juno DOES have a built in step sequencer for creating beats though. A capability the Yamaha lacks. Is a sequencer necessary for your purposes?

- What's a multitrack sequencer and step sequencer for? I'm assuming those are the digital band jams built into the keyboard you can use to help lead you with chords and progressions?

3) The Juno can play back samples on the pads and can also act as a vocoder. A capability the Yamaha lacks. Do you need sampling and vocal processing?

- Probably no use for that right now. I know both have microphone jacks which is good for long term.

4) The Roland has over 1300 Patches. More than enough for most people. I doubt the Yamaha has that many more. I don't really think this should be a dealbreaker either way.

- Ok thats good to know! I went based off of what I could find on the patches I was struggling to flip through on both keyboards.

I have to admit that I'm biased. I own a Juno DS61 and think it's a fabulous instrument. I also have a long standing grudge against Yamaha keyboards because of their non standard USB implementations.

I also have a grudge against built in speakers. I prefer a more modular setup where I can choose my own amplification and monitors to achieve the sound color I prefer rather than what the manufacturer crammed in there to suit their budget.

Fred Coulter owns a DGX-640 and may be able to fill you in a little better on the Yamaha.

Depending on your responses to the previous I think you can draw your own conclusions on this.

Personally my vote goes to the Roland.

So would you think the Roland would go good with the FRFR speakers I already have in the JBL LSR305s?

Thanks for the advice so far!
 

happyrat1

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Those JBL monitors are perfect for any keyboard. All that you might want to add is a powered subwoofer to fatten up the bass notes a bit.

For home use to learn keyboard either one would probably do nicely. Again I'm partial to my DS61 and regret not buying the 88 key version but space limitations were a concern for me.

As far as sequencers go, the Yamaha sequencer is basically a song recorder and allows you to record multiple tracks over each other to create a full song. The Juno lacks this but it's easily added by plugging in a USB cable and using software like Cakewalk or Cubase to do your recording. Personally I hate onboard sequencers since they are extremely primitive in functionality when compared to computer sequencers/daws/editors.

The Juno's step sequencer is a 32 measure looping sequencer for creating and playing back accompaniment tracks where you can create and arrange your own beats in addition to the factory ones built in. Not sure about the Yamaha's accompaniment features but I don't think you can create custom ones. It's not a feature which I personally find myself using a lot so I don't really care either way. I do all of my recording on a computer running cakewalk.

One final tip. Should you ever decide to sell it off to upgrade, I think the Roland holds its resale value better than the Yamaha. The Roland is considered more of a professional keyboard while the Yamaha is more of a home keyboard designed to be a piece of furniture as much as an instrument.

Gary ;)
 

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If the Roland has over 1300 patches, then I believe the DGX-660 has fewer patches or preset voices, because I'm pretty sure it has fewer than 1000. Also, the Roland probably lets you customize each preset voice more than the DGX does, assuming the Roland lets you change the EG attack/release and LPF cutoff/resonance settings, which the DGX does not. You might not feel the need to fiddle with the EG settings, but the LPF settings can be useful for making a preset sound "brighter" or "darker."
 

happyrat1

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My mistake. The Roland has 1200 patches and 256 user slots.

It also has an expansion port for adding sound cartridge modules from Roland.

http://www.roland.ca/products/juno-ds88/specifications/

It also has dedicated envelope knobs and mixer volume sliders for selecting individual levels for accompaniment, and individual voices in splits and layers.

The interface is very intuitive and easy to control and like I said, I absolutely love mine.

Gary ;)
 
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Fred Coulter

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I'm an owner of a DGX-650, the previous generation of the DGX. The DGX series is meant to be primarily a home electronic piano, with a bunch of sounds you can play with an simple arranger features. The sequencer is only six tracks. On the other hand, it supports the traditional three pedal piano setup and has built in speakers. It's really meant to work by itself, and does so very well.

- No, I just plan to use it at home to teach myself piano/keyboard and probably make my own beats/tracks.

Here's the rub. The arranger in the DGX uses pre-existing rhythm patterns. You can also add new ones purchased from www.yamahamusicsoft.com. But to create your own beats/tracks, you'll need software. Luckily for you, there's a healthy community of Yamaha arranger users at psrtutorial.com that have written all sorts of software, much of which can be used on the DGX. (On the other hand, a full blown arranger has far more capabilities than the DGX.) So while you can create beats for the DGX, it won't be as simple as you'd like.

What's a multitrack sequencer and step sequencer for? I'm assuming those are the digital band jams built into the keyboard you can use to help lead you with chords and progressions?

