Yamaha PSR SX900 v SX700 v Korg Pa1000 v Pa700


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What an afternoon, in my favourite music store they were hosting a pro-mo event, where I had the chance of a bit of noodling around on the keyboards listed in the thread title, plus I also rounded it off with a session on the Korg arranger flagship the Pa4X.

Starting off with the SX700, Yamaha have definitely upped their game with regards to build quality, materials, layout and the menu system. As you would expect with a Yamaha the Piano sounds were all bright crystal clear. I also tried brass, woodwind, organs, strings, synths and guitars all were pretty good and if you are moving up from a lesser Yamaha model then the sounds should be pretty familiar. Switching to Style play mode and getting the auto accompaniment working all the pop, ballad, blues and jazz styles I tried were all vastly superior to the S770 I played back to back with a Korg couple of years ago. Changing variations were generally smooth and then the first problem, going from Var4 to Ending 3 in a Style, it produced a very marked and abrupt change and a large increase in volume, not good. Looking at the Menu system and it was immediately obvious that they have been using Korg as the system to replicate with there being a lot of soi ilarities and it was the first Yajaha that I have found that it is easy to navigate around.

Moving over to the SX900 and the only way you can really tell them apart is by the model number emblazoned on the rear. There are more voices and styles and the sound quality is a bit better all round. I checked it out as per the SX700 and had the same thing happen with the Style variation to the ending, so again not good.

The keybed feel of both Yamaha’s was very good and easily played close to the rear of the keys, both were better than the price equivalent Korg.

Then onto the Korg Pa700, a keyboard that I know well, very good instrument sounds which were superior to the SX700 in all classes except pianos where Yamaha have the edge. Styles were varied with smooth transition between variations and endings. I checked the Eq settings which were off and know from experience that with them set up correctly the sound quality takes a massive leap up in tone quality, so another plus for the Korg’s.

The Korg Pa1000 is not a keyboard that I have played much, it is similar to the Pa700 but includes aftertouch, vocoder, more Styles and Sounds. It has the same menu system as the Pa700 hence with being used to it navigation is quick and easy. Here in the UK the 1000 has a premium over the 700 of about £500 but its extras would not induce me to upgrade, I would bypass the 1000 and go straight to the 4X.

Conclusions.
Both Yamaha arrangers are vastly superior to the previous S775 and S975 models but to me the are both inferior to the price equivalent Korg's. That said it is what matters to you that counts but please if you are looking to upgrade from a Yamaha do no expect an SX to be like the E, EW or S series that you may have since the SX menu system is radically different to those other series models and you will have a steep learning curve with the SX so you might as well test out the Korg that is at your price point in addition to the SX.

THEN
I had a play on a Pa4X and the difference in Sound tone and Style content alone is worth the extra premium over a Pa1000, it is an astounding keyboard and in the hands of someone far more capable than I then astounding tonal content is possible with the Pa4X. The model that I played actually had the additional content that a well known keyboardist has produced for their own Pa4X and the quality of the Registrations and Song content well I can only dream of being partly as good as the guy who created the presets.

So whatever your preference go out and test play both the Korg Pa range and Yamaha SX range if you are in the market for a mid to top of the range arranger.
 
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Nice report!

Yes, the price difference between the PA700 and PA1000 is substantial... whether you see that as the PA1000 being over-priced or tha PA700 being a bargain is a matter of perspective, as in a cup being half-empty or half-full. But it is worth considering that the PA1000 has more advantages over the PA700 than you mention. Besides the "aftertouch, vocoder, more Styles and Sounds," it also has the tilt screen (which can be especially helpful if being played on the top-tier of a multi-board stack, or when playing outdoors with a need to reduce glare/washout from the sun), more memory for user samples, better built in sound system, I believe a better (more consistent from front-to-back and more weighted) action, I think more solid feeling buttons, vocal processing (which is not the same as vocoder... a vocoder uses your voice to affect the actual sound of what you're playing on the keys, whereas vocal processing doubles/harmonizes your singing voice with what still sound like natural voices, and T.C. Helicon's processors for doing this can be hundreds of dollars by themselves). The one drawback I've found of the PA1000 is that it uses black buttons on black background and some with a barely readable red legend, whereas the PA700 uses a more visually clear panel of black buttons on a reddish background with all readable white legends.

I haven't checked these newest Yamahas, but at least based on the previous generation, another advantage the PA700/PA1000 had over Yamaha was more extensive MIDI functionality (i.e. for integrating external sounds from an iPhone/iPad, for example). And back to the PA1000, I also find aftertouch extremely useful, for adding performance expressivity to a sound... it not only feels more organic than operating a joystick, but also, I often can't spare my other hand to operate the joystick anyway. So this one feature makes a significant difference in both the enjoyment of playing and I think in ultimately improving the sound quality, in the respect of allowing me to naturally make sounds more realistic and less static as I play them.

As for the PA4X, it was never a possibility for me... I was looking for something lighter than its 31-36 lbs and I needed it to have built-in speakers. But I do wish the PA1000 had 76 keys!
 
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