I don't know what the Roland has, but the auto arrangement features of the DGX are not the same as the multi-track sequencer. Imagine you're writing a piece, and you want to have more than just a melody and an auto accompaniment. Looking at classical, imagine you want two separate musical lines like the Bach Two Part Invention in C, but with different sounds for each of the parts. And also imagine that you can't play this yourself (yet). By using two tracks of the six track sequencer, you can have each of the two lines entered and stored separately, and then sent to a different sound. On the DGX, you've got six different tracks to record on, so you can build up a reasonable arrangement of something more than just auto-accompaniment. That's not the same as the digital band jams.

I know both have microphone jacks which is good for long term.

The microphone jacks on the DGX are only used to get your voice to the speakers or the external PA. If you're going to use an external PA, you may very well find an external mixer to be essential, so plugging your mike into the keyboard won't be all that useful. (I haven't figured out why they added a mike input; the DGX would normally be considered too heavy to be a gigging machine, with a sub-standard arranger implementation.)

I also have a grudge against built in speakers.

Depends on the usage. For a home, single keyboard setup for the average player, built in speakers is fine. (Assuming the speakers aren't crap.) This means that a person who wants to just sit down at the piano only needs to flip one switch and then watch the magic happen. I used to have a multi-keyboard setup in the front room, with a mixer and multiple sound modules in addition to the mixer. Power amp to some very nice speakers. To make the magic happen, I had to flip several switches, and then fix the mixer from when the dog sat on it looking out the window. This gets in the way of instant gratification.

On the other hand, when I want to do something other than play piano or some other quick and dirty sound, I go into the other room where I've got a keyboard that takes two minutes to turn on. (No kidding. There are videos on YouTube.) Instant magic just ain't going to happen. So in that situation, where you're dealing with pro level multi-keyboards, a mixer and external sound generation may be essential. I've got both, and each serves it's purpose. (Actually, I'm seriously considering dropping the DGX now that I've got a "real" piano, another 88 key electronic keyboard that's more portable, and a fully functioned arranger. Or giving it to my daughter if she ever moves out. It's not that I don't like the DGX; it's a question of how many keyboards I really need. My wife is shocked I'd even consider it.)

As for my recommendation? When you buy this first keyboard, remember that it's going to be your first keyboard. It may be years before you're good enough to play it out. Almost any keyboard coupled with a computer will be adequate for years of work. If you want to ever play a piano, I'd get a weighted keyboard. Eighty eight keys are nice, but not essential, especially when you're starting out. On the other hand, five octaves is the minimum for a single keyboard.. If you love your family, get headphones.

For most people, given the option of learning keyboards (piano) on the DGX or the Roland, I'd recommend the DGX as an all in one solution. However, if you've already got amps, etc., and are used to all the rigamarole of electric instruments, that advice may not apply.

[Postscript] One thing that concerns me about anyone learning to play keyboards on instruments with lots of bells and whistles is that the actual keyboard playing may not get the attention it should. It's so much easier to just hold a chord in the left hand on an arranger than actually play with the left hand. So while the bells and whistles are great, don't rely on them when playing. Learn to play first, and then look for the short cuts. Learning to play on a piano, organ, harpsichord, clavichord, etc., means that you'll learn to play.
 

happyrat1

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Fred >>> There's a flip side to your argument that too many patches and controls get in the way of learning piano.

That is the fact that if you are going the instructor and lessons route you are far more likely to get bored with the instrument when you hit the inevitable wall of jumping to the next level.

How many 10 year olds take lessons for a month or two and then end up wanting to smash the piano and their teacher with a brick because they are frustrated and bored with their lessons?

Having a professional level machine not only alleviates the boredom of playing "plinka plinka plunk" all day without getting anywhere, but also offers room to grow in the future without having to constantly upgrade year over year to a better instrument once you've outgrown it.

Roland markets the Juno DS as a Performance Synth but the truth is that it's pretty much a full blown workstation without a sequencer built in.

They even have a dedicated DAW mode button on it that toggles local on and off and multitimbral mode with a single button press.

This is a machine that was built and designed both for the stage and the studio offering voices and features of workstations selling for twice the cost or more.

For someone who's serious about starting out on keyboards and coming from a musical background already this is a machine which I promise he will not outgrow for a decade or more.

It's an awesome sounding board and priced way below its value if you compare features with others in the same price range.

IMHO the DS88 at a street price of $999 USD is the best bang for the buck on the market today.

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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BTW Fred. I totally agree with you that having arranger features and arpeggiators make for lazy left handed players.

Far better to learn how to do a proper walking bassline on your own without any computerized magic doing it for you.

Gary ;)
 

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Another vote for the Roland DS88. I'm a guitar/bass player as well.

Something that Fred didn't mention is that there are over 1000 more sounds that can be downloaded from Roland's Axial website.

I find the Roland to be exactly what I need to learn keys and play out with, and for the price, it can't be beat.

Unless someone needs a sequencer, I thing it's the industry's best kept secret.
 

Fred Coulter

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Happyrat1: Right after I read your first reply, in which you said

That is the fact that if you are going the instructor and lessons route you are far more likely to get bored with the instrument when you hit the inevitable wall of jumping to the next level.

How many 10 year olds take lessons for a month or two and then end up wanting to smash the piano and their teacher with a brick because they are frustrated and bored with their lessons?

I was going to say that I didn't mean choosing different sounds. Heck, whenever I get bored or am playing baroque, I switch to harpsichord just for the variety. I really was talking about

BTW Fred. I totally agree with you that having arranger features and arpeggiators make for lazy left handed players.

Far better to learn how to do a proper walking bassline on your own without any computerized magic doing it for you.

Damn. You got to what I meant to say before I even had a chance to say it. I'm not saying that being able to choose sounds and splits make you a bad player. I'm saying that over reliance on arranger type features when first playing makes you a lazy player.

Scales are boring. There's no way to sugarcoat it. However, if switching the sounds makes it more likely you'll practice you scales, great. Also, if having an interesting drum line playing while you're playing scales keeps you going longer, even greater. It might also keep your tempos more consistent. (No one I know says that a metronome makes you a bad player; why would a drum machine?) It's only when you're letting the keyboard do the work that it becomes a problem.

(Of course, you also have to deal with the teacher. You might have to do a drop a teacher who's prejudiced about electronic keyboards. How encouraging is it if your teacher sneers at your keyboard.)
 
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scullen

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Another vote for the Roland DS88. I'm a guitar/bass player as well.

Something that Fred didn't mention is that there are over 1000 more sounds that can be downloaded from Roland's Axial website.

I find the Roland to be exactly what I need to learn keys and play out with, and for the price, it can't be beat.

Unless someone needs a sequencer, I thing it's the industry's best kept secret.
I meant Gary, not Fred. Sorry.
 

Fred Coulter

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Something that Fred didn't mention is that there are over 1000 more sounds that can be downloaded from Roland's Axial website.

That's because I didn't say anything about the Roland. I don't know anything about the Roland, so why would I speak about it? It's not an all in one unit, which for some people would be an issue. For others, such as the OP, it wouldn't be. I didn't even look to see if it had a sequencer, since the one on the DGX isn't all that impressive. In fact the only reason I wrote about the DGX sequencer was to differentiate it from the arranger feature since the OP didn't know the difference.

As for the best first keyboard for someone who doesn't have any experience, I'm not convinced either of them is a good choice. Yes, they have good capabilities. But many first time players never stick with it long enough to use those capabilities. My recommendation for a first keyboard is something, almost anything, with weighted keys. Something cheap, and easily replaceable when outgrown. Most students will never outgrow it because most students won't stick with it long enough. For those that do, there is no perfect keyboard that fits all keyboardists. Different keyboards meet different keyboardists needs. And as they outgrow their first keyboard, they'll have a much better idea what the heck they need.
 
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Thanks for the input all. So how is the Roland for recording? I know the DGX is pretty easy to record with, but not too knowledgeable on the Roland's ability. Can you also use chord following software for learning purposes on the Roland too? That's something the DGX has.
 
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I'm not an expert on either, but looking at the specs online it appears to me you're comparing apples and oranges. The Yamaha is more of a home digital piano, where the Roland is more of a synth/rompler style 'board. Yes you can edit multiple cool patches with the Yamaha and yes you can play some lovely piano on the Roland, but both will be designed to play to their respective strengths.

They both seem like really good quality machines for the money.

Most keyboard players I know really like the sound and action of Yamaha digital pianos. I have a good mate who is a pro player and swears by Yamaha digital pianos. He's in the market for a new stage piano and I can't convince him to look at anything else - I tried to seduce him with my sweet Korg SV-1, and he was not for turning! Ironically the same mate is also a lover of Roland's VR-09 (but for its organ capabilities, not piano).

The Roland will have a bazillion patches and plenty of deep editing potential. I know this because it's a more modern and better spec'd version of the little 61-key Roland Juno-Gi I practice on at home. If you want to do all kinds of cool home recordings with lots of different and interesting sounds I think it will serve you very well. Gary certainly loves his, as you can see above.

Ultimately what will determine which is best for you is your intended use as articulated above, and your own personal preference for things like sound, ergonomics, key action, which is obviously a matter for you alone to decide.

Good luck!
 
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I'm not an expert on either, but looking at the specs online it appears to me you're comparing apples and oranges. The Yamaha is more of a home digital piano, where the Roland is more of a synth/rompler style 'board. Yes you can edit multiple cool patches with the Yamaha and yes you can play some lovely piano on the Roland, but both will be designed to play to their respective strengths.

They both seem like really good quality machines for the money.

Most keyboard players I know really like the sound and action of Yamaha digital pianos. I have a good mate who is a pro player and swears by Yamaha digital pianos. He's in the market for a new stage piano and I can't convince him to look at anything else - I tried to seduce him with my sweet Korg SV-1, and he was not for turning! Ironically the same mate is also a lover of Roland's VR-09 (but for its organ capabilities, not piano).

The Roland will have a bazillion patches and plenty of deep editing potential. I know this because it's a more modern and better spec'd version of the little 61-key Roland Juno-Gi I practice on at home. If you want to do all kinds of cool home recordings with lots of different and interesting sounds I think it will serve you very well. Gary certainly loves his, as you can see above.

Ultimately what will determine which is best for you is your intended use as articulated above, and your own personal preference for things like sound, ergonomics, key action, which is obviously a matter for you alone to decide.

Good luck!

Sounds good. What about any other keyboard suggestions? I wouldn't mind paying a little more if its worth it. The main other ones I can think of are the Roland FA-08, Yamaha MOXF8, Korg Krome 88, Korg Kronos 88.
 
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happyrat1

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The Krome and the FA-08 and the MOXF8 all cost double the price of the juno.

The Kronos costs 4 times as much.

Great workstations all of them, but overkill for your needs.

As for recording on the Juno? Works just fine with any computerized DAW. Like I said it even has a DAW mode button that flips local off and puts it into multitimbral mode in a flash.

As for learning software? It's not really a beginner's machine. You could very easily use it with programs like Pianobooster or Synthesia or MIDIplay to help learn notation just as you could any other MIDI teaching software. But it doesn't ship with anything in the way of teaching software.

Gary ;)
 

Fred Coulter

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I cannot in good conscious recommend the Kronos to a new keyboard player. I think it's probably the best workstation available. The keyboard is very good for a synth keyboard. It may end up, after a few years of practicing, be what fits your needs best. But it's vastly too expensive for a person who may, or may not, stick with keyboards. Additionally, if the direction you want to take your keyboard playing is in a different direction than a workstation, you'll end up needing to sell it for a different type of keyboard.

As a guitar oriented example, would you recommend that a person learning guitar start off on an Ovation Double Neck acoustic guitar?

Unless you're independently wealthy. In that case, go for it!

The same is true of my other keyboard, the Tyros. It's probably the best arranger out there (although Korg's been giving Yamaha a run for it's money lately), but it's not cheap. Unless you know that's the kind of keyboard you want, you really shouldn't spend that type of money on a first keyboard.

Finally, for learning keyboard I'd recommend a live teacher. I'd only recommend software if you either can't afford a teacher or you live way out in the boonies. And the fact you asked about buying a Kronos means that you've got the money for a teacher.
 
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I cannot in good conscious recommend the Kronos to a new keyboard player. I think it's probably the best workstation available. The keyboard is very good for a synth keyboard. It may end up, after a few years of practicing, be what fits your needs best. But it's vastly too expensive for a person who may, or may not, stick with keyboards. Additionally, if the direction you want to take your keyboard playing is in a different direction than a workstation, you'll end up needing to sell it for a different type of keyboard.

Unless you're independently wealthy. In that case, go for it!

The same is true of my other keyboard, the Tyros. It's probably the best arranger out there (although Korg's been giving Yamaha a run for it's money lately), but it's not cheap. Unless you know that's the kind of keyboard you want, you really shouldn't spend that type of money on a first keyboard.

Finally, for learning keyboard I'd recommend a live teacher. I'd only recommend software if you either can't afford a teacher or you live way out in the boonies. And the fact you asked about buying a Kronos means that you've got the money for a teacher.

Yea, I'm pretty much in the Roland market now, especially after liking their textured weighted keyboard. I do think I could get a good deal on a used/refurbished/b-stock FA08 for around $1350, but he question is whether or not it would be worth it for the long term over the DS88? I dont see a ton of support or youtube stuff on the DS88 which is making me a little cautious of the long term support. I plan to stick with keyboard playing for a while, as I have with my guitars. I just want to make sure I dont make the same mistake I did with my guitars early on and buy one which I quickly outgrew and ended up selling to buy another, higher quality one time after time. Ex. I went from a $180 Ibanez to a $300 Ibanez, to a $600 Schecter, and finally to a $1200 Fender Telecaster.

In terms of a teacher, I will try to look into one as long as I can find one that fits and is within my budget. I do feel like a teacher would be more beneficial in terms of piano/keyboard playing than it was with guitar playing.
 
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Fred Coulter

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Yes you can edit multiple cool patches with the Yamaha

Editing sounds isn't something the Yamaha is good at. In fact, I'm not sure that you can edit sounds on the 660. You can't on the 650. There is a large number of sounds built in, but that's it. For learning, and for the auto-accompaniment that's available, that's enough. But if tweaking sounds is important, get the Roland. (Or connect the keyboard to a computer, where all things are possible.)
 

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